Shelters, foster-based rescues, TNR groups, and other animal care and human services organizations make a difference every day for people and animals in California. Here are a few ideas to help coordinate and amplify collective impact. 

Cooperation is crucial and coordination is key: in order to support pets and people across a community, organizations and groups must work together. It can start with an email or a phone call, as well as boosting one another’s posts on social media. If you’re a human services agency or first responder, check in with shelters and other animal care organizations in your community to see how your efforts can complement one another, and vice versa. When we map existing resources, we can better serve our community as a whole and identify gaps or duplicated efforts.

For more on building an ecosystem of collaboration, not competition, toward a stronger community, consider exploring Community Centric Fundraising principles and resources, as well as the HeARTs Speak Community Partnerships Communications Kit.

Often programs or services are developed around perceived community needs but may not accurately reflect actual community member priorities or needs nor acknowledge community strengths. Continually scan for barriers within your organization that prevent animals from staying in or returning to their homes or from being adopted to new homes, whether it’s high, inflexible fees above your community’s means; burdensome applications with irrelevant/invasive questions; or extensive processes required to reclaim, adopt, foster, volunteer, or access services.  
Inviting input and partnership from community members before, during, and after program development will ensure resources are accessible to those most in need. Former shelter executive director Elijah Brice-Middleton notes that engagement starts with sharing and listening. “Start at the main centers in your community where there are gatherings of people. For us, it’s schools and churches. You can go anywhere and everywhere — it doesn’t have to be animal related at all.” The Pets for Life Community Outreach Toolkit guides animal care service providers and other social welfare advocates through the development and implementation of a pioneering community outreach program, using a comprehensive, grassroots approach to sharing pet wellness information, resources, and services.

If you have an idea for a collaboration that can bring or keep pets and people together in your community or you’re seeking funding to sustain or expand current programming, consider partnering with your local shelter to submit a proposal for the next California for All Animals grant period, opening on September 15. We welcome proposals geared toward partnering with community members and/or other community-centric organizations to understand needs and identify solutions, partnering with animal welfare non-profit/foster-based organizations, and partnering with human service/community-based organizations to remove barriers and increase positive outcomes. The Cal for All Animals program requires that a shelter or animal control agency be the recipient of any grants, but the funds can be used to support and build partnerships among other animal care or human services organizations. Learn more.

Stand in solidarity with fellow community organizations whose missions are interdependent with your own. Talk to your city and county elected officials about the importance of allowing shelters to waive or reduce fees so that reclaiming a lost pet or adopting a new one is affordable for everyone, and emphasize the urgency of funding staff and community-centered programs that address gaps in our system of care so that we can provide people and pets support they need to stay together and sustain essential services like vaccine clinics and low-cost spay/neuter clinics or vouchers.

People are doing the best they can to care for their pets while facing barriers to affordable, pet-inclusive housing and vet care. Through the national veterinarian shortage, current vets are serving anywhere from 1000–3000 households each. And because animal shelters and other community organizations are often chronically under-resourced, they are prevented from serving all the people and animals they wholeheartedly want to help, driving serious distress and burnout among staff. Veterinarians, shelter workers and volunteers, and animal services officers are at higher risk for suicide and PTSD. We could all use more compassion and less judgment; let’s show up for one another as we work together to build the well-being of people and pets in our community.

To ensure your external communications reinforce partnerships and reflect organizations’ and communities’ shared values, check out Compassionate Communication: Supporting People and Pets Through Human-Centered Language.