One of the most thankless jobs I had during my military career was auditing food services accounts. Nobody was EVER glad to see me walk in the door. Getting a straight answer was often more challenging than any parental discussions on report card day.
The worst bit of course was that the process was always perceived in a negative light ... when in truth it was more about finding solutions than picking out problems.
Mind you, I did learn a thing or two along the way! Numbers are just data ... the really interesting bits lay in where they are posted. Equally intriguing can be when numbers are entered in the database.
For instance, if a shelter with an animal control sheltering contract does not include the AC intake numbers until the animals are transferred to the shelter's custody ... that can create a more positive Live Release Rate.
While it is very interesting to see some shelters tracking the numbers of surrenders that have been refused, that number is only statistically valid if all phone calls and emails are returned in a timely fashion. In realspeak, that means within hours ... not tomorrow or next week or when someone gets around to checking the voicemail.
Is it important to keep statistics? You bet! Even if they are not always one hundred percent accurate, statistics do double duty by reminding everyone where the goalposts are.
At the end of the day, statistics simply serve to paint part of the picture by numbers, eh?
This week there was another society media release reminding us that Amendments have been made to the Animal Protection Act. What do I think about this?
On the surface, it is mostly housekeeping bits and pieces ... but there is one little item buried in all that that DOES give me cause for concern. That is of course that until that magical day when the Appeals Board is actually established, the Provincial Board of Directors has the ultimate say in any review of any case.
Why do I see that as a problem? Gosh .. are the Directors not trustworthy? Are they not capable of making sensible decisions?
Actually it is simpler than that! A non profit board is composed of like minded people volunteering their time in pursuit of common goals. Even worse, these folks are privy to confidential information that reinforces the us and them perspective.
The worst bit of course is all their goals and agendas are derived from a shared journey of research and debate. Why is that a problem? Even with the best of intentions, directors become too engaged in the process to be well equipped as independent mediators.
There has been some discussion as to whether the 'watchdogs' need a watch dog. Does such speculation stem from the intrinsic differences between the society in specific and animal rescue in general?
Or is it simply that there is increasingly stiff competition for every fundraising dollar? From my birds eye view, I have seldom seen such generosity of spirit outside of the rescue community ... so somehow I suspect that it is generally not it either.
At the end of the day, four years ago the society was still circling the wagons and killing three out of four that came in the door. Straight, sweet and simple ... some of the horror stories are still too personal and raw to be easily forgotten.
How can the society mend fences? They say imitation is the best form of flattery. The little independent rescues have already learned most of the lessons the hard way.
If the society is seeking to wear rescue sheeps clothing for fundraising purposes, then there are lessons they can learn about walking the rescue walk.
The other day, I was appalled to find out that a dog had been returned to an SPCA branch when the adopter discovered her landlord wouldn't let her keep him. So I went and looked at the branch adoption application and was gobsmacked to discover that applicants who rent are not actually required to provide their landlord's name or number! Nor are they even obliged to provide veterinary references!
Imagine my surprise when I went rummaging around and discovered that this is not the exception but rather the 'new' standard rule that all the branches are using! Before the keyboards catch on fire, yes I know I have been advocating for more user friendly apps ... but not for the baby to be thrown out with the bath water.
Yet I am wandering afield, as I am often wont to do. The point I am making in my meandering way is that it really is not a great idea to have the society serve as its own watchdog.
Actually there already is a watchdog ... the Department of Agriculture, eh? Even better, because the society serves its mandate on the authority of our provincial government, each and every MLA in this province is capable of questioning any decision made on their constituents' behalf.
What time is it? It is time to remember that the Appeals Board is a great idea and that it places an unreasonable burden of credibility ... or the lack of it .. to expect the society to be its own watchdog.