Friday, January 04, 2008


This is the ninth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of a so-called "No-Kill Equation". The "No-Kill Equation" is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable results.

An animal advocate in our community submitted an analysis comparing the "No-Kill Equation" to LA's programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the ninth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Volunteers.

The Ten "No-Kill Equation" Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program – (Responded December 11th)
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter (Responded December 16th)
3. Rescue Groups (Responded December 18th)
4. Foster Care (Responded December 21st)
5. Comprehensive Adoption Program (Responded December 24th)
6. Pet Retention (Responded December 26th)
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation (Responded December 28th)
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement (Responded January 2nd)
9. Volunteers
10. A Compassionate Director

The No-Kill Equation is in this blue font.

The analsyt's evaluation will be in italics.

IX. Volunteers
Volunteers are a dedicated “army of compassion” and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources. That is where volunteers come in and make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death.

In San Francisco, a community of approximately 800,000 people, volunteers spend over 110,000 hours at the shelter each year. Assuming the prevailing hourly wage, payroll taxes and benefits, it would cost the San Francisco SPCA over $1 million dollars annually to provide those services. In Tompkins County, a community of about 100,000 people, volunteers spend over 12,500 hours walking dogs, grooming cats, helping with adoptions, and doing routine but necessary office work, at a cost savings of approximately $85,000 if the SPCA were to pay for those services at the entry level hourly rate.

The purpose of a volunteer program is to help a shelter help the animals. It is crucial to have procedures and goals in mind as part of the program. In Tompkins County, for example, the agency required all dogs available for adoption to get out of kennel socialization four times per day. This could not be accomplished by staff alone and therefore volunteers were recruited, trained and scheduled for specific shifts that would allow the agency to meet those goals. It became quickly apparent that having volunteers come in whenever they wanted did not serve those goals and so all volunteers were given instructions and a specific schedule.

LA Animal Services’ 1,076 active volunteers contributed over 150,500 hours in 2007 in a wide variety of tasks, including shelter clean-up, grooming, dog walking, rabbit exercising, adoption assistance and counseling, assisting staff at mobile adoptions, community information booths and special events, and other valuable tasks.

According to
Independent Sector, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 575 charities, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state across the nation, the 2006 estimate for the value of a volunteer hour in California is $20.36 per hour. The 2007 value estimate will be released this spring.

Independent Sector calculates the hourly value of volunteer time based on the average hourly wage for all non-management, non-agriculture workers as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a 12 percent increase to estimate for fringe benefits.

Using Independent Sector's 2006 calculation for California, LA Animal Services estimates that its volunteers conservatively donated well over three million dollars worth of volunteer service in caring for the animals in its six Animal Care Centers in 2007.

Volunteers have always been a vital and valued part of LA Animal Services' work and the volunteer program formalized with the creation of Volunteers in Service to Animals (VSA) in the 1970s. VSA disbanded in the 1990s and was replaced by an official Department volunteer program headed by an on-staff volunteer coordinator. The overall volunteer program was reviewed during 2007 and recommendations for refinements are forthcoming. The recommendations are expected to focus on improving the volunteer experience and resolving issues that arise between volunteers and staff. A new volunteer coordinator is expected to join the staff early in 2008, filling a void that has existed for much of 2007. This addition will strengthen the program by restoring direct management oversight to a network of hard-working animal care center-based volunteer coordinators. Recruitment of new volunteers is ongoing and will be a priority for the new volunteer coordinator.