We invite you to join us in imagining and creating a world in which every single shelter is able to provide every animal at risk with the Right Care in the Right Place at the Right Time to the Right Outcome.

The 4 Rights (R)evolution

The foundation of the Million Cat Challenge rested on Five Key Initiatives, which together represented a holistic approach that addressed the “before, during and after” for any cat at risk of shelter entry. Alternatives to Intake and Managed Admissions helped keep cats out of shelters and safe within the community, Capacity for Care allowed shelters to ensure the welfare of all cats in their care, while Return to Field and Removing Barriers to Adoption smoothed the pathway for cats to leave shelters alive.

In the course of the Challenge, these five initiatives were refined and adapted to shelters of every size and type throughout North America and proven by over 3.5 million more cat lives saved by over 1500 Challenger Shelters. Then, we as a movement and a profession were invited to think even bigger. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to rethink business as usual, paradoxically allowing many shelters to reimagine what could be permitted and possible. At the same time, the call came for animal “sheltering” to shift focus from shelters to the surrounding community, with an increasing recognition that racial and social justice must be central to every aspect of our work.
Paralleling this (r)evolution, the Million Cat Challenge grew into the Maddie’s® Million Pet Challenge (MMPC). The cat-oriented methods embodied in the Five Key Initiatives have been expanded to include other species at risk in shelters, and a greater focus has been placed on ensuring the people who care for and about those pets are able to access affordable veterinary care. However, while the methods have evolved, the same holistic “before, during and after” approach has been maintained: community safety net services, humane care within the shelter, and appropriate outcomes for the animals that do come in, all work in concert to support one another. Borrowing from our colleagues in human healthcare, we were inspired by the vision of providing every patient with the Right Care at the Right Time in the Right Place. Because it has not always been a given for animal shelters, we added the Right Outcome to round out the Four Rights. These replace the Five Key Initiatives to form the foundational commitment of the Maddie’s® Million Pet Challenge.

We invite you to join us in imagining and creating a world in which every single shelter is able to provide every animal at risk with the Right Care in the Right Place at the Right Time to the Right Outcome.

Right Care

The Right Care is something that every shelter worker and volunteer deserves to be able to provide, as well as every animal deserves to receive. A humane environment for people and animals creates the strongest possible foundation for effective service to communities. Within the shelter’s walls, the Right Care encompasses staffing, housing and programs to meet each animal’s basic needs. The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare form a minimum basis for care, while the Association of Shelter Veterinarian’s Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters and the Fear Free movement provide additional dimensions. By empowering veterinary clinics to sustainably provide affordable services, the Right Care is extended to the whole community of pets. Thus the Right Care supports keeping animals in the Right Place – safe at home with their families rather than surrendered to a shelter.

Right Place

Providing the Right Care and Right Outcome starts by serving animals in the Right Place. This can be defined as the place permitting the best possible result for the animal(s) and person(s) in the most humane and efficient possible way. Priority is given to keeping animals safe in the community rather than being admitted to the shelter. Shelter intake is reserved for those animals that cannot be safely managed by community members (such as owners, finders, concerned caregivers and foster families). Savings associated with lower admission and care in the shelter can be redirected to support safety net services and provide care for animals with advanced medical or behavior needs that have no other option but shelter admittance.

Right Time

The Right Time can be described as the time that best allows services to be provided in alignment with animal and human need and in balance with shelter capacity. Intake by appointment for all non-emergencies, and pathway planning beginning on day one, ensure that animal flow is optimized. Appointment based services can also apply to every step along the way from intake to the Right Outcome. In this way shelters ensure the right timing for the client as well as the animal, providing higher customer satisfaction while reducing crowding, stress and risk in shelter facilities. Operating within capacity also allows shelters to prioritize those emergency cases for which the right time is NOW – whether because they are sick or injured, victims or cruelty or neglect, or whose owners are in crisis, these animals can be accommodated without delay when the overall system is in balance.

Right Outcome

The Right Outcome can be defined as the outcome that best supports the well-being of animals, honors the connections between humans and pets, stabilizes systems and maintains public health and safety. Live outcomes that keep animals and families together are prioritized whenever possible. Barriers of access or bias that prevent animals from being returned or adopted to marginalized community members are removed. Radical Return to Owner gets dogs back where they belong while sterilization, vaccination and return fast tracks cats back into communities where they are known and deeply valued. Animals in need of new homes are adopted with a preference for local adoptions into the community of origin where possible; animals in need of specialized care not available at the location of origin are transferred; and timely humane euthanasia is reserved for animals that are irremediably suffering or dangerous.

A collaboration of UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program at UF, Open Door Veterinary Collective, and Team Shelter USA.

Maddie’s® Million Pet Challenge is creating transformative “communities of practice” that deliver access to care through humane, community-centric programming—inside and outside of the shelter—to achieve the right outcome for every pet. Our consultative mentoring services are holistic, deep and practical, and delivered by the proven team who brought you the Million Cat Challenge, in expanded partnership with Open Door Veterinary Collective. This program is made available at no cost to participants, #ThanksToMaddie