Times are tough for shelter dogs.
We can help.

With shelter dog populations returning to pre-pandemic levels, outcomes slowing, transport destinations drying up, and historic levels of staffing turnover, shelters are struggling with medium and large dogs. Everybody is asking, “What do we do?”

 

The Big Dog Master Class is now available on-demand at Maddie’s® University to help staff at all levels better manage big dog populations, maximize organizational efficiencies, utilize technologies, build proven programs, and implement transparent, effective policies based on five components of big dog management: public safety, intake management, live outcomes, humane care, and cost-efficiency.

 

We brought the nation’s top experts together – among them veterinarians, epidemiologists, veterinary behaviorists, shelter directors, trainers, and national leaders – to give you highly usable programs that don’t require special skills or breaking the bank to make positive changes.

 

This free, on-demand, virtual conference opportunity is made possible by support from Maddie’s Fund® and organized by the Maddie’s® Million Pet Challenge and Human Animal Support Services.

 

This conference has been pre-approved for 8 hours of Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credit by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and National Animal Care & Control Association. Each hour-long block in this conference has been approved for 1 hour of continuing education credit until February 14, 2024 in jurisdictions that recognize RACE approval.

Register on Maddie’s® University to access this on-demand conference!

Times are tough for medium and large shelter dogs and we’re here to help, providing proven, data-driven protocols and practices to address your biggest challenges. In this two-day virtual conference, we’ll offer straightforward, streamlined modules for all levels of animal shelter professionals to move organizations towards better dog management, more live outcomes, shorter lengths of stay, and safer shelters.

This conference is designed for animal welfare professionals, veterinarians, volunteers, and anyone else who works with shelter dogs in some capacity and wants to learn. All presentations are geared towards all levels of animal shelter staff. Because they are data-driven and research-based, they’ll be interesting for seasoned professionals while also being accessible for people with limited experience and those just entering the animal welfare field. This conference has been pre-approved for 8 hours of Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credit by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and National Animal Care & Control Association. Each hour-long block in this conference has been approved for 1 hour of continuing education credit until February 14, 2024 in jurisdictions that recognize RACE approval.

Keynote
Irreconcilable differences? Maybe not! A new look at 50 years of data about behavioral incompatibilities and dog relinquishment to shelters. – Janis Bradley

Description:
An examination of 12 peer reviewed papers on pet relinquishment, 6 on dogs who were returned after being adopted, and 14 on the behaviors of dogs living in homes revealed no strong evidence supporting the prevailing belief that behavioral incompatibilities are a primary risk factor for owners surrendering their pets to shelters. Only 2 studies (one from the 1990’s and the other published in 2000) in the literature contained actual risk analyses of specific behaviors. Neither found strong evidence of behavioral risk factors. Dogs living in homes do not appear to be behaviorally different from dogs living in shelters. Moreover, the studies on dogs living in homes revealed no consensus regarding behaviors that owners considered problematic or how any of them affected their satisfaction with the relationship. When combined with the low validity levels and poor predictive ability of battery style behavior evaluations commonly administered in shelters, the relinquishment literature makes the use of such instruments highly questionable. What does this mean for adoption policies and placement procedures in shelters?

Learning Objectives:

  1. Analyze claims of risk factors and reject those that do not meet basic scientific definitions
  2. Develop adoption policies and procedures free of behavioral bias regarding the shelter population of dogs
  3. Develop adoption counseling procedures free of generalizations about adopter expectations
  4. Understand and be able to explain the inefficacy of battery behavior evaluations

The big picture

Session 1: The data is in – what’s happening and what’s coming next – Steve Zeidman and Dr. Julie Levy
Session 2: The five elements of great shelter dog management – Kristen Hassen

Description:
Attendees will learn from Steve Zeidman and Kristen Hassen about how to utilize national and local data to build a dog management program that balances public health and safety, live outcomes, humane care, intake management and prevention, and cost efficiency. This session will begin with Steve Zeidman sharing the last three years of data about big dogs in shelters, including trends in intake, length of stay, live outcomes, types of outcomes, and more. Following this, Kristen Hassen will present an overview of what a comprehensive program to manage big dogs in shelters looks like. She’ll share recommendations for proven programs, smart policies, and goal-setting that will enable animal welfare leaders to tackle tough shelter problems, build a sustainable management system for big dogs, and get more dogs into homes faster, all while maintaining a culture of safety and community responsibility.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn what the data shows about national trends in big dogs in animal shelters and how to apply this information to their own organizations programs and policies.
  2. Attendees will want to share the data points they learn, the big dog management practices of the most successful organizations, and how to make small changes to their practices that have a significant, measurable impact on length of stay, live outcomes, intake reduction, and more.
  3. They’ll also learn the components of a healthy big dog management program and will be able to identify gaps and problem areas in their own organizations in order to be able to make improvements.

Maximizing big dog foster impact

Session 1: Double your big dog fosters in 30 days – Kelly Duer
Session 2: How to get big dogs adopted from foster– Kelly Duer

Description:
You’ll learn the most effective strategies for placing more big dogs in foster homes, marketing them and getting them adopted without needing to return to the shelter. You’ll learn what the latest market research says about messaging and techniques that can turn potential fosters into applicants, how short-term foster programs can help you find the fosters and adopters you need, and how organizations with the most robust foster programs are empowering foster caregivers to assist in efforts to market their foster pets online.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn how to create a community culture of fostering, normalizing the fostering of big dogs
  2. Attendees will learn messaging techniques for motivating potential fosters to sign up
  3. Understand the major reasons people decide not to foster and the strategies that are most effective in overcoming these barriers
  4. Develop a protocol for marketing and adopting pets from foster homes

Focus on ‘long stay dogs’

Session 1: Proven strategies to help ‘long stay’ dogs find homes – Rachel Jones
Session 2: The ‘warehousing’ conundrum and how to address it– Kristen Hassen

Description:
Speakers Rachel Jones and Kristen Hassen will teach attendees how to move harder ‘long stay’ dogs into homes more quickly. The session will begin by defining what we mean when we describe a dog as a ‘long stay’ and how shelters can track the data on these dogs in order to help them more quickly. The presenters will talk about the common factors that cause a dog to get ‘stuck’ in the shelter system and how a combination of case management, targeted enrichment, thoughtful marketing, and transparent communication can help these more challenging dogs. This session will also address the conundrum of ‘warehousing’ vs. euthanizing healthy and saveable dogs and how shelters can address this problem, not by choosing one of these two options, but an entirely different path altogether. This session stems from work done at the Pima Animal Care Center, an open admission shelter with an intake of roughly 15,000 dogs annually and an average length of stay in shelter of just nine days.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn how to use daily inventory reports to identify ‘long stay’ dogs and what information needs to be gathered to help move them out of the shelter system. Rachel Jones, the nation’s first ‘long stay’ dog case management, will share her experiences working to improve outcomes and to reduce the length of stay for these dogs.
  2. Attendees will also learn how to identify the common internal and external factors that lead to dogs having longer-than-necessary lengths of stay and the immediate actions to take to remove these obstacles to outcomes.
  3. Attendees will learn how to do a daily walk-through process and quarterly shelter census review process in order to ensure no dogs ´slip through the cracks,´ and ´long stay´ dogs receive immediate and urgent attention.

Keynote 
A trauma-informed approach to understanding shelter dogs – Dr. Sheila Segurson

Description:
As our communities become more informed about recognizing and responding to human trauma, there’s growing interest in the impact of chronic stress and trauma on animal behavior. There’s a large volume of evidence that demonstrates the negative impact of trauma on human health and welfare. While research in animals isn’t focused on the concept of trauma, this session will share evidence that demonstrates the impact of stressful experiences on animal health and welfare. Acknowledgement of the role of trauma in animal behavior encourages us to be more understanding and respond more appropriately to undesirable or challenging behaviors that may be caused by trauma. This session will discuss practical ways you can prevent trauma and help animals to recover.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the impact of traumatic experiences on human and animal health and well-being.
  2. Understand why the shelter environment can be a traumatic experience for most animals
  3. Apply trauma informed thinking to your interactions with animals
  4. Develop trauma-informed management plans for dogs and cats

Gaining public support for saving big dogs 
Session 1: Reduce risk and improve public safety– Sarah Aguilar
Session 2: Get your community on board with keeping big dogs out of the shelter -Dr. Ellen Jefferson and Bobby Mann

Description:
Medium and large dogs pose a number of challenges for animal welfare and it’s easy to lose community support, including support from the government leadership, if there is an ongoing perception that it’s just too hard to achieve live outcomes for them. In this session, attendees will hear from three leaders who are experts in gaining public support for shelter pets. In the first portion of this session, Sarah Aguilar will teach attendees the critical safety factors shelters need to be tracking, including bites in the shelter and in the community, injuries to staff and volunteers, risk management claims, and safety incidents and response in the shelter. She’ll share how animal shelters can create safety tool kits for kennel areas and what training animal shelters should provide to staff and volunteers related to safety. She’ll connect all of this to the practice of reporting this information publicly, to help leadership and community members understand how safety and lifesaving are related. In the second part, Dr. Ellen Jefferson and Bobby Mann will talk about the programs that can help keep animals out of shelters in the first place, and how to gain public support for these programs and how to engage human services agencies to promote them.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn how to track safety data and to share it with the public to gain community support.
  2. Attendees will learn how to create a culture of safety in their organization and how to keep shelter staff and volunteers safe and to mitigate risk factors.
  3. Attendees will learn about the three programs that can keep big dogs out of shelters and how to gain community buy-in to start and grow these programs.

 

Get dogs into great homes faster 
Session 1: Proven strategies for minimizing the length of stay – Michele Figueroa and Clare Callison
Session 2: Big dog marketing – the easy way – Arin Greenwood, Caitlin Quinn, and Kasey Spain

Description:
In this session, attendees will learn strategies for minimizing length of stay for medium and large dogs, from in-shelter techniques through adoption marketing. Topics discussed include: how to design and create a pipeline for great marketing materials on dogs in care, ensure that pets’ online profiles are kept up to date and each dog is marketed robustly.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn about barriers to adoption and how to avoid them
  2. Attendees will learn what an intake to placement program is and how it works
  3. Attendees will learn the difference between marketing and adoption counseling and how to ensure transparency while keeping them separate.
  4. They’ll learn how to create a protocol to ensure that every dog in their care is robustly marketed, with no one slipping through the cracks.

 

The tough stuff 
Session 1: Managing big dog space crises – Clare Callison
Session 2: Lifesaving protocol for at-risk dogs – Kristen Hassen

Description:
There are a number of factors that lead to big dogs facing a particularly precarious situation in animal shelters. While it’s no fault of the dogs, size and breed restrictions are particularly detrimental to big dogs, causing them to sit in shelters longer and to be brought to shelters because their owners aren’t allowed to keep them. Behavioral and medical decline, particularly a problem during periods of high intake, can lead to space crises which force shelters to act urgently to avoid euthanizing dogs due to lack of space. Behavioral decline, often caused by the stress of shelter confinement, leads to sheltered dogs being slated for euthanasia when no immediate outcome options are available. These factors can lead to shelter workers and volunteers feeling helpless and demoralized like there is just no answer. Luckily, there are things you can do to save big dogs, even in the hardest of circumstances. In this session, Clare Callison will teach you the proven steps you can take to get dogs into homes during periods of crisis or when dogs are at risk of euthanasia due to behavioral decline or a long length of stay. Attendees will learn to implement easy, low cost or free strategies to get dogs out faster and avoid holding dogs indefinitely, with no solid plan.

Learning Objectives:

  1. 1. Attendees will learn actionable steps to take to alleviate a big dog space crisis, which includes transfer and transport pleas, intake deferment of non-emergency intakes, emergency foster pleas, innovative adoption pushes, co-housing dogs, emergency marketing, and more
  2. 2. Implement the proven ‘lifesaving protocol for at-risk dogs,’ now taught for more than five years to hundreds of shelters around the nation. Attendees will learn the steps to giving the public and rescues the chance to save a dog before it is euthanized due to length of time in a shelter, behavioral decline, or space constraints.
  3. 3. Attendees will learn the factors that lead to the needless euthanasia of dogs, the signs of a stagnated movement process, and how to make small changes to streamline dog movement through the system towards live outcomes.

Big Dog Masterclass Virtual Conference Resources – March 2022


By the end of this conference, your team will have the tools to address the Top 5 Animal Services Dog Management Priorities.

Part 1: The Big Dog Masterclass Resource List by Session

DAY ONE: Tuesday, March 29

Welcome by Aimee Sadler Dogs Playing for LIfe
Session 1: Irreconcilable differences? Maybe not! A new look at 50 years of data about behavioral incompatibilities and dog relinquishment to shelters – Janis Bradley
Session 2A: The data is in – what’s happening and what’s coming next – Steve Zeidman and Dr. Julie Levy
Session 2B: – The five elements of a great shelter dog management program – Kristen Hassen
Session 3A: Double your big dog fosters in 30 days – Kelly Duer
Session 3B: How to get big dogs adopted from foster – Kelly Duer
Session 4A: Proven strategies to help ‘long stay’ dogs find homes – Rachel Jones
Session 4B: The ‘warehousing’ conundrum and how to address it – Kristen Hassen

DAY 2: Wednesday, March 30

Welcome by Jennifer Jenkins
Session 5: A trauma-informed approach to understanding shelter dogs – Dr. Sheila Segurson
Session 6A: Reduce risk and improve public safety  – Sarah Aguilar
Session 6B: Get your community on board with keeping big dogs out of the shelter – Dr. Ellen Jefferson and Bobby Mann
Session 7A: Proven strategies for minimizing the length of stay – Michele Figueroa and Clare Callison
Session 7B: Big dog marketing – the easy way  – Arin Greenwood, Caitlin Quinn, and Kasey Spain
Session 8A: Managing big dog space crises – Clare Callison
Session 8B: Lifesaving protocol for at-risk dogs – Kristen Hassen

PART 2: Stay involved and get support

Learn from the organizations who led this conference
Maddies University for more free virtual learning opportunities covering tons of topics
The Maddies Million Pet Challenge for consultations and support
American Pets Alive! for free resources, protocols, and policies to save lives in every situation

 

Continued Engagement Opportunities
Explain community-centered animal sheltering: Human Animal Support Services (4 min)
Have industry conversations about your biggest challenges: Maddie’s Forum
Engage with other animal welfare professionals: Animal Welfare Professionals Community
Social Media Groups COMPLETE LIST OF GROUPS

Organizers and Keynote Sessions

Dr. Julie Levy

Dr. Julie Levy

Fran Marino Endowed Distinguished Professor of Shelter Medicine Education

Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida

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Kristen Hassen

Director

American Pets Alive! and Human Animal Support Services

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Janis Bradley

Director of Communications and Publications

National Canine Research Council

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Dr. Sheila Segurson

Director of Research

Maddie’s Fund®

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Speakers

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Sarah Aguilar

Senior Director of Operations

Austin Pets Alive!

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Clare Callison

Maddie’s® Director of National Pet Supply and Demand

American Pets Alive!

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Kelly Duer

Foster Care Specialist

Maddie’s Fund®

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Michele Figueroa

Program Director

Pima Animal Care Center

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Arin Greenwood

Editor, Writer, Communications Consultant

Human Animal Support Services

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Dr. Ellen Jefferson

President and CEO

Austin Pets Alive! and American Pets Alive!

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Jennifer Jenkins

Operations Manager

Brandywine Valley SPCA

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Rachel Jones

Urgent Dog Case Manager

Pima Animal Care Center

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Bobby Mann

Maddie’s® Human Animal Support Services Pilot Director

American Pets Alive! and Human Animal Support Services

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Caitlin Quinn

Director of Operations

HeARTs Speak, Inc.

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Aimee Sadler

Founder and CEO of Dogs Playing for Life™

Dogs Playing for Life™

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Kasey Spain

Marketing and Communications Senior Manager

American Pets Alive! and Human Animal Support Services

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Steve Zeidman

Senior Vice President, Software Solutions

Pethealth, Inc.

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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