The COVID-19 crisis disrupted most functions in the world, including the way U.S. animal shelters operate. Shelters all across the country were forced to find creative ways to continue lifesaving operations in the midst of this devastating and frightening pandemic. The need to change has been no different for the Maddie’s® Lifesaving Academy (MLA) now focusing its efforts on supporting shelters in a time when familiar ways of operating have been upended.
Before COVID-19, the MLA administered over 24 in-person apprenticeships taught by our Maddie’s instructors. In the past three years, we’ve helped to guide some 825 individuals, representing 338 unique organizations on lifesaving practices developed in Austin, Texas. MLA instructors traveled to more than 60 communities around the country to help shelters perform lifesaving change. Together, we cultivated a community of lifesavers, all with the generous support from Maddie’s ® Fund. The suspension of travel for students and our instructors due to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed space and time for our organization to shift our focus fully to support shelters and rescues through this current crisis.
Pivoting quickly, we started on the work to provide shelters and rescues access to the most relevant and current information available to continue lifesaving during this time. Included in this effort is the AmPA! COVID-19 Animal Shelter Preparedness Guide with over 60 protocols and policies; a Facebook support group for shelters and rescues, with MLA instructors available 12 hours a day, 7 days a week; virtual live summits; webinars; advice hours; and more. We are working to create online classes to support the changes to decentralize operations and will be updating our resources as often as we can.
The global crisis brought about many positive changes for animal sheltering including kennels emptying for the first time in history; foster homes acting as the primary housing for lost or homeless pets; field service emphasizing getting pets home; shelter intake reserved for those animals that are injured or ill, pose a safety risk, or need to be sheltered. These changes, among the countless others not mentioned here, have encouraged the public to help animals more than ever before. During COVID-19, Maddie’s® Lifesaving Academy has seen shelters and rescues make brave choices to save animal lives, and find ways to engage communities, all while keeping people safe.
Relationships and close collaboration between AmPA! and other national organizations have grown, including with National Animal Care and Control and The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement. These new partnerships and collaborations have been vital to the creation of a new model of sheltering, a sustainable disruption to the outdated operations of animal sheltering, historically built on killing dogs to prevent rabies. Together, we are moving towards animal protection mirroring and becoming a social service, recognizing that people and animals are vital to the health of any community.
We now need to ask ourselves and each other -- What happens next? While this moment in the world is no doubt devastating and scary, what space has it given to our movement? How have we been able to think up new ideas? What changes do we want to enhance, grow, and bring with us to the future?
Thanks to Maddie’s Fund, we have been able to spend our time supporting the transformational change we hope to see continue long after this global crisis is behind us. The Maddie’s® Lifesaving Academy plans to continue to support, teach and lead shelters, rescues, advocates, and pet lovers alike to create this new future together -- one where animal shelters as we knew them will never be the same, and the human-animal bond is a central component to the health of all communities.
What educational support is your community hoping to see from Maddie’s ® Lifesaving Academy? What classes, curriculum, and topics do you or your staff want to learn? Submit ideas to [email protected].