Over the last few years Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) has gone through several transformations, putting more emphasis than ever before on connecting with the community and improving quality of life for the animals in our care. By the end of 2016, RASKC had officially reached a 90% Live Release Rate (LRR), meaning nine out of ten animals that come through the door are adopted to new families or returned to their original owner. By the measure of many in the animal welfare field, this is an important milestone in our journey to help the animals in our shelter’s care. While being thrilled to have reached this milestone, we asked: What’s next? How can we help even more animals? What other impacts can we have on the community?
That drive by our staff and volunteers to continue improving is what makes RASKC a continually evolving, learning, and experimenting organization. In 2017, we made efforts to increase adoptions, forge new partnerships, and expand our reach in the community. And it paid off! We are excited to share that our Asilomar LRR for cats and dogs in 2017 reached 94%. In addition, RASKC is proud to share that we will continue to provide animal services to 24 cities under a new five-year agreement, with an extension clause that could extend the services for an additional five years, providing stability for animal welfare safety net in King County for the next decade.
We want to thank our dedicated team, made up of 44 staff (Field, Shelter, Licensing) and more than 700 volunteers, as well as our many partners in the community, without whom this would not have been possible. We have even more planned for 2018 and we are excited to help as many animals as possible with your support! In the meantime, here are five areas where RASKC has made a difference for pets and people in the community last year.
Five areas of change:
- Enhancing animal services
- Improving the Volunteer Program
- Continued success in pet licensing
- Expanding our adoption partner program
- Reaching the community
Petco Foundation Grant: In the first half of 2017, we were thrilled to be awarded $75,000 from the Petco Foundation! We requested this funding to replace the stainless steel cat kennels in our adoption room with more spacious cat condos. With the remaining funds, we will be working with professional dog trainers in 2018 to create a new behavior modification program for our dogs.
Colony rooms: Our amazing Foster Coordinator, Lori Mason, LVT, created a fun and low-stress space for the cats to enjoy — both indoors and out— in our new “catio” colony room. A huge thanks to the volunteers who participated in a summer garage sale last year, which raised nearly $3,000 for this project!
Dog Meet & Greet Room: Our old dog behavior assessment room was transformed into a bright and welcoming dog meet & greet room, providing adopters with a great space to spend more time getting to know the dogs.
Dog Playgroups: Recognizing that we could do more to help dogs succeed in our shelter, in May, RASKC started conducting dog playgroups for the first time. In addition to providing more socialization, these playgroups allow the dogs a chance to burn off their extra energy, making them better behaved when it’s time to meet new adopters!
Our Animal Care Technicians Adryan Jones and Emily Ruppert are currently leading this program, with more frequent groups planned for 2018. “The best part about the playgroups is being able to get a better read on who the dog actually is,” says Emily. “Often we learn that dogs who we thought were dog aggressive actually weren’t. Also, since the shelter is a very high stress environment for dogs, this gives the dogs a needed opportunity to relieve some of that stress.”
Volunteer Hours: With the leadership of our Volunteer Program Coordinator, Sarah Luthens, more than 750 volunteers donated a total of 120,523 hours in 2017! These tens of thousands of hours are provided by our super foster families, and our shelter volunteers, sharing their love of animals to help new animals adjust to the shelter, go for dog walks, do tons of laundry and get animals adopted at the shelter and at our many offsite adoption locations.
Foster Hours: A HUGE thanks to our Foster Families, and our superstar Foster Coordinator, Lori Mason, LVT, for the countless hours spent supporting and caring for hundreds of foster animals. Our 236 dedicated foster parents who nursed to health, loved and socialized, and transported to veterinary appointments the hundreds of animals fostered provided 99,065 hours caring for our foster pets. This SAVED lives!
Volunteer eNewsletter: RASKC’s first ever volunteer e-newsletter launched in March 2017. These e-newsletters are a great way for volunteers to learn about the latest updates at RASKC. All eNewsletter archives can now be viewed on our Tails from RASKC blog.
Volunteer Dog Team: This year our dog volunteer program has gone through several major changes, including a new color-coded system that matches volunteer strengths with different dog personalities. As we continue to refine this program, we have created monthly Dog Team Meetings where volunteers can connect with RASKC staff and discuss their thoughts, questions and concerns. These meetings take place the last Thursday of each month.
Volunteer Website: The volunteer page of RASKC’s website went through a major transformation this year. The page now includes a “Volunteer Hub Resource Center” with video trainings that engage both current volunteers and prospective new volunteers.
Pet licensing sales were up again this year, with a record of more than 111,000 licenses sold in 2017. Licensing your pet protects your pet with a quick way home if lost (you can register your pet’s microchip with that license record, in case the collar comes off), and licenses help to fund the lifesaving work that RASKC performs, including providing care for thousands of homeless animals in the community each year.
NEKO Cat Café: RASKC is now partnering with a new cat café named NEKO in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district. This partnership is unique because NEKO has agreed to house exclusively FeLV+ (Feline Leukemia) cats, providing these cats with special exposure to get adopted!
A huge THANK YOU to Maddie’s Fund, who awarded RASKC a $5,000 grant to help support this new partnership!
Café Cocoa: One of RASKC’s adoption partners, The Whole Cat & Kaboodle (in Kirkland), opened a second location in Redmond this year. Their new Café Cocoa specializes in adopting out older cats that may be difficult to place, including those with special medical needs. This is a special place for senior cats who want to meet you.
In addition to The Whole Cat and Kaboodle and NEKO, RASKC is proud to continue our partnerships with Seattle Meowtropolitan, Reber Ranch, Petco, and PetSmart. Learn more about all of our adoption partners here.
Adopters Welcome: At the beginning of 2017, RASKC implemented the “Adopters Welcome” program promoted by the Humane Society of the United States. Based on the idea that we can save more animals by removing barriers to adoption, “Adopters Welcome” is a philosophical commitment to celebrate people’s willingness to adopt pets by meeting them where they are in terms of their attitudes and understanding, and invest in their success by providing guidance and practical support. Since the launch of the program, RASKC has increased adoptions in 2017 by more than 20% compared to 2016.
Website: The website’s major service pages – pet licensing, adoption, surrendering a pet, animal control services, lost and found pets – are now all available in King County’s top six languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Somali and Russian. The website provides multiple ways for residents to navigate to the multilingual service pages, promoting RASKC’s use of providing language interpretation phone-services to the public when needed.
Phone Interpretation Service: All our staff are trained to use Voiance, a phone interpretation language support center, which helps us better connect with all residents of the community in a clear, reliable fashion. We want to help every resident get help with their animal issues.
Social Media: RASKC not only continues to have the fourth most Facebook followers among all King County agencies, we also joined the beautiful world of Instagram in 2017! With Instagram, staff, volunteers and the public can now be a part of the movement to help our pets be seen and adopted into forever homes.
Humane Education: Kind Kid Tours: RASKC provides shelter tours, also known as “Kind Kid Tours” that provides students with the opportunity to come and visit the shelter, including an interactive experience to engage in humane education, with the goal of providing awareness of safety and kindness towards pets. The tour consists of two parts: Mock Simulation Game “Mission to find Spot” and “Cat Talks.” At the end of the program, students receive a certificate of recognition for their role as a “Deputy Animal Control Officer of the Day,” a choice of paper pet puppets (ranging from cats, dogs, rabbits, and other fun animals) with information about RASKC on the back and links to our website (homepage and licensing page) and blog, and a “Tag your pet!” children’s application activity to fill out their information and cut and paste the pet license onto their paper pet.
School to Work Pipeline: In 2017, RASKC supported the following schools:
- Big Picture Schools (Bellevue and Burien) – engaged with approximately six students during the course of the year, offering tours and a chance to engage in a Q&A session with a staff leader that matches up with the student’s identified career interest.
- Cedar Heights Middle School (Covington) – spent half a day with Officer Karen Davy from Covington Police, assisting in an open discussion about pet owner responsibility with students who were part of the school’s summer community program.
- Crest Carriage Elementary (Kent) – provided Kind Kid Tours to about 65 kindergarten students
- Eastlake High School (Sammamish) – students asked to make a documentary, “Pause for Paws,” to support RASKC and spread the message of pet safety and pet owner responsibility, interviewed RASKC management.
- Eastlake High School (Sammamish) – RASKC was invited by the school’s Key Club to present to about 1,800 students during a volunteer fair the school was hosting
- Kentwood High School (Kent) – a junior at KHS reached out and asked to represent RASKC at a trade show held at school, with an audience of about 2,000
- King County Superior Court Court’s Community Program – providing an internship opportunity to a youth in need of work experience in a positive and supportive environment
- Renton Christian School (Renton) – invited 18 students from the school’s 1st Lego League, who used RASKC as a subject for their innovator challenge, to visit and tour the RASKC facility including engage in questions with staff
- UW’s Human Centered Designing & Engineering program – Four Masters students came to RASKC to interview and learn about the organization, web and social portals
Supporting People in Crisis: RASKC provides pet supplies (food, toys and kennels) to regional organizations committed to preventing and ending homelessness to better accommodate owners with their beloved pets in shelters and supportive housing programs. We also provide temporary pet sheltering and support to organizations that assist and protect victims of domestic violence, and to organizations aiding homeless individuals attain medical care or in-patient addiction treatment.
- Zulily – From photoshoots to LIVE Facebook broadcasts, this company has done a great deal to help support RASKC by raising awareness of shelter pets across the nation.
- Seattle Meowtropolitan – our first Cat Café adoption partner has started a new monthly “Family Day” session that provides children under the age of 8 to come and spend time in the cafe’s cat jungle. Instruction and support is provided by RASKC volunteers.
Support from One King County:
During King County’s Annual Giving Drive, RASKC received more requests in 2017 to present at department meetings, and take part in creative, fun new events, (such as the “Kitten Cuddles” hosted by Employee Giving Program and “Kitten Cafe” hosted by Office of Performance, Strategy & Budget!). Thank you King County employees for your enthusiasm and amazing support.