Top 5 Reasons Animals are Dying in Shelters and How to Save Them

February 2020 by Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Kristen Hassen-Auerbach, Denise Deisler, Rebecca Guinn, Ed Jamison, Teresa Johnson, Paula Powell, Cheryl Schneider and Mike Wheeler

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Video Length: 54:45

Dr. Ellen Jefferson and the Leadership Alive! group share solutions to start saving the lives of the most vulnerable pets in our care.

This presentation was recorded by Maddie's Fund® at the 2020 American Pets Alive! Conference.

About Dr. Ellen Jefferson

Dr. Jefferson graduated veterinary school in 1997 and started her career in private practice. In 1999, in response to an 85% death rate at the city shelter, she started Emancipet, a low cost and free spay/neuter clinic in an effort to decrease the number of homeless animals. In 2008, still not satisfied with how fast the city of Austin was moving towards no-kill status, she stepped in as Executive Director of Austin Pets Alive! Since 2008, Austin Pets Alive! has been the driving force to bring the entire city of Austin to a greater than 90% save rate and the largest no-kill city in the US, and to redefine what no-kill means, as Austin's save rate now approaches 98%.

Dr. Jefferson was unanimously chosen as the first recipient of the Avanzino Leadership award, named for the father of no-kill and given for her outstanding contribution to the no-kill movement.


About Kristen Hassen-Aurbach

Kristen is the Director of Pima Animal Care Center, Pima County's only open-admissions animal shelter which takes in 17,000 homeless, lost and abandoned pets annually and serves 15,000 animals through animal protection and outreach services. Under her direction, PACC is saving more than 90 percent of the cats and dogs who come to the shelter including orphaned puppies and kittens, pets recovering from illness and injuries, and animals who have been victims of cruelty or neglect. In 2017, she oversaw the opening of the newly-constructed state-of-the-art, animal services facility.

Kristen has received national recognition for her innovative, lifesaving programs. Her efforts have been featured in numerous national publications and websites, such as Animal Sheltering magazine, the Huffington Post, BarkPost, the Dodo and Buzzfeed, and on TV networks, including CNN, Fox and ABC. Kristen formerly served as the Deputy Director at Austin Animal Center in Austin, Texas as well as the Assistant Director at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Fairfax, Virginia.


About Denise Deisler

Denise joined the Jacksonville Humane Society in September 2011. As director, she enjoys training, mentoring and consulting on a wide variety of topics including building successful partnerships, community engagement, board and staff development, and model no kill programs. She currently serves on Best Friends Animal Society's No Kill 2025 steering committee and leads the No Kill Florida committee. She is also honored to participate with Petco Foundation and Purina leadership groups.


About Rebecca Guinn

Rebecca left behind a successful law career after visiting a county shelter where the majority of animals had been euthanized. Thinking there had to be a better way for a community to address its homeless pet population, she founded LifeLine Animal Project in 2002 and implemented a long-term strategy to redefine metro Atlanta's practices and philosophies regarding caring for companion animals. In 2013, LifeLine was awarded the management contracts for Atlanta's Fulton and DeKalb County animal shelters, where the organization has more than doubled lifesaving rates and positioned Atlanta to become a no-kill community.

Rebecca is active in the animal law section of the state bar of Georgia and is a member of Best Friends Animal Society's No-Kill 2025 National Steering Committee.


About Ed Jamison

Ed became the Director of Dallas Animal Services (DAS) in October of 2017. With over 34,000 dogs and cats entering DAS yearly, Dallas is the 4th largest intake in the United States. Prior to coming to Dallas, Ed was the Chief Animal Control Officer for the City of Cleveland, Ohio, but he entered the Animal Care & Control World in the mid 2000's while he was the Animal Warden for the City of Garfield Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. In his time serving Cleveland, Ed made a push to redefine the way Animal Control functions, and re-brand the public's perception of the industry, particularly with "pit-bull" type dogs. The award winning, trademarked CITY DOGs Cleveland Adoption and Volunteer programs are flourishing and being copied throughout the country.


About Teresa Johnson

Teresa is the oft-honored CEO and Chief Lifesaving Officer for Kansas City Pet Project in Kansas City, Missouri. After taking over operations of Kansas City's old municipal shelter in 2012, Teresa and her team used their "solutions - not excuses" approach to transform the shelter into a national leader in no-kill animal shelters in the United States by setting a lifesaving record of 95.7 percent. Prior to Kansas City Pet Project, the city's animal shelter had been euthanizing up to 70 percent of the animals in their facility. In 2018, Teresa received the Maddie's® Hero Award from Maddie's Fund for her work in advancing the welfare of companion animals in the United States and leading the way with innovative ideas, progressive thinking, and lifesaving actions.

Prior to her work in animal welfare, Teresa was the vice president of risk management and control for J.P. Morgan Asset Management. She holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Missouri - Columbia.


About Paula Powell

Paula was named Director of El Paso Animal Services in April of 2018 after spending several months implementing positive changes as interim director and team lead for El Paso's Shelter Reform Taskforce. In this short time as Animal Services' leader, Paula and her team have increased the live release rate from 68 percent to an average of 86 percent. Prior to leading Animal Services, Paula spent 24 years serving the City of El Paso in various operational positions. Before that, Paula served as a 1st Lt in the US Army and was stationed at Fort Bliss. She began her college education at the United States Military Academy and culminated it with her master's in public administration at the University of Texas at El Paso. She received her certification in Shelter Management in 2018 and continues to look for new ways to learn and grow in order to lead her community to reach its goals.


About Cheryl Schneider

Cheryl is the Director of Animal Services for the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. A former nurse/paramedic for 32 years, Cheryl became interested in the city-operated animal shelter in Lockhart during her tenure as Emergency Medical Services director. Concerned for the welfare and outcome of the animals at the shelter, she formed the volunteer group Cause for Paws, Inc. in 1999 whose mission was to assist with the shelter's operations and funding. Soon after, Animal Services was placed under her management. After retiring from the City of Lockhart in 2007, Cheryl went to work in Williamson County as the director for the newly built regional animal shelter, which intakes about 7,000 animals annually. During her tenure, the euthanasia rate has steadily decreased and a save rate of over 90 percent has been achieved and kept since December 2010. Cheryl holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management.


About Mike Wheeler

Mike is the Director of Community Services for Cabot Arkansas. Under Mike's management the city-operated, open-admission shelter takes in over 3,000 animals a year with a 2019 Live Release rate of 99% counting every animal the organization touches. His passion for animal welfare and public policy has driven him to his position of President of the Arkansas State Animal Control Association. In this capacity, he trains animals control officers and assists Animal Service Departments across the state write and implement new laws dedicated to higher standards for animal welfare and public safety. Mike has completed bachelor's degrees in Criminal Justice and Business Administration with a Master's degree in Public Administration.


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