Please join me in welcoming author and dog rescuer Steve Monahan of Green Pets America.
In our interview, Steve talks about his transformation from corporate executive to animal rescuer, his new book, Rescue Renew Rehome, and his visionary strategies for making No-Kill, a 100% adoption rate and financial sustainability a reality in our nations’ shelters.
Would you share with readers how you discovered your calling as an animal advocate and rescuer and where that calling has led you over the last ten years?
Prior to becoming a death row shelter rescuer and national animal welfare advocate, I was a senior corporate executive with two Fortune 100 Corporations. I had been married over 30 years, had four children, and was enjoying the America Dream.
But life and destiny have funny ways of throwing us curve balls. I suddenly developed a serious illness that was so bad the doctors gave me months to live. But again another curve ball, and they found a way to save me. It involved a go for broke, life or death operation. Fortunately I drew life.
That encounter with death changed me forever. It seemed to awaken me to a new world, and with it a need to serve others. The others I chose were death-row shelter dogs. I was given a second chance at life, and I believe God wants me to spend my new life giving them a second chance as well. I have always loved animals, but before my encounter with mortality I would have never imagined that I would start a nonprofit to rescue shelter dogs and become a writer.
My life has totally changed since that decision to leave the Corporate lifestyle and serve others. It has not been easy at times, but I am more at peace, happier and more full of life and compassion than I have ever been. St Francis says that “In dying we are born to eternal life”, I now know what he meant. He also said “better to console others, than be consoled, and better to serve others than be served”. Saving animals seems a strange calling to most business men; but to me I can do nothing higher than serve, and care for animals while I am here.
Why did you write Rescue, Renew, Rehome?
I wrote Rescue Renew Rehome because our animal welfare system must change. Over 9,000 animals are needlessly killed every day in our animal shelters. I feel the only way we can start the process to change our animal sheltering system and policies is by telling the story of what’s happening today in America.
When I talked to groups about animal shelters and shared with them that 4 million shelter pets are killed yearly, people are astonished. They just never knew the magnitude of this tragedy. So I decided to write a book to educate and talk about this, not only locally, but nationally and globally as well. I believe it’s Ignorance that Kills Lives – and that it is Education that Saves Lives.
I wrote the book to use what I have learned as a dog rescuer and to be a voice of reason and compassion for our shelter animals. To educate and tell how to change our system of animal sheltering; from kill to no kill, from fear, to compassion for animals. I also use my 30 years of corporate business leadership and problem solving skills to offer outside the box thinking solutions to reinvent our broken animal shelter system.
However, Rescue Renew Rehome was not written to complain. I do not believe in blaming or pointing fingers. That solves nothing. I wanted a book that explained it all rationally, and offered well thought out, innovative and achievable solutions as well.
In your book you share that you asked yourself hard questions about the killing of four million dogs a year in the U.S., such as “Why are we killing these beautiful animals?” and “Why do we as a society allow this?” From your viewpoint, how do you answer these important questions?
That’s a good question, and key to the solution as well. I asked these questions because I could not understand why this happens in a society that loves its pets. 70% of Americans,82 million people, own a pet. We spend over $58 Billion annually caring for them. 66% of dog owners say they would not marry someone who didn’t like their pet and many of these people consider their pets to be their children. Why would we then abandon them on the streets, or turn them into shelters, knowing they probably will be destroyed?
My conclusion was this. It is a reflection of our society’s mind set. It is a reflection of our modern American society. We are a disposable society. We are insatiable consumers. We acquire a thing and when we tire of it, we dispose of it. Don’t like your perfectly good cell phone? Turn it in and get a new shinier one. Don’t like your marriage partner? No problem, dispose of them and find a new one. Not feeling happy? Don’t look inside and examine your thinking: just get some pain meds or drugs and it all goes away in an instant. Tired of this or tired of that? No problem dispose of it and get a brand new this or that.
But there is a deep cost to our souls, our health, our stability and our lives in living in a disposable society. Turn on the TV and you see the cost in happiness and lives every night. And as to our pets? When we tire of them, or they become a bit of a problem? No problem, we just emotionally detach ourselves from them, and dispose of them. We take them to the shelter and wham our problem is solved. We let the government shelter handle our personal problem. Well, they handle it all right. They kill 4 million of our disposable society problems every year.
Because I believe this is the core issue we named the book Rescue Renew Rehome. It ties into the green recycle mentality. Value what we have, respect it and don’t discard it at a whim. We need to respect all life and value all life, human, animal and nature.
You also say that behavior problems are more a human problem than a dog problem. Please explain what you mean and share an example.
Yes, Study after study has clearly shown that we don’t have an animal problem, we have a pet owner problem. In our chapter on “It’s Not the Dog”, Dr. Corinna Murray, DVM, CPC takes us through how dogs learn their appropriate, or inappropriate behavior from us.
Dogs have been bred from wolves to be our companions and protectors. They want to please us. Dr Murray eloquently helps us understand how our pets use emotions, versus humans who use thinking. When we reframe our actions and thinking we learn how to be on the same level of understanding as our pet. It is a great chapter for those who want to better understand their family pet and eliminate unwanted behavioral issues they are experiencing.
The adoption rate for adoptable dogs is currently 30%. In Rescue Renew Rehome, you list 20 strategies for attaining a 100% adoption rate by 2020. Would you share 2-3 of these strategies with our readers and tell us why they are important?
We have listed the top 20 things every community animal shelter can do starting today to ensure that all of their healthy animals get adopted into new homes. We believe when shelters embrace these strategies, and stop fighting them, we will achieve full adoption in every community shelter across America.
Let me be clear. When we state 100% adoption, we mean 100% of all healthy animals in the shelter. There are some that come into the shelters with severe behavioral issues from human abuse and some that come in so injured they cannot be saved. But aside from that about 5%, all others can be rehomed.
All 20 policies must be done in tandem for this to work. The most critical of the 20 policies that we have developed over the past 10 years of being in the trenches of animal rescue and welfare is number one. And that is a “Commitment from the Community” to no longer condone mass killing in their community shelters. This means that top elected officials, city manager, shelter manager, rescue groups and the communities citizens agree to the green no kill, full adoption shelter philosophy. We can no longer leave the decision as to who lives and who dies with elected politicians or one single shelter manager.
A few of the others are shelter spay and neuter programs to control pet populations, partnerships with local rescues and pet businesses, pet retention programs and post-adoption trainers.
What is your vision for transforming the prison-like shelters of today to dog and adopter friendly shelters and model pet communities of the future?
We have developed two business models for America’s future community animal shelters. One is a non-profit model. The other is a hybrid for profit and non-profit business model. We cover them both in detail in three chapters of the book.
The first is a non-profit model named Green Shelters. The second a hybrid profit and non-profit business model named Green Villages. They are modern, 21st century models where communities will come together to not only adopt animals but celebrate them, interact with them, shop for services for them, enjoy sporting events together, and enjoy green eco-constructed 21st century community centers. These models will be a 360 degree change from today’s prison concrete buildings that repel people.These Green Shelters and Green Villages will be destination centers that pets and pet lovers will want to come to regularly to spend the day.
Think “Disney for Pets”.
What is cause marketing and how is it important to shelters and rescues?
Cause marketing is a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit for mutual gain. Cause marketing differs from corporate philanthropy, as the latter generally involves a specific donation which is tax deductible, while cause marketing is a marketing relationship not necessarily based on a donation.
The benefits of cause marketing for non-profits include an increased ability to promote their cause or mission via the greater financial resources of a large business and an increased ability to reach possible supporters through another company’s customer base.
The benefits of cause marketing for business include positive public relations, improved customer relations, additional marketing opportunities, and making more money. Studies demonstrate that people like and shop at businesses that support causes.
Please share an experience of how Green Pets America has successfully used cause marketing.
In our book we share a number of examples of extremely successful Cause Marketing programs, including our own “Save a Life”, a successful billboard campaign we did in Atlanta in partnership with Clear Channel. And also our “Black Dog Friday” program that is bringing awareness to the Black Dog Syndrome. Black dogs are the most overlooked shelter dogs for adoption, and because of that, the most killed of all shelter dogs in America. We feel that Cause Marketing will be as important to changing our animal welfare as our 20 point adoption strategies.
What else would you like to share with readers?
Well, I want to thank you for allowing us to get our message out. We all must be a voice for reason and compassion for our animals. If we do not speak for them, and be their voices, who will? Let me leave you with two quotes we included in Rescue Renew Rehome to reflect on.
1. Why animals are here.
“In the beginning…He sent certain animals to tell men that He showed himself only through the animals, the stars, the sun, and the moon, that mankind would learn how to live together in peace” Lesa Pawnee
2. Their Voice.
“We must never permit the voice of humanity within us be silenced. It is mankind’s sympathy with all animals that first makes him truly a man.” Albert Schweitzer
How can readers contact you?
Readers can email me at Steve@GreenPetsAmerica.com or call Green Pets America at 864.674.7387.
They can also join my personal sites at Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. Links to all three are on our website at www.GreenPetsAmerica.org.
Take a look inside Rescue Renew Rehome by Steve Monahan and get your copy here:
What do you have to say? Share your thoughts in the comments below.