Since the petition made its debut, Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC) has been very adamant that it does have a volunteer program, contrary to our claims. MACC even scheduled a volunteer orientation for May 18, but because the orientation conflicted with a Crossroads Campus event, it was moved to Memorial Day weekend. Despite the holiday, the room was packed – standing room only.
During the May 25 volunteer informational session and orientation, aspiring volunteers were introduced to the “small but mighty” group of current MACC volunteers. A MACC employee boasted of the more than 11,000 volunteers hours accumulated since 2007. But what does that really mean? It means that, if each volunteer worked the minimum hours required (and we’re told these volunteers actually work more), MACC has maintained a roster of approximately 19 volunteers over the past 6 years. To put that into perspective, Seattle Animal Shelter and Capital Area Humane Society, both which have a comparably sized staff relative to MACC, have over 600 active volunteers on each of their rosters. (“Active” is defined as having volunteered in the last 6 months.) Seattle alone logs 7,000-8,000 volunteer hours monthly. Now THAT’s a volunteer program.
More about MACC’s volunteer program…
- Volunteers must complete a background check before they may be considered. The background check costs $50 through Metro Nashville & Davidson County’s contracted company. Even if a volunteer’s background check results are favorable, there is no guarantee the volunteer will be chosen. That said, we do not know what criteria might be used to reject a volunteer.
Recommendation: The health department should either foot the bill for the background check (as do several other departments in Metro) OR approve volunteers for service pending a clear background check report. This way, a volunteer only pays for the report IF he/she is approved to begin work.
- Each volunteer must commit to a minimum of 8 hours per month, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m-4 p.m. Volunteers must work 2-4 hour shifts, and there are to be no more than 4-6 volunteers in the building at a time. As there are only so many Saturday volunteer slots available, this requirement is particularly limiting for those of us who work Monday-Friday during regular business hours.
Recommendation: There should be no minimum requirement. To manage the large number of volunteers, we recommend identifying Lead Volunteers, who would receive “train the trainer” training from a MACC employee and be tasked with managing and orientating other volunteers. Concerned Citizens for Change offered to build, implement, and facilitate this process and were told our services we not needed.
- Volunteers are ONLY permitted to work with animals in the adoption room, which holds about 45 animals or less out of the total 250 (when the building is at capacity). This means most animals are never exercised or socialized. The longer an animal goes without human contact, the less likely it is to pass a temperament test and be deemed “adoptable.” Also, though Dr. Paul has publicly stated MACC needs help with PetFinder photos and bios, volunteers are not permitted to help with this effort.
Recommendation: Volunteers should be utilized in every capacity possible, including exercising and socializing animals not yet available for adoption. Speaking of temperament tests, many animal advocates in the Nashville area are certified in temperament testing protocols and could help move animals into the adoption area more quickly. There are numerous other asks for which volunteers could be used, including staffing adoption days and events off-site, as well as photographing animals, writing bios, uploading photos and bios to PetFinder, and keeping the PetFinder site up-to-date.
MACC cannot hope to have a successful volunteer program if it deters and prevents caring people from volunteering and refuses to allow volunteers to help with tasks outside of MACC’s adoption area. There is so much work to do, and MACC’s staff simply cannot do it alone. A roster of 600 volunteers, each working even 4 hours per month, could do the work of 13 FULL TIME employees. Imagine the possibilities!