Once again this year’s ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference was a wonderful success, offering a variety of helpful topics for all shelter and animal welfare team members. A trending topic, often of great value to anyone invested in animal welfare, was presented this year by Matt Piccone of PAWS of Rochester on, “Engaging your community to increase positive outcomes for dogs.”
Matt began his presentation by telling his own personal story of why he founded PAWS of Rochester. Before establishing and directing PAWS, Matt worked for the security department of a national cable TV company. His position required him to search for illegal cable TV hookups to houses within the less affluent areas of Rochester, NY. Matt’s work necessitated entering the yards of hundreds of houses each day, where he immediately became exposed to dogs living in very concerning conditions.
Quickly realizing the need for both animal welfare education and veterinary access to these communities, Matt self-admittedly became consumed with finding a solution. He ultimately left his job with the cable TV company in order to dedicate his career to serving the animals and people living in the under-privileged areas of Rochester. Matt partnered with a dedicated local animal control officer, and the two began going door to door within the community offering animal welfare education and assistance with the care of their dogs.
Matt reported that through trial and error, he learned how important it is not to be judgmental of the people who own the animals in the targeted communities. By engaging these owners in benign conversations about their dogs, Matt learned time after time how much they loved their dogs, and strived to provide the best care possible. He cautioned the audience members that because these community members typically experience “empty promises” it may take an extended period of time to earn their trust, which is crucial for succeeding your organization’s mission.
Matt explained that it is this very reason that he is sure to always follow through with his commitment to the owners and their dogs. For example, PAWS of Rochester transports animals to veterinary clinics, donates dog houses, and repairs fences for owners who agree to have their dogs spayed or neutered. Committing to these services not only establishes a foundation for an impactful relationship, but also directly improves the lives of the dogs in these communities. Matt is now a trusted member of many of the at-risk Rochester neighborhoods, which in turn, makes his efforts even more successful.
Before ending the session, Matt advised that establishing a non-profit animal welfare organization is not an easy feat. It takes trial and error, and there will likely be set backs. But, Matt has kept on open mind towards the community members he is aiming to help and his mission remains close to his heart. He whole-heartedly encouraged the audience members to do the same. Gauging by the audience’s questions and comments, I can see that Matt Piccone was an inspiration to this year’s conference goers.
For more information about PAWS of Rochester visit: pawsofrochester.org
For additional information on establishing an open-minded, effective organizational culture visit this blog post by ASPCApro highlighting Amy Mills of Emancipet: http://www.aspcapro.org/love-me-love-my-owner