Guest post by Leslie Sans, Executive Director of Dallas Pets Alive!
College administrator turned animal advocate and rescue leader, that’s me. I am sure many of us who find ourselves in this rescue world never thought we would be fighting for animals in our communities. For others, actively saving animals has been their calling all along. That was not the case for me.
Austin Pets Alive (APA) was the beginning of my animal rescue journey. I started as a volunteer on the marketing team, extending the reach of APA’s animals outside the shelter with the ultimate goal of finding them homes. I attended the very first APA conference at Cain and Able’s in 2011, just as a newish volunteer trying to learn more. Sitting there, I remember thinking to myself, “Do you really think you need to be here? You are only a volunteer, not part of leadership. You just had a baby; you should be home with her. What are you going to do with all this information?”
I was second guessing myself, but somewhere deep down, I knew there was more. I knew attending the conference was the right thing to do. I gained a better understanding of No-Kill and how APA accomplished so much to achieve this status. I needed to be there. I purely didn’t know why yet. Through life’s twists and turns (a story for another blog), I somehow ended up taking everything that I learned at APA and AmPA and applying it to a new Dallas rescue only one year later, as the leader of Dallas Pets Alive (DPA).
DPA was forged with grassroots efforts, passion for animals, lots of sweat and tears and thankfully a guide that was given to me at AmPA. A guide that I used to create what is now a highly well-recognized and respected animal rescue in a city of over 1.3 million people. Without the roadmap from the conference, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start DPA. Why? Because lives are at stake when you start saving animals, and that responsibility is on your shoulders as a leader. I knew that, but I also knew that I had the best example from which to draw, a positive approach to rescue and to achieving No-Kill status in a city that desperately needs it. I was given confidence that day at Cain and Able’s to start something here in Dallas that I never thought possible.
Is Dallas the same as Austin? Of course not. We have to change and adjust how we approach rescue here in Dallas, but attending AmPA conferences has given me and my team the continued knowledge and energy we need to complete the work that needs to be done in our community. Last year, DPA rescued 779 pets, started and successfully Trap Neutered and Released 500 community cats and implemented a Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender program similar to APA’s. In four years, we have accomplished so much. My career is now animal rescue, and it’s because I said yes to learning more about how to save lives.
If you find yourself wondering like I did in 2011, “Do I really need to attend this conference? I am just a volunteer.” Erase that from your mind! Jump into this rescue world, no matter your background. The animals need you. They need you to learn how to make their world a better place, and AmPA is the best way to start.
Dallas Pets Alive