The Association Blog

News, ideas & inspiration from industry leaders


Hot Topic: 3 Questions about a Shelter’s Guiding Principles with Joe Elmore

April 24, 2024, Joe Elmore, CAWA, CFRE

We officially introduced the nine tenets of People & Animals In Community Together (PACT) this week, along with a toolkit of resources to support this initiative. Here’s what one of the field’s long-time leaders, Charleston Animal Society’s Joe Elmore, CAWA, CFRE, has to say about PACT

People & Animals In Community Together is a compassionate, transparent model of animal sheltering illustrated by nine shared tenets. Many organizations and leaders across the country have committed to this way of caring for animals, including Charleston Animal Society’s President & CEO, Joe Elmore, CAWA, CFRE. We spoke with Joe and asked him to share what it means to make a PACT with your community.

The Association: Working together with the community is nothing new for you. You organized the statewide initiative No Kill South Carolina—one state saving lives together. Can you share what “No Kill” means in your community, and how those words can impact how the public sees us?
Joe Elmore: As a field, we know that we confuse the public—particularly in talking about “No Kill” and how that phrase is interpreted.  There is also confusion in how we talk about how we measure success—with terms like live release rates, save rates, etc.

You know that old saying about how it’s really about the journey, not the destination? That’s exactly how we try to introduce and define “No Kill” in our state.  We even train our staff that whenever someone refers to us as a “no-kill shelter,” our response is, “There’s no such thing as a no-kill shelter.” We’re all in this together, so we consider Charleston County a no-kill community.  Just like education, hunger, and domestic violence, the social issues our work addresses are not organization-centric, they’re community-centric.

The Association: How does PACT fit in to this picture, and what is it about PACT that makes you such a strong proponent?
Joe Elmore: “No Kill” was introduced nearly half a century ago as a concept, a wonderful dream of building a nation where all animals who should be saved are saved. However, it did not have structure, which led to confusion, exploitation, and division.  With PACT, we finally have the structure to harness our collective energy and passion and transition into the next half century as an unprecedented force for animals. I’m excited because PACT doesn’t want to micromanage organizations, but instead offers a strong structure in the form of guiding principles we call tenets. Individual organizations can still operate the way they normally operate—but with these guiding principles, we move forward in a singular, focused direction.

The Association: What advice do you have for your fellow leaders who may be unsure about signing on to PACT?
Joe Elmore: I know what this field, and you, can do. I came from the human services field, but the passion, just the raw passion, that I’ve seen in my colleagues in animal welfare is unmatched.

As for PACT, it’s our responsibility now at this point in the history of the animal welfare movement. We’re seeing a steady, 20- to 30-year decline in euthanasia, while right now, just a few years coming out of COVID, we’re still seeing the aftereffects of reduced spay/neuter. And of course a significant increase in intake of large dogs. We have to be in the game to get this under control, and to really make the leaps forward we need to make. Also know that it might feel like you’re on an island out there, but you’ve got The Association. All your colleagues are here.

You’ll regret sitting on the sidelines for this one. Get into the game!

Want to learn more about this movement? Listen to the recorded webinar held earlier this week.

About Joe Elmore, CAWA, CFRE
Joe Elmore, CAWA, CFRE, joined Charleston Animal Society as its President and CEO in 2012, bringing 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector with him. Joe has been recognized by the Governors of Washington and the Virgin Islands, has received the American Red Cross Tiffany Award for Management Excellence, and was awarded the U.S. Dept. of Defense Medal for his work in America’s first Persian Gulf Conflict. Joe was named one of 9 Maddie’s Heroes for inspirational and innovative leadership in its 2015 inaugural class.
  1. Hey Joe,
    I just read your article on PACT and wanted to say how much I agree with your perspective. As a fellow leader in the animal welfare movement, I can’t help but be excited about the potential of this initiative to bring us together under a shared set of principles while still allowing for organizational autonomy.

    Your emphasis on a community-centric approach to “No Kill” resonates with me. I’ve always believed that this work is about more than just individual shelters or rescues – it’s about entire communities coming together to save lives. PACT provides the structure we need to harness our collective passion and energy and make real progress.

    I also appreciate your honesty in acknowledging the challenges we’re facing, like the aftereffects of reduced spay/neuter during COVID and the increase in large dog intake. It’s crucial that we’re proactive in addressing these issues, and PACT gives us a framework to do that.

    Your advice to “get into the game” is spot on. As leaders, we have a responsibility to be at the forefront of this movement. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option, especially with the support of The Association and our colleagues behind us.
    I’m proud to be part of this field with visionaries like you leading the way. Keep up the great work, my friend. I’ll be cheering you on as you continue to drive impactful change in Charleston and beyond.

    Wishing you all the best,

    1. Thank you Ed. I have learned so much from my colleagues over the years, including you, especially with your recent blogs related to the dilemma we’re facing with Pit Bull type dogs.

      I would like to see our national organizations get behind PACT to help harness a collective energy to drive messaging with the public and direction in our field.

  2. We are a newly formed organization and contemplating membership. However, regarding PACT, I am having difficulty reconciling the use of the terms “transparency”, “unhealthy”, “untreatable”, and “euthanasia” all in the same breath.

    1. Thanks for the comments Jerry. I view PACT as offering a structure to assist organizations with navigating the complexities of the animal welfare field as it relates to humane care and lifesaving, without confining us to a day-to-day operational paradigm. I agree that our “industry” terms may be confusing, both externally and internally, which is why I tend to keep it as simple as possible with the public, staff, and volunteers –“No Kill is saving the animals that should be saved and humanely euthanizing those that should not be saved.” Quite frankly, rates, whatever they might be, and there are several, are all arbitrary.

      Determining “should” is process-driven. What is the process behind making an “end of life” decision? I feel we have to build a solid process for decision-making and continue to evolve that process based on a variety of factors.

      Shelter directors and local veterinarians have high standing in local communities. We need to build upon that trust so that the public and others have confidence in us making lifesaving decisions.

Leave a Reply