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The Great CAWA Throwdown

November 29, 2021, The Association

Yup, you read that title right. It wasn’t our idea, but all props go to Arizona Humane Society’s President & CEO, Steven Hansen, DVM, MBA, and member of The Association’s board. We recently checked in with Dr. Hansen for the whole scoop, and more on why he feels becoming a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator is one of the most important moves you can make.

UPDATE, 2/9/22

Not only have the numbers changed since this blog was published, there is a new contender on the scene. With Arizona Humane’s Dr. Steven Hansen, DVM, MBA, CAWA, recently earning his credentials, as well as Brian August at Oregon Humane and Becca Boronat at Charleston Animal Society, the score is:

Charleston Animal Society, 6 CAWAs
Arizona Humane Society, 5 CAWAs
Oregon Humane, 5 CAWAs

When asked to comment on this new development, Dr. Hansen said, “We are working on more.”

The Association: Tell us about the challenge you recently posed to the staff at AHS, and why?
Dr. Hansen:
 We had two staff members successfully complete the CAWA exam during the beta test, and I have challenged our team to develop a plan to help more staff qualify for and pass the exam. My goal for us is to achieve the distinction of the organization with the most CAWA-certified team members on staff. We need to know what our target to exceed is.

The Association: Congrats on having 4 CAWAs on staff at AHS! The organization with the most CAWAs right now is Charleston Animal Society, with 5—so you are very close to your goal. 
Dr. Hansen: Although this is a bit of fun, obviously my real goal is to develop a steady pipeline of skilled and qualified individuals, and this seems like an excellent way to achieve that. So, it’s game on!

The Association: Why is it important to you that AHS have many CAWAs in leadership roles? 
Dr. Hansen:
 We believe that developing a deep bench of skilled leaders will position Arizona Humane Society as an influencer and collaborator regionally and nationally. Leaders who understand animal welfare operations and the business of animal welfare will further develop leaders in their teams and, as a result, increase impact. Our desire is to develop a reputation of developing staff who will grow within our organization or take leadership roles in other organizations. Pursuit of the CAWA credential is the most efficient and effective path to further develop these current and future leaders.

The Association: How will having a team of CAWAs help AHS to meet its goals?
Dr. Hansen
: Having a strong leadership foundation across our organization ensures we have a common understanding of the principles of animal welfare and the knowledge of the business. Such leaders will feel enabled to drive change and to develop future leaders within their teams. Ultimately, our goal is to develop a strong culture of innovation, compassion, and excellence, resulting in more animal lives and families positively impacted.

The Association: How are you motivating or incentivizing your staff to take the leap?
Dr. Hansen:
 We encourage the identification of high-potential staff who currently meet the CAWA candidate requirements, as well as encouraging others to work toward qualification. AHS pays the cost of membership in The Association and for the exam. We are developing a resource library, are encouraging group study, and pay a net $1,000 bonus to anyone who achieves certification. We announce CAWA success internally and share at the board level. Our executive team speaks to the benefits of CAWA with pride and encouragement.

The Association: How do you think becoming a CAWA impacts your staff? 
Dr. Hansen:  Achieving CAWA certification is rapidly becoming a matter of internal pride. Certification is viewed very positively when promoting internally. We will build leaders who will ultimately leave AHS to lead other organizations. We want to be part of growing our profession and especially our impact.

The Association: We wish you the best of luck. Before you go, please share one piece of practical advice for those considering becoming a CAWA. 
Dr. Hansen: We encourage animal welfare professionals to speak to leaders inside and outside their organization. Learn about the career paths of others. Leverage CAWA to drive knowledge, growth, and, ultimately, future career opportunities. Together we can elevate animal welfare to the top of the non-profit world.

So what do you think, Charleston Animal Society? Leave a comment and let us know. And to find out more about how to distinguish your skills in an already demanding profession, read through the CAWA section of our website.


About The Association
The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement is a cohort of leaders on a mission to champion, advance, and unify the animal welfare profession.

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