The Association Blog

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This Is the Way We Always Did It…

May 18, 2023, Lily Yap

For Lily Yap and her team at Grand Prairie Animal Services, an outbreak of feline panleukopenia in the community served as a catalyst for a new way of thinking.

Every year kitten season sneaks up on us with the cutest, most unrelenting wave of underaged fluffballs, and we find ourselves in the same predicament: How can we find enough fosters? But one year, an unexpected disruption, an outbreak of Feline Panleukopenia in our community, forced us to completely re-evaluate. Ultimately, the intervention minimized the impacts of the disease. More importantly, it improved our shelter operations in ways we continue to benefit from.

In the year that drastically changed our operations, the University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program traveled over a thousand miles to help monitor and save our most vulnerable population. It was quickly apparent that to reduce onsite spread, we had to minimize length of stay. The problem was, we still did not have the foster base to place such an enormous volume. So we started the Pre-K Adoption program.

Targeted to 4- to 8-week-old litters who were eating on their own but not big enough for our traditional adoption, the program allowed us to place the kittens straight into adoptive homes. In addition to setting a predetermined date for the kittens to return for their spay/neuter surgery, our shelter provided support for boosters and wellness visits with medical staff, a critical element in providing increased resources for the health of this younger population. The Pre-K Adoption program both reduced the potential spread of panleukopenia, and freed up the foster volunteer and program coordination efforts to focus on other shelter populations in need, such as bottle baby kittens and large dogs.

I love our Pre-K Program and am forever grateful to the folks at the University of Wisconsin for their life-saving work. But what we experienced that kitten season speaks to an even bigger idea for how shelters innovate. Previously we were asking, “How do we find enough fosters?,” a question based on the way we had always operated and with an assumption and constraint baked right in—that our foster program needed to be the solution. Once we expanded our question to the root of the problem, a problem we only articulated because of the panleuk cases, were we able to think outside of the box and ensure the solution was specific to the desired value added.

I make it a point to seek inspiration from companies outside of our industry like Starbucks (particularly for efficiency and customer services values), or better yet, those on my own team with diverse backgrounds and experiences. By reframing the problems we face as an industry, we can generate lifesaving innovations before the next disruption forces us to.

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Women In Animal Welfare Part II: Breaking the Glass Ceiling
People Who Live in Corner Houses…
Bright Ideas: Sunshine Cart

About Lily Yap
In her role as Division Manager at Grand Prairie Animal Services, Lily Yap brings a strong background in municipal shelter operations and lifesaving programs, deep knowledge of business management, and an MBA from McCombs School of Business. “By combining passion with the structure of a strong, corporate business,” she says, “I believe we can make huge strides in supporting the animals and people in our community.”

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