Main Content

Introducing the SFSPCA/ASPCA Alliance

Bert Troughton, ASPCA


Special Management Page – Summer 2003:
Introducing the SFSPCA/ASPCA Alliance

Turning the Wheel (Instead of Reinventing It)

Imagine this: Jane Q. spends some of her free time driving litters of puppies from an overcrowded shelter to a shelter where there’s a waiting list. She could spend more time doing this, but the shelter staff has all it can do to coordinate the logistics of a few trips per month. Jane has an idea: Why not adapt the scheduling system of her employer–a wholesale grocer–to streamline logistics for the shelter? Presto: more volunteers making transfers, less staff time, more lives saved.

Or imagine this: John Q., shelter manager, has come up with a simple pet behavior check list that pet guardians can complete while waiting to see their veterinarian. The answers offer an early warning to the doctor, who can provide advice or a referral for solving the problem before it becomes severe. Presto: the pet behaves better, the guardian is happy, the veterinarian is a hero and one less animal is surrendered to the shelter.

Now, imagine this: both of these innovations are available in “instant time” to every animal lover and shelter in the nation. Presto: saving 10 animals a month in Anytown, USA becomes saving thousands of animals a month in Everytown, USA!

That last scenario is the idea behind an alliance forged in January 2003 between the San Francisco SPCA and the ASPCA with the help of PETsMART Charities. Creative and effective life saving ideas already exist out there – but there’s no efficient way for shelters or citizens to access proven innovations and get them implemented with minimum ramp-up time. The result: thousands of shelters and tens of thousands of caring people spend their time frantically trying to save as many lives as they possibly can while the wheel gets invented over and over.

The cost of success is high, too. When a shelter initiates a wildly successful program, it soon is overwhelmed with callers asking, “How did you do it?” Such was the case for the San Francisco SPCA whose partnership with Animal Care & Control has accomplished the extraordinary: every adoptable animal in San Francisco is guaranteed a home. Like other successful organizations, the SFSPCA is anxious and willing to share everything they know about saving lives in order to help communities all over the country. But fielding questions one organization at a time is costly and inefficient. In business jargon, what’s missing for animal protection is a learning loop. To put it into perspective, think how ridiculous (indeed, tragic) it would be for hospitals in this country to figure out how to save human lives one community at a time.

Facilitating a Learning Loop for Animal Protection

The SFSPCA/ASPCA alliance is developing a comprehensive strategy to support better and faster learning in the field:

  • Identify “innovations”: programs and practices that really work.
  • Describe those innovations in a step-by-step format so a shelter or person can learn about a program and quickly create a plan for adapting it to their situation.
  • Create a “bank” where innovations can be “deposited” and “withdrawn” using internet technology.
  • Establish a “learning community” of mentors, shelter to shelter student exchanges, on-line learning, and networking to provide the support needed when importing innovations.
  • Facilitate strategic planning – coordinating the nationwide transfer of programs and practices – to minimize effort and maximize results.

The alliance strategy is bold and ambitious, but not new. Alliance director Bert Troughton is a social worker and former humane society director who takes heart knowing that professionals in OD (organizational development) and community development have already invented this wheel.

Many people want to know if the alliance is no-kill, but the alliance is neither promoting nor denouncing no-kill. The alliance is focusing on programs and practices that

  • significantly and effectively reduce the numbers of animals at risk in a community,
  • include both individual and organizational efforts, and
  • are replicable in a variety of diverse settings and/or with a range of resources.

The goal is to serve as a catalyst for the field, facilitating learning and the rapid dissemination of what “works”.

Support the learning – share your successes!

  • Do you have a program that you would like to share with others that has been particularly successful in your agency in reducing the numbers of animals at risk?
  • Has someone in the field served as a particularly supportive mentor, or have you served in that capacity for someone? Please share your experiences.

    Email your innovations to

  • Are you considering working on a strategic plan for your organization? Check out the strategic planning course Turning Dreams into Success Stories facilitated by alliance staff at American Humane’s Conference 2003 in Anaheim:

© 2003 ASPCA

Courtesy of

424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128-6804

Share this Article

Recently Viewed Pets