The Humane Society’s Animal Care Expo Seeks Guinea Pig Representation

Humane Society's Animal Care ExpoGuinea Pig Today

The size of the audiences varied from room to room but the seats were full by the start of each seminar.

The Humane Society’s Animal Care Expo is the world’s largest animal sheltering conference and trade show. This year, the event was held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during May 21-24. Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue was offered a free scholarship to this event and we were lucky enough to be chosen to represent our rescue, and guinea pigs in general, at a large event focusing on animal care.

Jeremy and Tracy of Crazy Cavies Guinea Pig Rescue were also in attendance. They learned about the event via email through the Humane Society community. Eleven different “tracks” of seminars were being held at the same time. The team from Crazy Cavies attended the Fundraising & Money Management series of classes while we decided to bounce around through Fundraising, International Outreach, Animal Rescue, and Operations.

The seminar topics varied from general shelter operations to specifics on dogs and cats. We chose classes we felt would best apply to guinea pig welfare.

Some of the seminars made us feel clearly in over our head. We were surrounded by professionals from large shelters who were getting paid to do what they do each day. We were unpaid volunteers at a small non-profit rescue. At one point in a seminar about Mmarketing, some members of the audience made it clear they were working with budgets of a million and a half dollars or more. Marketing at our rescue consists of someone with spare time at a computer and a quick run to the store for copies. It was difficult to adapt ideas of spending money to make money when we had no money to start.

There were also moments where being from a rescue felt downright dirty in an audience of predominantly paid shelter workers. We wrote previously about the discussion of the word “rescue” giving shelters a bad name. While we understood their point of view, as rescue volunteers, our experience with shelter workers in our area had been positive since we had a mutual goal to help save the animals.

Animal Care Expo photo booth imageGuinea Pig Today

Angela of Guinea Pig Today and Jeremy and Tracy of Crazy Cavies Guinea Pig Rescue having fun in the photo booth. The party given the last full day of events at the Animal Care Expo featured music, dancing, drinks, a photo booth and three caricature artists.

A seminar given by Anna Hashin-Cabrera from the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) was the most inspiring. She explained how the feral dogs of the Philippines had an image problem. They were being neglected, abused, and even eaten by the local population while fancy pure breed dogs were seen as far superior. PAWS transformed the image of feral dogs in the public eye by changing the terminology used through a brilliant marketing campaign. No longer askals (street dogs) but aspins (Pinoy dog) making them appear honorable, obedient, and more loving in the eyes of potential adopters. This campaign gained support by celebrities and the media and helped increase adoptions. If only we could change the image of guinea pigs and promote them in a more honorable way! This idea seemed to have potential applications in our cavy rescue world.

The trade show floor featured a large booth from the Humane Society and Petfinder as well as PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation, Banfield Pet Hospital and others. Some industry professionals were on hand to give advice and sales on the actual structure of shelters and to provide kennels and cages for the animals in their care. Between the pet insurance and microchip services, there wasn’t much to be applied to guinea pig rescue. We did manage to connect with representatives of the San Diego House Rabbit Society who had a booth at the event. It’s great to see other small animals represented and to be able to connect with other volunteers.

We had a chance to briefly meet with Betsy McFarland, Vice President of Companion Animals at the Humane Society. She was happy to see guinea pig rescue volunteers at the event and said the program would like to expand into more animals beyond dogs and cats. That’s great to hear but we’re not certain what it would take to attract more guinea pig care workers, and other small animals, to the Animal Care Expo.

After all was done, we asked Jeremy if he would recommend this to others who have guinea pig rescues and if he thought it was a great educational experience for the cavy community. He explained, “No, it was mainly for dog and cat rescues and shelters.” That doesn’t mean he walked away empty handed. There were some things to gain from this experience. “Yah, it was good to see what the bigger shelters are doing and that’s where we want to get to eventually. So the fundraising we went to gave us really great ideas.”

Oh and the food? Lunch and dinner was served during the days of the event but the food was not worth mentioning. The food options in the casino were much better.

Next year, The Humane Society’s Animal Care Expo will be held at Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville, Tennessee during May 8 – 11, 2013. We were lucky to win free tickets to attend next year’s event! I say we organize a gathering of guinea pig care workers. Will you be there?

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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4 Responses to “The Humane Society’s Animal Care Expo Seeks Guinea Pig Representation”
  1. Wendy says:

    I’d love to be able to consider attending, if for no other reason than to show a larger united-front for the cause of small-animal rescue. So often, we are overlooked. We are not large shelters, for the most part, and we are usually struggling day to day just to get the public to know we exist. To have a large, respected organization like the Humane Society in our corner would be amazing. I know that locally, we are nurturing a budding relationship with our local HS, who is now coming to us for education and alternative placement. If the national structure could see the value in adapting programming for small-animal shelters, even if there was a panel discussion type of class offered, I’m sure they would see the value. I know you’d be a great panel-speaker, and I know others who would be interested, too!

    Whatever the case, because we aren’t paid, funds are always an issue when considering attending events like these, aren’t they? I know I’d have to do it out-of-pocket, and that might be more than I’m willing to do for an event that one has to really search to find the value in for a small-animal rescue.

  2. Michiko says:

    I would love to attend something like this. I read your article about how the shelters feel about rescues and it was hard for me to relate, as we generally have a good relationship with shelters. Many of them aren’t equipped to handle guinea pigs and often seek us out. Just this weekend, we did an adoption event at the Irvine Animal Care Center. There was a guinea pig there and they asked us if we could take her. Naturally, we did so. We took two from the same event last year. We have a lot of respect for what this particular shelter does and I believe the feeling is mutual. Of course, not every shelter relationship is going to be that way but I was nevertheless a bit stunned to hear of the downright animosity toward even the word ‘rescue.’

    Additionally, I think having guinea pig (or any small animal) rescue at these events that mainly focus on dogs and cats will start to spread awareness that the term “companion animal” has a much broader definition than what is typically thought of today.

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