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