Jacksonville Humane Society unveils Lifesaving University pavilion



A coalition of Florida animal welfare advocates has developed a new training initiative for animal shelter staff to learn best practices in their field.

Rescue University will be based at Jacksonville Humanitarian Society, which unveiled a place on Friday where staff at Southeastern shelters can stay for free when in town for training.

The training and mentoring program was developed by Florida leaders in rescue, a coalition of government-run, not-for-profit veterinary shelters and clinics. Company CEO Denise Deisler and Scott Trebatoski, former director of the Jacksonville City Shelter and current director of the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, are on the steering committee.

“The goal,” said Deisler, “is to increase the number of lives saved in the state of Florida – the fourth worst state in the country for deaths in shelters.”

About 24,289 dogs and cats died in Florida shelters in 2020, according to Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization. Texas had the highest number of shelter deaths, 52,106, followed by California with 30,111 and North Carolina with 27,031, according to the Best Friends website.

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Florida’s death rate in 2020 was about 47% lower than the previous year. Nationally, the number of dogs and cats killed in shelters fell to about 347,000 in 2020, from 625,000 in 2019, according to Best Friends.

The Utah-based nonprofit has a national goal of not killing shelters by 2025. No-kill status means at least 90% of dogs and cats leave shelters alive; the only animals slaughtered are those suffering from irreversible diseases or behavioral disorders.

“It has been a monumental year for cats and dogs in American shelters,” Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, said in June. “Now we are closer than ever to achieving our no-slaughter goal by 2025.… This is incredible progress, but we must never lose sight of the fact that there are still over 950 cats and dogs killed every day simply because they didn’t have a safe place to call at home. “

Jacksonville Humane Society CEO Denise Deisler (left) and representatives from Petco Love, Lowe's, IKEA and Auld & White Constructors cut a ribbon signaling the completion of the company's new LifesaversU dormitory.  Shelter staff from across the Southeast will stay there while in Jacksonville for training at Lifesavers University.

The university offers an innovative approach

The Lifesaving University program “provides one-on-one training and mentoring opportunities for shelters and clinics … based on their greatest lifesaving needs,” according to the university’s website. “Each student experiences best practices through a mixture of classroom learning and hands-on learning. Upon completion, students are equipped to implement these rescue strategies in their own shelters with ongoing support as needed. “

PetCo Love, formerly the Petco Foundation, funded the free college program for coalition members.

Makena Yarbrough, senior director of regional programs at Best Friends, said Deisler and her staff are creating an environment to save animal lives in all the communities they touch.

“The Jacksonville Humane Society has always been a leader and innovative voice in animal welfare, not only in the state of Florida but across the country,” she said. “This new university program, with the addition of a dormitory, really takes them to another level. It’s so inspiring to see a private organization not only helping animals in their own city, but also implementing programs to improve the status of animals in all parts of the country. “

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Most of the training will take place in Jacksonville, which opened a new $ 15 million facility in 2017, but there will be a few events elsewhere. One of them is a “summit” scheduled for September in St. Petersburg. Deisler said.

“This is a gathering of leaders from across the state – the goal is to share and gather information to inform our bailouts for 2022,” she said.

LifesavingU Lodge provides temporary home for staff members

LifesavingU Lodge, a renovated building adjacent to the company’s Beach Boulevard campus, will be the temporary home for staff attending the university.

“One of the barriers to accessing training for shelter professionals is financial,” Deisler said. “By removing accommodation costs, we are opening the door wider to those who need training the most. Thanks to the grants, we are also able to eliminate other costs by providing allowances to cover travel costs.

The program is open to staff at Southeastern shelters, but only those working in Florida will receive stipends, she said.

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In addition, interns and externs from the non-profit shelter will stay there, as well as the “skeleton” teams needed on site during emergencies such as hurricanes. she said.

Petco Love funded the renovation of the “bunkhouse,” which was designed and built in collaboration with Lowe’s, IKEA, Auld & White Constructors and the company. The building was once a nursery for kittens and earlier a sterilization clinic. The total cost of the renovation is estimated to be approximately $ 300,000.

Most of the training will take place at the company’s head office. But Deisler is looking for a “big screen smart TV” and laptop to use the dormitory as backup training and “for students who want to continue their off-peak hours while in the dorm,” he said. she declared.

Jacksonville has been a leader in the non-elimination effort for years.

The city first achieved non-elimination status in 2014 and got it back in 2019 following a decline in 2018. In January 2021, the company had a savings rate of 96%, city-run animal welfare and welfare services were 93%.

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