Have you ever thought about adopting a pet? Maybe you’ve had to make that difficult decision to surrender your beloved four legged friend? Well, whatever the case, our guest today can help answer some of the toughest feline and canine questions.
Welcome, Bill. Bill Thorn is the director of marketing and public relations for the Regina Humane Society. And he’s here with us today to navigate those murky waters of pet adoption and surrender.
Now bill, I’m going to welcome you so please say hi to everyone.
Bill Thorn 0:36
And then I’m going to give you a little bit of information on CJTRs 20th annual radiothon, which is on now and runs until October 7. So radiothon is that week-long festival of special programming, and a fundraiser for the community radio station. And this year, we’re hoping to raise $20,000 in celebration of our 20th anniversary.
So if you’d like to donate, you can also receive a limited edition gift. Donations of $100 we’ll get a limited edition t-shirt that’s only available to radiothon donors. And I have one of last year’s t-shirts from when I donated and it is a fantastic shirt. So I’d really encourage you to do that.
If you’re donating $25 you’ll also be entered into a draw for some special prize packages that feature some pretty amazing products from local businesses. So just for example, some of the prizes in the package include The Cure kitchen and bar, Vintage Vinyl Hemp Emporium, The Optical Shoppe, Bushwakker Brew Pub, Pacific Fresh Fish, Cathedral Pet Shop, Keepaway Gourmet, Above the Fold Digital Marketing (that’s us), Neutral Ground, Regina Folk Festival, Cathedral Social Hall and JDs Sausage Supplies.
So celebrate local voices and culture by streaming tuning in and pledging your support to 91.3 FM CJTR for Regina community radio during radioTHON 2021. You’d like to make a donation, you can call 306525727 for extension 102. Thank you.
And Bill back to you. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the Humane Society.
Bill Thorn 2:33
First off I want to say people should support CJ tr they are wonderful Humane Society supporters as well. And we work with them a couple of times a year. So hopefully things go well.
I appreciate that. Yeah.
Bill Thorn 2:42
So as I said, my name is Bill Thorn, I’m the director marketing and Public Relations at that you’re joining me in Saudi and and I’ve been there for about six and a half years, and basically responsible for making sure that everybody knows about what’s going on at the Humane Society in all our different areas, including our dog training program and our education outreach programs. And it’s been a wonderful experience to work there. And lots of really wonderful people are there. Our volunteers, the people that adopt our supporters have been fantastic to get to know and it’s been quite an experience over the last number of years.
And I think the Humane Society is responsible for a heck of a lot more than just adoption. So tell me a little bit about your role in the community because I think you’re actually a pillar in the community in terms of the role that you serve.
Bill Thorn 3:28
Well you know, you’re quite correct in that we’re very much a part of the community and like many others when I first went there even you know, what people know the Humane Society for is our adoption program primarily where people can adopt cats and kittens and, and other some small critters as well, rabbits and, and so on and so forth.
Bill Thorn 3:49
But we also play a number of other roles. And one of them is, you know, we provide impound and bylaw enforcement for the city of Regina, we also enforce the Animal Protection Act of Saskatchewan, which is the act of provincial legislation that protects animals from neglect and abuse.
Bill Thorn 4:07
I mentioned our education and outreach programs. were part of the safety community in Regina, where, you know we have a mandate to work with children, adults, people that are new to the community to help them understand responsible pet ownership, safe pet ownership. We work with the Saskatchewan health authority on a program called the dog smart, which is a bite prevention program every year and in Regina there’s the last statistic I had was over 600 dog bites per year in Regina, and those are just the ones that are reported.
Bill Thorn 4:42
That would not so it is a bit of a problem and most of those bites actually are to children. One of the things we teach kids at a very basic level is how to interact with a dog that you don’t know in particular, but even when you do I mean they’ll want to go give it a big hug around their neck. Right at the most level, and you see a lot of kids get bit, get bit on the face.
So from there sorry, Bill, you actually just touched on a Really? I don’t know, personal things for me. But is it usually the family pet? Or is it a stranger dog,
Bill Thorn 5:16
I don’t have any hard statistics on that. The SHA would, okay, they’re the ones that track that stuff. But often it is a known pet.
Bill Thorn 5:27
You know, one of the basic things we do, and we, we go into schools, and we have resources available for teachers that they can take out. And we’re also developing an entire curriculum right now that we hope to launch in early 2022. for teachers that can help teach not only how to interact with animals, but also some of the basic human, what’s the word I’m looking for things we want people to do to feel empathy, respect for other people and things.
Bill Thorn 5:52
Understanding that, you know, people are different animals and are different from how we all live together. And that’s a very foundational part of our education, and outreach programming. You know, we’re all in this together kind of thing, just, you know, it’s not just COVID it’s exactly everything. Yeah, and so we, you know, those are the underlying values in, in, in our programming, and I think we’re gonna see some pretty exciting things coming out in the next couple of years for sure that we’re working on right now.
You know, the dog bite thing that really hits me personally, because I had a family member who got bit by the family dog, and it was total fluke, he was quite young, he got too close to the dog’s face or startled the dog, the dog was under the table. I was there when it happened.
But I was also quite young. And so you know, to this day, I have that recollection of what happened. And I’m sure if my own kids were telling the story, like I hound them to get out of the dog’s face, because they’re still an animal.
And no matter how much we love them, and know, no matter how attached they are, they’re still an animal. They’re still instinctively there. And so yeah, I think that’s a fantastic program that you’re building. There’s the cute and fuzzy, warm, fuzzy side of the Humane Society.
And then there’s some hard stuff that you have to do when it comes to bylaws and animal enforcement. And when you look at the rule you play in, you know, I talked about being the pillar in the community, when you look at that role, I don’t think people understand how that rule works. And so you actually have legal responsibilities you have, can you just describe that a little bit for us?
Bill Thorn 7:39
Yeah, absolutely. With respect to bylaw enforcement, that’s with the city of Regina. And that deals with things like animals at large, defecation complaints, that kind of thing. And, you know, animals not being on a leash, and so on and so forth. We always prefer to take an educational approach to things you know, we’re not there to hand out tickets, that certainly can happen. But it’s difficult to, to enforce, we have, I believe seven officers right now. And that’s, you know, for the whole city, and they’re not all working the same day, because some of them, you know, we do like to give them the day off,
Everybody gets once a month, you know,
Bill Thorn 8:13
And we simply can’t be everywhere at all times. And so we try to take an approach of educating people, and I see it all the time, even in the park by my own house, where I see animals off leash all the time.
Bill Thorn 8:24
And, and even though, I can honestly say that I haven’t seen too many of those dogs cause too much trouble, they’ve actually been pretty well behaved. Here’s the problem. People see your dog off leash, it’s running around, it might not be getting into trouble. But hey, if that guy can have his dog off leash, why can’t I have my dog off leash as well. I don’t like having to drive down to the off leash Park. It’s much more convenient for me to walk down the street in the park, and let my dog chase the ball.
Bill Thorn 8:54
The problem is, sooner or later, and it’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when your dog is gonna get off a leash that has no business being off the leash. The park by my house, there’s young children, there’s rabbits, there’s animals, there’s ducks, there’s geese, there’s all kinds of things to stimulate that dog.
Bill Thorn 9:12
And sooner or later, someone is going to get bit. And hopefully it’s not too serious. Believe me. I’ve seen people that have been bit. I’ve seen dogs killed by other dogs, cats killed by other dogs.
Bill Thorn 9:25
And that’s the problem. It is not part of the solution. It is the law for your dog if it’s off your property, and it’s not on a leash. Yeah, it’s considered at large which is against the city by law. Period. Exactly.
Bill Thorn 9:37
So you are breaking the law, but perhaps even more importantly, you’re putting your dog at risk. And the safety of others at risk even though your dogs great the bylaw is not your dog must be on a leash unless it’s a good boy or girl or it’s never done that before first thing you know people that have their animal bite another animal boy, she’s never done that before you Exactly, is the first time.
Bill Thorn 10:02
So I would really ask that people do take that into consideration that is not always about your dog, you know, a dog off leash that shouldn’t be could also attack your dog for you. And believe me that happens too.
One of the things I saw not too long ago. And this is a little bit of a moment of pride for me. So my son is in grade eight, and he asked me on a lunch date, and I was all like, whoo, I like I want good luck, like my kids asking me on a lunch date.
And so given the fall that we’ve had in Saskatchewan, we went to the park, we went and grabbed lunch, sat down, and we had one of our dogs with us. So our dog is fear reactive, when he gets scared, and he’s just little, he’s 35 pounds, but he could still, you know, do some pretty serious damage pretty quick.
So we’re sitting there having lunch, and there’s a woman walking through the park with two dogs. She’s on the phone, not paying any attention to her dogs, and both dogs are off leash.
So we’re watching her come around the backside of the park, and I’m keeping a close eye on her because I know that our dog has that fear of strangers etc. So I’m watching pretty closely, we’re getting closer, they’re getting closer. And like, it seems like she’s watching her dogs, but not doing anything to stop them.
So it finally got to the point where one of the dogs was within six feet of our dog. And I had to yell at her across the park, very politely to get our attention to get our dogs out of there before we did have an incident. Because with her dogs being off leash and mind being on leash, like it’s gonna blow up fast.
And I just thought like, what are you doing, Lady great, your dogs are wonderful. You don’t know my dog from a hole in the wall, you don’t know that he doesn’t despise other animals. And I was you know, I was really frustrated by that, because my son is watching this, and you’re trying to really manage this well to teach. But like there was no managing, she wasn’t paying any attention. And you know, if she happens to be listening to you might recognize the story. But I just thought, Oh, come on, like your own dogs are important here.
Bill Thorn 12:12
Exactly. And I can absolutely relate, I have a very reactive dog. And a lot of people think well, that’s just bad training. And I can tell you that the dog I have was taken from this moment at birth, in fact, it was down the side of a highway with three littermates and two were dead. Already. For those in the June sun.
Bill Thorn 12:31
The dog was never taught to be a dog by its mom, and my wife and I have been that surrogate mom, and worked with her. She’s 12 years old now. But since the day we got her as a young pup, and she’s come a long, long way, but she’s never going to be 100% and that’s the other thing, you know, we take her for a walk in the park. And because people you know, don’t feel the need to follow the rules and keep everyone safe.
Bill Thorn 12:53
It also lessens our enjoyment of the park and lessens our dog’s enjoyment of her walk. Because she gets all ramped up, because she’s fine with other dogs. I mean, he still reacts, but a dog off leash running, she’ll go nuts.
Bill Thorn 13:07
And there’s just it’s that movement. And it’s that, you know, seeing that dog and it completely destroys our enjoyment of the park and the park is there for everyone to enjoy. And they can if they follow the rules, I mean, it’s our job to make sure we kind of watch her with reactivity.
Bill Thorn 13:21
Well, you know, they also chase the animals and I love the animals in the park, the ducks, geese, yeah. and whatnot. And again, you know, if everyone just keeps their lease, their dog leashed. Everyone is able to enjoy the park as much as they can and stay safe. And that’s still the most important thing. Exactly. Yeah, no, I agree. I can’t stress that enough. It’s a safety thing.
So during COVID I mean, we saw so many people adopting pets. Are you guys at the tail end of that now where you’re seeing some of those come back into the shelter? Or what are you expecting as COVID hopefully comes to a close here in the next number of months?
Bill Thorn 14:02
Yeah, you know, that’s a question I get asked a lot. And I would love to be able to put this to bed right now. People are not bringing back the animals that they adopted during COVID. They are not that we wouldn’t. I mean, we do get animals returned for a myriad of reasons and that there’s not a COVID thing.
Bill Thorn 14:19
The number is very, very low. But it does happen. And there’s very legitimate reasons why sometimes things don’t work. But we have not seen that in any way shape or form of people bringing their animals back. It may happen in some places, I don’t know for sure. But we have not seen it here at all. So you know, if your animals that we adopted we’d know because they’re microchip, we have a record of the animal. And as I say, well we do get the odd one back now and then I don’t think we’ve had one case of you know, a COVID pet coming back because oh COVID job and now we don’t need the animals. You know, it’s a bit of an urban myth. I think it could be true somewhere but it’s not here.
You know, and I don’t even know if from an urban myth standpoint, that was a You know, when I, when I would hear the stories about people adopting during the pandemic, I thought, yeah, but if your life was too busy before to have an animal, and then we go back after, and everybody’s gonna go twice as hard. So that was more of a, for me more of a fear thing like, Oh, you know what’s gonna happen?
Bill Thorn 15:16
Yeah, I mean, the adoptions were strong, we adopted less animals last year than in 2019, and less animals year to date, and we have this year, so it didn’t mean the numbers were down, but the intake of animals was also down, you know, we were able to, you know, because we were uncertain what our resources would be, we had some staff that were working at the shelter through COVID.
Bill Thorn 15:37
We didn’t know what was going to happen with fundraising and donations. So we made we, you know, buckle everything down and tried to, you know, just really provide our core services well, but still be responsible. And, you know, so we work with the community, and they were wonderful. on, you know, if someone had an animal they wanted to surrender, there were times we said, okay, we’ll take it, we can’t take it today.
Bill Thorn 15:59
If you can hang on to the animal for another week or so we’ve got a bit more room and resources, then we’ll be able to do that. And we did see, you know, what, what happened is oftentimes in those situations, by the time it was time to bring the animal in, the person who found their own solution, they found a new home for it.
Unknown Speaker 16:17
So it avoided a lot of animals needing to come into the shelter at all that really didn’t need to. And that was a direction that we’re already going in. It’s a concept called capacity for care where you don’t want to exceed your capacity to care for animals.
Bill Thorn 16:32
And that’s not just space, space, of course, but finances, human resources, and, and other things that, you know, you want to make sure that animals that are in there getting looked after the way they should be, and the animals that don’t need to be in the shelter, are not in the shelter, and how can we avoid them coming in, so that we do have those resources for animals that truly do need The Humane Society.
Bill Thorn 16:35
The community has been great in working with us on that, and understanding and, you know, seeing that, that can be a problem. Because if you get too many animals, and, you know, I’ve said, I don’t care how big a building, you’ve got how big a bag of money you’ve got, there’s always going to be a limit to the the animals, number of animals that you can properly care for, in any given time. So we want to make sure we never exceed that. And the community was good at looking at this.
So one of the things that you talked about there was capacity, and your building isn’t necessarily the only capacity, you also have that human capacity. So from a staffing perspective, and from a volunteer perspective, any sense for, you know, how many volunteers you have that are keeping you running, and I know right now your numbers are going to be a little bit skewed because of COVID.
Bill Thorn 17:42
Yeah, typically pre COVID, we had about 800 registered volunteers with the Humane Society. But I would say that 80/20 rule probably applies there were about, you know, 20% of the volunteers that are registered are doing 80% of the volunteering, we have a wonderfully dedicated core army, we call them sometimes the volunteers that play critical roles in, you know, shelter operations, they do laundry, that kind of thing, but they’re also out when we had events, working with that office support that kind of thing.
Bill Thorn 18:11
So that’s a very important thing. But, you know, the capacity for the building itself is limited. You know, our veterinary staff, you know, things are too busy there, they get exhausted. We’ve been here a lot about that in the people world lately, and it can happen in the animal world, too. So you know, those things are important elements to our capacity. And, you know, we we manage that quite well, I think, been a bit different last year, for sure. But it’s something that is important.
So you must have somebody on the paid staff team that then manages the volunteer side, if you’ve got 800 volunteers.
Bill Thorn 18:49
Yes, we do have again, we’re seeing some shifting roles, but we have a person that is responsible for managing our volunteer program, we have no software and stuff that helps manage that. Again, it’s not that our volunteer program is largely still suspended due to COVID.
Bill Thorn 19:04
But when it’s open, our volunteers can go online, there’s different activities they can do, they can schedule themselves in. And we know that Sally’s coming on that day to groom cats, or to provide enrichment, which is, you know, toys and that kind of thing. So that they’re, they’re happy and stay healthy when they’re in our care.
Bill Thorn 19:20
It’s a pretty good system. Sometimes we also put specific calls out if we’ve got an event happening or something like that, where we need some help. Another example would be office help when we’re sending out a lottery appeal or something like that to stuff envelopes, and things like that. But yeah, we do have a coordinator that makes sure that’s all the way it should be.
You know, it’s interesting right before COVID hit, I had been on the website looking at the volunteer information because my kids were really pestering for a second animal. So I said well, mainly getting involved with the Humane Society is a way to appease some of that. And then COVID heads and the whole thing went out the window but I want to say one of my kids was old enough because she was 13 or 14 But my son wasn’t because he wasn’t 12 yet or something. So there was something else that was going to be a barrier for us. Needless to say, instead, we did end up with a second dog. And our lives are very full. Now there is no, no evening that doesn’t involve sitting and staying and fetch. Yes.
Bill Thorn 20:20
Yeah, no, it is, you bring up a good point, it is a wonderful way for people that if they’re, you know, not sure if they’re ready to adopt an animal, or they know they’re not, but they still want to have something to do with animals or a volunteer program is a great way to do that, where you can still have that interaction, our foster program is something to that’s very important to us, where people can take an animal into their home that it might be too young to be adopted, it might be recovering from surgery or an illness or something like that.
Bill Thorn 20:48
And, they can have that animal in their home, a caregiver and guardian for that animal, but only on a temporary basis. And it’s something that is completely up to people how often they can do it, or how long they can do it. Fostering can last from a day to a few months, depending on the situation. And people only take on what they’re able to, but it is a program that does allow people to support the Humane Society and its work, help animals, but not necessarily have that lifelong commitment that they’re not sure they can do.
That’s right. Yep, that 15 and 20 year commitment that you have with an animal? Absolutely. I’m losing my train of thought, oh, behavior. So you know it, we’re really focused on the beat on the animal side versus the business side in our conversation today. But what happens when you get an animal with behavioral issues? When three activity minds get reactivity? So it’s not uncommon?
Bill Thorn 21:41
No, no, it’s not. And I see it now that I’m much more well versed in it having gone through the experience with my own dog, I see it in other dogs all the time. And before I would have missed it, and I think a lot of people do, they just don’t see the subtle signs of an animal.
Bill Thorn 21:56
Every animal is going to be different. And you know, there’s no blanket answer there. But if you do have an animal, you’ll most likely be trained. You know, there, we have a dog training program at the humane society that has a number of different courses that people can take right from being a puppy, you know, even to like things like agility, sports, but reactivity, leash reactivity, or if your dog’s you know, who’s taking who for a walk here.
Exactly. We did that in class.
Bill Thorn 22:24
Yeah, exactly. And they can help. And it just gives you some systematic ways of, you know, speaking to the dog in a language that the dog understands, they don’t speak English, they might get their name. But there’s other ways that you need to communicate with them, so that they get it and you can go on our website, just hit dog training. And there’s all kinds of information there that hopefully will help.
Exactly. Okay. But we only have a couple of minutes left. And one of the things that we didn’t talk about was your new building, can you just really quickly talk about that, and as a member of the community, when might we see that building actually become a reality,
Bill Thorn 23:00
You bet that building is in the design phase. Right now it’s been a 10 year project getting up to this point, and it’s going to be at 4900 Parliament Avenue in harbour landing, our current building is literally falling apart, it is not a good tool to help us do our work, the new building will be a destination, it will have human hospital level biosecurity, we will be able to save and work with animals much, much more.
Bill Thorn 23:23
It’s called the Animal Community Center, because it will be that there’ll be public new space, it’ll be a place where you can go and just, you know, really just immerse yourself in the animal human bond and celebrate everything that it means to have a pet and families the word that we use an awful lot, and I think people are going to love it. We are in a final design stage right now. We still have some money to raise for it. But hopefully, hopefully we’ll be breaking ground sometime next year, and people will start seeing some.
Excellent. So just before we wrap up, how can folks find you? How could they donate if they’re so inclined? How can they volunteer once that’s a thing again?
Bill Thorn 24:01
Yeah, well, first and foremost, our website reginahumanesociety.ca has got pretty much all the information that you might need. You can. We’re not taking volunteers at the moment, but we will be hopefully again soon. COVID loosens up a little. But you can buy lottery tickets, if that’s what’s going on.
Bill Thorn 24:16
Register for different programs, dog training, it’s all there. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’re starting to dabble in tik tok a little bit, but we’re not quite deep into that yet. But certainly, certainly Facebook. You know, we’ve got 30- 40,000 people following us there. So that’s a great way that we get some information out. So if you want to follow us there, you’ll be able to you’re right on top of everything that’s happening.
Awesome. Okay, so I would vote for Tick Tock. I love Tick Tock. I don’t know what it is about the platform. Maybe it’s because I don’t use it for business, but I love it. Yeah,
Bill Thorn 24:50
Yeah, I’m still an old guy. You know, I try to get used to some of these things. I look at it, I don’t know. But, you know, we’re dabbling. You know, we certainly want to make sure we’re talking to all All of our stakeholders, regardless of their age, or whatever so we’re trying to hit some of the different areas that appeal to maybe different groups and stuff too. So
Awesome. Well, Bill, thank you very much for being with me here today. I know I’ve learned a number of things about the Humane Society in terms of the role you play in the community, your responsibilities, and even some of the programs I had no idea until we took a training class through you that you had dog training available. So I think it’s great that more people have that opportunity to learn about what you do.
If you would like to be a guest on the show, you can email me at Barb@abovethefold.live or reach out on our Facebook and Instagram page at abovethefold.ca. You can even submit questions in advance of our live show on our Facebook page. So I’m your host, Barb McGrath, local business owner and #Googlegirl. Remember you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.
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On Ep. 85 of the Secret Life of Entrepreneurs we have Bill Thorn from Regina Humane Society!
Ever thought about adopting a pet? 🐶🐱 Maybe you’ve had to make the difficult decision to surrender your beloved four legged friend.
Whatever the case, our guest today can help answer our toughest feline and canine questions. We’re talking to Bill Thorn, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Regina Humane Society. He’s here to help us navigate the murky waters of pet adoption and surrender.
Connect with Bill @ Regina Humane Society
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