A decade of physical, technological and philosophical changes at the Animal Welfare Association


Animal Welfare Association executive director Maya Richmond describes the past 10 years as a time of tremendous growth for the AWA, growth which has been physical, technological and even philosophical.

“Ten years ago is when we made the official decision that we weren’t going to euthanize for space any longer and created new programs around helping stem animals coming in from the streets to the shelter,” Richmond describes.

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That decision also led to the AWA engaging in a much more vigorous spaying and neutering effort and utilizing an appointment system to take in animals to the shelter.

The programs also helped complement the foster care program the shelter started about 10 years ago, where volunteers house animals in their homes.

“That allowed us to start caring for more animals and saving more animals that would not have been saved 10 years ago,” Richmond said.

And for the animals still in the AWA shelter building built in the 1960s, how the AWA utilizes the space within has changed as well.

“We don’t euthanize for space, so ultimately the number of animals we might have housed or cared for is down, but we’re saving more of them,” Richmond said.

Richmond said care has changed, too, with the shelter focusing more on the quality of the animals’ experience.


“It’s not just a cage,” Richmond said. “We give them more space in the individual housing areas. We look a lot more at the psychological well being of the animals because it’s so tied to the physical well being.”

Richmond said the economic recession of 2008 also led to the public expressing a need for wellness services that the AWA started to provide.

“That’s when we started dipping into the concept of providing preventative care for pets, because people were not able to secure that on their own,” Richmond recalls.

Physical changes were also many over the past decade, according to Richmond.

The AWA shelter is no longer obscured by large pine trees, it now has a parking lot, and the water and electrical systems are commercial grade and up to today’s standards.

The end of 2013 also saw the opening of the AWA’s new 4,300 square-foot spay/neuter and pet wellness clinic behind the shelter.

“People who have lived in this area for a long time are like ‘oh, you’re there, I didn’t know there was something back there,’” Richmond says with a laugh.

And as with many segments of society over the past decade, the AWA has been affected by numerous technological changes. Today, there are more than 30 computers, laptops and tablets at the AWA, and at least 25 phones.

“When I came in 2009, we still had copper wire for the phones, we only had maybe five phones at AWA and maybe five computers,” Richmond recalls.

Around 2007–2008, the AWA also started utilizing social media, and in 2010, the AWA made a conscious effort to look at how many people were following the non-profit and how the AWA was using the medium.

“We were under 3,000 likes (on Facebook) back then and we just hit 131,000,” Richmond said. “It’s significant reach for us. It’s become more of a storytelling platform for our brand and who we are.”

Ultimately, Richmond said what has really manifested in the last 10 years at the AWA is the idea of focusing not just on what happens at AWA, but outside its walls as well.

“We focus a lot more in the community — we’re doing a tremendous amount of community service outreach,” Richmond said.

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