New executive director of Washington Co. Humane Society streamlines adoption process and more
Michael Lausen, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Washington County, brushes a long hair domestic cat at the Humane Society Thursday afternoon. (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer / May 2, 2013)
Lausen, who took over the executive director job Feb. 4, said recently that the humane society had 142 adoptions, including 73 cats and 65 dogs, in March — its highest recorded one-month total ever — simply by relaxing the requirements in the adoption application process.
“We’re not the housing police. We’re not checking the income,” Lausen said during a recent interview at the humane society’s facility at 13011 Maugansville Road north of Hagerstown.
Lausen, 43, who came to the area from El Paso, Texas, said the previous adoption policy was “extremely tedious, to be polite.” Applicants had to fill out a form and wait several hours, even days in some cases, to find out if they were approved for adoption, he said.
“We weren’t the most friendly place to get an adopted animal from, previously,” he said. “There were so many obstacles and so many steps that somebody had to go through, by the time they were ultimately approved, people had decided that they didn’t want to adopt anymore.”
The humane society’s “streamlined” adoption policy functions on a first-come, first-served basis, Lausen said, and gives weight to the interactions of adoptable pets and their potential owners.
Lausen said the application process itself is in the process of being digitized, speeding up the process like never before. He said adoptions now can take as little as one hour from start to finish.
“People make an emotional connection with an animal very quickly,” he said, adding that pets can “go home that day” provided they have been spayed or neutered.
The new program is called Smart Search, a document management program that allows staff to use e-forms to move through the system more quickly as well as integrate field services information, Lausen said.
In addition to going to the humane society to adopt a pet, people can adopt shelter animals every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at PetSmart in the Centre at Hagerstown west of the city, according to the humane society website.
Paul Miller, who was executive director of the shelter for nine years before his departure in late 2012, said the humane society’s adoption policy was stricter before his arrival in 2003, requiring extensive background checks of veterinarian records for animals and financial records for adopters.
By the time he left the agency Nov. 13, 2012, Miller said, the policy had been relaxed, with checks made mainly for any prior animal control violations against applicants. He said they also checked with landlords in the cases of applicants who did not own their own homes.
“Sometimes, they were unaware of the fact that the landlord didn’t want an animal,” Miller said. He said such checks were made to ensure an animal was going to a permanent home.
“We wanted them going out and staying out,” he said.
A direct effect of higher adoption rates is lower euthanasia rates, Lausen said, and the humane society, which can house about 150 animals, is “no longer euthanizing for space.”
Looking at options
Stray animals that arrive at the shelter sick or injured can be candidates for euthanasia, but Lausen said all euthanasia orders go through his office and every animal is examined on a case-by-case basis before a final decision is made.
“If it’s a highly adoptable animal, no,” Lausen said. “We’ve changed some of the other standards that were being used as assessments. We have relaxed some of the assessments that were there.”
Older animals and those with behavioral issues, such as a dog getting aggressive when food is around, no longer are immediate triggers for euthanasia, Lausen said.