Animal Shelter Leadership: The Positive Effect of Leaders on Lifesaving

Terry G Spencer, DVM, MEd

Why the Animal Shelter Leadership Graduate Certificate?

Group of people with dogWe developed the Animal Shelter Leadership Graduate Certificate because we believe that positive leadership is the key to more lifesaving in animal welfare. And just like any other skill, leadership can be learned!

This program was born out of years of firsthand experience witnessing the unique responsibilities that come with leading and managing staff, volunteers, and the public who work with and visit animal shelters. Animal welfare work is emotionally difficult and can quickly result in compassion fatigue and professional burnout. Positive leaders can promote resilience for their teams of staff and volunteers, so people remain in the workplace for longer periods of time doing great and important work for animals in their communities.

Animal welfare organizations are different from other nonprofits. Some of them are governmental organizations that answer to elected boards of county commissioners or sheriffs. Others have executive directors who answer to appointed boards of directors. All of them must protect public health and safety in their communities as well as do their best to promote community partnerships that work to keep pets in their homes rather than surrendered to animal shelters. It’s not just about day-to-day management; it’s also about offering safety net programs for pet families who need access to veterinary care; educating the public about humane pet care and local animal-control regulations; bridging gaps between community needs and shelter resources so that potential funders, elected officials and boards of directors can provide the resources needed for life-saving efforts; collaborating with public health experts; and fostering community support.

Earning the 15-credit University of Florida Online Graduate Certificate in Animal Shelter Leadership goes beyond just acquiring the credential. It is a comprehensive journey where students gain the knowledge and skills needed to be well-rounded leaders while promoting animal welfare. Students gain a 360-degree view of all the diverse life-saving programs modern animal shelters can provide in their communities while they develop leadership, management, fundraising, and marketing skills specifically targeted toward animal welfare work.

What Will You Learn in Our Courses?

Here are some examples:

“Dramatic advances have occurred in the world of animal sheltering and shelter medicine in recent years, and effective leadership is crucial to navigate this change in order to build healthy organizational culture and fulfill its mission. By the end of the course, students will be aware of their strengths as leaders and of areas that they will need additional development.” — Louiza Chan, BVSc, MBA, and Becky Morrow, DVM, MS, CAWA, Instructors for VME 6819 Principles of Leadership in Animal Shelters (3 credits, taught in fall ans spring semesters, prerequisite for VME 6801 Principles of Management in Animal Shelters)

“The future of animal welfare is in the hands of today’s personnel. Bringing strong management skills to the forefront is essential to ensure that pets and people will continue to receive the support they need. “  — Ann Ensminger, MS, CAWA, Instructor for VME 6801 Principles of Management in Animal Shelters  (3 credits, taught in fall and spring semesters,

“Teaching animal welfare leaders how to coach animal welfare organizations towards optimal lifesaving strategies is the primary focus of this course. We identify and develop life-enhancing programs that divert animals from presenting to the shelter, optimize animal health and well-being once they enter the shelter, and advocate for animals to find their forever homes. Leadership that understands, endorses, and implements such lifesaving programs are an invaluable asset to any animal welfare organization.” — Jeff Fortna, DVM, MS, Instructor for VME 6840 Life-Enhancing Strategies for Animal Welfare Organizations (3 credits, taught in the fall and spring semesters)

“Marketing and communications have the power to shape behavior within our community; drive awareness; and amplify lifesaving. It is critical for animal welfare leaders to understand the impact that they can have by growing and maintaining strong community connections. Regardless of the size, budget, or mission of their organization, current and future leaders in this course will find that marketing is a key component in any lifesaving strategy.”Caitlin Quinn, MPA, Instructor for VME 6841 Communications and Marketing for Animal Welfare Organizations (3 credits, taught in the fall and spring semesters)

“Developing fundraising plans that include diversified strategies and building relationships with supporters is key to organizational growth and goals. The students in this class, no matter what role they are currently serving in an organization, learn specific techniques to be successful and how to leverage their personal energy and passion to support development efforts. “ Julie Bank, MIS, Instructor for VME 6842 Fundraising and Development for Animal Welfare Organizations (3 credits, taught in the summer semester)

What is Unique About This Program?

Vet student with catThe University of Florida (UF) prides itself for a reputation of academic excellence which aligns perfectly with our mission to educate and empower future leaders in animal welfare.

What makes our program unique is its potential for continual professional growth and networking with colleagues who have similar interests from around the world. Graduates can transfer up to 15 credits to UF’s online Master of Science in Shelter Medicine, allowing them to delve deeper into the world of shelter management and expand their impact.

Our program is open to a diverse group of individuals, from seasoned veterinarians to passionate shelter volunteers. We believe that anyone committed to making a difference in the lives of animals and communities can benefit from our program.

As students embark on this journey, they are expected to possess an undergraduate degree and to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher—a testament to their commitment to excellence and readiness to face the unique challenges that come with this noble profession.

The Bottom Line

In creating the Animal Shelter Leadership Graduate Certificate program, our goal is simple: to nurture positive leaders who will be the voice for animals in need, support their staff and volunteers to do important work, and be the driving force behind community change. It is not just a program; it is a mission to make the world a better place for all living beings, one step at a time. Join us on this incredible journey of compassion, impact, and leadership. Together, we can create a brighter future for animals and the world they inhabit.