Proven Strategies

Woman in a checkered shirt and jeans kneeling and feeding a white pit bull type dog peanut butter on a spoon

Let's Get Them Home

We all know that the best place for a pet is at home with their family and not in our shelters. 
Return to owner, also known as return to home, programs are always evolving. Gone are the days of a simple tag check. Technology is advancing, communication is better than ever, and more pets are making back home. 

Part 1

Part 2


Part 1

We discussed a concept that’s not necessarily new to animal services practitioners, but there’s a fresh approach to the subject and a language change. Maddie’s Fund and Michelson is working in collaboration with other organizations on a Return to Home Challenge 

Tawny Hammond, director of learning advancement for Best Friends, moderated a conversation with national experts on proactive ways to get pets back to their families. Tawny was joined by:

  • Gina Knepp, national shelter engagement director with Michelson Found Animals
  • Shelly Simmons, division director, Greenville County Animal Care
  • Shyanne Schull, director, Washoe County Regional Animal Services

No Place Like Home Challenge deadline has been extended to January 18, 2021!  

Audience Q&A

  • Are there national statistics on Return to Home statistics? And if so, where can we find these? 45:10
  • Shyanne, how do you provide the chips, through daily service or periodic chip clinic events? 46:45
  • Which app are you using? 48:00
  • What are your thoughts on mandatory licensing versus microchips? 48:22
  • Can you talk about how to address finder-assisted reunification vs RTF for cats found outside? 50:26
  • What could be utilized if a local organization would rather seize animals rather than educate? 51:33
  • Reduced fees and return on investment 53:33

Part 2

Now that we’re halfway through the “No Place Like Home Challenge,” we have invited a group of participating organizations to continue our conversation from the January 2021 “Let’s Get Them Home” town hall. We’ll discuss the evolutions and “ah-ha” moments our panel of animal welfare leaders have discovered by taking a fresh look at their current “return-to-owner” efforts during the challenge this month.

Kaylee Hawkins, director of the Pacific region for Best Friends, moderated a conversation with:

  • Michele Anderson, public affairs coordinator, City of El Paso Animal Services in Texas
  • Hannah Beaver, director, Lincoln County Animal Services in North Carolina
  • Julie Bank, director, Riverside County Animal Services in California


  • What are some shifts are you all making that an organization of any size can embrace? 3:07
  • Riverside County has found an interesting solution that pairs those animal lovers with a volunteer opportunity while helping solve for access to RTO services across the vast county. Can you talk more about this? 7:50
  • Like Julie, you also found a way to team up with pet-loving advocates in your service area. Can you talk more about that and some wins from this new partnership? 12:45
  • Let’s talk about field services/animal control’s role in this. What are some innovative ways your field teams are impacting RTOs? 20:30

Audience Q&A

  • Julie, are the ambassadors using their own phones? Did you set up google voice numbers for them? 51:54
  • Michele, can anyone add their pet to the Map or is it all through your organization? 53:24
  • I’m wondering if it’s ok to shamelessly “steal” (copy and paste) from other animal shelter websites that are knocking it out of the park and duplicating their resources or is that frowned upon? 56:52





If you enjoyed this town hall, you can find our complete catalog of town halls here