Audio Resource: Contingency Planning For Animal Sanctuaries
Check out the following short audio conversation between The Open Sanctuary Project’s staff and P.E.A.C.E. Canada about this topic!
The one thing that I do find within the sanctuary community and it’s it’s funny because if you apply it to real life, it’s very similar to about ourselves creating our own wills. I find a lot of people drag their feet unless something big is coming up and they’re like, I should really create my real contingency as well as succession planning is such a hard thing.
And I do feel that support from already established sanctuaries and having that community and helping each other out with Amber, mentioning that the parrots and the birds and people coming out and helping each other out, especially here in B.C., we have the B.C. wildfires. We had the flooding. I know everywhere in the world, around the world, there’s a lot of larger events.
Climate change is bringing on. So it’s more than ever. It’s extremely important for people to look at these things. And I do feel it’s something important that we need to talk about. Is there any information, tips, any thing that your team has found is a big hurdle within these kind of blocks, contingency emergency and succession planning that people do find it the hardest to get over.
And pretty much tips, information.
00;01;18;18 – 00;01;50;03
And I think the biggest challenge that people find is there’s so much to do in sanctuary and there’s so much just organization stuff to do that unless there is literally an emergency happening, it can feel hard to want to budget the time to do it, but it is so, so important to do it. We created a little contingency planning worksheet that is for staff or board and it’s very simple.
It’s just meant to be really conversational because a A formal or informal course of action planned for certain events, especially emergencies that a sanctuary might face. isn’t meant to be like this giant. Like, Oh, here’s five pages on what to do is just here’s what’s happening, here’s who we call, here’s the supplies, here’s what we’re going to do. Because when you’re in an emergency mode, that’s the kind of time you have. You’re not going to go like, Oh, let me go through the manual and be like, Oh, barn’s on fire.
You know, it’s just like you just got to move. And like, when you’re talking about resident lives or even Someone who provides daily care, specifically for animal residents at an animal sanctuary, shelter, or rescue. lives at stake, there is no time for that kind of reference. So having contingency planning, it can feel really scary and big because you’re like, Well, how do I plan for everything that could happen?
And it’s like, Well, you just start. You just start by like, what’s the most likely disaster that could happen? And then you can kind of whittle down to like, what’s a lesser disaster that could happen but still could possibly happen. And you just have a conversation and, you know, just really just create very simple structure. Like, you know, the contingency planning binder that we recommend is just kind of just like, okay, it’s just like maybe like Barn on fire or maybe it’s like there’s a flood or maybe there’s like the roads now and just go from there.
And so that you just have something that everyone knows exactly what to do. So that because in times of emergencies, you don’t really have a lot of time to be like processing things and doing things. So everything that you can create it into like a very quick actionable thing could very potentially save a lot of lives. So I know it’s scary to think about it, especially like, okay, well when I’m going to do contingency planning because, you know, I got to see the birds and I got to go among themselves and I got to go fix this fence.
But like, it doesn’t have to be a really overwhelming process and even if it seems really simple, it’s still so much better than having nothing.
The Best Laid Plans…
It’s an unfortunate truth that things don’t tend to go the way we hope they do. A number of events completely out of your control will likely impact your sanctuary’s operations. Do you have an accessible plan for the unthinkable? Or the other unthinkable? What just came to mind when you read “the unthinkable”? Do you have a plan in place for that? By thinking about and crafting a set of contingency plans (which you’ll hopefully never have to implement!), you’ll be taking invaluable steps to protect your residents, your organization, and yourself.
What Should I Plan For?
The broad set of categories to plan for include organizational challenges, operational challenges, and resident challenges. Within these categories are a diverse set of challenges that could blindside your sanctuary if you haven’t considered how you’d react to them. This is not an exhaustive list of things to create plans for; your organization might have its own set of unique challenges based on geography, climate, jurisdiction, and the residents you’re caring for.
Although your mission might seem altruistic and straightforward, creating organizational contingencies are crucial for the human aspect of your mission. This includes setting appropriate policies for your staff, your board, your management structure, and having plans in place for unexpected legal or publicity challenges. Think about the following scenarios and how your organization would respond safely and effectively for the sake of your residents:
- Your founder or chief caregiver is incapacitated or quits unexpectedly
- A volunteer, visitor, or staff member threatens legal action against you
- You face a legal challenge regarding zoning or animal abuse accusations
- A neighbor files a complaint against your sanctuary
- Your organization gets inaccurately or unfairly portrayed in a highly-visible news story
- Law enforcement accuses you of illegally obtaining a resident (there are a number of organizations that focus on supporting sanctuaries facing legal issues such as the Animal Defense Partnership)
The day to day operations of your sanctuary can face a number of challenges, many that are difficult or impossible to predict. Again, think about the following scenarios and how your organization would respond:
- Your operation faces a budget shortfall and cannot afford to adequately care for your residents
- If you are renting your sanctuary land, the landowner wants you off of their property
- Your property is rezoned and no longer can legally shelter some or all of your residents
- Your sanctuary faces vandalism, threats of violence, and theft
- A contractor does not adequately perform the work you paid them to accomplish
- Your sanctuary faces a natural disaster like a blizzard, tornado, earthquake, flooding, or fire
Having written contingency plans for your residents is an important tool in keeping them safe and protecting your organization. Consider how you would react to the following scenarios:
- A resident injures a human, a human injures a resident, or a resident injures a resident
- A contagious disease outbreak strikes some of your residents
- A resident faces a catastrophic health emergency which they can’t recover from
- One of your residents is too confrontational to keep with others safely
- A resident gets impregnated unexpectedly (a sanctuary should always try to avoid this!)
- You have to quickly and safely evacuate your residents from the area
- You must permanently rehome some or all of your residents in a short period of time
Writing Contingency Plans
Your plans should be concise, easy to reference, and contain clear guidelines for how to handle each event. It’s also helpful to include personnel and organization references and their contact information alongside each plan. If you’ve gotten permission to use a volunteer’s truck and trailer in the event of flooding, what is their name and how can you easily contact them? If you’ve set up a safe temporary rehoming facility in case of natural disaster with a sanctuary across the state, who is the point of contact there? What are the exact steps you or your team must follow to ensure a positive outcome in dire circumstances? For example:
Event: A wildfire is threatening the sanctuary
Actions: Call Charise, Landry, and Steve and inform them that you are initiating a wildfire evacuation. Gather birds and place in Steve’s van. Load sheep and goats into Charise’s trailer. Perform a headcount before leaving. Take residents to Landry’s spare paddock.
Contacts: Charise (Phone number, email), Steve (Phone Number, email)
Event: The head of the organization is incapacitated and cannot be communicated with
Actions: Call key staff and assess current needs. Ensure staff has access to all mission critical contacts. Make Shanti the operating head of the organization until an all-staff meeting is held.
Contacts: Key staff (contact information for each member), Shanti (phone number)
Once you consider and codify your contingency plans for events such as these and specific challenges you foresee, you will be empowered to handle the worst with your best foot forward. Remember to revisit your contingency plans frequently to ensure that they still fit the needs and structure of your organization!
Putting It All Together
Is your sanctuary ready to put together contingency plans relevant for your organization? We have a free downloadable workbook made just for sanctuaries! Check it out here!