Interview with Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President, ASPCA
Interview with Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President, ASPCA
Recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President, ASPCA. Gail’s primary responsibilities include animal adoption and running the ASPCA adoption center. Below is a very detailed interview about how the ASPCA helps animals who are part of animal cruelty cases and how the ASPCA promotes animal adoption and rescue!
KATHERINE CARVER: What does your work at the ASPCA entail?
GAIL BUCHWALD: I am the Senior Vice President of the ASPCA Adoptions Center which is located in New York City. I manage the ASPCA’s Adoption Center, which is a 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that places approximately 3,000 animals into loving homes each year. I also oversee the Adoption Center’s Behavior & Training Program, Mobile Adoption Center and all of the adoption events we hold throughout the year.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the mission of the ASPCA?
GAIL BUCHWALD: The ASPCA’s mission is to fight animal cruelty and end homelessness throughout the United States.
Our belief is that animals are entitled to respect and kindness, and we need to be their voice to ensure they receive both. While we’re headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA is a leader in animal welfare both locally and nationally. We focus on caring for pets and pet parents, serving animal cruelty victims and providing resources to ensure positive outcomes for at-risk animals.
KATHERINE CARVER: Does the ASPCA partner with any other organization(s) to promote its mission?
GAIL BUCHWALD: Yes, we could never make such a positive impact on animal welfare without the help of other organizations and groups throughout the country.
We launched a Partnership Community program in 2007 that allows us to collaborate with cities and regions seeking the expertise of ASPCA employees to save the lives of at-risk animals in their neighborhoods. We are able to provide resources and encourage the implementation of new tactics that increase adoption rates and decrease euthanasia. We currently have five active Partner Communities and eight that have graduated from the program!
In addition to our Partnership Communities, we are also the largest-founding member of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. This is an umbrella organization for animal welfare, with the goal of making New York City a no-kill community. The Mayor’s Alliance includes more than 150 rescue groups and shelters, encouraging collaborative efforts to place adoptable animals and decrease euthanasia. The ASPCA has provided more than $5M in grants to assist with these services, including spay/neuter and transport efforts.
Another great example of working with partners is our recent enhanced commitment to Los Angeles, where we’re collaborating with Downtown Dog Rescue, the Amanda Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, Stray Cat Alliance, Fix Nation, the Heigl Foundation, Bark Avenue, Found Animals Foundation, and others to keep families and their pets together, protect animals, and save lives.
On the animal cruelty side, we work with local law enforcement and local animal welfare agencies around the country to rescue animals from large scale cruelty cases like dog fighting and puppy mills. In New York City, we collaborate with the NYPD to address animal cruelty issues. NYPD takes the lead role in responding to all animal cruelty complaints in the five boroughs, while the ASPCA provides direct care support for animal cruelty victims, including medical treatment, behavior assessments and rehabilitation, and housing and placement.
We also partner with human social service agencies to address animal cruelty at its root cause through our Cruelty Intervention and Advocacy program, which works in three main areas: animal hoarding, emergency veterinary care for underserved communities and resources for domestic violence survivors.
KATHERINE CARVER: What services are provided to the animals while they are staying at the ASPCA?
GAIL BUCHWALD: We can house more than 300 cats and dogs in our Adoption Center, and we provide much more than just shelter. We have a team of veterinary specialists and behavior counselors who provide critical medical and behavioral rehabilitation for the animals coming into our care. Another incredibly important aspect is the assistance we receive from our more than 500 volunteers. Our Volunteer Program allows for cat socialization, dog walking, training and enrichment, foster care and adoption counseling, which is imperative in making sure an adopter is choosing the perfect match for his or her lifestyle. We also provide obedience classes and organized dog play. All of these resources improve the lives of the animals housed in our Adoption Center and our ability to place thousands of cats and dogs in loving homes every year.
KATHERINE CARVER: What experience at the ASPCA has moved or inspired you the most?
GAIL BUCHWALD: Seeing animals arrive scared and shaking, and watching them become comfortable and trusting, to the point at which they give kisses (dogs) and head-butts (cats) is an amazing experience. In addition to seeing this on a daily basis in the shelter animals, I have witnessed this transformation with my own adopted dog and cats, all of whom arrived at the shelter homeless, afraid and confused, and then blossomed into pets who crave love and have so much love to give.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect about running the ASPCA Adoption Center?
GAIL BUCHWALD: There is a constant need to be flexible and dynamic, always accommodating varying influxes of animals, and all the animals are very needy. This requires flexibility, creativity, vision and planning- all with the ability to turn on a dime.
KATHERINE CARVER: What types of animal cases are most prevalent at the ASPCA Adoption Center?
GAIL BUCHWALD: The Adoption Center takes in a wide range of animals. Many come from cruelty cases, such as having been starved or neglected. Others arrive because they have been left homeless, and being homeless is the leading risk factor for animals across the country. It’s important for us to help them all, because in the end they are all great animals who deserve a second chance.
KATHERINE CARVER: How does the ASPCA promote animal adoption?
GAIL BUCHWALD: By holding both large- and small-scale adoption events throughout the year, we’re able to make adoption more accessible for people, and remind them why it should be their first option.
For the last four years, we have been holding the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge. This three-month national competition inspires animal shelters—and those who support them—to go above and beyond to increase pet adoption, reunite lost pets with their families and save more animals’ lives. Since 2010, hundreds of shelters across the country have used the $100K Challenge to inspire teamwork, come up with new approaches and rally community support to place more animals in loving homes than they did during the same period the year before. The 100K Challenge creates a sense of comradery in communities and rewards shelters for their innovative efforts. Last year, 49 contestants saved more than 55,000 animals’ lives!
One of our priorities is also to educate the public on the importance of adoption over purchasing a pet from a pet store. Our No Pet Store Puppies Campaign strives to make people aware of the deplorable conditions in commercial breeding facilities, where the vast majority of pet store puppies come from. By keeping people informed, we can encourage adoption.
One of the best ways we can promote adoption is through our communications with supporters, animal advocates and professionals in the animal welfare industry. Through our media outreach, and by engaging with people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we can keep people in the know about animals that are up for the adoption and provide information on how to increase adoption in local shelters. By sharing photos and profiles of our adoptable animals and highlighting success stories of cats and dogs that have found forever homes, we’re able to get people excited about adoption.
KATHERINE CARVER: Does the ASPCA participate in or host any events throughout the year?
GAIL BUCHWALD: In addition to many of the adoption events throughout the year, we hold various fundraising events which are designed to educate and engage supporters, adopters and those in the animal welfare profession.
Every year, we hold the ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon, which not only recognizes individuals who have made an outstanding difference in the lives of animals, but also celebrates animal heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts. ASPCA Humane Awards are given in six categories: ASPCA Dog of the Year, ASPCA Cat of the Year, ASPCA Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year Award, ASPCA Public Service Award, ASPCA Henry Bergh Award and the ASPCA Presidential Service Award.
We also host the ASPCA’s Annual Young Friends Benefit, an event that attracts more than 500 young professionals and animal advocates who want to show their support for the ASPCA’S mission. This event provides an opportunity to inspire young professionals to make a difference in the lives of animals through social, educational and philanthropic change.
Our signature event of the year is our annual Bergh Ball. Held in New York City, this gala brings together hundreds of animal supporters, including community leaders, celebrities and generous donors. Here, we are able to engage with our donors and update them on both our recent accomplishments and future plans.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are the best reasons for adopting an animal versus going through a breeder?
GAIL BUCHWALD: We often hear that people purchase from pet stores because they want a pure breed dog or a pet that doesn’t have preexisting health conditions or behavioral issues. What many people don’t realize is that the vast majority of dogs bought in pet stores, even those sourced from USDA licensed breeders, are coming from puppy mills. These are large-scale commercial dog breeding operations where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Dogs are often housed in overcrowded and unsanitary cages with wire flooring that can injure their paws and legs. Oftentimes, they go without sufficient veterinary care, food, water and socialization.
Unfortunately, some pet store puppies coming from these commercial breeders have health conditions because puppy mill operators fail to apply proper practices that would remove genetically compromised dogs from their breeding pools. The conditions within the puppy mills can also contribute to further illness and emotional distress. One benefit of adopting from a shelter is that it allows you to know exactly what you’re getting and whether you’re prepared to handle any issues that may arise.
It’s also important to note that there are many breed-specific rescue organizations that give people the opportunity to adopt a pure breed. In fact, 25 percent of dogs that enter shelters are pure breeds. If you can’t find what you want through a shelter or breed rescue group, be sure to learn how to recognize a responsible breeder. Always meet the puppy’s parents or at least the mother, and see where the dogs live. Never meet a breeder at an off-site location, and never have a puppy shipped to you sight-unseen.
As part of our No Pet Store Puppies campaign, we launched nopetstorepuppies.com which includes a database of 10,000 photos of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licensed commercial dog breeders and links many of them to specific pet stores throughout the country. This database further demonstrates that just because a pet store sells puppies from a USDA licensed breeder, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dogs were raised in humane conditions.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people adopt animals from the ASPCA?
GAIL BUCHWALD: The ASPCA operates one adoption center, which is in New York City. We’re always thrilled when people are ready to add a companion animal to their home, and we try to make sure anyone looking to adopt is finding a perfect match.
Before you come to visit our Adoption Center, it’s helpful to be prepared. You can download our adoption application from our website, which includes our Meet Your Match survey. This is a program we created to make sure we are pairing each adopter with a cat or dog that best fits his or her lifestyle. It’s easy to fall in love with a cute face, but adopting a pet is a long-term commitment, so it’s important to make sure you get to know your pet’s feline- or canine-ality. Meet Your Match is the only existing method that evaluates an animal’s behavior and interests and matches them to an adopter’s preferences.
We also encourage adopters to visit the Adoption Center with all members of their household, including dogs. This way we can make sure your new pet is a great fit for everyone. To learn more about what you’ll need to bring with you, and some of the great benefits of adopting from the ASPCA, you can visit our How to Adopt page on our website.
If you don’t live in New York, check out our nationwide database of adoptable cats and dogs in local shelters near you!
KATHERINE CARVER: What advice can you give to someone who might be considering getting involved with volunteering at an animal shelter?
GAIL BUCHWALD: Anyone can make a huge difference for their local shelter, and there are so many different ways to get involved and help animals. Here are some ideas:
- Visit your local shelter’s webpage to find out about volunteer opportunities. Often times, volunteers will need to undergo a training or orientation session before beginning to work with the animals.
- Check with your shelter to see what types of product they might need. Popular items of need include money, canned food, blankets, towels, newspaper, litter, animal toys, cat boxes, collars, leashes, crates, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent, cleaning tools, animal beds, paper towels, food bowls, plastic shopping bag.
- Fostering pets is a vital way to help them find permanent homes, but it also creates valuable space in your shelter. It’s important that animals get out of their cages and accustomed to home environments. Once there, these pets will meet people they may never encounter in a shelter – namely, your visiting friends and family, some of whom may be in need of a new companion.
- If your workplace is the kind of environment where people like to help each other out, suggest a day for your colleagues to donate a few bucks or tips to benefit your community shelter. You can also post signs advertising their adoption events, or show photos of specific animals up for adoption. Ask the shelter for assistance – they’ll probably love to help out.
- Every business needs a good writer, but not every place has one. If you’re good with words, volunteer your services to a local shelter. Often they have to produce brochure copy, letters to the editor, website text, newsletter articles, advertising slogans, and other needs for a smart scribe. And what could be more fun or fulfilling than using your talent to save lives? Even if you’re not a writer, do you have a special skill they can use, like accounting, public relations, social media, plumbing, carpentry, or electrical work? Name it; they need it.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are the future visions and goals of the ASPCA?
GAIL BUCHWALD: The ASPCA’s long-term vision is a society in which animals are increasingly saved, protected and treated more humanely due to collective and individual human efforts on their behalf.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people make donations and/or volunteer with the ASPCA?
GAIL BUCHWALD: The ASPCA relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers to save the lives of animals across the country. If someone is interested in making a donation, they can visit our website, where they’ll be able to make a one-time contribution or become a member.
As I mentioned earlier, our more than 500 volunteers are vital to providing loving care to the dogs and cats in our shelter.
The ASPCA’s Volunteer Program accepts online applications on a quarterly basis. We often receive an overwhelming number of volunteer applications and we sometimes cannot accept all of them. For other volunteer opportunities in NYC, please consider volunteering at the NYC Animal Care and Control (AC&C) shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. You also can go to the Mayor’s Alliance website to find a list of shelters and rescue organizations in New York City that use volunteer support. If you live outside of New York City, petfinder.com is a great resource for finding local shelters that can always use an extra hand.
KATHERINE How can people obtain further information about the ASPCA?
GAIL BUCHWALD: Our website has a ton of tips for pet parents and anyone looking for information on animal welfare. There, you can also sign up to become a member of our ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, where you would receive important alerts from the ASPCA when we need their help to fight laws against animal cruelty. You can also visit our ASPCA Parents site if you are looking for information geared toward children.
Please contact the ASPCA if you are interested in adopting an animal in need of a furever home!
The photographs included in this post are courtesy of the ASPCA.
You can read additional interviews here.