Maddie’s Fund

Maddie’s Fund helps shelters reduce dog deaths

Maddie’s Fund helps shelters reduce dog deaths

By Norma Bennett Woolf

Several years ago, the San Francisco SPCA cancelled its animal control contract with the city and presented the country with the first five-year plan for ending euthanasia of healthy dogs in a city.

Director Richard Avanzino was heavily criticized for the decision; those who viewed the move with skepticism said that the organization was simply shifting the responsibility to kill dogs to other shelters in the area. But Avanzino stuck to his guns, and within five years, his organization not only reduced the SPCA’s killing of healthy dogs and cats to zero, it began taking adoptable animals from government and private shelters as well. Along the way, he raised millions of dollars to build and fund a veterinary hospital that provides low-cost sterilization services for pets and started dozens of programs to increase adoptions and help people keep their pets instead of surrendering them to the shelter. The SF SPCA developed a grooming school that used shelter dogs to train prospective groomers, thus making the dogs more attractive to potential adopters; established a hearing dog school to train dogs to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing owners; started a doggy day care center as a fund-raising business; worked with the city landlords to develop a pet resume for dog-owning tenants.

The SF SPCA wrote new criteria for adoptability: any animal that was basically healthy and of good temperament made the grade as long as it was more than eight weeks of age. Those younger than eight weeks were kept until they reached that age, and those with treatable diseases and repairable injuries were nursed back to health before being offered to new families.

Avanzino left the SF SPCA in 1999 to head Maddie’s Fund, the brainchild of PeopleSoft software mogul Dave Duffield. The fund began life as the Duffield Family Foundation and was renamed Maddie’s Fund after the family’s beloved Miniature Schnauzer. Duffield and his wife Cheryl invested $200 million in the Fund and offer grants to communities, veterinary colleges, and veterinary associations who meet its criteria for innovative programs to reduce shelter deaths of healthy animals.

The idea behind Maddie’s Fund is to provide the dollars that make the dreams become reality.

“The building blocks for this plan are to be found in hometowns across America,” Avanzino said in a letter to animal welfare advocates. “In every community in the country, shelter volunteers, animal control officers, veterinarians, foster parents, humane society staff and many others are working hard to save lost, homeless and abandoned dogs and cats. The desire, drive and determination are there, but the dollars to fund the dream have been harder to come by.”

Strict standards

Maddie’s Fund is no pushover for organizations looking for a fast buck. The criteria for grant applications are strict, and no funds are offered or awarded for animal control programs run by government agencies or under government contract, for individuals, for facility construction, or to support endowment campaigns, research, scholarships, general operating budgets, special events, or films and publications. The money is only for

² increasing placement of healthy shelter dogs and cats,

² reducing shelter deaths of healthy dogs and cats, and

² dramatically increasing spay and neuter surgeries.

Organizations applying for community money must

² be charitable not-for-profit organizations classified by the IRS as tax-exempt;

² provide comprehensive medical and behavioral care to all healthy and treatable animals in their care and guarantee to find good homes for these animals;

² include the participation of all animal control and traditional shelters in the community;

² demonstrate substantial participation by private-practice veterinarians in the community;

² be able to reach beyond current levels of achievement to save additional animals, prevent more deaths, and provide more spy and neuter surgeries.

Veterinary associations and veterinary colleges are also eligible for funds.

Funded programs

Maddie’s Fund has granted money to a handful of programs since its inception.

Maddie’s Big Fix for Alabama is a two-year program to spay and neuter dogs and cats belonging to Alabama’s low-income residents. The program is administered by the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association; surgeries are performed by ALVMA-member private practice veterinarians.

Maddie’s Big Fix for Alabama began on July 1 and has a first year goal of altering 10,000 pets. The cost of the surgery is $5 per cat surgery and $10 per dog surgery. Maddie’s Fund is contributing an average of $45 per cat surgery and $70 per dog surgery. Participating ALVMA doctors will contribute the remainder of the cost by reducing their fees. Clients are asked to show proof of eligibility with a Medicaid card and there is a limit of six pets per household.

Maddie’s Big Fix for Alabama sprang from the work of the Alabama Humane Federation, a statewide coalition of 16 traditional shelters, 15 animal control agencies, nine no-kill organizations and the ALVMA. The federation partners are providing shelter statistics on impounds, adoptions and deaths so participants can measure the program’s effectiveness.

Maddie’s Fund has awarded $610,000 for the first year and will make approximately $2.5 million dollars available to the project.

Shelter medicine

The School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, is creating Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program to help reduce incidences of disease and behavior problems in shelter cats and dogs. This project will improve the quality of pet lives during shelter stays, reduce shelter deaths and increase the adoptability of shelter animals. Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program will also develop a well-informed pool of specialists who will serve as important resources for shelter managers nationwide.

The project has three major components and will focus on disease problems in shelter environments, facility design, husbandry procedures, shelter animal housing and flow patterns, vaccination regimens and stress reduction.

Shelter Medicine Training for veterinary students and post-graduate residents will include new courses in shelter medicine, small animal health, infectious disease epidemiology and behavior management, and shelter design, policies and legal issues. Senior veterinary students will have the option of a rotation in the shelter medicine service at participating shelters.

Shelter Medicine Service will consist of four key areas:

Diagnostic and medical support in virology, microbiology, immunology and pathology. Planning services will also be offered in facilities evaluation and design, including implementation of quarantine, remodeling of existing facilities and design and construction of new facilities.

Development of a behavior service to help shelters improve the welfare and adoptability of dogs and cats by conducting research on various housing and management arrangements that affect animal behavior; helping shelters customize the training and behavior rehabilitation of their animals in preparation for adoption; and working with shelters to market adoptable cats and dogs in order to reach the no-kill goal.

Establishment of a consultation service to provide California’s public and private animal shelters with a phone and internet-based consultation service for support of shelter veterinarians and managers dealing with infectious diseases.

Delivery of continuing education in shelter medicine through the Veterinary Extension Program, special symposiums on Shelter Medicine to be held every two years, and Shelter Medicine Cyber Support, the web database developed by the consultation service.

In conclusion

The Duffields have been criticized for making it tough to get money from Maddie’s Fund, but they have a clear idea of their agenda and are determined to stick to their plan. The website ( clearly sets out that agenda with this preamble to the grant guidelines:
“Maddie’s Fund recognizes that many private animal shelters believe they have a responsibility to accept all dogs and cats, even if the shelter is full or lacks the resources to provide all the animals taken in with life-sustaining care. For these shelters, euthanasia is viewed as a necessary and legitimate, albeit unfortunate, means of controlling shelter populations, preventing overcrowding, and inhibiting the spread of disease. We respect the views of traditional shelters and understand these views are deeply and sincerely held. However, Maddie’s Fund generally does not provide funding for organizations that euthanize adoptable or treatable dogs and cats for shelter population management purposes.”
For more information about Maddie’s Fund, visit the website at or contact Avanzino at Maddie’s Fund, 2223 Santa Clara Avenue #B, Alameda, California 94501-4416; 510-337-8989; Fax: 510-337-8988;

Norma Bennett Woolf

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