Insights and Inspiration from Animal Care Expo 2024

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I recently had the privilege of attending The Humane Society of The United States Animal Care Expo in San Antonio, TX, from May 14-18. With over 2,500 attendees, Animal Care Expo is the largest international educational conference and trade show for animal welfare professionals and volunteers. It brings together experts from all facets of animal welfare around the globe to learn about the latest programs, share best practices, gain inspiration, and build lasting connections through educational workshops, learning labs, networking opportunities, and social events.

Animal Care Expo 2024 offered nearly 100 workshops across 12 tracks, an expansive exhibit hall to engage with animal welfare organizations, vendors, and sponsors, continuing education opportunities in a variety of disciplines, and numerous networking opportunities to share knowledge, gain advice, and draw inspiration from the experiences and outlooks of our global colleagues. These opportunities provide professional and personal dividends for attendees that last throughout the year and beyond.

Over 100 Workshops!

While there were 100 workshops to choose from, I specifically attended sessions discussing high volume spay/neuter, community veterinary wellness, and community cats. Alyssa, Napa Humane’s Pet Education Manager, who attended as an exhibitor for another organization she is affiliated with for dog training, focused on sessions about behavior and training, which are most pertinent to Napa Humane’s work.

With over 18 years of experience in animal welfare, I always find myself re-energized by these large conferences! It is rewarding to affirm that we at Napa Humane are on top of best practices and offering some cutting-edge programming. And even though we do what we do well, there are always takeaways that we are excited to implement.


Significant Theme

A significant theme throughout all the sessions was the emphasis on keeping animals out of shelters in the first place. While this has always been the goal in animal welfare, this year’s sessions placed more emphasis on prevention rather than creating programs for animals already in shelter care. This aligns perfectly with Napa Humane’s mission to prevent pet homelessness and keep pets in their homes.

Hot Topic

One hot topic that continues to impact our work is the veterinary shortage, which negatively affects pets and directly impacts animal welfare organizations. A statistic that stood out to me was the pre-pandemic estimate of a 2.7 million spay/neuter deficit in our country, which has now doubled to a 5 million deficit after many veterinarians retired during the pandemic. This is significant because every animal not spayed/neutered is more likely to reproduce, with community cats being at highest risk. This leads to more kittens entering shelters or dying in the community. Additionally, shelter animals are waiting longer to see a vet or be spayed/neutered, increasing their time in the shelter and their chances of becoming sick or behaviorally deteriorating. The challenge of keeping animals out of shelters or getting them into homes quickly is becoming more difficult to achieve given these current challenges.

While perfect solutions come with trial and error, it is comforting to know that there are so many amazing people working in animal welfare to address these issues. I am grateful for the Napa Humane team and the role our organization plays in solution and prevention-oriented programming.

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