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June 3, 2012

Animal Care Expo 2012

Humane Society International

  • Some of the international attendees. Ronda Churchill

  • The man with the funny hat. Ronda Churchill

  • HSI's reception, with delicious vegan food. Ronda Churchill

  • HSI award winner Marcelle Meredi with HSI's Kelly O'Meara and Andrew Rowan. Ronda Churchill

  • The exhibition hall. Ronda Churchill

  • Dancing the night away. Ronda Churchill

This year's Animal Care Expo—a world-class international conference combined with a full-scale trade show—ran from May 20-24 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A chance to share and learn

As part of this annual event, put on in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States, HSI always conducts a special program to target those attendees visiting from around the world. Animal advocates from the developing countries often struggle with problems that differ from those found in industrialized nations, and HSI makes an effort to develop an educational experience that offers approaches and solutions to these issues. Expo 2012 saw the largest international contingent to date, with 155 participants representing more than 40 countries including Sierra Leone, South Africa, Chile and China.

In the week prior to the conference, HSI also arranged 18 internships at U.S. animal shelters, offering exposure to the full management of such facilities, including the intake, kennel care, adoption and behavior training of shelter animals. Participants are able to take the procedures and protocols of a well-run shelter back home, where they can share their newfound knowledge with their colleagues. New friendships formed also prove valuable for the long term, with interns able to contact their former hosts for continuing guidance in further improving their organizations a world away.

Meaningful discussion

This year’s workshop topics, chosen in part based on feedback from past attendees, included a day-long certificate course on “Running an Effective Organization"; "Planning Ahead: Being Prepared Before a Disaster Strikes"; "Compassion Fatigue—Know the Causes, Symptoms and How to Alleviate Or Reduce"; "Putting Animal Cruelty Laws and Policy into Effect"; "Humane Education: The Key to Creating Change"; "Changing Attitudes—Increasing Adoptions"; and "Animals and Religion."

In an overpacked room for the Compassion Fatigue session, the audience members learned that’s it’s not only okay to take a break from caring for animals, but it’s a necessity to avoid burnout. Whether from Africa, Latin America or the U.S., this issue affected every audience member and the workshop offered a real opportunity for discussion about a topic that is hugely important in the animal care field.

Recognizing special achievements

The Animal Advocates program creates partnerships between HSI and international organizations that endorse, promote, and strive to adhere to certain basic policies of animal welfare. This year, Obhoyaronno—Bangladesh Animal Welfare Foundation in Bangladesh received this honor, and a teary-eyed Rubiya Ahmad, the founder, was there to accept. She has worked steadily in her country over the past two years to push for humane animal control in the capital city of Dhaka. She requested assistance from HSI, and as a team, we were able to convince the Bangladesh government that the cruel dog killing campaigns should be stopped. Today, the city of Dhaka has adopted mass spay/neuter and vaccination in place of slaughter and Rubiya hopes to make this a nationwide policy.

The HSI Award for Extraordinary Commitment and Achievement is also presented annually at Expo to recognize an individual animal protectionist (particularly those from developing countries) whose hard work and compassion have led him or her to exceptional levels of bravery and self-sacrifice in striving to mitigate and prevent the suffering of animals from neglect, cruelty and exploitation. This year’s honoree was Marcelle Meredith, the long-time director of the National SPCA (NSPCA) in South Africa. In the past 25 years, Marcelle has achieved countless advancements in the protection of farm, wild and companion animals in South Africa and surrounding countries, creating model examples and laws for others to follow.

Finally, HSI recognized several government officials for their support and work in advancing street animal welfare:

  • Honorable Michael L. Rama and Alice Utlang, DVM City Mayor and City Veterinarian Cebu City, Philippines for their dedication to creating the first overall city humane animal control program in the country in partnership with HSI
  • Tenzin Dhendup, Director General, Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Royal Government of Bhutan for his dedication in developing the first nationwide spay/neuter program in Bhutan in partnership with HSI
  • Abul Alam Md. Shahid Khan, Secretary, Local Government Division, Dhaka, Bangladesh for his dedication to halting the dog killing campaign in the city of Dhaka

Animal Care Expo was bigger than ever this year and very successful in all aspects. Please mark your calendars to attend Expo 2013, which will be held in Nashville, Tennessee from May 8-11.

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