Front Street Animal Shelter

Front Street Animal Shelter Gets Creative with Outreach

Front Street Animal Shelter

For 25 years, Gina Knepp worked for the City of Sacramento’s 911 and 311 systems.

Nearing retirement, she accepted a temporary position at the Front Street Animal Shelter, the city’s animal control agency. The City needed her to clean up the shelter’s business processes before turning over the operating contract to a local nonprofit group.

Knepp wanted to help the animals, but also worried about the 31 staff who would lose their jobs as a result of the new contract. Knepp asked the City of Sacramento to postpone the outsourcing and give her time to turn things around.

Within a year, things improved so dramatically they dropped the idea of hiring an outside vendor – and hired her as Animal Care Services Manager to oversee the agency.

"Sometimes leadership is just helping people do things they never thought they could do before. Together, we decided we could be amazing."

Community engagement skyrockets under new leadership

The agency’s amazing success started with social media, which they used to build community engagement. Without boosting a post or buying an ad, they grew their Facebook followers from a paltry 600 to a jaw-dropping 94,000 followers in just five years.

“When used properly, social media is the most ingenious way of building relationships and getting people interested in and supporting what you do,” she says.

They use that fan base to promote adoption events, educate the public, and routinely raise money for equipment needs, like a hotel-sized washing machine they needed and raised money for in just two weeks.

“People get really excited to help if they see a tangible result of their giving,” she said.

Adoption events held in unexpected locations

Off-site adoption events became the cornerstone of the agency’s lifesaving strategies. So when the Petco Foundation gave them a $132,500 investment in 2015, they used it to organize 150 off-site adoption events and purchase an adoption vehicle to transport animals.

Front Street Animal Shelter hosts several of these off-site adoption events at surprising locations, like at a fashion show or the Sacramento Ballet – “where the Nutcracker is now known as the Mutt Cracker because a shelter dog is featured in every show,” says Knepp. “I am happy to say there has been a sudden increase in pit bull owners amongst the ballet demographic.”

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Front Street Animal Shelter also operates a full-time Petco Adoption Center and cat habitats in four Petco stores, which is “a great collaboration for us,” says Knepp. “Animals find new homes and families find the store support they need to care for their pets over their lifetimes.”

In 2016, another Petco Foundation lifesaving investment of $350,000 is helping the agency pay for advanced medical care for the sick and injured animals that cannot be treated at the shelter, but who need treatment before finding a loving home.

As a result of these strategies, Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter, which handles 11,000 animals annually, says their lifesaving rates have jumped from 25% in 2011 to 80% in 2016.

“Their engagement with the community and their lifesaving programs have been transformational,” says Susanne Kogut, Executive Director of the Petco Foundation. “It’s wonderful to support a group who finds so many ways to save lives every day.”

Five years later, Knepp appears no closer to retirement. “We’ve still got more to do,” she says.