Getting Better All the Time
To keep ahead, each one of us, no matter what our task, must search for new and better methods—for even that which we now do well must be done better tomorrow.
—James F. Bell
Seven Steps to Regulatory and Reputational Success with Animal Welfare Act Compliance
By James F. Gesualdi
In the past, the zoological licensing system allowed for license renewals even in the case of a poor compliance record or a history of animal welfare concerns. Given that system, the Excellence Beyond Compliance® approach offered zoos an alternative way of nonetheless making the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) really work to the benefit of animals. Now, the older system is being phased out. The new licensing regulation requires entities like zoological organizations to get relicensed the old-fashioned way: by earning the authority to maintain animals, every three years.
With thanks to the agency for making this change, and to those who fought to bring it about, this regulatory change challenges zoological organizations to continuously comply with the AWA, and, frankly, be at their best. The new licensing requirement makes the voluntary Excellence Beyond Compliance® approach an indispensable part of a zoological organization's AWA compliance and animal welfare program. Here are seven ideas from the Excellence Beyond Compliance® approach to help you help animals.
- Adopt the mindset of continuous improvement, and foster a more constructive culture through key positions (from board to staff), groups, policies, and practices.
This is how to intentionally and thoughtfully take charge of your organization's regulatory and reputational standing, demonstrating that animals and their interests are central.
- Prepare for inspections and remain inspection ready with the use of an "inspection checklist."
The checklist enables the organization to make the most of the inspector's time and expertise during an inspection. It also ensures that anything that needs to be addressed and any updates are covered. It should be kept at the ready with any backup documentation and images.
- Train for inspections through regular self-inspections and periodic peer inspections, even virtual ones.
This does several things, like boost inspection readiness, provide great opportunities for self-examination and improvement, and further cross-collaborations and team building.
- Self-post your AWA inspection reports on your website.
Show the world that you own your compliance record, and make it a good one. Even occasional noncompliant items on an inspection can be used to show good follow-up commitment to compliance and the animals.
- Submit self-certified compliance reports and improvement plans to the agency after each inspection.
Compliance is important, as is your commitment to continuous improvement in the name of making animals' lives better. This is how you show the agency you are serious about serving the animals above all else. Self-post this information or an abstract on your website, and the public and any critics will respect your transparency and the underlying constructive actions.
- Make your good handling of concerns and complaints more than a reactive exercise, incorporating it into your animal welfare improvements and perhaps external engagement.
Even ultimately unfounded or readily resolved concerns can help us to improve if we look for the lessons they hold from a different perspective.
- Continuously improving organizations should compile and share annual reports on animal welfare enhancements and other improvements.
We are all about getting better at serving the animals. If we are doing that, the world should know about it.
For a brief summary depiction of these and related measures, here is a recent poster presentation—Always Building upon Our Good Work for Animals to Better Serve Them and Their Interests, Protection, and Welfare—from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums 75th annual conference.
Click here to see the WAZA poster.
The Practice of Giving Thanks, and How Mentoring Helps Us Help Animals
By James F. Gesualdi
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought….
Develop an attitude of gratitude and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.
These words are it. They are all I have left to give, and everything in this world to me. That sounds like very little or quite a lot, depending on one's perspective. It is enough. You, your colleagues, and your organizations do all the work. These words, when read, improved on, and applied by YOU, are intended to open new ways of fulfilling our responsibilities to animals and each other. So, once again, with an ever-grateful heart for all your good works, and with all my soul, this is meant to pay a tremendous debt, willingly undertaken, because it is one of gratitude.
An earnest reflection on the truly good practice of thanksgiving:
Let us be ever thankful
for this very moment and each one in which we live.
May boundless gratitude always fill our hearts—
especially at those times we strain to see the good.
The good that is all around us, within us, and sustains us.
Our practice of thanksgiving is only ever now and more than a day.
From this lofty consciousness, we can seize the opportunities to bring greater good
and more light to our journey, together with the animals and each other.
As we move forward, let us seek to more fully understand the animals, people, and world outside of ourselves, although connected to the essence of our being.
It is through such awareness and appreciation of our differences that we see anew the oneness of all life.
This knowledge strengthens our resolve to gratefully serve animals and others.
And that is our reason for being here, and it is good.
The good practice of thanksgiving raises our spirits, clears our minds, and empowers us to be better. Review "An Enlightened Caregiver's Creed" in the June 2017 Academy Newsletter, or faithfully apply "The Principles of Constructive Engagement" in the November 2015 Academy Newsletter, and see for yourself.
Mentoring "Builds Up the People and Possibilities Around You"—and that Helps Animals
There are times it seems that each person and every encounter or situation is a teacher or mentor of sorts. Then there are those who have given of themselves, their experiences, and wisdom, to pick us up and propel us forward. My heart regularly brings to mind these beautiful souls, some of whom can be thanked directly and some only through other means. The best way to honor their contributions is by sharing, as best one can, some of the lessons imparted to us and helpful insights picked up along the way. Without your good efforts and the thoughtful and caring aid of a lifetime of mentors, my ideas here would not be worthy of consideration and capable of being put to good use for the truly "right" purpose of helping animals.
It is wonderful to give of oneself to "mentor" another. There is a kind of joy in being a witness to the growth and advancement of another person. For many of us, this is sweetest when that person is engaged as a caring professional working to serve animals, their interests, protection, and welfare. In the course of my career, I have been fortunate to mentor lots of people, including many lawyers. Over the past few years, these "mentees" have done much to inspire and mentor me. My life and my work are incalculably better because of their goodness in helping me, as the outside world thinks I am helping them.
Mentor somebody. Ask someone to mentor you. Either way, both of you will be doubly blessed. At its heart, mentoring is collaborative. As St. Francis of Assisi's prayer notes, "it is in giving that we receive." Sounds about right with respect to mentoring, licensing, and thanksgiving. In giving, we receive.
No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.
—Alfred North Whitehead
© 2020 James F. Gesualdi, P.C. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. This is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.
For more information on EXCELLENCE BEYOND COMPLIANCE® see http://excellencebeyondcompliance.com/.