The language of compassion

The Dumb Friends League is continually looking at ways to positively impact pets and people in the Denver metro area to help not just the animals who come into our shelters but also to impact animal welfare throughout our community. The League’s success in helping vulnerable animals depends on the relationships we create within our shelters and in the areas we serve. Having staff as diverse as our community is critical to outreach, and on our two mobile spay and neuter clinics, the Meow Mobile and the Lulu Mobile, and in the Solutions – Cat Spay/Neuter Clinic, a concerted effort was made to recruit Spanish speaking employees to meet this growing demand.

Melissa Rice, public spay/neuter manager, began focusing on hiring bilingual staff six months ago after regularly seeing patrons struggling to communicate in English because Spanish was their primary language. “After becoming familiar with the communities that we serve and the need that is out there, I wanted our team to be able to relate to all different people utilizing our services,” said Rice.

To date, Rice has successfully recruited three bilingual staff for the Meow Mobile, the Lulu Mobile and the Cat Spay/Neuter Clinic, and each has made a tremendous difference in the level of customer care we are able to provide. “Many of the patrons who come to us for services only comprehend and speak Spanish,” said Rice. “These patrons are now sharing more about their pets and are able to ask questions that had been both unasked and unanswered before. It has helped to develop a wider sense of community.”

Removing the language barrier increases our efforts to strengthen human-animal bonds, lessen the number of animal relinquishments and inspire respect and compassion for animals and people throughout our communities. At the League, our work is guided by compassion, which drives every decision made for each animal who comes to us, and that compassion extends their owners.

“At a vaccination clinic, I was working with one particular family that couldn’t speak English well,” said Rice. “One of my staff who spoke fluent Spanish jumped in, and right before my eyes, I saw the family light up. They began asking questions and being engaged. The result was that we were able to help a family and their dog receive the services they truly needed once the language barrier was removed. It had quite an impact on me.”

Bilingual positions include veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians, and when positions become available, Rice will focus on applicants who speak fluent Spanish. “As our services expand,” said Rice, “our need for bilingual staff grows. We are so thankful to have these amazing team members working with us each day.”

Every pet in our community deserves to be nurtured, safe and cherished, and being a valuable presence in the communities we serve is critical to achieving our mission of ending pet homelessness and animal suffering.