Making a Difference: Hope to Animals in Need

Name: Marti Watts
Title: Shelter Manager, Adoptions

Marti WattsHow long have you worked at the San Francisco SPCA?
21 years

Do you have pets?
I have two Australian shepherds, Bowie and Levi, a senior lab named Button, and boss cat Brûlée.

How would you describe the San Francisco SPCA in one word?

How did you get involved in animal welfare?
After I ‘aged-out’ of rugby, I was looking for something to do in my spare time. I saw an SF SPCA volunteer out walking a dog and I thought it looked like fun, so I started as a volunteer.

When a job opening came up, I applied. I started out managing care staff and now I manage the intake part of our adoption program.

Tell us about the CHATT (California Humane Animal Transfer Team) shelter partnership.
CHAAT is a partnership between Bay Area and Central Valley shelters that alleviates overcrowding, especially in rural areas.

My main responsibility is to build relationships with partner shelters and help in any way we can. That includes taking on adoptable animals, bringing supplies, sharing best practices on training and education, starting volunteer programs, controlling disease outbreaks, limiting overcrowding, and enhancing shelter animal welfare.

What is a typical day like for you?
I have two kinds of typical days. One, I’m networking and managing intake—answering emails and texts, keeping track of our various animal populations, and maintaining a reasonable flow of spays and neuters so we don’t overload that department.

Two days a week, I’m on the road traveling. On those days, I get up at 4 am and hit the road to visit our partner shelters. It’s a long day of meeting with people, delivering supplies, looking at which animals I’ll bring back from other shelters, and loading animals into the van.

I get back to SF SPCA around 2:30 pm, and the team here meets me to unload. Cats, kittens, and puppies go to our Shelter Medicine team for evaluation and any necessary treatment, while adult dogs get to stretch their legs and run around while the Behavior team takes a look at them.

Bowie and LeviHow do you choose which animals to bring back?
Our decision-making model balances how each adoption affects not only the animal itself, but also our people caring for animals back at SF SPCA, the animals already in our shelter, and our community.

If I get an animal who is healthy and ready to be adopted, then I can refill that spot quickly. But if I’m looking at an animal who needs long-term care for, say, 30 days, that’s potentially 30 animals who now won’t get help. If I bring in too many animals, I’ll burn out our staff. It’s all about flow.

I also have to think about how the animal will impact our standing in the community. For example, I can't take an aggressive dog who will create a negative experience with an adoption from our facility.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding thing about my work is the gratitude I receive from our partners. Things can get overwhelming at our partner shelters. They’ve shared that when they’re overwhelmed, they’ll tell their people, ‘Hang in there, Marti will be here in a few days.’

Offering that glimmer of hope to shelters who have to deal with difficult situations—that’s rewarding.

What else would you like people to know?
The SF SPCA is a really forward- thinking organization. We’re always looking down the road to where we’re going next, and never satisfied with the status quo. We have a 10-year plan and it’s nice to see advance planning and strategizing.

That’s one of the big reasons I’ve stayed. Sure, we’ve tried things that haven’t worked and had to backtrack, but I’d rather do that than hold still.

You can help ensure programs like CHATT continue for years to come by including a gift in your estate plan to the San Francisco SPCA. To learn about your options, contact Director of Planned Giving June Hom at (415) 430-3251 or today.