Dr. Haston received a PhD in geophysics from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MBA in finance from Rice University. Prior to his time in animal welfare, he worked in the oil and gas industry and was an entrepreneur who started and owned several successful businesses. In 2012, Dr. Haston dedicated himself full-time to animal welfare and now is the Chief of Analytics at PetSmart Charities. He also serves on the boards of Emancipet, Animal Grant Makers, National Council on Pet Population and Shelter Animals Count. At the 2018 CFHS National Animal Welfare Conference, Dr. Haston will be presenting a session entitled Innovative Approaches to Helping People and Pets: Bringing It All Together. We reached him at his PetSmart Charities office in Phoenix, Arizona.
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS): I have to say I’m curious about how you found your way into animal welfare given your background in business and geophysics. How did that come to be?
Dr. Roger Haston: Well, I have a PhD in geophysics and an MBA in finance and spent most of my career working in the oil and gas industry and in technology. But I’ve always had a love for animals. So, I started volunteering at a local humane society – the Humane Society of Boulder Valley – and soon got involved with their Board of Directors. Around the same time, I had started doing some non-profit consulting. I really enjoyed making a difference in animal welfare and working within the charitable sector. As fate or luck would have it, a friend of mine told me about an organization in Colorado called Animal Assistance Foundation that was seeking an executive director. I ended up taking that position and I’ve been in animal welfare ever since.
CFHS: How long were you there?
RH: I was at the Animal Assistance Foundation for about five years, and then an opportunity at PetSmart Charities of North America came up. It was exciting to me to be able to have a larger impact on the lives of pets right across the continent, so I moved down here to Phoenix about 18 months ago.
CFHS: Can you talk a bit about your role at PetSmart Charities and PetSmart Charities of Canada and what your focus of work is there?
RH: As Chief of Analytics, I have a broad scope here at PetSmart Charities. My responsibility is to look at a lot of data – I’m kind of the big data guy there – to better understand trends that are happening in animal welfare, both in the U.S. and Canada, and measure the impact that grants, like those from PetSmart Charities, are having on those trends. I’m also leading the innovation and research projects that we’re embarking on, as well. Essentially, I have a position that’s very forward-looking and focused on understanding how PetSmart Charities can have the biggest impact with our dollars and what are some of the key trends that are going on that help to direct our granting budget.
CFHS: And in your presentation at the National Animal Welfare Conference in April, that’s what you’re going to be focusing on – sharing the insights that you’ve gained from your work with data and programs.
RH: Yes, I really wanted to use this talk to highlight some of the most interesting and innovative programs that I’ve seen around the country – ones that stand out to me as indicators of where animal welfare is headed. During the session, we’ll also be looking at some of the data and trends that are influencing the changes we’re seeing in the sector, as well.
CFHS: From what I understand, you’ve come across some really interesting community-based programs that people could adapt to address animal welfare concerns in their communities, too.
RH: You’ve just touched upon one of the biggest changes that we see happening in animal welfare: it’s really starting to move outside the shelter system and beginning to be much more about providing resources for pet parents – especially in under-served communities. We’ll talk about some interesting cat programs that I’ve seen and look at some emerging research on the power of the human-animal bond. We have a very interesting research study PetSmart Charities of Canada has funded at the University of British Columbia, looking at early childhood development and its relationship to pets. I’ll be talking about that and providing a broad look at the life-long relationship between people and pets, and how the animal welfare industry, pet parents, community groups, granting organizations and veterinarians are all working together to explore, maintain and enhance the human-animal bond.
CFHS: Interesting. Who do you think would most benefit from your session?
RH: Well, I believe there will be something for everybody in this session. What I really hope is that hearing about emerging trends and new programs will spur some new thinking across the Canadian animal welfare industry. I hope people might pull some ideas from my presentation, adapt them and consider how they may apply some of these learnings to their own shelters and communities.
CFHS: What do you hope people will walk away with after attending this session?
RH: What I hope they walk away with is an understanding (a) that the world of animal welfare is changing very quickly and we need to start responding to that, and (b) that the world of animal welfare is so much more than just animal sheltering. So much of the work that needs to be done is out in the community, helping people and their pets. With this mindset, we’ll soon see even more new and innovative programs for people and pets – and that’s what we’re all hoping to do at this year’s conference – to learn what we can to help save and enhance the lives of animals everywhere.