How Animal Shelters Perfected the Art of the Pivot

Abbie Moore
11 min readAug 28, 2020
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

Recently, a friend of mine posted a meme on Facebook. It was a takeoff on sports tournament brackets, but instead of sports teams, it was a head-to-head matchup of overused business jargon. All the usual suspects that people like to roll their eyes about were there: “circle back”, “synergy”, “lean in”, “deep dive”, and so on. (Full disclosure: I use all 32 words in the bracket, and I’m not sorry.) Most of them probably are overused, to be sure. There was one word, though, that made me gasp in that “How DARE you?” sort of way, and that word was “pivot”.

I wish I knew who to credit for this meme that caused me such shame…

Pivoting is a concept about which I feel genuine passion. I’m not married to the word itself, but without the concept of pivoting, there’s no room for putting learning into practice in profitable ways. Without the pivot, you either succeed or you fail. Add a pivot, though, and you can gracefully back away from the things that aren’t working and build on the things that are. Pivots help us take advantage of changes in the market — new competitors, new customers, new problems — and make our products and services even more useful and impactful.

When you think about the art of pivoting, you might not think immediately of animal shelters, and I wouldn’t blame you. Public animal shelters are generally a function of local government and have all of the red tape and bureaucracy that goes along with that. In big cities, sometimes animal shelters are part of a large system within another large system. Los Angeles, for example, has two shelter systems; Los Angeles County Animal Services, which has seven animal shelters and is governed by the LA County Board of Supervisors, and LA Animal Services, which is made up of six shelters and is governed by the Board of Animals Service Commissioners. Trying to make a change at one shelter in Los Angeles is probably a lot like trying to get approval to install a Starbucks inside the Department of Motor Vehicles…good luck.

That’s why it’s absolutely astounding what the animal welfare world has been able to pull off during these unprecedented times of COVID-19.

Abbie Moore

Empathetic leadership enthusiast, author, Lean Startup evangelist, COO at Petco Love, former CEO at