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Before You Evaluate Animals, Evaluate Your Shelter

Are you ready to implement a behavior program? An online course series from Humane Society University will help you answer that question and develop the tools you need to get started

Are you ready to implement a behavior program? An online course series from Humane Society University will help you answer that question and develop the tools you need to get started

You think you have everything you need to start a behavior program: dedicated volunteers, an employee with a background in dog training, and furry shelter guests ready, able, and willing to learn all that you’d like to teach them.

But wait—it turns out there’s more to it. Have you identified how a behavior program would fit into the mission of your organization and codified it in your strategic plan? Have you assessed whether you would need to hire extra staff to handle the tricky but important behavior evaluation component? Are you confident in the way your organization handles standard operations, from cleaning and disinfection to staff training and basic animal handling?

A free online course from Humane Society University—“Evaluating Your Shelter: Are You Ready to Implement a Behavior Program?”—can help you answer these questions and more. Designed as a prerequisite to three consecutive courses in the HSU Pets for Life series, the course takes two to four hours and walks students through a self-analysis of sorts. The self-paced reading activities and learning exercises help shelter workers and volunteers answer critical questions about the state of their organization; explore resource materials on hiring, standard operating procedures, behavior evaluation programs, and volunteer management; and complete assignments that make lessons learned relevant to their own shelters.

For example, in the learning activity following a section on staffing, students are asked to review a sample job description for an animal behavior manager, compare the duties to those performed by current staff, and estimate labor time and costs involved in incorporating those duties into the current shelter system. In another activity, students are asked to draw a simple floor plan of their shelter, assess whether anything can be reconfigured to allow for holding and animal evaluation space, and develop a brief plan for space conversion that can be shared with the leaders of their organization.

Students who took the course this year found the tailor-made activities useful to identifying issues that need addressing. “It gave me an opportunity to think about my organization’s situation on its own merits, not in relation to a larger shelter,” said one. “It has helped me to highlight problems within our organization,” said another, “and explains why we have had some failures on some things in the past.”

Following completion of the self-evaluation, those students who believe they’re ready to move forward with a behavior program can enroll in the rest of the Pets for Life series. Beginning January 16 and running through May 28, the online series includes a five-week course called “Animal Handling and Stress Reduction: Working with Animals in the Shelter”; a six-week course called “Behavior Assessment”; and a four-week course called “Making Good Matches and Community Outreach: Working with the Public Before and After Adoption.” Donna Mlinek, animal behavior education coordinator for the Dumb Friends League in Denver, Colorado, teaches the three courses.

Funding from the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, a KeyBank Trust, makes it possible to offer the 16-week program for only $199. After successfully completing all four courses in the Pets for Life series, students will earn a Pets for Life Behavioral Certificate.


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