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Shelter Medicine: For the Long Haul

As shelters hold animals for longer periods, health protocol must be adjusted to ensure high-quality care

As shelters hold animals for longer periods, health protocol must be adjusted to ensure high-quality care

As longer stays at animal shelters become more typical, shelters need to focus on avoiding overcrowding and providing comfortable resting areas. MENDOCINO ANIMAL CARE/FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
Once, an animal staying at a shelter for weeks on end was unusual. These days, it’s becoming more and more typical—mostly for good reasons, and ideally with good outcomes. As shelters become more professional and their staff more savvy about animal health and behavior, it becomes feasible for them to hold animals longer in hopes of finding good adopters.

But there can be a dark side to these longer holds when shelters that aren’t prepared to provide a high standard of care try to hold animals for longer periods. Studies have established that the longer animals remain in shelters, the more likely they are to contract disease. And while all shelters—regardless of the length of time they’re able to hold animals—should strive for high-quality care, it’s doubly important in those facilities where animals will be held for weeks, or even months. It’s common sense: An animal exposed to a disease-filled, stressful environment for a longer period is more likely to suffer from the impact of that environment.

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