Many of our new animal shelter clients tell us the same story: Their facility is overcrowded, they struggle to reduce numbers without euthanasia and intake numbers continue to be unwieldy. Compounding the issue is the fact that an overcrowded shelter is harder to keep clean and free of disease, yet it’s more difficult to adopt out sick or stressed animals.
This cycle sounds familiar because it’s one that almost every shelter faces.
While most groups are happy to accept offers of resources, transport support, etc., not every organization is a good candidate for mentorship. To truly embrace the opportunity participation in a Shelter Ally program provides, groups must be willing to accept the recommendations for change and implement mentor group suggestions. Honest and forthright initial conversations must be had in order to determine the prospective mentee’s openness to change.
Some longtime animal welfare professionals can remember the days of tiny cinderblock shelters hidden away from the community, bare concrete kennels and unthinkable euthanasia rates. Decades later, shelters leading the field are innovative, creative community centers that tackle animal homelessness at the roots and boast vastly improved live-release rates. How did we get here—and where will we go next?
In my days working in a shelter, when I turned out the lights and left at the end of the day, I would ask myself one very important question: “Did I give each and every animal the best possible care today?”
I’m guessing you do the same. But how can we be certain? How do we know for sure that any animal is living a good quality life, let alone an animal living in a shelter environment? The answer lies in something called “The Five Freedoms.”
From the outside looking in, managing the Lanai Cat Sanctuary sure looks easy. Erect a fence, construct some shelter, landscape, open the doors and call it kitty paradise. Not a month goes by that someone doesn’t ask me: “How do you set one up? I want to do this in my community.” The truth is that animal sheltering is complex, costly and requires expertise in a wide spectrum of disciplines including shelter and herd health management and medicine, nonprofit leadership, fundraising and animal welfare. It’s not as easy as it looks.
What do you get when you mix a cat shelter, a barren yard and eager volunteers with green thumbs? A wildlife habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation—or, as community outreach chair Lisa Bass of Good Mews Animal Foundation in Marietta, Georgia, calls it, a “big-screen kitty TV.”
For shelter workers and rescue volunteers around the country, spring can seem the cruelest season. That’s when kitten intakes typically peak.
Shelter work isn’t all sweet puppy kisses and kitten nuzzles. What goes in one end of our furry charges eventually comes out the other, and a well-functioning drainage system is essential if you hope to minimize odors and control the spread of disease at your facility. But there’s more to shelter drains than meets the eye: Which types of drains are best for you, and where should you put them? Our “101” explores what you ought to consider before taking the plunge.
Allison Summerday’s living room and car are full of shoeboxes, but the Arizona Humane Society (AHS) volunteer couldn’t care less about Jimmy Choos. In November 2014, a fellow volunteer brought a single shoebox into the shelter. “I thought, ‘We need shoeboxes for every kitten and cat!’” says Summerday. “I just sort of went on overdrive.”
Summerday approached several shoe stores and explained her mission. Although not one shoe store turned her away, she now works with just one, Wholesale Fashion Shoes, which was “the most jazzed about it,” she says.
We all want the animals in our care to be as healthy and happy as possible. To accomplish this, we must attend to both their physical and emotional needs. We protect the animals’ physical health through routine vaccination, parasite control, proper nutrition, spay/neuter and other basic medical care. We create a healthy environment for them—one that is clean and well-maintained, not crowded, kept at a comfortable temperature and with good air quality.
According to humane care standards, it takes approximately 15 minutes per day to provide basic care for each animal in a shelter environment (to clean the living environment and provide daily nutrition). So, for example, if you have one hour per day to care for the animals, that means you have the capacity to care for four animals, including your own pets. You can use the UC Davis Virtual Consultant to assess whether your housing for animals is adequate to ensure humane care.
The physical space that will serve as an animal’s primary enclosure, the place where he will eat, sleep and spend the majority of his time, must be safe, sanitary, and of sufficient size to provide a humane quality of life. IMPORTANT: Cages, crates, and carriers that are intended for travel or short-term, temporary confinement are unacceptable as primary enclosures; it is also unacceptable to keep animals on wire or slatted flooring.