3 Tips for Intake and Operations at a Temporary Shelter
Depending on the reason for your temporary housing, there are different ways you’ll want to approach the intake process.
In a disaster situation, customer service is critical. You will most likely be dealing with stressed people who are either temporarily surrendering their animals to you or searching for a lost pet. Patience and empathy will go a long way to ensure a smoother process and better experience for the affected animals and people.
When possible, have owners fill out a temporary housing contract with you so both sides know when they are expected to return for their animals. When drafting the contract, err on the side of a short stay—you can always extend the length of stay.
In a cruelty case, you will not have to interact with the animals’ owners; however, you should follow the same basic protocol as in a disaster. In cases like this your attending veterinarian may also fill out this type of forensic paperwork.
Note: During a national healthcare crisis like COVID-19, be sure to advise staff to take appropriate precautions, including physical distancing and PPE.
In both disaster and cruelty situations, do the following at intake:
Assign every animal a number and record this information in the animal’s chart, along with their name if you know it.
Photograph the animal, making sure to use a white board that notes critical information such as ID number name, date, age, and owner information if you have it. If the owners are present, include them in the photo.
Vaccinate all animals unless the owner can prove vaccinations are up to date.
Treat any observed medical or behavioral issues and note them on the animal’s record.
Plan & Execute Daily Operations
All procedures must have written protocols that are easily understood and accessed by staff. There are ten critical elements to daily care. Although it’s important to start and end the day with a safety check and it’s ideal to give staff and animals a midday break, the order of events below should maximize the flow of daily operations and may depend on specific circumstances, such as maximum temperature at a certain time of day.
Lunch / quiet time
Socialization / exercise
Treatment (medical and/or behavioral)
Closing procedures and safety check
The Cruelty Recovery Center (CRC) team recommends printing and posting this daily flow chart that can be referenced throughout the day. For a more thorough understanding of each component, listen to the ASPCA’s recorded webinars, which are listed at the bottom of this page.
Enrichment is a key component of daily care and should not be considered optional.
In-enclosure enrichment can include stuffed Kong-type toys, other puzzle toys, chews for dogs, scratching posts for cats, calming or stimulating scents sprayed on items (never on bedding), etc. The CRC team recommends changing the enrichment type to help maintain some novelty and high interest from the animals.
Housing modifications should be tailored to specific animals’ needs. For example, shy animals should have hiding spots to reduce their stress.
Out-of-enclosure enrichment can consist of walks, indoor and outdoor play, and one-on-one socialization. There are also easy training and enrichment tips staff and volunteers can implement every time they handle a dog or puppy.