How to Use Whiteboards to Share Information about Shelter Animals
Shelters, rescues, and clinics need to communicate information about animals in their care visually. One of the best tools for the job is a whiteboard or dry erase board, both of which can be easily edited.
Planning Your Board Design
Creating a well-organized board that isn't overwhelming to the user can be a challenge. Use these 6 questions to help you structure your tool in a way that makes sense for your organization:
Who will use the board—who will write on it, and who will read it?
Why do these people need this information?
When is information being added, removed, used, or modified?
Where is the optimal location for this information to be used?
What's all the information you need to convey?
What will the person reading the information do with the information?
Designing Your Board
When you have answered each of these questions, you can decide if a whiteboard is an appropriate tool. If so, determine what size you need and how to lay out the information.
Most people use a grid system and abbreviations for all common terms (with an abbreviation key posted next to the board). The grid can be drawn with dry-erase ink, permanent marker, or thin electrical tape. Be prepared to adjust as people use the board and the need for any modifications becomes apparent.
Examples of Effective Whiteboards
The Humane Society of Western Montana uses a "care matrix board" located in a central area so all staff can view it. It provides an overview of pets in the building who have behavior or medical concerns and a brief description of the concern. The board allows staff to view current needs and capacity for intaking pets with challenges at a glance.
The Canine Behavior Center team at Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, MO, uses a whiteboard to track basic tasks. The wings indicate section and kennel location. The board also has a space to list any dogs that need attention (follow up, re-eval, etc.) The other sections help with organizing the day's activities (dog-to-dog assessments, identifying good helper dogs, playgroup configurations, etc.)
Alternatives to Whiteboards
You can print custom cage cards with all the necessary information on card stock and even laminate them.
Consider using stickers, clips, or ribbons to designate an animal's status. For example, a blue sticker or clip could be for an animal on medication, yellow for an animal who needs special behavioral support, and so on.
If you prefer electronic records, you've got lots of options. You can use an in-house tablet or computer to access your organization's shared drive or animal management software. A digital spreadsheet or workbook like Google Sheets or Excel allows users to search for information. Many popular digital organizational applications like Trello andAirtablehave free versions.
Just keep in mind that it may be challenging to share this information with everyone who could benefit from it—particularly volunteers who may not have access to your devices or data.