The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) compiled the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters to provide research-based guidelines that will help any sheltering operation meet the physical, medical, and behavioral needs of the animals in their care. The ASPCA and ASV presented a series of 1-hour webinars through early 2012, each spotlighting a section of the ASV guidelines.
This webinar covers:
Typical characteristics of cat and dog behavior
Behavioral signs of stress
Safe and humane use of animal-handling equipment
Low-stress handling techniques
Tips for handling feral cats
Top Tips from This Webinar
Training is Key
To limit the use of unnecessary force and to ensure safe and humane handling for animals, adequate training is a must. Staff members should be familiar with animal behavior (what they do and why), including active and passive signs of stress. They should be well versed in the messages behind body language and vocalization.
Know the Signs
You may be very familiar with the active signs of stress in animals, but be on the lookout for passive signs, as well. These include:
Poor appetite and refusal to eat
Inability to rest or sleep
Absence of grooming
Use a Catchpole — But Only When Needed
A catchpole, also known as a control pole, can serve as an important handling tool to keep a dog at arm's length, but it isn't necessary for every dog in the shelter. Before you use one, check that the release mechanism is in working order. When placed around the dog's neck, the loop should be snug, but not tight, and you should lead him by following; walk behind him rather than pulling. Never use a catchpole for handling a cat.
Give Time to Settle In
Fractious or seemingly "frozen" cats will benefit from a 24-hour "chill out" period. Keep them in a quiet area with soft beds for comfort — and for scent familiarization — and limit the number of caregivers. The next day, calmly approach the cage to look for behavior changes. You may find the frightened animal from the day before has been replaced with a purr machine. If the cat appears more relaxed but still uncertain, try talking to her, and consider using an Assess-a-Hand to safely gauge her reaction to human contact. If she's still displaying feral behavior, leave her alone.
Safe TNR Tips
When temporarily holding ferals for a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program, these tips will ensure safety and humane care:
Keep cats in traps before and after surgery.
Don't transfer a cat to a different enclosure unless he's been anesthetized.
Elevate traps so feces and urine can fall through to the floor.
Keep traps covered with towels, sheets, or blankets to reduce stress.
Offer food and water without opening the traps. A watering can with a thin spout works well for refilling water bowls.
Bonus: We've packaged the guidelines into a free resource, Shelter Care Checklists: Putting ASV Guidelines Into Action, and we invite you to use this set of easily understandable and actionable checklists in your shelter.
DVM, MS, DACVIM, DABVP, Adjunct Associate Professor of Shelter Medicine, University of Florida
For the past 17 years, Dr. Griffin has used her expertise in small animal internal medicine and her passion for shelter animals to assist in developing training and research programs that support the field of Shelter Medicine. Her professional interests surround shelter animal behavior and welfare, population health and wellness, feline medicine, and strategies to prevent animals from entering shelters, including behavioral wellness, identification, and sterilization programs. In 2000, she was named by the AVMA as the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year. She currently co-instructs courses in shelter medicine and behavior at both the University of Florida and Georgia. She serves as the Regent for the new specialty in Shelter Medicine: ABVP- SMP. Dr. Griffin lives in South Carolina with her husband, a pack of dogs, clowder of cats, and a cute pair of goats.