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:
Obtaining a behavioral history at intake
Reducing stress at intake and throughout animals' stay
Housing and enrichment tips
Top Tips from This Webinar
Make that Q&A Count
Using a standardized questionnaire and having well-trained staff conduct personal interviews with the people surrendering pets helps create the most accurate picture of an animal's behavioral history. Open-ended questions, like "What does your dog do when you approach him while he's eating?" will produce better results than simple yes/no queries. Ask pet owners about the following:
Personality traits (likes and dislikes, fears, etc.)
Tolerance for humans and other animals
Usual behavioral responses to certain situations
For dogs: Degree of training
For cats: Litter-box habits
Think Like an Animal
Changing your perspective will help you produce a less stressful environment for animals; their keen senses mean that they perceive things differently than we do. Try to determine the stressors that particular pets in the shelter can smell, see, feel, and hear, and make adjustments as necessary.
Stick with a Routine
Shelters aren't normal or natural places for animals to be, but a predictable routine can go a long way toward making temporary residents feel more comfortable in your facility. For example, cleaning time may frighten some animals, but when it takes place at the same time every morning, they know when to expect it—and that, when it's over, they won't have to endure it again till the next morning. In addition, keep shelter lights on during the day and turn them off at night.
Keep an Eye Out
Daily monitoring will allow you to address behavior issues promptly and observe animals' progress (or deterioration). Make sure the staff is trained in canine and feline body language so that they can easily recognize the signs of anxiety. A dog might lay his ears back and clamp his tail down, for example; a cat may feign sleep or reveal dilated pupils. Relaxed animals will display natural, species-typical behaviors.
Use the Ultimate Enrichment
The best enrichment for shelter dogs is training. It helps meet their social, physical, and mental needs while improving adoptability—a win-win. Adopted dogs who've received training are much less likely to be returned to the shelter, but they aren't the only ones who benefit—training is also rewarding for staff and volunteers.
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.
Adjunct Associate Professor of Shelter Medicine, University of Florida
For the past 15 years, Dr. Griffin has combined her expertise in small animal internal medicine and her passion for shelter animals to assist in the development of training, research and numerous publications focused on shelter medicine. In addition to co-instructing courses at the University of Florida and the University of Georgia, Dr. Griffin serves as the Regent for the new specialty in Shelter Medicine: ABVP- SMP. In 2000, she was named by the AVMA as the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year.