The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

The official blog of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

Infrastructure building, Lifesaving programs, Management team support

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Capacity for humane care.

What is your shelter's capacity for humane care? Do you even know what that means?

Most shelters operate on a damage control basis. Animals are received daily without restrictions until overcrowded conditions result. At that time, the shelter either starts euthanizing or puts out a call to the public that they are in DESPERATE need of rescue, fosters and adopters. They may have an adoption special, even give animals away, while still allowing the public to drop off an unchecked number of new ones. Dogs are doubled up in kennels, cats in cages. Soon, there are disease outbreaks: URI, kennel cough, ringworm, and the dreaded panleukopenia and parvo virus. It would be bad enough if this happened once, but shelters go through this same cycle year after year without making significant changes. They may disinfect more, or stop letting cats out of their cages for fear of disease transmission, not understanding that these practices can actually increase stress and thereby incidence of disease. They may euthanize more, putting down healthy animals to make "room" for others. They may install additional cat cages or dog kennels, or start clamoring for a new, larger shelter. When questioned about intake, many will reply, "But we're open-door," or "By law we can't turn people away," or any other number of reasons that no one researches.

Imagine if human hospitals were run this way. An unchecked number of patients are admitted. Because the doctor is too busy, they may not be examined for days or weeks. When all the beds are full, new patients are made to share the bed with strangers. Patients with tuberculosis are housed in the same wing with pregnant women about to give birth. Still more patients are admitted. Healthy people start to become sick, sick people die. Now the hospital puts out a call for help to the public, saying they need volunteers and donations. More beds are stuffed into each room. Because the staff are overtaxed, treatments get missed, bedding doesn't get changed, rooms don't get cleaned, people are forgotten. When things reach a crisis point and the community reacts, hospital leaders blame it on the public, saying they are "irresponsible" for needing their help.

Sound crazy? It's how most animal shelters operate today.

Calculating your capacity for humane care is one of the most important things you can do for your animal shelter. Thanks to this tool created by Dr. Kate Hurley, Director of UC Davis' Shelter Medicine Program, you can begin to understand the concept of outcome-driven intake and apply it to your shelter. If you like webinars, here is a link to several produced by ASPCA Pro. Admitting more animals than you can humanely care for is not heroic, it's irresponsible. Shelters implementing capacity for humane care limits are experiencing healthier animals, more adoptions, less euthanasia, less expense, a more productive staff, and many other benefits. Would you like to make these positive changes to your agency? We can help.

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