Animal Social Services Executive Committee: Ellen Jefferson (American Pets Alive!), Lisa LaFontaine (Humane Rescue Alliance), Gina Knepp (Michelson Found Animals Foundation), Kristen Hassen-Auerbach (Pima Animal Care Center)
Over the past two months, national organizations and shelter leaders from around the nation have been meeting to address the immediate crises brought on by COVID-19, and to plan for the future of animal welfare services in the United States. Social distancing and other precautionary measures to keep communities safe have led to a rapid evolution in the way we care for lost and homeless pets, with a strong emphasis on keeping pets in their homes and communities and reducing the number of animals housed in cages in the institutional setting of the shelter.
Out of this pandemic is emerging the foundation for a better world for pets and the people who love them. Animal social services, a model that takes the best lessons learned from human social services, public health, education, animal welfare, and other fields, is beginning to take shape. The future, which once seemed impossibly far off, is now within reach. Moving forward into this new world will be a collaborative effort, involving the input and participation of hundreds and eventually thousands of communities around the nation.
Here are our ideas for the Guiding Principles of an Animal Social Services Model. What are yours?
- The shelter serves as an emergency room, triage center, and short-term crisis response center for pets in need.
- Customers can immediately reach the shelter via remote technology, including texting, e-mail, and telephone.
- Establish remote and telehealth services so non-emergency situations can be addressed mainly outside the shelter.
- Adoption, foster, or rescue outcomes for most pets will be scheduled before or at the time of shelter intake.
- A case management approach will serve all animals and emphasize the connection between animals and people who care for them.
- Implementation of the Maddie's Fund Foster-centric model means the majority of animals in shelter custody housed in foster homes.
- Pet support programs offer resources to allow most people to keep their pets.
- The role of animal control and field services expanded to address the root causes of animal issues in the community.
- The shelter provides self-rehoming support services, to assist owners in safely rehoming their pets when keeping them is not an option.
- Volunteers and community partners are engaged to assist with every program component.
- Fewer pets in a shelter mean staff positions can be reallocated to help with pet support, foster, stray reunification, and other animal social services programs.
- A majority of friendly, loose neighborhood dogs will usually be returned to their owners through pet reunification support programs without being taken out of their communities.