We are long overdue for a massive change in how pets are served in our communities. For many shelters, the impacts of COVID-19 have created organizational changes like a focus on remote services, utilizing foster as the primary method of housing pets, caring for pets in the community and employing existing technologies to get more pets home. These 10 action items, based on lessons learned prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, are the changes that will lead to a whole new world for shelter pets and to a strong emphasis on keeping pets in their communities.
We have also included a list of goals, program ideas, and possible staff positions, as well as infographic to illustrate the changes.
Pets that truly need sheltering will include sick and injured pets; dogs that pose a public safety threat; animals suffering true cruelty and neglect; as well as stray and owned pets who are otherwise in immediate danger and have no other viable options for temporary placement.
Restructure animal services’ organizational structures equally distributed among three functions, which can roughly be described as ‘homes,’ ‘shelter,’ and ‘pet social services’ or ‘One Health pet services.’
Allocate resources to telehealth and remote services to change public expectations and to define community cultures of collective responsibility for pets and solutions in the community, not in the shelter.
Create and implement an intake-to-placement system, so most pets who enter the shelter have an outcome pathway through foster, adoption, rescue or return within the first two hours of entering and leave within 72 hours of entering the shelter system.
Employ existing technologies, social media platforms and community partnerships to provide better services for getting stray pets home and rehoming owned pets, incentivizing and empowering owners and finders to be the solution with remote support from animal services agencies.
Create or deepen partnerships with local human social service agencies and veterinarians, to provide whole family health and wellness services, in including vaccines, food, and supplies in order to recognize and support pets as family members.
Define and allocate resources to Keeping Families Together, including support for temporary boarding for pets owned by people in crisis; fence building and repair assistance; medical support for vulnerable pet owners; food and pet supplies for pet owners experiencing homelessness or economic distress; and renter support and resources including pet deposits.
Utilize foster placement as the primary way of housing pets in the custody of the animal services facility, with between 50% and 90% of all pets in custody housed in foster homes. Build foster systems that empower foster caregivers to facilitate and complete adoptions.
Establish partnerships in high intake zip codes and neighborhoods within those zip codes to help get pets home, connect people to animal support services, and establish a distributed network of places where people can access some basic services including microchip implantation, scanning for chips on found pets, and obtain information about getting stray pets home and rehoming your pet as well as accessing medical services, spay and neuter resources, etc.
Serve all healthy cats and kittens in the community, limiting intake to sick and injured cats and kittens and orphaned kittens who are in immediate danger and cannot be cared for by their mother or a foster-on-deck.
Have questions about kittens? Join our Preparing Neonates Live Q&A webinar.