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In the first 3 months of 2018, billion dollar storms and disasters hit the United States.1 As the number of unpredictable disastrous events increases each year, ensuring the safety of animals has been brought more to the forefront for shelters, rescues and the U.S. government.
Each shelter and rescue should have a plan for a threat of extreme weather in their area. Being prepared and acting quickly can help save animals’ lives that are in the path of danger. Read below about the impact of natural disasters--and link to resources that can help you prepare.
A History of Veterinary Emergency Response
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the Louisiana SPCA estimated more than 100,000 pets were left behind by owners and as many as 70,000 died throughout the gulf coast.2 This led to the passing of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards in 2006 to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.3
Veterinary Medical Assistance Team: First to the Scene
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), founded in 1963, is the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. More than 93,000 member veterinarians worldwide are engaged in a wide variety of professional activities, including the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT) who serve as first responders during disasters and other emergencies to ensure high quality care of animals.4 When requested by a state, VMATs provide operational emergency response programs to state animal health authorities, preparedness programs to animal health authorities, and provide treatment and aid to animals used in search-and-rescue efforts and animals hurt or endangered by catastrophic events such as floods, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes.
The California ‘Camp Fire’ Wildfires
The Camp Fire in Butte County is California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record – destroying more than 12,000 residences and displacing tens of thousands of people and approximately 10,000 animals.5 Nathan Wilkinson, the incident commander for The Bucks County Fairgrounds makeshift shelter in Gridley, CA.6 said, animal shelters in the surrounding counties hosted about 2,000 animals displaced by the Camp Fire -- that's more than double the number of people in the Red Cross shelters across the state, according to the most recent fire status update from the Red Cross. The Fairgrounds makeshift shelter was no exception, hosting 1,000 animals and going through 30 to 40 tons of feed daily.
Many displaced animals needed burn treatment when they arrived at the shelters.“Some were so severely burned that they didn't make it. That was the hardest part“, Wilkinson said. “People did everything they could do to get those animals to get them care.“
The Fairgrounds had multiple teams working around the clock in various roles. The California Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps, a volunteer group of veterinarians, had been caring for animals onsite at the shelter. There were also hundreds of volunteers on the roads rescuing animals.
North Valley Animal Disaster Group containment animal care area for evacuated and rescued animals from Paradise and Chico, California.
Encourage Pet Disaster Preparedness with Your Pet Owners
Your shelter should also encourage adopters to have an emergency plan for their pets to ensure their care and well-being during a crisis.
The ASPCA offers free emergency response training, checklists, and sample plans for evacuation and sheltering that are helpful to anyone tasked with creating or updating response plans, and offers reviews of previous natural disaster readiness.7
Click here to access the ASPCA Tools and Tips.
Skin conditions are some of the most frequent reasons dogs and cats are turned in to shelters and rescue groups. But with an organization's limited resources, they may not be equipped to diagnose, treat, and prevent most dermatological problems.
Dermatitis can mean the difference between relinquishment and a forever home within the shelter and rescue setting. There are more options to treat skin conditions in order to give dogs (and their owners) relief, and to lead a normal life.
This article outlines causes of canine dermatitis, a shelter case study and the successful treatment of a dog presenting with dermatitis in an animal shelter.
Dermatitis Associated with Itch in Dogs 1
There are three main causes of dermatitis:
Canine Itch Scale (formally known as Pruritus Visual Analogue Scale) 2
The Canine Itch Scale can be used upon intake of new dogs into your shelter or rescue whether coming from a private home, another animal welfare organization, or an unknown history where you need to determine the level of canine itch severity. Itching can include scratching, biting, licking, chewing, nibbling, and rubbing.
The scale, which is used in clinical practice also serves other purposes: to determine whether a dermatologic treatment is working; for clear communication between general practitioners and specialists; and for use in studies evaluating antipruritic treatments.
Canine Dermatitis Case Study – Walter
Walter is a 6-to-8-year-old, underweight hound mix surrendered to Joseph’s Legacy Rescue in Middletown, Ohio. He was covered in fleas and had a history of allergic disease with his previous owner that was not treated, which caused him to chew his skin. Walter’s case stresses the importance of providing itchy dogs relief from pruritus.
Walter’s treatment was out of the Monroe Family Pet Hospital.
Initial Treatment (Pre-Diagnosis):
None; previous owner did not treat before relinquishing to rescue
Walter was administered flea and tick prevention and Convenia® (cefovecin sodium) and Cytopoint®, both long-acting injectables. He was less red, scabby, and itchy 12 hours later. His reduction in itch after the first injection of Cytopoint showed 90% improvement, according to the attending veterinary technician and his new adopter.
Walter is now given Apoquel® once daily to provide long-term management of his allergic itch and his quality of life has drastically improved. Initial administration of Convenia and Cytopoint helped busy shelter staff focus on pets, and not on treatments.
Walter was adopted by Melissa Rafalowski, Administrative Assistant for Monroe Family Pet Hospital.
“ Walter is now in training to be a therapy dog at our local children’s hospital - just loves everyone, ” said Melissa.
Addressing Canine Itch 1
When dogs enter your shelter or rescue, where do you start when it comes to dermatitis and itching? Ask the “right” questions:
• Is there medical history? • Does it include disease history? • Does it include drug history? • Does it include a history of itching, contagion, fleas or parasites?
Where to Start When You Don’t Have a Clue:
• Is the dog sick?• Rule parasites including fleas, demodicosis• Look for yeast and bacteria on ear cytology or on skin cytology
“Does the Dog Itch?”:
• What do you see if you watch the dog for 5 minutes? • Chewing • Rubbing • Rolling • Licking • Scooting • Does the dog “gag”? • Is there excessive shedding?
Unraveling Clues from the Dermatological Examination:
• Itch trumps all other dermatological problems • Itch almost always leads to secondary infections • Evidence of “cure it pattern” or evidence of “life-long manageable disease” • Dermatology TPR • Skin scraping and/or hair plucking (trichogram)• Ear swab cytology in mineral oil • Ear swab cytology for staining • Skin cytology
• Groom the hair coat – Easier to assess the skin changes – Improves dog’s appearance – Easier to bathe
• Bathe at least once a week – Pre-dilute shampoo 1:4 before applying, then massage, massage, massage
Understanding the first signs of pruritus can help your shelter or rescue provide itch relief for animals in your care before cases become extreme. It can also improve an animal's chances of being adopted into a forever home
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: People with known hypersensitivity to penicillin or cephalosporins should avoid exposure to CONVENIA. Do not use in dogs or cats with a history of allergic reactions to penicillins or cephalosporins. Side effects for both dogs and cats include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite/anorexia and lethargy. See full Prescribing Information.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not use APOQUEL in dogs less than 12 months of age or those with serious infections. APOQUEL may increase the chances of developing serious infections, and may cause existing parasitic skin infestations or pre-existing cancers to get worse. APOQUEL has not not been tested in dogs receiving some medications including some commonly used to treat skin conditions such as corticosteroids and cyclosporines. Do not use in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs. Most common side effects are vomiting and diarrhea. APOQUEL has been used safely with many common medications including parasitcides, antibiotics and vaccines. See full Prescribing Information.
With 69% of adults using social media today1, this channel has become a necessary marketing tool for organizations. Social media for animal shelters and rescues is not only a free way to heighten your organization's web presence, it’s a very powerful way to highlight the shelter, the cats and dogs up for adoption, as well as bring additional fundraising opportunities.
A social media profile as a marketing tool for your organization can be the quickest way to communicate to the public and to reach many potential adopters, volunteers, and supporters at once. The size of your organization does not matter – both large and small rescues or shelters can benefit from the right social media presence.
Whether you use Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, here are 8 easy tips that can help you create a robust social media program to address your goals1:
Inspire action. Ensure each post or tweet has a call to action.
If your organization needs donations to help with an influx of surrenders - create a post where you ask for what you need, with clear instructions on how to proceed. Here is an example from @WaggytailRescue:
Target locations and audience categories.2 Does your Montana shelter want people driving from Utah to help? If you’re not doing out-of-state placements or only work with local rescuers, make that clear and target your Facebook posts using the “location” function for your listings. You can also select multiple targeting categories, such as ‘interests’, which can help you get more specific to help find your best audience!
How to Set Up Location Targeting On Your Facebook Page
Go into your page Settings, then:
How to Select Targeting for Your Facebook Posts
Be creative. Come up with new, creative ideas to catch your audience’s attention. If you keep repeating the same type of post, the audience may grow too accustomed to seeing it…and lessen its effectiveness. Types of posts include:
Update status. Make sure that every animal’s status is updated regularly, listing whether he/she is still available, adopted, gone to rescue, etc. Some shelters and rescues keep the main page clutter-free by moving animals who are no longer in the shelter into a secondary photo album. Even if his/her status is unchanged, try to put new comments on the post to keep viewers interested: “Ellie loves her fur siblings! She’s very interested in the smaller dogs!”
Develop a community with your readers. The reader or viewer may not be part of your community yet, but you want them to be, so refer to them using the pronoun “you.” This encourages the community to like, share, and comment on posts.
For example, instead of saying, “The Small Dog Shelter wants to thank people who came to their adoption event on Sunday,” say “Thanks so much to all of you who attended our adoption event on Sunday!”
Volunteers can also be a large source of content and engagement for your organization's social media profile. They can take photographs, tell stories about the animals they interact with, write animal biographies and share information that you can use for content. When a volunteer or foster parent takes a pet photo or writes a story that you share, they’ll see that they’re contributing in a big way to finding that animal his/her new home, and they’ll be inspired to come up with new ideas.
Manage your social media in one place. Use a social media management tool such as HootSuite (free version) to manage your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts all on a single dashboard as a time-saver. You’ll be able to see what’s working to engage your audience, and where you may need to give a bit more love.
Use #Hashtags on your social media posts. A ‘Hashtag’ is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify posts on a specific topic. Your post, when tagged, will appear in searches when people look for those topics or terms.
Here is an excellent example of a use of hashtags on Instagram from @RescueDogsRockNYC.
Share content to get started. Leveraging and sharing related content will create variety on your organizations’s page. Here is an example to get you started:
It’s important to cultivate trust and a loyal following by sharing engaging content and sharing it often. And don't forget, sharing happy ending adoption stories is just as important as sharing animals still waiting for a home. It helps remind the public and your network of helpers that their support is saving lives. Take advantage of this free opportunity to help your shelter or rescue.
Healing the Heart: Shelter and Rescue Protocol for Heartworm-Positive Dogs
Marie Calabrasa, a widow in her early 70’s, saw Keni the hound’s photo on a local Pennsylvania rescue group’s website. His sweet face and floppy ears almost completely won her over, except for one thing. Rescued from an overcrowded shelter in North Carolina, Keni had been overlooked by potential adopters because he was heartworm positive.
“I’ll be honest—I was concerned because I thought he had a health issue. I’m on a fixed income and was worried about the cost of treatment,” said Marie. After careful thought, she decided to adopt him and took him for his continued treatments, paying for it out of her own pocket. “The rescue did not have the funds to treat him,” she said.
This is not an uncommon scenario that plays out with dogs that are rescued from an area of the country with a high stray animal population where heartworm disease is prevalent1. Sheldon Rubin, 2007-2010 president of the American Heartworm Society, says that “Heartworm disease has not only spread throughout the United States, but it’s also now found in areas where veterinarians used to say ‘Oh, we don’t have heartworm disease’ -- areas like Oregon, California, Arizona, and the desert, where irrigation and building are allowing mosquitoes to survive.”1
Heartworm Disease Prevention
Daily decisions must be made about the best allocation of resources for prevention and treatment of disease, spaying/neutering, and behavioral rehabilitation. Heartworm disease is among the most complex infectious diseases to detect, treat, and prevent. For that reason, it presents a special challenge to animal shelters.2
Challenges in the Shelter Setting
According to Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and author of “Managing Heartworm Disease in Shelter Animals” published by the American Heartworm Society (AHS), animal shelters face significant challenges in preventing, diagnosing, and treating many forms of infectious disease due to limited financial and organizational resources. In shelter animals, risk for heartworm infection is thought to be higher than in privately owned pets because stray and surrendered shelter animals are less likely to receive prior veterinary care.5
According to compliance data provided by Vetstreet in 2016, 64.31% of dogs do not receive any heartworm disease preventive medication.3,5 “Considering how difficult achieving compliance with veterinary recommendations is among the best clients, it is easy to understand how a surrendered animal is unlikely to have received good or consistent preventive veterinary care3”, stated Dr. Smith-Blackmore.
In 2014, The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) and the American Heartworm Society joined forces to discuss the prevention, treatment, and management of heartworm disease in animal shelters. In January 2015, the Heartworm Disease Resource Task Force was formed to formally address this issue.
Heartworm Disease Diagnosis2,4
Although funds may not be available for heartworm disease diagnostics in all shelters, an ideal goal is to perform a heartworm antigen and microfilaria test in all dogs at intake, as recommended by the American Heartworm Society in their current guidelines.
Shelters that evaluate dogs for heartworms should communicate to adopters that immediate, and annual testing is critical to detect infection and initiate treatment, if needed. Additionally, shelters should reinforce the importance of giving pets preventative medications as a safeguard, so heartworm disease does not become an issue.
Heartworm Disease Treatment2,5
The American Heartworm Society’s protocol is considered the gold standard for elimination of heartworms from dogs, based on current knowledge. This protocol for dogs entails a pre-treatment phase, which includes administration of doxycycline, and monthly heartworm preventive agents for 2 months before beginning a 3-injection treatment with an adulticide. Some shelters can implement this protocol while dogs are under their care or in foster homes, while others must leave treatment to adopting owners and their veterinarians to implement.
Use of Other Protocols4
If the shelter does not use, or recommend, the AHS’ recommended protocol for treatment, adopters need to be informed about the risks and responsibilities associated with the selected treatment method, including the following:
“Slow kill” treatment is less effective than the adulticide treatment recommended by the AHS and may not eliminate all the worms—even after 18 months or more of treatment.
During the lengthy waiting period, the worms in the dog’s body will continue to damage the heart,lungs,and pulmonary vasculature.
Strict exercise restriction is needed for the entire time that the animal harbors worms.
Risk for selection of resistant heartworm populations is increased.
Not all shelters share the same level of expertise in heartworm treatment or client education. In the shelter setting, the decision to use a treatment protocol other than the AHS protocol can be a deliberate “war zone” approach to treating heartworm disease—in human medicine, treatment options in war zones or developing countries do not always reflect the best recommendation available but are better than no option.
According to Dr. Smith-Blackmore, shelter staff should inform adopters when dogs are being treated with a protocol that is less than the gold standard, and instruct them to consider following up with their veterinarians for further treatment. This is a rational approach given the limited time and resources in the shelter setting.2,5
Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) Position Statement on Heartworm Disease Management6,7
The ASV supports the application of the American Heartworm Society guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of canine and feline heartworms in animal shelters.
Regardless of geographic location, sheltering organizations are urged to maintain all dogs and cats on monthly heartworm preventive medications year-round to protect individual animal health and welfare and limit disease transmission within the community.
The ASV encourages shelters to perform screening tests on all dogs to identify infected dogs and institute therapy to reduce pathology and infective potential. Alternatives to maintenance of infected dogs within the shelter population, such as foster care and transfer to partnering agencies, should be considered when possible.
Organizations choosing to treat and/or adopt out infected dogs should ensure that:
Resources and mission allow for the humane care of exercise restricted dogs with extended lengths of stay
Shelter staff, volunteers, and potential adopters are educated on the importance of adhering to each component of the management protocol
Potential adopters are encouraged to consult with their veterinarian for further guidance.
Shelter and Rescue Heartworm Disease Resources
In 2017, The American Heartworm Society and ASV published new 'best practices' to help stop heartworm transmission via transported dogs.
A Heartworm Disease Management for Animal Shelters Webinar is also available.
Listen to a short podcast and learn more about Canine Noise Aversion in shelters and how SILEO® (dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel) can be used for treatment.
SILEO® is a trademark owned by Orion Corporation Orion Pharma Animal Health. It is manufactured by Orion Corporation and distributed by Zoetis under license from Orion Corporation Orion Pharma Animal Health. © 2018 Zoetis Services LLC. All rights reserved. SIL-00091
The Task at Hand (or Paw)
While the spring and summer are the busiest and most challenging times of the year for many of us in animal welfare, the good news is that a little planning and preparation now can go a long way to ensuring things run smoothly in the months ahead.
During Kitten Season, raising orphaned kittens on a large scale has long been considered a job better left to small-scale rescue groups, or achieved in small numbers by dedicated foster volunteers.1 The expansion of feline foster programs and, more notably, the establishment of kitten nurseries to address Kitten Season, are changing the situation for the better. Both inside the shelter and in the greater community, and with media exposure, this idea is catching on as a way to bring awareness to the kittens and drives potential adopters to the rescue or shelter.
As an example, The Best Friends Animal Society in New York City’s kitten nursery operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The nursery’s team of staff members, volunteers and foster homes provide around-the-clock care for every kitten. Their duties include bottle-feeding every two hours, preparing food, doing laundry, making sure each kitten has a warm blanket, and more. No matter the task, the goal is to provide each kitten with all the newborn support he or she needs. Best Friends kitten nursery also takes in as many kittens as possible from partner shelters to further the goal of no-kill shelters in New York City and its surrounding areas.
Ready for the Busy Spring and Summer Months?
First, estimate how many cats and kittens you are likely to see this year. This important detail forms the foundation of your planning, and lets you accurately estimate which resources—housing, staff members, volunteers, foster homes, vaccinations, medications—you’ll need.2
When estimating how many cats and kittens you may see, you should look at the intake numbers in several ways3:
Next, it’s important to assess your shelter or rescue’s capacity for care and compare available resources to the population of cats in your shelter in order to eliminate any gaps.
Protocols and Procedures4
Age and surrender status of the kittens determine shelter intake protocols and procedures. Below are recommendations to keep in mind:
Although Kitten Season may seem like a year-round event, shelter and rescue groups have done an exemplary job trying to stabilize the feral cat population, which in turn impacts the number of kittens that are born this time of year.
What can make a difference in how to manage this time of year is getting the word out within your community that “The season is coming”. By letting people know early that their help is needed, you will have a better chance of recruiting volunteers and a list of foster families eager to help with your kittens.
From the minute a pet enters a shelter, decisions are being made that will affect his or her life, possibly forever. What are they like? How do they behave? What do they need? The shelter’s intake process is a critical first step in answering those questions for all pets, but even more so for those with special needs, whether medical, behavioral, or related to the animals’ daily life.
Dr. Sheila D’Arpino is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and director of research for Maddie’s Fund. “An ideal intake process for special needs pets would involve getting to know as much as you can about the dog and cat before they come through your doors,” she said. “For owner-surrendered pets, I would recommend setting up intake appointments and getting everything you can from their current owner, including veterinary records if possible, and a behavior history.”
ASK THE CRITICAL QUESTIONS
Questions Dr. D’Arpino suggests asking:
“The behavior history is crucial for pets whose special needs are in the area of behavior,” she said. “We know there’s no scientific validation of any of the behavior assessments we use in shelters today.”
What about special needs pets who come in as strays, and whose special needs may not always be obvious?
“Those are a little more challenging, because we can't get the history that helps us form the picture of the dog or cat,” she said. “But when we do determine they have significant special needs, we should try to send them to foster as soon as possible. This allows us to develop a picture of their behavior and needs in a home environment, because often when stress is reduced, their health and behavior can really improve.”
Foster care programs are important for all pets, but particularly so for those with special needs. “For any pet being in the shelter is stressful, but a pet who has special needs and whose life is a lot more challenging, being in a shelter exacerbates things a hundred fold,” Dr. D’Arpino said.
“There is research that shows stress reduces when pets go into a foster home. In the shelter, they have no control over their environment, but in a home they do. The change you see is very profound.”
ASSESS YOUR ORGANIZATION’S RESOURCES
Sending pets to foster care is ideal, as is a special needs-specific intake process. But is it always realistic for every shelter? “It depends on the shelter's leadership and their policies,” Dr. D’Arpino said. “Building flexibility into your admission processes is critical for providing the most options for special needs pets, as well as every pet in your organization.”
Dr. D’Arpino also suggests that shelters begin with assessing their own resources.
“If you’re just getting into taking in special needs pets and finding homes for them, and don’t have much experience with this population, it’s important to know your shelter. What are your resources? Do you have a veterinarian and behaviorist on staff or available to consult? If you don’t, you can likely find someone to help. I can’t tell you how many dog trainers tell me they go to their local shelter to help, and the shelter won’t let them.”
There are other avenues to explore to get the local animal welfare community involved when it comes to special needs pets. Her recommendations include calling local veterinarians and trainers about special needs pets in your shelter and ask them if they can evaluate the pet.
“For special needs pets, I want to find a home where those needs aren’t a problem. It might take longer to find that pet a home, and you might need a more aggressive marketing plan. The key is getting as many eyes on that pet as possible.”
A PERSONAL CONNECTION
Dr. D’Arpino has fostered countless pets herself over the years, almost all special needs. One in particular sticks in her mind.
“About 15 rat terrier mixes were part of a custody case, and some of them were super-fearful,” she said. “I fostered four of them in my home. One of them was a dog named Vinnie, who couldn’t even stand to be touched. But he improved slightly, and I brought him back to the shelter to find a home. But no one was interested in Vinnie.”
One day, she was at the shelter when a man came in looking for a companion. He was paraplegic, and was specifically looking for a dog to be a buddy, not as a service dog.
“He had gone to other shelters, and none of them would adopt to him,” she said. “I spoke with him about what kind of pet he was looking for; he was a wonderful guy! I introduced him to Vinnie, and he loved him.” It was truly a perfect match, as a special needs dog found his own special family.
There are different reasons why people give up their pets around the holidays: often the animal is given as an unwanted gift, or the family simply underestimates the commitment required. Still the scene is unfortunately familiar at shelters and rescues during and after the holidays.
There has long been a strong belief in the shelter and rescue world that pets should not be adopted as gifts for fear of increased re-surrenders. This has influenced the way some animal welfare organizations handle this type of potential adopter. In contrast, a study from the ASPCA shows that perceptions from those who have received pets as gifts are much more positive.
In the 2013 study “Should Dogs and Cats be Given as Gifts?,” the ASPCA surveyed 222 individuals who received pets as a gift. When asked if obtaining a pet as a gift increased, decreased, or had no impact on the love or attachment to the pet, 96% thought it either increased or had no impact.
Additionally, 86% of the pets referred to in the study were still in the home. The study concluded that denying adopters who intend to give the animals as gifts may unnecessarily impede the overarching goal of increasing adoptions of pets from our nations’ shelter system. “We found that receiving a dog or cat as a gift was not associated with impact on self-perceived love/attachment, or whether the dog or cat was still in the home. These results suggest there is no increased risk of relinquishment for dogs and cats received as a gift.” Read the complete study here.1
While some groups have embraced holiday pets, the animal welfare community is still divided, even with the research, explained Dr. Emily Weiss, ASPCA vice president of research and development. “Sheltering organization and rescue groups work independently and all have their own opinions, so it takes a long time to change their behavior,” she stated.
Two perfect examples are Texas-based Austin Pets Alive and Atlanta-based FurKids. Austin Pets Alive is a large no-kill shelter with several rescue programs throughout Texas. According to shelter spokeswoman Lisa Maxwell, the shelter stands by their policy that people aren't allowed to adopt if the pet will be given as a gift outside their immediate family. On the other end of the spectrum, FurKids has been very successful with long-lasting holiday pet adoptions, says founder and CEO Samantha Shelton.
Post-Holiday Adoption Strategies
Here are ways your shelter or rescue can get the word out on post-holiday intakes you may receive, and prevent resurrenders2:
1. A Value-Added After-Holiday Adoption Promotion For a value-added adoption special, consider promoting an “Adoption Starter Kit” such as a pet collar, leash, water/food bowl, or bag of food.
2. Low Cost Post-Holiday Adoption Specials Share a special promotion with other local shelters -- it allows you to join forces for any marketing costs and it creates a sense of community.
3. Convenient Adoption Hours Shelters who want to increase adoptions during the post-holiday season want to consider additional hours on weekends, and staying open later on working days.
4. Photos Work Wonders Invite local photographers (pro, hobbyists, and college students willing to work for free or at a very low cost) to come to the shelter and take beautiful photos of your homeless pets, then post them on social media sites such as your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. If you don’t know how to use social media, volunteers are willing to help with it.
5. Coordinate Surrenders Speak with families who plan on giving up their pet and ask them to wait at least a week before turning them into the shelter, so you can promote the animal on your social media page. This way, the animal has a greater chance of being adopted and it’s less stressful – it also allows for space at the shelter for another animal.
6. Promotional Flyers in Your City Get your shelter or rescue flyers up in local pet stores, fast food restaurants, gift shops, vet offices, and anywhere people sit and wait, like auto repair/oil change shops, doctors and dentist’s offices, and the DMV.
7. Prep for Your Own “Puppy Bowl” Instead of getting ready for the Super Bowl, plan a “Puppy Bowl” at your shelter or rescue! Get the word out on social media and contact the local media for coverage.
8. Use Zoetis’ PawPath to Educate Your New Pet Parents PawPath was designed with shelters, for shelters. It’s a free digital offering exclusive to Zoetis For Shelters members that helps you provide a fun, personalized, fully-automated support experience to new adopters. You can find out more here.
The “holiday afterglow” does not apply to shelter and rescue animals; it can be a stressful time for homeless pets, and those who take care of them. But by planning your organization’s strategy now, there may be a greater chance to ‘clear the shelters’ in early in 2018.
Kindness, spare time, and a selfless love for companion animals are only some of the traits that shelter and rescue volunteers have in common. But above all, they give love and care to those who truly need it. Strong bonds are formed with the animals they help, as well as between the volunteers themselves. Volunteerism knows no boundaries; in fact, those who help can have four paws, too.
Below are some examples of the many shapes and sizes that volunteers take, as well as examples of how to keep them engaged.
One Paw Helps Another
Sav-a-Bull, founded in 2010, is a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to rescuing and providing New York's 'Pit Bull' shelter dogs with the support needed to successfully pair them with responsible homes.
Sav-a-Bull has rescued 82 Pit Bulls (and one German Shepherd) to date from municipal New York shelters that euthanize, or were found abandoned, tied-up, or roaming the streets.
Founder Colby Webb believes rescue, medical care, thorough training, responsible adoption, and ongoing adoption support and education can save lives and restore the image of this misunderstood dog.
Webb's own rescued Pitbull, Dan, is living proof of the power of her process. Dan was adopted from the Animal Care Centers of New York in October 2010. Her “foster failure” is a now a Registered Therapy Dog, and a volunteer to all rescue dogs that come into Sav-a-Bull, along with human volunteers that help.
“Dan also aids our other rescue dogs by helping with walks, adventures, snuggles, and just hanging out. He gives them the purest form of socialization—and these once-frightened creatures learn to trust,” said Webb.
Joanie, Webb’s latest foster Pit Bull that came into the rescue, was originally seen by a good Samaritan on the street in desperate need of medical attention. She was abused and abandoned, and had developed a life-threatening infection on her legs that had ravaged the flesh down to the bone in some areas. Thanks to Sav-a-Bull and with medical help donated by City Veterinary Care, Joanie was given proper medical care and currently lives with Colby and Dan. Joanie and Dan became very bonded and Dan has guided her from day one. This is one touching instance of how both human and animal volunteerism can provide support and care to shelter animals.
Retired CFO to ‘Cat Cuddler’
After retiring from corporate America, both Kurt and Connie Lippincott decided to spend their free time volunteering with the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter (SRAS) in Bridgewater, NJ. They had always loved cats, and have three of their own. Cleaning shelter cages, taking the cats out of their environment to exercise, and helping older cats get adopted are some of the responsibilities they have enjoyed with their three years volunteering at SRAS.
“We have a ‘Cat Cuddler’ volunteer group at the shelter, and my wife has a blog that explains the behavioral aspects of cats. Even though you cannot save each cat, this is such a great environment and group of volunteers.” said Kurt.
The cat volunteers are especially close—they get together for lunch frequently. A great example of the connections developed between volunteers—all with a common goal: helping cats find forever homes.
With approximately 300 registered volunteers and 50 active helpers, SRAS has always been a Bridgewater community pillar. “Our staff and volunteers make everything possible—we couldn’t do it without them”, said Brian Bradshaw, shelter manager for SRAS. He has five volunteers helping out 5-to-6 days per week socializing the animals, cleaning cages, and working behind the scenes maintaining an internet presence and organizing shelter events. In 2016 the shelter received enough monetary and service donations to renovate the shelter, making it better equipped for the animals and more attractive to potential adopters.
“Our staff and volunteers make everything possible—we couldn’t do it without them”, said Brian Bradshaw, shelter manager for SRAS. He has five volunteers helping out 5-to-6 days per week, who do everything from socializing the animals to cleaning cages, and ‘other unsung heroes’ work behind the scenes, with jobs like maintaining an internet presence and organizing shelter events.
Top Retention and Motivational Tips
As every successful shelter and rescue knows, keeping and motivating staff and volunteers is critical. According to ASPCAPro, the Ark-Valley Humane Society in Buena Vista, CO, has a 75% retention rate among volunteers and has a personalized training program that gives volunteers what they need to be successful in shelter roles. Here are a few of their time-tested tips:
Hold Frequent Orientations
Conduct One-on-One Training
Get Staff Buy-In
Shelter and rescue volunteers make an immeasurable difference in the lives of animals, and nothing gives greater satisfaction than helping them find their forever homes. Thoughtful volunteer programs are a key way to increase retention rates—and show that the ‘human side’ of the sheltering equation is equally as important.
Each shelter and rescue has a story, just like the animals it gives a temporary home to. The common denominator, the connection, and the driving force is to help as many animals as possible to find forever homes.
Michael Good, DVM, founder of the Homeless Pet Clubs, knew at 15 years old that he wanted to be a veterinarian. Early in his career, he was helping 50 local rescue groups as their supervising veterinarian, where he saw many shelters and rescues give up because of lack of money to survive—and where euthanasia was the only option to control a population of homeless animals.
“I couldn’t look these beautiful creatures in the eye and then take their life away. I’d sit with the animals for a little while, so they could at least feel love before they had to die,” said Dr. Good.
In addition to his veterinary practices, in the mid-1990’s, Dr. Good became the medical director for a shelter in his native Fulton County, Georgia. When he started, he inherited an unfathomable euthanasia rate -- every three days there were animals put down and the euthanasia rate compared to the shelter population was way too high.
Dr. Good was determined to find a solution for homeless animals and made it his life’s mission.
In 2010, the Homeless Pet Clubs was founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to help animal rescues and shelters adopt-out more pets, and for the past 5 of 7 years, continues to be financially supported only by Dr. Good and donations to help keep the program running.
Homeless Pet Clubs
Homeless Pet Clubs gives students, civic leaders, and business owners the opportunity to share their love of animals by promoting animal rescue, responsible pet ownership, adoption of shelter animals, and animal welfare. It also gives animal lovers from diverse backgrounds that don’t necessarily work in a shelter or rescue, a way to leverage different strengths to save the greatest number of at-risk animals by participating in:
It is also free for clubs and shelters or rescue organizations to join. To date, there are 2,000 Homeless Pet Clubs across the United States.
Shelter and Rescue Participation
The mission of a Homeless Pet Club is to use flyers, posters, email, Facebook and other social media, and various projects, to help find homes for dogs and cats in county animal shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups. It is a grass-roots effort and every type of club relies on word-of-mouth to spread the word about the animals they are sponsoring. It also drives awareness and traffic to Homeless Pet Clubs rescue and shelter partners.
Pet sponsorship is a way to promote pets through advocates who tell each animal’s unique story--and give the pet as much exposure as possible to potential adopters. A shelter or rescue can upload as many (or as few) pets as they want sponsored with the pet's information.
The Warwick Valley Humane Society, one of the 105 shelter and rescues enrolled in this program, has experienced an uptick in adoption rates that can be attributed to their participation in the program. Pam Schutz, DVM, has had success with the program.
“Our shelter became more engaged with the community – and it’s been a great way for people to hear about our animals, and want to come in a meet them—and their chances are greater for adoption!” said Dr. Shutz.
“I’d tell other organizations to get involved – it costs nothing and if we’re too busy to upload our animals’ information; the Homeless Pet Clubs can do it for us. It’s really a win-win opportunity to help our animals in this way,” she stated.
Homeless Pet Clubs can be started anywhere in the country where a sanctioned shelter or rescue group exists, such as a state or county facility, humane organization or rescue group. The organizations must meet or exceed expectations:
Response from the school, business, and civic clubs hosting Homeless Pet Clubs has been very positive, with each club choosing pets to 'sponsor' and promote for adoption. In one Georgia county alone, more than 50 school clubs were established in three months' time, and their support helped find loving, forever homes for more than 200 animals. Teachers lead the charge for the school clubs, and report benefits to students including:
“Communities can build on their love of animals and ultimately come together to transcend social status,” Dr. Good stated. “Animals level the “playing field” for all socioeconomic groups and animals don’t judge you. We want children to learn to be kind to all living things; be kind to animals and be kind to each other.”
Share Your Thoughts on Homeless Pet Clubs with Us
What do you think of this concept? Is this something you could see your shelter or rescue participating in? Take our quick Survey.
It’s the time of year that takes patience, preparation, and a lot of love: kitten season is here.
For your shelter or rescue, this time of year means an increased need for vaccines, parasiticides, and medications to treat your newest arrivals, get them healthy, and ultimately get them ready for adoption. Kittens are prone to upper respiratory infections, viral infections, internal parasites, diarrhea, and external parasites – to common ailments that can be passed from one kitten to another. FeLV and FIV infections are also common; yet serious infections that can go undetected.1
Kitten season is much different than puppy season, simply due to differences in canine and feline reproductive physiology. Cats are prolific breeders and cycle from January to Mid-October. Cats are also induced ovulators which compounds their ability to produce several litters per year.2
Kitten season is very long, typically starting in April or March, and running through November or December. As the days usually get shorter in late October through mid-December, cats will enter di-estrus. So essentially “kitten season” lasts longer than six months.2
PREPARATION FOR YOUR SHELTER OR RESCUE3
Preparation for kitten season should begin by calling on volunteers and asking the public for additional resources, such as kitten food, toys, and bedding. It should also include education around the importance of spay and neuter. Prior to the start of kitten season, volunteers should be contacted and educated on kitten care. One planning example is to create weekly news segments and special reports on the importance of spay and neuter programs to get the word out. This could mean reaching out to news outlets (or through a public relations team), or promoting on your shelter or rescue’s social media channels.
Additionally, because adoptions of adult cats plummet when kitten season begins, there should be an increased effort to adopt out adult cats. Some shelters run specials and provide lucrative discounts on mature cats to aid this effort.
SHELTER PROTOCOLS AND PROCEDURES3
Shelter protocols and procedures for kitten intakes depend upon the age and surrender status of the kitten.
Below are standard recommendations:2
We asked Zoetis Veterinarian, Kristy L. Earley-Murray, DVM, if kitten season has increasingly gotten worse over the years—or has she seen the numbers of kittens decrease (due to spay/neuter or other reasons):4
“I would love to say it has gotten better, but because cats are such prolific breeders it really is an on-going area of opportunity with regards to population control efforts and provision of education. Rescue groups have done an outstanding job with trying to stabilize the feral cat population, but there are many “pet cats” and “barn cat” populations that continue to add to overpopulation problem.”
Tools and Tips to Help During Kitten Season3,5
Here are some recommendations from the ASPCA to ensure a successful kitten season for your shelter or rescue:
Strange faces. Annoying neighbors. Weird sounds.
For some dogs and cats, the new experience of a shelter is a respite from the situation they came from. But many animals are thrust into a world they knew nothing about before: shelter life. Imagine sensory overload: sight, smell, touch, and hearing are heightened, as an animal’s senses are so much more sensitive than a human’s.
Dogs with behavior problems tend to languish longer in shelters due to the understandable reluctance on the part of most adopters to take on a dog with possible ongoing behavior challenges.1 In addition, shelter staff often hold onto the dogs before making them available for adoption to work on the behavior problem.
The resulting longer stay puts dogs at increased risk of developing kennel-induced behavior problems, and additionally has an exacerbating effect on their existing problems. The behavior problems seen in shelter dogs can be divided into four types, according to The Association of Shelter Vets Guidelines for Shelter Standards1 and Maddie’s Fund: Behavior Problems and Long Term Housing2.
Here are common shelter behavior types that dogs may exhibit.
FOUR TYPES OF SHELTER DOG BEHAVIOR1
1. Behavior problems correlated with relinquishment to animal shelters:
2. 'Adoption Buster' behavior problems These are problems associated with dogs being passed over by potential adopters, once in a shelter:
3. Separation anxiety This is not necessarily caused by shelter relinquishment - any time a dog changes owners, the risk of him developing separation anxiety goes up.
4. Kennel environment problems
SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS TO ADDRESS BEHAVIORS1
The rehoming experience, especially through an animal shelter, can cause or exacerbate existing behavior problems, and the shelter experience itself then negatively impacts the dogs’ adoptability and increases the likelihood of future relinquishment.
The goal is to help an animal become more adoptable and work on ways to alleviate the behavior, or minimize it. Here are ways that can help:
Barrier-Related Barking and Aggression
Dogs adopted out from animal shelters will often lapse in their housetraining following their stay in the shelter. A few different measures might address this concern:
This includes compulsive behaviors in the form of pacing, circling, bouncing off walls and self-directed behavior and, at best, over-excitement on occasions when the dog gets social contact. This behavior is off-putting to potential adopters who are likely to label a dog 'hyperactive' or unmanageable rather than see the dog's behavior as driven partly by the abnormal context.
Managing behavioral problems in the shelter environment can be a stepping stone—or a lifeline for these animals. By helping them work through issues, they have a greater chance of being adopted, and staying in their new forever home.
“You can’t save them all.”
That is one of the mantras that categorizes the despair when things get overwhelming in the animal care community. This is where compassion fatigue can seep in and take hold, with symptoms that can cover a wide spectrum, and can often be categorized as either physical, emotional, or behavioral in nature.
Compassion fatigue has been defined as “the emotional burden that health care providers may experience as a result of overexposure to traumatic events that patients are experiencing”. An earlier term used to describe this phenomenon was “secondary victimization”.1
People who work in the animal care giver world have an over-abundancy of compassion and end up getting frustrated and disheartened that they can't fix everything. An example would be that client that has to euthanize or surrender their pet because they don't have the funds to pay for the surgery or medical treatment.
Veterinarians and veterinary technicians, along with other animal health care professionals, may experience compassion fatigue because of continued exposure to the traumatic events their patients and families experience. Also called secondary traumatic stress (STS) or vicarious traumatization, the result can be a falling off in professional capabilities, emotional exhaustion, distress and burnout.1 This phenomenon is also experienced by non-professional care-givers and volunteers.
As caregivers in shelters and rescues, you may experience the following symptoms occasionally, but if they’re chronic, intense, and interfere with normal daily functioning, they may indicate you have compassion fatigue.
Psychological and Physical Problems
Feelings of apathy top the list of symptoms of compassion fatigue. But they are not the only symptoms, as this insidious disorder can cause problems both psychological and physical.
Top 5 common symptoms can include:
Shelter veterinarians are at high risk for developing depression, and many spay-neuter veterinarians possess demographic risk factors that may place them at greater risk than other veterinarians for experiencing depression, burnout, compassion fatigue, or suicidal ideation.1 Per the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ 2016 Veterinary Medical Care Guidelines for Spay-Neuter Programs, workplaces should strive to create a safe, supportive environment in which mental health issues are not stigmatized.
“I truly believe many are not suffering from a lack of compassion, but rather the opposite: over-the-top compassion which can take the energy out of someone. What we really need is balance and a way to re-energize after a day/week/month filled with concentrating on the needs of others (patients and their owners),” stated Dr. Kristy Earley-Murray, DVM, who works with Zoetis to bring educational support in the field of veterinary medicine with a special focus on shelter medicine, immunology, dermatology, and senior wellness care.
What Can You Do?
It can be important to connect with colleagues who experience the same types of traumas and moral stresses as you do. There also are personal approaches that can help alleviate compassion fatigue.
The American Veterinary Medical Association4 also maintains a useful database of all kinds of wellness resources that is a good place for concerned individuals to start.
Healing takes time, patience, and most importantly, commitment within your rescue or shelter. An awareness of compassion fatigue and its far-reaching effects must be present at the highest level of management and work its way down to encompass all staff, as well as volunteers.
I wrote this article from the perspective of both a veterinarian and former shelter worker. In fact, I would like to dedicate this piece to the countless senior pets that find themselves at shelters across the nation every single day.
One particular dog that stands out in my mind, even after twenty years was a sweet girl named “Star”. Star was a geriatric lab cross-surrendered to the shelter by her owner. Sadly, Star had passed away in her kennel the very night she was relinquished. Perhaps she was ill and her owners could not afford medical care, I hope she passed peacefully…I will never know.
Senior Pets Need Advocates for Their Care At the end of the day, there are thousands of senior pets like Star that need your help when they are left in your care. They need you to advocate for their wellness and adoptability! Everyone knows puppies are the very first to be selected for adoption. Unfortunately, seniors are often the last. During my years as a shelter employee I’ve heard it all:
Because of all of the misconceptions and pre-conceived notions, it’s challenging to place this group of special needs companions, especially when the decks are stacked against them to begin with.
How Can You Help Out This Sweet Group of Adoptable Pets? I believe it starts the moment they arrive in the shelter. Be sure to give senior pets a very thorough physical examination:
By paying close attention on arrival you will be able to tailor your support for this pet while they are under your care.
Common Ailments As you may imagine, senior pets often suffer from common ailments such as hearing and vision loss, osteoarthritis, dental disease, metabolic disease such as diabetes, cognitive changes and cancer to name a few.
The good news is by being aware of some of these things up front you can be on the lookout for things like increased thirst, increased urination, difficulty chewing, and decreased response to sound or visual stimulation.
When specific concerns are identified, such as osteoarthritis, these pets should receive extra care such as padded bedding, rugs on kennel floors to aid in traction and increase mobility, physical therapy and perhaps medical treatment with NSAIDS or neutraceuticals.
Eating and Drinking Habits Taking note of eating and drinking habits is critical in uncovering potential medical conditions. If a pet is diabetic or has dental disease, these conditions should be identified and managed before placement. The last thing anyone wants is a senior pet to be returned due to an unknown medical disorder. If ailments are identified in advance the potential adopter can be educated on their new pet’s condition and instructed how to manage it.
Exposure to Infection It’s also essential to consider exposure to infection in this group of residents. Often time respiratory disease is circulating in many shelters and difficult to control once it takes hold. Elderly pets may have co-morbidities and additional stressors going on and thus potential to become more severely affected if they are exposed to one or several pathogens. Perhaps, kennel staff may take special care to: lower stress, completely dry the kennel after cleaning, and even considering placement into foster care to help mitigate the risk of infection.
Old Dogs and Cats Can Learn New Tricks Lastly, it is my personal and perhaps biased belief that old dogs/cats can indeed learn new tricks! Potential adopters may just need a gentle ‘nudge’ and reminder. Puppies/kittens often times require lot of time and energy (if not more) to train than mature adults. Often destructive chewing is a reason for return of young adults post adoption, likely this will not be a problem with a sweet old soul!
Wellness Education Wellness education begins on or before adoption day. Tools and resources to help families care for their pets well into old age are critical. When unfortunate circumstances arise (as they often do) and a senior pet is surrendered, it is very helpful if that pet has been cared for appropriately up to the point of surrender. Education on diet, oral health, behavior, and preventative care is essential! Please join me in advocating for all of the senior pets that need our support and help with placement into their forever homes.
It was a borrowed party bus full of animals.
A vehicle normally reserved for revelry was packed with shelter and rescue animals that were helpless to escape the flood waters in Louisiana this past August. Michelle Ingram, Director of Zeus’ Rescues and owner of Zeus’ Place boarding and grooming in New Orleans, sprang into action when many of the rescue centers in the area were going underwater. The lives of hundreds of animals were in danger.
“Twenty-four injured animals were transported and brought back to local veterinarians’ offices to be treated. The flood waters came so fast that some shelters were unable to do anything else in such a short amount of time. Rescue centers were opening the kennel doors and letting dogs and cats swim for their lives,” said Kellie Grengs, grant director and volunteer for Zeus’ Rescues. The boarding and grooming services help to fund the rescue side of the organization, covering the medical expenses and care for abandoned pets looking for forever homes from all across Louisiana.
After eight days of rescue trips, local volunteers were able to convene and help, so Michelle then headed back home to New Orleans. Zeus’ Place took in more than 250 animals from the Baton Rouge area, many of them needing medical care.
Katrina’s Impact Hurricane Katrina changed the way animals are treated during emergencies thanks to the passage of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards in 2006. It was an amendment to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that state and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.1 Congress compelled first responders to save pets just as they save people.
For example, Zeus’ Place has a policy for all animals boarding at their facility during hurricane season. They evacuate all pets regardless of the category of the hurricane, even if the hurricane may pass quickly, since they could be without power and potable water for a long period of time.2
Veterinary Protocol In Emergency Situations I spoke with Brian A. DiGangi, DVM, MS, DABVP, Clinical Associate Professor of Shelter Medicine with the University of Florida, Veterinary Community Outreach Program about emergency response protocol:
Q. What determines a situation where you would evacuate animals? A. Any time that people are being evacuated from an area impacted by a disaster, consideration should be given to evacuating the animals as well. In fact, the law requires communities to have a plan for the care of pets whose owners have been forced to leave their own homes. Shelters should also have an evacuation plan in place for both natural and man-made disasters.
Fires and floods are some of the more common reasons why a shelter might need to relocate its animals, but any time there is the threat of physical damage to animal housing areas or the possibility of an extended period without electricity, it should be considered.
Q. What is your protocol for helping shelter and rescues? A. The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine is a lead member of the Florida State Agriculture Response Team. As such, our Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) is occasionally called to assist in response to a natural or man-made disaster that impacts animals. In addition, the VETS team is ready to deploy whenever an emergency has been officially declared by the state or federal government.
First Responders The AVMA’s Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT) serve as first responders to ensure high-quality care of animals during disasters and other emergencies. When requested by a state, VMATs provide operational emergency response programs to state animal health authorities and preparedness programs to state animal health authorities, veterinary medical associations, and other relevant organizations.
For over 20 years, dedicated volunteers who work with the VMAT program help ensure that all animals - pets, livestock, zoo animals and wildlife - receive the care they need during times of crisis.3 These trained disaster teams are well-equipped to handle almost any animal-related emergency that can arise.
But we must not forget the other selfless acts to save animals from harm’s way that are seldom heard of, but quietly out there, like the work of Michelle Ingram---along with shelter and rescue volunteers, pet foster families, and pet parents all across the country.
On a quiet, unassuming suburban street, the house looked like any other in Howell, New Jersey. A routine call to animal control about a dog on the loose in the neighborhood uncovered more than anyone expected: an out-ofcontrol animal hoarding situation that was the worst the county had ever seen.1
It was the power of many animal rescue organizations and shelters working together that helped change the fate of the dogs living in squalid, unsanitary conditions. The Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, the Associated Humane Society Shelter in Tinton Falls, Animal Alliance of New Jersey, Father John’s Animal House, Second Chance Pet Adoption League, Cold Nose Warm Heart NJ, and Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge all took in the dogs to try and help.
“We expected around 80 dogs. We ended up extracting 280 dogs out of the house,” said Heather Cammisa, President and CEO of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey, who is an advisory member of the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey and member of the Humane Society of the United States’ Companion Animal Advisory Council. “Ross Licitra, Chief of the Monmouth County SPCA called us in to help with the removal and eventual rehoming of the dogs, along with other partner shelter and rescue organizations.”
Many breeds of small dogs were found and removed over a period of twelve hours. Dogs were even found living in the walls of the home, on bookshelves, and anywhere they could find a space to stand.
“A majority of the dogs had intestinal parasites, fleas, skin issues, and some were pregnant. The dogs hadn’t been socialized with outside people. They were very social with other dogs (obviously) but some needed a lot of socialization with people, while others adapted right away,” said Ms. Cammisa.
Hoarding was once considered an anomaly, but there has been a greater prevalence and surge in cases over the past year. As with other acts of animal cruelty, it may be impossible to know for sure what motivates the abuse inflicted by hoarders. We do know:
According to the Animal Legal Defense fund (ALDF), it is likely that up to a quarter million animals–250,000 per year–are victims of hoarders. Records kept by ALDF indicate that in the last four years, the number of reported hoarding cases has more than doubled. In terms of the number of animals affected and the degree and duration of their suffering, hoarding is the number one animal cruelty crisis facing companion animals in communities throughout the country.3
“Situations like [the case in] Howell are tragic. But it raised awareness and it touched people’s hearts. We had a broad outpouring of support from all over the country and the animal welfare system came together – it worked,” said Ms. Cammisa.
Human outreach is also a critical component needed to address the complex, somewhat silent psychological issue of animal hoarding in communities. It requires help from social services, civic organizations, law enforcement, and mental health professionals. Most importantly, it requires all of us to look around in our neighborhoods and families—and to ask questions or speak up when something doesn’t look or feel right.
The relationships and networking within the animal welfare system formed a strong safety net for the animals. All of the dogs from the Howell case sheltered by St. Hubert’s, except for a litter of puppies, have been adopted— and found their forever homes.
Have you ever wished there was a knowledgeable mentor standing at your shoulder as you work or volunteer for a shelter or rescue group?
You may not have the time to go back to school and study sheltering, but thanks to the distance learning program at the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Online Programs at the University of Florida, the education you need is as close as your computer. Offered entirely online, the courses include a shelter medicine certificate credential as well as a Master’s degree program.
Terry Spencer, DVM, MEd., who heads up the program, “While there are textbooks you can buy and guidelines you can read out there, we designed our program to really explore the topics with leading experts in the sheltering field. Even better, you’re able to get input and feedback from your peers literally all over the world.”
Those topics include:
Non-veterinary professionals shouldn’t let the term “shelter medicine” make them think the course isn’t for them. “It’s incredible to have shelter directors thinking in terms of operations and budgets engaging with veterinarians who are thinking about medicine and behavior, or to have animal control officers learning to work with vets to gather evidence in cases they are investigating” said Dr. Spencer.
One such animal control officer is 24-year-old Lauren Townsley, who was working as a humane officer in Monterey, California, when she enrolled as a Master’s degree student.
“I felt very welcomed as a non-vet,” she said. “There are students from all over the world, where everything is different – procedures, laws, even things like vaccines. People have changed what they’re doing in the shelter, and are able to report back so we all learn from it. I’d encourage other non-vets to take the course; it’s worth it even just for the connections you make with other people in the field.”
Connection was also important to veterinarian Dr. Aimee Dalrymple, another Master’s degree student. “The courses are very interactive, and use multi-media, videos, reading, and exercises,” she said. “The online discussions and live chats create a great environment of support, community, and understanding.”
Dr. Dalrymple was working for several shelters and rescue groups in Massachusetts when she learned about the online program. “In my day to day work, I have new knowledge and resources to answer questions about infectious diseases, behavior, and environmental health,” she said. “We were able to successfully contain a ringworm outbreak and treat the animals using what I’ve learned. I worked with a private vet, too, so I’ve been able to put collaboration into practice with great results for the animals.”
Like Townsley, Dr. Dalrymple encourages others to take the course. “It’s provided me with the knowledge and skills I need that are different from private practice,” she said. “For example, shelter animal behavior is something I was interested in but didn’t have any training in. Now I recognize so much more in my patients that I learned through the course, that we can use to alleviate stress and make them a lot healthier and happier.”
One of the most rewarding things about the program for Dr. Spencer is seeing its positive impact for animals. For example, one student joked that she was going to take what she had learned about disease outbreaks and put it in a folder marked, “In case of outbreak, open here.”
Not long after, Dr. Spencer said, she needed to open that folder. “They had distemper in their shelter. She took out the binder and in a situation that would have in the past led to high levels of euthanasia, they did not lose a single animal.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the online shelter medicine course, including a standalone short course in compassion fatigue strategies, visit http://onlinesheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/.
Once a week in a rural Oklahoma community, pet owners line up to bring their dogs and cats into the low-cost spay-neuter clinic for rabies vaccinations. Happy Paws Animal Shelter, a privately funded organization, works with the surrounding six counties to offer critical vaccinations, along with spay-neuter surgeries at a discount to people who are financially disadvantaged, but want to do the best they can for their pet.
In one day, Happy Paws vaccinated 85 dogs for rabies—their shelter record. “Our community really responds to the low-cost rabies vaccine program, and dogs that come into our shelter are immediately vaccinated against this disease and others in order to prepare them for adoption,” said shelter director Kate Paris.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) issued new guidance in February 2016 which advised that cats and dogs that are exposed to rabies and are overdue for a vaccine can have a booster shot followed by an observation period rather than be subject to quarantine or euthanasia.1
Awareness of this deadly disease is highlighted on September 28th with World Rabies Day, a global health observance that seeks to raise awareness about rabies and enhance prevention and control efforts. It has been co-sponsored by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC) since 2007.2 And according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than half of all rabid domestic animals reported in the U.S. in 2014 were found in 5 U.S. states: Oklahoma, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.3
This event is an opportunity for animal shelters to help potential adopters take steps to help prevent and control rabies, such as keeping up on a veterinarian-recommended vaccine schedule for their dogs and cats—and to provide them with education on how to help their pets avoid animals that typically transmit rabies: raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes.4
There is a great public health benefit in ensuring that all dogs and cats leaving animal shelters are vaccinated for rabies. Rabies vaccinations in shelters, however, are sometimes complicated by local regulations regarding the level of veterinary supervision required for administration.4 For example, in some cases it is not permissible to give the rabies vaccine without direct veterinary supervision. In those cases, if local regulations/ veterinary staffing permit, rabies vaccine should be given at intake for dogs for whom a long term shelter stay is anticipated, and for all dogs in shelters where virtually all dogs are adopted.4
Preventing and controlling rabies truly begins at the community level, where shelters and pet parents can take the necessary steps to keep animals free from the disease. Health officials play an instrumental role in making sure people have the ability to take action and learn just how deadly rabies can be. “Rabies vaccinations are part of our intake protocol,” said shelter director Paris. “We want to make sure the animals are given every chance to get or stay healthy--and get adopted.”
Spay-neuter programs are a critical piece of veterinary medicine and the community because they provide initial veterinary care to at-risk and underserved animals in both the shelter setting and for pet parents. When spay-neuter services are accessible and attainable, pet owners can provide essential initial care for their pets, reducing the risk of relinquishment.1
The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ (ASV) 2016 Veterinary Medical Care Guidelines for Spay-Neuter Programs, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, addresses the need for consistent veterinary medical care where spay-neuter services are provided, such as in a shelter or veterinary practices. These guidelines help set the standard for high-quality, high-volume spay neuter practice (HQHVSN).1
The ASV Board of Directors re-initiated the Spay-Neuter Guidelines Revision Task Force in 2014, and the group worked tirelessly to craft the final document. Their process included a review of the original 2008 guidelines, extensive literature review for updates and new information, group meetings, and countless hours of writing, editing, and discussion.
“We know that high volume spay-neuter is the most effective way to reduce shelter euthanasia due to the overpopulation of cats and dogs,” said Dr. Emily McCobb, DVM, MS, DACVAA, Director of the Shelter Medicine Program at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and an author of the guidelines.
While the guidelines lay out basic recommendations, they are designed to allow practitioners to determine the best way to incorporate them within the context of their practice. They address specific areas of spay-neuter veterinary care, such as:
“Our hope is that the guidelines will be used not only by shelters and spay-neuter clinics, but by all veterinary practitioners that engage in spay-neuter practice. Designed to be practical, they are also based on scientific data and expert opinion,” stated Dr. Brian DiGangi, DVM, MS, DABVP, Clinical Associate Professor of Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida, Chairman of the Position Statement Committee, and President of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians Executive Board.
High-quality, high-volume spay-neuter programs offer the best approach to reduce shelter impoundment and euthanasia of cats and dogs at this time. They also represent the most financially responsible and humane way for communities to increase the numbers of cats and dogs that are neutered.
Dr. McCobb said she has “seen a dramatic decrease in shelter euthanasia over the last ten years and HQHVSN practice has been an essential factor.” By utilizing it, veterinarians can help decrease the euthanasia of cats and dogs, and prevent overpopulation--- ultimately giving animals help when they may not have had a chance elsewhere—and also giving them another chance at a good life.
Working in animal welfare, we’ve all seen the statistics – how many strays there are, how many pets go missing every year, and how few return home – and it’s pretty disheartening. But we won’t bore you with the numbers. At Found Animals, we like to say that we’re animal smart, not animal crazy. To do the most for pets, it’s best to focus on solutions and developing technology rather than dwelling on the negatives. If we all look forward and work together, those depressing statistics will become a thing of the past and more pets will live happy and healthy lives in good homes. Here are some of our solutions and tools that will ensure more pets are returned to their owners.
Educate pet owners
There is a lot of confusion as to what a microchip actually does. As pet professionals, it’s important we educate pet owners that a microchip is not a GPS or tracking device, and doesn’t even store contact info. If we can communicate this effectively and get them to register their pets’ microchips, more lost pets will be brought home where they belong.
Beyond educating owners, we encourage you to begin the registration process for them. This is the best way you can ensure that if their pet is lost and then found, they can be returned home. The Found Animals Registry is free, with no update or transfer fees – ever. We even have tools for shelters and rescues like a batch upload system that uploads multiple registries at one time, and the Found Pet Alerts® system that reaches out to 12 points of contact with one click.
Use Universal Scanners and ISO Standard Microchip
If you don’t have a universal scanner, get one. And consider using your current scanner as a paperweight or a doorstop, because you’re only able to read some chips in some pets. Don’t miss opportunities to re-unite pets with their people.
It’s also important to use ISO standard microchips. A Canadian dog was once found in Portugal and then re-united with its pet owner, so it’s important to have a world standard. Found Animals is a non-profit that sells ISO standard chips and universal scanners at a reasonable cost.
Use the AAHA Universal Search Tool
Once you’ve scanned a pet and found a microchip number, you still need to find what registry the pet’s information is in – and that can be an unnecessary challenge. Every microchip should be found with one search tool and AAHA is the closest to having that. AAHA’s search tool saves precious time by combing through multiple registries. If the chip isn’t registered, AAHA tells you who manufactured it.
When all of us in the animal welfare community follow these steps, we’ll ensure that even more pets make it back home. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Found Pet Alerts® is a registered trademark of The Found Animals Foundation, Inc.
Prevention is worth a lot more than a pound of cure when there’s little or no chance of a cure.
That’s very nearly the case with feline heartworm infection. While there are effective preventives for feline heartworm, there is no approved treatment, and no cure beyond a surgical procedure the American Heartworm Society (AHS) says “may result in acute circulatory collapse and death.”
To many outside the veterinary field, heartworm is not seen as the threat to cats that it is to dogs. And it’s true that cats don’t appear to develop adult heartworm infections at the rate we see in dogs. However, that’s not the whole story.
Heartworm in cats can be deadly serious. The AHS reports immature heartworms in the circulatory system can cause serious and long-lasting respiratory disease even when no adult infection occurs. As the adult worms die, there can be an acute and sometimes fatal response as the cat’s immune system reacts to the disintegrating worms. Worst of all, for some cats, the first sign of the infection is sudden death.
The potential for severe clinical signs and even death in cases of feline heartworm, the importance of testing, and the difficulty of treating cats when infected are all being increasingly recognized in the veterinary world. Given the facts, how seriously should shelters treat the risk of feline heartworm infection?
In one study, 5% of the cats euthanized at a Florida shelter had adult heartworms present. Fifteen percent tested positive for heartworm antibodies.1 (Levy 2003) Another study found that many shelters based their feline heartworm policies “...on inaccurate knowledge of feline heartworm prevalence...”2 (Dunn 2011)
At the 2016 NAVC Conference in Orlando, Dr. Julie Levy gave a presentation on new information on feline disease, telling attendees “I’ve recently completed a national study of more than 30,000 adult cats. I found that heartworm infection in cats often occurred at a similar rate with the retroviral diseases feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), as well as with respiratory disease and the presence of bites or abscesses. This is likely because those exposures result from similar lifestyle factors, and is of particular interest to shelters, where many cats come from unknown backgrounds and with unknown risk factors.” (Levy 2016 NAVC)
Despite all this, testing cats for heartworm is not routine in animal shelters, and few cats are given preventive medication.2 (Dunn 2011) Dr. Levy told NAVC Conference attendees, “Heartworm preventive is only dispensed to 12.6 percent of cats at the time of testing in veterinary clinics. Given the difficulty of diagnosing the infection at all parasite stages, and that there is no approved treatment, veterinarians need to prioritize feline heartworm prevention for all cats they see in areas where the infection is endemic in dogs or wildlife.” (Levy 2016)
What did Dr. Levy say should trigger a concern about feline heartworm infection in a shelter cat? “Heartworm infection should be considered in cats with respiratory, oral, and abscess conditions as well as in cats with retroviral infections,” she said. “And a recommendation to place the cat on lifelong preventive medication should be made for every cat adopted from a shelter.”
In terms of educating adoptive cat owners about protecting their cats, shelters should make adopters aware that cats who go outdoors are three times as likely to be infected with heartworm as cats who stay indoors,3 but indoor cats are not completely safe. (Levy 2016)
Most importantly, shelters should stress the necessity of giving cats heartworm preventive medication in accordance with the recommendations of the Companion Animal Parasite Council and the American Heartworm Society.
Marie couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. A 65-year-old widow, she had bouts of severe depression that had seized her physical energy and rendered her incapable of functioning normally on a daily basis. But according to Marie, adopting Slinky the Chihuahua completely changed her life.
“After I adopted my dog, my life had a focus again. I used to dread getting out of bed and facing the world. Now I take care of my little guy and walk him each day. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
The Human-Animal Bond has Physical and Psychological Effects on Our Health
There is a growing body of scientific validation that pets are good for human health.
The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI)
Co-founded by Zoetis, HABRI explores the scientifically backed benefits of pet ownership in areas such as mental health and wellness, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), healthy aging and heart health. Armed with this information, HABRI’s seeks to promote the presence of pets and animals in society.
“Science now shows that pets not only make us feel better emotionally, they make us feel healthier,” said Dr. J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP, Group Director of US Companion Animal Marketing at Zoetis, and Vice President of the Board of Trustees at HABRI. “That’s true of individuals, families and communities. Pet owners are also more likely to be socially active.”
Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI added, “We’re focused on health benefits for pet owners, and we’re mapping out future research based upon the scientific data.”
Three exciting studies are at the forefront of HABRI’s research:
“There’s nothing like a wagging tail to make you feel better,” said Feldman. It’s something many of us have known all our lives. Now we have the scientific data to prove it.
Lost pets that end up at your shelter or rescue use valuable time, money and resources that could be spent helping other animals. All of us who work in animal welfare hope that lost pets quickly find their way home and never come through that shelter door in the first place, but today’s environment can make it even more challenging to prevent this.
Modern Pet Parents Pet owners today are vastly different from the pet owners of 30, 20, or even 10 years ago:
Helping New Pet Owners Prepare for Lost Pet Situations Enabling people who find pets to return them directly to their owners can avoid the placement of pets in shelters and rescues altogether. This is the quickest way home for a pet, and is best achieved through comprehensive visible identification that:
21st Century Pet Identification This is where the digital ID tag comes in. Companies such as PetHub (where I work), BlanketID, PawPrintsID, SmartTag, and Furcode currently sell digital ID tags that don’t cost much more than a traditional engraved tag. Many, like PetHub and SmartTag, even have special subsidy and discount programs for shelters and other non-profit animal welfare organizations to help offset the cost of tags for newly adopted pets.
A digital ID tag can have a QR code, NFC chip, and/or web address on the back with a unique code associated with it. The tag then links to an online profile where all necessary information can be stored.
Some Digital ID tags like PetHub, offer additional features to get a pet home faster:
As an animal shelter or rescue worker, the last thing you want to do is see an adopted pet come back through your doors. When preparing pet parents to head home with their pet, you may only have a few seconds to provide them with important information. In today’s world, handing them a digital ID tag can help set them up for success.
Of course, it’s also important to encourage pet owners to microchip their pets, as the collar with visible ID may slip off. Having both the visible ID and implantable microchip is necessary to maximize protection for pets and increase the likelihood of a safe and swift return home.
Besides their creative name, Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats has a lot to say about reducing Southern California’s homeless cat population. We asked founder Shawn Simons for her point of view on the issue.
ZFS: You’re definitely on the front lines of this cause. What’s your approach?
KB: First off, we can’t adopt our way out of the overpopulation problem. So Kitty Bungalow provides free spay & neuter throughout Los Angeles in addition to our TNR [trap-neuter-return] and TNA [trap-neuter-adopt] programs. Most of our kittens come through community trappings. We bring them in, socialize them and adopt them out.
ZFS: What makes you unique among cat rescues?
KB: We are the only 100% street cat rescue in Los Angeles with a facility that socializes feral cats into lap cats. The secret we stumbled upon is the amount of volunteers we have – they work day in and day out, from 8:30am to 9:30pm. Most fostered feral cats just see the foster parents that take them in. Here, they’re seeing about 70 – 80 different volunteers a week. It helps broaden their horizons, lower their anxiety and make them “insanely social.” People say our cats are like dogs. I’ve never had a dog, but I think it means they’re really social.
ZFS: Since 2009, an injunction has banned LA city employees from participating in, educating about, referring to or financing any TNR initiatives. How have local orgs like Kitty Bungalow responded to this?
KB: It has been a real struggle. For one we have had to procure a great deal of spay/neuter funding to do the work the city has funds allocated for but is not able to access. Visibility plays an important part. A majority of Angelenos, when faced with an animal based problem, call the City services. But the city is unable to refer people to the proper organizations with TNR programming, so many don’t even know this option is available to them. We know that the most important thing we can do for the cats of LA is to work to overturn the injunction. We have put a lot of focus on solving that problem in the last year.
ZFS: Is it true that you’re allergic to cats?
KB: It is true. But not at all to the extent I was when I started. Allergies aren’t a good reason not to have a cat, and I’m living proof. You become immune to the dander over time, and now with nearly 900 cats under my belt I barely break out in a sniffle.
ZFS: Do you have a social media “secret sauce?”
W&W: A lot of rescues focus on the negative, which turns people away. We like to keep things positive, witty and fun, incorporating pop culture and staying current. We also aim to bring our rescue into other conversations that are already trending on social media. For example, on National Sibling Day, the hashtag #nationalsiblingday was trending so we posted on social media about foster siblings using that same hashtag.
ZFS: Social media can be daunting to a lot of shelters & rescues. How do you know what to do?
W&W: Some of us have social media know-how, but we aren’t by any means experts and doing it all ourselves really isn’t sustainable. We lean on volunteers to help us plan and grow our social media presence. There are thousands of dog lovers in and around Los Angeles who work in social media so we ask them to donate their expertise a few hours a week to help Wags and Walks.
ZFS: Where do you find those volunteers?
W&W: As a matter of fact, from social [media]. If there’s a hole in our skillset, we put out a call for experts. Recently we found ourselves staying up all night trying to figure out how to write grant proposals. Then we realized we should ask for help on social. Soon we had a whole committee of experienced grant writers donating their time for us.
“We’re continually amazed with the dedication of our member shelters and with everybody who works so hard in the shelter community. We’re so proud to support you.”
- Brenda Foster, Zoetis for Shelters Program Manager
“It is very exciting to have company so in tune with the needs of shelter and rescue programs such as ours.”
- Dixie Lott, Board Member & Treasurer, Community Cats Of Charlotte
Can North American animal shelters really save 1 million cats in five years?
That’s the audacious goal of the Million Cat Challenge, a joint project of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida and the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program.
Co-founded by Dr. Julie Levy of UF and Dr. Kate Hurley of UC Davis and with the support of Maddie’s Fund, the Million Cat Challenge had already enrolled nearly 400 shelters and saved more than 500,000 cats in its first two years.
“From Julie’s first shift in a TNR clinic and mine as an animal control officer, we’ve been dedicated to helping homeless animals,” said Dr. Hurley. That dedication led them to work with their university programs to educate veterinarians and shelter professionals, be part of the development of the new specialty of shelter medicine, and consult with shelters worldwide.
“Through it all, we saw how many shelters struggled to preserve the welfare and save the lives of cats,” said Dr. Levy. “We witnessed the frustration of staffers who labored without the tools or resources to protect all the cats in their care. And it broke our hearts to see all the lives lost to things like upper respiratory infections, ringworm, and lack of time and space.”
The Million Cat Challenge is focused on five key initiatives designed to help shelters of any size or type, in any kind of community, save more cats’ lives. Those initiatives are:
Alternatives to Intake. Programs that try to keep pets with their families by providing support and resources and engaging the community in the process. From caring for a litter to rehoming their own pet to finding the owner of a stray, making the community part of those solutions expands the safety net for cats.
Managed Admission. This can mean something as simple as closing the night deposit box, requiring appointments for all non-emergency surrenders, or another procedure that evens out the flow of pets into the shelter.
Capacity for Care. Caring for cats humanely, providing great housing, and ensuring every cat’s welfare reduces length of stay, crowding, and disease while increasing adoptions.
Removing Barriers to Adoption. By removing barriers to adoption such as cost, hours, or location, as well as implementing more open and friendly adoption processes, shelters expand the pool of adopters and invite their communities to become their partners in lifesaving.
Return to Field (RTF). When adoption isn’t right for a healthy un-owned cat, RTF provides another choice: sterilize, vaccinate, and return the cat to the location of origin. Shelters have seen dramatic increases in live release, as well as decreased intake, complaints, and DOA pickups, suggesting these programs lead to fewer free-roaming cats in the community.
Shelters don’t have to sign on for all the initiatives to join the Challenge; they can use just one, or all five, to save one more cat or a thousand. They also need to be located in North America, have a facility that houses cats and is open to the public for adoptions, and provide three data points each year: total feline intake, total feline euthanasia, and total feline live release.
In return, they get a lot. First, of course, is the knowledge that they’re incorporating innovative programs and best practices known to support transformative change for shelters and cats.
But a warm glow isn’t all they get. Challenge shelters have access to Dr. Hurley and Dr. Levy, both acknowledged experts in shelter medicine and sheltering.
“What’s probably more valuable than access to us is access to each other,” said Dr. Levy. “The Million Cat Challenge shelters are part of a private discussion group where they can share their experience and that of their peers with people who face the same issues they do on a daily basis. That peer-to-peer communication is the heart and soul of this project.”
Challengers also get access to grant opportunities, PR support to let their local media and community members know about their feline lifesaving efforts, and educational resources.
“We may have founded the Challenge, but it really belongs to our Challengers,” said Dr. Hurley. “They’re the ones whose inspiration and perspiration have already saved so many lives, and are now saving so many more.”
To learn more about the Million Cat Challenge and to register, visit www.millioncatchallenge.org.
How Many Times Have You Heard This?“Oh, look, what a cute dog. He looks a little shy but he must be friendly, look how his tail is wagging!”.
The belief that a wagging tail indicates, or even guarantees, friendliness is practically ingrained in us. Yet research investigating the link between tail wags and friendly behavior, as well as other common beliefs about dog behavior, has revealed what behaviorists and experts in canine behavior have been telling us for a long time – a wagging tail is no guarantee of a friendly dog.
We Don’t Always Get ItThere is mounting evidence that we sometimes have trouble decoding dog and cat behavior. Research has shown that people often confuse actual play in dogs with aggressive behavior – and vice versa1. Another study found that fear behaviors in dogs were found to confuse owners’ recognition of aggression, in essence masking it2. This may be because we tend to focus on only certain behavioral cues; often the tail, muzzle, and large body movements. We also may be influenced by physical features we aren’t conscious of such as coat color or ear shape3. One study found people attributed different personality traits to cats based only on the cat’s coat color4.
Stress Signals Can Be Sneaky TooThe bottom line is that it can be difficult to really know what’s going on with an animal, especially an animal under stress. And stress too can be difficult to recognize, partly because we tend to look for the more obvious signs (trembling, whining, panting) and miss the subtler ones (often called displacement signals, such as turning the head, looking away, yawning, nose licking)5-6.
Sharpen Your Observational SkillsIn order to minimize the risks of a bite, practice good observational skills and safe, lowstress handling techniques. Observe the animal in an objective, systematic way: start with large body movements and then move to smaller ones and then to individual body parts. Or start at the head and make your way back. Don’t get trapped into focusing on just a few, dramatic signals. Be aware that animals can feel multiple emotions (such as fear and friendliness) and show behaviors which mean different things (that wagging tail can mean friendliness but it can also signal arousal). Know the difference between behavior and personality – a friendly cat can still feel fear and react aggressively. Use more objective, precise language when you describe behavior (“crouched, tail tucked, looked away” vs “fearful”). Understand how the environment may influence an animal’s behavior, especially a stressful one. And practice safe and low-stress handling techniques. Don’t hesitate to use positive reinforcement training techniques to make every encounter with a human a positive one. Oh, and watch that tail – it usually means a friendly interaction, but not always!
Animal cruelty. Those two words are so powerful and so ominous. How can we bear the thought of someone hurting an animal on purpose, or ignoring obvious suffering? Most of us work in animal welfare because we love animals, and we want to help them enjoy better lives. The thought that someone might hurt an animal is unbearable. However, working in animal shelters, we can’t help but be confronted at times with animals who have suffered from horrible abuse or neglect. We have seen it first hand, so we know better than anyone that it happens. How could someone do something like that?
Understanding the reasons for animal cruelty doesn’t make it any more acceptable and it is never an excuse. But it might help protect us, and create resilience. Learning about the reasons for animal cruelty may reduce the harm to ourselves when we are witnesses to animals who have suffered.
There are a myriad of reasons why people abuse animals. In trying to understand almost incomprehensible acts of animal cruelty, it is helpful to divide the acts into the passive (acts of omission or neglect) or active (acts of commission or deliberate cruelty). The vast majority of animal cruelty is the result of indifference or ignorance of suffering.
Acts of omission
The passive animal abuser may have the perversion of good intentions: the pathological altruism of the animal hoarder who believes life is safer for the animal imprisoned in their home than it is being adopted into a new home. A contributing factor may be mental illness or dementia. The passive abuser may have other contributing problems such as substance abuse or they may themselves be entrapped in the same abusive environment and are, in fact, part victim, part perpetrator.
Acts of commission
The deliberately cruel abusers may be exerting heavy handed discipline, using punishment as an excuse to be cruel or an anger induced over-reaction. The domestic violence abuser may maltreat animals as a tool of influence: they hurt an animal in front of others to exert power and control. The ability to threaten others through these actions is an intimidating display of ferocity. Animals may be tormented in cruel forms of amusement as a diversion from boredom. In organized animal fighting, the motivations may be greed, expressions of machismo or desire to experience the bonding that happens when there is shared risk in a clandestine event. Intentional tortuous acts of animal cruelty are rare, but they can satisfy a blood lust of the sadist.
There are complex and deep-seated emotional and psychological reasons why a person might be cruel, as well as learned cultural habits. The quality of care a person receives during infancy determines the adult’s competency at managing stress. Aggression is a behavior pattern that is largely learned through positive or negative reinforcement. Overt aggression, violence and cruelty reflect abnormalities in the emotion regulatory circuitry of the brain as a result of an abusive childhood.
Interestingly, only a minority of children raised in such an environment go on to become abusers. “Survivors” tend to have three characteristics: a supportive adult mentor, such as a teacher or neighbor; a strong fantasy life; and the responsibility of caring for another, either a sibling or an animal. Many survivors of an abusive childhood go on to be “super-nurturers” – individuals who end up in caring professions as a result of suffering abuse in childhood. When we adopt an animal to a family, we may be helping to raise the next generation of kind caregivers.
How can we maintain a balanced perspective?
Learning where we may harbor personal bias helps to banish prejudices which may otherwise cause us to pass unfair judgments about others. It is helpful to remember that by and large, people are cooperative, caring, nurturing beings. Compassion, defined as “deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it”, is an innate tendency of most people.
The vast majority of adopters come to the animal shelter seeking to express loving kindness. We may interview potential adopters who make us uncomfortable. Maybe they speak too loudly to an animal, or have less than ideal personal hygiene. It is important to neither see the bogeyman around every corner, nor to blindly ignore clues that cause us to hesitate. We must avoid naiveté and trust our own instincts. When the hairs stand up on the back of our necks, and alarms are going off, it is important not to suppress those signals. When we start feeling uncomfortable with the adoption or surrender process, it is helpful to seek the input of a colleague or a manager.
Reporting suspicions of cruelty as an act of compassion
When we do have serious concerns of animal abuse or neglect we must report them. It isn’t enough to justify that “maybe this animal was abused, but now it is out of harm’s way”. There may be other animals suffering where that one came from, there may be people suffering in that environment and importantly, the person responsible for causing that suffering may themselves be in need of help. Reporting suspicions of animal cruelty can be a helpful intervention for both sides.
Reporting of suspicions should be founded on facts. What behaviors were expressed by the person or animal led you to believe there may be abuse? What elements of an inconsistent history were relayed? Those elements should be written down as memory fades very quickly. It is helpful if your animal shelter has a reporting protocol, so that decisions don’t have to be made on the fly, when facing an emotional situation.
Some states have laws mandating that veterinarians report suspicions of animal cruelty, or there may be special protections against civil liability for reporting. Discussing the situation with a veterinarian before reporting or involving them in reporting might be a judicious step. However, if any person or animal seems to be in imminent harm, the report should be made right away.
We’re excited to share the news about our new flea and tick product – SimparicaTM (sarolaner) Chewables.
What can Simparica do? Simparica is powered by the sarolaner molecule, a new option for flea and tick protection. Simparica kills adult fleas, and is indicated for the treatment and control of several species of ticks including Amblyomma americanum, Amblyomma maculatum, Dermacentor variabilis, and Rhipicephalus sanguineus. It is also indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations from Ctenocephalides felis.1
What makes Simparica different? Simparica offers solid performance as compared with other oral flea and tick products, especially at the end of the treatment period. In fact, Simparica keeps going strong without losing effectiveness at the end of the month. In well-controlled laboratory studies, Simparica provided consistent flea kill from 99.8% to 100% through day 35, almost eliminating fleas within 24 hours of dosing or re-infestation for the entire month.2 And ticks didn’t fare much better – Simparica’s tick protection remained strong through day 35 with 96.9% to 100% tick kill throughout the entire study period.3-6
What does this mean for shelters & rescues? Any shelter or rescue who has experienced a flea infestation knows how important it is to protect their dogs from fleas. And with the rise in incidence of tick-borne diseases, ticks are becoming an even more feared parasite. Besides the obvious health effects on the shelter population, adopters don’t want to see even one flea or one single tick.8 Simparica provides persistent flea and tick protection in a convenient monthly chewable. Plus it acts fast as it starts killing fleas in 3 hours and starts killing ticks in 8 hours*.7
For more Information, please contact the Zoetis for Shelters Team at (866) 225-9777 or email@example.com.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Simparica is for use only in dogs, 6 months of age and older. Simparica may cause abnormal neurologic signs such as tremors, decreased conscious proprioception, ataxia, decreased or absent menace, and/or seizures. Simparica has not been evaluated in dogs that are pregnant, breeding or lactating. Simparica has been safely used in dogs treated with commonly prescribed vaccines, parasiticides and other medications. The most frequently reported adverse reactions were vomiting and diarrhea. See full Prescribing Information here: zoetisUS.com/SimparicaPI
*Studies show Simparica starts killing ticks in 8 hours and is 96.9% effective for 35 days against weekly reinfestations of Amblyomma americanum, Amblyomma maculatum, Dermacentor variabilis, and Rhipicephalus sanguineus.3-7
The story of shelter medicine is one tied to the animals it serves. It wasn’t long ago that stray, abused, and relinquished animals were ignored by the public and seen as ‘somebody else’s problem.’ Meanwhile, veterinarians who chose to practice shelter medicine had chosen a career that was not established and were forging a challenging path through completely uncharted territory.
But as passion for, and compassion toward, shelter animals has evolved, so has the field of shelter medicine. A growing number of young people are deliberately choosing a career in shelter veterinary medicine, inspired by the ability to save lives by the hundred, rather than one by one.
And now, that growing recognition has become official. Granted provisional approval in 2014 by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Shelter Medicine Practice has been recognized as the newest specialty within the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). The first sitting of the certification exam happens November of 2015 at the ABVP’s annual symposium in New Orleans.
“It’s so rewarding and it legitimizes the field of shelter medicine. This recognizes those who practice at the highest caliber, whose goal is to benefit shelter animals that need help,” said Dr. Brian DiGangi, Clinical Assistant Professor of Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida and sitting President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.
Board Certification in Shelter Medicine includes all aspects of veterinary practice that are critical to the care and management of shelter animals. It requires a greater understanding of population medicine, shelter facility design and operation, husbandry, resource management, and risk analysis in order to control infectious diseases and promote health in shelter populations.
“This specialty allows veterinary professionals to learn and understand more about a particular area – and expands upon what shelters might need. It creates stronger partnerships, resulting in better care for the animals,” stated Dr. Kris Otteman, Director of Shelter Medicine & Humane Investigations at the Oregon Humane Society, and member of the shelter medicine organizing committee.
But the journey has not been quick or easy for the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV), who has championed the effort for years.
What began in 2005 with an exploratory task force and a letter of intent to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS) will come to fruition with the first sitting of the certification exam.
It’s a victory for both veterinarians and shelter animals. On the one hand, it provides Diplomate status for the specialty within the veterinary community, and on the other, it opens up the ways shelter populations can benefit from focused care.
Veterinarians that attain Diplomate status can choose to serve from a myriad of areas: as practitioners, educators, researchers, and animal shelter consultants. Or they can focus on other areas, such as veterinary forensics and animal cruelty investigations.
One question remains: Will the new board certification further advance the way the veterinary community views shelter medicine?
Dr. Stephanie Janeczko, Senior Director of Shelter Medical Programs at the ASPCA thinks this “could make a huge impact in ways that are not apparent or measurable right now.”
An immediate past president of the ASV, Dr. Janeczko, along with many others, also helped lead the effort to have shelter veterinary medicine recognized. “Part of the significance is that a growing group of people could serve as mentors for the younger generation of veterinarians – it means there will be more dedicated experts to show there are available options.” For the future, it translates to more shelter veterinarians who had always dreamed of making this their path of practice.
As Americans increasingly look to save lives by adopting their new pets from shelters, it seems likely that shelter medicine will benefit in kind. And with the new board certification in place, things are looking up for practitioners and animals alike.
Q&A with Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats
KB: It is true. But not at all to the extent I was when I started. Allergies aren’t a good reason not to have a cat, and I’m living proof. I've become immune to the dander over time, and now with nearly 900 cats under my belt I barely break out in a sniffle.
Canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) is back in the spotlight thanks to an outbreak of dog flu that started in Chicago and moved to Alabama, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana. Even if your shelter has managed to avoid the spreading disease, it's a good time to freshen up on your CIRD knowledge.
What Are the Causes of CIRD?
There are many possible causes, both bacterial and viral, that can lead to symptoms of respiratory disease in dogs. And determining which of these causes is involved becomes even more difficult because (A) the symptoms are typically indistinguishable and (B) infection with more than one infectious agent frequently occurs. In short, a symptom-based diagnosis is virtually impossible. So it's very important to use respiratory diagnostics to determine what is causing the cough. Pathogens such as dog flu are shed before the dog begins to display any sign of illness. Others, such as canine distemper virus (CDV), can be shed for long periods of time after illness becomes apparent. Whatever the cause, CIRD is always of great concern because it can spread rapidly.
How is it Diagnosed?
A simple swab taken from the dog's nose and/or mouth is sufficient for PCR diagnostics. Most veterinary diagnostic labs can test for ten or more pathogens on a single swab. In many instances, vaccine manufacturers will help to cover the cost of running these tests in currently vaccinated dogs. The routine use of diagnostic tests in symptomatic dogs helped identify H3N2 as the type of dog flu responsible for the Chicago outbreak.
How Should You Vaccinate?
Unfortunately, vaccines are not available for all of the pathogens that cause infectious respiratory disease in dogs. But it's still very important to help 'prevent the preventable.' When you do, you take advantage of a phenomenon known as 'herd immunity' in which there are enough dogs in a population protected by vaccination that transmission of a vaccine-preventable disease can't be sustained. There are many vaccine options to help prevent canine respiratory disease caused by canine distemper virus, parainfuenza virus, canine adenovirus type 2, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and canine infuenza virus H3N8 and H3N2.
Finally, a Tip about Bordetella bronchiseptica
For some pathogens, there are options for how vaccines are administered. For example, in many instances it is preferable for dogs to receive their first B. bronchiseptica vaccine via the intranasal route and then, for maximum immunity, to receive a booster via an injectable. Adult dogs that have been previously vaccinated for B. bronchiseptica may achieve a stronger, faster immune response when an injectable B. bronchiseptica vaccine is administered.1
Yes, canine infuenza is on the move, but with the right plan in place, you can help make it tough for CIRD to move within your shelter.
The fact that we’ve shortened its name to “lepto” is a good indication of how often shelter health professionals talk about Leptospirosis. Leptospira bacteria are thought to infect all mammalian species including rodents, cattle, swine, raccoons, dogs and, yes, humans. So it’s no wonder that leptospirosis is the most common zoonotic disease in the world.
And while shelter dogs are at risk for many types of infection, it is very important to keep an eye out for this one. Both shelter staff and pet parents should be aware of the potential risks and be knowledgeable about how it can be prevented through vaccination.
The Great Pretender
Leptospirosis is known to cause kidney and liver failure in dogs. However, dogs can present with other symptoms such as eye disease, blood vessel inflammation, vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, muscle pain and other abnormalities related to bleeding, thirst or urination. This makes lepto difficult to diagnose and has earned it the nickname of “the great pretender.”
Who It Infects
Traditionally, infection with Leptospira bacteria has affected large breed, predominantly male dogs that spend a significant amount of time outdoors. This is due to a common means by which dogs become infected with Leptospira bacteria: contact with contaminated urine. Increased urbanization has led to a major shift with the Yorkshire terrier and other small breeds becoming among the most commonly diagnosed with Leptospirosis and with an increased incidence of cases in large cities (Gautam 2010).
How It’s Contracted
The infection can either occur through direct contact with an infected animal and/or its body fluids or through contact with urine contaminated water. It is thought that skin which has been softened by water or abraded may allow the bacteria to enter more easily. Like dogs, humans can become infected via the same routes. The organism can survive in the environment for several weeks, with warm and moist conditions and a slightly alkaline pH helping to prolong its survival.
Vaccinations, Then and Now
Historically, the vaccination of dogs against leptospirosis was thought to offer incomplete protection from disease due to only containing two Leptospira serovars and a great potential for reactivity. Today, four common disease-causing serovars of Leptospira (canicola, icterohaemorrhagiae, grippotyphosa and pomona), are covered by the commercially available leptospirosis vaccines in the U.S. The vaccine is administered as an initial series of two doses given 2-6 weeks apart and then annually.
Fortunately for our canine friends, diagnostics for leptospirosis have also come a long way. There are two main options for testing: PCR and serology. PCR testing looks for the genetic material of the bacteria itself and can be used with blood or urine in the early phase of infection, prior to the initiation of antibiotic therapy. Vaccination does not typically interfere with PCR testing. Serology testing is done with blood and is more useful in the later phases of infection – it looks to see if the dog’s immune system has made antibodies to the bacteria. It is important to note that for a period of weeks after vaccination, most dogs will have positive serology tests for Leptospira.
While dogs can be successfully treated for leptospirosis, it is important to remember that the disease can be deadly and that the supportive care necessary for an infected dog may be extensive and costly. Any dog that is manifesting possible symptoms of leptospirosis should be handled as a positive case until the disease is ruled out with laboratory testing. This includes using personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and face shields when handling the dog or its bodily fluids and ensuring that the dog urinates in a low-traffic, easily disinfected area.
They told me he was a tiny, three-pound ball of fur. At first that was the only way to describe the 7-week-old Jack Russell Terrier puppy, dropped off at a Philadelphia shelter the day after Christmas. I asked where he came from. It seems that Buster was purchased from a breeder as a Christmas gift for a child, but the family surrendered him to the shelter after only a few days. He was “too active” and they “didn’t have time for him”, as written on the intake form. Shelter workers immediately called a breed-specific rescue group to help him find a home.
Reasons for Relinquishment
The story above is an all too familiar scene at shelters and rescues during the holidays, as many see an increase in the number of relinquished animals, resulting in overcrowding. There are different reasons why people give up their pets around the holidays: sometimes finances just seem too tight during gifting season; there could be concerns with out-of-town travel or inbound houseguests; often the animal is given as an unwanted gift; or perhaps the family simply underestimates the commitment required.
Shelter Strategies for Holiday Adoptions
Here are a few successful ways to get the adoption word out during this time of year:
1. Holiday Promotions and Public Relations Create special adoption days or events, and ask the local media to do a story on your shelter’s pets in need of forever homes.
For Dr. Kris Otteman, DVM, Director of Shelter Medicine & Humane Investigations at the Oregon Humane Society, December is the biggest adoption month. “We run several very successful adoption events over the holidays. For example, we have a special board up in the lobby called ‘Home for the Holidays’ that features pictures of pets that have been waiting the longest for adoption, and when they get adopted we put a festive ‘Adopted’ sticker on them and call them out over the PA system – it brings a lot of excitement!”
OHS focuses on promotions throughout the year to help their animals get adopted – this provides them more room during the holidays which can be used to assist other overcrowded shelters or owners who need to surrender pets.
2. Convenient Holiday Adoption Hours Shelters who want to increase adoptions should consider additional hours on weekends and staying open later on working days.
3. Step Up Your Photography Invite local photographers (professionals, hobbyists, and college students) to come to the shelter and take beautiful photos of your homeless pets, then post them on social media sites such as your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. If you don’t know how to use social media, just look up instructions online – it’s easier than you think! Or there may be volunteers who are willing to help with it.
4. Coordinate Your Surrenders“We speak with families who plan on giving up their pet and ask them to wait at least a week before turning them into the shelter, so we can promote the animal on our Facebook page,” says Director Margaret Shepherd of the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society. “This way, the animal has a greater chance of being adopted and it’s less stressful – it also allows for space at the shelter for another animal. I write about their personalities, their character. Or we’ll create a video that features the pet and ask our followers to share, because you never know when someone across the country may see the post and want to adopt.”
5. Low Cost Holiday Adoption Specials“We have a shared adoptions promotion where multiple shelters work together, called ‘Home for the Holidays’ and adoptions are discounted ($12 for adult animals) throughout the county,” says Dr. Cristie Kamiya, DVM, MBA, and Chief of Shelter Medicine at the Humane Society Silicon Valley. “Sharing the promotions allows consistency with messaging, sharing of costs of marketing, and creates a nice sense of community. It helps tremendously with getting pets adopted, and ‘clearing the shelters’.”
6. Value-Added Holiday Adoption Promotion For a value-added adoption special, consider offering an “Adoption Starter Kit” such as a pet collar, leash, water/food bowl, or bag of food.
7. Promotional Flyers In Your City Display your holiday-focused flyers in local pet stores, fast food restaurants, gift shops, veterinary offices, and anywhere people sit and wait, like auto repair/oil change shops, doctors and dentist’s offices, and the DMV.
8. Off-site Adoptions When pets are taken to adoption events, they’ll show their personality and people can make the instant love connection to adopt their new family member. Many animals might also be more relaxed being away from the shelter.
The holidays can be a stressful time for shelters. But amid the mayhem, there are happy endings. Case in point: the puppy at the beginning of this story. Thirteen years ago we adopted him and renamed him Scoots. He’s still the king of our house, just as he has been since the first day he arrived at his forever home.
Q&A with Social Media Mavens Wags and Walks
In addition to their partnerships, Wags and Walks benefits from a healthy social media presence. So we asked Wags and Walks Chief Operating Officer Kimmy Kovacs to give us the lowdown.
ZFS: What role does social media play in your success?
W&W: Social media has been really crucial for our growth. In fact, Wags and Walks started when Lesley, our founder, saw a dog at risk of being euthanized at the shelter on social media. Everyone was commenting that someone should help, but no one was taking action. Lesley realized that she could be that someone and went straight to the shelter to meet him. Soon she was leveraging her social media networks to raise funds to help her save more dogs in need.
ZFS: You have a number of accounts on Facebook alone – why?
W&W: Yes, we have three different social media groups just on Facebook. We have our public page with general success stories and information about dogs that need help. There’s an alumni page where our alumni can share stories and before and after photos – that really warms our hearts. And we have an account for our fosters: we can communicate with them right from the shelter and ask who’s willing to foster a dog since we can only save a dog if we have a foster home to put it in. It’s much more efficient than sending a mass email once we get back to the office and enables us to save the dog immediately if we get a fast response. It’s allowed us to save a lot more lives.
We’ve also had a lot of success on Instagram, Twitter and Youtube, engaging celebrities and influencers, getting them to comment on our photos and leveraging their celebrity status to raise awareness.
It’s a new year, and a great time to cozy up with a furry friend and look back on 2015. Our Zoetis for Shelters community has enjoyed a lot of success. And while it’s never about the numbers, we know that these particular numbers mean that even more animals found loving homes in the past 12 months. Here’s to a fantastic 2016!
“The Zoetis for Shelters program is a blessing for all of us in the rescue field. Every dollar we can save will help us save another life.”
- Sue Maher, Noah's Kingdom Humane Society
Our Zoetis for Shelters community cares for almost 40%1 of the intakes and adoptions in the U.S. every year. There’s so much we can learn from each other. We want to share your ideas, thoughts and questions on the Zoetis for Shelters website and in our email updates.
• Send us a tip • Share a video • Ask a question • Suggest a topic that you’d like to hear more about
Together as a community, we can save and enrich even more lives. We look forward to hearing from you.
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Despite this being just their second year at Rancho Cucamonga, Drs. Cynthia Servantez and Victoria Impett are going full throttle. In addition to their new neonatal kitten nursery, the two former veterinary school buddies are making changes to the shelter’s medical practice.
ZFS: You’re doing some impressive spay & neuter numbers. Tell us about that.
RC: We’re doing numbers comparable to other large spay/neuter facilities: anywhere from 40-60 surgeries a week, and that’s not including the surgeries our interns do. The difference is that they’re all our shelter animals from our population.
ZFS: This year, you’ve made orthopedics a priority. Why?
RC: Amputations are pretty standard in shelter medicine. But we have made it a personal mission to amputate less. That puts the burden on us to continue our education and gain the technical skill to do advanced orthopedics.
ZFS: You recently performed a procedure that isn’t typically done at the shelter level on a dog named Ladybird. Can you tell us about that?
RC: Ladybird is a young dog who was about to be adopted when we discovered a heart murmur that indicated pulmonic stenosis. The adopter was on a fixed income and had to back out. So our shelter rallied to raise funds and we partnered with a local surgeon to perform a balloon valvuloplasty.
ZFS: How did the procedure go?
RC: Unfortunately, the procedure did not yield the results we had hoped for. Although the procedure lowered the pressure in the blood vessel that connects her heart to her lungs, it did not lower the pressure enough to prevent her from eventually going into heart failure in the future.
ZFS: What does this mean for Lady Bird?
RC: Although we were not able to provide a permanent fix, we do hope that we have improved her quality of life and lengthened the quality time she has with us. We are extremely grateful for all the monetary donations and community support this special girl has received.
ZFS: Tell us about your geriatric pets program.
RC: Yes, a substantial part of our population is geriatric. For starters, every pet over five years of age is a free adoption. And if I’m adopting I want to know that this pet is healthy. So every pet over eight years of age gets a full geriatric workup: chemistry panel (chem 27), complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis (UA) and thyroid panel. We also perform X-rays: 3-views chest or thorax and two views of the abdomen. Many also have significant dental disease, so we’re building the facilities to provide anything from basic cleaning to advanced dentistry.
ZFS: Your future selves called. They want a vacation. What advice do you have for future veterinarians studying shelter medicine?
RC: Take time for yourself, pace yourself, and never lose your compassion. Shelter medicine is a roller coaster ride. You have highs and lows, and often all in the same day. It can be emotionally and physically exhausting. It is also never ending. The ride never stops. Animals will continue to be found in the streets, surrendered by owners, and brought in by concerned citizens. You have to be emotionally and physically strong enough to handle this ongoing workload. Take a vacation! A real vacation. Turn off your phone and decompress. Spend time with your family, two and four-legged, it will give you distance and perspective. Animals will surround you every day. They need your help but do not forget that you need them as well. Take a break and walk a dog, pet a kitty, get kisses from a pit bull. They will ground you in that moment and make you remember that you have the best job in the world.
What does that positive test result for Lyme disease mean? What should you do next for this dog? How do you prevent disease? Prevention is always best, especially as there is no cure for infection, but let’s find out a bit more about canine Lyme disease first.
A positive test result means that the dog has been infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. This occurs when an infected deer tick attaches to the dog. However, not every infected dog will develop Lyme disease. If signs of Lyme disease develop, they are often lameness and/or joint pain. Some infected dogs develop life-threatening kidney damage, and Labradors and Golden retrievers are thought to be at increased risk of kidney disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi infection1.
What next?If a dog tests positive for Lyme, collect a urine sample and test it with a urine dipstick to determine if there is any protein present. Dogs that have protein in the urine should be examined by a veterinarian so that appropriate next steps can be taken.
Tick control for all dogs is a must. Because reports of Borrelia-infected ticks and canine Lyme disease are becoming more common across the country, year-round tick control should be provided. A tick control product that is known to kill ticks before they can transmit infection (i.e. within 24 hours of tick attachment2) should be used, such as the newer monthly oral products. Vaccination also helps reduce the risk of canine Lyme disease1 and adopters should discuss annual vaccination against Lyme disease with their veterinarian.
Your staff and potential adopters should be aware of the risk of Lyme Disease and other tick-borne diseases not only in their area, but wherever dogs come from into your shelter. The good news is that prevention has never been more reliable or available, helping you make the right choice for the dogs in your care.
What’s the news?
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted licensure for new VANGUARD® crLyme. This next-generation vaccine has been developed to target Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. Its formulation helps provide a broad spectrum of coverage in a low-reactive vaccine1, 2. Unlike other Lyme disease vaccines, VANGUARD® crLyme is the first and only vaccine that can help address many types of outer surface protein C.
What’s an outer surface protein C (OspC)?
You can think of OspC as a chameleon’s skin. Just as chameleons can use different shades of skin to evade detection, OspC can come in different types. In fact, multiple OspC types can be found in the same infected dog. Until now, Lyme vaccines were only able to help protect against one type of OspC. But new VANGUARD® crLyme is the first Lyme disease vaccine that can address multiple types of OspC.
What does this mean for the dogs in my shelter?
First, you should know that the threat of Lyme disease in humans and dogs continues to grow across the U.S. Whether due to climate change3, the blurring of urban and suburban boundaries, or people just travelling with their dogs more often, Lyme disease cases are no longer just a problem for the Northeast. In 2015, 1 in 16 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease4. Vaccination is an integral part of total tick control and VANGUARD® crLyme gives you a new tool in your shelter’s fight against Lyme disease5.
For more information, please contact the Zoetis for Shelters Team at (866) 225-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See how the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Care and Adoption Center goes above and beyond for its diminutive dogs.
“I think dental is becoming more of a focus. When you have problems in your mouth, it can affect your overall health – your whole body. Even if you go into a Petsmart or Petco today, there’s a lot more emphasis on dental than there was even two years ago. But we have a long way to go.” - Joan Smith-Reese, Executive Director of Animal Care Sanctuary in East Smithfield, Pennsylvania
“When people contact us because their dog is suddenly having a ‘behavior issue’, we won't even speak to them until the dog goes to the vet. Arthritis and dental pain can cause immediate and dramatic behavior changes…We once pulled an older female on deaths door from a hoarder; (she) could barely stand for a few seconds. (We) took her to the vet immediately – (she had) multiple infected teeth. One dental visit later, several extractions, and some antibiotics and she was a new dog. Teeth are vital to an animal’s health and we promote dental health extensively.”- Elizabeth and Rick Riddle, Central Illinois German Shepherd Dog Rescue, Urbana, IL
Still, the expense of dental care makes it impossible for many shelters and rescues to provide it on a routine basis.
“At Greater Hillsdale HS we do dentals on only the pets needing them, just not everyone.”– Renee Goshorn, Shelter Manager, Greater Hillsdale Humane Society, Osseo, MI
“All of my cats in my no kill facility have their teeth checked and if cleaning or extractions need to be done we do it.”– Denise Sinico
“We are a small rescue organization working almost exclusively with canine. We do not have a staff vet. However, if a dog is older (8+) and/or if there is a question of dental health, broken teeth, heavy staining and/or tartar build up we often do a dental. Most often this is done when the pet is under anesthesia for spay or neuter. We believe that if an animal needs vetting it should be done.”– Marilyn Hughes, Excelsior Springs Friends of Animals
For those organizations who are fortunate enough to have regular access to veterinary care, providing dentals is becoming more and more common.
“Because we have (our veterinarian), it becomes financially possible to provide dental care for all of our cats…If I had to take all these cats into a private vet – to do it would be unbelievable and I couldn’t afford it. I think it’s very important to all shelters but they’re just not lucky enough to have the vets I have. If they were fortunate enough, I’m sure they’d want to do the same thing.”– Virginia E. Yancey, Love & Hope Animal Sancturary in New York
“We wrote a grant and got equipment to be able to do dental on site. That has been a tremendous help, and most shelters wouldn’t have that…We’re unique in that we have three veterinarians – it allows us to address those issues faster than a regular shelter that doesn’t have a veterinarian on site.”– Joan Smith-Reese
“Our shelter is the anomaly. Most shelters don’t have the $20-30k for the equipment we have. What we would pay to send out (to a private veterinarian) – we do that 15 times and we’ve paid for our dental equipment.”– Dr. Cynthia Servantez, DVM, Rancho Cucamonga Animal Care and Adoption Center
Importantly, multiple shelters noted the role dental health can have on a shelter’s ultimate mission: finding forever homes for their animals.
“We’ve seen it be a limitation to adoption. People know that what we consider a geriatric dog at 9 years can live another 8 years. We’ve had dogs be in 10 meet-and-greets but come back for dental reasons. Cleaning can be a grand. Extractions and x-rays can cost upwards of $2,000. It also adds to the stress of the dog in the shelter. Dental care is an important issue.”– Dr. Cynthia Servantez, DVM
It’s no secret that dental care has historically taken a backseat in shelter medicine. Many other health issues certainly seem more pressing within a shelter population. Recently though, an increasing number of shelters are seeing the positive effect dental care has on health and adoption rates and have added dental care into their repertoire. To wrap up dental month, we’re asking our member shelters to consider answering one or more of the following questions:
Send us your thoughts and we’ll share your answers with our member shelters during the coming weeks. Thanks.
SHARE YOUR OPINION
Years of work as a veterinarian, a true dedication to shelter medicine, and a love of rescue animals: those are the qualifications that veterinarians brought to the first sitting of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Shelter Medicine Practice certification exam. The inaugural event took place last November at the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) annual symposium.
I spoke with one of the few veterinarians that achieved Diplomate status, Dr. Brian DiGangi, DVM, MS, DABVP (Canine & Feline Practice, Shelter Medicine Practice), Clinical Assistant Professor of Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida, and sitting President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.
How was the exam?
Dr. DiGangi: The exam was difficult. It spanned two days, with 400 questions, but that was expected – ABVP seeks to certify veterinarians who demonstrate excellence and practice at the highest caliber in their field. Even those well-versed in the subject should expect to have to study hard, delve deep into the existing knowledge base of their field, and, humbling as it may be, get stumped on a few exam questions!
What was the pass rate (even among this very small sample)?
Dr. DiGangi: Four veterinarians successfully completed both parts of the examination and a number of others passed one of the two sections. Many veterinarians – across all specialties – don’t pass through the full certification process on their first attempt. We were very pleased to have such a strong showing at the very first examination of our brand new field of specialty.
What is the next step for the AVMA regarding the program?
Dr. DiGangi: Our specialty was granted provisional status by the AVMA in 2014, and within 4-10 years, we will be eligible to submit a request for full recognition.
What does this board certification do for those who have it?
Dr. DiGangi: For many, it is a personal goal. Board certification recognizes the many trail-blazing shelter veterinarians who have worked for many years to define the specialty and had the determination to see this long process through to this point. I imagine (and hope) there is a huge sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with looking back and seeing the fruits of their labors in all of the veterinarians working through the certification process.
Who should prepare for next year’s exam?
Dr. DiGangi: The next round of applicants has already submitted their credentials packets for review. While awaiting feedback from the review committees, these individuals should certainly begin creating their study plan for the examination this October.
Any veterinarian who thinks they might be interested in completing the certification process, should familiarize themselves with the certification criteria and begin thinking through their cases from a specialty-level approach. Veterinarians are not eligible to apply until they have completed the equivalent of 5 years of practice in the field of shelter medicine, but it takes 1-2 years to put together a competitive application packet – so start early!
Should shelter-focused veterinary students consider this?
Dr. DiGangi: Absolutely! ABVP has been reaching out to veterinary students across the country to let them know about the opportunities for specialization within their organization. As I indicated above, the process is long and detailed, so having this goal in mind as you start out your veterinary career will help ensure that you are successful when the time comes.
The efforts of Dr. DiGangi, as well as all of those who sat for the exam, is ultimately a victory for the animals. When we think about what this improving standard of care means for them, it can bring tears to your eyes. Those that were once discarded have a better chance of getting the medical care they need and of being adopted. It gives them more chances to feel love.
Should shelters do dentals? That’s the question we asked our Zoetis for Shelters community during February, National Pet Dental Health Month. The variety of your responses highlights both the similarities and differences that exist within the shelter/rescue community.
Among animal care professionals and pet owners, there seems to be a growing awareness of how important dental health can be to animals’ overall health and behavior. ZFS members’ responses underscore that awareness.
“When people contact us because their dog is suddenly having a ‘behavior issue’, we won't even speak to them until the dog goes to the vet. Arthritis and dental pain can cause immediate and dramatic behavior changes…We once pulled an older female on death's door from a hoarder; (she) could barely stand for a few seconds. (We) took her to the vet immediately – (she had) multiple infected teeth. One dental visit later, several extractions, and some antibiotics and she was a new dog. Teeth are vital to an animal’s health and we promote dental health extensively.”- Elizabeth and Rick Riddle, Central Illinois German Shepherd Dog Rescue, Urbana, IL
For those organizations fortunate enough to have regular access to veterinary care, providing dentals is becoming more and more common.
“Three weeks ago, when 50 dogs were brought in due to a hoarding situation, I slept out in my car so I could be available 24/7.”- Animal shelter professional
Compassion Fatigue is a serious issue for professional caregivers in all capacities, and bringing awareness and coping strategies to the animal shelter and rescue setting is an increasingly critical need.
Patricia Smith, Founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© knows this intimately. She started the organization in 1999 out of the Humane Society Silicon Valley in Milpitas, California, where she was a Training and Development Manager. After being asked to train her shelter staff on Compassion Fatigue, Smith realized the larger need to spread awareness. Now she facilitates nationwide workshops dedicated to educating caregivers about authentic, sustainable self-care and aiding organizations in their goal of providing healthy, compassionate care to those whom they serve. With more than 20 years of training experience, she writes, speaks, and facilitates trainings in service of those who care for others in all of the helping professions.
Zoetis for Shelters interviewed Ms. Smith to gain insight into this growing condition.
What is the difference between Compassion Fatigue and Burnout?
The terms Burnout and Compassion Fatigue are often used interchangeably--most likely due to the fact that they all create chronic stress on the human body.
Compassion Fatigue or STS (Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a caregiving-related, secondary exposure to extreme or traumatic events involving humans or animals. Caregivers with Compassion Fatigue take on the pain and suffering of another as their own.
Burnout means feelings of being worn out, hopelessness, and inefficacy. It is different from Stress, which is feelings of anxiousness about perceived workload or expectations. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), is when a traumatic incident happens to someone and they suffer the symptoms of trauma (i.e., flashbacks, hypervigilance, persistent physical ailments, and others)..
What are the common signs and symptoms of Compassion Fatigue for animal care shelter and rescue professionals?
The set of symptoms include: isolation; emotional outbursts; sadness and apathy; impulse to rescue any animal in need; persistent physical ailments; substance abuse; hyperarousal; recurring nightmares or flashbacks; excessive complaints about colleagues, management--and even the animals.
Can you give an example of Compassion Fatigue that left a lasting memory with you?
Once I encountered two shelter staff members sitting in the lunch room. They were discussing the hours they put in the previous week. The first one said: ‘I was here a total of 65 hours last week.’ The other staff member couldn’t wait to tell his story: ‘Well, I was here 70 hours!’
I was so saddened to hear these two dedicated staff members boasting about their lack of self-care, and even worse, their lack of personal boundaries. These are both symptoms of Compassion Fatigue, as is minimizing traumatic events. But as anyone in animal welfare knows, the shelter is always short-staffed (high absenteeism is a sign of Compassion Fatigue in an organization), and lacking in space and resources. The dedicated staff exchange their own well-being for the good of the animals. I find this both heartwarming and heart-wrenching.
Who in the animal care profession is most at risk for Compassion Fatigue? Is it veterinarians or shelter support staff?
The truth is that anyone who works in the animal caregiving environment is at-risk for Compassion Fatigue; however, it is a myth that euthanasia techs suffer the highest levels of the condition. In the U.S., veterinarians are in crisis. They suffer the third highest level of suicide after physicians and dentists. This is due to a number of reasons that are now being uncovered.
Direct correlations between Compassion Fatigue and suicide are being studied. This occurred after the 2014 suicide death of revered veterinarian and animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin, a pioneer in the field of force-free, positive-reinforcement dog training. Her unexpected death shined a spotlight on this condition, and has thrown the profession into chaos. Little data exists, but research suggests veterinarian suicide rates are some of the highest in the field, and a 2014 study of about 10,000 veterinarians found twice as much severe psychological distress in them than in the general public. One in 6 veterinary school graduates say they have considered suicide.1
What are signals that someone is experiencing Compassion Fatigue?
It is never our job to diagnose another colleague, but often the symptoms are so blatant and obvious they are hard to ignore. High absenteeism, lack of flexibility, blaming, emotional outbursts, sliming (sharing the details of traumatic events with others without asking permission), “them vs. us” mentality – an obvious lack of “Compassion Satisfaction” in the job they do.
Compassion Satisfaction is the pleasure we receive from doing the work we do; Higher levels of Compassion Satisfaction can lead to lower levels of Compassion Fatigue.
How can animal care professionals manage Compassion Fatigue in their lives?
While the answer seems simple, it’s not. Practicing authentic, sustainable self-care daily is the best way to manage Compassion Fatigue.
Self-care daily includes: eating nutritious food, exercising, restful sleep nightly, avoiding dysfunctional relationships, finding a form of spirituality that fills us up, learning effective communication skills to ensure we will be heard, and tightening our personal boundaries and deciding what we will and won’t allow in our lives
We must travel the path from being “other-directed” (this means we learned to put the needs of others before our own needs) to being “self-directed.” If we don’t care for our own needs first, we have nothing healthy to give others.
What is the best way that animal care professionals can help their colleagues?
The best way to inform colleagues is for leadership to provide training on this subject of Compassion Fatigue. We can’t change others; they need to change themselves. By bringing this difficult subject into the open, it allows caregivers to discuss and find ways to create a healthy organization. One of the symptoms of rampant Compassion Fatigue in an organization is the lack of teamwork. A ‘Them vs Us’ model takes hold and the organization itself becomes Compassion Fatigued and dysfunctional. Due to the ongoing difficulties animal caregivers experience, it is imperative that strong teams form to help staff, leadership, and the organization itself change for the better.
Are there shelters and rescues (private and public) that have Compassion Fatigue training?
Yes. The best way to find something in your area is to research online.
Are there any examples you use to teach the profession that have been particularly helpful?
The absolute best way to educate others is through storytelling. I share my experiences working in animal welfare – such as the story above. By telling stories, it shows my participants one very important thing: They are not alone. All of the feelings, emotions, pain, suffering, and also the positive outcomes they experience are shared by everyone else brave enough to do this work.
Is there a compelling statistic about Compassion Fatigue that applies to the animal care profession?
Gathering data and statistics on Compassion Fatigue has been difficult. I know many mental health professionals and psychologists are trying to get a handle on all of the trauma. We do know for sure that Compassion Fatigue is widespread in all of the helping professions.
Are there Compassion Fatigue resources that animal care professionals may find helpful?
First and foremost, the Professional Quality of Life Self-Test, which measures burnout, compassion satisfaction and trauma levels, is so vital. The test is the life’s work of Dr. Beth Hudnall Stamm, and is the most widely-used measurable tool we have. Tests can be downloaded free of charge at www.proqol.org.
Other helpful resources:
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