Shelter veterinary group releases guidelines for shelter care

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Mar 01, 2011

CAMAS, WASH. — Two years of work by 14 shelter veterinarians resulted in the creation of the first-ever comprehensive report detailing guidelines of care for animals in shelters.

"Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters" was released by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) and is based on the "five freedoms" laid out in 1965 in the United Kingdom to address animal welfare concerns in agricultural settings.

The five freedoms include: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress. The guidelines are aimed at providing shelters with a tool to review animal care, identify areas that need improvement, allocate resources and implement solutions to optimize welfare, prevent suffering and minimize euthanasia.

"The guiding principle was always animals' needs, which remain the same regardless of the mission of an organization or the challenges involved in meeting those needs," says Dr. Sandra Newbury, chair of the Shelter Standards Task Force.

"The guidelines are designed to achieve outcomes that protect the health and well-being of sheltered animals without defining how individual shelters reach those outcomes," says Dr. Lila Miller, a task force member and editor of the report. "The report is designed to allow shelters flexibility in achieving these goals."

Recommendations in the report span 12 areas of animal sheltering and care, including management and record-keeping, facility design, population management, sanitation, medical and physical health, behavior, group housing, animal handling, euthanasia, sterilization, transport and public health.

The full report can be found on ASV's website at http://sheltervet.org/.