Disaster & Cruelty

Temporary Sheltering: Intake & Operations

Depending on the reason for your temporary housing, there are different ways you’ll want to approach the intake process.

In a disaster situation, customer service is critical. You will most likely be dealing with stressed people who are either temporarily surrendering their animals to you or searching for a lost pet. Patience and empathy will go a long way to ensure a smoother process and better experience for the affected animals and people.

When possible, have owners fill out a temporary housing contract with you so both sides know when they are expected to return for their animals. When drafting the contract, err on the side of a short stay – you can always extend the length of stay.

In a cruelty case, you will not have to interact with the animals’ owners; however, you should follow the same basic protocol as in a disaster. In cases like this your attending veterinarian may also fill out this type of forensic paperwork.

In both disaster and cruelty situations, do the following at intake:

  • Assign every animal a number and record this information in the animal’s chart, along with their name if you know it. Photograph the animal, making sure to use a white board that notes critical information such as ID number name, date, age and owner information if you have it. If the owners are present, include them in the photo.
  • Vaccinate all animals unless the owner can prove vaccinations are up to date.
  • Treat any observed medical or behavioral issues and note them on the animal’s record.

Daily Operations

All procedures must have written protocols that are easily understood and accessed by staff. There are nine chronological steps to daily care:

  1. Safety check
  2. Feeding
  3. Daily observation
  4. Cleaning
  5. Lunch / quiet time
  6. Socialization / behavior modification
  7. Spot cleaning
  8. Enrichment
  9. Closing procedures

The FIR team recommends printing and posting this daily flow chart that can be referenced throughout the day. For a more thorough understanding of each component, listen to the FIR team’s recorded webinars, which are listed at the bottom of this page.

Enrichment is a key component of daily care and should not be considered optional. Ehren Melius, FIR’s Shelter Director, says it can be tackled in a number of different ways.

In-enclosure enrichment can include stuffed Kong- type toys, puzzle toys, different scents sprayed on newspaper, etc. Melius recommends changing the enrichment type to help maintain some novelty and high interest from the animals.

Out-of-enclosure enrichment can consist of walks, indoor and outdoor play areas and one-on-one socialization. There are also easy training and enrichment tips staff and volunteers can implement every time they handle a dog or puppy.

More Lifesaving Resources

Read about handling logistics and design for a temporary shelter

Listen to our free recorded webinars, Fundamental of Emergency Sheltering, Innovations in Emergency Sheltering and Emergency Shelter Medicine

Read about the ASPCA FIR team and what it can offer communities in disaster situations.

Learn more about the ASPCA’s Midwest Disaster Resiliency Grant.

To find out how you can support legislation that allows vets to cross state lines to assist in emergency situations, listen to our recorded webinar, Veterinary License Mobility: Allowing Disaster Response Across State Lines.