Shelter Guidelines: Sanitation

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) compiled the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters to provide research-based guidelines that will help any sheltering operation meet the physical, medical, and behavioral needs of the animals in their care. The ASPCA and ASV presented a series of 1-hour webinars through early 2012, each spotlighting a section of the ASV guidelines. This webinar covers:

  • Sanitation protocols
  • Types of cleaners and disinfectants and their uses
  • Proper sanitation procedures and equipment
  • Ways to limit the spread of disease


Top Tips from This Webinar

Don't Cause Harm While You Help
Cleaning time is when you're most likely to inadvertently spread disease to animals or people — that's when staff and volunteers get the dirtiest. You'll come into contact with hair, feces, litter, food, and more, and then have the opportunity to track it through the shelter. The chemicals involved have the potential to cause harm to both animals and people, as well. Make sure your written sanitation protocols are safe, effective, and practical.

No Holy Grail
There is no one perfect product for sanitation in the shelter — just like there isn't one drug to treat all shelter animals' illnesses. You'll need a few products for cleaning and disinfecting different areas and objects and for various situations.

Don't Skip a Step
Before you apply most disinfectants, you must remove all organic debris; many products won't work otherwise. Drying is vital, too. Bacteria and viruses can linger in puddles—even puddles of disinfectant. Check for missed wet areas in corners of cages or uneven parts of kennel floors.

Less Can Be More
Deep cleaning takes a lot of staff and volunteer time and often increases stress for animals (which can then lead to disease). Spot cleaning, which is adequate in many instances, requires less animal handling and helps the animal feel more comfortable by keeping familiar smells in the cage. A few tips:

  • Change gloves between cages.
  • Leave bedding in the cage unless it's heavily soiled.
  • Open and close cage doors quietly to maintain a calmer environment.

Spot cleaning is not appropriate during times of disease outbreak; if cages are heavily soiled (mucous, feces, blood, urine); if the cat poses a danger to human safety; or when a new cat is being placed into a cage that has just been vacated by another cat.

Get Off on the Right Foot
Don't overestimate that footbath's abilities to stop the spread of infectious disease. Most disinfectants that shelters use in footbaths are inactivated by organic materials and sunlight—so as soon as you step into one with that dirty shoe, you're already decreasing its effectiveness. To keep a specific area clean, such as a clinic, it's better to use dedicated boots or shoe covers.

Test Your Sanitation Skills

Take this quiz to find out.


Bonus: We've packaged the guidelines into a free resource, Shelter Care Checklists: Putting ASV Guidelines Into Action, and we invite you to use this set of easily understandable and actionable checklists in your shelter.