Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering at the APA
By: Sarah Javier, Executive Director | October 3, 2019
Based on respectful and compassionate care of animals, the APA is committed to a socially conscious framework, which allows us to more fully understand and define our role in creating the best, most appropriate outcomes for all pets in our community, not just those who enter our doors. It is finding a place for every healthy, treatable and community compatible animal. It is supporting pets throughout our community by providing access to high quality, affordable veterinary care. It is transparency. It is collaboration. It is thoughtful policy making. It is creating a safe community for all who live here.
Everything we do, every decision made, supports this framework.
There are eight core tenets of a socially conscious animal community. They are:
1. Place every healthy and community-compatible animal. Every single one. At the APA, this means the needs of each animal are assessed individually. Healthy animals are defined as either having no signs of disease, or if disease is present, that it will not prevent the animal from having a comfortable life, as determined by our veterinarians. Community-compatible means that the animal has not shown signs of behavior that will likely result in severe injury or death to another animal or person. Community-compatibility is determined through multiple best-practice assessment methods.
2. Ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care. We believe that every animal should have the opportunity to be nurtured, healed, and placed in a loving home. This is why our doors are open to every animal, no matter their age or condition. We believe it is unacceptable to turn animals away because they are old, sick, or lack of space.
3. Assess the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals to ensure these needs are thoughtfully addressed. When an animal arrives at the APA, we individually assess for disease, injury, and other treatable medical conditions and provide the appropriate care required. We never allow an animal to suffer. Each animal also receives a behavior assessment, which helps determine how we meet their behavior and emotional needs through enrichment and socialization.
4. Align shelter policy with the needs of the community. At the APA, we continually assess and align our work to meet the needs of animals in our community. This can be seen in the launch of our trap-neuter-release program for community cats, our Pet Partners program which provides resources for pets in low-income communities, our SafeCare program which provides temporary care for pets of victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, as well as our Heads-to-Tails Hope Fund which provides needs-based veterinary care assistance to pets of individuals in our community.
5. Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions. Compassionate euthanasia is a gift. We do not believe it is ever appropriate to let an animal suffer when a compassionate euthanasia decision can ease their pain. We also do not believe it is acceptable to warehouse a dangerous animal when it is known that they cannot be safely placed in the community. Animals need human connection and enrichment to thrive, which cannot be provided when limited to living in a cage for years with little interaction. To do this creates suffering. Each euthanasia decision is difficult and involves multiple professionals who consider the welfare of each individual animal and unanimously agree that euthanasia is the only humane option available.
6. Enhance the human-animal bond through safe placements and post-adoption support. We understand that integrating a new pet into a home is both exciting and challenging. At the APA, we believe we have a responsibility to support each new family after adoption. To do this, we follow up each adoption with a phone call to see how the pet is adjusting, answer questions, provide training resources and referrals, address shelter-related medical needs, and always offer the option to bring an animal back to the APA if the pet and family are not a good fit. This also means we do not place animals who are not community-compatible into homes where they may cause severe injury to children, other pets, or other people. When we can address behavior issues through adoption requirements (e.g., requiring that the pet be placed in a home with no young children), we do.
7. Consider the health, wellness and safety of animals for each community when transferring animals. Each year, we save over 2,000 lives by transferring dogs and cats to the APA from communities that do not have people actively seeking to adopt them. This life-saving program brings with it a tremendous amount of responsibility. It is a responsibility to the animals already living in our community, as we do not want to bring in disease or illness that may make them sick. It is a responsibility to our community, as we want to ensure we are only bringing in pets who are safe. And, finally, there is a responsibility to the community from which we are transferring to understand and support the efforts they are making in animal welfare, often with limited resources.
8. Foster a culture of transparency, ethical decision-making, mutual respect, continual learning and collaboration. At the APA, we are fully committed to transparency. We report and openly share accurate statistics and policies. We open our doors to those who want to learn more, providing tours and explaining our protocols to anyone who asks, at any time. We take accountability when mistakes are made and work quickly to correct them. Integrity is at the root of every decision. We are innovative and forward-thinking, and work collaboratively with animal welfare partners across the industry to solve common problems. We understand that no matter how an organization defines themselves, we are ultimately working towards the same goal – the best outcome for all animals.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into the socially conscious framework. It can be challenging – but it’s worth it for the people and pets in the communities we serve.
Thanks for your reading, and for your interest in the APA.