My shelter colleague mentioned something about a program called HASS. What is it?
HASS is an acronym that stands for Human Animal Support Services. It’s both a philosophy of sheltering that is centered around community needs and the human-animal bond, and a pilot program being tested by a few dozen shelters across the US and Canada. The main goal of HASS is to reconfigure shelter programs to keep animals out of the shelter and in the community as much as possible in order to better help those animals and the community members who care for them.
The HASS idea arose from weekly zoom conversations facilitated by a sheltering organization called American Pets Alive (the national educational arm of Austin Pets Alive, a Texas-based rescue organization) and sponsored by Maddie’s Fund. The weekly American pets Alive (AmPA) conversations are open to anyone in sheltering. These Monday morning calls regularly have five hundred to a thousand participants. Although the conversations initially started out as a way to keep up with the latest COVID-19 information and recommendations as shelters adapted to operating only essential activities during the early days of the pandemic, discussions have taken off in many directions. Some of the conversations stemming from the AmPA calls include the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in animal sheltering; racial disparities in animal control enforcement and shelter adoption policies; challenges to the idea that being in a shelter is a better thing for any animal whether owned or stray; and how to deal with push-back from boards and local government when enacting reforms.
The current HASS model includes 12 elements:
- Animal protection and public safety services that focus on support, education, access to care, and providing needed resources, not punishment
- Helping lost pets find their way home without impoundment by providing direct support and assistance to finders and seekers
- Providing tools for self-rehoming with shelter support including tools like Home to Home and Rehome.
- Easy access to remote help from the shelter for community members
- Keeping families together by providing animal medical, housing, and behavioral support to community members
- Accessible telehealth services for pet owners, foster caretakers, and finders of injured/sick animals.
- A focus on individual case management to help people keep pets, assist with rehoming, and in finding lost pets
- Intake-to-placement pathways identified before or at shelter entry to reduce length of stay in shelter or foster
- Emphasis on foster as the default placement for pets entering the shelter system; placement in adoptive homes directly from foster homes
- Sheltering mainly for emergency medical, short-term housing, and urgent public safety cases
- Engagement of volunteers in every aspect of HASS
- Partnerships with human social services organizations, vet practices, rescue groups, and the communities served by the shelter
Some of these elements are a bit redundant and will likely be streamlined as HASS pilot shelters implement their new protocols and discover where the overlaps are. And none of these elements are new- many shelters have been implementing smaller versions of these programs for years. The major difference is the scale involved and the obvious need to re-train intake staff in case management and re-allocate animal care staff to support foster parents who will be providing a bulk of the care in some communities. In some jurisdictions, laws and ordinances may need revision before certain elements can be legally enacted. And tracking how much owners and animals are assisted outside of the classic intake/shelter model will require new metrics; simple intake-outcome equations will no longer accurately measure shelter success.
The HASS conversation is still a work in progress. For more information, please explore the HASS website . To get involved in one of the working groups or to see how your shelter can start implementing some of these programs, please use the contact information available here.