The ASPCA just released ASPCOpro’s Safe Workplace Playbook for Animal Shelters (August 2020), which includes COVID-19 processes, procedures, and guidance (consistent with the CDC’s guidelines) for safely carrying out daily shelter activities in the time of COVID-19. Sections provide separate guidance for staff/volunteers and managers.
The playbook is meant to be used as a jumping off point from which individual shelters can create program specific protocols.
Learn 10 steps staff and volunteers can take to maintain physical distancing, emphasizing that “self-awareness and accountability for our own actions are key to assuring everyone’s safety.” In order to achieve the recommended physical distancing, it is necessary to limit occupancy in the shelter. Two physical distancing checklists are included, one for shelter managers and one for “On the Road and in the Field.” Physical distancing by clients and partner agencies is also required.
Hygiene & Cleaning
Consistency is key, both at home and at work! Hygiene practices are split into two sections, one for staff and volunteers and the other for managers. Identify key times to enact handwashing and a list of cleaning practices during COVID-19.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Did you know there is a correct way to put on a mask and take it off? While not technically PPE, face masks are essential in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This section discusses safe mask practices and putting on, wearing, removing, and laundering that is essential for keeping people safe during this pandemic.
Here are additional resources on PPE from the playbook:
Create a screening and monitoring process for staff and volunteers through use of this checklist, including a Daily Self-Screening Questionnaire.
Working with Animals
Managers and staff are provided with checklists of precautions to take to reduce COVID-19. Since the greatest risk of COVID-19 transmission is from person to person contact, the playbook breaks down the steps and precautions both managers and staff should take to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
The playbook provides guidance for key areas of consideration and precautions to take to stop the spread of COVID-19 during essential business travel:
Before you leave
What to pack
During your trip
Travel by car
Additional resources from TSA and CDC on travel are listed.
ASPCOpro recommends appointing a Site Manager and Assistant Site Manager to liaise with the shelter staff and leadership team. Duties of the Site Manager are provided.
Looking for a way to stem the flow of intakes into your shelter to prevent exceeding your capacity and overwhelming your staff? Consider utilizing a platform that helps owners rehome their pets so they never have to come through your doors! In this webinar, hosted by the California Animal Welfare Association (CalAnimals). Mandy Evans, the Executive Director of Pan Handle Animal Shelter (PAS) in Idaho presents Home to Home, a rehoming platform developed by her organization in 2016 thanks to funding by Maddie’s Fund . It has since expanded and is in use at 23 shelters in 15 states. Check out the highlights of this rehoming platform below which empowers the community to be a part of the solution and expands your shelter’s ability to save lives!
Your organization gets a “Home to Home” website with the organization’s branding.
Owners looking to rehome their animals fill out an online form with the animal’s information and photograph and submit it.
The submission is reviewed (to prevent inappropriate posts) by a staff member who then submits it for posting.
The profile is posted for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, the managing staff member receives a notification to contact the individual to determine whether the profile should be renewed or given an outcome.
People looking for an animal click “find a pet” and search through the pet profiles on the site.
A link is available in each profile to “contact owner” which goes through a portal and sends either an email or text message to the owner who posted. The owner corresponds with the interested individual to facilitate a meet, etc.
The shelter is not involved in the rehoming process beyond hosting the platform, though they may wish to aid in improving an animal’s adoption profile, or to offer coupons for care in their clinic to provide spay/neuter services for the adopter.
The platform can also be integrated with Facebook so animal profiles can be shared on the organization’s Facebook page.
The platform has a networking feature that allows regional shelters to connect through Home to Home.
Data collection occurs on the back-end of the website and generates a report of the number of animals submitted, animals posted to the website, and outcomes (must be entered by staff member at this time)
New data upgrades coming soon: will allow the owner to update the animal’s outcome and allow organizations to collect adopter information in order to offer services (such as training, spay/neuter or other medical).
Addressing Common Concerns:
Liability: Prior to its expansion, three separate attorneys evaluated the platform to determine the liability risk to animal sheltering organizations and determined the shelter was not liable as it was only providing the platform for the rehoming process.
Cost: No rehoming fee is collected by the organization.
Charging fees to the rehoming individual can make an unnecessary barrier for them, making the animal more likely to be surrendered to the shelter instead.
Additionally, rehoming fees do not ensure better outcomes and could lead to the potential use of the platform by individuals who have bred their animal.
Behavior/health concerns and dishonesty on the part of the person rehoming or the person adopting: There are techniques you can use to safeguard against receiving false information.
Examples given include: (1) having quality conversations and reading the profiles submitted by the person rehoming to ensure there are no behavioral red flags; (2) Offer microchip placement and registration to the new owner and collect driver’s license information to prevent people from obtaining the animal for illegal activities such as dog fighting.
Ultimately, it is beneficial to accept that you can’t know everything and have to trust your community has the ability to work together and not lie to each other.
Accessibility for individuals who do not have a computer: Instead, collect information via paper profile and the managing employee uploads the information. If the individual has no email, an organizational/employee email can be used and the phone number of the interested person can be collected and provided to the owner to complete the adoption.
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 HASSwebsite . 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.
As we continue to work through the COVID-19 crisis, we are simultaneously facing the ongoing issue of systemic racism in America. This is not a new problem, but a problem brought to light by current worldwide protests and the demand for judicial change. We share the resources below to further the conversation in the animal welfare industry to help understand how racial inequality and economic divide impact society and the care of animals. We are dedicated to building anti-racism in animal welfare and our communities.
Harvard’s Implicit Bias Project: Project Implicit: Complete a self-test for implicit bias (15 min). The IAT measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., black people, gay people) and evaluations (e.g., good, bad) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, clumsy). The main idea is that making a response is easier when closely related items share the same response key.
Brene Brown: https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-ibram-x-kendi-on-how-to-be-an-antiracist/. Brene Brown speaks with professor Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and the Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. They discuss racial disparities, policy, and equality, but really focus on How to Be an Antiracist, which is a groundbreaking approach to understanding uprooting racism and inequality in society and individuals.
Re-location of companion animals for adoption in the time of COVID-19 requires extra attention to travel restrictions, hand-off procedures, and the reduction of bottlenecks to services to reduce length of stay. Many organizations are excited to re-launch relocation programs, and fortunately there are some great resources for doing so safely and humanely.
Maine’s COVID-19 Transport Protocol: Need a protocol for that? This document from ME is a good example of a transport SOP you can edit to write your own. The Maine Federation of Humane Societies, in conjunction with the HSUS, developed these sample documents. Review the protocols >>
Webinar and more….
If a Webinar is more your style, tune into the June 4th webinar, “COVID-19: Transport During a Pandemic”, hosted by Best Friends, which provided the following resources from their partners.
To bring you the critical, timely information you need in a safe way, this year’s conference will take place virtually from July 11-12, 2020, and registration fees will be waived. Featuring twelve free workshops in two tracks—medical and operations—the 2020 ASPCA® Cornell Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Conference is a unique educational opportunity for veterinarians and other animal welfare professionals to learn from our field of highly regarded speakers. Both RACE and CAWA CE approval is pending. Click here to learn more and register.
Highlights of this year’s conference include:
A high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter (HQHVSN) panel discussion featuring Drs Phil Bushby, Emily McCobb, Leslie Appel, and Karla Brestle
Epidemiological modeling of COVID-19 from Dr. Rachel Kreisler
Access to basic veterinary care and the impacts of COVID-19 from Dr. Brittany Watson
A panel discussion on COVID-19 response and what tactics to keep
Feline advocate Hannah Shaw, better to known by many as the Kitten Lady of YouTube fame, has published a four episode “Kitten Care” webinar series sponsored by Royal Canin. The first three are entertaining and educational as usual: Caring for Itty Bitty Bottle Babies, Beyond the Bottle: Caring for Growing Kittens, and Keeping Kittens Healthy. The final webinar, published at the end of April, is one of the best resources we’ve seen about what to do when a person in your community stumbles upon a kitten outdoors—a question we’re answering all too frequently this time of year. Feral Felines and Kittens Found Outdoorsprovides finders, fosters, rescuers and shelter staff strategies to respond in a variety of situations, and is a great educational tool for animal welfare gurus and for the general public. Here are some highlights for those of you who don’t have 2 hours to spare (or who want a teaser before you watch the whole thing.)
“I found a kitten- what do I do?”
Not all outdoor kittens and their living situations are the same. The litter on a construction site, the feral family in a neighborhood window well, and the kitten whose mom has just been hit by a car have vastly different levels of need. Shaw suggests using the “CASA” method to determine the best course of action for the kitten or litter in question.
Condition: what does the kitten look like? Is it dirty, unkempt, underweight, in medical distress? Or is it fluffy, happy, bright, feisty? If the former, it may truly be an orphan and need care. If the latter, it’s probably already being well cared for.
Age: Is this kitten still nursing (0-5 weeks), weaned and in the socialization window (5-10 weeks), or past the socialization period (>10-12 weeks)?
Situation: Is the site relatively stable, safe, protected? Or are there hazards, exposure, dangers posed by the location and activities there?
Ability: What are your resources and those of the rescue community around you? Are you unable to care for these kittens, are the rescues full, are the shelters euthanizing for space? Or do you have an empty nest, time on your hands, and an internet connection to access all the Kitten Care webinars?
The correct response when finding a kitten depends upon careful consideration of each of these four factors. For example, a healthy 12-week old kitten is not in need of foster- they need TNR. Leave them in place until you can trap. In contrast, a 2-week old kitten that looks dirty and unkempt should be scooped up and bottle-fed ASAP; preferably by the finder, and brought to the shelter only as a last resort. A thriving litter of 4-week old kittens with their feral mom nesting in the engine block of a truck needs relocation. Shaw says to consider fostering the whole group in an indoor enclosure (including mom!) until the babies are 5 weeks old. The mom can be then spayed and released, and the kittens socialized in foster until 8 weeks old when they can be adopted out. Finally, that 3-week old kitten brought to the shelter who looks perfect? Get the finder to physically show you exactly where it was found, and reunite the kitten with mom. Monitor them closely; “kidnap” the kitten again for socialization a few weeks later when weaned if it’s safe and if resources are available. Otherwise, return to trap and sterilize everyone later when resources are less scarce. Every kitten, finder, and shelter have a different CASA, and each requires evaluation on a case-by-case basis.
Shaw’s webinars are full of kitten-age-specific advice, trapping tricks, socialization strategies and a healthy dose of realistic acknowledgement of our own capacities for care. One of the most important points from Shaw’s webinar is that kittens are the “holes in the bucket” of our community cat problem. Wherever there are kittens, unaltered parents are nearby. Whenever kittens are found in the community, trapping and TNR need to be arranged for the adults. Otherwise this bucket will continue to leak.
Here are the highlights from the full-length COVID-19 Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic Guide which provides guidance on how to follow physical distancing guidelines while safely performing spay/neuter surgeries. Where possible, links from original document have been included. This guide is being updated regularly by a collaborative team of clinic experts and is hosted by Best Friends.
Consult local authorities and stay up to date on the COVID-19 status in your community, as well as in other communities you might be traveling to. Key metrics in most states include rates of COVID-19 related hospitalizations in your area, access to testing, and availability of PPE for programs.
DECISION-MAKING TO CONTROL DISEASE TRANSMISSION
Provide for staff safety and support:
Follow state and local guidelines for testing and self-quarantine of employees exposed to COVID-19.
Have back-up staff on call and communicate your clinic’s operating status and action plan to all staff in case clinic closure is necessary.
Have regular team check-ins at the start of each day that cover roles, strategies, challenges and other updates. See this sample checklist.
Create a clinic protocol for when a staff member tests positive for SARS-CoV2:
Develop a protocol and share with staff BEFORE this happens. Read this guidance summarycreated from CDC recommendations for help writing protocols. Also visit the AVMA website.
Have a plan to reassess staffing and adjust capacity, staff roles, and workload accordingly.
Review the CARES ACT and be aware of what you are required to provide employees.
Train staff and volunteers in adapted clinic operations without compromising social distancing:
Hold regular online (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeetings) video meetings to discuss scheduling, etc.
Give staff and volunteers a virtual tour of the clinic and new operation items.
Determine how many surgeries your clinic is comfortable performing before you reopen. Consider phasing in services over time according to their priority.
Priority patients for spay/neuter services:
pregnant animals or those at risk of becoming pregnant
intact animals exhibiting problematic behaviors (i.e. male dogs humping/marking)
those in need of emergency procedures
Priority clients include those:
who are insecure about housing intact animals
who are managing community cats
who have recently adopted their animals
Priority considerations for vaccine and wellness clinics:
puppies and kittens
animals overdue for rabies vaccines
those with conditions that will affect welfare if delayed
CAPACITY FOR CARE
The physical space available to work in will determine your staffing plan and surgical patients you can serve each day.
Provide 60 square foot minimum (six-foot radius) per staff member/volunteers whenever possible.
Assign one staff member per station.
Staff should be six feet apart and not facing each other. Provide PPE when this is not possible
Avoid sharing equipment like stethoscopes
Mark out visual reminders on the floor: one-way traffic patterns; six-foot distances
Re-purpose areas to make multiple intake and recovery areas that are individually staffed.
Develop a schedule; identify how many hours staff can work and what risks they have; include time for scheduled deep cleaning when assessing how many days your team can do surgery safely.
Assess volunteers the same as staff and consider reallocating remote jobs to employees and volunteers for whom working in the clinic poses a risk.
Stagger break times. Limit the number of people allowed in the break room at the same time.
Surgical supplies and PPE:
Inventory supplies to determine how many patients can be served.
Expect ongoing shortages of surgical masks, surgical gloves, disposable drape materials, disposable gowns , and anesthetic drugs.
Open accounts with multiple distributors (MWI, Patterson, Midwest) for increased access to supplies.
Expectation for PPE and hand hygiene in clinics:
Make sinks easily accessible. Keep them stocked with soap and single use paper towels at all times. Provide hand sanitizer stations where sinks are not available.
Train staff to avoid touching their face or each other and consistently disinfect shared equipment.
Provide PPE for all staff and volunteers.
Cloth masks are to be worn at all times in the clinic (one mask per 4 hours/washed daily and dried completely before reuse).
Per CDC recommendations, clinic staff should wear goggles or face shield in addition to mask, gown, and gloves when handling animals with respiratory disease. Provide face shields for procedures requiring multiple people.
Build payment collection into the appointment process.
Communicate which services are being prioritized and those that are not currently being offered.
Scheduling and social distancing:
Ask clients questions when scheduling to ascertain if the client is sick: Wait to schedule pets from COVID-positive households until those in the household are not contagious.
Reduce the amount of time staff interacts with clients by taking appointments by phone or online ahead of time, pre-entering services requested, taking relevant medical history. Verify this information at check-in.
Reduce paper handling by emailing or digitizing surgical consent/admin/intake forms to the clients ahead of time using software like Clinic HQ, or companies like DocuSign or HelloSign.
Stagger check-in times by species to reduce the amount of people and pets in your parking lot.
Utilize “touchless payments” (see CDC recommendation) wherever possible; either online (PayPal, Venmo) or by phone.
INTAKE PROTOCOLS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
Clients remain in vehicle while staff come to them to complete intake information. Communicate directions to clients (email, website, social media) ahead of time and post signage at parking lot entrances.
Assign each car a number on a piece of paper and place under vehicle windshield wiper. Consider using online restaurant wait system like WaitlistMe.com or TablesReady.com.
Provide tents to protect staff from rain and sun.
Set up a table outside for leashes, pens, muzzles and sanitation wipes for carriers. Use of clipboards is not recommended.
Pets in open-bed pickup trucks or cats not contained inside a carrier should move to the head of the line.
Wipe the handle of the carrier or trap handle before and after transporting.
Staff should wash their hands and arms when done with check-in and change clothes before working in the clinic.
For vaccine and wellness clinics, owners can either wait in the car until services are completed or owners can drop off pets and return later to pick them up. Discuss treatment options with clients over the phone. Other ideas about vaccine clinics can be found here.
Contact-free or limited-contact client check-in:
Start contact-free drop-off for shelter/rescue partners and TNR programs. Use a visual doorbell system (Ring) to announce arrival. Place empty carriers for partners to drop-off animals in the front vestibule or lobby.
Limit drop-off to one person per pet. Limit the number of clients allowed in the clinic at one time.
Mark lines six feet apart on the floor and provide signage as a reminder of social distancing.
Discourage cash payments.
PAPERWORK AND RECORD-KEEPING
OPTION 1 – Minimal paper:
Send consent forms ahead of time for signatures and use software capable of auto-populating (Clinic HQ, Microsoft Word) your admission document.
For TNR clinics, label cats as Cat 1, Cat 2, Cat 3, etc. The color of the cat and/or trap ID number can be written on the document when cats are admitted to the clinic.
Use a one-page surgical record or “treatment sheet” primarily written on by one staff member. to track drugs, surgery reports, and additional findings. Here is an example.
OPTION 2 – Paperless:
Use a tablet in the parking lot in place of printed documents.
Print the patient’s packet of information on the spot once the once the animal enters the clinic to ensure the correct paperwork stays with the animal.
For an entirely paperless system, assign a scribe with a laptop to all record-keeping.
OPTION 3 – Paper with additional biosecurity:
Handle paperwork as little as possible. Have a single staff member (wearing a face mask and gloves) handle and process paperwork from clients and paperwork going home.
Sanitize items handled by the public (pens, clipboards, etc.) between use.
Discharge protocols and social distancing:
Email discharge papers or text photo clients prior to pick-up, making sure they have enough data to not incur a charge from this. Call clients to discuss unplanned findings or procedures.
If email or text are not an option, call clients and go over post-operative instructions. Mail vaccination certificates and other paperwork.
Provide a link to a post-surgery video and post-op instructions on your website. Sample video.
Structure pick-up in the same manner as intake.
Offer rechecks virtually. Check the Veterinary Telemedicine Platform Facebook page for suggestions on platforms or consider other video conferencing platforms (Pet Connect).
Check this site from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards for updated changes for individual states regarding telemedicine.
Put take-home medications in labelled bottle, sanitize, put in clean bin, distribute at check-out.
Use online pharmacy (Covetrus, Vetsource) to bill and send clients medications directly.
Prescriptions can be filled at the clinic and either sent to client by mail or through contact-less pick up by placing them in labelled bottles and leaving them at pre-determined location.
The Million Cat Challenge and Maddie’s Fund is at it again — bringing portals to every shelter to provide humane, double-sided enclosures for cats. With shelter inventories at record lows, now is the time to get portals installed, and shelters can apply to receive the portals they need FOR FREE!
Photos and instructions from https://www.sheltermedicine.com/library/resources/?r=cat-portals-order-information-and-instruction-for-installation
Application for Portalmania 2020 can be found here
This opportunity is being generously funded by SHOR-LINE, the Banfield Foundation, the Joanie Bernard Foundation, Team Shelter USA, and Virox Technologies.
Last week the CDC issued new guidance for veterinary clinics operating during the COVID-19 pandemic and response. Here are some highlights particularly relevant to shelters and spay-neuter clinics:
The CDC reiterates that while dogs and cats may very rarely test positive for the virus, spread from animals to humans has not been documented and the main risk remains from humans to other humans.
Clinic staff should stay home and self-isolate if they are ill. Staff can return to work 72 hours after they no longer have a fever (without fever-reducing medications) and at least 10 days after they first started showing symptoms.
While shelter-in-place orders are active, the CDC states that veterinary clinics should be postponing elective and non-urgent procedures. At the time of this publication, the CDC still considers routine spays and neuters elective procedures. This may differ from the orders of individual states and will change as phased re-opening begins.
Stricter PPE recommendations for clinic staff are described based on the exposure history of the animal and the animal’s symptoms:
Facemask, eye protection (e.g. face shield or goggles), gloves, and gown if animals are ill with respiratory symptomsor they are undergoing a procedure that generates aerosols. CDC examples are suction or bronchoscopy; in a shelter this could include intubation, dentistry, BAL, nasal flush, etc.
For any animal exposed to COVID-19 undergoing aerosol generating procedures, the PPE list includes the above and an N-95 mask is recommended instead of a regular face mask.
Routine testing for animals is still not recommended; state public health veterinarians or state animal health officials should be contacted if you suspect an animal is ill due to COVID-19.
Multiple scenarios for how to care for COVID positive animals are discussed; wearing PPE, keeping the animal indoors, and separating them from humans and other animals is recommended.
Positive animals can be reintegrated when 72 hours have passed since their last clinical sign and 14 days have passed since their illness started.
Repeat testing is also at the discretion of the state public health and animal health officials.
Where state laws allow, tele-medicine is useful for supporting pets in foster or recently adopted. For urgent and emergency cases, curbside no-contact or low-contact hand-offs are recommended.
Before inviting clients, foster parents, or those surrendering animals into the facility, ask them about COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. If clients are ill, postpone their appointment or offer tele-medicine. If the situation is an emergency, employ proper PPE and no-contact or low-contact hand-off procedures.
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