Category Archives: Staff training

Summary: ASPCApro’s “Safe Workplace Playbook for Animal Shelters” (Released August 2020)

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.

Physical Distancing

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:

Screening & Monitoring

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.

Business Travel

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
  • Hotels
  • Air travel

Additional resources from TSA and CDC on travel are listed.

More Information

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.

The playbook also provides three additional COV ID-19 resources: ASPCAPro COVID-19 Information Hub; AVMA (COVID-19 section); CDC (COVID-19 section).

Here is the link to download the full pdf version of the ASPCApro Safe Workplace Playbook for Animal Shelters.

What is HASS?


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 HASS logoCanada. 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:

  1. Animal protection and public safety services that focus on support, education, access to care, and providing needed resources, not punishment
  2. Helping lost pets find their way home without impoundment by providing direct support and assistance to finders and seekers
  3. Providing tools for self-rehoming with shelter support including tools like Home to Home and Rehome.
  4. Easy access to remote help from the shelter for community members
  5. Keeping families together by providing animal medical, housing, and behavioral support to community members
  6. Accessible telehealth services for pet owners, foster caretakers, and finders of injured/sick animals.
  7. A focus on individual case management to help people keep pets, assist with rehoming, and in finding lost pets
  8. Intake-to-placement pathways identified before or at shelter entry to reduce length of stay in shelter or foster
  9. Emphasis on foster as the default placement for pets entering the shelter system; placement in adoptive homes directly from foster homes
  10. Sheltering mainly for emergency medical, short-term housing, and urgent public safety cases
  11. Engagement of volunteers in every aspect of HASS
  12. 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.

Building Anti-Racism in Animal Welfare


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: 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.
  • Animal welfare specific: Listen to the podcast with John Dunn and Marc Peralta: Leaning in and Listening – Diversity and Inclusion in Animal Welfare (1 hr, 19 min). Animal welfare and animal services lack diversity and inclusion, both in staffing and and in relationships to communities. There are millions of pet-loving people of color in the US; addressing systemic raciscm is crucial to ending the killing of animals in shelters and a moral imperative. This episode focuses on how to do better and be better moving forward in lifesaving work.

Other resources:

ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference to be held online in 2020


July 11-12, 2020 | All Online | Tuition Waived!

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

Download agenda

And there are more benefits to attending, too:

  • Quick, easy, and free registration
  • An entirely virtual format, allowing more team members to attend from the comfort of their own homes—no stressful, long travel required!
  • The opportunity to learn from experts in their fields
  • Critical workshops geared towards COVID-19 response
  • Continuing education credits*

Register now!


Did you recently expand your foster program? Check out these tips!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, communities across the country have come together to make space in their homes to provide foster care for more than 45,000 animals. Has your organization recently expanded your fostering capacity? Or are you planning to follow in the steps of so many other shelters across the country? Consider the following information presented by Pamela Reid, PhD CAAB, and Marny Nofi, CPDT-KA, of the ASPCA Behavioral Sciences team during the ASPCA’s recent webinar, Frustrated Foster Families? Provide Animal Behavior Help to Caregivers During COVID-19.

Benefits of fostering animals:

  • Obtains information on an animal’s behavior – past behavior is the best predictor of how they will adjust to an adoptive home
  • Gives them a break from shelter – helps reduce stress and improves their quality of life
  • Gains additional avenues for adoption – increase the visibility of the animal and your shelter

Additional benefits of fostering noted during the pandemic include:

  • Expands pool of fosters due to higher number of people working from home. Many of these folks are actually willing to take on animals that require more care (including medical and behavioral issues). This set up is a great opportunity to work with dogs that have separation anxiety.
  • Increases staff health and safety by reducing the need for staff in shelter
  • Frees up shelter staff to tackle projects previously put on the back-burner

Tips for successful placement:

  • If a new foster has a good experience now, retain them as a foster when they return to work!
  • Be transparent about everything you know (and don’t know) about the animals you wish to send to foster care. By providing potential fosters with as much information as possible, the potential foster can determine which animal they think is the best fit. This information should include their perceived needs. Do they need to be the only animal in the home? Do they require a certain level of experience?
  • Set expectations. How frequently do you expect them to follow up? How difficult are the treatments the animal needs (both medical and behavioral)?
    • Set an expectation for the timeline, even if it’s “I don’t know but we will reassess the situation and have a better idea in 4 weeks.”
  • Help your foster families prepare their home for a new foster.
    • Don’t just tell them, show them. Create a video demonstrating how a foster should prepare for their new foster pet. Don’t have time to create your own? Check out these videos on how to set up a foster home
    • Make sure you give them the resources they need ahead of time so they can have the house/room prepared before they pick up their new cat/dog
  • Acknowledge that you may have animals in your shelter that are not suitable candidates for foster care for safety reasons – and that it is ok to make that decision. Consider placing “grey zone” animals with a member of your behavior team (if you have one), an experienced staff member, or a behavior professional in the community. Before a grey zone animal goes to a foster home, make sure you have a frank discussion including disclosure of all of the problems, how to work on the issues, and all of the possible pathways/outcomes for that animal. It is especially important to provide timely feedback when they reach out.

Tips for providing follow-up and collecting pertinent information:

  • Be consistent in your follow-up. Follow-up contact makes fosters feel supported and appreciated.
  • Make sure that seasoned fosters continue to receive all of the attention they need.
  • Be prepared for an increased need for time spent on follow-up with expansion of your foster program.
    • If your foster coordinator is having trouble keeping up with the volume, consider re-purposing daily care staff or volunteers for foster follow-up.
      • Provide them with handouts/resources for common questions, so that they can be provided to caregivers who need them.
    • Don’t have the staff/volunteer base to re-purpose? Consider an automated application like Maddie’s Pet Assistant .
      • Maddie’s Pet Assistant (MPA) is a free application that gives shelters an automated way to communicate with fosters.
      • MPA links with shelter software and automatically sends a survey to fosters at predetermined intervals.
      • When a foster fills out the survey and checks certain responses, the application follows up with an email of resources!
      • The app flags which fosters require follow-up and makes a list of those that should be prioritized.
  • Consider utilizing video chats for follow-up calls for animals with medical and behavioral needs.
    • Being able to see the foster’s home and communicate in real time can help you connect and communicate better.
    • You can demonstrate what you are asking the foster to do (like training), and ask them to try it while you watch so you can provide feedback.

Preventing future behavior problems:

  • Puppy socialization presents a unique challenge in a time when social distancing is necessary.
    • It is important to expose puppies to all sorts of people and friendly dogs prior to 16 weeks of age. This is more difficult during the pandemic, but there are still plenty of opportunities!
    • This is also a good time to teach puppies that they do not have to say hi to everyone by rewarding them with treats (or toys) for not interacting with people while on a walk.
    • Consider having socially distant play-dates with friends and their social and fully vaccinated adult dogs. Bring your puppy to your friend’s house and place them in a secured fenced area (or vestibule). Wait for your friend to retrieve the puppy, then come back and repeat the same process to pick him/her up after the play-date is over.
    • Consider participating in online puppy training classes. It helps keep your puppy’s learning on track and also supports local businesses that typically rely on in-person interaction for revenue.

Preventing future separation anxiety (in adult dogs and puppies):

  • Work to maintain the predictability of their schedules; all major “events” should be consistent. If possible, they should be timed to mimic what their schedule will be when the family is no longer home all day.
  • Incorporate short periods of alone time throughout the day both while you are home and while you are out of the house for times like shopping.
    • Give them a tasty treat or a food toy that helps them associate your absence with good things.
    • Help them learn that alone time is fun!

Additional resources provided during this webinar:

  • ASPCA COVID Information Hub – provides COVID specific information such as how to socialize a puppy during a pandemic, making virtual adoptions successful, etc.

For full details on behavior problems and solutions, watch the full webinar.

The COVID-19 Spay Neuter and Wellness Clinic Preparedness Guide: a quick-list summary and link


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 bubble graph
Image from original COVID-19 S/N Guide document.

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 summary created 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


The physical space available to work in will determine your staffing plan and surgical patients you can serve each day.

Physical capacity:

  • 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.

Staff capacity:

  • Create multiple surgical teams that are scheduled at different times and/or work in different areas (Sample protocol: Creating Staff Teams for Spay/Neuter Clinics).
  • 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.
  • Consider these innovative solutions when facing supply shortages.


Capacity of pharmaceuticals, including anesthetics and analgesics

  • Inventory all pharmaceuticals, including controlled drugs.
  • Aim to use only veterinary-specific drugs as shortages in drugs shared with human medicine are anticipated. Here is up-to-date information on drug shortages

Alternative anesthetic protocols for spay/neuter:

  • Alternative protocols providing multi-modal analgesics for spay/neuter are summarized here.
  • Dosing charts for TTD (butorphanol, tiletamine-zolazepam, and dexmedetomidine) can be found here. TTD is preferred for cats (IM induction, less handling, better recoveries).
  • Train staff in monitoring and safety parameters before implementing new protocols.
  • Give anxiolytic medications at the beginning of the clinic to enable easier restraint and reduce stress. Options include: (1) oral trazodone and/or gabapentin to dogs, and (2) gabapentin for cats.


Provide clear instructions (website, social media, email, phone) for scheduling, payments, clinic check-in procedures, and social distancing. Sample signage: Sample 1, Sample 2, Sample 3

  • Provide FAQS on how the clinic now works.
  • 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.


Curbside intake:

  • 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 or
  • 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.


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.

Financial considerations and mitigating risk:

  • Use this excel template for help revising budgetary plans.
  • Consider opportunities to reduce supply costs yet still maintain high-quality care.

Continue reading The COVID-19 Spay Neuter and Wellness Clinic Preparedness Guide: a quick-list summary and link

UPDATED 5/11/2020 – Shelter Medicine CE and Networking: What to do if I can’t go to a conference this summer?

With HSUS Expo and the AVMA cancelling their in-person conferences, what are animal welfare veterinarians and veterinary technicians supposed to do to get the CE required to maintain their state licensure? Sites like VIN, Clinician’s Brief, Maddie’s University and ASPCApro often have single classes or webinars that provide RACE credits, but unless watched live, there is no opportunity to engage with the speaker or ask questions, and little opportunity to engage with friends.

Luckily, in an age of technology, upcoming animal welfare conferences are on-line in real time and provide RACE credit. Additionally, they provide opportunities for interaction and networking — enter the virtual cocktail/mocktail hour.

5/20-5/21/2020 Humane Canada’s National Animal Welfare Conference

This Wednesday-Thursday conference will be held online and everyone is welcome to attend. The conference includes break-out conversations and morning coffee hours with sponsors, and a host of speakers on a variety of topics from what to keep from the COVID response to First Nations dog programs to canine behavior and neonatal diarrhea. Featured speakers include Barbara Cartwright, Elisabeth Ormandy, Allan Corber, Alexandra Protopopova, and Jessica Dolce. Many lectures also count toward AAWA certification. Registration is CA$100, which includes a 30-day window to go back and watch any recorded content. All times listed are EST.

6/16-6/17/2020 AAWA’s Spring Conference for Animal Welfare

This Tuesday-Wednesday conference features a virtual exhibit hall, general sessions, four session tracks to choose from, and a new shelter medicine track in collaboration with the ASV. Topics include social media marketing, leading change, creating responsible pet ownership programs, and the science behind caring for neonates. Featured speakers include Sarah Wooten, Marty Becker, Julie Levy, Sandra Newbury, and Scott Weese. Registration fees vary according to your professional memberships and range from $99-$199. (ASV members can get $25 off two-day registration)

7/11-7/12/2020 ASPCA-Cornell-Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference

This annual Saturday-Sunday conference is going ahead as scheduled but switching to an on-line format. Two tracks (Staff/volunteer/management and Medical) will be offered. Speakers are just being invited and the schedule isn’t quite set, but this information will be available soon. Planned guests include Phil Bushby, Elizabeth Berliner and many others. Since this will be an on-line conference, registration this year will likely have no cap and may even be free of charge. Stay tuned!

7/31-8/4/2020 AVMA Convention Virtual Event?

Not much is currently available regarding this event and CE/networking opportunities. More details will be available in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more information!

Will there be in-person conferences in the fall? It’s still uncertain. In the meantime, we’ll try to keep you updated as we hear more. Good luck and keep learning!

July 2020: HSUS Expo Online  

Just announced, Humane Expo will also be going online in July of 2020. Although the dates have yet to be finalized, the cost of this conference has been reduced to just $29 dollars in honor of their 29th anniversary. We’ll update this post when we know more.

CDC’s Interim Infection Prevention and Control for Veterinary Clinics

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 symptoms or 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.

Keeping your volunteers engaged during COVID-19, and into the future!

"we love our volunteers" written over a heart shape
Image source:

The shelter’s unpaid staff are individuals who generously volunteer to invest both their time and their money into the organization on a regular basis. Volunteers are loyal, dedicated, and driven. They  bring care, comfort, and joy to the animals.  They invest in the shelter even during this time of mandated social distancing and self-quarantine, and in the midst of job shutdowns and major operational changes.

How do organizations invest in one of their most valuable resources when volunteers have been sent home to stay safe and be well during COVID-19? Below, find a dynamic list of resources to help maintain and develop volunteers during COVID-19 and into the future!

General COVID-19 resource on volunteers:

Engaging and Supporting Volunteers During COVID-19

This 30-minute webinar includes tips for staying connected to volunteers during the COVID-19 crisis. It covers innovative volunteer engagement strategies that utilize technology. The webinar also includes considerations for mitigating risk to volunteers and the organization, and most importantly, how to make the most of this potential downtime.

Specific to animal shelters:

Best Ideas to Attract, Keep, and Grow Volunteers (ASPCAPro)

This ASPCAPro library of shelter-specific volunteer management information reviews new and improved strategies to manage and maintain happy volunteers.  The library includes a two-part video series on Volunteer Management, as well as links to webinars and articles on topics including training and retaining volunteers, secrets to volunteer happiness and success, and a special section for equine volunteers!

Building and Maintaining a Volunteer Program for Animal Rescues (Humane Society of the United States)

This webinar covers the “crisis chaos spiral” caused by a lack of volunteer program structure, explores different volunteer program models, and helps shelters determine which works best for their organization.  Learn to build a strong volunteer management infrastructure, write effective and useful volunteer job descriptions, and find and keep the right people for the organization.

General volunteer management:

Don’t Just Recognize Volunteers, INVEST in Them…and Yourself

This hot topic article, which includes a seven minute “Hot Topic Listen”, introduces the concept of volunteer evolvement – defined as enabling volunteers to take on greater responsibilities within an organization by offering the opportunity for growth and new experiences.  The article also tackles a new concept of investing in volunteer leadership by providing advice for practical professional self-care and growth.

3 Expert Tips for Building Member Engagement

Volunteer engagement equals volunteer retention.  Engagement pertains to three main engagement touchpoints that speak to keeping volunteers.

How to Create a Volunteer Engagement Strategy that Actually Works!

A volunteer engagement strategy is simply a plan for keeping volunteers active and interested while avoiding volunteer burnout. It starts with orientation and continues with feedback, check-ins, and recognition.  This document includes tutorials, links, and guides for developing a strategy to keep your volunteers engaged.

5 Unappreciated Reasons Why Volunteers Quit

In order to best determine how to successfully manage a volunteer program, first understand what reasons a volunteer may have for quitting.  This article, with links to management guides, gives a comprehensive look at knowing the difference between paid and unpaid workers and their motivations.

Energize: A-Z Volunteer Management Library

A complete library of articles and book excerpts, reports and guides, relevant Web sites, and tips from professionals.  It also includes recommended books and articles in e-Volunteerism that deal with each topic.


Are your behavior staff working remotely? Have them pilot a Behavior Helpline!

A recent ASPCA webinar, Behavior Helpline – Toss your Community a Lifeline in the COVID-19 Era, had great ideas about how your behavior staff can help foster care providers and new adopters with a behavior hotline.  Tiffany Shao, CCPDT-KA, behavior and training manager at the Humane Society of Western Montana, discussed the benefits, logistics, and other considerations.


  • The Behavior Helpline is a service that can be run completely from home.
  • It can help reduce returns (foster and adopter) while you are trying keep in-shelter staffing low to improve social distancing.
  • Suggestions can help mitigate frustrations of individuals looking to surrender their pet for a basic behavior issue during the pandemic
    • You are providing a solution, not a barrier, by offering options.
    • You may be able to change the situation and help keep the animal in the home.
  • Establishing this system while your workload is lower will allow you time to work out the details of the program and catch up on training resources.
  • Having this resource will greatly help your community.


  • Personnel: Designate a person to coordinate the behavior hotline and give them a team to support it. Encourage your staff to seek ongoing training.  Much is available on-line. This may be an opportunity for a staff member with some training and experience to further develop their talents. Or consider a person who has the desire to grow their knowledge of animal behavior and may wish to work toward certification.
  • Ensure a Code of Ethics/Professionalism: It is important that consistent messaging is being provided; this can be improved by having team members round on cases together through remote conferencing platforms about cases and share resources, information, and strategies. A collaborative approach also mitigates liability if client attempts a strategy your team wouldn’t recommend.
  • Communication systems: Consider a dedicated cellphone vs. an email address vs. a Google Voice number. Ensure you have a means for internal communication should an inquiry be forwarded from another department.

Data Tracking and Case Management

Good record keeping that is accessible to everyone on the team is essential; e.g. Google Sheets, Pet Point,  or another shelter software program are all options for tracking cases.

  • Maintain as a log/behavior record to avoid potential for miscommunication and redundancy as your team communications with clients.
  • Records should include client and animal information, issues, recommendations and recheck phone calls and share with the team for feedback and oversight.
  • Keep track of the inquiries you receive as a means to identify your community’s biggest behavior challenges. This will help you focus your resources, offer targeted continuing education to your community, or help identify important counseling points for new adopters.

Don’t actually have the time/staffing to pilot a program like this and then continue it? Consider partnering with a local trainer. It is a great way for them to build a client base for their private lessons or training classes in the future. Just make sure you have investigated that they use humane training techniques and that their training philosophy aligns with the mission of your organization.

Want more information? Check out the recording here (available next week): 

Check out some of the resources Ms. Shao shared during the lecture to help you develop your program’s resource library:

  • Humane Society of Western Montana Behavior Handouts:

  • ASPCA Behavior information for pet owners:

  • Melissa DeMartini’s “Mission Impossible” online course for separation issues in dogs: