Guiding Animal Shelters to a Higher Standard

By Alexandra Baggs Content Marketing Manager, HSSV, July 2018
Apollo Lab Puppy

Apollo was a happy, exuberant Lab puppy with a bright future ahead of him and not a care in the world. Weeks before, however, he had been deathly ill. When Apollo was brought to Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV), it was clear that he was very sick. The pup was lethargic, skinny and subdued. Our medical staff immediately tested him for parvovirus, and the results were positive. Parvo is scary in an animal shelter. Not only is the disease dangerous and sometimes fatal, it is also highly contagious.

Could we save Apollo? And if we could, would we be able to prevent the rest of our population from becoming sick?

Luckily, the answer was yes.

Just months before Apollo arrived at HSSV in September 2017, our shelter had become the first in the country to meet all the guidelines created by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) for standards of care in animal shelters.


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Currently, no agency or organization regulates the welfare and care of animals in a shelter environment, a void that inspired the authors of the guidelines to create standards intended to protect homeless animals from suffering and disease. Despite the best efforts of many shelters, they saw that heathy animals were developing stress-related behavioral problems, and falling ill—sometimes even dying—from the spread of disease. The 2010 guidelines focus on standards that improve the physical and mental health and behavioral well-being of animals while in care, and ensure that healthy animals remain healthy.

While many organizations around the country have used the guidelines to make improvements in the level of care they provide, in 2017, HSSV became the first “model shelter,” implementing all 543 guidelines. Our California based shelter spent more than two years working to change and refine policies and procedures in order to meet the guidelines and raise the level of care across the board.

The policy and procedure changes centered around three main themes: managing the health of individual animals while protecting the health of the population as a whole, providing enrichment for each animal’s emotional and mental health, and providing the right physical environment for every animal.

Because the strict standards, which include special quarantine and parvo protocols, were in place, Apollo was safely housed in a special area in the shelter, under the care of trained staff members who followed proven procedures to treat him while protecting the other animals in our care.

Within just a few weeks of arriving at HSSV, the Lab pup was perking up. He was more responsive, began seeking attention and eating normally. We named him Apollo, after the Greek god of healing and medicine, a fitting name considering all he had been through. Once cleared by our medical staff, he went up for adoption and quickly found a new home.

Apollo is just one of many animals HSSV has been able to save thanks to the ASV guidelines. We are now equipped with the knowledge and capability to take in animals like Apollo and give them a fighting chance while ensuring that the rest of the shelter population remains healthy. We are proud to be the first model shelter, and hope that by demonstrating that the guidelines are achievable and sharing what we have learned, other shelters will soon join us.

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 94: Summer 2018