What is socially conscious sheltering?
Socially Conscious Sheltering is a compassionate, transparent, and thoughtful model of how shelters can best support vulnerable animals. Socially Conscious Sheltering is a shared set of beliefs that animal welfare organizations around the world are embracing to create the best possible outcomes for companion animals.
There are nine tenets of Socially Conscious Sheltering. Shelters across the country have committed to this way of caring for animals and, as a result, animals in these shelters and rescues are having superior outcomes. Every community has a responsibility to its animals and should demand that animals receive the care and respect they deserve.
1. ENSURE EVERY UNWANTED OR HOMELESS PET HAS A SAFE PLACE TO GO FOR SHELTER AND CARE.
Every community must have a safe shelter facility where homeless or unwanted animals can receive care. Ongoing outreach and engagement are critical to increasing community awareness of the services the shelter provides. Socially Conscious Shelters support each other and collaborate to make their resources meaningful and accessible to their respective communities.
2. PLACE (AT LEAST) EVERY HEALTHY AND SAFE ANIMAL.
Socially Conscious Shelters and Rescues find placements for all pets who:
- Either have no signs of clinical disease or have evidence of disease that has a good or excellent prognosis for a comfortable life
- Have not exhibited behavior that is likely to result in severe injury or death to another animal or person.
Notably, this tenet does not preclude Socially Conscious Shelters from placing pets who have medical or behavioral conditions that can be safely and effectively managed outside of the shelter environment.
3. ASSESS THE MEDICAL AND BEHAVIORAL NEEDS OF HOMELESS ANIMALS, AND ENSURE THESE NEEDS ARE THOUGHTFULLY ADDRESSED.
Socially Conscious Shelters are committed to preventing and easing suffering for each animal in their care. To that end, animals housed in shelters or rescues must receive regular health assessments and proper veterinary care to treat any injury or disease. Shelters must also assess each animal’s individual behavioral needs and provide thoughtful enrichment to keep them comfortable and prevent or redirect any destructive, obsessive-compulsive, or similar coping behaviors.
4. ALLEVIATE SUFFERING AND MAKE APPROPRIATE EUTHANASIA DECISIONS.
Socially Conscious Shelters have open discussions about how to prevent and alleviate suffering for the animals in their care. Through relationships with local and national coalition partners, shelters can eliminate the euthanasia of healthy, treatable, and safe animals. When a pet is diagnosed with a terminal condition or has a behavior issue that presents a risk to the community, Socially Conscious Shelters may consider humane euthanasia the most compassionate option and best outcome for that animal.
5. ALIGN POLICY WITH THE NEEDS OF THE COMMUNITY.
The Socially Conscious Sheltering framework acknowledges that one size doesn’t fit all in animal welfare. Shelters in every community serve a diverse range of people and animals and have different challenges and opportunities. Shelters and rescues tailor their policies and practices to the unique needs of their community to support pets, people, and the bonds they share. As such, shelters are encouraged to offer a variety of programs that assist both animals and people, including subsidized veterinary services, humane education, feline Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, and short-term foster care for pet owners experiencing hardship.
6. ENHANCE THE HUMAN-ANIMAL BOND THROUGH THOUGHTFUL PLACEMENTS AND POST-ADOPTION SUPPORT.
Socially Conscious Shelters strive to make loving and lifelong connections for the pets they place by understanding the needs of animals and prospective adopters. However, introducing an animal to a new home can be challenging. Shelters have a responsibility to support the adoptive family, which, at a minimum, means they will accept the animal back to their facility without judgment. Organizations can also provide additional post-adoption support, such as behavior classes and free or subsidized veterinary care to address shelter-related medical needs.
7. CONSIDER THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS OF EACH ANIMAL AND COMMUNITY WHEN TRANSFERRING ANIMALS BETWEEN COMMUNITIES.
Shelters can save lives by transferring animals to partner organizations with more capacity to care for them. Socially Conscious Shelters recognize their responsibility to support the well-being of transfer animals, as well as the people and pets currently living in the community. Socially Conscious Shelters also assist the “source” shelter in addressing the animal welfare challenges that may have contributed to the need for transfer.
8. IMPLEMENT INCLUSIVE POLICIES AND PRACTICES.
Animals thrive when opportunities and resources are accessible and shared equitably. Socially Conscious shelters and rescues implement policies and practices that represent, honor, and elevate the diverse voices in their communities. They prioritize equity and inclusion when determining how to support pets and their people. They humbly seek and embrace diverse viewpoints and nurture productive relationships with community partners to keep animals safe, healthy, and with the people who love them most.
9. FOSTER A CULTURE OF TRANSPARENCY, ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING, MUTUAL RESPECT, CONTINUAL LEARNING, AND COLLABORATION.
Socially Conscious shelters are committed to full transparency, including reporting accurate statistics and program data, sharing policies, and admitting missteps. Integrity and building trust must be the foundation of all decisions. Every shelter can learn something from every other shelter—it is essential to be curious and to share innovative solutions to common problems. Only by working together can we ensure the best outcomes for all animals.
Q: How was the Socially Conscious Sheltering movement developed and initiated?
A: The Socially Conscious Sheltering movement was created because of the intense need for this conversation.
In Colorado, four large animal shelters practiced Socially Conscious Sheltering without having articulated it as such. The CEOs of these shelters (Jan McHugh Smith, Judy Calhoun, Lisa Pederson, and Apryl Steele) met to discuss their animal welfare beliefs, including shelter practices. Out of that conversation came the Socially Conscious Sheltering model. The model was then shared with shelter CEOs from across the United States for their feedback, each shelter with different communities, intake policies, and levels of community engagement. The insight was incorporated into the fundamental goals of Socially Conscious Sheltering, and a website, www.scsheltering.org, was created. Before a marketing strategy could be developed, Socially Conscious Sheltering was adopted by the animal sheltering community and by several municipalities.
– Source: SCSheltering.org