Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Internet Resource on Animal Shelter Management

The University of California Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program site is mainly intended for their own veterinary students, but is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in learning more about proper animal care in rescue conditions.

The site includes downloadable copies of their class lecture notes and links to videos and "webinars" where animal shelter professionals can discuss shared problems and solutions online. UK readers do need to bear in mind that US conditions are sometimes different from ours — some diseases found here don't occur over there and vice versa, for example. However many of the issues (trapping and neutering feral cats; behaviour assessment and temperament tests; assessing prospective animal adopters and so on) are relevant to both sides of the Atlantic.

Some interesting comparisons of the organisational structure of the RSPCA in this country compared to the US in one of the introductory lectures:
Questions from Shelter Medicine Overview Lecture, 04/04/2008
Kate F. Hurley
UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program
Questions generally about shelter standards and regulation:

"I didn't realize that local SPCAs were not affiliated with each other. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing--I can see that it would be good to retain some regional individuality, and it probably creates less paperwork/bureaucracy that needs to be worked through. It's probably easier to implement changes, and easier to tailor what the shelter offers to the community. On the other hand, I wonder if it would be easier to get funding, and better for research purposes (easier to access a large amount of "herd health" data) if the shelters were associated."

"Good point about the up and down sides of having all shelters linked. I was recently in England, where the vast majority of shelters are under one of their major charitable umbrella organizations. (Unlike here, all RSPCAs really are part of the same group, for instance.) The power of a large organization gave them broad recognition, seemingly lots of fundraising clout, the opportunity to collect and compare data between numerous shelters, and the ability to implement a set of standards that were generally impressively high in terms of animal housing, health and adoptions. On the down side, chatting with people it sounded like the organizations can be unwieldy to change, there are layers of bureaucracy, and it could be that it’s harder to respond to specific regional issues – likely more of an issue in the U.S. since we are such a large and varied country. Just as we’ve seen many individual veterinary practices absorbed into corporate chains or groups, it does seem possible that we will eventual see something like a large non-profit group operating multiple shelters on a franchise-type model – there are a few groups, such as the Massachusetts SPCA that do operate multiple shelters within a single state. However, I think it’s unlikely that we will ever see the kind of cohesive arrangement that exists in the United Kingdom, just because of the fractured and independent way that shelters sprang up on this side of the ocean. "
Continuing the ringworm theme from yesterday, there's an online presentation on ringworm control in animal shelters with useful pictures of infections (and other conditions which can look similar). It's interesting to see that the cat cages in the shelter they show wouldn't be acceptable in our units except for cats needing to be closely confined for medical reasons, such as fractures or heart problems.

The really striking difference between us and the States is cats — we don't declaw and we do expect they'll normally have more or less free access to the outdoors. Most US animal welfare agencies deprecate declawing, but are absolutely vehemently opposed to letting cats roam freely outside.

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