April 29, 2020

Socially Conscious Sheltering: Assessing medical and behavioral needs

Assessing the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals and addressing them thoughtfully

Just like all people are different, so are all animals. The needs of one do not equate to the needs of another. As a Socially Conscious Shelter (SCS) (check out our previous blog for a breakdown of what SCS means), we see animals from all walks of life entering our doors. Whether they have been abandoned, abused, sick, injured, etc., we look at the needs of every animal individually to determine the best possible outcome for that specific animal. Here’s how we do it:

We’re the only shelter in Colorado with a veterinary clinic accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. That means we exceed quality standards that encompass all aspects of veterinary medicine from pain management to patient care to recordkeeping.

We use our AHAA-accredited veterinary clinic every day to meet the medical needs of the homeless animals who come through our doors. One example of this is sweet Doug. In late March of 2020, an adorable brown tiger cat came in to the Colorado Springs campus of HSPPR as an injured stray in a lot of pain. He had what looked like a twisted jaw because of trauma. Our veterinary team took X-rays the same day he came in, sedated him, and realigned his jaw.

We were hoping that would be all the cat, whom we quickly named Doug, would need, but unfortunately, although Doug was extremely sweet and affectionate, he wouldn’t eat on his own. But our team believed there was still hope for him, and we wanted to meet his individual needs. Our veterinarians quickly realized Doug was still in too much pain to eat, so until his jaw healed some more, we needed to help him out. We placed a feeding tube in Doug’s neck, and for an entire week, our veterinary staff all took turns feeding Doug to make sure he stayed nourished and healthy while recovering. He soon began eating on his own as his health and pain improved, and he was made available for adoption!

We have a behavior modification program. Our behavior modification program allows us to work every day to address the behavioral needs of homeless pets. In this program, we identify dogs with behavior issues that might make it difficult for them to find homes and be successful in those homes. We work with dogs, based on their individual needs, on things learning to sit instead of jump, gaining confidence and building trust with humans, leash training, and more.

Moya is an excellent example of this. Moya came to HSPPR Pueblo as a stray in February. When she arrived, she was incredibly fearful and wouldn’t let anyone near her. Our Behavior Programs Manager, Miguel, took Moya under his wing and began to build a relationship with her. Over time, Moya started to trust Miguel, and she would even sit at his desk with him! Slowly, but surely, she started gaining confidence because of our behavior modification program.

Behavior staff selfie with a large, white dog

We have an extensive network of transfer partners. If an animal presents with behavior or medical issues beyond our scope or resources, but we think that animal could still make progress and be a safe adoption candidate, we rely on our transfer partners, who have different resources, to better meet that pet’s needs.

Let’s go back to Moya as an example. Even though she was making great progress with Miguel, she was still very fearful of other people, and the shelter environment was not conducive to her success. We believed she would make faster and greater progress outside of a shelter and in a home with an experienced person who could continue Moya’s training.

That’s why we transferred her to our partner, Until They’re Home, where they have experienced foster families equipped to help dogs like Moya. Last we heard, she has been settling into her new home nicely, and she gets along well with her foster siblings. She even gives her foster mom kisses! We are so grateful for Until They’re Home for continuing Moya’s path to adoption.

As you can see, we have programs in place to thoughtfully address the medical and behavioral needs of every animal that comes into our care. And, for pets we believe could be successful outside of our shelter, we have an extensive national network of transfer partners to help us and those animals!

Stay tuned for next month’s SCS blog where we’ll discuss how we use SCS as a framework to alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions.