Winter is quickly approaching. It’s a time of the year that creates stress for both humans and animals. Animal shelter and rescue directors know and understand how vulnerable the animals in their care are during the cold weather months. They need to make sure all of their volunteers understand the harsh realities of winter and how it impacts the animals.

Winter safety tips

Implement these six tips to improve winter safety for your animals and shelter.

  1. Education. Schedule a volunteer training that covers winter safety tips for your shelter and animals. Educated volunteers increase the quality of care your volunteers receive. Make the training mandatory for all volunteers to attend. This gives your long-term volunteers an opportunity to increase and share their past experiences with other volunteers.
  2. Limit outside time. Fur on animals doesn’t mean they are protected from the cold temperatures. Take them outside for their daily walks and breaks, but bring them back inside to stay warm the remainder of their day.
  1. Create an emergency plan. Depending on your location, an emergency winter weather plan is valuable. Meet with your volunteer team to review what measures you need to take in the event of severe winter weather. If there is a foot of snow, how will the animal get walked, fed, and taken care of? Who is responsible for making the trip in the snow to check on them? Does it make sense to have stand-by foster parents that can care for them during a storm? Planning this in advance alleviates a great deal of stress later.
  1. Purchase a generator. A generator is extremely valuable.  It keeps the building heated and the animals warm during unexpected power outages. Prepare before a winter storm arrives by purchasing one now.
  1. Prepare for storms. Winter weather is normally predicted days in advance. Make plans when snow is predicted; especially if it can delay daily commutes. Make sure the animals have plenty of food and water along with a comfy place to keep warm.
  1. Pay attention to the animals. Check animals’ paws for signs of frostbite. Monitor them after outside time for signs of hypothermia- whining, shivering, or weakness. Consistent monitoring is the key to keeping animals healthy during the cold-weather season.

Educate your volunteers to give them a better understanding of winter expectations and the animals care needs. Making your shelter a safe place during the cold months improves the well-being of the animals in your care.

Animal shelters and rescues cannot operate efficiently without volunteers and employees. Their dedication and time drive donations, adoptions, and increase the organization’s overall reach to the community. Often times, volunteers and employees get involved in making the animal welfare organization successful; they forget to take time for themselves. Directors, managers, and leaders need to know how to identify and understand the overall impact of stress or burnout.

Impacts
Volunteer and employee stress negatively impacts their well-being and your animal shelter or rescue in a number of ways.

  1. Volunteers with no passion. The best animal shelters and rescues have passionate volunteers and employees who believe in the mission and vision of the organization. Highly stressed volunteers and employees lose their spark and passion which leaves them with little desire to be present.
  2. Lack of engagement. Stressed individuals stop offering to help or participating in team brainstorming sessions. Their mind is too full to be actively engaged in helping others or your organization.
  3. Animals feel it. Animals can feel stress. Over time, that stress impacts their personality and behavior patterns. Some animals stop eating or act aggressively to other animals and human beings as a result.
  4. Supporters see it. Potential adopting families visit your shelter or rescue full of excitement to find their new family member. Their excitement can quickly dwindle if they interact with a stressed volunteer or employee that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Identify
Avoid these negative impacts by knowing what warning signs to look for and actively helping your volunteers and employees.

  1. They withdraw or stop communicating.
  2. Positive attitudes turn negative.
  3. Low productivity.
  4. Increased absence due illness or headaches.
  5. Increased turnover.

Help them

  1. Continuous training. Offer consistent training and education to help them understand new techniques and responsibilities. Your effort to keep them knowledgeable shows you are invested in their overall success.
  2. Start a conversation. If an individual appears to be acting different, talk to them. Ask them if something is bothering them or if they are unhappy with their responsibilities. Sometimes volunteers or employees are stressed due to things outside of your control – but sometimes it has to do with their work. Listen and create a plan that helps reduce their stress and takes them back to the positive personality they were before.
  3. Show appreciation. Show gratitude for their efforts on a consistent basis. Volunteers and employees feel stress when they don’t think they are doing a great job or their efforts aren’t appreciated.
  4. Change their workload. If they are feeling overwhelmed by their workload, offer to change it either temporarily or permanently. Life changes every day and some volunteers may not be able to commit to the same number of hours as they once were.
  5. Offer a leave of absence. If the volunteer or employee’s stress stems from an outside source, they might need some time off to handle and manage the situation. Be understanding and give them the time they need. They are more likely to come back fully charged when they know you care.

Pay attention to your volunteer and employee actions and take action when they change. Volunteers and employees are vital to your long-term success. Show them you care about their well-being and help them manage their stress. Your animal shelter or rescue will experience positive results when you do.

Animals – dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses – are taken in by animal shelters and rescues every day. Often times they come from unfortunate situations. Sometimes they come from amazing homes and families but uncontrollable circumstances arise forcing the family to give the animal up. No matter what their history consists of – they are sure to find comfort and safety in the shelter or rescue. Animal shelters and rescues work hard to find forever homes for these animals. One of the keys to raising awareness and interest in the animals available for adoption is successful marketing.

Marketing
Animal shelters and rescues utilize several marketing strategies to increase organization awareness and capture the attention of potential adopters. Common methods used by successful animal shelters and rescues include:

  • Adoption events
  • Online advertisements
  • Social media posts
  • Fundraisers
  • Open house events
  • Website page highlighting the animals

Getting potential adopters in the door (or on your website) is the first step in any of these techniques. How do you spark their interest? How do you make them fall in love and want to adopt one of your animals? The secret is writing a profile or bio about the animal they can’t ignore.

A bio they can’t refuse
You might not consider yourself a creative writer, but you need to. Utilize these five techniques to write create animal bios that work.

  1. Pull at their heart strings. Grabbing their attention starts with their hearts. In the first few sentences focus on those feelings. When you look at the animal – what do you see in their eyes or facial expression? Excitement, desire for a home, seriousness? Talk about that in your opening remarks. Use this example to guide you: “Roxy is looking for an energetic, fun-loving active family.” Or “Max needs a calm and peaceful home to spend his days relaxing.”
  2. Be honest. Honesty is vital. Make sure your description truly meets the needs of the animal and attracts the right family by telling them the truth.
  3. List the facts (even the negative ones). List facts about the animal – weight, color, and breed. Provide a history including where they came from, likes, needs, and dislikes.
  4. Include a call to action. Tell the potential adopter what steps to take next. Contact your animal shelter, talk to a volunteer, or fill out a volunteer application. They need to know what their next step is and are more likely to take action in the moment.
  5. Include a photo. Always include a photo of the animal – especially if you are listing the bio on the Internet. Pictures provide readers with a “face” and increase their desire to want to meet the animal in person.  Online posts with pictures are more likely to be read and shared by followers. The more individuals that see available animals – the better chance they have of being adopted.

Boost your marketing efforts with better animal bios and profiles. Make it impossible for potential adopters to say no by utilizing these five tips.

Foster parents are a vital part of your volunteer organization. They provide a safe haven and care for animals in need. Most animal shelters or animal rescues utilize volunteer handbooks. These handbooks identify how the volunteer program works and typically include a section dedicated to foster parent volunteers.
Foster parents have a unique set of responsibilities. Address these responsibilities in a manual created specifically for your foster parents. Make sure you include these 5 key components.

  1. Welcome Letter. Include a letter welcoming the new foster home to your animal rescue group. Include statistics illustrating how many animals you help, the number of foster homes in your network, and why they are important.
  2. Frequently Asked Questions. Address FAQ’s in the front of the manual. These address common concerns for foster parents immediately. Where do the foster animals come from? Can I foster a dog with a full-time job or with no fence? How long does each animal need care? How do I adopt my foster dog? These are just a few samples – include the questions you hear most often.
  3. Requirements. Address requirements up front. What steps do fosters need to take to “dog proof” their home? What supplies do they need to purchase? What activities are not acceptable for the animals?
  4. Expectations. What activities do you expect the foster to perform daily, weekly, and monthly? Walking/exercises, training, socializing, grooming expectations, and adoption family appointments need to be outlined in this section.
  5. Policies and Procedures. Animals are unpredictable. Address what steps fosters need to take in certain situations. Who do they contact if the animal bites them, bites somebody else, shows signs of aggression, or gets sick or injured? Outline when veterinary services need contacted and how the foster parent can help at home.

Creating a strong network of foster homes is the key to successful adoptions. Manage expectations and requirements upfront with a foster manual.

Animals in shelters typically come from a background of abuse and neglect. Sometimes these animals have little or no social skills with other animals or humans. Similar to humans, social skills with humans or other animals are vital.

What is socialization?

Socialization teaches dogs to interact with humans and other animals in a friendly manner. Those responsible for socializing dogs use different tactics and methods. Placing dogs in foster homes and forever homes requires they have certain socialization skills. The skills required depend on the makeup of those homes. Do the homes have children, other dogs, or other pets? How does the dog respond to children, males, females, and other animals?

Often times, animal shelters know little about the dogs in their care. Especially when the dogs are found abandoned. In these situations, how do you know what type of environment they will thrive in? The best shelters perform aggression testing to determine what social skills are in place and which need to be worked on.

Proper socialization decreases the dog’s stress and the chance of lashing out. Shelter dogs need to be introduced to socializing differently than a 3-week old puppy. Follow these steps for socializing your shelter dogs:

  1. Choose the right volunteer. Choose volunteers who are calm by nature. Anxiousness is easily detected by the dogs. If the volunteer is anxious or quick to yank on the leash, the dogs get scared.
  2. Introduce them to other shelter dogs. During the initial meetings keep both dogs on a loose leash. This gives the dogs chance to move freely to check out the surrounding environment. Keep the dogs about 8 feet apart to avoid a face to face meeting which many dogs don’t enjoy.
  3. Pay attention. Take notice of how the dogs react to one another. Look for signs of discomfort – stiff body, bared teeth, or growling. Maintain distance between the dogs in these situations or stop for the day if they don’t calm down.
  4. Introduce them to a group setting. After the dogs do well in the one on one introduction, they can be introduced to a group setting. Have the volunteer take the dog into a group environment on a leash. Drop the leash inside – give them chance to explore while still having a method to manage them. Take them off the leash after 20-30 minutes of good behavior. Continue to watch them for another 20- 30 minutes to make sure they remain calm.
  5. Slowly move them full-time to the group setting. Move new dogs into the group setting in stages. Let them stay for a few hours adding time every day until you work up to a full day with the other dogs.

Animal Shelters and rescues attend adoption events as exhibitors to help raise mission awareness and increase adoptions.  Events range from a small open house to a larger event with multiple animal shelters and rescues.  Deciding to attend an event comes with risks. Plan in advance to minimize these risks. Train your volunteer team on how their actions can help protect your animal shelter or rescue. Here are five things your animal shelter needs to know before attending a special event:

  1. Does the event align with your mission? Look at the mission or goal of the event.  Does their goal align with your mission? If the two do not align, the event is not in your best interest.  Attending an event that does not promote your mission, leaves you open to negative publicity or loss of a positive reputation.
  2. Read the contract. Most event organizers require you to comply with rules and an agreement to become an exhibitor. Make sure you read the contract or agreement to determine if you can meet these requirements. Common event guidelines include set-up and tear down times, proof of insurance, vaccine requirements for animals, and expectations for how you present yourself during the event. If you are unable to meet the requirements outlined in the agreement do not register as an exhibitor.  You risk a negative impact to your animal shelter or rescue if you attend and do not follow the guidelines.
  3. What can go wrong? Prior to attending an event, make a list of all the potential risks. Risks include animals getting loose, volunteers not showing, animals injuring attendees or volunteers.  Once you have a list of possibilities, create a proactive plan that identifies how you will minimize the potential for these.  For example, one significant risk is an animal jumping on an attendee and scratching that individual.  A plan to keep that from occurring includes making sure volunteers are assisting the attendees while talking to, petting and playing with the animals.
  4. Choose the right animals. Choosing the right animals to take is a key in minimizing the risk of injury to attendees. Your goal is to increase adoptions by attending the event.  Animals that have just recently entered your care may not be a good fit.  Choose animals that can handle social situations and interaction with strangers.  Animals that are skittish or easily scared have unpredictable behaviors and should remain at the shelter or in their foster home during events.
  5. Choose the right volunteer team. Volunteers who attend the event need to be knowledgeable of your animal shelter or rescue, your mission and how to present themselves during an event. If you choose to send new volunteers, make sure you pair them with an experienced volunteer that understands adoption event logistics and your expectations.

Adoption and special events are a powerful way to educate and involve your community with your shelter.  Follow these steps before attending an event to create a positive experience for all involved.

 

Searching for good quality volunteers is usually a tough task that has to be taken on to keep non profit animal shelters operating.  When interviewing and recruiting new volunteers, make sure you are identifying volunteers that match your desired culture.  There are many skills to look for in new volunteers but these five will help you identify the top volunteers who may benefit your animal shelter:

1.    Energetic. Top volunteers exude energy and you can feel it just by talking to them. They are the volunteers that are excited about new projects and tasks and can inject energy into other volunteers.
2.    Passion. Top volunteers are passionate about the cause you serve. Finding volunteers that are passionate about animal welfare, adoption, and well-being is key to recruiting volunteers that will best suit your animal shelter.
3.    Take Direction. Volunteers that excel and do the best for your mission, will be able to take direction when needed from management and experienced volunteers.
4.    Leaders. Excellent volunteers will have the ability to lead others to help your overall mission.  This may be leading other volunteers in training or members of your community to help in donating, adopting, or sheltering for your animal shelter.
5.    They Do What They Say They Will. There is no better volunteer than one that commits and sticks to that commitment. They are the volunteers that show their loyalty and commitment to the cause through their actions and do not bail with last minute excuses.

If you can recruit volunteers with these five qualities, your volunteer team will increase its abilities to educate the community and work to fulfill your animal shelter’s mission and vision. Retention of solid and top volunteers will increase at the same time because their success is reconfirmed with how well the shelter is performing and the number of animals being helped in the community.

As the hot sunny days of summer approach, it’s inevitable that we spend more time outdoors – pets included. Summer activities are a great source of enjoyment and exercise, but it’s important to ensure your animals stay cool in the heat of the summer. Here are a five tips from experts to keep your pets cool and happy. Animal Care Tip 1: Stay in the shade Have you ever noticed your dog or cat lying on a cool surface? They’re trying to cool themselves down. When you’re playing outside and your dog finds a shady spot, let him. Animals naturally gravitate to the shade when they’re hot. And remember, they don’t wear shoes – so imagine how hot the concrete or asphalt is when it’s been baking in the sun all afternoon. A walk in a shaded forest is a much better choice than a walk through the city. Animal Care Tip 2: Play outside at the right time Try to avoid taking your pets outdoors during the hottest time of day. The scorching mid afternoon sun can cause health issues very quickly. Try to plan your outdoor activities in the early morning or in the evening once the sun has gone down. Animal Care Tip 3: Hydrate frequently Pets can dehydrate quickly – especially on a hot day.

  • Make sure they have plenty of fresh water available. If you’re thirsty on a hot day, chances are your pets are too.
  • Ice cubes or frozen broth make a great hydrating treat for dogs.

Animal Care Tip 4: Visit the groomer You wouldn’t go outside on a summer day wearing your winter parka! Imagine how your dog feels. Depending on the breed, some dogs benefit from a summer haircut. Even frequent brushing can help eliminate loose fur and prevent your pet from overheating. Animal Care Tip 5: Be mindful of your pet’s health Animal health experts encourage all pet owners to be mindful of their pet’s health, especially in the summer. Some breeds with flat-shaped faces like pugs, bulldogs, and terriers can’t pant as well as other breeds. These dogs should be expect inside on extremely hot days. Pets that are overweight, elderly, or have other medical conditions should also be kept indoors.

No matter how much you may love cats, you’re likely still not thrilled to be woken up at three in the morning by feral cats serenading each other or fighting over a mate. More and more, though, Americans are looking for better ways to deal with the problem. Not only is the old-fashioned “capture and kill” mode of dealing with feral cats inhumane, it’s notoriously ineffective. Once the local cat population has been rounded up, a new group of cats moves in to fill the vacuum, and the cycle repeats itself.
The same goes for adoption: while some cats are socialized and fond of human company, others will never get over their mistrust. These “unadoptable” cats are often euthanized, leaving them to a fate no better than cats in areas with less humane polices. And even when cats have been successfully adopted, there’s still an ecological niche in your neighborhood that’s just waiting to be filled by more stray and feral cats.
This is where TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) programs come in. Feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated for rabies. Then they’re released back into the neighborhood. Often, a caretaker will work with community residents to provide safe and natural feline deterrents for areas where cats are a nuisance. They may even set up feeding stations and litter areas to direct cats’ attention to areas where they’ll be more welcome.
Despite the need for a caretaker to act as a community liaison, TNR programs are still more cost-effective than common alternatives. By creating and supporting a non-reproducing cat colony, fewer resources need to be devoted to catching members of a constantly-changing population. Instead, the existing cat population will defend its territory against intruders, while the colony size decreases over time as fewer and fewer kittens are born. And thanks to the lack of annoying mating behavior in neutered cats, there’s a marked decrease in calls to Animal Control.
Studies show that TNR programs lead to neighborhood cats that are quieter, less aggressive, and overall have better relationships with their human neighbors, while the cats themselves live healthier, longer lives. When both human and feline members of your community benefit, what’s not to love?

Kitten and puppy season is the time of year between early spring and early fall where overwhelming amounts of litters are brought to shelters. During this season, shelters struggle with keeping up with food supplies and pet care products. One of the best ways to prevent this from occurring is to be prepared. If you are wondering how you can help prepare your shelter for handling kitten and puppy season properly the ideas below should help.
1. Stock Up on Pet Food
Before kitten and puppy season starts, it is wise to stock up on pet food. If your shelter is struggling with having the financial means to do so, ask for kitten and puppy food donations from your local community. This way, when kitten and puppy season starts you will not run out of the foods necessary to nourish and help these furry pals grow up into healthy pet’s that could provide lots of love to the family that adopts them.
2. Stock Up on Pet Care Grooming Products
Most of the kittens and puppies that come during the kitten and puppy season are dirty and full of fleas and ticks. Due to these reasons, tons of pet shampoos and grooming products will be necessary to have on hand in order to help get the dirty ones clean. Other essential grooming products your shelter might need are grooming brushes, claw clippers and grooming sheers. Even flea and tick medication and collars are helpful to have on hand for those poor kittens and puppies that need a bit of help ridding the awful insects from their furry coats.
3. Stock Up on Extra Crates, Leashes and Pet Bedding
Stocking up on extra pet crates, carriers, and leashes and bedding before the season starts will ensure your shelter has enough room too safely and happen place the little furry pals until new homes are found for them. You will also need extra pet food and water dishes to go into those extra crates to ensure all kittens and puppies have the ability to access food and water when their little tummies are hungry and thirsty.
4. Stock Up on Extra Toys
During kitten and puppy season, extra toys will be necessary. All kitten and puppies staying at the shelter need to have plenty of fun things to play with to help keep the busy, well-exercised as well as healthy and strong.