Getting sick is part of our everyday lives, but in most cases, individuals think about colds, flu, and other illnesses passed from one human to another. There is another category of illnesses that impact humans known as zoonotic diseases (zoonoses) that are passed from animals to humans. Working or volunteering at an animal shelter increases the chance of contracting one of these illnesses. To best protect yourself, your volunteer team, and visitors to the animal shelter, it is essential that you understand zoonotic diseases as well as educate volunteers.

How Zoonotic Diseases Spread

According to the Water Quality & Health Council, 60% of infectious diseases are spread by animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases can be spread through bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites depending on the disease. The most common ways these diseases find their way to humans include:

  • Animal bites or scratches that break the skin.
  • Insect bites from mosquitoes, ticks, or fleas.
  • Coming in direct contact with animal fluids including urine, feces, and saliva.
  • Consuming water or food that was contaminated by the animal.
  • Coming in contact with something that was contaminated by the animal.
  • Skin to skin contact with the animal.
  • Inhaling germs or particles in the air.

Types of Zoonotic Diseases

There are currently 150 known zoonotic diseases with some being more prevalent than others. Take a look at these common types that your animal shelter should be conscious of:

  1. Plague: The plague is a bacteria that is spread by small animals including rodents and cats. The bubonic plague is spread by fleas and contracted by humans when bit.
  2. Leptospirosis: This is a bacterial infection spread by dogs in their urine.
  3. Cat Scratch Disease: The cat scratch disease is a bacteria spread by felines when they bite or scratch breaking open skin. In some cases, fleas have also been known to spread the bacteria.
  4. Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is a popular zoonotic disease that is spread by infected ticks attaching themselves to animals or humans.
  5. Tick Paralysis: Some ticks produce a neurotoxin that when transmitted to humans or animals can cause paralysis starting in the legs before spreading to other limbs.
  6. Rabies: Another well-known disease that can be deadly to humans which is why many areas require rabies vaccines for animals to prevent the spread.
  7. Toxoplasmosis: This disease is spread through cat feces and urine. It is especially harmful to unborn babies and linked to birth defects.

 

Preventing the Spread of Zoonotic Diseases

In an animal shelter setting, there are steps your volunteers can take to minimize the spread of zoonotic diseases including:

  • Wear gloves when cleaning litter boxes or removing feces from the yard.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after all contact with animals.
  • Use insect repellent before spending time outdoors with the animals.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants while volunteering to minimize scratches.
  • Make sure all animals are seen by a vet upon intake.

If you haven’t trained your volunteer team on zoonotic diseases recently, now is a great time to schedule a training session.

Running an animal shelter or rescue requires a big heart. One of the best parts of volunteering for an animal welfare organization is matching previously neglected animals with families that are ready to love and care for them. In some ways this is also the most challenging part of being a volunteer since it is common to develop a bond with the dogs, cats, and other animals. A lot more goes into managing an animal shelter. Directors in charge must also make sure the organization is adequately insured.

Buying the right insurance begins with finding an agent that understands the unique activities involved in shelter life. And it requires understanding what to look for on an insurance policy in regards to coverage and exclusions. Shelters often have insurance in place such as general liability, volunteer, and commercial property if they have a building, but the policies may have exclusions that place the organization at risk.

  1. Breed Exclusions

If you own a home and have a dog, you may remember having to answer what breed the dog is or even be aware that it is difficult to find homeowners insurance when you have certain breeds. Some insurance companies insure animal shelters and rescues but exclude what they refer to as high-risk breeds. Breeds most commonly excluded include Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, German Shepards, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Mastiffs, and Siberian Huskies. Breed exclusions may not be a concern if you only care for cats or a specific breed not on this list, but if you are an all-breed rescue and accept any of these into your care, the insurance could be void as a result.

  1. Are Animals Covered?

Unfortunately, another common exclusion is animals altogether which means that any claim resulting from one of the animals will not be covered. This includes bites, if they cause another injury, or even if they get loose and cause an automobile accident. Since animals are the center of your mission, this is an exclusion you should ask about immediately.

  1. Dog Bites

Dog bites are often an exclusion because of the high cost of medical care and settling these types of claims. Since most nonprofit animal shelters don’t have the funds to afford these types of expenses, making sure your insurance includes protection against dog bites is essential.

  1. Designated Locations

Some insurance policies limit coverage to specific locations listed in the policy. This limitation should be a concern for organizations that attend adoption events or utilize foster homes for care. If an incident were to occur at any location other than the listed one, the insurance policy would not pay the costs associated with it.

Animal shelters are a vital part of their local communities. To provide care in the long-term, it is essential that you have the right insurance in place. If you find any of the exclusions mentioned above on your insurance policy, it may be time to contact an agency that specializes in animal welfare organizations for guidance.

Animal Welfare Organizations provide vital services to communities across the country, striving every day to make the world a better place for neglected animals. A mission they could not fulfill without the help and support of a dedicated team of volunteers and financial supporters. Even though they operate on a much smaller budget than larger corporations, their access to confidential information makes animal welfare organizations a prime target for cyber-criminals.

While it is natural to think that small animal welfare organizations would be at the bottom of these criminals’ target list, limited resources makes them more susceptible to an attack. One of the common cyber criminal activities that spiked in 2018 before beginning a slow decline is ransomware attacks.

What is a Ransomware Attack?

Ransomware is a type of malware that hackers use to infect a device or website and hold the information hostage. To regain access to their information, the victim has to pay a ransom for the cyber-criminal to release it.

The most common way for a cyber-criminal to infect computers with ransomware is by using a phishing scam. Phishing scams occur when these hackers send emails to volunteers or employees at the animal welfare organization. Unlike regular spam, these emails are disguised as being sent from somebody the individual should trust. The emails include attachments, and when the volunteer or employee opens the attachment, it releases the malware onto their computer.

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Even though cyber-criminals seem to get smarter every day, there are some steps animal welfare organizations can take to minimize the threat of an attack.

  1. Always install updates on computers and software to prevent any “holes” in the program or device. Failing to install updates promptly makes it easier for cyber-criminals to hack into the system.
  2. Require any downloads or program installs to be approved by a designated IT volunteer or resource. This assures the wrong types of software (i.e., malware) are not downloaded by mistake.
  3. Install antivirus software that includes malware protection on all devices.
  4. Train volunteers on how to identify phishing scams.
  5. Create an acceptable use policy for the organization’s devices and require all volunteers to sign and acknowledge the expectations.
  6. Backup programs, files, and systems at least weekly to not lose any crucial information.

The best way to protect an animal welfare organization from the aftermath of a ransomware attack is to buy the right insurance now. Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program can help you find cyber liability insurance to protect your financial well-being.

Figuring out how to fundraise can be a stressful process. Should we do a 5k? Should we do a car wash? Do we just ask for donations on our website or Facebook page? There are so many ways that you can reach out to the community, but you need to find what is right for your organization. Sometimes with all the options it might seem like your head is spinning, but Amazon has simplified it all.

In this day and age, anything you can imagine can be done or sold on the internet. So why shouldn’t we all take advantage of that? The internet is used to buy whatever product that you need because it’s no hassle. Look for what you want, order it and have it delivered straight to your door, just like that! With the ease of shopping because of the worldwide web, why can’t donating to your favorite organization be that easy? With Amazon Smile it is!
So what is Amazon smile you ask? Well let me tell you:
At this point, most people know about Amazon, but did you know while you, your family,
your friends and pretty much anyone shopping can donate with just the click of a button? Smile will donate .5% of every purchase that is made while they are shopping as long as they have selected your organization. They just need to go to
smile.amazon.com using their regular account, and make sure that they have selected your business before they make their final purchase. Now that might not seem like a lot, but think of how many times people shop on amazon, it’s not a once in a while thing at all.

In order to be eligible you need to have a registered EIN number as well as be a 501(c)(3) in good standing. Your organization also must not be a private fundraiser. Once you meet
those requirements, a designated administrator from your business can then set you up
with an EFT account. Every quarter your donations will be put directly into the account that you provide, easy as that! Unfortunately, they are not able to do paper checks, they will only do it as a direct deposit. The minimum they will deposit into your account is 5.00, so make sure that you are spreading the word to all that you know, to shop Amazon Smile with your organizations name!
While you can, by word of mouth, tell your friends and family to make sure they are thinking of you when they shop, you can also post about it on any social media that you may have. You can make a Facebook post or you can put the link and information on your web page. If you still aren’t sure how you want to put this information out to the public, Amazon has your back! Once you sign on to your organizations account on amazon, you can go to their marketing tools area where they can guide you in the right direction, such as a social media banner.
Fundraising can be difficult, but Amazon Smile has made it easier for you to do so with thesetype of donations. All you have to do is post about it!

Fundraising 5k

August 24, 2018

Running a marathon, that sounds fun right? No I didn’t think so. But you know what sounds fun? A 5k! Whether you are walking or running, it’s something that you can do solo, with your family, with a group, even with your dog! In the past couple of years 5k’s have been making there way on to the scene being used as a great way to get people together to exercise for a cause. Who wouldn’t want to get fit while supporting their favorite organization?

Being in the animal field, such as running a sanctuary, or being a foster, you are relying a lot on the donations that come in from the general public. Sometimes you need to get creative to get the community involved, and what better way than by jumping in on the band wagon and hosting a 5k in honor of your facility. These types of events are also really great to get some face to face interaction with those who are potential supporters and make a more personal connection, not only with you the owner, but with the animals that they will be donating too.

5k walks or runs are great for the community because you can host a larger amount of people at one time. In a time where health is a big focus, these types of fundraising events give people motivation to get out and do something while supporting something they are passionate about. To make it even better you, could make the 5k dog friendly so that people can bring their best friend out and support his furry brothers and sisters.

Other local animal products can set up stands at the beginning of the race and a portion of their proceeds can be donated to you. This is also a great way to spread the word about local business that people might not realize is in their very own community.

This is also a great time to spotlight some of your furry friends that the walk is benefitting. If you are in the business of adoption, bring some of your adoptable. Who knows they might even find their furrever home, or at the least get someone to sponser them! If you are trying to raise funds for a santuary, or a facility that doesn’t adopt animals, and you just give them a safe haven, bring them out so they can show their appreciation!

Whats wonderful about events like this, and most other types of events, is that most of the policies that we at Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program write for our organizations will already have this covered. If they don’t they make it really easy to get the coverage so that it’s one less thing for you to worry about when you are putting on your 5k.

Fundraising is a tough thing to do , but when you can make it fun and interactive, people are more likely to come out and see what you are all about! Spread your love for your animals to other’s by walking it out for a cause.

So you found an animal in need?
No doubt we can all agree how hot it has been this summer. Not only is it hot for us , it is also hot for our furry friends as well! So what happens when you find an animal in need? There are a few steps you can take to make sure your friend is well taken care of.

Is this animal native wildlife? If so take note of a few things.

Does it have open or visible wounds?

Is it acting abnormally?

Does it seem to be breathing rapidly?

These are all questions that your local animal control or vet are going to ask. Always assess your surroundings, your safety is number one! Your local animal control or veterinarian should be able to guide you to the correct phone number if they are unable to help.

If you feel that you can safely handle the animal, make sure that you have gloves on. For
smaller animals, put them in a box padded with shredded newspaper or towels, and in an area that is quiet until you are given further instructions. Make sure that if you do handle the animal to wash your hands vigorously afterwards.

For a dog or a cat that doesn’t seem to have anyone with them, go ahead and call the local shelters and veterinarian. If they are friendly, try and read their tag, you might be able to get in touch with their owner. In this day and age, most pets are micro-chipped so the vet can be a great help! Even though you might have the urge to give the dog water or food, hold off on doing so until you contact the vet. Dog’s and cat’s have allergies too so you don’t want to upset their stomach, and chugging water isn’t good for humans and animals alike!

Let’s all have fun for what’s left of the summer and keep our friends safe in the process!

The difference between being almost right and actually right leads to lawsuits every day. It’s no secret that our society continues to resort to lawsuits as a popular method to work out differences and be heard by a larger audience. Over the years, animal welfare organizations received lawsuit papers for multiple types of incidents.
The best animal welfare organizations implement policies and procedures to promote safety, honesty, and proper care of animals in need. When was the last time you reviewed these policies and procedures? Many times organizations utilize a “set it and forget it” approach to policies and procedures. This is risky business for animal welfare organizations.
How often do you need to review?
It depends on the scope of your animal welfare organization’s operations. A few things to consider before you determine how often to review:

  • How many volunteers are a part of your team?
  • What is your volunteer turnover rate?
  • Do you offer any TNR services?
  • Do you provide any veterinary services?

It is important to look at your services and what types of compliance you need to be up to date on. If you offer veterinary services, you need to review policies and procedures more frequently. Review policies and procedures at least once every year but more often if volunteer turnover is high and they type of services you provide requires it.
Why?
There are 3 important reasons you need to update policies and procedures on a regular basis.

  1. Prevents incidents and accidents from occurring.
    Policies and procedures provide a solid outline of expectations for volunteers. Those expectations address your operations at the time they are drafted and implemented. Your operations change as you grow and increase your volunteer team. It is important to “relook” at the procedures to identify operational changes, efficiency updates, and missing items.
  2. Provides the solution to the problem.
    Strong policies and procedures include solutions to problems that arise – how to reprimand or address non-compliant volunteers. Having this documented lets volunteers know what to expect and gives you a path to address issues and be consistent with all volunteers. Laws change over time – make sure you update regularly to remain in compliance.
  3. Protection in the event a lawsuit occurs.
    No matter how many steps you take to minimize lawsuits – they do happen. Your defense is only as strong as your documentation. Having up to date compliant policies and procedures helps you with that defense.

How?
You understand the importance of keeping policies and procedures up to date. How do you make it happen with an already overloaded busy schedule? Use this 4-step plan to simplify the process.

  1. Create a policy and procedures panel. Choose 2-3 strong volunteers to lead the project research for you.
  2. Review changes. Have the volunteers identify any changes made since your last review. Does a policy or procedure exist addressing these changes or new services?
  3. Review existing policies and procedures. Look for any changes that need made to comply with regulations, improve overall efficiency, and decrease risk.
  4. Implement. Make the changes to the policies and procedures. Hold a volunteer training with your volunteers reviewing the changes and updates.

Policies and procedures are vital to the daily operations of your animal welfare organization. Make it a point to update them regularly to keep volunteers safe, visitors, safe, and prevent potential incidents and lawsuits.

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.

Volunteers are a valuable asset for animal shelters and rescues. Without them, shelters and rescues would be unable to achieve their mission. In 2013, the IRS released a report stating that 85% of nonprofit organizations are run by volunteers and have no paid staff.  Volunteers are responsible for organizing adoption events, raising funds, and caring for the animals in their animal shelters or rescues. Last week we reviewed the importance of creating and maintaining a volunteer program. One of the prime aspects of that program is to implement a volunteer handbook.

Volunteers differ from paid employees. However, managing volunteers requires a similar skill set.  Employee handbooks are common in both small and large businesses.  Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues need to implement a similar handbook for volunteers.  Here are the two main benefits of a volunteer handbook:

  1. Sets Expectations. A handbook is a tool that defines what is expected of the volunteer during their time at the shelter. It also identifies what the volunteer should expect from the organization in return for their donated time.
  2. Protects the Animal Shelter or Rescue. Creating and identifying clear policies and procedures for your volunteer team minimizes liability. The handbook provides guidelines and rules for how negative circumstances will be handled and offers a no-surprise resolution for both parties.

A hurdle many directors face is how to create a concise and informative volunteer handbook. Here are 7 essential sections to include in your handbook:

  1. What is the story behind your animal shelter or rescue? Tell the story of how you formed. Include your goals, mission, and vision for volunteers to gain a better perspective of who they are serving.
  2. Set expectations for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Behavior expectations include how volunteers treat one another, the animals, and the public.  Define work expectations in this section as well. Work expectations include the number of volunteer hours, responsibilities, and the appropriate way to take a day of absence.
  3. Policies and procedures for responsibilities are a tremendous help in minimizing potential dangers or disasters. Explain these procedures in detail in the handbook. This assures you each volunteer has the information prior to volunteering.  This is the section you address volunteer training requirements including times and methods of training.
  4. One of the biggest responsibilities of a shelter or rescue is to take in dogs, cats, and other animals that need care. This section reviews the policies for incoming animals and addresses the intake process including standards your shelter or rescue follows.
  5. Rescues or shelters that foster animals need a section on foster home policies and procedures. Often times, foster parents are overlooked as volunteers because they are not at the physical shelter.  They are a vital part of your volunteer team.  The risks and requirements of foster homes differ from other policies and procedures.
  6. Animal adoption is a major part of your operation.  This section identifies the standards and timeframes your animal shelter or rescue follows prior to placing an animal with their forever home.  This section also addresses the requirements of adopting families.  It is important that all volunteers are aware of the expectations so they can help properly place animals.
  7. It is common for volunteer handbooks to include a receipt that the volunteers sign. The signature verifies they read the handbook and are aware of the expectations outlined.

Create a strong volunteer program starts by implementing a volunteer handbook.  Work with your legal counsel to create a handbook that best suits your animal shelter or rescue needs.

 

Animal shelters and rescues have the weight of the helpless animal population on their shoulders.  They find ways and methods to accomplish their significant missions and visions with minimal funding and resources. Animal shelters and rescues rely heavily on the support of donors who provide needed items as well as financial donations.  The last thing they need to add to their daily worries is the risk of a cyber attack that compromises their donor’s confidential information. According to a recent study released by The Global State of Information Security, security incidents increased by 38% and theft of “hard” information rose by 56% in 2015 when compared to 2014.  With the threat of cyber attacks on the rise, it is a real concern for many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues. Implement a cyber security program to protect your donors and your animal shelter or rescue.

Here are eight items to include in your program:

  1. Backup your data. Create a backup of information stored on your computers and server daily. Hackers have the power to compromise your electronic information, making it inaccessible. A backup provides you with an up to date list of your donors and their contact information, simplifying the notification process (a little at least).
  2. Secure physical data. Store physical donor files and confidential information in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet. Allow access to this information on an as-needed basis.  The fewer hands that physically touch the files, the smaller chance they can be misplaced.
  3. Limit the information you collect. A great rule of thumb to implement immediately is “if you don’t need it, don’t ask for it.” The less data you collect from donors, the less information a hacker gains during a breach.
  4. Purge unneeded information. If you have years of donor information stored in a back room at your animal shelter or on discs, it may be time to purge it. Keep only information you need. Often times, older files are stored and forgotten about. Holding onto donor files and information increases your chance of suffering from a breach.
  5. Update computers and software. Update computers and software programs on a consistent basis. Companies release updates and patches to help protect their customers from data breaches.  If updates are left unattended, your risk for a breach increases.  If you are not technology savvy, hire a local IT company to help keep your system up to date and secure.
  6. Use encryption. Use a data or donor collection service that encrypts the information your donors enter. Encryption encodes the information making it only accessible by those authorized to view it.
  7. Train your volunteer staff. Volunteers are a significant help to animal shelters and rescues. They can also be a great risk.  If your volunteer team is not internet or computer intelligent, they may unknowingly download malware or spyware.  Educate them on what is an acceptable use of the organization’s computers and emails.  Make it mandatory that downloads are not acceptable and should be approved by the director.  Phishing schemes are a common hacker specialty. Train your team on these to protect your shelter or rescue.
  8. Purchase cyber liability insurance. Cyber liability insurance is beneficial if it is purchased prior to a cyber breach or theft.  Cyber liability insurance protects your nonprofit animal shelter at the time of the breach by paying defense and settlement costs. The best cyber insurance policies take care of the state required notifications, which can be a long and treacherous task.

Cyber breaches are a serious threat to nonprofits like animal shelters and rescues.  The unfortunate news is hackers are becoming more creative in their schemes, making it difficult for companies to keep information secure.  Implement a cyber security program outlined here to protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue.