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.

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 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.

 

Volunteers are one of the cornerstones to running your animal shelter or rescue successfully.  You rely on them to help with day to day needs, care for the animals, organize events, spread the word about your mission, and be passionate about the great work they are doing. Did you know they are one of your biggest risks?  Volunteers are human and unpredictable in their actions.  To successfully manage their actions and minimize risk, implement an official volunteer program.  Here are the categories your program requires:

Volunteer Handbook

Volunteer handbooks contain valuable information about the animal shelter or rescue.  They provide new volunteers with:

  1. Background information
  2. Mission and Vision
  3. Application process
  4. Training expectations
  5. Behavior expectations
  6. Volunteer waiver
  7. Organization policies

Require new volunteers to review the handbook prior to completing a volunteer application.  This information sets the precedence for expectations during their time volunteering for your organization.

Volunteer Waivers

Volunteer waivers are typically included as part of the handbook.  They are vital for animal shelters and rescues to have in place.  A strong waiver includes:

  1. Release of liability for injury and bites
  2. Acceptance that injuries are not covered under a worker’s compensation policy
  3. Acceptance of policies and procedures
  4. Emergency contact information
  5. Release to contact to provide medical help or attention if needed

Volunteer waivers are a safety precaution. Volunteers may still choose to file a lawsuit if they believe the animal shelter or rescue is responsible for an injury.  Waivers are part of your defense in court but should not be your only defense.  Work with your legal counsel to draft a waiver that best suits your animal shelter or rescue needs.

The Right Insurance

The best way to be proactive in protecting your animal shelter or rescue from financial loss as a result of a lawsuit is to purchase insurance.  There are many types of insurance you can purchase for your organization including:

  1. General Liability Insurance
  2. Professional Liability Insurance
  3. Accident & Health Insurance
  4. Director’s & Officer’s Insurance

Liability insurance protects your financial assets by paying defense and settlement costs of a covered lawsuit.   Take the time to research animal shelter insurance options today.  Purchasing insurance after a lawsuit is filed will not protect you.

Volunteer Training

Volunteer training is vital for new and existing volunteers.  Create a strong volunteer training program by answering these questions:

  1. What do you want the training to accomplish?
  2. What do your volunteers need to know?
  3. What do your volunteers already know?
  4. How do they learn best?

These answers will help you to create a valuable training program that is beneficial to both the volunteer and the organization.  Once training is completed, have your volunteers tell you what they learned and how they can implement this in their tasks.  Training is never complete and should be offered on a routine basis to volunteers.  The knowledge and education help make them valuable to your team.

 

There is much joy to be had while running an animal shelter. Finding animals forever homes on a regular basis can be hard work, but is very rewarding. However, for all the things that can go right in your shelter, there are many others that can go wrong. That is when a liability waiver comes in handy. Liability waivers can save you a lot of headache and financial hardships. Here are a few examples of what a liability waiver can protect you and your shelter from.

1. Dog Bites.

Dogs are the most sought after animal in a shelter, and the majority of visitors in your shelter will likely be looking to add one to their family. When perusing the dogs, the visitors may put their hands in the dogs cage to initiate contact. While many dogs will be docile and friendly, others may perceive this as a threat and bite the stranger’s hand. This can be problematic because injury or disease can happen as a result. If that visitor signed a liability waiver though, then you are clear of any blame.

2. Cat Scratches.

Cats are another animal that is highly sought after in a shelter, and chances are your shelter houses many. One of the cats in your shelter may come into contact with many visitors in a day, and may scratch them. While a cat scratch, or bite may seem harmless at first, it can have lasting consequences. A cat scratch can lead to a nasty bacterial infection known as cat scratch fever. A visitor who contracts cat scratch fever from one of your shelter cats may hold you liable. However, a liability waiver would say different.

3. Slips, Falls. Etc…

Even if your shelter animals are well contained and on their best behavior, there is still many things that can go wrong. A dog may urinate on the ground, and someone could slip in it. The puddle may have gone unnoticed by the shelter staff until this accident occurred, so a wet floor sign didn’t get put out. Liability waivers can include a clause for this situation, and any other non animal related incident.

During the Holidays

November 5, 2013

During the holidays, you will probably worry more about your bank account receiving a beating or is it your pet getting poisoned? Both are important but the former will surfer more if your pet got poisoned. Worry not, because knowing pet poison prevention tips can come in handy during your holidays and, consequentially, save you a lot of money, heartaches, and hassle.

During holidays different types of food and possessions such as chewing gums, handbags, and decorations are ever a common sight. These things that rarely seem harmful can actually be lethal to dogs and cats. For instance, fruit cake contains raisins and currants; this can easily, if ingested by a dog, cause kidney failure. You wouldn’t want that for your pet, now would you?

Everyone prefers the best there is and I bet you are no exception. Getting your pet insured is the best way to go in helping curb poison related issues, even though getting the best there is can be a daunting task. But why remain undecided while the best option is within your reach? AWOIP (Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program) is one such reputable insurance organization that offers quality services and worth for your money.

Take action today for your animal and pet. For more on this, visit AWOIP and help save yourself sleepless nights.

Wildlife Rescue Insurance

October 29, 2013

Wildlife rescue insurance is simply important for organizations that help protect endangered species. Like animal shelters and clinics, these venues specialize in protecting and rescuing wild life. They also feature onsite physicians that treat animal injuries and other mishaps. These organizations are found across the nation, and offer services for both domestic and wild animals. They also take care of animals that are housed at local zoos and even animal museums. While these entities offer valuable services to the community, they are not exempt from lawsuits or other legal issues. In order to protect your animal or wildlife agency, you simply need the right insurance.

If you are struggling to find coverage for your organization, sites like AWOIPOnline.com. They specialize in helping animal welfare organizations find the right insurance plans and coverage. When it comes to wildlife rescue insurance, there are different types of policies available. According to experts, general liability insurance is a must. This type of coverage protects your organization from faulty claims and legal issues. It also protects your agency from lawsuits that stem from falls, slips, and other mishaps on your property. Whether it is a guest, visitor, or even an employee, you want to protect the physical integrity of your property as well. As a result, property insurance is also a worthwhile and lasting investment.

While all shelters strive to protect their volunteers, visitors, and animals, accidents do occur. This includes dog bites, along with injuries resulting from slips or falls. Whether you’re a director, manager, or volunteer, accident and health insurance is simply mandatory. In fact, this is considered the most common type of wildlife rescue insurance on the market. Sadly, a number of accidents occur within animal shelters and organizations each year. While the most common accidents are animal bites, volunteers have also been exposed to certain illnesses and medical ailments. With proper health or accident insurance, however, their medical costs will be covered by the respective organization or company across the board.

If you require property, professional liability, or accident insurance, AWOIPOnline.com is committed to meeting your needs within time and budget. Remember, even wildlife rescue agencies can be sued or face legal threats on a daily basis. To effectively secure your property and volunteers, simply get comprehensive coverage that offers maximum protection at every turn. For more information on wildlife rescue insurance, contact AWOIPOnline.com for convenient quotes and plans.

Many organizations choose to have adoption events at community events or at stores such as Petco and PetSmart. These events are very important to bringing exposure to your organization and finding homes for the dogs and cats that are under your care. If your organization holds off-site adoptions, reducing the chance of injuries to the public should be one of your utmost concerns.

Injuries that could have been easily prevented can be a drain on your financial resources and raise your insurance premiums. In some cases, a history of liability claims may result in cancellation of your insurance coverage.

  • You can prevent injuries by enforcing the following policies:
  • Make sure that you have enough staff on hand to supervise the pets and the people who stop by to visit your area
  • Trim the nails of the pets for adoption before the event, if possible
  • Do not allow people to pick up or handle the animals without assistance from your staff
  • Setup your area so that all pet cages are in view in order to make sure the animals are not unduly disturbed
  • Keep small children away from the pet areas because they may be prone to placing their faces or fingers too close to the animals or teasing them If possible, have all animals up-to-date on vital vaccinations such as their rabies shot
  • Provide disinfection stations for people to clean their hands before and after visiting with the pets

By following these policies, you can prevent insurance claims from injuries received at off-site adoptions. This will help keep your insurance premiums in check and maintain a good reputation for your organization.

Animal Shelter Insurance

October 14, 2013

Animal shelter insurance does not have to be a mystery. In fact, there are all types of coverage available for your animal shelter or agency. This includes property insurance, which protects your physical structure from fires, vandalism, and natural disasters. There is also insurance that secures proper restitution if your shelter gets robbed or burglarized. While animal shelters protect countless dogs and cats, one of the main issues at these venues revolves around bites and accidents. Whether you are a volunteer, employee, or visitor, there is always a chance of being bitten by a dog. Therefore, your center should have dog bite insurance available. This protects your shelter from lawsuits and other legal mishaps.

Sadly, too many animal shelters simply do not have insurance. This is due to a number of reasons, such as cost and affordability. Other centers believe they are too small and therefore do not require coverage. While animal shelters are philanthropic in nature, they are not exempt from lawsuits or other legal problems. A number of animal welfare directors and managers simply do not understand how animal shelter insurance works. While it’s true that animal insurance plans can be confusing, help is always available. Simply contact or visit AWOIP online today. They specialize in liability insurance for animal shelters, the SPCA, humane societies, and animal rescue agencies. With years of experience, these experts can discuss a range of insurance options that effectively meet your needs.

To secure timely and affordable animal shelter insurance, you have to carefully weigh your options and choices. While there are several types of coverage available, which form of insurance will benefit you and your workers? Since you are dealing with animals, you will definitely need insurance that protects your business from daily mishaps and accidents. This includes people falling and slipping due to animal urine and droppings, along with bites and scratches. Since all animals are checked for diseases and appropriately treated, there is no chance for anyone to acquire life threatening illnesses. Still, you need insurance that protects your center from faulty claims via customers or even in-house workers.

You can also purchase property insurance. This protects your entire shelter from internal and external problems. This includes car accidents, along with people falling due to cracks on the ground or surface. For more information on which insurance plan is right for you, visit or contact AWOIP online today.

Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, are diseases that can transfer from an animal to a human, such as Lyme disease, rabies, the bird flu, toxoplasmosis and some intestinal parasites. As long as a bacteria, fungus, parasite and virus are able to pass between humans and animals, it can spur a zoonotic infection. Frequently, animals with zoonotic infections, such as cats with toxoplasmosis, do not exhibit outward symptoms. There are particular diseases that do make animals physically sick, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

How Zoonotic Diseases Spread

Humans contract these diseases several ways, according to the specific organism. One of the most common ways people get zoonotic diseases is through an infected animal’s feces, urine as well as direct contact with the diseased animal. Parasitic animal meat also spreads this kind of disease throughout communities of people. And fleas from a rat’s body pass the plague from rats to human.

How to Prevent Zoonotic Diseases

An animal with a possible zoonotic disease should be seen by a veterinarian right away. Your pet will be immediately quarantined until the specific disease is identified and addressed. Quarantine is necessary, so the disease is not spread to other animals and humans. If your pet can be helped, he will stay in isolation until the course of treatment is complete. Remember, prevention and early intervention is the two keys to keeping zoonotic diseases under control and saving a person or animal’s life.