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Humane Guidelines

Quality of Life Emergency

Minimum Standards of Care for Dogs in Shelters

Each dog needs:

  1. A Name
  2. Bedding
  3. Toys
  4. Lights off at Night
  5. To be Clean and Dry
  6. If Kenneled Indoors Only, then Outdoor Time Daily
  7. If Kenneled Outdoors Only, then Indoor Time Daily
  8. 20 Minutes of Human Touch, Affection and Physical Contact Daily
  9. Two Minutes of Reward-Based Training Daily
  10. Playtime With a Human or Another Dog at Least 3X Weekly

A Brief Summary of The Guidelines

1. A Name. Dogs are not numbers! Each dog deserves a name.

2. Bedding. The Kuranda company makes an ideal shelter bed. Old blankets or towels work well and are easy to get donated. Concern for possible clogged drains cannot eclipse the needs of the dogs.

3. Toys. Toys are important to allow dogs to chew and play and have some stimulation. Toys can be rotated, so that they remain interesting and fresh.

4. Lights Off at Night. Remember, even the crew of the Enterprise had a simulated nighttime in outer space under Star Fleet regulations.

5. To be Clean and Dry. No dog should have to endure urine burns on his feet and elbows. And no kennel should ever be hosed down with the dog still in it.

6. If Kenneled Indoors Only, then Outdoor Time Daily. Dogs, like humans, need access to the outdoors, sunlight and the scents available in fresh air.

7. If Kenneled Outdoors Only, then Indoor Time Daily. Most dogs in shelters are there because they were unsuccessful house pets. If a dog is to become a successful house pet, then he must learn to relax in the presence of a human in an indoor, homelike environment. Kenneling, for any length of time, works against the house pet.

8. 20 Minutes of Human Touch, Affection and Physical Contact Daily. A dog is a social, companion animal. To deprive the dog of human contact is simply cruel. Taking a dog for a walk, while better than not doing it, is not enough. If a shelter has decided to hold so many dogs that 20 minutes of basic, human touch and affection for each dog is impossible to fit into the daily schedule, then the situation is one of over-crowding, inadequate care and, quite simply, neglect.

9. Two Minutes of Reward-Based Training Daily. Reward-based training stimulates the dog’s mind and engages him in a shared, fun activity. Most shelter dogs deteriorate due to lack of mental stimulation, not lack of physical exercise. Luring, shaping, capturing are all humane and appropriate methods for training any dog.

10. Playtime With a Human or Another Dog at Least 3X Weekly. Dogs awaiting adoption need to play—if they don’t get along with other dogs, than time spent playing fetch or tug or having fun with a human is vital to their mental health.

Any length of stay longer than 2 weeks is long-term sheltering, and the negative effects of the kennels will start taking their toll. The original purpose of kennels was to house large numbers of dogs for short periods of time. Kennels were never intended to house any dog for a long period of time. What is it about kennels that are so destructive for dogs?

Even in the best of shelters, the most modern facility, with the greatest staff and volunteers, kennel life is frustrating, confining, arousing, over-stimulating, loud, wet and scary for dogs. There’s often constant noise. Some dogs are in a constant state of arousal. Most kennels offer no escape, safe place or privacy for the frightened dog. Long term kenneling can rapidly deteriorate a dog and cause suffering.

The effects of long-term kenneling can include:

  • Barking
  • Barrier aggression towards humans passing in front of the kennel
  • Barrier aggression towards other dogs passing in front of the kennel
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Spinning or circling
  • Pacing or Route Tracing
  • Rebounding off kennel walls
  • Licking of kennel walls, cage front, self

Behavior Problems in the Kennels:

The first three effects listed are behavior problems that affect how the public will judge the dogs. Potential adopters select a dog by the emotional connection they feel with the dog—they are looking most for a sociable response. When a dog is lunging and/or barking at them, they move on. Dogs who don’t present well to the public are likely to have a longer length of stay, and hence are an increased risk of deterioration and suffering in the kennels.

Fearfulness or suspiciousness of strangers plus confinement in a kennel plus many passing strangers not only is a recipe for aggression but also must feel like mental torture for the dog. Fearful dogs often have no option for escape, and are bombarded with passing strangers multiple times a day. Many dogs who enter the shelter as merely fearful, can quickly learn to turn their fear into aggression with the practice the shelter environment affords.

Whether it’s fear, frustration, or any other kind of aggression, the public will most often make their choice for adoption based on first impressions, and the worse a dog behaves in his kennel, the worse his chances are for adoption.

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