Your Questions Answered

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Human Animal Support Services (HASS) is a complete re-visioning of how animal services departments and animal shelters operate. Services built to support people within their communities are a vital part of this vision. In this new model, shelters assist the majority of pets without separating them from their owners or community. HASS pulls the most successful ideas from animal welfare, social services, education, public health, and various other fields to create a whole new range of services to help pets and people stay together.
When we imagine the future, animal shelters will house animals who genuinely need to be in the shelter. Animals who need shelter may include those receiving urgent medical care, animals in immediate danger, no other viable housing solutions, or dogs who may pose a threat to public safety, and provide space for community support through disasters and other crises. Healthy, friendly animals and other animals who can stay in their homes and communities, or live in foster homes, will not need to live in an animal shelter kennel. While shelters won’t go away entirely, HASS will decrease the number of animals housed onsite at shelters before COVID-19. With increased kennel capacity, shelters will explore innovative ideas, such as providing temporary boarding for animals who have owners facing a crisis and need a short-term housing solution for their pets.
The HASS pilot shelters range from small, rural animal services with fewer than ten staff members, to some of the nation’s largest, most supported organizations. One of the pilot shelter project goals is to create programs and solutions that can be replicated in communities everywhere. When you join the HASS initiative, you and your organization will have a chance to connect to others doing similar work. The HASS project will help you learn how to build transformative foster, volunteer, and pet support programs while preserving your precious financial and human resources. We can help!

There are currently pilot shelters and foundational shelters. Pilot shelters have committed to adopting the whole range of programs and will serve as the brave leaders of this project. Pilot organizations will learn lessons and build resources that will inform us all about how to make HASS even better and keep more pets in their homes and communities! The foundational shelters are taking a steady approach, adopting some of the HASS programs now, while laying the groundwork to create and grow all the programs in their shelters eventually.

The future of animal services and HASS’s goal is rooted in community, to offer an entirely new and improved set of services for people and pets. The HASS model’s success means the shelter serves as an emergency room and a crisis response center. A whole variety of pet support and outreach services will keep most pets living with their caregivers, and find immediate foster placement for pets who need alternative solutions. In this model, the shelter also serves as a community resource center and the hub of support, adoption, and foster services within their community.
We need rescue groups now, more than ever. Rescue groups will play a critical role in this new model and respond to intake-to-placement requests to ensure pets leave the shelter system within hours or days of arrival. The HASS model provides better, faster communication between the municipal shelter and rescue groups, alerting rescues of pets in need before or at the time they enter, so pets with special needs and young and other vulnerable animals can get to rescue quickly and efficiently.
Dogs that pose a threat to public safety need a safe place to be safely housed. In the HASS model, dogs that fall into this category do enter the shelter system. However, a decrease in the overall shelter population means meeting the needs of these dogs with more immediacy and effectiveness. These dogs will not sit for long periods before being assessed and have outcome pathways identified.
There is no evidence to suggest this needs to be a concern. Shelters will still collect adoption fees from animals adopted from foster homes. With decreased lengths of stay in shelters and fewer animals in custody, organizations may experience cost savings to reallocate to other programs immediately.
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Medical case

Yes, we do! Over the past several years, organizations that operate high volume foster programs have placed 3,000 or more pets in foster homes with just one FTE employee. The emergence of COVID-19 led organizations to send record numbers of pets to foster homes. Many organizations are housing 75 to 90% of their total inventory in foster care. And the wild part? There are still more fosters signed up, waiting to help, than shelters are trying to place animals! The evidence of the past few years shows us, without a doubt, that foster care will be the primary method of housing pets in the future.

We work with shelters all over the country (and the world!) and have yet to find an animal services organization that is operating all the programs. Even if your shelter is operating similar programs, you are likely not maximizing the programs’ potential, keeping pets in their homes and communities, and saving lives. When you become a HASS Partner organization, we’ll help you evaluate your programs’ existence and success. We will show you how you can build upon the great things your organization is currently doing.

There are countless ways to use the space in your shelter to help keep pets with their families. Some organizations are doing drive-up food and supply distribution, using kennels to store the items that struggling pet owners need most. Other shelters provide temporary housing for owned pets whose owners are sick with COVID or have faced housing loss due to COVID and need time to find another place to live. Still, others are using kennels to house owned pets who have come for a free wellness clinic and are waiting to see a veterinarian.
Some of the pets we serve in our shelters have been victims of cruelty or neglect, or are owned by people who indeed cannot provide adequate care for them, as in the case with people who demonstrate hoarding behaviors and have too many animals. By reducing the number of animals who need to come into and be housed long term in the shelter environment, these animals who need to be in our custody will receive comprehensive, immediate, and ongoing care. This model will help shorten the length of time animals are in the sheltering system and help them to go to foster homes as soon as they are stable and ready to live with a caregiver. Utilizing a case management approach, HASS allows shelters to conduct individual needs assessments to determine the unique needs of each pet and person who comes to us for help.

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