New volunteers and staff are introduced to a large vocabulary of terms they don’t understand. This can pose challenges for training personnel, ensuring consistent client services, and providing excellent care to sheltered pets.
This guide is intended to be used as an onboarding document that can be shared with all people who are new to the organization. It can also be shared with existing staff and volunteers to give them a better understanding of the common terms they use and hear.
Policies or procedures that make adoption, fostering, or volunteering a challenge.
Alternative names for department and animal field staff that places emphasis on community support services.
Dogs who have been labeled as having challenging behaviors.
An unowned cat, can be social with people or not.
Cats that are being cared for by colony caretakers that are brought to a spay/neuter clinic, spay/neutered and vaccinated, and returned to the colony. TNR cats are often not taken into the custody of an organization because they generally have established caretakers or colonies.
Stray, owned or unowned cats who are brought into the custody of the shelter, spay/neutered, vaccinated, and returned to where they were found.
An animal who is not social with humans and shows little to no signs of being interested in becoming social with humans.
A companion animal who displays fearful behavior with humans or other animals.
A method of animal handling and care to improve the emotional experiences of animals by applying key strategies and techniques designed to reduce the negative emotional states that are commonly experienced by shelter and rescue animals, including fear, anxiety, stress (FAS), and frustration.
A behavior used to describe animals that are difficult to handle or display resistance behaviors.
Animals between 0-6 weeks of age.
Programs to sterilize, vaccinate, microchip, and adopt out cats to local homeowners, landowners, and businesses who have a need or desire for the pest control that a cat can provide that are not candidates for traditional TNR or SNR programs and would otherwise be killed.
Breeds assigned to a dog or cat by an organization, often arbitrarily based on subjective, visual identification.
An organization with a physical facility used to house animals.
Adoption policies with strict rules, guidelines, or background checks.
An organization that is not mandated to take particular animals, but instead selects which animals to take in. Also referred to as ‘limited intake.’
A term assigned to some dogs based on circumstances outlined in local laws and ordinances.
An animal that was dead at the time of intervention, pick-up, or intake at the shelter.
Medical intervention to end the life of an animal that is irremediably suffering with no chance of recovery.
Those finding lost or stray pets who keep the pet in their home, opposed to relinquishing the pet to stay in shelter. These fosters hold the pet and make efforts to get the pet home. If the pet is not reunited with its owner, the finder may assist with getting the pet a new home.
Typically an organization that does not have a facility and whose animals are housed in volunteer homes.
Temporary placement for animals while in the custody of an organization. Animals are housed outside of a shelter facility in a home environment.
A shelter that believes foster care is the most humane method of housing homeless pets and that works to find foster homes for all viable animals in their care.
A request for foster homes through email, phone call, or social media.
Any contract an organization might have with the local county or city government.
Kittens or puppies that have outgrown the bottle. At about 3 1⁄2 weeks, a kitten’s teeth will begin to break through the skin. Also referred to as ‘mushers.’
Identifying different ways to provide families and their pet(s) with support, such as increasing access to pet support services and human support services, so that more families can stay together and less animals enter the shelter system.
A busy time in the animal shelter world, when cats have kittens. Veteran shelter employees know this season well. The season occurs during warm weather months, and will vary depending on weather. Also referred to as cat breeding season. The most typical kitten season is March-October, but varies from place to place and in some areas is year round.
Any records an animal has of her behavior or health before taken into the custody of an organization, eg. owner surrender notes.
The various ways animals can enter an organization’s custody:
Vaccines administered to an animal when they enter a shelter or rescue. Intake vaccines prevent the spread of disease. AmPA! recommends vaccinating all animals immediately upon intake and prior to entering a kennel, or prior to intake, if possible.
The amount of time an animal stays in the custody of an organization. Usually tracked in days.
The percentage of animals taken into custody who leave an organization alive. Live release rate can be calculated by total live animal outcomes divided by all animal outcomes.
The easiest-to-place animals who are not yet being saved in a community.
Appointment-based intake process or policies.
A place in a shelter that cares for animals between the ages of 0-6 weeks of age.
Adoption practices that encourage matching animals to people based on their needs and desires through conversation and a ‘getting to know you’ approach. The idea is to find a match for every person interested in adopting pets, through understanding the specific personalities of the animals in your care and what potential adopters are looking for.
Shelters that accept animals from the public via owner surrender. Also known as open intake.
Kittens and puppies who are not yet weaned, but end up in a shelter or in human care with no mother.
Any animal who did not have a live outcome and can not be located.
Keeping pets with their human companions.
Programs designed to connect people with resources to help keep their pets outside of the shelter whenever necessary. Also referred to as Pet Support Center.
An enrichment program that allows animals to socialize with other members of their species.
Commitment by a member of the public to adopt a pet on the day it is available, pending return to home. This may include a deposit or contract.
An adoption that is in the process of being completed.
Notes an animal has acquired related to the behavior, health or well-being during the time they are housed in the shelter.
Software that has been designed specifically for organizations who shelter animals. Examples include ShelterLuv, Chameleon, and Petpoint. Can be referred to as SMS or Shelter Management Software.
An organization’s data that includes all animals, regardless of the reason for intake or type of outcome. Also referred to as noses in, noses out.
Animals that organizations have decided will only be released to the care of another organization, for eventual placement in a home or a sanctuary.
An animal that was not taken into the custody of an organization but services were utilized to return the pet to its home or habitat.
An animal who has been returned to her home or habitat. Also referred to as relocate, return to community, or return to wild.
The amount of time a shelter must hold a stray animal before determining the outcome, as determined by local ordinances. These vary from place to place.
A shelter that publicly posts animal data, including all animal intake, all live outcomes (adoption, SNR, transfer-out, return-to-owner) and all other outcomes (died in care, owner requested euthanasia, lost/missing, euthanized).
Animal shelter programs that transport animals from one community to another.