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Animal services personnel take a holistic, person-centered, and compassionate approach to meet the needs of human-animal families, also referred to as ‘interspecies families,’ by being trained as case managers.
Trained case managers help people keep their pets, provide resources and support to struggling pet owners, assist owners who need to rehome their pets, and help people find missing or lost pets. Case management means every person and animal is treated as an individual and asked questions so animal services can help find the best possible solution.
Historically, shelters manage ‘intake’ departments that treat all animals and people the same and use intake as the primary or only way to provide service. In this traditional approach, people who need help with their pets, find a lost pet, or seek pet support services, are offered two options: to surrender their pet or handle the issue with little to no support from the animal services department.
Nalla the cat swallowed some string and needed help right away. Her mom searched for a vet to help her, but when she wasn’t sure she could afford the emergency costs, she thought the only option might be to surrender Nalla to the shelter so the kitty could get the treatment she needed. Nalla’s owner didn’t want her cat to suffer so she brought Nalla to LifeLine Animal Project in Atlanta, where her owner had the option to work out a payment plan so she and Nalla didn’t have to separate after all. Together, they got Nalla into an emergency clinic and LifeLine was grateful to play a part in keeping this family together.
Nalla is back to her old self, and the two are glad to be together.
Lifeline Animal Project has recently started using case management software so every family can be treated like individuals. Lifeline will be following up and maintaining relationships with families like Nalla’s, because now, it’s easier than ever.
Check out the Case Management section of the Keeping Families Together Eviction Response Toolkit.
Keep it simple. Case management just means we treat every person and animal as an individual and ask questions so we can help find the best possible solution. This may require a workplace culture change for your organization.
A great example of this is LifeLine Animal Project’s Facebook announcement.
You’ll want to consider how many staff or volunteer hours you need, what you want your case managers to accomplish, and how you’ll provide alternatives to intake. Some organizations train their entire intake staff team on case management, whereas others identify one or two positions on each shift to focus on case management.
As a supervisor or manager, you’ll want to be part of case management in the first few months. When your staff get busy, they’ll tend to slip back into a transactional approach, so you’ll need to pay attention to make sure staff are following case management practices. Having SOPS, checklists, and measurable goals will all help make the program successful.