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Case Management

Animal services personnel serve as trained case managers, helping people keep their pets; providing resources and support to struggling pet owners; and assisting owners who need to rehome their pets, and helping people find missing or lost pets.
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What is HASS Case Management?

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.

What problem does Case Management solve?

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.

Case Management Success: Nalla

Nalla, a black and white cat looking at the camera

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.

How Organizations Can Begin

1. Gather and organize human and animal resources that are available in your community. 
  • Use the Ideal Animal Welfare Ecosystem as a guide. This is a list of resources that ideally exist in your community for pet caretakers to access.   
  • For human services, check out findhelp.org for a robust list of services provided in your community.

2. Create a list that can be frequently updated and post it on your website. Make a paper copy to hand out when people come into the shelter and share this list with all staff and volunteers. 
3. Create intake questionnaires that provide you key information about pets and their people. You may want to even create it online.
4. Learn about case management in human social services and see how case management can help you provide better service to pets and people.

Check out the Case Management section of the Keeping Families Together Eviction Response Toolkit. 

5. Train staff and volunteers on how to use a case management, versus a transactional approach.

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.  

6. Communicate with staff, volunteers, foster caregivers, rescue partners, community partners and the public about your shift to providing more individualized service to pet owners and finders. 

A great example of this is LifeLine Animal Project’s Facebook announcement.

7. Determine what resources you need most and how you will get them. Some common needs related to case management are: 
  • More staff/volunteer support and time
  • Funding to provide medical services, behavioral support, housing assistance, and other pet support services that can keep animals home
  • Training for staff and volunteers on trauma-informed approaches to helping people, particularly those in crisis 
  • Updated position titles and job descriptions. For example, an intake specialist may become a pet support specialist or pet help counselor. 
  • Funding to provide medical services, behavioral support and items such as wheelchairs for individual pets that need extra support.
  • A hotline or call center to help people BEFORE they come to the shelter
  • Boarding services or vouchers to provide temporary housing for people in crisis
  • A private area in the shelter to have one-on-one conversations with people who are bringing in pets
  • Written educational materials in multiple languages to provide support, information and help to people seeking assistance with pet-related challenges

8. Evaluate your technology options and work with your team to determine how technology can help you implement case management.  
  • Check out the HASS Community Request Tracking White Paper developed by the HASS Tech & Tools Working Group. This document provides information on different tools that can be used for tracking.
  • Reach out through the HASS network for recommendations related to technology challenges and solutions. Chances are, someone else has used the same technology and overcome similar issues. 
  • Utilize the HASS Technology Catalog to review Case Management technology options.

9. Start big or small, but use this How to Pilot a Program template to ensure success

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. 

10. Monitor progress. 

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. 

Get Involved with HASS

Do you want to make sustainable change for pets and the people that love them? Join our movement.