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In the traditional sheltering model, animals enter the shelter and are placed in kennels where they may wait days or weeks to move through the system toward a placement. The traditional process may increase the number of animals housed in kennels, result in sickness, mental health decline and stress, shelter crowding, and needless animal deaths in shelters. The traditional process is also expensive, requires unnecessary daily shelter care, and feeding for animals that could be cared for outside the shelter.
A community member, who was a caretaker of a community cat colony in her area, noticed one of the younger cats had been hit by a car and became paralyzed. She took the little one to her veterinarian, where she was taught how to help her by expressing her bladder since she lost the ability to relieve herself alongside the use of her back legs. Unfortunately, the caretaker wasn’t able to continue to care for her, so she decided to surrender this little kitten, now named Giselle by her caretaker, to Pima Animal Care Center. She was evaluated by the medical team and was placed into foster that same day! Her foster specializes in “special” kittens and is a veteran with cats who don’t use their back end or have motor issues. After a couple of months, her foster came across a rescue in Nevada who she decided to reach out to to see if they might have a home for her. They eagerly responded and took her into their rescue!
It depends on your organization, the particular laws and ordinances that govern your stray hold and placement policies, and current available space and resources.
Here are some things most organizations can do to build an Intake-to-Placement program:
Everything you need to know about how to start, grow, and improve your foster program can be found here.
Don’t lose the opportunity to utilize those fosters. You can issue a foster questionnaire to people who are interested and keep track of people who want to foster. When new pets come in you can match those animals with potential foster caregivers. For many pets, this can mean they may have their foster pick up appointment scheduled so they simply come in the shelter, get vaccinated, and leave immediately to go to foster care. You can also build an adopter-on-deck list for adopters who are waiting for a particular match.
Making animals visible and available and helping make it easy for the public to take them home are the building blocks of starting an intake-to-placement program. For animals on a ‘stray hold’ or another legal hold, they should be visible while on stray hold and ‘pre-adopted’ so they can be altered and leave on the day they are off their hold.
There are benefits to both approaches and you can also do a combination. If you move ‘easy’ animals faster this will create more space and resources for a longer stay and more challenging-to-place animals. If you focus intake-to-placement on ‘harder’ animals you may place fewer but see immediate improvements in lifesaving and quality of life for that group.
Scheduling intake ahead of time for ‘fast track’ animals gives you a chance to find a placement for an animal before its arrival. Kittens, puppies, and special needs animals can head straight to foster or rescue, and ‘owner surrender’ animals who don’t need emergency medical care or have significant behavioral concerns can go immediately to foster or adoption placement, either by using your foster/adopter-on-deck list or just making them immediately available and marketing them at intake.
If your organization does not have additional staff resources you can start by using your existing ‘intake’ or ‘admissions’ staff but they will need some retraining to get out of the old habit of transactional intake. If you have no staff to dedicate to Intake-to-Placement you may consider making this a finder-to-foster. You will need to have this volunteer work closely with staff and be a regular, ‘committed’ volunteer so they can learn the basics of software management and the case management approach.