The Skinny On Model Shelter: Where The Rubber Meets The Road


You probably have questions. We keep talking about this Model Shelter thing. What is a Model Shelter? Why are we so proud to be the first Model Shelter in the country? What does this have to do with all the fuzznuggets and snugglemuffins you guys are so used to seeing on our social media?

shelter puppies   Aforementioned poopies/snugglemuffins.

Relax, friends. We have answers. Super important answers. So bear with us and we’re going to explain it. Okay? And trust us, it’s very important. And there will be fluffnuggets and scruffmuffins.

cats with toys in mouth
“Iff my mouff” (translation: It’s my mouse)
Here’s why it’s really important (and something that most folks don’t know): there is absolutely no government agency or judicial act that looks out for the welfare of animals in shelters. None. Nada. There are over 3,500 physical shelters and 10,000 sanctuaries and rescues and no standardized baseline of care for the kids in those shelters.
The Model Shelter guidelines, created by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, are totally voluntary and guarantee that animals are receiving a level of care to protect against them from suffering and disease while in a shelter. It establishes a set of five simple but essential freedoms for animals in shelters. Ready for the five freedoms?
hungry dog
If by ‘five freedoms’ you mean a cookie then yes, I am so ready. 
  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: All animals have ready access to fresh water and appropriate diet to maintain health and vigor.
  • Freedom from Discomfort: All animals have an appropriate environment to reside in, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease: Preventative care and rapid diagnosis and treatment are made readily available.
  • Freedom to Express Normal Behavior: Animals are given sufficient space, proper facilities and the company of animals of their own kind.
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress: Conditions and treatment are ensured to prevent mental suffering.
dog walking
Everyone needs a little stress relief.
What does this look like? Here’s an explanatory scruffnugget:
dog with toy
All better now, thanks. 
This is Trevor. Trevor came to us with parvovirus. While it was important for us to save Trevor, it was equally important that we keep every other animal in the shelter safe from parvo, which is super contagious. During Trevor’s treatment he was housed in a quarantined area of the shelter and staff who handled him followed strict bio-security measures to make sure everyone else in the shelter was staying safe. As a result, Trevor got better and found a great home and not one of our other animals got parvo.
Another example? Who remembers Phil the Booger Cat? The super high energy, dog like, nutter-butter Philsy that we all loved so?
cat playing with toy gif
Finding Phil a home was fantastic but it wasn’t enough. While Phil was waiting for that forever home, he needed to be able to express his natural behavior, to play, and to be comfortable in his space. Which, in Phil’s case, required a specialized behavior plan that included one on one time with the behavior staff to get his ya-yas out, play therapy and a much larger space than most cats need. While every single animal gets one on one attention with staff and volunteers, it means going the extra mile to make sure every animal is being treated as an individual and their needs are being met.
cat being petted
Okay, so these are big examples but the beauty of Model Shelter isn’t in the big, it’s in the little as well. It’s not just about the dramatic cases, like Phil and Trevor, but in the case of every single animal, every single day. It’s the right for an animal to not only have a life but have a life that has value. To have friends and exercise and safe places and things that give comfort while going through the transition of finding a home. To quote Dr. Kate Hurley, who coauthored the guidelines:
“We cherish life and we cherish welfare. We say no to needless death and we say no to suffering in our care, not for one animal, not for one day.”
cat peeking out of hole
Everyone needs a place to get some alone time. 
To certify as a model shelter we met 543 guidelines and were audited by the UC Davis Koret School Of Vet Medicine. It was a big deal. And while we realize we’re lucky to have resources and supporters like you guys that made it possible, we’re looking forward to helping other shelters join us as Model Shelters. Because in the end, it’s all about the scruffnuggets and snugglemuffins, right?
dog with toy