We are dedicated to shaping the future
of care for homeless and at-risk animals.
By increasing the pipeline of talent in animal
sheltering and empowering the sheltering
community, we will all elevate our level of
care for shelter animals.
Challenges in the Animal Welfare Industry
Animal shelters, as well as the veterinary industry as a whole, are being heavily impacted by the national shortage of new veterinarians and other veterinary staff entering the field. Animal shelters are doubly impacted – not only are they too facing a shortage of appropriate medical staff to care for their animals, but lack of access to veterinary care is one of the top risk factors for animals to be surrendered to animal shelters.
There is very little oversight of sheltering organizations. Different models of shelters serve different purposes, handle different types of animals, and have different standards and processes for operation. Sheltering organizations across the country do not have to follow any national standards of care, and are not governed by overarching laws or regulations.
Shelters across the country are impacted by limited resources. Lack of adequate staffing, physical space to hold animals, supplies, and equipment can prevent shelters from reaching their lifesaving potential. The fragmentation of animal shelters creates a disparity in resources, often resulting in shelters that serve the largest numbers of animals having the least resources.
Shortage of Veterinary Staff
Increasing the Pipeline of Veterinary Staff
Increasing the pipeline of veterinary staff is our primary goal to address the shortage that is impacting shelters all over the country. We focus on educating veterinary interns and externs and investing in programs that encourage more students to enter the veterinary field. Each year, veterinary students are invited to HSSV to learn from our Medical team and encourage them to consider a future in shelter medicine.
“I can’t say enough great things about my experience as a veterinary student extern at Humane Society Silicon Valley. It was one of the highlights of my clinical year and I hope more students are afforded the same opportunity.
From honing my surgical skills to working up common (and not-so-common) cases seen in animal shelters, the staff encouraged my involvement and I felt like I was already part of the team. I only hope I can be an amazing doctor one day, just like all of the veterinarians at HSSV.”
-Veterinary Extern, funded by Maddie’s Fund
Inconsistent Standards of Care
Becoming a Model Shelter
In 2010, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV), comprised of a deeply passionate group of veterinarians and experts, published their Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters. It was a voluntary set of guidelines designed to elevate the practices and protocols in animal shelters with a goal of eliminating the suffering and needless death of homeless pets. It consisted of over five hundred guidelines.
Dr. Cristie Kamiya, Chief of Shelter Medicine at HSSV, was working on her Shelter Medicine residency at UC Davis when the guidelines were published. Toward the end of her shelter medicine residency, Dr. Kamiya was hired at HSSV after having spent the previous few years as a relief veterinarian for HSSV performing spay/neuter surgeries on her free weekends.
Dr. Kamiya soon began informally bringing HSSV’s processes and policies closer to the ASV guidelines. A few years later, under her recommendation and supervision, HSSV made the decision to attempt to formally complete all 543 guidelines for standards of animal care. If completed, HSSV would be the first ever shelter to do so. We would be the first Model Shelter.
Dr. Kamiya and our team focused on making changes that would decrease animals’ length of stay in our shelter. Longer lengths of stay in shelters can lead to an increase in diseases, stress, and behavior issues. We made changes in our housing and enrichment protocols in order to decrease the stress of our shelter animals, which allowed them to find homes even faster. We wrote new protocols for cleaning, for behavior, for animal care. Being first meant such documents didn’t yet exist — so we created them. The process of becoming a Model Shelter took almost two years of work across all departments.
In 2017, the ASV team certified that HSSV had met all 543 guidelines. We were the first shelter in the world to do so.
Now, more than a decade after they were first published, the guidelines are receiving an update. This time, Dr. Kamiya is on the ASV team responsible for researching, reviewing, and updating the guidelines with new information we’ve learned about shelter medicine since the guidelines were first published. “I’ve been working in shelters for a very long time – I started working in shelters as a veterinarian in the early 2000s. Shelter medicine has changed so much,” says Dr. Kamiya. “It’s been really cool to see the evolution of shelter medicine and the lifesaving that’s possible. For us to be part of the forefront of the innovation in shelter medicine and teaching others is amazing.”
We are dedicated to changing the game in the animal welfare industry. Our vision is a world in which animal shelters across the country have the resources they need to save lives and provide a safe, healthy space for the animals in their care.
Shape the future of the sheltering community
Connect with us to find out how you can be a part of building the future.