The Capacity for Care (C4C) shelter model ensures the best live outcome for each animal requiring care, enabling the shelter to find the right outcome, for the right animal, at the right time, in the right way.
Bringing an animal into the shelter is not always the best way to help the animal, therefore utilizing programs that keep animals out of the shelter is sometimes the best option. Not all animals thrive in a shelter environment and can become ill and or depressed.
Implementing Capacity for Care and reducing housing by half seems counter-intuitive to a lot of people, but even those who understand that “less is more” when it comes to moving animals out into new homes struggle to understand the math. C4C considers holistically, meaning meeting the needs of each animal admitted to a shelter, whether feral or friendly, stray or owner surrendered, young or old.
The model deems high-quality housing for animals as essential. This is because poor housing is linked to several negative mental and physical health outcomes. By decreasing our capacity by half, we were not only able to give every cat more space, but also reduce the spread of infectious diseases greatly.
To preserve the space for animals who have nowhere else to go, the WHS has developed several programs to support our community and their pets.
- For pet owners struggling with behaviour challenges we are offering our Help phone line, behaviour classes and one on one training for extra tough cases.
- A pet food bank and low-cost vet care should pet owners struggle financially.
- Emergency boarding for up to 4 weeks (free of charge) for individuals going to be hospitalized, lost their home or fleeing domestic violence.
- Care to Adopt – finders of a stray animals who wish to adopt, may come to the shelter to have the animal spayed/neutered and vet checked at a discounted rate.
We also changed our approach towards our community cats. Community cats are unowned cats who live outdoors in virtually every landscape. They live full, healthy lives with their feline families (called colonies) in their outdoor homes. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only humane, effective approach to community cats. WHS is working with the community so cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and then returned to their outdoor homes. TNR helps community cats by relieving them of the stresses of mating and breeding and protecting them from diseases. Communities benefit from TNR because it reduces and stabilizes community cat populations, saves tax-payers’ dollars, helps shelters focus on adoptions, and provides a humane and collaborative way to address concerns and coexist with cats.
If non of these programs are helping to keep the animal in their home/environment, we will ask finders and owners to book an appointment with us before coming to the shelter. This will allow time to gather information about the behaviour and medical history, so we can ensure the animal receives the appropriate care and is set onto the right path through the shelter. We may be looking at sending a mom cat to foster immediately to reduce stress, an injured dog to surgery or an unsocial cat to a barn home.
By keeping pets in their homes, staff can evaluate each pet in our care thoroughly ultimately leading to a reduction in daily shelter population, lower euthanasia rates, shorter average lengths of stay, and increased probability of adoption.
Capacity for Care has helped the WHS reduce euthanasia from 30-40% to 10% over the last several years. We have approximately 6000 animals come through the shelter each year, but we are able to help almost 4000 more (even though they do not have to come into our care). 10,000 animals are cared for annually both in the shelter and in the community.
Dr. Cynthia Karsten recently presented on this concept with a great video. It speaks to cats specifically, but can be converted to dogs as well. Dr. Karsten helped roll this model out at the WHS a few years ago.
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