Shelter Housing: Promoting Good Health and Welfare

TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 9:30-10:30AM

SPEAKER: Dr. Emilia Gordon, BC SPCA, Senior Manager, Animal Health

The BC SPCA operates 36 diverse sheltering facilities across BC and is midway through a five-year capital improvement plan that includes replacing five aging facilities. We are also in the process of fully implementing the Canadian Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, which contain considerable guidance regarding housing and management of housing. Through experience with existing facilities, planning and opening new facilities, and formal consultation with shelter design experts including the team at UC Davis, we have gained many insights into what works and what doesn’t.

Shelter medicine combines individual and population-level care, with the goal of optimizing both physical and mental health. Many shelter animals spend most or all of their time in their primary housing enclosures, so housing design is one of the most important elements in shelter medicine. There is a growing body of research and experience concerning various housing strategies (housing design, how housing and daily routine are managed and capacity determination). The best housing minimizes both stress and disease transmission.

How do the Five Freedoms apply to companion animal housing in animal shelters? Translated into shelter design concepts, it means that shelter housing must offer space for normal postures and movement, accessible and uncontaminated food and water, bedding, a hiding place, and a resting/eating area that is separate from the elimination area. This is easier said than done, and traditional animal shelter housing often does not meet these requirements, particularly for cats.

This interactive presentation will share real-world strategies for shelters to design, improve and utilize housing in ways that meet the Five Freedoms and the Canadian Standards of Care. We will discuss the enormous role that housing plays in health and welfare, examples of challenges and successes at BC SPCA facilities and the top ten things to consider when renovating or designing a new shelter. Attendees will be encouraged to share information about their shelters.

Three Key Learnings:
1. Explore the crucial role of shelter housing in animal health and welfare
2. Discuss and view examples of challenges and successes from BC SPCA shelters and share examples from your own facilities
3. Learn the top ten housing considerations when renovating or designing a new shelter

Emilia Gordon, DVM, manages the animal health program for British Columbia SPCA’s shelter animals. Dr. Gordon’s veterinary career has been evenly divided between private practice and shelter/non-profit medicine and, for the last 15 years, she has also volunteered at free clinics that provide essential wellness care to pets of homeless individuals. Her clinical interests include shelter medicine, infectious disease and behaviour.