Animal shelters and municipal pounds

Animal shelters and municipal pounds
Revision of existing policy reviewed in 1999
Animals kept in pounds and shelters should be housed under appropriate conditions that meet the
animals’ physiological, behavioural and social needs and ensure their health and welfare. Animals must
be cared for humanely. Only animals with suitable health and behaviour should be rehomed. All animals
should be scanned for a microchip immediately on entering the pound or shelter and checked against all
relevant microchip databases. If a microchip is not present, any other form of identification must be
checked to try and locate the animal’s owner. Municipal pounds and animal shelters play an important
role in the management of lost or stray cats and dogs and the control of surplus pet populations.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) accepts that it has a role in:
 assisting with the training of animal welfare officers in subjects including
o animal health and welfare
o nutrition and housing
o reproduction control
o zoonoses, infectious diseases and biosecurity (including early recognition and methods
of control of these diseases)
o injuries and first aid
o issues associated with euthanasia
o relevant state and territory legislation
o public relations
o early recognition of behavioural traits not compatible with successful rehousing
 further liaison with animal welfare officers to pass on updated information
 encouraging municipal authorities and animal welfare societies to disseminate information
through animal adoption centres, pet shops and lectures to schools
 promoting close working arrangements between veterinary practitioners and animal shelters
and pounds to monitor for animal hoarders, suspected abusers and cases of neglect
 counselling officers to accept that, if animals are not suitable for rehoming, euthanasia may
be needed to protect the welfare of that animal, advocating for all states and territories to
introduce uniformity in the management and legislative controls that govern animal shelters
and municipal pounds through relevant Codes of Practice or Standards and Guidelines.
The municipal pound or animal shelter plays an important role in reuniting lost animals with their owners,
the control of surplus dog and cat populations, and the provision of veterinary services. For the control to
be community based, it is important that the pound or shelter be owned by a municipality rather than by
individuals or private organisations. The solution of the problem then becomes a community
The guidelines below have been prepared as a guide to local government bodies and their employees
on the minimum standards required for animal shelters and pounds for companion animals. The aim of
the AVA in preparing these guidelines is to assist in maintaining the health and welfare of animals
confined in shelters or pounds.
Design of facilities
 A veterinarian should be engaged to advise on design requirements for animal shelters and
 Pens should be constructed to house up to two adult animals as a maximum, even at peak
 Housing design should ensure the animals’ health, welfare, physiological, behavioural and
social needs are met.
All pens should be secure against accidental escape. Ideally, there should be a second
barrier between the enclosure area and the outside environment.
Pens should be designed to reduce transmission of disease, taking into consideration air
flow, cleaning and other factors relating to hygiene and potential for disease spread.
‘Drop-off’ boxes for animals after-hours need to be adequately monitored to prevent injured
animals being deposited, with subsequent delays in treatment that would negatively affect
that animal’s welfare.
The building and individual cages and runs should be constructed of impervious material with a rounded
contour at the wall-floor junction to facilitate cleaning and disinfection.
The following facilities should also be provided:
 heating and cooling that are appropriate for the physiological and biological needs of the
 hot and cold running water
 appropriate air quality, ventilation, lighting and noise control
 facilities for sanitary disposal of animal wastes, cadavers, food scraps and similar material; a
regular pick-up of such waste from the facility, at least three times per week, is required
 facilities for feed storage such that a minimum of five days’ supply under conditions of peak
usage is held; dry food is recommended
 feeding and stable drinking utensils that are either disposable or able to be disinfected
 four types of housing areas: general holding pens, quarantine pens, exercise areas and
isolation pens
 a first-aid treatment area with
o a table that can be disinfected
o lighting and shelving
o first-aid materials, including dressings and disinfectants to treat open wounds.
The role of the veterinarian
Municipal pounds and shelters are encouraged to develop and continually update a manual of
procedures covering operational recommendations such as maintenance and hygiene, capture,
transport and record keeping and outlining the role of a veterinarian in shelter management.
Veterinarians and staff that work at the shelters should have basic husbandry and medical knowledge
for all of the species that they accept.
A veterinarian should be retained to:
 examine all animals on admission and immediately euthanase any animal when it is in the
best interests of the animal and is necessary for the welfare of the animal (i.e. the animal is
 provide first aid and other animal treatment, early recognition of infectious and zoonotic
diseases, and disease control
 provide advice on nutrition
 ensure that the design of facilities meets suitable standards for holding animals
 consult with management on the conduct of the pound, the maintenance of facilities and the
design of transport vehicles
 consult with management on capture techniques
 be responsible for health and behavioural assessments of resident animals before they are
 vaccinate, desex and permanently identify all animals being sold, preferably by microchip
 be responsible for euthanasia procedures and practice.
Maintenance procedures
Maintenance procedures should ensure that:
 animals are fed at least once per day
 animals have access to clean fresh drinking water at all times
 daily checks are made for eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, behaviour and general
 animals suspected of having infectious disease are isolated from other animals
first aid to preserve life and relieve pain is readily available
facilities and equipment to euthanase animals, when required, is easily accessible
exercise and socialisation opportunities available daily.
This is a delicate skill and the method used should be as humane as possible with minimal risk to
animal, operator and bystander. The behavioural characteristics of the species concerned should be
taken into account when deciding on the method to be used. In general, the AVA does not approve of
the use of capture (tranquilliser) guns for companion animals unless all other avenues of capture have
been exhausted.
Animal transport
Vehicles for the transport of animals require:
 separate compartments to allow isolation of animals
 a design that allows for effective cleaning
 adequate controlled ventilation and temperature when the vehicle is stationary or in motion
 adequate space for each individual animal to be comfortable
 conditions that meet the animals’ physiological and biological needs.
Recovery and rehoming of animals
The fees charged for the recovery of dogs or cats from pounds should be set so that the facility is selffunding and there is a realistic financial penalty to the owner.
Only suitable animals should be rehomed. Potential owners should be interviewed and counselled
before being accepted and all animals should have a comprehensive behavioural assessment before
being rehomed.
The pound must be accessible to the public. The statutory holding period should be 7–14 working days
on which the pound or shelter is open for at least four hours per day.
Knowledge of wildlife is also necessary. Networking with other agencies or organisations working with
non-domestic species is needed.
Where a shelter or pound is restricted in its ability to accept an animal (for example, rare or unusual
species, injured wildlife, livestock, local council restrictions etc.), procedures are in place to safeguard
the welfare of the animal, such as referral of the animal to an alternative appropriate care provider.
Other recommendations
Legislation should continue to empower veterinarians to euthanase all animals found abandoned,
distressed or disabled to the extent that their continued existence involves suffering.
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