Population Management

Understanding how to properly manage a shelter’s population is a key component of ensuring adequate welfare for dogs and maintaining their behavioral health. Population management involves making plans and decisions which:

  • Ensure that ALL animals in the shelter receive optimal care to maintain their physical and behavioral health
  • Shorten transit time through the shelter for dogs  and reduce length of stay

Appropriately managing an organization’s population must include:

  1. Daily Rounds
  2. Capacity Assessment and Planning

Daily Rounds involves assigning a group of individuals (usually the behavior manager, shelter manager, and/or shelter veterinarian) to walk by kennels and observe the welfare and behavior of every dog. The assessment must evaluate:

  1. What is preventing this dog from going to its new home? (needs an exam, needs behavior evaluation, waiting for rescue, no one is interested in adopting, etc)
  2. What must be done to expedite the dog’s movement through the shelter and adoption? Is it waiting for an exam or a procedure or space?
  3. Observe the dog’s behavior. Is it exhibiting signs of stress? Does it appear comfortable and relaxed? Has its behavior changed from previous observations?
  4. If the dog does not appear comfortable and relaxed and/or if its behavior has changed, what must be done to improve its welfare?

Capacity assessment and planning involves evaluating the number of animals that your organization can do a good job of caring for. Capacity is dramatically affected by intake numbers, physical space, size and number of housing units, staffing, and length of stay. Capacity for animal care and adequacy of staffing must be considered relative to the number of animals requiring care at any given time. When assessing the capacity for your organization, multiple factors must be taken into consideration. These include:

  • Number of cages/kennel space available
  • Required (stray) holding time
  • Number of staff and volunteers available to care for dogs
  • Amount of time per day required to provide basic care for dogs (cleaning kennels, walking, feeding, vaccinating, etc.)
  • Amount of time per day required to provide enrichment for dogs
  • Amount of time per day required to manage and do behavior modification for behavior problems
  • Average length of stay for dogs (as a whole and per particular behavior problem)
  • Number of staff and volunteers who are trained and capable of training dogs
  • Number of dogs that are adopted per month (adoption driven capacity)

Thank you to Dr. Sandra Newbury for her population management expertise providing source material for this portion of the website. For more information about population management, please visit www.sheltermedicine.com.

For more information about shelter standards, please refer to the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.