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Welfare assessments for long-term housing in animal shelters
  1. Emily McCobb, DVM, MS, DACVAA and
  2. Seana Dowling-Guyer, MS
  1. Center for Shelter Dogs, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton MA 01536, USA
  1. e-mail: emily.mccobb{at}

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A KEY consideration for animal shelters is maintaining quality of life and welfare. In the USA many shelters are experiencing a decrease in intake and euthanasia rates, resulting in shorter lengths of stay. With an emphasis on quality of life, shelters employ many strategies, such as adoption events, foster programmes and adoption ambassadors (who help move animals through the shelter system faster) to try to reduce the time animals are kept in a shelter. Widely available community-based spay neuter programmes and return-to-field management of free roaming cats are resulting in lower intake rates, which further decreases euthanasia and length of stay. Euthanasia may be employed as a last resort to help manage shelter populations in order to ensure that capacity for care is not exceeded. Housing animals humanely for weeks to months requires regular assessment, careful management and effective enrichment to ensure physical and mental health are maintained.

In many European communities strict ‘no-kill’ policies make it illegal to euthanaise shelter animals. As in American shelters with such policies, inflexible regulations can lead to very long lengths of stay (months to years). If a facility has an open admission policy (meaning all animals in a given community or geographical area are accepted) then overcrowding can result. When animals …

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