Building a Socially Conscious Animal Community
By Lena Hart, Marketing and Event Planning Manager
Whenever you hear “animal shelter,” you probably imagine long rows of dog kennels, stacked cat cages, crates of small critters, and a group of people who care about saving animal lives and sharing the same principles. While kennels and cages might be the common denominator for many shelters, when it comes to the essence of animal welfare, the variety of personal opinions and organizational practices usually makes for a giant melting pot.
There are various types of shelters: “no-kill”, “high-kill”, “limited admissions”, and “open admissions.” While the general idea behind animal sheltering is to provide a safe place for homeless pets, not every shelter is a socially conscious shelter, and many people are often confused by shelters’ admission policy definitions.
The Socially Conscious Sheltering (SCS) model came to be in 2019, when a group of animal shelter CEOs agreed that people have the power to shape the future for animals, and while most people mean well, sometimes good intentions cause unintentional suffering. The SCS model follows 8 principles that many shelters are beginning to adapt, or have been practicing for years, like Suncoast Humane Society (SHS).
- Ensure every homeless pet has a safe place for shelter and care – SHS has been an open-admissions facility since 1971, where no animal is ever turned away, regardless of age, breed, size, temperament or health.
- Placing every healthy and safe animal – the SHS Shelter Angel program treats animals with an excellent prediction for a comfortable life. When it comes to safety, SHS is extremely conscious about adopting out pets that exhibit behavior that could result in severe injury or death to another animal or person.
- Address medical and behavioral needs – SHS goes above and beyond when it comes to animal enrichment programs, and addressing existing conditions or injuries before an animal becomes available for adoption.
- Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions – euthanasia is a sensitive topic for many. It is imperative to realize that allowing an animal to suffer is not compassionate, and it is not acceptable to house and adopt out a dangerous animal.
- Align policy with community needs – SHS listens to the community, offers many programs such as Pet Therapy, Pet Food Pantry, humane education, disaster resources, and more for those in need.
- Considering health and wellness of animals and community when transferring animals – taking in pets from different states or countries can help to save pets’ lives, but it can also expose pets and people in our community to infectious disease. While it is a challenging call to make, SHS has always focused on the best interest of the animals under their roof and in the surrounding community, and of the people who care for them.
- Enhancing the human-animal bond through safe placement and post adoption support – not everyone who comes to SHS planning to adopt a specific animal gets their wish, but only because the SHS team carefully considers the best outcome for the animals and humans. A follow up system is in place, as well as preventive health care, and behavioral support. If an adoption is not a beneficial fit, SHS always accepts the animal back with the goal to find the perfect home for that animal.
- Fostering the culture of transparency, ethical decision making, mutual respect, continual learning and collaboration – SHS is committed to full transparency, and is dedicated to promoting the humane treatment of animals with the mission “to reduce the number of homeless animals, and improve the quality of life” – which means for animals AND people.
To learn more about Suncoast Humane Society and the organization’s position on animal issues, please visit www.humane.org. To learn more about the Socially Conscious Sheltering model, and what you can do to help create a socially conscious animal community, please visit www.scsheltering.org.