ACCT Philly is excited to announce a positive, new change in our dog housing structure, as outlined below by Executive Director Vincent Medley. Frequently Asked Questions can be found at the bottom of the page.  Thank you! 

Hello Everyone,

It is ACCT Philly’s goal to become a national leader in animal sheltering. In our commitment to reach that goal, it is important that I challenge the staff and the humane community to seek out, learn and implement shelter practices that are in alignment with national standards. To that end, I, with strong support of ACCT leadership staff, intend to provide every animal the Five Basic Freedoms, as outlined below:

1. Freedom from hunger or thirst
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior
5. Freedom from fear and distress

These freedoms are ones practiced, for several decade, by animal sheltering professionals around the world, as a means of identifying priorities relating to the care and treatment of shelter animals. While the capacity for care differs depending on each shelter’s financial, in kind and human resources, these priorities remind us of our continuous responsibility to protect the health and welfare of our precious furry friends.

In the prior paragraph, I mentioned the capacity for care. What that refers to the number of animals ACCT Philly can HUMANELY care for, and still maintain the standards expressed in the five freedoms for all the animals we shelter, at any given time. Operating beyond capacity can mean anything from animals being housed in tight cages and not being walked and enriched frequently, all the way up to animals becoming sick as a result of overcrowding, stress and cross contamination. Furthermore, this can lead to animals being injured as a result of staff having too many animals to care for and not enough time to adequately care for them.

I realize that this may be a radical change for some, but it is one we are ready for. I often tell the staff “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” It’s my way of conveying to them that the onus is on us to make the changes required to become a shelter the community and industry recognizes as one of the best.

As you know, within the past year we have created portals in our cat habitats to allow for double cages, therefore improving the quality of life for the felines we house temporarily. It is now time to provide this same quality of care to our canines.

You have probably noticed that we have been leaving “A” row’s guillotine doors up, allowing each animal a larger space. That is our practice now and will be for the foreseeable future. One side allows the dog to urinate and defecate and the other side gives it an escape from their waste. Moreover, potential adopters and transfer partners will now more easily envision these dogs living in their home. In our work, no different than other industries, appearance matters. In time, we will extend this practice to other rows and make this a year round practice. To ensure our efforts are successful, we will be specifically monitor the length of stay, live release rate and number of animals housed on A row for the next 30 days. We are making this change to positively impact the lives of our dogs, but should this change have a negative impact, we will take direct and immediate action to correct it.

We know that you will have questions about his new policy. We understand that it does seem to reduce space, but please remember that it will have an immediate impact on the quality of life we currently provide, and over time this will have a positive impact in our live release rate overall and will allow us to better and more humanely serve the animals of Philadelphia.

For anyone who wants to learn more or has questions, please attend the information session held  Saturday, January 16th from 4 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Also, please be sure to check out the FAQ’s below.

Thank you for your patience, understanding, and support.

Vincent Medley, Executive Director

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The basics:

What is capacity for care?
An organization’s capacity for care refers to how many animals they can humanely care for. There is a big difference between how many animals can be held in one building vs how many can receive the quality of care that the five basic freedoms of animal welfare set forth as a minimum standard for any caregiver to follow.

What are the five basic freedoms in animal welfare?
1. Freedom from hunger or thirst
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior
5. Freedom from fear and distress

Where did these freedoms come from and why are they important to animal welfare?
Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in focus groups looking at the needs of animals raised for food in the UK in the 1960’s and 70’s. These concise yet comprehensive points have been revisited since, world wide, by those responsible for the care of domestic or captured wild animals, from farms and zoos to research facilities and animal shelters. They help to explain that an animal’s well being is more than simply not being hungry or physically ill, but also considers their mental state, physical comfort and species appropriate needs.

What happens when a facility operates beyond their capacity?
Animals suffer when part or all of their five freedoms are not met.

A mild example could be dogs not getting walked or cats kept in small cages. So basically, things are probably a little dirty and a bit uncomfortable. A more moderate case might show nervous animals being repeatedly subjected to loud noises, or staff missing underlying medical conditions. So in this scenario, pets may feel afraid or may start feeling sick.

When an organization goes severely beyond their capacity for humane care, the animals may become injured from lack of care or broken housing structures, and animals get sick from shelter acquired diseases. In this scenario pets are suffering.

The Change in Protocol:

What change is occurring at ACCT Philly?
We are opening up the guillotines on all of “A” row so that the canines housed in this row will have larger primary enclosures providing a “living and eating” space and an “active and playful” space. This gives them more room to stretch out, relax and shine as the individuals we know they are.

Why is this change occurring?
We are continuously reviewing our humane capacity and have started a cultural conversation that revolves around those five basic freedoms. We can no longer make excuses for improper housing of animals and are committed to taking this step forward to improve our practices and the quality of care pets experience when they are in our shelter.

When will the change be official?
Staff will be fully trained and ready to implement by January 18th, 2016. The policy and illustrative photographs will be posted in multiple locations including at the end of A row in kennels, for all staff, volunteers and members of the public to view.

How will dogs be chosen for this row?
We will run length of stay reports and use behavior information to determine who would benefit most from a double kennel.

Why won’t all the dogs get the same treatment?
We DO want all of our dogs to receive this same type of treatment! Our goal is to extend the double kennels through the rest of our adoption housing, as staff, volunteers and transfer partners become accustomed to this new protocol. A measured implementation will also help ACCT Philly monitor our capacity and work to prevent any increase in euthanasia rates related to this housing change.

How will this help the animal’s mental health?
Canines will now have a place for resting and relaxing and a separate place for eating, eliminating and playing. The dogs with double sided housing will have the freedom to take on any body posture they prefer, stretch out, play, and engage in “normal” behavior. They can also choose to move to the opposite side and relax, or retreat from the front of the kennel.

We expect that giving them more space and a freedom to chose in this way will reduce the expression of negative, kennel stress related behaviors and enable the dogs to show positive, adoption friendly behaviors.

How will this help the animal’s physical health?
Mental and physical health are closely related. By reducing kennel stress we can help keep our dogs immune systems stronger. Kennels will also be easier to clean and dogs will have more distance between the area where they are eating and the space where they are eliminating.

Why now? We weren’t doing this before?
Specifically, in November of 2015, back to back major adoption promotion events enabled ACCT Philly to reach record low numbers of animals in our care. During that period, a trial period was started where for every dog available for adoptions, a double cage was made provided. We were able to provide larger kennels with more sanitary conditions for every dog available for public viewing, and for a period of time, the kennels were a quieter, more comfortable place for our dogs to live, and they appeared to be adopted faster.

Because this opportunity was too good to let go, ACCT Philly decided to commit to providing humane housing through double sided large dog kennels without increasing the rate of euthanasias or in any way harming live outcomes for the deserving dogs of Philadelphia. In fact, we expect our commitment to improving the level of individual animal care and quality of housing for our dogs to enable them to shine as individuals and allow ACCT Philly to achieve more adoptions, transfers and live outcomes than any previous year.

The details and potentially hard to understand:

Won’t this mean more animals are getting euthanized?
We will have fewer total kennels yes, but shelter capacity should never be based around the physical number of kennels alone. Our humane capacity is based on our ability to adequately care for, recognize and address the individual needs of each pet in our care. We believe that providing double kennels will increase our live release rate by improving the behavior, mental health and overall presentation of the dogs in our care when they are visited by members of the public, volunteers and transfer partners.

We will also have a better ratio of staff to animals, enabling us to provide a more pleasant experience for the pets in our care. We will be able to protect animals from shelter acquired illnesses by reducing the level of stress and preventing overcrowding.

Finally, we will have more resources for individual animals to increase our ability to identify and implement treatment plans for medical and behavioral problems that were beyond our ability in the past. The hope for all of ACCT Philly staff is that moving to embrace a more humane approach to sheltering and embracing these basic animal welfare needs will improve the quality of life for pets entering our shelter, setting them up for a shorter shelter stay and getting even more out alive than ever before!

I still have a question. Who can I ask?
Our medical and shelter staff would be happy to answer more specific questions if you have them. Please email vincent@acctphilly.org