Shelter Medicine Programs Endorse NACA Recommendations

Download the joint statement (PDF)

University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, University of California-Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, Dr. Jeanette O’Quin of The Ohio State University, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians wholeheartedly support and recommend animal control agencies and animal shelters follow the recommendations found in the recently released statements from the National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA) during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 carries the possibility of creating a significant animal welfare crisis in shelters experiencing reduced capacity for care due to staffing shortages, the need for social distancing, and reduced outcome opportunities via adoption, foster or rescue.

In an effort to mitigate the short and long-term effects of this pandemic, we encourage animal control agencies and shelters to implement the NACA recommendations beginning immediately.

NACA’s statements incorporate the following key recommendations:

  • Animal control agencies should take active measures to eliminate non-essential shelter intake.
  • Discontinue low priority/non-emergency activity (non-aggressive stray animal pick-up, nuisance complaints, etc.).
  • At this time, continue to respond to emergency and high priority calls (law enforcement assistance, injured or sick stray animals, bite and dangerous dog complaints, etc.).
  • To preserve critical medical supplies and minimize potential for human contact exposure, shelters and spay-neuter clinics should limit surgeries to emergency cases only.

Importantly, NACA notes that “shelters should continue providing live outcomes for sheltered cats and dogs. The lack of immediately available spay and neuter services should not be a reason for shelter euthanasia. Further, anticipated personnel and supply resource depletion in shelters dictate that essential services and lifesaving capacity be preserved by reducing the number of animals in custody as quickly as possible. This should be done by expediting the movement of animals to adoptive or foster homes and not extending the stay of animals in the shelter for spay or neuter surgery.”


Sandra Newbury, DVM, DABVP (Shelter Medicine)
Director, Shelter Medicine Program
University of Wisconsin-Madison
School of Veterinary Medicine

Cynda Crawford, DVM, PhD
Director, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program
University of Florida

College of Veterinary Medicine

Chumkee Aziz, DVM, DABVP (Shelter Medicine)
Association of Shelter Veterinarians

Kate F. Hurley, DVM, MPVM, DABVP (Shelter Medicine)
Koret Shelter Medicine Program
University of California, Davis

Jeanette O’Quin, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, DABVP (Shelter Medicine)
Assistant Professor of Veterinary Public Health and Shelter Medicine
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Animal Services’ Role in COVID-19 Support

Note: This is a dynamic situation. Please go to our info sheet for the latest updates.

In preparation for an increase in COVID-19 cases and the hospitalization of people with severe disease, animal service agencies are collaborating with public health departments to support the animals of persons who require hospitalization. For people that do not have family or friends that can care for their pets during their hospitalization, animal service support may include temporary sheltering of their pets. For people who may need to self-isolate or are quarantined after exposure to an infected individual, animal service agencies are working to support the co-housing of people with their pets in their homes or in temporary emergency housing.

Co-housing people with their pets whenever possible has a three-fold impact. First, previous disasters demonstrated that pets are integral family members and people will place themselves at significant risk rather than be separated from their animals. Compliance with important recommendations, including disclosure of symptoms or exposure to an infected person, may be compromised if people believe they may be separated from their pets when isolated or quarantined.

Second, pets have a beneficial impact on human health, providing companionship and reducing anxiety. Isolation and quarantine are extremely stressful with uncertainty, fear, and anger that may be exacerbated by social isolation. Reducing stress by keeping families together, including a family’s pets, is important to maintaining the health of both the people and their animals.

Third, animal shelters could quickly become overwhelmed unless they limit their services to those who truly cannot care for their pets. Bringing in large numbers of animals would stretch capacity and resources to the point where adequate care could no longer be ensured. The possibility of a crisis in the human health care system because of a rapid influx of patients beyond the capacity to provide care is very real at this time. Avoiding a parallel crisis in animal welfare is essential to protect community health and is in the best interest of all the individuals, humans and animals, involved.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association, WSAVA, has compiled information from global authorities on the current understanding of the role of companion animals and COVID-19. There is no current evidence that companion animals are a source of infection to people.

For more information visit WSAVA’s information page:

Current recommendations from the CDC include washing hands before and after interacting with pets if ill.

Note: We thank our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, who partner with us on our Resource Library, for sharing this post with us.

New Study Adds to Evidence that Capacity for Care Improves Shelter Ops

This month Samantha Hobson published “Examining potential impacts of Capacity for Care (C4C) as a strategy to manage shelter cat populations” as a Master’s Thesis at the University of Guelph, Ontario. 

The concept of Capacity for Care (C4C) forms the core of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program’s shelter management philosophy. When a shelter operates within its C4C, all animals needing service receive care that preserves their health and safety —and just as importantly, that of staff. Factors influencing C4C include admissions flow, housing type and number, staffing, outcomes and Length of Stay (LOS). 

While it has been borne out in practice before and since the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters were published in 2010, C4C’s scientific legitimacy received strong validation from the 2017 publication of “An observational study of the relationship between Capacity for Care as an animal shelter management model and cat health, adoption and death in three animal shelters.” 

The study, authored by KSMP shelter veterinarians Cynthia Karsten, Kate Hurley, and Denae Wagner along with veterinarian statistician Philip Kass, compared before and after implementation of C4C at three Canadian animal shelters, with the support of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. The results were clear: operating within C4C created a virtuous cycle that worked better for animals, shelter staff and the public. 

It seems fitting that the new study confirming the results of Karsten et al should come from Canada, where the original study was conducted and where the moniker “C4C” was first codified as the name of the management model. 

Hobson recruited a total of 7 participants from 5 Canadian shelters for her thesis and we were thrilled to read her results: 

All participants either agreed or strongly agreed that implementing C4C was a positive change for their respective shelters, for shelter staff and for the cats in their care. Six participants agreed or strongly agreed that C4C resulted in positive change for the community, and one participant indicated that they felt neutral towards C4C being a positive change for the community. 

Hobson’s thesis is available online for free here:

An earlier C4C study, “Risk factors affecting length of stay of cats in an animal shelter: A case study at the Guelph Humane Society, 2011–2016” (Janke et al) is available here:,C4C%20program%20at%20the%20GHS.

C4C Resources 

Read more about Capacity for Care in our Resource Library

C4C icon

Governor Newsom Proposes $50M Investment to Help California’s Homeless Animals

While running for Governor, Gavin Newsom made a promise to all Californians and to the over 100,000 shelter animals still euthanized annually: Ensure that all California communities have the resources they need to meet the state’s goal that no healthy or treatable dog or cat is euthanized in an animal shelter.

The desire to eliminate euthanasia as a management tool for animals that are not dangerous or suffering is not new; in fact, there is a two decade-old state policy stating no adoptable or treatable dog or cat be euthanized at an animal shelter. Yet last year California was second only to Texas in the number of animals dying in shelters. The state stopped reimbursing local governments for some animal shelter costs during the recession and many communities have struggled to meet the goal ever since.

What is new is a meaningful commitment from the state to help make the kind of life-saving success envisioned twenty years ago a reality for all communities, including those with fewer resources who have been left out of the successes that communities with more have been able to achieve.

On January 10, 2020, Governor Newsom put forward the first proposal in California’s history aimed at addressing these disparities and closing the gap, ensuring that all California animal shelters have access to the training and resources needed to transform their organizations.

If approved by the legislature, the Governor’s proposed $50 million dollar investment in homeless animals and the shelters that serve them will provide:

  • Prioritized investment and direct professional engagement with animal shelters in underresourced and overburdened communities
  • Regional best-practice summits open to all animal sheltering personnel
  • Access to the most current research and shelter management models available, as well as the subject matter experts who pioneered the veterinary medicine field that concentrates on the health and well-being of animals living in shelters
  • Interactive group training that guarantees shelters have access to best-practice protocols and models
  • Robust resource library complete with sample forms, protocols, case studies, policies and tool kits

The governor has asked the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, led by Dr. Kate Hurley, to implement this ambitious initiative, should it be funded. More will be known when the California legislature completes the budget process in June.

Shelters Complete First-Ever Facility Design Bootcamp

The Koret Shelter Medicine Program always wants to share its expertise in the most efficient, effective manner, and that often means experimenting with new outreach methods. In that spirit, KSMP veterinarians Denae Wagner, Cynthia Karsten, and Kate Hurley led four shelters in various stages of planning new facilities or redesigning old ones in a first-of-its-kind online Facility Design Bootcamp. The four-week bootcamp ran in September and October.

The four shelters selected to participate in the pilot program were the City and County of Butte-Silver Bow, the Humane Society of Western Montana, the Souris Valley Animal Shelter, and the Wadena Humane Society. They were recruited by KSMP alumna, Dr. Chumkee Aziz, currently Senior Director of Shelter Outreach at the ASPCA’s Northern Tier Shelter Initiative.

“We feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity. Was great to get our team thinking together and brings a lot of great internal conversations. Likely a lot of money and time-saving insight from all of you! Thank YOU!!!”

Facility Design Bootcamp 1.0 Participant

Group Zoom calls allowed the shelters to interact with each other as well as with KSMP shelter veterinarians, while each shelter also got individual video consultations. Dr. Wagner, the facility design specialist on the team, is committed to review draft shelter plans whether they’re ready in a month, or a year from now. As Dr. Karsten likes to say, “Once a bootcamper, always a bootcamper.”

The Bootcamp curriculum included instructional videos that offered in-depth comparisons of different housing methods and floor plans; introduced the Capacity for Care (C4C) shelter management model; and explained how right-sizing the shelter and reducing length of stay works better for shelter animals ⁠— and staff.

I am a buildings manager who was asked to sit in to learn more about shelter design and operations. I found it very informative on many levels. It changed my way of thinking and gave me a higher appreciation for all that you do.

Facility Design Bootcamp 1.0 Participant

Shelter consultations aren’t educational just for the folks working in shelters; they are also a learning experience for the KSMP team. The KSMP collected feedback from participants throughout the bootcamp and sent a comprehensive questionnaire at the end.

In a final email to participants, Dr. Wagner wrote, “I am already working on Facility Design Bootcamp #2 and will be implementing many of your suggestions. Thank you too for encouraging us to continue on with this project by letting us know this was a useful endeavor.”

The ASPCA generously supplied funding to enable the shelters to participate.

UW Shelter Medicine Program Helps Contain Canine Influenza Outbreak

A Canine Influenza outbreak at two Oakland, California shelters is being managed by the Shelter Medicine program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM), directed by former Koret Shelter Medicine Program faculty member, Dr. Sandra Newbury.

Alerted to the possibility of an outbreak, the Koret Shelter Medicine Program’s Dr. Cindy Karsten reached out to Dr. Newbury, a member of the Canine Influenza Task Force.

Testing revealed that two dogs transferred from Oakland Animal Services to the East Bay SPCA were infected with the H3N2 strain, as were two dogs still at OAS. Testing at both facilities continues thanks to the financial support of Maddie’s Fund.

UW shelter veterinarians are on the scene providing expertise on treatment of infected animals and containment of the outbreak.

Symptoms of the disease include runny nose, cough, and fever and can be either mild or severe. Owners whose dogs show those symptoms are urged to contact their veterinarian. Most dogs recover if isolated and treated properly.

Infections of cats are possible but rare; the canine version of H3N2 cannot infect humans.

You can learn more about Canine Influenza by reading the Canine Influenza information sheet in our resource library. Visit the UW Shelter Medicine website to read more about this outbreak.

Dr. Karsten is Outreach Veterinarian for the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Newbury helped to build the KSMP from 2006-2014 and now directs the Shelter Medicine Program at UW. She can be reached at

Shelter Medicine Times Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue 2 Published

The second issue of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program’s re-re-re-launched newsletter has left (very) sunny Davis, California to meet subscribers wherever they are!

In the current issue, we celebrate the bravery of all who rose to the Bad Cat Housing Challenge at this year’s Animal Care Expo and we share some advice on cat housing that enhances feline mental and physical well-being.

Also in Volume 4, Issue 2 of the newsletter: Dr. Delany returns with another fun and challenging quiz, Dr. Kraus argues there are better things to spend time and money on than testing every cat for FeLV and FIV, Dr. Karsten advocates “Capacity for Care for Us”, and Kate remembers Dr. Linda Lord.

The newsletter also features an interview with our own amazing Emma Hewitt, RVT, surgical support technician for the shelter medicine clinical rotation at Yolo County Animal Services, as well as a link to our free “DIY Housing Accessories for Animal Shelters” guide.

Issue 2 of the 4th edition of the Shelter Medicine Times can be seen at in the magical flipbook format. A mobile-optimized version is available at

KSMP Leads Kitten and Housing Discussions at HSUS Animal Care Expo 2019

Every year, the Humane Society of the US puts together their Animal Care Expo, the largest educational conference for animal shelter professionals in the world. This month, as in years past, shelter veterinarians from the Koret Shelter Medicine Program were there, teaching, learning, and helping move the field forward.

Speakers at the first Kitten Summit

Drs. Karsten, Delany, and Hurley convened a well-attended Kitten Summit, at which they brought together innovators from Arizona Humane, Portland’s Cat Adoption Team, the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, and San Diego Humane to share information about all things kitten.

Meanwhile in the Exhibit Hall, the Million Cat Challenge’s jumbo-sized Cat Housing booth provoked, informed, and amused over a thousand Expo-goers. Visitors to the booth got to spend a minute—if they could stand it—in the Bad Cat Housing Challenge, a cramped, foul-smelling space with the sound of barking dogs and the unappetizing sight of food next to a toilet.

Million Cat Challenge Cat Housing booth at Expo 2019

Visitors emerged from there to walk through several rooms displaying good individual and group housing, where they could read about housing myths and realities and talk with MCC co-founders Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Julie Levy, among others.

Booth visitors were also treated to displays of enriching Do-It-Yourself housing accessories created by the KSMP’s own Dr. Denae Wagner. Dr. Wagner not only showed off her DIY skills, she also debuted her DIY Animal Shelter Housing Accessories booklet available for free at the exhibit and downloadable from The booklet and DIY section of the website make instructions for creating the accessories available to all.

Shelter Medicine Celebrates 18th Birthday

Happy 18th birthday KSMP! Cake with cat- and dog-shaped decorations.

“If I could have made a wish 18 years ago, I could not even have imagined wishing for anything as incredible as what shelter medicine has grown up into,” said Dr. Kate Hurley as she lit the candles on a festively decorated birthday cake in a conference room at UC Davis on Monday.

Dr. Hurley started her internship in shelter medicine – the first of its kind anywhere – in January, 2001. “Luckily the Association of Shelter Veterinarians was actually born in the same year,” she says. “There was something really fun and kind of intimate and kind of wild westy about all learning to walk together and just figuring it out together, figuring out what was possible.”

Two and a half years later, Dr. Hurley took over the program. “In some ways that was the hardest time. We had a glimpse of what shelter medicine could be, but there weren’t enough people around to make it be that thing yet.”

Eventually a Petsmart grant allowed the program to hire Dr. Sandra Newbury as another fulltime shelter medicine co-faculty member. Dr. Hurley had a “co-parent for this unruly program.”

“Then other shelter medicine programs were born and all of a sudden we had siblings. Family reunions became a lot less awkward and more fun because it wasn’t just us. We had joint consult camp and we could learn from each other and our programs could play tag together.”

KSMP team members blow out the candles. A laptop streams video to celebrants all across the U.S.

Now shelter medicine is 18 and has a life of her own. “I think Sandra and I as co-parents are perhaps the most amazed and agog at what this thing has grown up to become. And we see it when we see the fellows going and doing their things and we hear about great things and amazing programs that we have nothing to do with and I don’t even know about them and I don’t know where they came from.”

On the phone from Wisconsin, Dr. Newbury expressed her pride in the program and noted with astonishment that nobody in the room could even say anymore how many shelter medicine programs there are at this point.

“It’s just like our 18 year old is out, stirring up all kinds of stuff,” says Dr. Hurley. “We’ll hear a hint of some crazy idea that we kicked around late at night on the phone 18 years ago that seemed so unimaginably far out and far off, and now it just exists beyond us so richly and in so many different ways that I couldn’t even have imagined.”

Capacity for Care Bootcamp 2.0 Begins

Shelter consultations offer a powerful way to help shelters provide humane care and save homeless animals’ lives. They can also be expensive and time-consuming, since they require travel and accommodations for shelter health experts.

Searching for a more scalable, cost-effective way to bring lasting change to shelters, Dr. Hurley and her team launched a pilot online “Bootcamp” program in 2018 that replicates the experience of an onsite shelter consultation — with far greater reach, and no travel necessary.

C4C Bootcamp screenshot

The six-week bootcamp offers a curriculum of videos, readings, and quizzes. But it’s the chance to interact with KSMP experts that makes the bootcamp so effective. Twice-weekly video conference calls allow shelters to receive personalized advice, report progress, describe challenges, and connect to other shelters working on the same programs.

This month, the KSMP welcomed nine shelters from Northern California and Canada into the new, improved Bootcamp 2.0. Drs. Karsten, Hurley, and Wagner have overhauled the curriculum, revised videos, and re-written content to help these shelters discover, reach, and operate according to their capacity for care:

  • Antioch Animal Services
  • Edmonton ACCC
  • Fredericton SPCA
  • Marin Humane
  • Solano County Animal Services
  • SPCA de’Outaouais
  • Stockton Animal Services
  • Tony La Russa ARF
  • Winnipeg Humane Society