In the face of the problem of unwanted dogs, shelters are necessary but should always be a temporary solution before adoption.
In the framework of Stray Animal Management Programmes (as practised by VIER PFOTEN), the Catch, Neuter and Release approach involves the animals being released at the exact location where they were caught and consequently sheltering is avoided.
While shelters are reaching high animal welfare standards in some countries (e.g. Germany or Austria), this is not the case everywhere. In some countries, public shelters are known to be synonymous with “death camps” for the dogs there (see for example the VIER PFOTEN Report of 2014 on Romanian public shelters).
During the period of sheltering, the basic needs of the dogs (known as the “five freedoms”) have to be respected (freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress). Moreover, to limit the period of sheltering, shelters should (re)educate and (re)socialise the dogs to increase their chances of being adopted and to prevent their being abandoned again.
Furthermore, in order to avoid any new overpopulation, no dog should be given for adoption without being identified, registered, vaccinated and sterilised.
Good standards for dog shelters have been described in 2013 in a "Shelter Quality Protocol" produced by the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise ‘G. Caporale’ and financed by the Italian Ministry of Health.
The project aim was to develop innovative and efficient tools for the management of stray dog and cat populations in urban areas. A crucial topic, strictly related to stray dog population management, concerns shelter facilities. The Shelter Quality is an innovative protocol that proposes a completely new approach to companion animal welfare assessment. It has the potential of representing a valuable tool for Competent Authorities, shelter managers and NGO personnel wanting to investigate the welfare status of long-term sheltered dogs.
Download the Shelter Quality Protocol: shelter_quality_protocol_2014.pdf