The Welfare of Shelter Dogs: Recommended Modifications to Current Federal Standards Based on Research Findings
Animal shelters are a place of refuge for homeless dogs or those rescued from neglectful or abusive situations. There are countless animal shelters of various forms across the nation. However, when it comes to the welfare of dogs at these facilities, federal standards fall short. Reputable third-party organizations have created guidelines for shelters to assist them in providing adequate care for their animals. Yet, even these guidelines fail to incorporate several research findings that can potentially improve canine welfare and adoption chances. This three-part creative project focuses on investigating the welfare standards for shelter dogs. The first part of the project is a report that reviewed relevant literature to reveal several aspects of canine welfare that federal standards need to address, and made suggestions to improve federal standards based on these findings. It was found that, in terms of housing, federal guidelines should recommend larger primary enclosures and encourage compatible group housing. Regulations for sound levels in the shelter environment need to be put in place to reduce the stress and potential hearing damage caused by high noise levels. For diet purposes, standards should be raised to require the provision of high quality food. Enrichment, human interaction, and training should be integrated into shelter programs as required daily activities. The literature also indicates a need for further research into visitors of animal shelters to identify how shelters can improve visitors' experiences and increase adoptions. Finally, a discussion needs to be started discussing the ethics of keeping dogs confined in a shelter environment long-term, considering its impact on their overall welfare. The second part of the project involved compiling the findings from the report into a presentation for the staff of Lost Our Home Pet Rescue, a local animal shelter. Since Lost Our Home is in the process of planning a renovation of their facility, the presentation also included literature-based recommendations for the shelter's new facility to improve the overall welfare of the dogs in their care. The final part of this project is the author's personal reflection on the volunteer work she did at Lost Our Home over the course of this project.