COVID-19 Resources

Animal shelter worker caring for puppy in gloves and gown

COVID-19 Resources: Facility Operations

As more shelters across the country are having to limit their hours or temporarily close their doors entirely, there is a lot of uncertainty around facility operations, staff safety and availability, and volunteer shortages in a COVID world.  

The resources on this page provide guidance for adjusting to our new reality so that your daily operations are minimally disrupted, your staff is safe, and lifesaving can continue. 

General Operations

Facility Closure

Staff & Volunteers

Planning for Staff Shortages


General Operations

Many organizations are having to adjust daily workflow to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and members of the public, as well as to ensure that all mandatory tasks are completed. Using your standard operating procedures as a guide, build a business continuity plan that identifies which are necessary functions in your shelter and which are supplementary.  

Here are 4 important processes to include in your business continuity plan: 

1) Follow regular cleaning protocols, even if the process must be adjusted. For example, teams of two who normally clean dog kennels side-by-side should be staggered at different times to comply with the national social-distancing guideline of six feet between individuals. 

2) Ensure any disinfectant is used at proper dilution rations and for proper contact time. Emphasize the proper use of PPE. Post this information prominently in the kennel areas so that volunteers or staff who do not regularly perform this job will be aware of the requirements. 

3) Check your state’s guidelines around “non-essential” veterinary services (e.g. spay and neuter surgeries). Continue lifesaving even if that means releasing intact animals. 

4) If your clinic is still able to be open to the public, stagger drop-off appointments or use a drive-through model where staff goes to the vehicle and the public doesn’t have to come inside.

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Facility Closure 

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has led some organizations to close to the public, greatly reduce their open hours, and limit their intake to animals that are truly in need (like injured strays). Regardless of operational status, lifesaving work should continue. 

If your facility is closed, here are 4 important actions to take:  

1) Keep your community updated frequently about changes to your open hours, admission requirements, animal control services, and adoption policies and procedures.  

2) Reach out to foster-based rescues to make foster homes available for shelter animals 

3) Use remote staff and volunteers to help market pets for foster or adoption, or drive pets from the shelter 

4) Consider creating onsite housing options in case staff need to stay overnight. Make sure to provide food, hot plates, medical supplies/first aid kit, sleeping cot with pillow and blanket, and phone chargers 

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Staff & Volunteers 

Everyone entering your facility should follow CDC recommendations for general hygiene, such as washing hands frequently, disinfecting surfaces and staying home if they are symptomatic. 

Social distancing 
Staff and volunteers abiding by the World Health Organization and CDC recommendations to implement social distancing behaviors can still engage in lifesaving support remotely. Ask if they can help: 

  • Support return to owner programs by calling the appropriate company when microchips are found in stray animals, and posting lost and found pets to Next Door and other neighborhood social media sties 
  • Call local veterinarian and boarding facilities to see what additional support exists in the community for both shelter pets and pets in homes 
  • Promote adoptions and recruit foster homes by doing the following: 
    • Writing bios and updating adoption website information 
    • Posting information about individual animals, adoption and foster campaigns, and other shelter needs to their personal social media pages 
    • Processing applications and paperwork 
    • Driving pets from the shelter or foster home to the new home 

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Planning for Staff Shortages 

It’s always a good idea to cross train staff and volunteers so that every part of your operation has several individuals who can perform necessary tasks. Now, when you may be facing a staff shortage, that need is even more glaring.  

For any trainings that typically have several, new individuals, implement a virtual option. Using shared Google Docs and a video-conferencing platform like Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom are easy, free ways to virtually connect larger groups for volunteer or foster orientations. 

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  • Create a virtual communication channel such as a closed Facebook group 

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