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Capacity for Care is a management model that helps shelters better meet the needs of the animals in their facility by creating the conditions necessary for The Five Freedoms. In CFHS’ Canadian pilot of this program, improvements in health outcomes have been absolutely astounding.
Through a generous grant from the Summerlee Foundation, CFHS paired the C4C Expert Team from the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program with Prince Edward Island Humane Society and Guelph Humane Society, both CFHS members, to pilot the implementation of C4C in their shelters.
We spoke with Guelph Humane Society’s Margaret Norrish about her experience with the program thus far. She reports increased adoption rates, lowered euthanasia rates – and some unexpected side benefits!
The interview appears below.
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies: Guelph Humane Society implemented Capacity for Care, or C4C, a bit over a year ago now.
Margaret Norrish (Guelph Humane Society): That’s right.
CFHS: Can you describe what C4C is, from your perspective?
MN: It’s a way of optimizing the intake, housing, adoption and overall operations at an animal shelter to help improve outcomes for cats.
CFHS: How did you figure out where to start?
MN: Well, we met with the ladies from UC Davis – they did a tour of Guelph Humane and gave us recommendations of what they thought we would need to do in order to implement C4C.
CFHS: What did they recommend?
MN: Well, a big part of C4C is about doubling the housing space available to each cat in order to separate their eating and litter areas. We did that by installing portals that allow the cats to move between the two halves of their cage. We also installed something called curtails – which are privacy curtains we hang to curtail cat stress. Other recommendations were switching to scheduled intake hours and fast-tracking our adoption process to help more animals move through the shelter. There were other recommendations about adoption specials, feral cat procedures and cleaning practices, too.
CFHS: Were you skeptical about their recommendations?
MN: Yes, definitely. We were very skeptical. We thought – how is this going to work? We’re going to have the same amount of demand and only half the housing. But once we got it up and running, it was absolutely amazing.
CFHS: Can you tell me what was so amazing about it?
MN: The cats were a lot happier and healthier – they were no longer squished into a corner, trying to eat next to their litter boxes. There were fewer feline illnesses, and cats were spending less time in the isolation unit. Also, because there was only half the number of cats in the adoption room at a time, it gave people less of a choice. It was easier for them to pick from 10 cats versus 20 cats, so adoption rates picked up right away. Staff and volunteers are a lot happier, too. This new set-up cuts down on cleaning time, and everyone feels good about how well the cats are doing. I just can’t say enough about how positive it has been.
CFHS: That’s incredible to hear! And how did this change your adoption process?
MN: We started doing fast-tracked adoption. Instead of waiting a certain amount of days to start the adoption process, we would put the cats in the adoption room but with a sign saying, “Not available for adoption yet but taking applications”. That way, people were aware that the cat may get claimed but, if it didn’t, they were first on the list to adopt. Some of the cats were being adopted as soon as their stray period was up. They were being seen a lot faster and, therefore, getting adopted much faster.
CFHS: Amazing that it’s gone so well – that’s really inspiring to hear! I understand you’ve had some pretty great outcomes in terms of adoption rates and euthanasia rates?
MN: Yes! The average number of cats in our sick bay each month went from 48 to 17; our average number of cats adopted per month went from 54 to 63 and euthanasia went down by 69%.
CFHS: Just incredible. So even though the approach was counter-intuitive, it sounds like it’s done a lot of good at your shelter. Do you have any regrets about taking part in this pilot program?
MN: Absolutely none. I’m thrilled with how much it’s improved our operations here. The animals and the humans are so much happier.Print this page