What is a Socially Conscious Animal Community?

Our society is at a critical point in shaping the future of animal welfare. Pets matter deeply to us, and protecting pets is vital to a healthy community. While most people mean well in their attempts to change public policy around how we care for homeless pets, sometimes good intentions lead to unintended suffering for the very pets that people are trying to protect. We must educate colleagues, friends, family members, neighbors and policy makers so public policy results in animals receiving the care and respect they deserve.

The Socially Conscious Animal Community is a framework that allows each of us to understand our role in creating best outcomes for pets. This concept is based on respectful treatment of animals. It’s about placing every healthy and safe animal that ends up in a shelter or rescue. It’s about transparency and leadership. It’s about thoughtful public policy. It’s about safe communities. We must work together to create the best outcomes for all animals while nurturing the human-animal bond.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why was the Socially Conscious Sheltering movement developed?

A: Shelters are doing such great work, and they haven’t been telling their story well. Shelter leaders believed there was a need to create a shared set of values to guide organizations, values that could be communicated easily and that would put the responsibility for animal welfare on the entire the community. Socially Conscious Sheltering is about what we believe in and what they practice; it is not intended to be against any person, idea or thing.

Q: How was the Socially Conscious Sheltering movement developed and initiated? What was the plan and timeframe?

A: The Socially Conscious Sheltering movement was created because of the intense need for this conversation. In Colorado, four large animal shelters practiced Socially Conscious Sheltering without having articulated it as such. The CEOs of these shelters (Jan McHugh Smith, Judy Calhoun, Lisa Pederson and Apryl Steele) met to discuss their animal welfare beliefs, including shelter practices. Out of that conversation came the Socially Conscious Sheltering model. The model was then shared with shelter CEOs from across the United States for their feedback, each shelter with different communities, intake policies and levels of community engagement. The insight was incorporated into the fundamental goals of Socially Conscious Sheltering, and a website, scsheltering.org, was created. Before a marketing strategy could be developed, Socially Conscious Sheltering was adopted by the animal sheltering community and by several municipalities.

Q: Where is the Socially Conscious Sheltering movement now?

A: Socially Conscious Sheltering is being embraced by communities across the United States, and it is also being considered in Australia. We’ve received hundreds of calls from different communities who are going through the process of building engagement to officially join the movement. We are not creating a credentialing process but rather a culture We hope that a new culture of people and organizations either follow the Socially Conscious Sheltering principals or are working towards them.

Q: What are the future plans for Socially Conscious Sheltering?

A: Thankfully, the Association for the Advancement of Animal Welfare will be taking on Socially Conscious Sheltering as a national initiative. This movement will be most effective when it is owned by the entire animal welfare community.

Q: What is Socially Conscious Sheltering’s position on breed specific legislation?

A: One of the tenets of socially conscious sheltering is to place every healthy and safe dog and cat. Every one, regardless of breed. In communities where Breed Specific Legislation limits a shelter or rescue’s ability to do so, this becomes a larger conversation with policy makers and the public to reverse these policies.