Socially Conscious Sheltering is a compassionate, transparent and thoughtful model outlining how animal shelters and rescues can best support vulnerable animals in their care and in their community. Socially Conscious Sheltering is a shared set of beliefs, defined by a framework of “tenets,” that help ensure the best results for pets in shelters and rescues.

There are eight tenets of Socially Conscious Sheltering. Shelters across the country have committed to this way of caring for animals and, as a result, animals in these shelters and rescues are having superior outcomes. Every community has a responsibility to its animals and should demand that animals receive the care and respect they deserve. To learn more about each tenet, click here.

SCS requires the placement of healthy animals, but it does not preclude the placement of any animal. Any animal who isn’t considered “safe” or “healthy” (per the definitions) can still be placed by a shelter or a rescue if that organization feels that the community is equipped to handle that pet’s unique needs. In fact, to fulfil the tenet of “aligning shelter policies with the needs of the community,” adopting an animal with chronic medical needs might be appropriate to create alignment.

There is nothing in SCS that dictates the timing of, or outcome to, behavior assessments. A tenet of SCS is that behavioral needs are addressed while the animal is housed in the shelter or rescue.

For Socially Conscious Sheltering to truly be successful, it must also be embraced by veterinarians, law enforcement, community members and policymakers. So, while Socially Conscious Sheltering is tied to the philosophy of shelters and rescues, Socially Conscious Animal Communities includes each of these broader community cohorts.

The movement began because shelter leaders recognized the need to create a shared set of values to guide organizations—values that could be communicated easily and that would share the responsibility for animal welfare with the entire community. Four large animal shelters in Colorado came together 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.

Socially Conscious Sheltering is being embraced by communities across the United States, and it is also being considered in Australia. Additionally, the Association for the Advancement of Animal Welfare will be shepherding Socially Conscious Sheltering as a national initiative. This movement will be most effective when it is owned by the entire animal welfare community. Hundreds of communities are going through the process of engaging their stakeholders to officially join the movement. Find out how you can become a Socially Conscious Sheltering community.

Animal welfare organizations around the world are embracing the Socially Conscious Sheltering model to create best possible lives for companion animals. Socially Conscious Sheltering has been adopted by shelters and rescues across the United States, and it is also being considered in Australia. Additionally, the Association for the Advancement of Animal Welfare will be taking on Socially Conscious Sheltering as a national initiative.

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While it is true that rural shelters may not have the same resources as some larger, urban shelters, all shelters that take on the care of animals have the ethical imperative to ensure the animals for which they are responsible do not suffer in their facility. SCS also requires shelters and rescues to address severe signs of anxiety, such as obsessive-compulsive or self-mutilating behavior. Addressing this behavior could mean providing enrichment, exercise, placing a dog in a foster home or, in cases of extreme and unrelenting anxiety, require a humane euthanasia decision. Addressing anxiety should be something every shelter and rescue prioritizes for the health and welfare of cats and dogs.