Module 2: Preventive health care and health surveillance

Shelter SOPs

Dr. Wright at Gatorland Animal Services knows from the ASV Guidelines that the best way to ensure health care best practices are followed is to create written standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide staff. A SOP is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry-accepted standards of care.

ASV Guidelines for Protocols

  • Evidence-based protocols are essential for providing a consistent approach to addressing the health of individual animals and populations entering shelters
  • Shelter protocols are critical tools that ensure consistent daily operations in keeping with organizational policies
  • All health care practices and protocols are developed in consultation with a veterinarian
  • Protocols are developed and written down in sufficient detail to achieve and maintain the standards set by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and updated as needed to ensure they reflect current industry norms and pertinent legislation
  • Preventive health care includes protocols that strengthen resistance to disease and minimize exposure to pathogens
  • Training and education is provided to those who carry out protocols

Think about shelters where you have worked or visited. Did those shelters have protocols for vaccinations, parasite treatment, intake examinations, and disease surveillance?

Before drafting the new SOPs, Dr. Wright searched for some tips for writing SOPs and found these guidelines.

Guidelines for Effective SOPs

SOPs should:

  • Be easy to read, understand, and follow
  • Be concise so staff are more likely to refer to it
  • Break procedures into small steps
  • Use short sentences
  • Begin sentences with verbs to create an active voice
  • Be free of technical jargon
  • Be written at an appropriate reading level for the target audience

SOPS should include:

  • What to do
  • What supplies or tools are needed to do it
  • How to do it
  • When to do it
  • Who does it

Dr. Linda Jacobsen, Senior Manager for Shelter Medicine Advancement at Toronto Humane Society, leads a team that works together to develop systems, protocols, and standard operating procedures. The SOPs for Toronto Humane Society are dynamic and constantly being revised. Therefore, Dr. Jacobson keeps them in a Dropbox account where veterinary staff can always access the most current version of the documents.

Watch This

Listen to Dr. Jacobson describe how the THS creates and uses SOPs. (9:12 | Download transcript)

Watch This

Dr. Lucy Fuller is the Chief Veterinary Officer at the Charleston Animal Society in Charleston SC. This shelter is a private non-profit shelter with the municipal animal control contract (3:13). Download transcript

Watch This

Dr. Kamiya completed a shelter medicine residency at UC-Davis and is board-certified in Shelter Medicine. She joined the medical team at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley in 2012, then stepped into her current role as chief of shelter medicine in 2014. In 2017, Dr. Kamiya led her team in being the first shelter in the country to implement ALL of the ASV Guidelines into their daily operations (5:00). Download transcript


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