Just say no to chaos in the animal shelter: Here’s how

When it comes to smooth operations at animal shelters, what goes hand in hand with daily rounds? The development and use of standard operating procedures, or SOPs. At the 2011 Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Conference Dr. Michael Moyer, Director of the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, shared his secrets for showing chaos the shelter door.

“The benefits to using standard operating procedures are consistency, improved patient care and process based quality assurance,” he said. “How many of you wish you could do more surgeries, more vaccines in your shelter? If you have standardized processes, it makes you more efficient than having random processes. It facilitates training and cross-training.”

When it came to training staff and volunteers, he had some tough love:

How many shelters hire people because they’re short staffed, and hire the first person that can fog a mirror? They assign them to somebody’s who already overworked, overburdened, not particularly inclined to train somebody, and they say: “Train this person to do X,”  and the training consists of, “Here’s X.” And that’s their on the job training.


Turnover is often very high in shelters, so training is critical, particularly when animals’ lives depend on how well you do really simple tasks. Cleaning a cage is really simple once you know how to clean a cage using the right products, the right materials, how to dilute them, having the right supplies in the right place so you can dilute them properly.


These things seem really straightforward, but it’s all part of the standard operating procedure and the introduction to those materials is made much, much easier by having them and having them handy, having them not in the chief operating officer’s desk or sitting up there far away from where the action takes place, but having them near the place where the task is executed.

He also covered points including:

  • How SOPs facilitate leadership development (really!)
  • Why inconsistency leads to animal neglect
  • What to do when the team resists
  • The nuts and bolts of developing SOPs
  • And more!

Could your shelter use more order and less chaos? Watch the video of Dr. Moyer’s complete presentation “Fighting SNAFUs with SOPs: How you can impose order on chaos in the shlelter” below, and read the transcript here.