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Animal Shelter Blog 


3 Common Myths of Improving Animal Shelter Conditions


3 Myths of Improving Animal Shelter Conditions

  1. “We need to raise 100% of the money we will need before we start planning our new shelter.”
  2. “We don’t need an experienced architect; we can get the same results planning our shelter ourselves with local help.”
  3. “If we build a new shelter big enough we will overcome our high euthanasia rates.”

Let’s take a look at each one of these “myths”:

  1. The fact is you need to plan your shelter prior to raising money – why? Because the folks who will want to pledge their donations generally won’t do so until they see there is a clear plan for the new shelter.  This means you will need to spend SOME upfront money to determine how much shelter you will need; how much it will cost and what it will look like as both a floor plan and a building image.  Shelterplanners’ easy step by step approach provides you with the tools you need to communicate your vision – all at an affordable cost.
  2. We visit dozens of shelters each year, some quite new.  We can always tell when the animal shelter designer was a novice at planning these very specialized buildings.  Because of their nature, shelters must be designed to function correctly so that staff can attend to the animals efficiently.  The right spaces must be included and placed in correct adjacencies in order to prevent the spread of disease and to support and house animals so they are comfortable and as calm as possible.  Finally, the building’s HVAC system and finishes are critical to preventing the spread of disease – and in the case of finishes they must be of sufficient quality that they can hold up under the harsh, wet environment.  Once the shelter is designed and built, mistakes that didn’t anticipate the real needs become all too obvious and you have to live with them for a long time.
  3. While the shelter is an all-important support system for the animals and can enhance the potential for their adoption, the real means of achieving better live release rates can only be accomplished by implementing proven programs aimed at reducing intake and increasing adoptions - with the long term result – saving animals lives!  As architects we would love to say that it is our buildings that make all the difference.  Not true – implementing the right programs in any shelter, old or new, will bring the desired results if they are applied with consistency.  If they are not already doing so, we assist each of our shelter clientele with essential information to aid in their beginning the right combination of programs.  After all, the whole object is to find homes for every animal!

The best animal shelters design solutions combine thoughtful design and proven shelter programs.  For more information on how to receive affordable animal shelter design solutions, contact Shelterplanners at or 434-971-8848


Take Steps to Reduce Overcrowding in Animal Shelters

We’ve visited dozens of animal shelters, many of which are 30 or more years old.  Their physical condition is invariably poor with failing floors, bad drainage, and poor heating/air conditioning systems – all of which lead to a constant battle with the spread of disease.  Overcrowding, however, may be the single most important situation to address!

Overcrowding in animal shelters is not only a common occurrence; it is problematic in most, older shelters - and many new ones as well.  While some states have addressed the problem through legislating minimum areas for each dog or cat and limiting the maximum number of animals permitted in a single enclosure, many do not.  Overcrowding leads to disease spread, animal discomfort, physically & emotionally and is dangerous for both the animals and their caretakers.

Too many shelters respond, for instance, to the influx of cats in the spring & early summer by placing 15 or more in a room – or cat colony.  Shelters should be careful to minimize the number of cats housed together and to be sure there is sufficient room for each.  The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) recommends a minimum of 15 square feet per cat when housed in the colony model.

This holds true for dogs as well.  Groups of dogs who “get along” can certainly be housed together.  Care must be taken; however, to provide sufficient space that each can sleep, stand, turn around, and move about freely and naturally.  The Association of Shelter Veterinarians doesn’t provide explicit area calculations because there is such a range of size in dogs, but they do provide insight into how to go about housing dogs properly to keep them safe and sane.

Finally, each animal requires attention – not only for basic food, water & cleaning, but also to make consistent contact with their human companions.  This is especially true as the length of their stay in the shelter increases.  With overcrowding the shelter staff and volunteers simply cannot meet the needs of each animal with the result; they suffer from lack of attention.  The ASV points to shelter overcrowding as one of the most important factors required for proper shelter operation.

When designing an animal shelter, careful analysis will provide the answers required to size the shelter properly and will thus avoid overcrowding.  This, of course, assumes the right programs are in place aimed at continually reducing intake and increasing adoptions.  A natural “flow” should be present in the shelter operation in order to avoid overcrowding.

 Shelterplanners’ Needs Assessment Study not only identifies how many animal rooms are required to adequately house your animals but also recommends custom programs to improve your animal shelter’s condition. For more information, please visit or call 434-971-8848.


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