|Open Paw in Shelters Materials for Implementing Open Paw Want to be an OP Shelter? Minimum Mental Health Requirements
Thanks for your interest in using Open Paw at your shelter! We hope you'll be able to use our materials and guidelines to help your animals get, and stay, adopted.
Open Paw has a variety of materials to help you get started at your shelter.
Open Paw recommends that you transition to our shelter protocols using the following sequence. If you would like to be officially acknowledged as an Open Paw shelter, please contact us before you begin to implement Open Paw at your shelter, and keep us updated about your progress.
Official Open Paw shelters will have a logo to display on their websites and other materials and a listing on the Open Paw website, and will be acknowledged in press releases announcing their progress.
Get in touch with us at [email protected] to begin using Open Paw at your facility.*
Step One: Pilot Shelters
After you've familiarized yourself with the materials and gotten internally organized, we strongly recommend that you begin to implement Open Paw with a small pilot program. You may choose to begin with your dog population, cat population, or, if you have the resources and commitment, both.
In your beginning pilot program, include only as many animals as you can handle as you work out the processes your shelter will use.
With this early pilot program, you'll implement all of the Minimum Mental Health Requirements (MMHRs) for all of the animals in the pilot.
Once you're doing all the MMHRs for all of the animals in the pilot program, let us know so that we can recognize you as a Pilot Shelter! Please include a description of all the protocols you're implementing, as well as an updated set of relevant shelter statistics (see here).
Why a pilot program?
Introducing Open Paw to your shelter using a pilot program is helpful in many ways.
First, it helps demonstrate to everyone in the shelter just how much difference the program makes. The Minimum Mental Health Requirements, and the Four and Five Levels programs for dogs and cats, were developed to work as a whole, and when you have a whole segment of the program working, you'll see results fast. This will help you to create buy-in from the staff, management, and volunteers, which is vitally important for the success of the program. You can also choose some of the harder to place animals to participate in the pilot program, so that the success will be all the more impressive, and you can help to get those “emergency” animals placed more quickly and with more success!
Second, it helps you work out the mechanics of how the program will operate in your facility. Where will you locate a central communications area? Where will the doggy toilets go? What will the staff and volunteer schedule look like? What unique structural features of your facility will need to be dealt with? You'll run into a lot of questions as you begin to use the program, and beginning with a small group of animals will let you work out the answers to those questions before you start the big task of introducing the program to the whole facility.
Third, it will help you motivate and encourage the staff and volunteers. You can choose an elite group of the most talented staff and volunteers to work in the new pilot program, and participation in the program can be a sign of prestige. Rather than trying to force staff and volunteers to make a big change, you give them the honor of being a part of it.
Finally, it allows you time to train the staff and volunteers at all of the levels, and in all of the MMHRs, before launching a shelter-wide program. Trying to implement the program all at once throughout the whole shelter sometimes means that shelters get stuck at level one or two dog or cat training. This understandably frustrates the staff and volunteers and makes for a hard transition. Starting with a pilot program helps the transition go more smoothly and, ultimately, quickly.
Step Two: 4 Level Pilot Shelters
Once you've successfully implemented all of the Minimum Mental Health Requirements for all of the animals in your pilot program, we recommend that your next step be to implement all four (for dogs) or five (for cats) levels of training for all of the animals in the pilot program.
Take your core group of volunteers and staff and do a fast, intensive training program with them so that they're all trained in all four or five levels. Decide on a date and training schedule, and then begin training all of the pilot animals in the levels (you can introduce the levels over a relatively short period of time, say, over two weeks).
Be aware that the learning curve is fairly steep, particularly at level two, so be sure that everyone working with the pilot animals is trained at all the levels and strict about using the levels in each interaction.
You may wish to sign up for an Open Paw Workshop as you begin to move to step two, so that our trainers can help you train staff and volunteers, and help you work out the mechanics of the program in your facility.
Once you're doing all the MMHRs plus all of the levels for all of the animals in the pilot program, let us know so that we can recognize you as a 4 Level Pilot Shelter! Please include a description of all the protocols you're implementing, as well as an updated set of relevant shelter statistics (see here).
Step Three: MMHR Shelters
Now that you've seen the differences Open Paw can make with your dogs or cats, it's time to give that extra enrichment and entertainment to all of the dogs or cats (or both, if you've been working with both thus far) in your shelter: implement all of the Minimum Mental Health Requirements for whichever population you've been piloting.
We strongly recommend that, if you haven't already, you get a copy of the Open Paw Shelter Manual to help you plan and prepare for the introduction of the MMHRs to the whole shelter. This will require some large changes in terms of staff and volunteer activity, scheduling, training, and job description. The Shelter Manual has detailed, step-by-step information to help you in everything from cleaning recommendation to staff schedules to introducing the program to the staff and volunteers at large. It also includes sections on detailed staff and volunteer training, adoption counseling, community information, and behavior guidelines.
Once you're doing all the MMHRs for all of the dogs or cats in the shelter, let us know so that we can recognize you as an MMHR Shelter! Please include a description of all the protocols you're implementing, as well as an updated set of relevant shelter statistics (see here).
Step Four: Pilot 2X Shelters
We recommend that your next step be to double the size of the pilot program. So, as a Pilot 2X Shelter, you'll continue to do the complete MMHRs and levels for double number of pilot animals, have twice the number of staff and volunteers trained in all four or five levels, and continue to implement the complete MMHRs for all of the dogs or cats in the shelter.
Once you've successfully doubled the size of the pilot program, let us know so that we can recognize you as a Pilot 2X Shelter! Please include a description of all the protocols you're implementing, as well as an updated set of relevant shelter statistics (see here).
Step Five: 4 Level Shelter*
There's one more important step before you introduce the entire program into the entire dog or cat population of the shelter: training the entire staff and volunteer group in all the levels for dogs or cats.
If you've not already done so, you may wish to sign up for an Open Paw Workshop as you begin to move to Level Five, so that our trainers can help you train staff and volunteers, and help you work out the mechanics of the program in your facility.
Once you've trained all the staff and volunteers, let us know so that we can recognize you as a 4 Level Shelter! (*If you’re introducing the program to the entire cat population, you’ll be a 5 Level Shelter.) Please include a description of all the protocols you're implementing, as well as an updated set of relevant shelter statistics (see here).
Open Paw In Progress Model Shelters
Open Paw In Progress Model Shelters are implementing all of the Open Paw protocols throughout the entire shelter (including both dogs and cats).
In addition to a special logo denoting your shelter as an Open Paw In Progress Model, a listing on the website, and acknowledgment in a local press release, Open Paw will donate a special banner for display in your facility, designating you as an Open Paw in Progress Model Shelter.
When you've implemented the entire program throughout the shelter, please let us know so that we can recognize you as an Open Paw in Progress Model Shelter! Please include a description of all the protocols you're implementing, as well as an updated set of relevant shelter statistics (see here).
* Open Paw encourages all shelters and other animal facilities to use our materials to improve the well being and adoptability of your resident animals. We do not require that shelters communicate with us in order to implement some or all of Open Paw's protocols in their facilities, or to get official recognition. We do encourage you to keep in touch with us so that we can help you address issues as they arise, help other facilities learn from your experience, and help create a sense of community among those shelters using the program. If you’re implementing the program in a different way than the what’s listed here, just let us know when you’ve reached each of these levels, even if it’s not exactly as we recommend here. We’ll find the appropriate “level” for you to be recognized. If we have not officially recognized you as an Open Paw Shelter, we ask that you don't use our official logo. Open Paw relies upon self reporting from shelters to track progress, and makes no guarantee for any individual facility.