How to Design an Animal Shelter

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Designing an animal shelter takes more than just a desire to help animals. There are many factors to be considered, including space, costs, the type of animals you will be helping and, of course, the political aspects of sheltering animals. These include breed-specific legislation and local spay-neuter laws.

Determine what type of animals you will be helping. If you want to help more than one type, you will need to devote a separate place to each type of animal. Sheltering exotic animals may require obtaining certain licenses, depending on your state. Some exotics require special licenses from the federal government.

Decide how many of each type of animal you are able to care for and figure out your space requirements. Dogs require a kennel that is at least 4 feet wide by 8 feet deep if they are going to be kept at a shelter for any amount of time. For short-term stays, you can use kennels that are 4 feet by 4 feet. Cats require a space of at least 2 square feet. If your shelter is going to provide extended training to make unadoptable animals adoptable, kennels need to be larger-at least 5 feet by 10 feet.

Plan on using inside or outside kennels. If your area is cold, you will need indoor kennels for the winter. If you live in a warm climate, outdoor kennels are fine, but you still need to plan for some indoor kennels for animals that cannot tolerate heat and humidity. In both situations, you should have kennels available inside so sick animals can be monitored and properly cared for.

Figure out how much property you need to house the animal shelter. Designing the interior of the shelter before you buy allows you to choose a piece of property that will fit your plans. If you choose the property first, the shelter must be designed within the constraints of the property. Make sure the property has enough room for dog runs. If you expect to house only a few dogs, they may be rotated in and out of one large run. If you expect to house more than five or six dogs, you should have more runs-preferably one for every five or six dogs.

Set up an office area and meeting room. You should have kennels in the same building to hold animals waiting for a meet and greet. Your office needs filing cabinets, a computer, phone system, intercom system (if the shelter is large) and office supplies such as paper, pens, rolodexes, filing supplies and office storage for supplies and records.

Create a place for food storage. There should be room on the walls for a list of the animals, what they get to eat, how much they get, and how often they are fed. If you feed supplements, this information should be placed on the list also, so volunteers know what to give each animal. The food storage area should have a dishwasher and sink, so dishes and utensils can be properly cleaned and sanitized. Sanitizing become extremely important if one of the animals comes down with an illness that is contagious, such as kennel cough or parvovirus.

Create a break room for volunteers. The break room should be large enough to hold meetings for volunteer instruction, and should have a refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, microwave and bathroom facilities.

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