The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of managed admission for animal shelters

February 9, 2016

Have you ever gone to a busy urgent care facility or emergency room? Was it an efficient, pleasant, helpful experience?

We take it as a given in many service contexts that businesses run more efficiently, and better service is provided, when some management or scheduling process is in place to ensure capacity exists to meet customers’ needs.

Anyone who has waited for hours in the crowded lobby of an urgent care facility can resonate with the idea that non-scheduled service is a good choice only when no other option exists. For non-urgent matters, most all of us would prefer the scheduled process of going to the doctor’s office for an appointment only when we can be seen soon after arrival (and wait in a comfortable, uncrowded lobby in the meanwhile).

Many shelters are experienced with this principle in the context of spay/neuter surgery. Even though this is an urgently desired outcome, we understand that it is better to wait until surgical staffing exists to ensure a safe procedure. Likewise, we value the time of the surgical team and recognize that an unpredictable schedule means sometimes these staff will be under-utilized while at other times they will be overwhelmed. Scheduling surgery does not lower the number of procedures a clinic can perform, it simply smooths out fluctuations and allows more effective planning. Flexibility can be left in the schedule to allow emergencies to be accommodated.

Although unscheduled admission has been the norm for many shelters in North America, the same principle applies to this as for scheduling spay/neuter surgery. Animals and people are better served when intake is matched with capacity for care and the ability to assure an appropriate outcome for each animal within a reasonable time frame.

“Managed admission” is distinct from limited admission and refers to any steps taken by a shelter to provide this assurance, including those such as:

  • Limiting hours for drop-off
  • Closing night drop boxes
  • Scheduling intake appointments
  • A formal process of surrender interviews with extensive efforts at providing support and alternatives.

In short, managed admission can be thought of as the “how” and “when” of intake, but not necessarily the “who.”

Learn more in the Managed Admission Resource Center.

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