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Ask the Vet: Helping the quality of life of shelter animals

Q: I really want to volunteer at an animal shelter, but I get so depressed when I visit and see all those animals in cages without homes. I don’t feel that I’m providing any service to them by just petting them and talking to them. What can I do to help those animals so that they have a better quality of life in the shelter?

A: Animal shelters come in all forms and, like everything in life, they can range from bad to outstandingly good based on how they are managed.

Running an animal shelter is not easy. It requires sincere dedication to the animals as well as the ability to navigate the business of running a shelter effectively and efficiently. A well-run animal shelter provides clean, comfortable living quarters for the animals along with daily exercise and stimulation.

Typically, the exercise and mental stimulation is provided by a well-organized and dedicated volunteer force. The exercise should involve time to be with other animals and time out of doors in appropriate runs and play areas. The volunteer force should be closely managed and educated to know how to handle the animals and provide a structured environment for them.

A dedicated quarantine area is mandatory so that animals entering the shelter can be evaluated and to keep sick and contagious animals away from the rest of the population.

A well-run shelter should employ a dedicated behaviorist to assess the temperament of all animals before they enter the general population and before they are adopted.

Unhealthy animals should be attended to immediately and a veterinarian should be on-site to manage the medical care of the animals. There are veterinarians who are specifically trained in shelter medicine. They provide a wealth of knowledge on how to effectively run an animal shelter and are an important asset to a well-run animal shelter.

In some of the most amazing animal shelters, people interested in adopting an animal are enrolled in educational classes to help them determine the type of pet that will best suit their family before they adopt. The families are also required to spend some time with the animal in dedicated visiting rooms under the supervision of adoption specialists. All of this helps to reduce the number of animals that are returned to the shelter and ensure a smoother transition into the home.

A well-run animal shelter supports the local community and is in turn supported by the community with donations and volunteer hours.

If you do not feel that your shelter is providing a good environment for those animals and/or is not educating and supporting the volunteers and public, then I recommend speaking with the director of the animal shelter with your concerns or contacting your city council to try to improve the situation for the best interests of the animals.

Q: I adopted a puppy from an animal shelter and after 3 days she got sick, was diagnosed with Distemper and then died! I am heart broken and want to know how this happened and if I could have done anything to prevent it.

A: As with the first question, the answer lies in how the shelter managed this puppy prior to the adoption.

Animal shelters should always quarantine newly admitted animals for enough time to determine if they are sick or healthy so that the burden does not fall on the person adopting the animal.

Sick animals, as well as new animals, should be housed separately until they are cleared by a veterinarian before being placed in the general housing area.

Monitoring the animals daily to identify health changes will help stop or slow any outbreaks within the shelter. Practicing stringent cleaning protocols is essential in decreasing disease spread and outbreaks.

The puppy you adopted was infected with the Distemper virus prior to going to the shelter or at the shelter so unfortunately, without the proper cleaning and quarantine protocols in place, you and your puppy suffered.

Although you may be a little nervous about starting over, I recommend finding a different, more well-run shelter and trying again to give a homeless animal a forever home.

Daily Almanac

Tuesday, March 13

Walk on the Wild Side: Kilimanjaro & The Serengeti: 6-7 p.m. REI Flagstaff, 323 S. Windsor Lane. Wilfred Moshi and Jombi Kivuyo will share tips on how to train for and summit Mount Kilimanjaro and the rigors of high-altitude trekking and discuss leading safaris across Tanzania and Rwanda. 213-1914.

Hot Topics Café: "What Happens if Robots Take Our Jobs?": 6-7:30 p.m. Museum of Northern Arizona. As computers get smarter, how many jobs will they take? How does that make you feel when you think about robots and work? Join in a community discussion with NAU's Philosophy in the Public Interest. Philosophy Lecturer Jona Vance will lead the discussion. Free and open to the public.

Flagstaff Cohousing Panel Discussion: 6-8 p.m. East Flagstaff Community Library, 3211 N. Fourth St. Cohousing 101: Creating Community and Quality of Life, an introduction to cohousing and panel discussion. Please join us to learn more about cohousing and its many benefits. 853-3054.

African Dance Class: 6:45-8:15 p.m. Jazzercise Flagstaff, 1798 Historic Route 66. Live drumming. No experience needed. $10/class. First class free. Under 18 free.

City Council Work Session: 6-8 p.m. City Hall, 211 W. Aspen Ave. Topics to be discussed are minor changes to building code to facilitate water conservation. The meeting can be streamed at 

Crafty Corner: 3:30-4:30 p.m. East Flagstaff Community Library, 3000 N. Fourth St., suite 5. Express your creativityAges 5-13 welcome. 213-2348.

Payment Plan Pizza Party: 2-4 p.m. Coconino Community College, 2800 S. Lone Tree Road. The Business Office at CCC will be introducing students to the new payment plan system and giving 15 minute demos in the Commons. Pizza will be provided. 226-4207.

Need a Job? Start Here!: 1:15-2:15 p.m. East Flagstaff Community Library, 3000 N. Fourth St. Meet a Workforce Specialist to work with you. Obtain information on Career Center specialties and career focused strategies for your job search needs. Registration is not required - Just show up! Offered to build you knowledge, understand the job market, and build new skills. 679-7409.

Coffee & Neighborhood Conversations: 7:30-9 a.m. Toasted Owl Cafe, 5200 E. Cortland Blvd. Meet Valeria Chase, the NAU/Flagstaff Neighborhood Liaison. Students and long-term residents are encouraged to attend and share their insights and perspectives. 213-2074.

Flagstaff Dancin' Grannies: 1-3 p.m. YMCA, 1001 N. Turquoise Drive. A 50+ tap dance group, beginner-advanced. $10 per month. Tap shoes available. 699-4145.

Northern Arizona Parkinson's Support Group Meeting: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The Peaks Senior Living Community, 3150 Winding Brook Road. Monthly meeting. 526-3115.

Blood Drive: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. FMC Education Dept., 1000 N. Humphreys St., suite 241. All donors will receive a voucher for an Original Chicken Sandwich or 8 Piece Chicken Nuggets compliments of Chick-fil-A. 214-3970.

CAL Film Series: 'An Unmarried Woman': 7-9 p.m. Cline Library Assembly Hall, 1001 S. Knoles Drive. 1978. 124 min. R. Oscar nominated director Paul Mazursky called his films serious comedies about American society, and he was at his best in this film about a Manhattan woman, suddenly divorced and wrestling with her sense of self. 523-9312.

Hirie in Concert: 8-11 p.m. Green Room, 15 N. Agassiz St. A roots-reggae sound accompanied by a soulful, yet pop-like voice with the ability to match an acoustic setting while also being capable of freestyling to a skanking rhythm. 853-4292. $14 advance/$16 day of.

Wednesday, March 14

'Django' Flagstaff Premiere: 7-9 p.m. Harkins Cinemas, 4751 E. Marketplace Drive. "Django" just won the Directors' Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Sedona International Film Festival and was the first film to sell out both screenings prior to the festival opening. "Django" is the story of Django Reinhardt, famous guitarist and composer, and his flight from German-occupied Paris in 1943. $12. 282-1177.

Walk on the Wild Side: Kilimanjaro & The Serengeti: 7-8 p.m. Flagstaff Public Library, 300 W. Aspen Ave. Join expert guides Wilfred Moshi and Jombi Kivuyo for an unforgettable evening as they share amazing stories of adventure and conservation efforts in the beautiful and iconic landscapes of East Africa. 602-345-1474.

Kaibab National Forest Archaeology Month Wednesday Evening Lecture Series: 6-8 p.m. Williams City Council Chambers, 113 S. 1st St., Williams. Joseph Jordan and Neil Weintraub to speak about Coconino County's long forgotten one room school houses. 600-3685.

Gamblers Anonymous Open Meeting: Noon-1 p.m. Episcopal Church of the Epiphany - see sign on back door on the left, 423 N. Beaver St. A 12-step meeting for those who desire to quit gambling. 225-6537.

Ballroom Dance Lesson: 6:30-8:15 p.m. The Peaks Alpine Room, 3150 N. Winding Brook Road. Ballroom dance lesson with primarily beginners in mind. The classes progress during the month with a different dance taught each month. All dancer levels are welcome. No partner is needed. 853-6284. $2.

Citizens' Climate Lobby: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, 423 N. Beaver St. Learn how carbon fee and dividend works and how we can make it happen. 699-3441.

Stand Tall -- Don't Fall: 2-3 p.m. Montoya Community Center, 245 N. Thorpe Road. First class is free. Multi-faceted, safe and fun, we draw from over 100 sensory motor movements and cognitive and spatial awareness tasks. All movements can be done sitting and can be adapted for any physical limitation. 863-0595. $7/class.

Hospice Compassus Grief Support Group: 5:30-6:30 p.m. Hospice Compassus, 1000 N. Humphreys St., suite 214. Anyone seeking bereavement support is welcome to attend. 556-1500.

Stretch & Laugh Chair Yoga: 10:45-11:45 a.m. Montoya Community Center, 245 N. Thorpe Road. A gentle, safe way to stretch for those with mobility, injury, surgical issues or can't do traditional yoga. 699-0558. $3 class.

Toddler Tales: 10-10:45 a.m. East Flagstaff Community Library, 3000 N. Fourth St. Your toddler will delight in this special time for stories, songs, games, and more. Ages 2-3. 213-2348.

Free Tax Preparation: 5-8 p.m. St. John's Church, 202 W. Grant, Williams. Free help with filing 2017 income taxes from IRS-certified volunteers for households with incomes under $85,000. Appointment and Scan2Go dates are available in Williams. 220-5163.