Animal shelters and municipal pounds


Ratification Date: 15 Feb 2013


Animals kept in pounds and shelters must be housed under appropriate conditions that ensure their health and welfare, meeting the animals’ physiological, behavioural and social needs. All animals must be cared for humanely but only animals with suitable health and behaviour should be re-homed. Veterinarians should be involved in assessing an animal’s behaviour and suitability for rehoming.


All animals should be scanned for a microchip immediately on entering the pound or shelter and the number checked against all relevant microchip databases. If a microchip is not present, any other form of identification must be checked to try and locate the animal’s owner.

Veterinarians have a role in:

  • assisting with the ongoing training of animal welfare officers in subjects including
    • animal health and welfare
    • nutrition and housing
    • reproduction control
    • zoonoses, infectious diseases and biosecurity (including early recognition and methods of control of these diseases)
    • injuries and first aid
    • issues associated with euthanasia
    • relevant state and territory legislation
    • public relations
    • early recognition of behavioural traits not compatible with successful rehousing.
  • encouraging municipal authorities and animal welfare societies to disseminate information about socially responsible pet ownership through animal adoption centres, pet shops and schools
  • promoting close working arrangements between veterinary practitioners and animal shelters and pounds to monitor for animal hoarders, suspected abusers and cases of neglect
  • counselling officers to accept that, if animals are not suitable for re-homing, euthanasia may be needed to protect the welfare of that animal
  • advocating for all states and territories to introduce uniformity in the management and legislative controls that govern animal shelters and municipal pounds through relevant codes of practice or standards and guidelines.

The municipal pound or animal shelter plays an important role in reuniting lost animals with their owners, the control of surplus dog and cat populations, and the provision of veterinary services. It is important that the pound or shelter is owned by a municipality rather than by individuals or private organisations so that solutions to unwanted companion animal problems are recognised as a responsibility of the whole community


Design of facilities
  • A veterinarian should be engaged to advise on design requirements for animal shelters and pounds.
  • Pens should be constructed to house up to two adult animals as a maximum, even at peak usage.
  • Housing design should ensure that the animals’ health, welfare, physiological, behavioural and social needs are met.
  • All pens should be secure against accidental escape. Ideally, there should be a second barrier between the enclosure area and the outside environment.
  • Pens should be designed to reduce transmission of disease, taking into consideration air flow, cleaning and other factors relating to hygiene and potential for disease spread.
  • “Drop-off” boxes for animals after hours need to be adequately monitored to prevent injured animals being deposited, with subsequent delays in treatment that would negatively affect that animal’s welfare.
  • The building and individual cages and runs should be constructed of impervious material with a rounded contour at the wall–floor junction to facilitate cleaning and disinfection.

The following facilities also should be provided:

  • heating and cooling that are appropriate for the needs of the animal
  • hot and cold running water
  • appropriate air quality, ventilation, lighting and noise control
  • facilities for sanitary disposal of animal wastes, cadavers, food scraps and similar material, witha regular pick-up of such waste from the facility(at least three times per week)
  • facilities for feed storage for at least 5 days’ supply of dry food feeding and stable drinking utensils that are either disposable or able to be disinfected
  • four types of housing areas-general holding pens, quarantine pens, exercise areas and isolation pens
  • first-aid treatment area with:
    • table that can be disinfected
    • lighting and shelving
    • first-aid materials, including dressings and disinfectants to treat open wounds.
The role of the veterinarian

Municipal pounds and shelters should develop and continually update a manual of procedures covering operational routines such as those for maintenance and hygiene, capture, transport, record keeping and the role of a veterinarian in shelter management.Veterinarians and staff who work at the shelters should have basic husbandry and medical knowledge for all of the species that are accepted by the shelter/pound.

A veterinarian should be retained to:

  • examine all animals on admission and immediately euthanase any animal when it is in the best interests of the animal and is necessary for the welfare of the animal provide first aid and other animal treatment, early recognition of infectious and zoonotic diseases, and disease control
  • provide advice on nutrition
  • ensure that the facilities meet suitable standards for holding animals
  • consult with management on the conduct of the pound, the maintenance of facilities and the design of transport vehicles
  • consult with management on capture techniques
  • be responsible for health and behavioural assessments of resident animals before they are re-homed
  • vaccinate, desex and permanently identify all animals being sold, preferably by microchip
  • be responsible for euthanasia procedures and practice.
Maintenance procedures

Maintenance procedures should ensure that:animals are fed at least once per day

  • animals have access to clean fresh drinking water at all times
  • daily checks are made for eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, behaviour and general health
  • animals suspected of having infectious disease are isolated from other animals
  • first aid to preserve life and relieve pain is readily available
  • facilities and equipment to euthanasia of animals, when required, is easily accessible
  • exercise and socialisation opportunities available daily.

Capture methods should be as humane as possible with minimal risk to animal, operator and bystander. The behavioural characteristics of the species concerned should be taken into account when deciding on the method to be used. In general, the use of tranquilliser guns to capture companion animals is not supported unless all other avenues of capture have been exhausted.

Animal transport

Vehicles for the transport of animals require:

  • separate compartments to allow isolation of animals
  • a design that allows for effective cleaning
  • adequate controlled ventilation and temperature when the vehicle is stationary or in motion
  • adequate space for each individual animal to be comfortable, and
  • conditions that meet the animals’ physiological and biological needs.
Recovery and rehoming of animals

The fees charged for the recovery of dogs or cats from pounds should be set so that the facility is self-funding and there is a realistic financial penalty to the owner.

Only suitable animals should be re-homed. Potential owners should be interviewed and counselled before being accepted and all animals should have a comprehensive behavioural assessment before being re-homed.

The pound must be accessible to the public. The statutory holding period should be 7–14 working days on which the pound or shelter is open for at least 4 hours per day.


Knowledge of wildlife is also necessary. Networking with other agencies or organisations working with non-domestic species is needed.

If a shelter or pound is restricted in its ability to accept an animal (e.g. rare or unusual species, injured wildlife, livestock, or due to local council restrictions), procedures must be in place to safeguard the welfare of the animal, such as referral of the animal to an appropriate alternative care provider.

Other recommendations

Legislation should continue to empower veterinarians to euthanase all animals found abandoned, distressed or disabled to the extent that their continued existence involves suffering.

Date of ratification by AVA Board 15 February 2013