Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters

The ASV Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters were originally created in 2010 to serve as a pivotal resource for the care of shelter animals in the US and around the world. The second edition of the Guidelines, published in December 2022, incorporates advances in shelter medicine knowledge and expands on the previous document with two new sections. Additionally, the second edition shifts its framework from the Five Freedoms to the Five Domains which provides a broader approach to achieving and maintaining positive welfare for shelter animals. 

Like the original, the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, Second Edition is written for all personnel caring for shelter animals in a variety of settings, including foster-based organizations, nonprofit humane societies and SPCAs, municipal animal services facilities, and sanctuaries. The Guidelines are also applicable for any other organization that routinely cares for populations of companion animals.

Read the Press Release
Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, Second Edition

Checklist of key actionable statements from the Guidelines (now available as pdf - sortable spreadsheet coming soon!)

IMPORTANT NOTICE:  This document was published in the English language and has been professionally translated from the original. While reasonable care has been taken to accurately translate this document, readers relying upon the content of this translated document assume all risk of errors in translation or related misinterpretations. Where clarification of content is needed please refer to the English version for original intent.


In 2019, the ASV convened a Guidelines Review task force of 19 shelter medicine veterinarians selected from a pool of nominees and original authors based on their areas of expertise, geographical locations, and current or previous roles in a variety of shelter types. Task force members completed literature reviews and consulted subject matter experts to inform their contributions.

Members of the Task Force:
top row:
 Drs. Phillip Bushby, Staci Cannon, Elise Gingrich, Brian DiGangi, Miranda Spindel (on screen), Martha Smith-Blackmore, Cristie Kamiya, Erin Doyle, Nancy Bradley, Jeanette O'Quin
bottom row: Drs. Lena DeTar, Uri Donnett, Elizabeth Berliner, Lucy Fuller, Sheila Sergurson, Chumkee Aziz, Cindy Karsten
not pictured: Drs. Stephanie Janeczko, Brenda Griffin


The Second Edition of the Guidelines maintains the same goals as the original document.  To provide:

  • a set of common standards for the care and welfare of companion animals in shelters based on scientific evidence and expert consensus
  • guidance that helps animal welfare organizations reduce overcrowding, stress, disease, and improve safety
  • a tool for animal welfare organizations and communities to assess and improve their shelters
  • references for creating regulations and statutes around sheltering, and benchmarks for organizational change
  • guidance for animal housing in existing facilities and priorities for the design of new construction
  • a living document that responds to developments in shelter medicine and animal care research and practice

The Guidelines document is:

  • an evidence-based guide to “what” is critical to support the positive welfare of shelter animals, as well as “why” these strategies are important
  • focused on the fundamental needs of cats and dogs 
  • based on the Five Domains Model of animal welfare assessment
  • a tool to help advocate for animal care and well-being in shelters and communities

The Guidelines document is not:

  • a detailed operations manual - “how” the strategies outlined in the Guidelines are implemented may vary by organization
  • expressly focused on the care of owned pets or community pet welfare, except for where that care intersects with policies and decisions impacting shelter admissions and outcomes.  However, the ASV recognizes the importance of activities supporting pet retention and access to veterinary care, and that shelters are playing a large role in providing those services


ENDORSEMENTS (More coming soon!) 

The 2022 version of the ASV guidelines center around the need for shelters to manage intake at all costs in order to ensure adequate care can be provided for the animals once they enter the shelter system.  This ensures not only the health and safety of the animals, but the mental health and physical safety of the animal welfare staff providing services to their community.  It is exciting to see a set of guidelines that looks at our organizations/industry holistically and prioritizes the health and safety of both pets and people!  - Dr. Josh A. Fisher, MHA, CAWA - President, NACA