Questions to Consider Before Acquiring Live-in Animals

  1. ParrotDoes our facility have sound reasons for choosing a live-in animal program over a visiting or working animal program?
  2. Has our facility seriously looked into implementing the official Eden Alternative philosophy?
  3. Do we have the support and commitment of the administration and staff to help make this live-in animal program successful by obtaining formal training?
  4. Have we established how we will pay for acquiring, training, feeding, and providing veterinary care for the animal?
  5. Have we budgeted for professional assistance to train staff and residents on proper selection and care of the animals?
  6. Have we included all staff, residents, and residents’ family members in the decision making process of acquiring a live-in animal? (“Top down” decisions from the administration usually have disastrous results!)
  7. Have we helped establish a live-in animal committee comprised of staff, residents, and outside volunteers to help with the selection, placement, and care process of the animals?
  8. Have we determined which animal species is appropriate for our particular setting?
  9. Have we had the animal’s temperament tested by a person knowledgeable in the behavior requirements for a live-in animal?
  10. Have we established a relationship with a local veterinarian to help us set up a wellness program for our animals prior to bringing them into the facility?
  11. Have we contacted local animal professionals (behaviorist, dog trainers, CENSHARE, veterinarians, breeders, Humane Society) and budgeted for their expertise to help set up the program and ensure its success?
  12. Do we have many (not just a few) staff, volunteers, and residents committed to the ongoing care of this animal (ie, feeding, exercising, on-going training, grooming, socialization, veterinary care)?
  13. Have we taken time to set up an education program so that everyone in the facility might learn how to interpret an animal’s needs by its behavior?
  14. If our facility employs “pool staff”, how will we educate them about the animals and their needs?
  15. Have we written policies and procedures for all animals in our facility, and do the policies abide by our state department of health regulations for animals in long term care settings? (See Minnesota Guidelines for Pet Animals in Health Care Facilities listed in the index.)
  16. Does our facility have staff from cultures with different beliefs and attitudes about animals that might cause distress or harm to animals living here? How will we address these different cultural beliefs?
  17. What is the demographic and cultural background of the majority of residents in our facility? How does this influence our selection of live-in animals?
  18. Have we created a means of evaluating the live-in animal’s health and welfare in our facility?
    • Does the staff know the animal’s stress signals and how to deal with them?
    • Does the staff understand and support the training methods for the animal and reinforce these methods consistently?
    • Do we have a chart or logbook in which staff can chart the daily progress/incidents of the animal?
    • Do we have a daily maintenance chart to make sure the basic needs of the animal (feeding, exercise, grooming, toileting, cleaning of cages and litter boxes, etc) have been routinely met?
    • Have we developed care plans for all live-in animals, including birds in aviaries, that we review just as we review care plans for the residents?
    • Do we have a monthly weight monitoring system in place for the animals?
  19. Have we created a system that allows the animals, especially dogs, daily relief from the work environment of the facility? This includes a quite place inside the facility and a fenced yard or kennel area outside of the facility.
  20. Have we created a system that allows the animals, especially dogs, periodic vacations away from our facility? This may include going home on a weekend with a staff member or going on vacation with a staff member or volunteer.
  21. Are appropriate animals included in daily activities and/or therapy sessions (ie, games with “Cooper-dog”, PT with “dog” etc) with the residents? Animals thrive better when they have a job to do! Not everything should be spontaneous.
  22. How do we properly enrich the lives of the animals in our facility so that they live out their lives to their fullest potential?
  23. How will we evaluate the animal’s effectiveness on the residents, their family members, and staff in our facility?
  24. Has our facility budgeted for an outside animal professional familiar with our live-in animal program to come in once a year, evaluate our program, and make recommendations for improvement?