Only after experiencing a natural disaster do you find how prepared you were. One of the areas most missed with animal shelters is dealing with the paperwork when the animal shelter loses electricity. When the shelter’s database goes down, you lose access to animal records: intake dates, owner information, vaccinations, and histories.
Many databases allow for a single computer (preferably a laptop) that can replicate the database for such purposes. Most animal shelters cannot operate with just a single laptop, so it is essential that an animal shelter create a paper backup system to deal with animal intakes during a period of power loss.
Data backup is a big issue in areas that flood. With today’s option of Cloud services, you can send your data off to the Cloud in addition to your usual storage of data offsite.
One of our most important tasks is to notify pet owners that the animal shelter is in possession of their lost pet. Most pet owners want to be notified as soon as possible, but out of courtesy I never call anyone before 10 AM, unless they have instructed me to do so. Even keeping to this courtesy, I have apologized numerous times to day sleepers. I always figured that day sleepers would think to turn their phones off to ward away unexpected phone calls.
Record of each phone call attempt should be documented in the animal’s record. It is amazing that owners will accuse you of negligence for not calling them, when they are avoiding your phone calls. A record log of your attempts will allay their accusations. Although I hate leaving messages on voicemail, a general script should be used, so that you can copy and paste that script into your computer record. You should also note when leaving a message as to the deadline as to when the pet owner should call you. A large portion of owners will never call before the deadline, so any disposition of the animal should occur a day or two after the deadline. It isn’t a bad idea to repeat your phone call attempts several times each day. You may discover that the pet owner will not be actively looking for their lost pet and how difficult it will be to actually reach them.
If you are able to determine the address of the pet owner, it isn’t a bad idea to send an Animal Control officer to their house to post a notice. We should exhaust ever effort to get a lost pet back to their owner. In most areas of the country, pet owners will appreciate your efforts. If you decide to send out a letter to the owner, make sure you adjust you holding time to accommodate the time necessary for the Post Office to deliver your letter and for the owner to respond. If the letter returns undeliverable, make sure you record that information in the animal’s record as well.
If after a few days of failed attempts of reaching the pet owner, I throw out my common courtesy and begin calling early in the morning or late at night. People have odd schedules and many of them fail to set up voicemail on their phones.
I cannot tell you enough how important it is to record all of your attempts to reach the pet owner; one day you might need to present those records in court to prove that you were not negligent in performing your duties. We live in a world in which the people want to point out negligence in others and not see it in themselves.