Rescue Groups Invited to Day Long Seminars During Michigan Animal Control Officers Conference

MAACO (Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers) has a conference every year and on May 8th, they invited MPAWS to join their annual conference for something called an “MPAW” Track. MPAW stands for “Michigan Partnership for Animal Welfare” and is a Michigan Humane Society group that was formed as a comprehensive partnership for animal welfare organizations and animal advocates. Their mission is to build strong organizations and networks in Michigan to better serve animals. You can read more about that here.

The MAACO conference, as well as the MPAW event, was held at the Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville.

The MPAW track was a day-long event which was open to anyone in the animal welfare industry, not just members of MAACO. Many groups took advantage of this offer so that they could participate in this kind of continuing education including a group of volunteers from AC PAW.


The speakers were talking about many important things. The seminars included: Contagious Diseases in Shelters and Rescue Groups (Shirene Cece, DVM, Director of Shelter Medicine, MHS); Waging War Against Disease (Cece); Dog Behavior Evaluations 101 (CJ Bentley, Senior Director of Ooperations, MHS): Starting off on the Right Paw and Recognizing Animal Cruelty and Knowing What to Do About it (Linda Reider, Director of Statewide Initiatives, MHS).

The first two seminars were very enlightening about how shelters and rescue groups should be dealing with disease and what to look out for. Participants learned about the most common contagious cat and dog diseases seen in animal shelters and foster-based groups, how to recognize signs of disease, how animals become infected, what to do to help prevent the spread of disease and recommended vaccination information. This information is useful to volunteers as well as employees because having more information helps people save more lives.

One of the most important things learned about disease transmission was what the term “fomite” means as it relates to working in an environment with a lot of animals. Although some diseases are spread through direct contact between animals or through the air (coughing on each other, nose to nose, biting, etc.) there is also the indirect transmission or fomite transmission.

A fomite is is any inanimate object or substance capable of carrying infectious organisms, such as germs or parasites, and hence transferring them from one individual to another. These fomites can include, but are not limited to hair, clothing furniture, hands, door knobs, mops, etc. This is why workers and volunteers must be aware of how they interact with animals – and the shelters should have a written down strict cleaning protocol to be followed.

Specific recommendations included getting rid of clutter, cleaning as well as disinfecting and written rules of how to clean the shelter. The cleaning order is also very important. Areas which house young puppies and kittens should be cleaned first, then healthy owner surrendered animals, healthy strays, animals who are quarantined and then those sick and in isolation. It makes perfect sense that you shouldn’t clean the sick ones first and possibly transmit disease as you go along to the other cages.

Hand washing is also a very important part of the equation when trying to cut down on diseases. Many shelters don’t have convenient hand washing stations but they should. Hand sanitizers need to be 60-80% alcohol based, they need to be filled regularly and in working condition. However, these are not useful if your hands are visibly dirty. When using a sink to wash your hands, use hot water and soap – and disposable towels to dry hands, not a regular towel.


The seminar discussed some of the most widely seen contagious diseases for dogs which include Canine Distemper, Parvo, Influenza and Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex. For cats, the most common contagious diseases are Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis/Herpesvirus and Calcivirus. The speaker discussed incubation periods, mortality, vaccines, symptoms and much more. The volunteers at AC PAW had many questions for her regarding cat diseases so they could further their education and save more lives. The seminar was very interactive with groups posing specific questions about conditions and situations they have encountered or were currently dealing with.

Risk factors discussed which cause disease in shelters included overcrowding, stress, continually changing population, animals with unknown backgrounds, limited resources, unsanitary conditions and aging facilities that are hard to clean. The weapons used in the war to prevent disease include vaccinations, cleaning, disinfection, reducing fomite transmission, population management and reducing stress. Vaccinating animals upon intake was recommended by the speaker from MHS. Even waiting to vaccinate them several hours later can increase the animals risk of disease. It was recommended that all puppies and kittens four weeks older are vaccinated as well as all adult dogs and cats on intake unless there is documented proof of vaccines (owner surrendered animal). Injured animals and mildly ill animals can be vaccinated unless their temperature is 103 or higher in that case it was recommended to wait.

MHS recommended vaccinating dogs against Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis and Parainfluenza. That is usually done in one shot called DHLPP. The “L” stands for Leptospirosis which is sometimes added to the shot as well. Some shelters also give a Bordatella vaccine which can prevent kennel cough. In cats, it was recommended to vaccinate against Herpesvirus, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia, which is a 3-in-one shot.

The Dog Behavior Evaluation Seminar covered temperament testing and how different shelters and organizations use them. The purpose of these tests is to put animals in the right homes and keep staff as well as adopters safe from aggressive behavior. The MHS facilities test to see how forgiving the dog is, they do a sociability and kennel test (blow on their face through the kennel), teeth check, handling tests and some other interaction tests. The dogs are tested for aggression with food/toys, people and other animals in addition to being tested for fearfulness.

Rescue groups and animal shelters often use temperament testing to figure out if an animal is healthy, treatable or untreatable. If a dog fails a certain part of a temperament test, it doesn’t necessarily mean that dog can’t be adopted out or that it should be euthanized. These tests give organizations a better starting point to make any future decisions about a dog’s future training, adoptability and placement.

MHS uses P.A.T., a Personality Assessment Test that has been modified over the years to fit their needs and continues to be reevaluated every year. You can read their progress report from May 2012 here: K__Bollen_MHS_Canine_Evaluation_Assessment-06152012


MHS also uses a color code system to determine the animals safety of placement and to get the animals in the right homes. Each dog is given a color code. It’s a very cool way to match people up with the right dogs instead of having people looking for breeds who might not be right for them. You can visit their website to learn more about color coding here.

You can also use their “Right Dog” app – (download here) – to find your breed matches.

The last speaker talked about recognizing animal cruelty and knowing what to do about it. It seems that animal cruelty and neglect has been in the news a lot lately, especially in Northern Lower Michigan so the more that is learned by law enforcement, animal control officers, shelter staff, rescue groups and the general public, the better. I am going to cover this aspect of the MPAW track in a separate article as it is a very important issue with information that would be of good use to the general public. You can click here for that article.

I would like to extend my appreciation to MPAW for working with MAACO to offer these seminars and many people I talked with certainly hope it’s a yearly event!


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