Chapter IV - Kennel Operations
IV.1 - Animal Handling
1. General. Safe, effective animal
handling demands total concentration on the animal being handled and the
knowledge necessary to read the body language the animal is displaying.† Taking a few moments to visually assess the
dog or cat that is about to be handled can make the task both safer and
easier.† Handling techniques and the
tools chosen to assist an animal handler will vary depending on the scenario.† By assessing the individual animal's behavior
and responding accordingly, handling skills and techniques will protect both
ends of the leash.† The following
guidelines shall be followed by all staff members of the
2. Healthy, Even-Tempered Animals.
A. The following are signs that will likely indicate a healthy, even-tempered animal:
i. The animal has no apparent signs of illness or injury;
ii. The animal is at the front of the cage exhibiting relaxed body postures, sprawled out in a prone position possibly with belly exposed, sitting upright and alert;
iii. (cats) The animal is head-bumping and scent marking with glands in the chin and above the eyes; and/or
iv. (dogs) The animal is wiggly-bodied, bouncing up and down, tail wagging, licking, and nose nudging.
B. Before opening the cage door, the handler shall speak to the animal in a pleasant, upbeat voice.
i. The handler shall let the animal sniff at the back of his or her hand through the bars/fencing.
ii. The handler shall review the information on the animalís Kennel Card, looking for any helpful clues as to the animalís temperament.
i. The following are guidelines for removing a dog from his or her kennel run or other holding cage at floor-level:
a. The handler shall prepare a leash or lead to slip over the animal's head;
b. The handler shall open the cage door just enough to slip the lead onto the dog without letting the dog loose;
c. The handler shall use the inside of his or her knee/leg or hip/shoulder to control the door to free up both hands should they be needed to keep a rambunctious animal in the kennel run;
d. When using a slip lead, the handler shall keep the lead taut enough that the dog cannot back out of it if startled; and
e. The handler shall then allow the dog to exit the cage.
ii. The following are guidelines for returning a dog to a kennel run or other holding cage at floor-level:
a. The handler shall open the cage door fairly wide using a forward-moving arm gesture while moving the lead forward and uttering the command, "Go in;"
b. For dogs who draw back, the handler shall try throwing a small treat in ahead of them;
c. The handler shall quickly close the door as soon as the dog enters; and
d. Once the dog is kenneled, the handler shall open the door a crack to take off the lead, again using the inside of the handlerís knee/leg or hip/shoulder to control the door.
iii. The following are guidelines for removing smaller dogs being housed in higher level cages:
a. First, if the animal is going to be carried against the handlerís body, the handler shall wear a plastic apron or place a fresh towel or pillow case between his or herself and the animal;
b. This technique will assist in disease control; the handler shall never reuse the same towel or pillow case twice, and shall always disinfect the plastic apron before reuse;
c. As with a floor-level cage, the handler shall open the cage door slightly and place the leash or lead onto the dog;
d. The handler shall place one hand behind the dog's head and grab the slip-ring and lead to prevent it from tightening up and to prevent the dog from turning around and nipping;
e. The handler shall reach the other hand over the back and support the chest and abdomen;
f. The handler shall lift up and cradle the dog's body against the handlerís body while holding the head away if necessary; and
g. The handler shall then gently carry or place the dog on the floor.
iv. The handler shall return dogs to higher level cages using the same methods:
a. The handler shall immobilize the head by grasping the lead behind the head;
b. The handler shall reach over the back and cradle the chest in the palm of his or her hand; and
c. The handler shall then lift the animal back into the cage.
i. The following are guidelines for the handling techniques of cats, which are similar to that of small dogs;
a. Instead of holding the lead behind the head, the handler shall place the crook of the hand (area between thumb and forefinger) on the cat's neck at the base of the skull to keep the cat facing away from the handler;
b. The handler shall reach his or her other arm over the cat's back and support the chest and abdomen with his or her hand and forearm, cradling the cat against the handlerís body (a.k.a. football carry);
c. The handler shall move the animal to another cage or a carrier;
d. The handler shall avoid carrying a cat in his or her arms any great distance whenever possible, as cats are often highly reactive animals which can easily startle, changing from friendly to defensive aggressive in a few short seconds; and
e. The handler shall remember to use a plastic apron, fresh towel, or pillow case when handling a cat.
3. Fearful Animals.
A. The following are signs that will likely indicate a fearful animal:
i. The animal appears to have dilated pupils;
ii. The animal is standing or lying tensely at the rear of the cage;
iii. The animal is backing up to the rear of the cage;
iv. The animal is facing the back corner of the cage, glancing over the shoulder to keep the handler in sight;
v. The animalís ears are pulled back;
vi. (dogs) The animalís tail is tucked; and/or
vii. (cats) The animal is agitated tail swishing, hissing, and/or swatting.
B. The following are guidelines for handling fearful animals:
i. Before opening the cage door, the handler shall speak to the animal in a soft, soothing yet upbeat tone of voice;
ii. The handler shall stand sideways or crouch down near the cage; looming over the animal directly head-on will likely increase the fear level;
iii. The handler shall avoid direct eye contact for it can be misconstrued as a challenge to fight;
iv. Whenever possible, the handler shall allow the animal to approach the front of the cage and check-out the handler in his or her own time;
v. The handler may offer a treat without making eye contact; it is a good sign if the animal is relaxed enough to take the treat; and
vi. It is safer to take the time to allow the animal to come to the handler, rather than the handler entering into the cage or reaching in to grab the animal.
a. Most fearful animals would rather flee than fight, but they will bite if they feel cornered.
i. The following are guidelines for moving mildly fearful dogs:
a. The handler shall try to get the animal on a lead without entering too far into the cage;
b. Once on a lead, the handler shall gently coax the dog out of the cage;
c. The handler shall allow the dog some extra leash so he can move (three (3) to five (5) feet away from the handler);
d. The handler shall muzzle the animal with either the lead or a sleeve muzzle before treatment if necessary;
e. The handler shall hold the dog in a firm yet gentle manner against the handlerís body and continue to talk to the dog in a soft, confident tone;
f. The handler shall use a plastic apron or fresh towel or pillow case when handling an animal; and
g. The handler shall not remove the muzzle until the dog has been placed back on the floor or if thrashing around, until back in his or her cage.
ii. The following are guidelines for handling excessively fearful dogs:
a. The handler shall not move such an animal unless absolutely necessary;
b. The handler shall use an animal control pole (a.k.a. catch pole, bite pole, bite stick, rabies stick, etc.) to move the dog; while this may increase the fear level of the animal, handler safety can be maintained; and
c. If the dog is unwilling to walk while on the control pole, the handler shall seek assistance in muzzling and carrying the dog.
i. The following are guidelines for handling fearful cats:
a. The importance of moving slowly and quietly in a gentle manner cannot be stressed strongly enough when handling such an animal;
b. The handler shall grab the scruff at the back of the neck with one hand;
c. The handler shall hold the forepaws with the other hand while using the handlerís elbow to hold the rear weight of the cat's body against the handlerís side.
ii. The following are guidelines for handling very fearful cats:
a. The handler shall not handle an very fearful cat unless absolutely necessary;
b. The handler shall use a large, thick towel or blanket to scoop up the cat and place it in a carrier;
c. To remove a fearful cat from a carrier into another cage, the handler shall open the carrier and tilt slightly into the cage; and
d. As the cat steps out and retreats to the back of the cage, the handler shall swiftly close the door.
iii. For feral cats or cats showing signs of extreme fearfulness, the handler shall use a net for handling the animal.
4. Fractious Animals.
A. The following are signs that will likely indicate a fractious animal:
i. The animal is growling, snarling, snapping, attempting to bite;
ii. The animal is charging the front of the cage;
iii. The animal is standing frozen at the front of the cage and ďhard-staringĒ people; and/or
iv. The animal is ferociously barking/hissing and lunging.
B. The following are guidelines for handling fractious animals:
i. The handler shall not handle a fractious animal unless absolutely necessary;
ii. The handler shall take every possible precaution;
iii. The handler shall make use of a control pole with dogs and a net with cats;
iv. The handler shall never use a control pole on a cat;
v. Whenever possible, the handler shall have a second experienced handler present to assist should something go wrong;
vi. The handler shall consider using double leashing (where two  handlers have a fractious dog leashed between them on taut leads) in areas where a control pole may not be used; and
vii. The handler shall consider tranquilization (anesthesia, pre-euthanasia drugs) if available.
C. In the event that a dog attempts to attack the handler while leashed, the handler shall move his or her leash arm up and away from his or her body.
5. Sick and Injured Animals.
A. The following are signs that will likely indicate a sick or injured animal:
i. The animal has labored breathing;
ii. There is the presence of blood, mucous, or open wounds;
iii. The animalís limbs are at odd angles; and
iv. The animal is limping, whimpering, lethargy, not eating.
B. The following are guidelines for handling sick or injured animals:
i. The sweetest animal in the world can bite in response to pain;
ii. Before handling an injured animal, if possible, the handler shall ask Medical staff to assess the animal before it is moved to determine the proper handling technique for the specific injury;
iii. If an animal is brought to the Center in a box or carrier, the handler shall keep it confined there until a medical exam is possible when circumstances allow;
iv. Once a medical exam has been completed and the animal has been treated, the handler shall take special care to be gentle with the animal;
v. The handler shall avoid putting any pressure on the injured area;
vi. For dogs with neck injuries like embedded collars or tracheal collapse, the handler shall provide a body harnesses for movement since regular slip leads cannot be used;
vii. Soft bedding is particularly important for animals with splints and casts;
viii. The handler shall consider using an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) to prohibit the animal from chewing on bandages; and
ix. Since an e-collar intensifies noise and blocks an animal's peripheral vision, the handler shall try to house the animal in as quiet a spot as possible during recuperation.
6. Dog Fight.† Dogfights are unfortunately an inevitable and very dangerous occurrence which can easily result in injury to an animal handler.† One should never rush in alone and attempt to grab and pull apart dogs involved in a fight.† When a fight breaks out, dogs go into a high "fight drive" state and are not thinking clearly.† Even the sweetest of dogs is likely to turn and bite if grabbed while in this state, without even realizing who or what he or she is biting at.
A. The following are guidelines for breaking up a dogfight:
i. The safest way to break up a dogfight requires two (2) handlers (or one for each dog involved);
ii. Each handler shall quickly choose a dog and grab it by the rear ankles; avoiding the head and teeth;
iv. With the legs up, the handlers shall the pull both dogs apart;
v. The handlers shall immediately separate the dogs from each other into separate enclosures; and
vi. While being pulled apart in this wheelbarrow position, the handlers shall steer each dog side-to-side.† By moving side-to-side the dog will have to sidestep with his or her front feet to avoid falling on his or her chin.† This technique will keep the dog off-balance, and will stop him or her from turning back to bite the handler.
B. The following are guidelines for an animal handler in the event that he or she is alone when a serious dogfight breaks out.
i. The handler shall remain cool headed and focused on the job at hand;
ii. The handler shall not waste time screaming or yelling at the dogs involved, as this is rarely effective;
iii. The handler should have a leash or slip-lead on hand, if not, the handler shall quickly retrieve one (unfortunately, the fight will have to continue while this is done);
iv. Dogs in a fight are almost always locked onto one another, face-to-face;
v. The handler shall approach one of the dogs from the rear and loop one end of the leash around beneath the back loin of the dog;
vi. The handler shall then thread and pull the leash snug (standard application of a slip-lead);
vii. The handler shall then slowly back away, dragging the dog to a fence or other stationary object that a leash can be tied to.† By doing this, the handler effectively creates an anchor for one of the dogs;
viii. The handler shall keep in mind, the other dog will likely follow and the fight will continue up to this point;
ix. The handler shall then quickly approach the untied dog and perform the wheelbarrow maneuver; grabbing the dog by the rear ankles and separating him or her from the tied dog;
x. The handler shall remember the importance of turning back and forth and keeping the dog off balance during this maneuver;
xi. The handler shall pull the dog into a separate before releasing him or her; and
xii. The other dog shall not be left tied for long, the handler shall untie and secure the dog in a separate enclosure as soon as possible.
C. If two (2) dogs are observed squaring off with one another (i.e. one  dog with stiff legs and tail straight up in the air putting his head over the shoulders of the other to show dominance; while the other is possibly even growling or showing teeth), staff shall not over react and assume a fight is about to occur.
i. Attempting to intervene by yelling, for example, before a fight has begun, may in fact trigger a fight.
ii. Body posturing is common amongst newly introduced dogs, and is often actually an alternative to fighting rather than a precursor to a fight.