Encouraging Your Community to Shelter in Place

Encouraging Your Community to Shelter in Place


Whether it’s a call about a litter of helpless kittens or a baby bird that has fallen from its nest, we frequently get calls from animal lovers who want to help but don’t know what to do.

These good Samaritans have the instinct to scoop up these infants and find help right away. However, those of us working in animal welfare know  that these actions can potentially do more harm than good. At San Diego Humane Society, we are launching a new initiative to teach the community what to do in these distressing situations.

I Found a Baby Animal… Now What?

When you receive distressed phone calls from those who have found baby animals without their mother, educate them on what it means to shelter in place, and follow our guide. Please share the infographic and the guidelines below with your audiences via social media or email, so we can spread the word about what to do.



Note: Because we are in the middle of kitten season, the infographic specifically applies to feline care.

The Ideal Approach

First, wait and monitor the presumably orphaned animals before intervening. This will help prevent the tragic and unnecessary separation of nursing babies from their moms – while also reducing overcrowding in our shelters.

Sometimes that baby bird on the ground is simply learning how to fly, or a litter of kittens is resting peacefully while their mom is out finding food for herself. And did you know rabbits only actually spend two hours a day with their young? You’re more likely to find baby bunnies without their mother, rather than with her!

The truth is – wild or otherwise, a baby animal is often better off being left where it’s found.

But how do we spread that message to our community, and encourage them to allow “helpess” infants to stay put?

Here are three simple steps to share with your community to educate them about remember sheltering in place:

  1. Watch. Observe to assess whether the infants are injured or exposed to harsh elements.
  2. Wait. Baby animals are fine to be left alone for a few hours, so wait to see if their mom comes back. If she doesn’t return within six hours, it’s time to intervene.
  3. Evaluate. Did the mother return? Are there things you can do to make life a little easier for her – like provide food and water so she doesn’t have to leave her babies as often? If she didn’t return, you can either become a foster to care for orphaned animals, or call your local shelter to schedule an appointment to relinquish them.

We’re all dedicated to caring for the animals that come through our door, but nothing can replace a mother’s care. To help our animal-loving community become advocates for the animals, we’ve developed a matrix of Orphaned Kitten Care and Orphan Wildlife Care Guidelines.

With the guidelines, we hope to help the public rethink the way they interact with baby animals so that they are protected and have the best start in life. Together we can be the protectors, voice, and friends all animals need.

Dr. Gary Weitzman

Dr. Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA, is the President & CEO of San Diego Humane Society.

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