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Kelley Bollen: Safe animal handling for shelter, clinic staff

Guest: Kelley Bollen is a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant with a master’s degree in Animal Behavior who has worked in the field of companion animal behavior for twenty years. She is the Owner and Principle Consultant for Kelley Bollen Consulting, LLC – an animal behavior consulting business. Kelley consults with animal shelters across the country on the design and implementation of comprehensive behavior programs to improve the welfare of the animals, including through Humane Network’s Alive & Thriving animal behavior training program for shelter and clinic staff.

Main question: What safe-handling tips for animals should shelter and clinic staff be aware of?



  • Never open the car door until you are sure the cat is in a carrier. Hold the carrier in both arms to avoid turbulence and to guard against integrity problems with the carrier’s handle or bolts. This is especially important when bringing an animal to and from the car.

  • When getting a dog out of a car, make sure the dog is leashed before the car door is opened. You can have the owner get the dog out of the car and walk with you to the door (keeping 6’ apart) – especially helpful if the dog is fearful or agitated. To reduce stress you can offer treats, avoid making eye contact with the dog, and turn your body sideways to the dog.

  • When handling cats

    • Gentle or loose restraint is best. Cats are more relaxed if they have four feet on a surface.

    • Support the cat’s body when lifting them; never carry a cat by the scruff.

    • If a cat is hard to handle, use a towel.

Kelley with dog.jpg
  • When handling dogs

    • If the dog is wiggly, a firm hold is calming to many dogs Distracting dogs with food such as a spoonful of peanut butter or cat food can make them easier to handle.


* Kelley included advice for harder to handle dogs, so we recommend giving the podcast a full listen for more on that.




Recorded Oct. 13, 2020

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