Ashley Shoults, Animal Arts
Tuned in. PODCAST. Let's go. Welcome to the community cats podcast. I'm your host Stacey Lebaron I've been involved helping homeless cats for over twenty years with the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society. The goal of this podcast is to expose you to amazing people who are improving the lives of cats I hope these interviews will help you learn how you can turn your passion for cats into action today. We're speaking with actually. Schultz Ashley Principal With Animal Arts and architecture firm in Boulder. Boulder Colorado that specializes exclusively in the design of animal care facilities. She has a very project portfolio managing animal shelter veterinary in boarding projects, including the thirty-five Thousand Square Foot Old Town at resort in Sterling Jinya and more than a dozen facilities for the Veterinary Emergency Group located from Boston. Mass to Encinitas California actually is currently working on the design of a new animal shelter for pause Seattle her expertise in every aspect of animal care designers. Book recently. Co authored practical guide to veterinary hospital design. Actually I'd like to welcome you to the show. Thanks for having me Stacey so before we dive into all things architecture, which is my passion, so I'm thrilled to have you on the show I. Let's share with our listeners. How did you become passionate about cats? It goes way back. I think my love of cats started all the way back when I was probably about five years old I. Remember we lived in Ohio, and this was during an era where animal welfare didn't have the significance that it does today and. And people weren't as educated about it then and I remember when I was five years old, we were out playing in the front yard, and my sister and I found two kittens living under a tree in our front yard, and there appeared to be no mother around, and so we decided to make them our own. They became our cats, and we brought them inside and into the house, and they became our pets in. We learned to grow in love and care for those cats, but again because the animal welfare education wasn't what it is now. We didn't spay neuter our. Our cats and so are female cat. They were indoor outdoor. Cats ended up having kittens, and so we went through that whole process of having kittens in the home again and all of that stuff, and so from a very young age we had cats in the house, and I watched the whole process in Ruta. Love them, and now today I have two cats of my own that have adopted from the local shelter here and I just love cats love who they are, and what they bring to us as pets so obviously, you went to architecture school. I will congratulate you. You for that his, I had desire to become an architect myself, and there were just too many architecture students staying up all night long working incredible hours that it really amazed me the amount of time that architects put into their work and I hope you're one of the ones that have figured out the work life balance, but it's a lot of time and effort that goes into that profession, so I had a great time when I was studying architecture and then also urban designed. My mom had adopted a kitten named the Kitten Corbu, so you can think about that. So it was a great time in my life I always think about design in anything whether it's just a small room in our adoption senator whether you're designing a feral cat feeding station, you know before we dive into the specifics of what's it like to design a cat facility? Why is it important for us to think about how we should design our spaces for the cats that we care for? It's usually critical from my perspective. I love doing it just in that. Most architects are strictly designing for humans, and that's great. We understand that because we're human, and so we can relate to Howard designing spaces. How might interact with those faces, but doing what we do? Do in getting to design for both the people and the animals that occupy space. It's just a fun way to look at the built environment in the world around us. We see in the work that we do and what kind of impact it has on the animals, poorly designed spaces cause more stress in cats and dogs, and that stress than leads to more illness and disease, and can be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the animals that are in the space, and so we need to constantly be thinking about how the people use the space, and how the animals use the space, and how do we make it? An environment that the animals will also thrive in. So I think you've been at animal arts for about fourteen years now, and a lot has changed with regards to cats and the number of cats that are coming into shelters in the last fourteen years. How has that changed your thoughts around shelter design? Yeah, absolutely so the last decade or two. We've always said. Cats are the issue in the animal shelters, and they are in have been in that. Dogs were coming in and getting adopted much quicker and cats had a longer. Longer length of stay in the shelter, and so it became an issue of how to better house them in terms of keeping them healthy as well as how to feature them better and get them adopted, but that went on for awhile of just cats, having long length of stay, not getting adopted as quickly Gore, seeing that change, there's not as many cats coming into the shelter, and the cats that are in the shelter are usually getting adopted quicker now, and I think that's. That's a huge reason behind that is because of the education that shelters around the country are doing in educating people about adoption as well as how to care for animals in educating people that maybe are thinking about relinquishing their cat and how to work with them so that that doesn't happen, but we're just not seeing those numbers in the shelters anymore, and so what we're seeing now is there's a big paradigm shift that the cats that are coming in are actually typically community. Community caps that have a different path that they need to take within the shelter. A lot of the general public will find community cats thinking that they're doing the right thing by bringing them into the shelter because they think they're just a stray, or they're lost cap in that they should be a home, not knowing how community cats operate in what benefit they actually bring to the community, and so we're seeing more and more of that and again that has to change the. The way we think about cats in the shelter in what their process in the shelter looks like the US or path I think about the word flow. You know there's different flows, so you'll have the cat coming in the door to the facility and you know the question is. Does the cat become returned to field? Does cat get into a foster care track because it's a kitten, or because it's another situation that it needs to go to foster care for Rehab or is. Is it a cat that gets channeled into the adoption track all these different flow patterns for cats, and they're very different, and also I would say that if we're looking at a new model a for an organization that is becoming very cat centric, because that's the needs of the community, are we looking for a model that is less adoption, square foot oriented, and maybe more in that community wellness Diversion Clinic Space Return to Field Barn cat option something like that I mean what? What your vision of the hat shelter of the next generation, you touched on a lot of the things that come to mind for me to in terms of what we've experienced with different shelters with community. Cats like you said there's a variety of paths right so one. Let's think about it from the different types of cats that come in so kittens community kittens that come in if they're well socialized or can easily become socialized by having some time in a foster home or Or that sort of thing. That's great. Those are the cats that want to eventually go onto the adoption floor. Maybe they're old enough that they're ready to go straight to the adoption floor, or maybe they need some time in a foster home for a little bit, and then they can come back and go to adoption. So that's one example what am I seeing change related to? That is foster programs at shelters or having to grow significantly because of this and we're seeing that. It's awesome to see people step up in volunteer to help with fostering cats, but it's not without its challenges, either when we think about adult community cats that are coming in, there's again a variety of pass that they could take most of the time. They're going to be returned to feel in. What does that look like that probably means we need to think about the clinic space a bit more because they're gonNA. Come in in a trap. They're going to get spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and then they're going to be. Be Taken back to where they came from, and while they'll probably be ear tipped as well and then taken back to where they came from. But what does that look like? If we're seeing more and more of those numbers we have to think about where we housing those cats when they come in in their traps inner, waiting to be spayed and neutered vaccinated on all of that stuff, and I think that this is a big area for opportunity and growth in our shelters, because these casts are super stressed out, these are. Are Cats that typically just live outside their active at dusk, and when it's dark outside typically, and so they're being brought in in a trap, carry it around in this trap that they're feeling uneasy and unstable, and put into probably a bright room where they're being sitting in their trap, waiting for their turn, and then they recover. Go back in the trap and go back to where they came from and I. Think one of the big things here is. How do we house them? And how do we reduce the stress for? For them. There's simple things we can do. Like making sure that we have covers on the traps so that they feel it's darker which is more of the environment that they're used to. Because they're more active at night. And then they're also seeing all the other cats next to them, and then thinking about how we're transporting them. When a cat is in a trap, and they're being carried by the handle on the trap. Nobody likes that it's the same with someone's pet cat in a carrier. They feel unstable and uneasy. Uneasy and so maybe we think about different ways to get them into the facility I've seen clients use like bakery carts, and they placed the traps on the bakery carts, then wheel them in so that they at least feel a little bit more stable, and then once they get inside and warehousing them. We might think about ways to make that environment more like their natural environment. Are there ways to have an operable window in that space so that they're getting fresh air and hearing outside noises, other things to consider desirable light. Light, so maybe if we don't have covers for the traps that they're in, we have dim -able light so that it doesn't have to be these big bright lights, shining down on these cats in increasing their stress levels. So that's just again rattling off the top of my head. These are all things I think we need to think about. Some of them are little things that can have a big impact and other times we need to consider the built environment and having more physical space for these community casts that are. are coming in because we're seeing the numbers increase yet and I also thank temperature is another important consideration, and you talked about fresh air, and making sure that the noise that is coming into that space is pleasurable. Noise not dogs barking from the dog pen around the corner, so that also comes into the fact with regards to design to where I felt that it's extremely challenging to have dogs and cats or mixing a lot of different animals in one space, even if the dogs are in one wing and the cats are. Are In another wing. There's just still this feeling of stress there. So what are your thoughts when you're designing for clients that are mixed animals, or have you done design for a cat? Only facility where we've done both from a mixed animal perspective, where huge proponents of separation of species and I liked always think of it. You need to at least keep one room between every dog and cat room so that they're not sharing wall straight, so that's just one simple thing to help from annoys perspective, and then the smells. The dogs and cats can smell each other, and that can cause stress, and so having good HVAC systems in your facility to help with that odor control in them, not smelling each other you could, even if you have the luxury, consider having separate cat and dog clinic within the facility just to help eliminate the crossing of paths of those animals. Most people don't have that luxury, but if you're starting from scratch and have the ability to do it, I think that's always a nice thing to consider when we're doing cat. Only facilities in this is true when you're doing Caton doc facilities. Facilities. We also have to be careful about the size of the rooms. We don't WANNA put too many cats all in one room, because if cat has some sort of illness, that's not detected at that point, the more cats they're exposed to the more likely that is to spread in so if we can keep cats in smaller groupings or smaller pods, not have fifty cats all in one room, but maybe have a few small rooms of fifteen to twenty cats that goes a long way as well and helping to reduce stress as well as helping to control the spread of illness. As we emerge from the global pandemic of Covid, fostering is emerging as the normal in the animal welfare industry, but shelter management software doesn't provide the tools or the workflows for communicating with foster's at scale, so many organizations struggled to maintain hundreds of animals in foster homes. If only there was a system that was custom built specifically to solve this problem, introducing foster space powered by our friends at Uber. Foster space was custom built to. To allow you to manage hundreds of foster relationships to communicate with them via text email an even facebook messenger, your fosters have a portal where they can upload videos and photos and updates on their animals and organizations can schedule fosters for meet and greets adoption days or anything else they need. They're so much more to check out sign up for free at www, dubar. Dot Com and go to the foster stays tab to get started. Community podcast and Feline Leukemia Advocacy. Supporter Margaret. Tompkins are thrilled to announce I ever online. Feline Leukemia Educational Day to be held on July eighteenth from ten am to five PM. We will have a wonderful group of speakers sharing their expertise around Feline Leukemia Plan Speakers Include Amy Co. Becker from best friends animal. Society Dr. Julie Levy from the University of Florida for any Fox over from Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society Danielle, case from Tree House Humane Society Dr Heather. Kennedy from Casey PET PROJECT AND And Monica friend from Austin Pets Alive I. Really Hope you'll join us. On July eighteenth from ten am to five PM to register for just twenty five dollars go to www dot community, cats podcasts dot com and click on our virtual education tab and you'll be able to sign up today. Please join us. Please learn all that you need to learn about feline leukemia and make those adoptions happen once again, go to www dot community, cats podcasts dot com sign up today. We'll see there. So. What are your thoughts about? The cageless environment versus a caged environment and cage design has also changed dramatically over the last several years to, but I also think that they're sort of a camp out there that appreciate sort of the cage environment, and then there's a cageless environment group and I didn't know if you have thoughts on that. Honestly, my thought is that you need a little bit of. Of all of it, because not cats are the same. Some cats won't do well in a caged environment and do better in kind of a group housing, situation or a free roaming, situation and other cats do well on the opposite end of things in want to be in a cage where they have more defensible space in so I'm a big proponent of having a variety of housing so that you. You can cater to the needs of each individual cat. The thing that we needed to keep in mind is how to do that if there is caging, or if there is group housing how to do it properly in there are guidelines about what size cages should be for cats, cats are being housed long-term like on an adoption floor. We typically want a four foot wide cage at a bare minimum. Minimum of five foot wide cages preferred the idea. There is keeping that two foot triangle between litterbox food, and resting areas rate, and so having a wide enough caged to be able to do that is important for their health and wellbeing, and then from group housing, Cat perspective, the general rule of Thumb Best Practices is that you have eighteen square feet per cat, and so making sure that you have. Have the right amount of space even if they do thrive in group, housing environment as well as defensible space, so that they have resting benches to get up high and go remove themselves from the rest the cats in that environment, and that sort of thing another thing we're seeing that happening more and more often is kind of an in between those two people are taking what are typically used as. As dog runs pre manufacturer dog Kennel, type things and putting top on them, and then letting those be cages, but they're a larger cat cajun, so there's different levels in so it might be a five foot by five foot box. That's six feet tall. It's like a dog. Run that you would normally put a dog in, but you put to catch in there instead with the idea that you. You could have a bonded pair of cats or a mom and kittens in that space, and they have more space to have a bit of free roaming without being in a group House Cat Environment, so I'm a big proponent of having a variety of housing options. You can cater to the needs of each cab. What question and this is probably the million dollar question out? There is finding out what? What the magical ratios are like! How many cages or how much capacity do you want to provide for your intake room for an isolated room or sick room, and then for the adoption floor I mean that's always the question, because it seems like every adoption center that I've onto. There's too many cats in this section. That room is like has one cat in it, so there's always this challenging. That goes on and I don't know if you have had any experience and determining like. If you want to have thirty available cats on your adoption floor, you should have room for ten cats in your intake. Do you have any sense of what those ratios should be really hard to say? Every organization is different. The one thing I will say is that when we first start working with A. A client before we dive in and help them design their facility. We take a hard look at the numbers. We look at the number of cats coming in and going out for the past five years and understand what the trends are going up. Our number's going down where the cast coming from how many are adoptable? How many are returned to field and we analyze those numbers so that we? We can get a gut feeling of where we need to assign the space appropriately, but again it varies dinning on the organization so I. Don't know that there's one magic rule of thumb. The one thing I can say though, and it's kind of goes back to talk to you before is if you can create smaller pods of rooms that are all similar in nature in lay out that could. Could give you the flexibility depending on what the situation is to use those rooms differently. So maybe you have five rooms that can each house, fifteen cats, and during peak kitten season when kittens are old enough in adoptable, maybe three of those rooms are for adoption to our for intake or vice versa, depending on how quickly they're coming in, but during slow season when you're not getting in A. A lot of cats. You don't have a lot of intakes coming in, but you have several cats extra sitting on the option for maybe four of those five rooms or for adoption, just the idea being that. If you have a variety of smaller pods of rooms that are designed the same, you can change their function based on your needs. Death threats say it's multitasking the space, right or stacking. Stacking different multi purposing that's base and I can add to it and have a drop down desk or something in there and make that as an optional privacy workspace to for folks because I know that there also in this environment, a lot of people have a hard time finding a quiet place to work, and so if one of those rooms happens to be emptied, could almost act as A. A study room to agree I think providing that flexibility within the space especially when it comes to housing can go a long way in helping to meet your needs depending on what those seasonal fluctuations may be so before we sign off I have to bring up the topic of money. It takes a fair amount of money to build a new shelter. There's a lot of stress and anxiety there's. There's a lot of capital campaign work that goes on to raise money to build a new shelter or to buy a facility that you're going to renovate or something like that. What are your recommendations for organizations that are thinking of moving forward and embarking on a new shelter American mundane has to start early. The process will take longer than you think and it will cost more than you think. So start early. Get your ducks in a row and figure out what it is that you absolutely need out of the new space I and work with an architect or someone who understands that and can do that assessment for you so that you know what you're getting into once. You know what kind of capacities you need to have for housing, your animals that will inform how big the facility. Facility should be that will inform of course of budget then you can work towards, and then there of course are creative ways to try to accomplish these goals in small incremental steps. Maybe you don't have the budget to build a brand new facility start small. Little changes can go a long way in terms of increasing the welfare of the animals in your care helping to reduce their. Their stress and that sort of thing, so talk to someone who's been there done that. Maybe it's another shelter organization near Your community that recently did build out an architect or any of these resources we have in the animal welfare world. Talk to them and get ideas as to how you can improve your facility in a way that works with your budget. That's really great it folks that are. Are Interested in finding out more about animal arts and the work that you do. How would they do that? Step would be to just visit our website. It's www dot. Animal Arts Dot Com, and we have a bunch of photos in examples of past projects that we've done information on our design process, and what that looks like an there's also a contact for him to reach out to. To us if you're interested in finding out more and Ashley. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our listeners today I guess one last part of advice that I would challenge everybody to consider that I didn't get to touch on previously. I'll just do a quick bit here. Is that to think about the barn? Cats that may come through your facility. We didn't talk a lot about. About those, but that's another area I think we need to be thinking about. As we move towards the future of having more community cats coming in through our shelters. How do we properly design housing for those adult cats? That maybe can't be returned to feel. And how do we provide them a good comfortable life in our care in a barn type setting and I think we're GONNA see. See a lot more of that in the future, and so I challenge everyone to start brainstorming and thinking about what that might look like for your community and for your shelter. Yeah, and the other thing we didn't touch upon to is sort of how the Casio model can also play a role in a shelter designed to absolutely yeah, we're big proponents of that I. Love Finding Opportunities To. To let the cats get fresh air in a more natural environment in the Cavallo approaches a great way to do that. Well, actually, WanNa thank you so much for spending some time with me today, and for being a guest on my show and I hope we'll have you on again in the future. Thanks so much, Stacey I really appreciate it and I look forward to doing it again. Thank you for listening to community cats podcasts. I really appreciate it. If you would go to tunes, Lever View of the show, it will help spread the word to help. Mark Community Cats.