Regardless of what kinds of animals your sanctuary cares for, one of the most important policies you can implement for the health and safety of all your residents and their human helpers is an effective quarantine policy. This means having not just a space prepared to house your residents separately from everyone else, but also an established system of managing your quarantine policy and procedures.
Some illnesses and recoveries can last upwards of six months, or possibly even longer. Would you be prepared to treat an animal separately from everyone else for that long? Would you have the dedicated space and resources? These are all necessary components to your quarantine program and should be carefully considered whenever you take in a new resident.
Quarantine is critical for all new residents of any species type, even if you know exactly where the resident came from! Quarantine protects everyone from possible infectious diseases that may not be producing visible symptoms in your healthy-looking arrival; an entire herd or flock could be easily infected, and possibly killed by certain diseases. Even if the incoming resident was previously healthy, a new environment can produce stress that might cause an illness flare-up. Reciprocally, your existing residents might be carrying a disease that your new resident isn’t healthy enough to fight off yet!
Quarantine is also an important tool for existing residents who have caught a communicable illness or serious injury. This allows the resident space to recover away from the stress and possible mistreatment by other residents, but also protects other residents from contracting whatever they’re dealing with in the event of disease.
Best Quarantine Policies For New Residents
The new resident should be kept in a secure area, not in the same space as any other residents if at all possible. Anyone coming into contact with a new resident should have full body covering or immersion suits and boot covers. These clothes and protective coverings cannot be used around other residents, quarantined or not, and the body covering must be quarantined itself! Ensure that these isolation procedures are followed throughout a thorough health checkup. New arrivals must remain in isolation for a minimum of 30 days, and until all blood work and fecal exams come back with a clean bill of health.
While a new arrival is in quarantine, you should evaluate a new mammalian resident’s spay/neuter status (and get a pregnancy test for female residents of unknown origin) and whether they have any parts of their body that need maintenance, like overgrown hooves and toenails or horns. An unaltered mammalian resident carries a number of health and social risks. If their hooves or tusks need trimming, schedule this task during quarantine to protect existing residents.
If the resident has an unknown origin and seems to be scared or confrontational, it’s very important that you find a veterinarian or expert versed in their species who can safely administer examinations and teach you what to look out for. A distressed or confrontational resident is one to be extremely cautious around! Residents that run away from you should not be chased after, as it can cause heart attacks in certain species like large breed chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
If the arriving resident seems to be in poor health, isolate the straw used in your quarantine area and do not spread it on other pastures; keep all materials the resident has contacted separated until you’ve completed any testing on the resident. If they have sores, discharge, skin conditions, or respiratory diseases, it’s critical that you use rubber gloves when handling anything the resident comes into contact with. Get a skin scraping test or discharge cultures of any problematic areas. You should also check for joint swelling and pneumonia symptoms. If sick, the resident should be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible after arrival. During this period, ensure that you clean any tools thoroughly before using in areas around other animals. Certain disease confirmations may require an official report to your local government.
If the incoming resident seems to be in good health, conduct a full body health examination and complete a fecal sample. If your veterinarian thinks they are healthy enough to handle it, all incoming residents should be treated with the anti-parasitic medications if appropriate and receive whatever safe vaccinations are suggested.
If your new resident is much less mature than your existing herd or flock, you may want to let them grow up a fair bit on their own before introducing them to the rest of their fellow species, not just because of size difference bullying concerns, but to ensure that they have built up enough immune system strength to handle any disease that might be lurking in your herd or flock. Newly neutered mammalian residents are still fertile for a few weeks after the operation, so make sure to wait until they’re completely sterile before they’re around any impregnable herdmates!
Best Quarantine Policies For Existing Residents
If you need to isolate an existing resident for whatever reason, quarantine policies are very similar to new resident quarantines:
When quarantining an existing resident, the resident should be kept in a secure area, only separated from their herd if medically necessary. Otherwise, they should be in an isolation pen near their family with a friend or two living with them if appropriate. Anybody coming into contact with the resident should have full body covering or immersion suits and boot covers if they have a communicable disease. These clothes and protective coverings cannot be used around other residents, quarantined or not, and the body covering must be quarantined themselves! Ensure that these isolation procedures are followed throughout a thorough health checkup. Ill residents in quarantine should be isolated until a veterinarian determines that they are no longer a contagion risk to fellow residents.
If the quarantined resident has a communicable disease, isolate the straw used in your quarantine area and do not spread it on other pastures; keep all materials the resident has contacted separated and disinfected until the resident is no longer contagious. If they have sores, discharge, skin conditions, or respiratory diseases, it’s critical that you use rubber gloves when handling anything the resident comes into contact with and get a skin scraping test or discharge cultures of any problematic areas if they haven’t been diagnosed yet. The resident should be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. During quarantine, ensure that you clean any tools thoroughly before using in areas around other animals. Certain disease confirmations may require an official report to your local government.
When A Resident Leaves Quarantine
Once your resident has left your quarantine area, you must clean the area as best as you can. For this reason, it’s good for a quarantine area to have walls and floors that are non-porous and as easy to sterilize as possible. Make sure that you replace bedding, water, and remove anything that came from or in contact with the resident that you can.
Keep A Quarantine Log
While your resident is in quarantine, we recommend that you keep a detailed quarantine log of the whole process, including dates of quarantine, individual checkup reports, photos of the resident if they’re in the healing process, and relevant veterinarian reports. By creating a secure record keeping process for quarantine, you can help ensure safety of both protocol and a paper trail in case you need to refer back to their quarantine time for a veterinarian or health official. Check out our guide to creating a free digital record keeping system here.
Your own residents may have special needs or requirements. All policies should be created based on your unique circumstances as a sanctuary, but establishing a quarantine policy should be considered a critical part of your sanctuary’s planning and protocol. Effective quarantine can save lives!