Dakin asilomar standards
what are "asilomar Standards?"
Asilomar Standards are categories that help us define the physical and behavioral condition of each animal in our adoption centers, categorizing them as either:
- treatable/manageable, or
Learn more about the history and development of Asilomar record-keeping for animal welfare agencies.
important information about asilomar standards
It is important to remember that an animal may show different behavior at the adoption center than at home. For example, a cat who is a "scaredy cat" at home may show the same behavior- but to a much greater extent- when removed from her familiar environment and faced with odd smells, loud noises, other animals, and lots of strangers.
An animal's Asilomar status may also change during his stay at the adoption center as new information becomes available about him or his physical or mental condition changes.
Asilomar Standards are based on the standards of our communities (Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties) and not on what Dakin believes about- or can provide- an animal. If the community standard is such that an animal with a certain condition would be provided care, then Dakin would classify that animal as "rehabilitatable" or "manageable" even if we do not have the resources to provide care at the time.
Asilomar Standards are a tool to help Dakin identify which animals we are successfully saving, which animals we need to work harder to save, and which animals’ conditions may place them beyond saving.
asilomar standards and the three-year plan
Learn more about how Dakin is using Asilomar Standards to reach an end to the euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals by 2012.
The term “healthy” means and includes all dogs and cats eight weeks of age or older that, at or subsequent to the time the animal is taken into custody, have manifested no sign of a behavioral or temperamental characteristic that could pose a health or safety risk or otherwise make the animal unsuitable for placement as a pet, and have manifested no sign of disease, injury, or congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the health of the animal or that is likely to adversely affect the animal’s health in the future.
Cats and dogs who meet the definition of “healthy” are reasonably healthy, well-adjusted pets over the age of eight weeks. These animals do not need medical, behavioral or foster care and are ready to be made available for adoption.
Healthy animals may be old, scarred, or disabled, but are not in any pain, do not require medical treatment, and are social, healthy, friendly pets. Age, breed and time at the adoption center do not affect the categorization as "healthy."
Note that the definition of “healthy” says the animal must not show any sign of disease, injury, etc. either “at or subsequent to the time the animal is taken into custody.” Consequently, if at any time during an animal’s stay in the adoption center he or she becomes ill or injured or develops a behavior problem or other specified condition, that animal no longer meets the definition of “healthy.” For example, a friendly dog who appears healthy and well adjusted when she arrives at the adoption center, but later develops a serious case of kennel cough, does not meet the “healthy” definition. By the same token, an animal who arrives at the adoption center with a serious case of kennel cough will not meet the definition, even if he is completely cured while under the adoption center's care.
Healthy categorization includes animals that have no identified behavioral problems. Healthy categorization includes animals that exhibit normal levels of species-typical behaviors. These include but are not limited to:
- Scratching inanimate objects (cats)
- Jumping on elevated perches (cats)
- Vocalization- barking/meowing
- Initial shyness/submissive behaviors when exposed to novelty (new people, objects, situations)
Healthy categorization includes animals who are reproductively intact, for whom spay/neuter prepares for immediate adoption. This includes animals who are in heat or pregnant. Lactating animals are healthy if spay prepares them for immediate adoption. If mother’s time and presence are required to save the litter, mom’s status moves to “Treatable/rehabilitatable” albeit for the infants’ sake, not her own.
The term “treatable” means and includes all dogs and cats who are “rehabilitatable” and all dogs and cats who are “manageable.”
The term “rehabilitatable” means and includes all dogs and cats who are not “healthy,” but who are likely to become “healthy,” if given medical, foster, behavioral, or other care equivalent to the care typically provided to pets by reasonable and caring pet owners/guardians in the community.
Note that there is nothing in the definition of “treatable” that says an adoption center has to be able to provide treatment in order for an animal to be categorized as “treatable.” In other words, whether an animal meets the “treatable” definition does not depend on whether Dakin actually has the resources to treat the animal. A cat with upper respiratory infection meets the definition as long as reasonable and caring pet guardians in the community would typically treat their own cats for the disease. The fact that an adoption center is overcrowded or cannot afford to provide treatment is not a factor in determining whether the animal meets the definition.
The definitions of both “treatable/rehabilitatable” and “treatable/manageable” refer to the standard of care “typically provided by reasonable and caring pet owners/guardians in the community.” This standard of care is not the same as the most advanced care that might be provided by veterinary or behavior science. No doubt there are animals who could be saved by the latest advances in these sciences, but if such care is not “typically provided” by pet guardians in the community, these animals do not fall within the “treatable” definition.
The prognosis must be fair to good to meet this definition. The following are only examples and are not inclusive:
Treatable/Rehabilitatable Medical Conditions:
- Dermatitis, mild, non-allergic
- Other health conditions with a reasonable prognosis to return to a healthy state costing less than $750 to treat
- URI/kennel cough
- Diarrhea due to parasitic infestation
- Fracture or orthopedic condition costing less than $750 to treat
- Acute dental issues
- UTI, acute
- Wounds of unknown origin
- Mange, sarcoptic
- Mange, localized demodectic
- Anorexia for 2 days or longer due to behavioral or otherwise treatable medical conditions
- Cancer with a good prognosis
- Neonatal kittens and puppies over the age of 4 weeks w/o mom
- Neonatal kittens and puppies 0-4 week of age, w/o mom
- Unweaned kittens and puppies w/ mom
- Weaned kittens and puppies less than 8 weeks of age
- Nursing, only if mom is needed to remain with litter in order to save the litter
Treatable/Rehabilitatable Behavioral Conditions:
- Excessive barking
- Exuberant or mouthy play
- Excitement urination
- Submissive urination
- Lack of housetraining in dogs
- Urine marking (including intact cats)
- Destructive scratching
- Feral kittens 4-8 weeks old
- Kennel stress
- Mildly shy dogs/cats (i.e., initially makes conscious calm attempts to avoid people instead of approaching them, then makes attempts to visit. No hiding or aggressive behavior.)
- Dogs/cats with minor handling issues (i.e., during any of the handling tests-ears, tail, paws, teeth, stroke, or restraint- dog retracts or avoids handling.)
Aggressive or Anxious Behavioral conditions where the Trigger Levels are 1 or 2 and the Intensity Levels are 1 or 2.
The term “manageable” means and includes all dogs and cats who are not “healthy” and who are not likely to become “healthy,” regardless of the care provided; but who would likely maintain a satisfactory quality of life, if given medical, foster, behavioral, or other care, including long-term care, equivalent to the care typically provided to pets by reasonable and caring pet owners/guardians in the community; provided, however, that the term “manageable” does not include any dog or cat who is determined to pose a significant risk to human health or safety or to the health or safety of other animals.
“Treatable/Manageable” differs from “treatable/rehabilitatable” in that “manageable” animals are not expected to become reasonably healthy, well-adjusted pets, even if they are given care that meets the standard in their community. These animals are, however, expected to have a satisfactory quality of life if given such care. For instance, a diabetic dog may never be cured, but she is likely to have a satisfactory quality of life if given insulin shots. She cannot be categorized as “treatable/rehabilitatable,” because she will always be diabetic. However, assuming insulin shots are typically provided to diabetic dogs by caring pet guardians in her community, the dog would be classified as “treatable/manageable.”
The prognosis must be fair to good to meet this definition. The following are only examples and are not inclusive.
Treatable/Manageable Medical Conditions:
- Irritable bowel disease
- Controlled diabetes
- Feline chronic renal disease
- Thyroid disease
- Demodex- localized or generalized over 6 months of age; generalized under 6 months of age
- Skin allergies
- Urinary stones
- Chronic feline urinary syndrome
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Stomatitis (chronic)
- Controlled seizures
- Cardiac murmur grade 2-4/6
- Feline herpes
Treatable/Manageable Behavioral Conditions:
- Aggression or predatory behavior in which the motivating circumstances (triggers) can be reasonably avoided by a reasonable and caring pet owner/guardian
- Roaming (if neutering does not alleviate)
- Resource guarding Level 4, 5, 6 with high sociability
- Dog-dog possession or food guarding
- Aggressive or anxious behavioral conditions where the Trigger Levels are 1 or 2 and the Intensity Levels are 1 or 2
- Aggressive or anxious behavior where the Intensity Level is 1 and the Trigger Level is 3
- Feral, with caregiver
- House soiling cat, with caregiver
- House soiling cat, when the house soiling is due to a resolvable management problem
- Moderately shy dogs/cats (i.e., initially make conscious attempts to avoid people instead of approaching them, does not visit unless encouraged to do so. Some hiding. No aggressive behavior.)
The term “Unhealthy & Untreatable” means and includes dogs and cats who, at or subsequent to the time they are taken into custody:
1. have a behavioral or temperamental characteristic that poses a health or safety risk or otherwise makes the animal unsuitable for placement as a pet, and are not likely to become “healthy” or “treatable” even if provided the care typically provided to pets by reasonable and caring pet owners/guardians in the community; or
2. are suffering from a disease, injury, or congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the animal’s health or is likely to adversely affect the animal’s health in the future, and are not likely to become “healthy” or “treatable” even if provided the care typically provided to pets by reasonable and caring pet owners/guardians in the community; or
3. are under the age of eight weeks and are not likely to become “healthy” or “treatable,” even if provided the care typically provided to pets by reasonable and caring pet owners/guardians in the community; and
4. whose medical or behavioral prognosis would be poor, guarded or grave.
The definition of “unhealthy & untreatable” covers dogs and cats who do not fall into either of the categories “healthy” or “treatable.” “Unhealthy & untreatable” includes animals who are not likely to become healthy, well-adjusted companion animals, or animals who are not likely to have a satisfactory quality of life, even if they are given care typical of that provided by reasonable and caring pet guardians in the community.
Note that just because an animal is categorized as “unhealthy & untreatable” does not mean the animal can’t be saved. Nothing in the Asilomar Standards definitions prevents an adoption center from providing care beyond that typically provided by pet guardians in their communities. Animals categorized as “unhealthy & untreatable” due to serious behavior issues like dog-to-human aggression, for instance, may be placed in sanctuaries or other appropriate long-term care facilities, if available. Similarly, extensive medical intervention, foster care, and other treatment may be provided to rehabilitate seriously sick and injured animals so they, too, can be placed in loving homes. Many adoption centers can and do provide care that exceeds community standards and are thus at the forefront of humane change in their communities.
The following are only examples and are not inclusive.
Unhealthy/Untreatable Medical Conditions:
- Canine distemper
- Medical conditions requiring treatment in excess of $750
- Manx Syndrome
- Neoplasia with poor prognosis
- Severe kidney disease
- Feline Leukemia Virus
- Autoimmune disease
- Chronic obstipation in cats
- Uncontrolled seizures
- Chronic FLUTD causing house soiling or urinary blockages
- Cardiac murmur grade 5/6
- Congestive heart failure, end stage
- Chronic dehydration
- Infant failure to thrive
- Uncontrolled diabetes
Unhealthy/Untreatable Behavioral Conditions:
- Aggression or anxiety conditions that have Intensity Level 2 and Trigger Level 3
- Resource Guarding Level 7, 8
- Feral, no caregiver, over 8 weeks of age
- Dogs determined to be dangerous in accordance with state or local law
- Animals that are used for illegal purposes (such as fighting)
- Serious dog or cat aggression (i.e., lunges, snaps, snarls, or is otherwise difficult to control around a cat or dog)
- Seriously shy or feral dogs/cats (i.e., makes conscious attempts to avoid people instead of approaching them. Frequent or constant hiding, freezing or shaking involved. May employ growling, snapping or snarling to maintain distance from people.)
- Aggressive behavior towards children
- History of repeated injury to other animals
- Dogs/cats with a bite history toward people
- Serious stranger/barrier issues (i.e., growls at, lunges, snaps, snarls or bites at people when behind fence, kennel door, crate door, or other door)
- Multiple (more than 2) and overwhelming TR or TM behavioral conditions
- Aggression or anxiety conditions that have Intensity Level 3
- Destructive separation anxiety
- Dogs with high arousal
- Fear aggression
- House soiling cat, without caregiver, when the house soiling is not due to cat being intact or to a resolvable medical or management problem.
More Helpful Definitions:
Prediction of the probable course of a disease or condition in an individual and the chances of recovery:
Good – Favorable outcome is expected
and/or maybe easily managed
2. Fair – Favorable outcome possible and/or manageable
3. Guarded – Possible outcome is unknown
4. Poor – Non-favorable outcome is expected
5. Grave – Death is imminent
Thank you to the Oregon Humane Society for sharing their Asilomar Accords and allowing us to use parts of their wording.
Behavior – Aggression Levels/Resource Guarding
All dogs will be evaluated both with food in a bowl and with higher value resources such as rawhides and pig ears (whatever resource the dog chooses). We believe that while living in the community, all dogs will come across high value objects (whether they be treats given by the dog’s guardian, a dead chipmunk found on a walk, or a hot dog wrapper stolen from the trash).
Resource Guarding Level 1
The ideal and safest response when you approach the dog at his food bowl is that he stops eating, wags his tail, and comes over to greet you. The dog’s body is loose and relaxed. Or the dog continues eating, but is still relaxed about your presence in the food zone.
Resource Guarding Level 2
Dog’s body may tense as you approach, and he may also wag his tail, however the speed of the wag will increase as you get closer to him. Or the dog may eat faster when you approach or touch his food, but with a loose body.
Resource Guarding Level 3
The dog is very uncomfortable with a person near his resources. The dog may eat markedly faster, even frantically, when you approach or when you touch him when eating, or when you touch his food. The dog may body block you, or eat from the same part of the bowl where you are touching. If food or item is portable the dog may carry the item under a chair, bed or into his crate.
Resource Guarding Level 4
The dog is warning you to back away and telling you he may take further steps if you don’t. You may see a whale eye (glare), a snarl, growl, or other vocalization. The dog’s body is likely to be very stiff as he exhibits a freeze warning, which may last one second or many.
Resource Guarding Level 5
A serious food guarder is more than willing to put some teeth into his warnings. A snap is the next step on the continuum – no contact with your flesh, but a no uncertain terms statement that the dog is not prepared to share his food with you.
Resource Guarding Level 6
As the dog’s protectiveness increases, so does the threat to your safety (or the safety of a child passing by). More serious than a snap is the actual bite. Rarely does a food guarding bite not break skin – the contact is usually very quick and hard, and may consist of several puncturing bites that move up the transgressor’s arms or face.
Resource Guarding Level 7
Severe food guarding can be triggered even at a distance. At the strongest level, even a person on the far side of the room can be perceived as a threat to the highly valued food or item and the dog’s behavior can escalate very quickly and alarmingly with a seemingly innocuous movement, even from far away.
In addition to the above, things that will impact on our decisions about a dog showing resource guarding issues include:
- any history available about the dog’s behavior outside of the adoption center;
- the dog’s size (and therefore ability to seriously injure a person);
- how social the dog is with people;
- how much warning a dog gives before he moves to the next level of guarding;
- how long it takes him to show guarding behavior (does he show the behavior instantly, or does he take so long to show it that most pet guardians in the community would have already removed the object from the dog); and
- the number of other behavioral issues the dog exhibits, if any.
Aggression and Anxiety-Related Behavioral Conditions: Assessment and Categorization
To fulfill the Asilomar Standards we have been asked to categorize behavioral problems in pets into four different categories: Healthy (no behavior problems; Treatable/Rehabilitatable; Treatable/Manageable; Unhealthy/Untreatable). This is a difficult task since behavioral problems are often complex conditions whose ultimate outcome is variable and dependent on many factors. However, in an attempt to fulfill the mandate of the Asilomar Accords, a proposal for categorizing aggressive (with the exception of possessive aggression which is categorized in a separate document) and anxiety-related conditions in dogs and cats is outlined below.
Please also keep in mind that the classification does not imply case outcome. For example, a dog whose behavioral problem falls into the “unhealthy/untreatable” category does not dictate that the condition cannot be resolved. It just means that a reasonable and caring pet owner/guardian in our community would be unlikely to pursue treatment for that condition. An example may be a severe case of separation anxiety where the 60 lb. dog was chewing through doors, barking and house-soiling every time he was left home alone. While the dog’s behavior may fall into the “unhealthy/untreatable” category, interventions such as behavioral modification, drug therapy and pheromone therapy may improve the dog’s welfare and reduce destruction, creating a successful outcome. These definitions are only for the purpose of coming up with a common language for use between animal care agencies in our community.
For an animal with an anxiety or
aggression behavioral concern, two things should be identified:
1. What starts (triggers/initiates/prompts) the aggressive or behavior. Examples include:
- A child nearby
- A squirrel
- A loud noise
- Being left alone
- Unfamiliar person walking onto dog's territory
2. A description of what the animal does when aggressive/anxious
- This may include a description of past injuries that the dog has inflicted, past damage on inanimate objects that the dog or cat has caused, behavior that has been witnessed by the staff (i.e., when you walked in the room the dog growled)
- The description of the behavior will be classified into mild, moderate and severe levels of aggressive or anxious behavior
Aggressive BehaviorAggression Triggers:
sets off) the Aggressive Behavior:
If we can clearly identify what sets off the aggressive behavior and how easily it is avoided, this influences how the behavior is classified with well defined and avoidable triggers receiving a lower ranking than poorly defined and/or unavoidable triggers receiving a higher ranking.
Aggression, Level 1: well defined (discrete) triggers and avoidable triggers – examples: dog is only aggressive when you trim his nails – it is a clear trigger and it can be avoided (take dog to groomer/veterinarian for nail trim).
Aggression, Level 2: well defined (discrete) triggers but unavoidable in some households.
Aggression, Level 3: poorly defined/unidentifiable triggers and/or unavoidable triggers; dog is aggressive to all men (impossible to avoid all men); dog will growl when you walk by him.
Intensity of Aggression (Historical or Witnessed):
Intensity, Level 1: Warnings such as stare/tension/growl/snarl/head threat (turning head quickly around in direction of intended target)/snap at air, but you suspect or have knowledge that the dog is unlikely to actually bite.
Intensity, Level 2: Bite with contact that does not cause a skin abrasion or any blood or it causes just a superficial skin abrasion (scratch) with minimal bleeding; also includes animals with barriers in place to prevent contact (behind fencing/wearing a muzzle) that exhibit Level 1 warnings with such intensity that you anticipate that a if a barrier was not present, the animal would be likely to inflict injury.
Intensity, Level 3: Bite with significant wound/blood drawn; single or multiple bites; also includes animals with barriers in place to prevent contact (behind fencing/wearing a muzzle) that exhibit Level 1 warnings and then actively attack (bite/swat) the barrier.
Anxiety Related Conditions:
Level 1: well defined (discrete) triggers and avoidable triggers (i.e., dog is scared of flags waving in the wind).
Level 2: well defined (discrete) triggers but unavoidable in some households (i.e., dog is scared of loud noises).
Level 3: poorly defined/unidentifiable triggers and/or unavoidable triggers (i.e., dog is nervous all the time; cat hides all the time under the bed; dog always upset when left alone and has to be left alone).
Intensity of Anxiety:
Level 1: mild anxiety with mild destruction/mild vocalization.
Level 2: moderate anxiety with moderate destruction/moderate vocalization.
Level 3: animal is sustaining self-injury, his welfare is compromised or he is inflicting serious damage/putting others at risk.
*The behavioral portions of this document were modified from a document provided by Oregon Humane Society. Thank you, Oregon Humane!