Your animals and their wellbeing are your number one priority. Not only does a clean living space keep them safe and happy, but it creates a welcoming environment for potential adopters. After all, first impressions are everything.

To ensure your pets and facility are well cared for and ready to meet potential new families, you’ll need a robust list of kennel odor elimination and animal shelter cleaning protocols. Before we get to the list of what to clean and how, however, it’s important to understand a few key terms and the types of dirt and germs you may be working with so you can clean the space effectively.

Why You Need Kennel Odor Elimination and Animal Shelter Cleaning Protocols

Both humans and animals are constantly moving in, around, and out of your facility, tracking dirt and germs along with them. Effective cleaning procedures ensure your staff, animals and guests stay healthy.

While this creates a better experience for all involved, it’s also crucial from a logistical and financial standpoint. If a flu, bad cold, or other contagious human illness spreads through the shelter staff, it can leave you short-handed, reducing the employees or volunteers available to care for animals and work with potential adopters. 

Disease can also move rapidly among the animals in the shelter, as they are housed close together and may spread illnesses during periods of socialization. Kennel cough, for example, is a common respiratory infection in animal shelters due to the contagious nature of the bacteria or virus. Dogs infected may be unavailable to meet potential adopters while they recover, prolonging their time at the shelter and further limiting kennel capacity. Additional treatment (such as antibiotics or cough medicine) only adds to the already-tight budget for a typical shelter. 

Even aside from the spread of disease, it’s important to keep your animal shelter organized, clean, and odor-free. Clutter and malodors can turn away potential adopters or even volunteers and donors. 

With so many people and animals on the premise, it isn’t always easy to keep your facility clean, smelling fresh, and disease-free, but the right animal shelter cleaning protocols can help tremendously.

Types of Animal Shelter Cleaning Procedures

“Cleaning” can mean many things. When you wipe your containers with a soapy sponge to remove dust, food debris, etc., the surface may still contain some level of germs at the end, but much of the material causing it to appear dirty has been removed. 

Cleaning your bathroom, on the other hand, probably requires a lot more than placing your folded towel on the rack and wiping down the counter with a sponge. This room requires a regular scrub-down, using germ-destroying products to scour your toilet bowl or wipe down your countertops, sinks, and toilet seats.

Even more serious, facilities like hospitals and veterinary offices utilize strict “cleaning” procedures to stop the spread of disease. 

The difference is what each intends to accomplish. Before we get to the procedures themselves, you’ll need to know the following terms:

  1. Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt, debris and organic material from a surface, but doesn’t necessarily include killing those materials. It is often performed through rinsing, washing and scrubbing. Cleaning helps maintain facilities and create a pleasant environment for staff, adopters, and pets in the animal shelter. 
  2. Sanitizing kills most but not all germs on a surface, and usually requires the use of chemical products. It is important to note that sanitizing does not clean a surface. A surface must already be clean for sanitizing processes to effectively kill germs. 
  3. Disinfecting is the use of chemicals to kill 99.999% of germs on a hard, non-porous surface, according to the EPA. Disinfecting kills germs on contact, though is often most effective when applied for at least 10 minutes or sometimes longer. Disinfection works best when a surface has been recently contaminated, though like sanitization, a surface should be clean before it is disinfected.

Protocols for Cleaning & Disinfecting Animal Spaces

While we recommend developing your own procedures for cleaning your facility according to the unique needs of your space, animals, and staff, there are a few key rules of thumb to follow.

First, spaces that come in constant contact with animals should be cleaned regularly. For spaces used by animals that are young, sick, not yet vaccinated, or otherwise immunocompromised, disinfection between use is highly encouraged to avoid the spread of disease among the animal population at the shelter. This applies to spaces such as intake housing or medical areas, but also the clothing and gear of staff working in those areas, or toys or bedding shared among animals. 

Meet and greet areas or animal play spaces may be high contact, but if their use is limited to healthy adult animals, regular cleaning and disinfection work fine — disinfection between uses isn’t necessary. The same applies to office spaces or common areas such as lobbies where animals may be walking around along with shelter staff and visitors.

Cat housing or dog kennels will get dirty quickly – such is the nature of having one or more animals living in a small space. Keep in mind, however, that while the inclination may be to clean, sanitize, and disinfect as often as possible, thorough cleanings can be disruptive and stressful to animals. As such, it is recommended to spot clean cat cages and dog kennels whenever possible (though the presence of urine and feces will require a full kennel cleaning and disinfection).

Kennels should also be fully cleaned and disinfected when one animal is adopted and another takes their place. Learn more about spot cleaning dog kennels and cat cages.

Protocols for Staff Areas & Items

Staff offices, storage areas, etc. are generally lower traffic provided that animals are not permitted in the spaces. As a result, these areas (furniture, computers, etc.) will not require as frequent cleaning and disinfecting as high traffic or high risk areas, though should still be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of both human and animal disease. A good rule of thumb: the less a space is used, the less frequently it will need to be cleaned, such as storage spaces containing non-animal materials.

Staff clothing, tools, etc. are another story. Anything employees or volunteers wear or carry around the shelter with them is a potential risk for disease transmission, from shoes to a pen and clipboard. Follow similar guidelines as those listed above depending on the spaces in which these items are worn or carrier. For example, shoes worn in a medical or intake space should be disinfected before the staff member wearing them walks into a shared dog run.

Laundry can be sanitized by washing with bleach at warm to hot temperatures. Take care not to overload the machines, as doing so may reduce the effectiveness of the sanitization process, and be sure to shake out any items of clothing before throwing them in the wash. Finally, opt for machine drying whenever possible — hang drying may result in clothing items picking up additional germs and bacteria from the surrounding air.

Animal Shelter Cleaning Checklist

  • Animal housing / kennels
  • Animal common areas (e.g. indoor dog run, play rooms)
  • Intake areas & vehicles
  • Front lobby & hallways
  • Office areas & furniture (animals allowed)
  • Office areas & furniture (animals not allowed)
  • Medical or surgical areas (if applicable)
  • Staff clothing
  • Animal bedding
  • Animal toys & dishes
  • Storage spaces

Eliminating & Preventing Odors in Dog Kennels and Cat Cages

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting shared and individual animal spaces is key to preventing the spread of pathogens. However, the above mentioned protocols and checklist may not take care of your animal shelter odor elimination needs as regularly as needed. Cat cages, dog kennels, and meet and greet areas, in particular, can quickly begin to smell musty between cleanings. However, typical perfume-based air fresheners should be avoided, since they may contain chemicals dangerous to animals and even staff. 

Instead, opt for a natural, plant-based solution to keep spaces smelling fresh between cleaning and disinfection procedures or simply help control odors 24/7. Fresh Wave IAQ wall mounts contain gel beads that absorb and destroy odor molecules continuously, compared to typical air freshening wall mounts that spray chemicals into the air, and may be a perfect solution for high traffic areas. For immediate odor relief, try Fresh Wave IAQ Air & Surface sprays, which have earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice recognition and are safe for use around pets.

Keeping Spaces Clean & Further Preventing the Spread of Disease

When we think about animal shelter cleaning protocols, we tend to think of the above: What surfaces in the space do I need to scrub down? What tools need to be disinfected? However, keeping spaces clean and healthy for staff, animals, and visitors requires two more crucial considerations: hands and feet. 

We touched on this before with shoes, but it’s worth repeating. Footwear is a major risk for disease transmission if spaces are not properly disinfected or the shoes are not switched out. To minimize risk, ask staff to change footwear after cleaning or walking in high-risk spaces such as medical or intake areas.

Finally, remind staff to wash and sanitize their hands regularly, or wear gloves when possible, particularly in high risk areas. Gloves are the most fool-proof method for keeping the animal shelter clean and all its residents healthy as long as they are changed between use, but for staff and volunteers primarily working with healthy adult animals, hand sanitation works just fine.

Creating Your Own Animal Shelter Cleaning Procedures

Keep in mind these animal shelter cleaning protocols may vary based on your facility. We encourage you to adapt these checklists and procedures to your unique space, animal needs, and the size and structure of your staff. When putting together your model, consider the following questions:Where will you be cleaning: kennels, outdoor seating area, floors?

  • Who will be using the space: animals, humans?
  • What material are you working with: steel, wood, etc.? Are these porous or non-porous?
  • Are there areas that need a little more love than others and require heavy duty?
  • Which products will be used? Do they contain harsh chemicals or perfumes?

 After the products are selected, always have a good supply on hand of everything you need. From odor eliminators to paper towels, never let the essentials get low. Once an inventory chart is created, everything is taken care of. Products are stocked at all times and the establishment is clean, leaving you to focus on what’s most important: your staff and animals.