The Five Freedoms: Freedom from Fear and Distress

June 12, 2023 | Blog

Recently, I came across several previous posts that were shared with our team quite some time ago. I was impressed by the way in which this important message was shared. I changed a few things but am completely stealing it to share with all of you now. Over the next weeks I will share the remaining Freedom’s with you and hope you will enjoy reading them and realize that we are putting these into practice here at IndyHumane every day.

You may have heard professionals in our field talk about “The Five Freedoms”.  These are five principles that the animal welfare community has adopted to ensure animals needing shelter receive appropriate, basic care.  In recent conferences, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement has encouraged animal shelter leaders to continue to work toward all adoptable animals being placed in homes, but also not to forget that these Beings are entitled to receive 5 very basic Freedoms.

These Freedoms embody what IndyHumane strives to provide and though it is heartbreaking sometimes that means that we cannot help as many as need us. As a limited admission shelter with limited resources IndyHumane is not able to care for more than we have the capacity to care for properly; these Freedoms need to be at the core of everything that we do as paid and volunteer staff, and as an organization.  In order to validate the work you do and encourage us not to forget why we do it, we want to share one of the Freedom’s with you this week.  If you aren’t familiar with them, you can find more on the ASPCA website as well as many other sites for our field.

The last of the Five Freedoms that IndyHumane strives to offer animals in our care is, perhaps, the one that wakes us up at night and yet keeps us returning to this work.

–  Donna Casamento, CEO of IndyHumane


Freedom from Fear and Distress
By ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

We cannot know the level of fear or distress that our shelter animals have experienced before they arrive at IndyHumane.  We cannot know how scary this environment is to any of them while they are staying here and nor can we predict how their lives will unfold once they leave our care.  Because we’ve chosen to work with animals who cannot relate their feelings to us using words, we rely on reading physical and behavioral cues to help us decide if they are experiencing fear, stress, or anxiety.  Our teams are really good at this, but it doesn’t stop any of us from “imagining” how scary their past has been or how hard it is for them to live here.  I think many of us wake up worried about how scary a concrete kennel must feel to a tiny, orphaned pup or how confused and frightened an old cat must feel sleeping in a cage instead of its comfy couch.  This is the part of this work that sometimes haunts us.

We offer physical comforts, kind handling and even medication when indicated to reduce stress and anxiety.  IndyHumane is growing an amazing foster care program, which offers respite for those pets that can’t adjust comfortably to shelter life while we find their forever homes.  This program can put pets into a home again, even temporarily, to reduce their level of distress.  We’re grateful for the foster families who offer this level of care to IndyHumane shelter animals!

This Freedom is further addressed by the army of volunteer staff who spend the quality time our shelter animals need to thrive until a new home is found.  Without the hours of walking, petting, snuggling, holding, grooming, laughing, and kind words lavished on our shelter animals, we would surely struggle to ensure Freedom from Fear and Distress.  We have a department of more than 400 who work constantly to ensure this Freedom!  Their effort is the primary reason we can shelter pets without an expiration date!

I hope that by learning more about the Five Freedoms that IndyHumane, along with other industry professionals, strive to offer the animals in our care, you can see clearly how every department and every person has a critical part to play.  Every one of us must remain committed to providing the best possible care, encouraging our coworkers, and collaborating with the other departments to ensure that IndyHumane is providing the Five Freedoms to all the pets we shelter.  No single department can accomplish these on its own; holistic care is what sets the high standards at IndyHumane.

Kudos for all you do–every member of our paid and volunteer staff!  Whether you were aware or not, you are all helping IndyHumane provide these Five Freedoms and helping to ensure the highest possible care for our shelter animals.  I couldn’t be prouder of the manner in which we treat the animals here or of the teams who make this care a reality every day.



IndyHumane’s mission is to improve animal welfare in central Indiana. We are committed to ending the cycle of pet overpopulation, providing affordable pet ownership, and ensuring the well-being, health and safety of all animals in our care. We strive to promote the human animal bond and the powerful impact this mutually beneficial relationship has on individuals, families, and the Indianapolis community.  


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