The Five Freedoms: Freedom to Express Normal Behavior

June 30, 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.

As promised, we will be visiting the Five Freedom’s over the next few weeks and will be turning this part of our update into a post of some sort…whatever Colleen dreams up! Below is a discussion about the fourth freedom, the Freedom to Express Norman Behavior.

As an industry, we need to be aware that warehousing animals can cause suffering; perhaps not the obvious things we think of like starvation, unsanitary conditions, disease, or injury, but other, just as disturbing, suffering.  Physical needs are what the casual observer notices.  We are all aware there is much more to be offered to shelter animals appropriately, which brings us to the 4th Freedom.

–  Donna Casamento, CEO of IndyHumane


Freedom to Express Normal Behavior
By providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind.

This Freedom is important enough to IndyHumane that we provide significant resources to ensure the animals in our care receive the enrichment they need. Previously we discussed our teams and their awareness of best practices regarding space needs.  We follow the guidelines provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association to make sure we know how many cats can go into an open housing room or corral or how much space is needed for a dog!

Providing proper facilities and space to decompress for highly stressed cats, to the creation of a kitten nursery to keep our babies and adults housed separately, to the offer of sharing office space with our animal friends is not by accident; it is the intentional decision to offer this Freedom to animals in our care.  We consider our actual capacity for care so that we can ensure this Freedom for animals coming to IndyHumane.

The ability for our cats to move comfortably around an entire room or corral, with other cat friends, was counter to our philosophy some years ago.  It seemed that we would house less (fact: we house 50% less now), but the vision to allow less cats to live more comfortably has improved their quality of life and allowed us to save thousands more lives than keeping them in 24” stainless steel cubes!  Allowing dogs to romp in a play group used to make shelter workers cringe:  diseases can be transmitted; they may hurt each other– it’s just not done.  Except that when it is done, these dogs are happy, not stressed, stay healthier, and get to be (and show us) who they really are! 20 minutes in playgroup is equal to a two-and-a-half-hour walk for a dog. While we are grateful and sincerely appreciate all the walks that our dogs get from our amazing volunteers, we know that they also need enrichment through playgroups when appropriate. Providing a balanced program including walks, in-kennel enrichment, and playgroups is the ticket to doing all we can to support animals in our care.

Any reduction in the number of pets housed or concerns about diseases that might be transmitted via contact are far outweighed by the benefit when you have a professional staff offering an animal the ability to be their natural self.  Letting dogs be dogs and play with others is critical to their stability and happiness whether it be in a shelter or home. None of these necessities happen by chance.  IndyHumane uses data like space requirements, research from other professionals, training for our teams, etc. to ensure we offer this critical Freedom to those we care for.  Our Enrichment department is growing, Cameron Shoppach will be joining us soon. His main responsibility will be to facilitate playgroups and help support volunteers as they provide enrichment to our dogs. We have incorporated our entire care staff into the enrichment department so that we can address Freedoms for our shelter animals.

We hope you are becoming more aware that the level of care we give to IndyHumane shelter pets is not by accident.  It is by being very intentional with our mission to offer the Five Freedoms to the animals we steward.  Our colleagues, patrons, and supporters expect this level of care and therefore, we must maintain it at the forefront of our everyday work, because at IndyHumane, it is all about the animals and the people who love them!




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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