The Traffic Light System


In this blog entry we would like to cover the Traffic Light System that we use here at the Ark, to help us determine how the animals that come into our care are handled and by whom.

The Traffic Light System does exactly what it says on the tin! It is used to code our animals red, amber or green dependent on their initial behaviour when they arrive at the Ark.

We apply this grading system to all our dogs, cats, rabbits and small animals.

The traffic light system protects staff, volunteers and visitors.  It is also key for the welfare of the animals in our care. Within the first few days of intake the staff can process the information from previous owners, behavioural observations and a medical assessment. This information combined can allow experienced kennel staff and our onsite behaviour team to compose a behaviour and welfare plan tailored to the individual. This creates predictability and offers consistency thereby encouraging a feeling of safety for the animals at the start of their journey with us.

What do the colours mean?

Dependent on which type of animal it is, means there are different criteria for the below colours. However, a basis for each is:

Green: Nothing about the animal’s observed behaviour suggests that it poses a risk to those that handle or interact with him/her. They are usually happy and friendly.

Amber: Animals that are generally fearful/anxious but not to the level that it is deemed unmanageable. They may still be settling into centre life and need some extra time to settle in.

Red: Animals that are extremely nervous and scared, which can result in aggression, will be deemed as red. They need extra training and observation before they move down to amber.

Arriving at the Ark

On entry to the Ark, our animals are classed as red until their day 5 assessment has been carried out. They can then be marked down a colour to enjoy cuddles with all trained staff members!

For those a little more anxious but settling in well will go down to amber. And for those poor darlings who are very frightened and worried, they will stay at red.

Animals can move freely through the Traffic Light System, and all animals are matched to staff members and volunteers based on their level of training.  As you can see in the image Percy has been graded green.

How do we know what an animal is graded as?

We have very clear signage on the accommodation of each animal. There is a photo of a paw print with their designated colour attached. 

We also have regular staff and volunteer debriefings to let people know new gradings, assign animals to certain team members and to give an update on how the animals are doing.

Animals will be downgraded gradually following ongoing assessments and monitoring of current interactions with staff. The individuals friendship circle is grown gradually so not to overwhelm them by introducing too many unknown people at once. This system prioritises the individual’s welfare and moves at a rate they display they are comfortable with.

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