Our History

Mr. Joel Shepherd ll 

June 19, 1938- July 28, 2021

In Memory Of Joel Shepherd

Joel began his long and successful career as a business entrepreneur when he founded Shepherd Products Company in 1965. After a casual conversation with a close friend, this led to him acquiring a small business from the Upjohn Company. Upon this acquisition, the small business became Shepherd Specialty Papers founded by Joel Shepherd II, the father of our current owner Joel Shepherd III.

Joel’s vast knowledge of base materials and paper filled significant needs within the animal research community. He developed numerous products that served a variety of industry applications, culminating in the invention of the transformational bedding material ALPHA-dri®. To this day, these inventions enhance animal care and improve biomedical research integrity. He has made his mark on the industry which will continue for years to come.


A Look Back

Mr. Shepherd purchased what is now known as Shepherd Specialty Papers from The Upjohn Company, which invented the antibiotic Neomycin.  Upjohn was attempting to find various markets for their new and proprietary product. One option for the product was to mix the antibiotic within the paper used for animal cage liners.  The goal was to reduce odors through antimicrobial means. The product, DACB or Deotized Animal Cage Board, was successful and performed as designed. However, management at Upjohn soon realized that this product line was outside their primary focus. Upjohn’s goal was to sell pharmaceuticals and not laboratory animal husbandry products, so Upjohn decided to sell this small business unit. A good friend of Joel II’s knew that Joel had a strong background in paper manufacturing and inquired if he would be interested in buying the company. Joel II purchased the company and renamed it Shepherd Specialty Papers. 

The first shift Shepherd Specialty Papers (SSP) made was to offer untreated or Neomycin-free cage liners due to numerous customer requirements.  This decision was our initial shift to focus on the needs of the laboratory animal research industry instead of pharmaceuticals. Joel II had quickly learned that many laboratories required cage liners free from additives or potential contaminants for their research. This step marked the beginning of our focus on providing a product that supports and promotes research integrity.  

SSP started strictly as a cage liner manufacturer and marketer. A few customers soon asked SSP to provide a cleaner, more consistent bedding product than the typically harvested products. Their research required a higher quality product with reduced confounding variables commonly found in bedding products used in those days. Mr. Shepherd’s paper and pulp manufacturing knowledge led us to consider wood or paper pulp as bedding material. Virgin pulp is essentially wood minus the lignin, chemicals, and contaminants.  After designing a sophisticated dicing machine in 1983, ALPHA-dri® was born. Almost 40 years later, ALPHA-dri is currently one of the most widely used laboratory animal bedding products across the globe. 

Animal Welfare considerations across the laboratory animal research industry have increased since the founding of Shepherd Specialty Papers. We have added enrichment items to our product line, including Shepherd Shacks® and ALPHA-twist®, all with the significant goal and focus on promoting animal welfare. Not only do our products promote Research Integrity and enhance Animal Welfare, but they also are designed to assist our customers research programs in an Operationally Efficient and cost-effective manner. 

Our primary focus is excellence in these three areas that can be observed and realized at the cage level. Excellence in the Cage Starts Here®


Our Products

Not only do our products promote research integrity and enhance animal welfare, but they also are designed to assist our customers in operating an efficient and cost-effective research program. With a variety of options for bedding and enrichment, SSP offers everything you need for Excellence in the Cage.

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Why SSP?

Shepherd Specialty Papers has been family owned and operated for over 30 years, and we take pride in the unparalleled quality of our products, and our people. When you choose SSP, you are choosing award-winning products that are used in cutting edge studies by the largest research companies around the world.

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When you use bedding or enrichment products from SSP, you can be sure they’ve been subject to stringent standards through our Continuous Monitoring program. Let us show you what consistent, quality products look like for you and your animals. In-depth analysis reports for each of our products are available to all of our customers.

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