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Scaling the Impact of the People at the Heart of the Loose Dog Problem

Human-Centered Design Studio Spring, 2018

AUTHORS Caleb Kyle Ariel Martin Rae’Van Parson Laura Reed Michaela Rollins

THROW THEM A BONE Scaling the Impact of the People at the Heart of the Loose Dog Problem

Table of Contents

Introduction Human-Centered Design ..........................................................................................6 The Problem ..............................................................................................................10 Unconfined Dog Categories ...................................................................................12 Partners ......................................................................................................................14 Project Timeline .......................................................................................................15 Research Challenge .................................................................................................16 Current Outreach Efforts .......................................................................................18 Research Secondary Research .............................................................................................. 22 Research Methods ................................................................................................... 24 What We Found ........................................................................................................27 Community Reactivist ............................................................................................ 28 Community Proactivist .......................................................................................... 34 Prototyping Prototyping Concepts ............................................................................................ 44 Prototype 1: Stronger Together Coalition ......................................................... 46 Refocus: Justina ........................................................................................................ 51 Justina’s Story ...........................................................................................................52 (Micro) Prototype 2: The Missy Trap ................................................................. 54 Iteration ..................................................................................................................... 56 What’s Next? Paths to Improvement ............................................................................................ 64 Design Principles .................................................................................................... 66 Final Thoughts ......................................................................................................... 68 Team ........................................................................................................................... 70


A Creative Approach to Problem Solving

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Human-Centered Design is a proven methodology used to solve problems that resist solutions. The process starts with design research, which is about cultivating empathy with the audience that is being designed for through a series of research methods. Design research ends with making and testing a series of prototype ideas and eventually launching innovative prototypes and possible solutions out into the world. Designers start this process with no preconceived notion of a final product, but instead open themselves to wherever their research takes them. This means that the final solution could be a building, public policy, software, or take on any number of other forms. It is in this way that those who practice Human-Centered Design are able to bring truly innovative ideas into the world.

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Dealing with dogs roaming the streets has become a part of life for those who live in southern Dallas.

Dogs roaming the streets are a part of life for those

On April 16, 2018, almost two years after the death

who live in southern Dallas. The issue of loose dogs

of Antoinette Brown, another woman was violently

has existed for years, and until recently, few efforts

attacked by another pack of loose dogs two miles

were being carried out to counter the growing,

from the first attack. This woman was nearly killed,

long standing problem. On May 2, 2016, everything

and the pitbulls that attacked her belonged to the

changed. A woman named Antoinette Brown was

house across the street. The dogs had “been an

attacked and killed by a pack of loose dogs roaming

issue before,” according to neighbors.

the streets at night. Brown’s death brought attention to the issue, and illuminated the need for the City

Why, years later, does this continue to happen?

of Dallas to intervene. Two months after Brown’s

Loose dogs in southern Dallas are still very much

death, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was

a problem, and many residents fear for their safety

engaged on behalf of the city of Dallas to evaluate

every day. Over several months of qualitative,

and provide recommendations regarding the loose

immersive research, we saw that the current efforts

dogs in Dallas. Their findings ultimately focused

being carried out since the first attack were not

on selecting the high impact areas that should be

targeting the root of the problem, but merely the

targeted for future efforts, and that more spay and

effects. Dallas officials and organizations tackling

neutering efforts were needed to slow the growing

the problem can learn a lot from the residents of

dog population. BCG found: There were almost

southern Dallas: the humans at the center of this

9,000 loose dogs in southern Dallas; Reported

problem, who are forced to live with it every day.

dog bites in Dallas were rising 15% annually from 2013–15; Bites from loose-owned dogs were

When it comes to defining the dogs that are

growing at 23%.”

continuously roaming southern Dallas, the words “loose,” stray,” and “feral” are often used. One may

BCG stated that the majority of Dallas Animal

think that loose, stray, and feral dogs are one in the

Services work (311 responses, field collection, and

same, but this is not the case. It is important to know

euthanasia) was reactive. They were responding to

the distinctions that exist between these types of

the symptoms of this complex issue. This woman’s

dogs when dealing with them.

untimely and widely publicized death put more pressure than ever on the city of Dallas to take more action.

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MAY 2, 2016



APRIL 15, 2018


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Unconfined Dog Categories When defining the dogs that roam southern Dallas, the words “loose,” stray,” and “feral” are often used. Many think these dogs are one in the same­— we discovered that this is not the case. It is important to know the distinctions that exist between these types of dogs when dealing with them.

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DOMESTICATED For the most part, a loose dog is an owned dog that is out roaming and has free-range; it can potentially be a runaway. Another term that is often used by law enforcement is “loose-owned.”

DOMESTICATED Stray dogs, potentially once lost or escaped, can be better defined as “habitually stray.”

FERAL This category of dogs have been born and raised in the wild. After generations without human interaction and companionship, the effects of domestication are lost.


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This semester, we partnered with the SPCA of Texas and the Communities Foundation of Texas.


Communities Foundation of Texas

The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty

The Communities Foundation of Texas exists to

to Animals) is one of the leading animal welfare

connect compassionate philanthropists with worthy

agencies in the North Texas region, offering an array

causes. It does this by vetting a bevy of nonprofits,

of animal services and educational programs to the

educational institutions, and other organizations to

community that they serve. They provide animal

present to donors as causes worthy of their support.

adoption, rehabilitation, spaying and neutering

In doing so, they enhance the impact of both

surgeries, low cost vet care, and perform animal

philanthropists and non-profits in the Dallas area.

cruelty investigations. It is their mission to “provide every animal exceptional care and a loving home.�

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PROJECT TIMELINE those ideas out into the field to test and refine.

of 12 weeks. We started with a short phase of

Throughout this whole process we maintained an

secondary research, spent weeks performing in-

empathetic focus, treating the residents of southern

the-field primary design research, and eventually

Dallas as collaborators and co-designers in finding

synthesized the data down to present major

the right solution. Through our research and

research findings at the midpoint of the project. In

iterative prototyping, we were able to communicate

the second phase we built on our research findings

powerful, actionable learnings to our partners that

to draft potential prototype ideas, and then took

we believe can impact the problem at hand.


Secondary Research


April 30 Final Presentation

January 22 Project Introduction

March 5 Research Presentation

We carried out this project over the course

Primary Research

Pre-Prototyping & Ideation

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How might we improve pet ownership? There is a long history of loose, stray, and feral dogs roaming the streets of southern Dallas. These dogs can become aggressive toward people and other dogs, and are feared by the people living in these areas. Violent attacks are widely known, and people are forced to live with the reality that they could become a victim. Despite recent efforts to mitigate the issue, dog attacks are still occurring and residents still live with a habitual fear of dangerous dogs. How can we design a solution that affects real change in this area and truly improves pet ownership in southern Dallas?

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Focus: 75216 Our team focused on the dog-owner experience in the zip code of 75216. We created a series of preliminary research questions that were intended to guide our research. The questions we sought to answer were: What are the effects of the current outreach programs? What is the dog ownership experience? What is the infrastructure of 75216?

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CURRENT OUTREACH EFFORTS There is a discrepancy between the intended results and the actual effectiveness of animal welfare programs for the residents of 75216. We found that the current outreach efforts, such as spay/neuter campaigns and door-to-door education are only filling the needs of one group of people: the people who are willing and able to accept the services being offered. As a result, there is a significant population of dog-owners who are left untouched by these outside efforts. We recognize that the spay/neuter campaigns and door-to-door education are seeking to affect positive change. However, if the resources administered are only being offered in one particular way, then only those who are able to take advantage of them are benefitting. For that reason, a need may exist for more complex, high impact approaches to this issue. We then aimed to discover what other services, if any, could be offered, implemented, and brought to those who need them in order to improve this long persisting situation. As we conducted our research, we kept these thoughts in mind.

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SPCA mobile clinic where spay and neuter services are administered for residents free of charge.

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While Human-Centered Design emphasizes going out into the field to perform empathy-building research with the people we are designing for, it is also important to engage in an initial phase of secondary research to get a solid foundation before we address the problem we are aiming to solve.

For the first two weeks, we consumed an immense

There is no sign of vet care facilities, animal hospitals

amount of literature about dog behavior, loose dog

or any smaller care centers. In fact, the only 75216

intervention programs in Dallas and similar cities,

vet hospital listed on Google turned out to be

and research on the psychology of low-income

abandoned. One of our earliest experiences with

neighborhoods. This initial phase of research

a resident summed up the conditions of living in

helped to provide us with a better understanding

75216, saying, “We live in a food, entertainment, and

of the loose dog issue, how it is perceived by the

vet desert.”

city of Dallas and the residents of 75216. This initial understanding allowed us to build empathy with our

Our secondary research uncovered an interesting

target audience, even before speaking with them.

truth: There is no universally agreed upon definition for responsible pet ownership.

Life in 75216 The zip code 75216 is comprised of 51,000 people

This was a fascinating discovery for us, so we kept

with an average income of $23,000/per year,

researching to find out why. We read through

placing 42% of this zip code’s population below

case studies, scholarly reports, and Psychological

the poverty line.

journals, and they each indicated that mental models of responsible pet ownership are tied to

Within the community, it is not unusual to see a

income. People identify as responsible pet owners if

series of abandoned commercial and residential

they attempt to do the best they can with what they

buildings, unkempt yards, and empty lots. When

have. But, there are inconsistencies in this reasoning,

we traveled throughout neighboring streets and

such as: What if the best someone can do isn’t

alleyways, we calculated that out of every 10 houses,

enough?; Who has the authority to determine

at least four houses have more than one dog with an

what “enough” means?; How can pet ownership

average of 2–3.

be improved if there is not agreement on what it should look like?

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Field Observation of ~50 Houses


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RESEARCH METHODS Our methods are employed in the field, allowing

Participant Journey Map Creation

design researchers to gain a deep understanding

We used journey mapping as a framework to guide

of the people that they are working with through a

our interviews and shadowing experiences. This

series of immersive, in-person experiences.

framework gave structure to our conversations and gave our participants a system for expressing their

For this stage in our research process, we went out

southern Dallas “user experience� as it pertained to

into the field to gain an in-depth understanding of

their actions taken, environments experienced, ideas

the loose dog issue in 75216 through a variety of

conceived, observations made, users engaged with,

resident and professional perspectives. The methods

and emotions felt

we used were:

In-Depth Interviews In order to understand the pet-owner experience in southern Dallas from multiple perspectives, we conducted a series of interviews with residents, animal activists, and animal professionals who either live or focus their efforts in 75216. These interviews lasted from 90 minutes to three hours and were conducted in-home or in-office. These conversations allowed us to collect personal accounts of experience, opinions, feelings, and perceptions through both verbal expressions and non-verbal observations.

Shadowing To immerse ourselves further in the southern Dallas loose dog experience, we shadowed professionals and volunteers from the SPCA and Dallas Animal Services as they engaged in their day-to-day activities. These experiences allowed us to collect insights through first hand exposure to their behavioral patterns in real-time.

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Glendale Park 75216

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Through our immersive research, we were able to see the magnitude of the current loose dog situation, first-hand.

We wanted to understand the issue, the daily lives of


the people who face this issue every day, and how

The proactive approach categorizes the residents

they have designed “solutions” and adapted their

that have made the conscious decision to take the

behavior to combat the issue in different ways.

issue into their own hands and design solutions that benefit both them and their community. We found

Through our synthesis, we realized that there were

that these residents were generally directly affected

themes emerging from the resident’s designed

by an incident involving a loose dog, and were thus

solutions. We categorized these actions carried out

inspired to take action to prevent further incidents.

by residents in response to the issue as reactive

They are trying to solve the problem in their own

versus proactive approaches.

neighborhoods, and have particular, localized knowledge that we see to be missing from the city’s


current action plans.

The reactive approach categorizes the residents that are creating “workarounds” in navigating their daily life. They engage in their daily activities, but they have chosen to bring protection with them in the form of golf clubs, metal poles, and sticks. These “solutions” give them peace of mind to protect themselves against loose dogs. These behaviors, though important, are made out of response to the issue at hand and do not directly aim to solve the problem.

We decided to create our own names to define each of these individuals, and we categorized them as either a Community Reactivist or a Community Proactivist.

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Community Reactivist: [ree-ak-tuh-vist]

We define Community Reactivists as individuals focused on themselves, who have a perceived need for protection. Community Reactivists exhibit reactive behaviors out of response to the issue, therefore only treating the symptoms of the problem.

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Resident Throw Them A Bone // 29

OTIS & MEREDITH Otis and Meredith are a married couple that live in a neighborhood next to Glendale Park. Both are retired and frequently take walks around the park for exercise. They are very familiar with the loose dog problem around their neighborhood and often see dogs roaming the park while they walk. Because of this, they both carry golf clubs with them as a form of protection against the loose dogs. Otis explains “I’m not afraid of dogs, I just don’t want to get bit.” They are also dog owners but leave their dogs at home while they walk fearing a confrontation with a loose dog. Otis and Meredith explain that loose dogs are an everyday occurrence that everyone deals with in their neighborhood—everyone has their own way of dealing with them. The couple often see their next door neighbor’s dog jump the fence late at night and then come back after a couple hours. They have succumbed to the realization that most dogs will find a way to get out. In the past, Otis has called 311 after seeing loose dogs roaming his neighborhood. However, he has since stopped calling given no response from animal services after waiting for hours. Otis and Meredith continue to say that they mostly fear for the children that play in the park—if dogs were to ever surround them, they would use their clubs to scare them away.

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Reactivist Golf clubs provide them with protection from the loose dogs.

“I’m not afraid of dogs, I just don’t want to get bit.”

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LARRY While exiting the Family Dollar with shopping bags filled with dog food and treats, Larry walks towards his two dogs, Shelley and Ollie, tied to a bike post. Once setting eyes on their owner, Shelly and Ollie immediately cease barking at strangers and start wagging their tails uncontrollably. Larry, a long-time resident of 75216, and Navy Engineer veteran is a loving owner and views his dogs as family. Larry informed us that he acquired Shelley and Ollie in very different ways. Shelley was rescued off the streets while Ollie was given to Lawrence as a gift from a friend. In between barks from Shelley, Larry informs us that “she’s a good watch dog,” and that both dogs are like his companions. He says “I always wake up with them in the bed on me..I can’t stop them.” Larry and is very aware of the loose dog issue, and states that he never lets his dogs roam free purposefully. However, he has had an experience in the past where Ollie got loose from his backyard fence. He confides that he has holes in his fence where the dogs can penetrate when they want, but he knows that they will always come back. One night when Ollie did get out and came back covered in what Larry thought was another dog’s blood, but with no injuries to himself—presumably from a fight with another dog. Larry begins to laugh as he looks down at Ollie and says, “I keep telling him one day he’s going to meet his match.” Because of this, he makes sure that both Shelly and Ollie have spike colors on at all times. He says that “[the collars] are for their protection only, so no dog can get at their throats.”

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Reactivist Spike collars provide his dogs with protection from the loose dogs.

“I keep telling him one day he’s going to meet his match.”

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Community Proactivist: [proh-ak-tuh-vist]

We define Community Proactivists as individuals who create solutions to better the lives of themselves and others. They are self-starters who work to address the root of the issue. Community Proactivists exhibit proactive behaviors out of response to the issue, therefore tackling the heart of the problem.

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STEPHANIE Stephanie is a southern Dallas animal Proactivist who starting doing outreach given personal experience she had with the loose dog issue. Stephanie is a dog owner, loves dogs, and has very specific views on how to accomplish an improvement to the loose dog issue in southern Dallas. Stephanie’s main focus is on the residents that own dogs. Stephanie believes that one must first get to know the residents. Once a human connection is created, only then can one understand what their real needs are as a resident and a dog owner. She believes that the most impactful moments of her animal advocacy occurred as she built personal relationships with each individual in the neighborhoods that she served. Stephanie has a wealth of knowledge about the current state of dog ownership and care within the 75216 zip code and has many suggestions for improvement. Stephanie spoke at length about the spay/neuter campaigns currently available and how they are only helping only one type of resident. That resident is what she calls the “low hanging fruit”: the people who have access to the transportation to get to surgery centers and can sacrifice the time out of their day. Stephanie believes passionately that a “one size fits all” strategy to solving an issue as severe as the loose dogs will never happen if the residents are not put first in the eyes of the larger animal care organizations.

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Proactivist Relationship building helps her to understand resident’s actual needs.

“Current efforts are only helping the low hanging fruit.”

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JUSTINA Justina moved to 75216 a little more than a year ago and lives in an old farming neighborhood that is surrounded by many wooded areas where feral dogs live. Immediately after moving to her current home, she began witnessing the loose dog issue first hand. She saw her neighbors being terrorized by the loose and feral dogs that were frequently roaming the streets. Before moving to the zip code, Justina said that she wasn’t a dog person … “The neighborhood forces you to become one, because they are always around, and there is a lot of fear.” She explains that the best chance that a feral dog has for survival is if they are taken in and socialized with other dogs and humans. Because of this, Justina has chosen to take action for her and her neighbor’s sake. Justina says that she has noticed a decrease in the loose dogs during the time she’s lived in her neighborhood, but describes the still existing aggressive dogs as a self-fulfilling prophecy. “When people see them on the streets, they will shoot at them, throw rocks at them, and chase them off with sticks … so they learn to be aggressive from the people around them.” Every generation of loose, aggressive dogs brings them further and further from domestication. Justina’s passion comes from her determination to get the dogs off the streets, give them a better life, and provide human companionship. Over the three years of Justina’s outreach and activism, she has fostered, socialized, and homed more than 50 dogs. She contributes the incremental changes that she has been able to make in her neighborhood to the trust that she has been able to build over time.

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Proactivist Catching, socializing, and rehoming loose dogs keeps her neighborhood safe.

“[The dogs] are always around, and there is a lot of fear.”

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FRAN Fran lives in southern Dallas and is a passionate animal activist, but not by choice. Fran says, “I did not choose to be an animal activist.” She continues to recall a story when she was on her way to work, looked out her door window and realized that her front door and car were surrounded by feral dogs. She could not leave her house for fear of getting attacked. Since then, Fran has been on a mission to understand feral dog behavior and teach her neighbors the best ways to interact with them. Her and her community’s need for safety led her on a personal journey to form a proactive skill-set to combat the issue. Over the years, Fran has gained immense knowledge in feral dog behavior and how to trap and transfer them with the best outcome possible. Fran explains that the way in which you physically trap and handle feral dogs has a huge impact on the dog’s ability to be domesticated and adopted. If a feral dog is caught in an aggressive way, such as being choked with a restraining pole and thrown into a dark truck, they are at a high risk of being forever traumatized by the experience. Because of this, they will most likely be euthanized by city animal services. Fran is a high-energy Proactivist on a mission to make a difference. Over the years she has interacted with many city leaders, spent many hours creating plans for change, and publishing countless whitepapers and tutorials on how to combat the issue. She hopes this education material can fill some of the gaps that exist in the current city provided infrastructure.

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Proactivist Filling infrastructural gaps, like feral dog trapping, helps her neighbors stay safe.

“I did not choose to be an animal activist.”

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Prototyping is an incredibly effective way to make our hunches and insights into tangibles; to learn through making, and to quickly get key feedback from the Proactivists.

We moved through a variety of iterations based

Through our prototyping, we wanted to identify the

upon our experiences with the individuals of 75216

unfulfilled needs that these Community Proactivists

in order to build on what we continued to uncover

might have. We had a hunch, that if we were able

and understand about the nature of these residents.

to identify and fulfill those needs, the Proactivists would feel more supported and have the ability

We believe that the Community Proactivists are

to increase their impact with more resources at

the key to proper city-wide solution building.

their disposal.

We were intrigued by the small scale problem solving efforts being carried out by these residents.

During our field visits, we had several encounters

They responded this way due to a need in their

with Proactivists who told us that they do not

community, and took matters into their own

communicate with one another. While Stephanie

hands. We saw value in focusing on aiding these

taught us about the value of getting to know

action based, problem solving members of

those around you as a means of proactivism, we

southern Dallas that have risen due to necessity,

learned from Justina that others like her are rarely

and we came to think of them as superheros, the

in close collaboration with larger outside activist

Community Proactivists of southern Dallas.

and political organizations. With these insights in mind, we asserted that maybe, the level of impact

As we moved forward with our research, we planned

of a Proactivists’ work could be elevated through

to use our newfound knowledge to uncover exactly

collaboration. Our first prototype was focused on

how to leverage the benefits these perspectives

creating a space to unite these Proactivists, allowing

bring, and subsequently using this information to

them to share resources, generate dialogue, and

make headway to the deeply rooted loose dog

exchange knowledge.

problem in southern Dallas. We aimed to find out what would happen if these community level leaders, who are proactively approaching the problem on their own, were elevated, connected, and heard.

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They took matters into their own hands. Throw Them A Bone // 45

PROTOTYPE 1: STRONGER TOGETHER COALITION Our team planned out a series of meeting

welcomed five leaders. The attendees ranged from

prototypes that we called the “Stronger Together

community Proactivists to SPCA staff and affiliated

Coalition” for three Saturdays at the John C. Phelps

community volunteers, ages 12 and up. Although

Rec Center in 75216. The meetings were intended

the turnout of the meeting was not astronomical, it

to provide Proactivists, outside organizations,

was enriching enough for us to begin preparation

and other individuals a space to meet, interact,

of the second meeting. We learned a lot about our

support and learn from one another. To our team,

participants’ leadership journeys and uncovered

the meetings meant the opportunity to facilitate

powerful insights that we wanted to address

Proactivist individuals’ conversations and provide

moving forward.

collaborative support, while gaining insights about them. With each Saturday meeting, we hoped

One of the insights that we gained from the first

Proactivists would gain the opportunity to share

meeting was that Proactivists have fears. Some of

their resources with other like minded individuals

the attendees voiced that there is an element of fear,

in their community while increasing lines of

ranging from the fear of having conflicting opinions

communication and each Proactivist’s impact.

with others in the community to the fear of retaliation when in disagreement. Once hearing that, we made

With a medley of breakfast food, oversized sticky

the inference, that not only do residents have barriers

note pads, plates and markers, our team set up

in talking and interacting with one other, but when

shop at John C. Phelps for the first Saturday,

they do, there is a fear of disagreement that might

Stronger Together Coalition meeting and

result in retaliation and conflict.

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A second insight we gained from the first meeting

the fear of retaliation and conflict from differing

was that there is contradiction in Proactivists’

opinions. We even heard from Justina that her

motivations. While Proactivists voiced the desire

past experiences attending dog activist meetings

to come together and collaborate with others

consisted of Dallas city officials giving false promises

in the community, they also voiced a dislike for

to her and taking her experienced knowledge

the types of meetings that were already in place.

for granted. This contradiction was surprising

When listening to the attendee’s stories, we learned

and intriguing to us, so we used it as a basis for

about these other meetings that were attended

our synthesis of the experience. How could we

in the past. The meetings were always outside of

reshape the second meeting to better fit what the

the community and were responsible for much of

Proactivists wanted to see and share?

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For one, we learned that the idea of a meeting itself was a turn off. The contradiction that presented itself in the first meeting seemed to be a deterrent to our second meeting as well. We inferred that since passions run so high, a meeting focused on dialogue is often unproductive and sometimes problematic. Second, we found that those in attendance already had their own systems of attacking the dog problem, so a meeting to talk about it was not as helpful as we assumed it might be.. Because of their loving, bold, and passionate natures, Proactivists have been able to make a real impact on their own. These individuals still want to share resources and knowledge with one another, but a meeting was not the answer. Proactivists want to take action! We learned that these activists are most comfortable in the field, helping the dogs and the people that brought them to where they are today. It is then that their interactions, sharing of skills and wealth of resources are the most genuine and can be elevated through the support of others.

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These leaders don’t want to just talk. They want to take action.

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REFOCUS: JUSTINA We knew that we wanted our research to focus on the Proactivists, and how we might support them in their actions, but through our first prototype, we realized that we needed to approach this challenge differently. From here, we reached out to Justina, who had been an incredible asset to this project every step of the way. She provided us with countless insights, shared what she has learned throughout her advocacy, and inspired us with her passionate work with the dogs in southern Dallas. Through our interactions with Justina, we wanted to learn, “What does it take to support the people who are already doing the work on the ground?� We spent the rest of the semester working with Justina; helping her achieve the goals that she set herself, so she could be more successful in her approach to the loose dog issue.

Coalition Meeting


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JUSTINA’S STORY Justina experiences the loose dog issue everyday.

It is important to remember that the process of

From a pack of feral dogs killing a cat in her

trapping and socializing feral dogs is substantially

backyard, to watching her neighbors react in fear to

different than the process of socializing dogs who

the packs of dogs on the streets, she is constantly

have a history of interaction with humans. But, if

designing her own solutions to relieve this issue.

they are handled correctly, amazing progress can be

Unfortunately, her resources are limited. Justina’s

made. Tattler and Emma are just two examples of

proactivism is motivated by the need to keep both

the progress that she has made with the feral pack in

the dogs and the people in her neighborhood safe.

her neighborhood.

Over the last three years, Justina has successfully

When we intervened, Justina had successfully

rehomed more than 50 stray and feral dogs. With

gotten all but one of the dogs in the feral pack

this process, she gets these feral dogs off the streets,

off the street, but with the resources that she had

fosters the dogs, and socializes them with other

at her disposal, catching the last dog was nearly

dogs and humans. Her motivation to do this comes


from her understanding of how loose and feral dogs are treated in the city of Dallas. She knows that if

Ghost was the last dog in the pack. She is a 60

feral dogs are brought directly to a shelter, they will

pound German Shepard, who is so intelligent, that

most likely not be adopted and they will ultimately

ordinary traps historically could not trap her.

not survive. In order to catch the dogs, she spends hours outside at a time, building trust with them. In fact, she told us about an experience she had building trust one feral dog, Tattler. Justina fed Tatter Vienna sausage everyday for a year, so that she could build up trust, and get Tattler off the streets. Tattler is a member of a feral pack that lived in the wooded area behind Justina’s house. It was this pack

Tatler and Emma, Then

that inspired Justina to begin her proactivism, and she made it her goal to get every member of the pack off of the streets and into warm, loving homes.

Tatler and Emma, Now

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Feral dogs on the streets are dangerous because: They do not trust people They are territorial They have a pack mindset They do everything they can to survive


We took action to help Justina overcome the barriers she faced with the feral dogs in her neighborhood.

In all of our conversations with Justina throughout the semester, she had talked about the state-of-theart “Missy Trap.” A trap developed with the intention to catch the smartest, most fearful dogs. And, when it isn’t needed, it can be broken down into pieces and easily transported. So, we built it for her. The trap served a couple purposes. Justina was so close to achieving the goal that she had set for herself, and we wanted to help her reach that goal, fulfill that need, in every way that we could. It was this pack of feral dogs that drove Justina to her activism, so we saw the opportunity to help her catch Ghost as a powerful tool in the support of her work and the empowerment of her actions. From the Human-Centered Design perspective, we built and deployed the trap as a micro-prototype to learn from the experience that Justina had working with it.

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In order for us to better understand Justina’s experience with the trap, we asked her to keep a log of her experience with the trap, noting every time she visited it, what she did, and how she felt.

Justina logged her experiences for us everyday, three, four, and even sometimes five times a day. But, despite our efforts, Ghost still refused to be trapped. Ghost learned that she could enter the trap, eat all of the food, and then jump the five feet that it took to escape. To combat this, we added a cargo net as a cover for the trap to keep the dog contained but not block out light. However, Ghost was still too smart. She knew that the trap was altered, and would eat the bait that was left for her, but leave enough food so that she didn’t trigger the gate. From Justina’s interactions with the trap, we learned that she needed the help of another Proactivist. Fran, who also focuses on feral dogs in her community, had resources and specialized knowledge about animal behavior to help us catch Ghost. With Fran’s help, we moved the trap to a new location, with its entrance facing the wooded area where Ghost lived. We changed the food that was used as bait, so that we could learn what Ghost was the most attracted to and we developed a plan of action to transport Ghost from the trap in to a portable crate, so that we would not traumatize her or create more fear. Together, Justina and Fran were able to catch Ghost. They are currently sharing the responsibility of fostering and socializing her because neither have the time or the finances to be able to do it on their own. They are working together because they share the passion for helping the dogs that others protect themselves from. 56 // Throw Them A Bone

Together, Justina and Fran were able to catch Ghost.

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JUSTINA’S REFLECTION “The journey really starts here. Ferals don’t have a good chance in Dallas. We don’t have the capabilities to rehabilitate them at DAS and SPCA (at least not at the level of need). And most rescues willing to take in ferals are maxed out with experienced fosters and funds (heartworm treatment, training, etc). So Ghost is going to need a lot of people rooting for her. Due to the high chance of her not making it out alive at DAS, I have chosen to network quietly in texts and emails and not use my most useful tool, social media. Sadly, there would be a lot of anger toward me if people knew I let her go to DAS. It’s a bad cycle around here. If she makes it out alive, it may be the most impactful marketing DAS could do, because it would show that the cynicism against them isn’t founded. I guess only time will tell on that. I had to take the chance, because Ghost off the streets and no puppies is our only chance to have a feral free neighborhood. It was the quality of life for Ghost and my neighbors vs the possibility of losing her in DAS. These tough decisions keep most people out of this part.” Throw Them A Bone // 59


It’s not about the trap …

Since the beginning of our project, Justina had

There are many Proactivists embedded in their

very clear goals of catching, socializing, and finding

communities already engaging in small-scale efforts

Ghost a loving home, and continually expressed a

to supplement the large-scale efforts by city officials

need for a means to catch her. After our experience

and specialized non-profits. They are making areas

with Justina and the Missy Trap we learned what

of focus that have been neglected by the current,

it would take to provide one Proactivist, who was

large-scale outreach programs, their priority and

already doing the work on the ground, the tools she

they are successful. They are natural leaders that

needed to be successful. For Justina, this meant:

are empowered and powerful—they simply need

Roughly $500 to purchase trap materials; One day to

the resources to grow their efforts exponentially.

build the trap; A few iterations to optimize the trap; And finally, another Proactivist with complementary skill sets to help catch and transfer the feral dog. Working together through action is one way Proactivists can make positive change in their neighborhoods. Justina and Fran, focused on feral dogs and their welfare, were able to come together through action and catch the most intelligent of dogs, provide her with a better way of life, and find her a loving home. They have made an effort to get to know the landscape, the neighborhood dogs, and the people that live there out of the need for safety of themselves and their neighbors.

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… it’s about the experience.

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Where do we go from here? Through all of our research episodes, prototypes,

These organizations must also empower and

and interactions with the residents of 75216, we

support these Proactivists by providing them with

see that there is still a much greater opportunity

necessary resources so that their efforts may have

to both include and empower these Proactivists

greater impact. These are the residents with the

in the overall process of solution building. These

drive and the willingness to tackle their piece of

Proactivists are living the southern Dallas dog

the loose dog problem in their own neighborhood.

experience every day, and have specialized insights

They must be supplied with what they need to be

that only those directly affected by the issue can

successful in their efforts. Larger organizations have

have. These resident’s perspectives come from

the power, the money, and the resources to do so

experience and are built on the necessity of dealing

much more: to identify people like Justina, and to

with the problem in their own neighborhoods.

help those people achieve their community-focused

Despite their value, they are currently going

goals, so that the successes can be scaled to a city-

unutilized and unincluded by the city’s current

wide solution.

action plans. Outside organizations such as SPCA, Communities Foundation, Dallas Animal Services, even city council, must tap these resources to create a sustainable solution to the loose dog problem.

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A program of micro-grants … The SPCA or the Communities Foundation of Texas would provide resources and funding to the Proactivists on a per project basis. This could be an application for funding, but also for items such as traps, tools, dog food, or even vehicles.

A new non-profit …

Possible Paths to Improvement

The organization would exist solely to work with and empower the Proactivists, not run through any other organization but by the advocates themselves. This organization would be granted financial support and resources so that advocates have what they need to help the problem in their neighborhood.

A series of workshops … Workshops hosted by Proactivists within their community to share information and best practices with other activists and officials. Proactivists would have the opportunity to communicate their unique knowledge gained from working in their neighborhood with those who could gain from hearing their experiences. Throw Them A Bone // 65


Whatever form the final solution takes the implementation must be guided by the following set of design principles.

These principles stand on more than one thousand hours of research and can be traced back to a variety of in-home interviews, expert interviews, and secondary research. We believe that a solution that utilizes these principles will be efficient, encompassing, and genuinely impactful towards improving pet ownership in southern Dallas.

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Initiatives must focus on action over conversation AND be hosted within the community Proactivists must be given physical, financial, and organizational support Communication must be open, constant, and transparent Efforts must be focused on proactive— not just reactive—solutions

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FINAL THOUGHTS Over the course of our research we saw an opportunity for outside organizations to both include and support those who have unique knowledge and are already doing the work. Our team was able to define two unique groups of residents in 75216: the Reactivists and the Proactivists and understand how both groups create their own solutions to the loose dog problem in their community. Again and again we saw how the Proactivists had a critical understanding of the issue in their neighborhood and how they were already tackling the problem affecting them and their neighbors. They are the ones who know the problem in their neighborhood the best and have adopted hyper-localized approaches in solving it. They are the ones who have built trust with their communities and are leveraging their networks to bring about positive change. They are the path forward. We believe that these Proactivists are currently going under-utilized in the broader city-wide solutions and unsupported in their current efforts. We see a handful of possible paths to improvement that can provide Proactivists the support and inclusion they need and that Dallas needs in order to bring greater impact to this issue. If these solutions make sure to follow the principles that we have outlined thus far, we believe that even greater impact can be had with this problem. Throughout this document, we have shown how a group of five graduate students with a small budget and large amount of empathy could empower one resident and fulfill her needs. Larger organizations such as SPCA, DAS, Communities Foundation, even city council, have the opportunity to do so much more with these Proactivists, and in this way, make our animals better cared for, our streets safer, and our city more livable.

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Provide Proactivists the support and inclusion they need.

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The Master of Arts in Design and Innovation at Southern Methodist University is an interdisciplinary program training students in the skills of Human-Centered Design, innovation, and creative problem solving. MADI students come from a variety of backgrounds and are encouraged to utilize their prior educational and professional experiences to complement the projects in the program. Students will graduate MADI with a strong foundation in Human-Centered Design, a process which values solutions that balance human desirability, business viability, and technical feasibility.

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Caleb Kyle Caleb seeks to be a well-rounded designer, technologist, and consultant with proficiencies in technology, human centered design, and business. He graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from Southern Methodist University and is in his last year of the Master of Arts in Design and Innovation at SMU, hoping to take on a consulting or product design role after graduation. He enjoys craft beer, freelance web design, and lighting things on fire.

Ariel Martin Ariel is a graduate student at SMU studying Design and Innovation. She holds a B.F.A in Art Education from Ohio University and has 14 years of experience working in the marketing and advertising space. She’s excited to use her HumanCentered Design education to grow and diversify her career opportunities.

Rae’Van Parson Rae’Van, an Interior Design B.A. from the University of Oklahoma is now in her second year problem solving under the Masters of Design and Innovation program. Rae’Van seeks to elevate her knowledge in multidisciplinary design solving to improve and innovate retail interior and product design environments.

Laura Reed Laura is a graduate student at SMU pursuing her M.A. in Design and Innovation. She is a Digital Marketing Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the financial services industry. She received a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) focused in Integrated Marketing and Communications with a minor in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi.

Michaela Rollins Michaela is in her last semester of the MADI program. She graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in Psychology and Art History, and has a certificate in graphic design from the SMU CAPE program. MADI has allowed her to integrate her diverse interests in a meaningful way, and plans to take this multidisciplinary approach and apply it to her pursuits in the real world.

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Scaling the Impact of the People at the Heart of the Loose Dog Problem

SPCA Loose Dog Project  

Final report for our studio project aiming to improve pet ownership in southern Dallas. SMU MADI.

SPCA Loose Dog Project  

Final report for our studio project aiming to improve pet ownership in southern Dallas. SMU MADI.