BARKS from the Guild March 2015

Page 44

RESCUE

A Foot in the Door

Tabitha Davies highlights ways of working with shelters and rescues to succeed in the

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ultimate common goal – getting more dogs into homes and staying in them

helter is defined as a place to rest, a place for comfort and a place for safety. But with 3.9 million dogs entering shelters and an average of 1.2 million of them being euthanized each year (Source: ASPCA), this is sadly not the case for many dogs in US shelters. Life in the high-kill shelters in Coachella, CA, where I am based, means a concrete floor with drains, full access to food, water, and, only if you are without behavior problems, a blanket, bed and toy. It also means seven days of life in confinement and being surrounded by 100+ other dogs with limited, if any, time out of your kennel. Almost all of the large breed dogs at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus (CVAC) stay in their kennels without being walked and risk euthanasia for what is labeled "cage rage." So what can we do to try to change the cycle? In actual fact, there are a number of ways to help improve adoption rates in local shelters. The most under-utilized method is that of training. Unfortunately, many of those that do have rescue training programs do not use force-free training methods. For example, I know of a local humane society that uses those old-fashioned, aversive techniques commonly seen on television, as well as prong collars on rescue dogs to “train” them and “prepare” them for their forever homes. This, as many seasoned trainers know, is not the best way to build a dog’s self-esteem and trust. On the other hand, many organizations are resistant to implementing a training program. Concerns of liability, wasted time and resources, or the thought that force-free methods cannot procure the same results are common. It took me some effort, concrete material, and, honestly, just being a bit pushy to get my foot in the door at my local county shelter. It culminated with my partnering up with Advancing the Interests of Animals, a human education and animal welfare organization that works to educate owners and consequently improve the lives of pets in the home. I have since developed relationships with a local non-profit rescue and a no-kill coalition for our county shelter. I went in blindly, I had all of the information, the skills and the training experience as far as working with dogs was concerned, but none of the experience working with a shelter. The biggest task getting started is presenting the information to the shelter in a way that is short, to the point and gives them every reason to say yes. The sad realities are that your shelter director is stressed on budgets and deadlines, lacks the time to read through multiple documents and may not even be the kind to truly care (although, fortunately, most I have met do care). When you are putting this information together for the shelter to convince them to not only ask you to come in, but to get them fully on board, you may want to include non-common knowledge information. The director does not want to see statistics on how many dogs are euthanized each year, how many are

Volunteers help shelter dogs with obedience and agility

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BARKS from the Guild/March 2015


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