Centre offers help for dogs with fear

2013-03-13 13:00

(AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Los Angeles – People want their dog to be a friend, not afraid.

But sometimes, fear grips dogs so tightly they shake, cower, bite, growl or pee. It can be constant, painful and hard to overcome. Such dread can consume a dog when it's freed from a cage at a puppy mill or hoarder's home because that's the only life the dog has ever known.

Until now, it was up to animal shelters to ease the fears, knowing if they didn't, euthanasia was the likely alternative. But this week, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opens its Behavioral Rehabilitation Centre at St Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey.

It's a two-year research project being financed by the ASPCA.

For now, dogs seized from puppy mills and hoarders will be the primary patients, said Kristen Collins, ASPCA's director of anti-cruelty behavior rehabilitation and director of the center. It will also include some dogs that have been confined for long stretches as evidence in court cases.

Dogs will come from shelters across America as well as from seizures involving the ASPCA.

It's groundbreaking and exciting, Collins said. "It's the first ever facility that's dedicated strictly to providing rehabilitation for dogs that are victims of animal cruelty."

The research will also provide some numbers, Collins said. No one knows how many shy dogs are being placed in homes now.

And little is known about how they fare after placement, so centre staff will spend a lot of time following up on animals.

'Real life rooms'

There are 27 kennels, an office, real life rooms, treatment rooms and common areas at the centre.

The average stay for most dogs will be six to eight weeks, "but we don't have a hard and fast rule. All dogs are individuals. We will be flexible," Collins said.

A team of 10 people, including two behavior experts from St Hubert's, will staff the centre. Volunteers and daily caretakers will feed the dogs and clean kennels.

Graduating dogs will return to a shelter for placement and ASPCA shelter partners will continue working with the dogs if needed, Collins said.

St Hubert's is a longtime disaster partner of the ASPCA and jumped at the chance to be involved, said president and chief executive officer Heather Cammisa.

Fear and anxiety are major factors that can hinder a dog's quality of life, she said.

"If they are hiding in the back of the cage and they are fearful, No 1, they don't have a good quality of life and, No 2, they are not going to be selected for adoption and when they go home, they are not really prepared to be the family pet that adopters seek, so this is just a win-all-around," she said.

Million dollar building

The ASPCA spent over half a million dollars on the building, Cammisa said, and will pay all other expenses, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, treatments and other care.

Weather permitting, the first few dogs will arrive in the next day or two from the Pacific Northwest, Collins said.

They will be the last of 213 Alaskan malamutes seized from a Montana breeder who was convicted in December 2012 of 91 counts of animal cruelty. After being starved and living in filth at the breeding facility, the dogs then had to be kept in kennels as evidence for 16 months while the trial played out.

Malamutes are 34kg dogs. "Eighteen of the dogs were pregnant. One pregnant dog only weighed 22kg and had eight pups.

Only one survived," said Bob Sutherland of Anchorage, president of the Alaska Malamute Assistance League.

The dogs were released to a humane society in Helena, Montana, where they were spayed and neutered, and another group helped place the animals.

While some dogs are in malamute rescues waiting for the right owner, many have found forever homes. Sutherland and his wife, Nicole McCullough, adopted one.

When the dogs were in evidence custody, Sutherland would visit to help out once a month. Cinder, a 6-year-old female, became his special project.

She is missing the tip of her ear, has broken teeth and a broken toe, injuries Sutherland said were caused when what little food was given to the dogs was thrown over a fence, causing food fights. Many of the dogs are even missing their tongues, he said.

Cinder has come a long way. "We took a shy dog, and she's all grins and giggles now. If you work with these dogs, they rise and shine. That's why this ASPCA facility is so valuable to us. We were super excited to get these dogs in there to go through a training regimen. It saves us a lot of heartbreak about what we do with these dogs," Sutherland said.

There will be those dogs that cannot overcome the fear, Collins said. But behaviourists will do everything possible and consider euthanasia as a last resort only if the dogs are suffering from an extremely poor quality of life or if they pose a significant threat to the public, she said.

The center will only be able to handle about 400 dogs during the project's two scheduled years, so it won't take an immediate burden off shelters, Collins said, but if researchers can come up with new ways to ease fear, anxiety and shyness in abused dogs, it could have a widespread impact.

And success could mean another phase in the study, to include fighting dogs, or even cats, Collins said.

Read more on:    animals

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.