Stopping the revolving shelter door
By Alex Jimenez
one vet student’s mission to slow shelter return rates
When Western University of Health Sciences veterinary student Rochelle Prudic started providing veterinary-based training to the staff at a local shelter, she never thought her work would have nearly as much impact on the humans she was training as it did on the animals she was helping. But after immersing herself in the shelter life, it didn’t take long for her to see the connection.
In one instance, Prudic recalls the energy of a beaming shelter employee who put her newfound skills to use. Just days after her training, the employee noticed a dog’s dangerously pale mucous membranes and promptly reported it to medical staff, potentially saving the dog’s life.
“I could tell that it had ignited a spark in her to be able to have such an important role in that dog’s well-being,” Prudic remembers.
This training was part of the Animals Dependent on People Training (A.D.O.P.T.) Initiative, a research project devised by Prudic and partially funded through Morris Animal Foundation’s Veterinary Student Scholars program.
The project is Prudic’s solution to the problem that 20 percent of the surrendered dogs in the United States are return cases. This is an especially troubling statistic when paired with estimates that 4 million animals are euthanized in shelters every year.
Prudic’s initial research revealed that return rates at the pilot shelter were largely due to owners’ inability to address their pet’s behavioral, financial or physical needs. This was found to be particularly true in first-time owners. As a response, the A.D.O.P.T. Initiative included shelter personnel training on such topics as emergency management, behavioral factors and potential toxins found in the home environment. Staff could then pass that information on to people adopting pets.
Essentially, the A.D.O.P.T. Initiative aims to halt the revolving door that was, and still is, putting perfectly good animals back at risk of being euthanized.
bridging the gap
Prudic’s training program worked well in the pilot shelter, but she realized her initial goal to create a nationally distributable shelter resource wasn’t feasible. Instead, she found the strength of her program was in tailoring the training to specific shelters.
“It was evident to me that a one-size-fits-all module will never be completely effective or well accepted by every shelter,” she says.
Prudic is now putting together a program that would have veterinary students complete the training and then work directly with their local shelter community. Participating shelters would then become A.D.O.P.T. certified.
Using this model, Prudic emphasizes the significance of bridging the gap between veterinary medicine and adoption facilities.
“There isn’t much difference between the passion that drives veterinary students and the passion that drives shelter staff,” she notes. “The only differences are in the approach.”
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Development and Testing of a Behavioral Screening Tool for Dogs Relinquished to Shelters
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Posted by MAFon February 22, 2012. Permalink