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Safewalk: Improving Enrichment and Adoption Rates for Shelter Dogs by Changing Human Behavior

Terri M. Bright and Louise Hadden


December 27, 2016
Shelter dogs are typically cared for by staff and volunteers. At the Boston location of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, prior to 2009, any member of the public who was older than 16 years of age and attended 1 orientation could walk dogs available for adoption. There was no systematic method of training volunteers or staff to walk unruly, strong, or fearful dogs, nor was there any organized system of enrichment in the form of in-kennel or out-of-kennel training for the population of 20 to 40 dogs in the shelter. Using the Dick and Carey (1996) model of instructional design, a curriculum called “Safewalk” was devised and implemented. Safewalk created a hierarchical training system for volunteers.

After training was implemented, outcomes and lengths of stay were then compared for dogs for the 3 years before and 4 years after Safewalk. Changes in adoption rates for pit bull-type dogs and non-pit bulls were significantly improved, and length of stay for non-pit bulls was significantly decreased. Other components of shelter life for dogs and people were also improved.

Abt's Louise Hadden co-authored this article in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 
North America