Dogs at the PAWS and More animal shelter in Washington will be given a chance to interact with the community as the shelter launches their Dog Day Adventures program which will allow community members to take a dog out of the shelter environment for a few hours beginning Saturday, May 18.
The program is part of a grant through Maddie’s Fund, a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of shelter animals across the country. The program PAWS and More is participating in is designed to get dogs out of their kennels for a few hours and interact with people.
After the play date, the participant will fill out a report card on the dog’s temperament, which will be sent to the organization to evaluate how interactions outside of the shelter can influence their stress levels.
Research is one of the ways the program operates and PAWS and More has been selected as the only shelter in Iowa to help out with the process. The shelter is dedicated to getting 40 dogs out of their kennels in 30 days and needs the help of the public to accomplish their goal.
The Maddie’s Fund organization has done research that shows getting dogs out of the shelter environment helps reduce their stress levels. Other shelters that have participated in this program have found success, especially with the people deciding to foster the animals after spending time with them.
Katy Florke, a kennel technician, and Terri Wood, a board member, attended a three-day apprenticeship program in Virginia where they saw the difference firsthand.
The pair picked up a dog from the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA, the local shelter. Florke said when they first picked up the dog, he was so nervous they had to physically put him in the car but after a few hours with them, he visibly relaxed and was able to de-stress from the situation.
“You just saw that instant shift in him where he was finally relieved of all of that stress and was so comfortable,” she said. “You could see that instant change in him and it was so cool. That was the part that I think Terri and I both loved. It was like you just saw that instant where he was just de-stressed.”
She compared the outing to a weekend for humans who work all week and need time to get away from their home or desk to de-stress. Florke said the dogs need that break from their kennels as well because the shelter environment can be a stressful one.
Through the dog day adventures program, community members will need to sign a waiver, provide a valid driver’s license and be at least 18 years old to participate. After signing a waiver, participants will be able to take the dog for a minimum of two hours. Dogs will be required to be on leash when outside and are not allowed to visit dog parks or interact with other animals for health and safety reasons. However, they will be permitted in the home, for a walk or any other activity.
Participants will be required to take pictures of the dog on the outing and upon returning, fill out a report card to help explain their temperament and how they were on their outing. This is to provide a more detailed description of the dog’s behavior for the shelter to provide to the future adopter of the animal.
The information also will be used for the study to determine how a break from the shelter affects the overall mood and happiness of the dog. The study will continue for 30 days but PAWS and More has decided to continue the Dog Day Adventures program and will offer opportunities every day of the week.
Florke said getting the dogs out and interacting and meeting new people is essential to their growth and a great way for community members who may not be able to keep a dog full time to volunteer and get acquainted with the shelter.
“People get really attached and are more compassionate and it’s a way they can help,” Florke said. “(It’s) feeling connected to them and knowing you’re doing something that will make a difference.”
“It could start out as a field trip but it could turn into more,” Wood agreed. “This is a foot in the door to see who we are and take a dog out.”
Qualified animals will be available for the Dog Day Adventures program Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Anyone with questions may call the shelter at: 319-653-6713.