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New Hope for Fear and Anxiety in Abused Dogs

Story at-a-glance
  • Recently the ASPCA opened the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, NJ, a first-of-its-kind facility dedicated exclusively to helping rehabilitate dogs that have been victims of animal cruelty.
  • The center’s patients will come from shelters across the country as well as from ASPCA-involved seizures, and will primarily be victims of puppy mills and hoarding situations.
  • Dogs with extreme fear disorders are in danger of being euthanized unless they can be rehabilitated – a job that typically falls to shelter workers and rescue groups. The ASPCA’s new center, which is launching a two-year research project, has committed to share its findings with shelters and rescue organizations across the U.S.
  • The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center has over two dozen kennels, treatment rooms, “real life” rooms, and common areas. There are 10 staff members, including two behavior experts, plus volunteers and daily caretakers. The ASPCA invested over a half a million dollars in the center, and will pay for all patient expenses, including vet care.
  • For many animals, being rescued from a lifetime of neglect and abuse is just the beginning of a long journey to recovery. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center’s goal is to provide rescued dogs with customized behavior therapy and more time to recover, which will increase their chances of being adopted

 

Dog Rehabilitation

By Dr. Becker

Recently the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) opened the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ, as part of a two-year research project.

Per an ASPCA press release, the center is “the first-ever facility dedicated strictly to providing behavioral rehabilitation to canine victims of cruelty, such as those confiscated from puppy mills and hoarding cases.” According to center director Kristen Collins, the center will also treat a certain number of dogs that have been confined for long periods because they are “evidence” in court cases.

The Behavior Rehabilitation Center’s canine patients will come from shelters across the U.S. as well as from ASPCA-involved seizures from puppy mills and hoarders. According to Collins, the center is the first facility of its kind in that it will be focused exclusively on providing rehabilitation for dogs that are victims of animal cruelty.

The Center’s findings as part of the two-year research project will be shared with shelters and rescue organizations throughout the U.S.

Dogs with Extreme Fear Disorders Are Euthanasia Candidates

Dogs suffering from extreme fear are prone to symptoms such as shaking, cowering, loss of bladder control, growling and biting. In some cases, the fear is always present and causes the animal a great deal of pain. These cases are very hard to treat.

This level of fear is commonly seen in dogs that have survived life in puppy mills or hoarding situations. Once free, fear consumes them because their previous miserable, often abusive existence is all they’ve ever known. Typically these animals are turned over to shelters and rescue groups who try to work with the dogs to help them overcome their fears. The alternative for many of these dogs is, sadly, euthanasia.

Dogs cowering in the back of their shelter kennels certainly have no quality of life, and prospective owners seldom choose them. If they do get adopted, without treatment they are ill-prepared to blend into a family environment, and many new owners are disappointed or at a loss to know what to do to help their new four-legged family member.

One of the things the ASPCA’s research project will do is provide some statistics to work with. Presently, no one really knows how many dogs with fear disorders are placed in adoptive homes, or how they do once they go to their new families. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center staff will follow up on placed animals to document how well they are doing in their new environment.

Most Dogs Will Stay at the Center for Six to Eight Weeks

The ASPCA’s new center has over two dozen kennels, treatment rooms, “real life” rooms, common areas, and an office. There are 10 people on staff at the center, including two behavior experts from St. Hubert’s. There are also volunteers and caretakers who feed the dogs and clean their kennels.

Center behaviorists will provide customized behavior modification therapy to reduce fear and anxiety in abused dogs. From a recent press release:

Treatment plans will incorporate the use of scientifically sound techniques designed to reduce the dogs’ fear of people and other dogs, acquainting them to unfamiliar objects, sounds, living areas, and real-life situations that can induce trauma and severe stress among this population.

The ASPCA spent over half a million dollars on the center, and will foot the bill for all patient expenses, including veterinary care.

Most dogs will stay at the facility for six to eight weeks, with some requiring a more lengthy or shorter stay, depending on their individual situation. “Graduates” of the center will return to a shelter for placement, and ongoing therapy will be provided as needed.

"For some animals, the reality is that after a lifetime of neglect and abuse, the rescue is just the beginning of their journey to recovery," said Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center’s goal is to provide rescued dogs individualized behavior therapy and more time to recover from past abuse. This will increase the likelihood of successful adoption.

Rescued Alaskan Malamutes Some of Center’s First Residents

Some of the first patients at the new center were a few Alaskan malamutes taken from a Montana breeder who was convicted in December 2012 of over 90 counts of animal cruelty. A total of 213 malamutes were rescued from starvation and filthy living conditions in that case. The dogs were transferred to other kennels and kept as evidence for 16 months during trial preparation.

Eighteen of the dogs were pregnant, one of which weighed just 48 pounds (the average weight of an Alaskan malamute is 75 pounds). She delivered a litter of eight puppies. Only one survived.

Once the dogs were no longer “evidence,” they were sent to a humane society in Helena where they were spayed and neutered. Another animal welfare group helped begin placing the dogs. Some of the malamutes have found new homes; some are living in rescues awaiting adoption.

One of the dogs was adopted by the president of the Alaska Malamute Assistance League in Anchorage. The dog, a 6 year-old female named Cinder, is missing the tip of one ear, has broken teeth and a broken toe – all caused by food fights among the starving dogs while they lived at the breeding facility in Montana. According to Cinder’s owner, many of the malamutes are missing their tongues for the same reason.

Cinder’s owner, Bob Sutherland, says she 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.”

Hope for the Future of Mistreated Animals

Sadly, there will be dogs that cannot overcome their fear, no matter how extensive the rehabilitation. But the center’s behaviorists are committed to do everything possible to help dogs recover. Euthanasia will be a last resort for dogs with an extremely poor quality of life, or those who pose a significant threat to people or other animals.

The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center will only be able to handle about 400 animals during the two-year project, so it won’t take much burden off shelters in the immediate future. The hope is that researchers will develop new ways to treat fear, anxiety and shyness in dogs that have been abused, and those techniques can be shared on a broad scale with other facilities and groups doing similar work.

According to Collins, success with this project could expand future projects to include fighting dogs, and even cats.

Related:

Humane Society of the U.S. finally changes its policy on fighting dogs

Great Update About Dogs Removed From Michael Vick’s Compound

May 10, 2013 Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Fostering and Rescue, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet Adoption, Pets, Stop Animal Cruelty, Stop Euthenization, Success Stories | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dog Rescued From Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

A dog rescued in the historic July dog fighting raids has been passed to the custody of a California Pit Bull rescue organization, and will now become a therapy dog.

Dog Rescued From Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

Missouri District Courts have ordered that permanent custody of most of the dogs rescued in July’s multi-state dog fighting raids be transferred to the Humane Society of Missouri, who will determine suitable placements for each individual dog. In what was the largest dog fighting raid to date, more than 500 fighting dogs were rescued across 8 states, with 26 arrests being made on the scene. Nearly all of the dogs were purebred or mixed American Pit Bull Terriers, and since the raid, the rescued dogs have given birth to approximately 100 further puppies.

Broken Hearts, Mended Souls Rescue of Missouri is receiving 3 of the dogs, including Junior, Kali and Carlos who range in age from 5-months to 11-years old. Broken Hearts, Mended Souls places dogs with foster families who teach the dogs what it means to be a loved family member, with the aim of finding a suitable permanent home.

Mutts-n-Stuff, a St. Louis-based bully breed rescue group is receiving Fay, Eli and Jakob, who are 5 years, 7 months and 1 years old respectively. Eli will be relocated to New Hope Pit Bull Rescue of Goose Creek, South Carolina, and Jakob will be sent to Our Pack Inc. Pit Bull Rescue based in San Francisco, California. Jakob will now be trained as a therapy dog. Our Pack Inc. will train Jakob in basic manners before he will be employed to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes and schools.

“As soon as we saw pictures of Jakob, we knew he was special. Although Jakob comes from an abuse case, we’ve seen time and again these dogs are cut out for therapy work and we think he is a great candidate for this kind of work. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is temperament, and as we know, Pit Bulls have loving, affectionate natures that often make them perfect for this kind of job,” said Marthina McClay, President/Founder of Our Pack Inc.

San Francisco, California (Oct 15th, 2009)

Humane Society of the U.S. finally changes its policy on fighting dogs

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October 17, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rescues, Fostering and Rescue, Just One More Pet, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Vick Released from Federal Custody—ASPCA President Speaks Out

Woof “The question isn’t whether he deserves to earn a livelihood. The question is whether Mr. Vick should be able to re-join the ranks of elite athletes in the NFL.”—Ed Sayres, ASPCA President & CEO

On Monday, July 20, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, once the highest-paid player in the National Football League (NFL), was released from federal custody after serving a 23-month sentence for dog fighting. The investigation into the horrific activities that took place at Vick’s Virginia dog fighting operation, Bad Newz Kennels, and his 2007 federal conviction not only led to a sullied public image, but to the star quarterback being let go by his team and indefinitely suspended from the NFL.

In light of the ASPCA’s integral role in the investigation—we collected forensic evidence for the court case and led a team of behaviorists in the evaluation of the dozens of dogs rescued from Vick’s property—Ed Sayres, ASPCA President & CEO, offers his unique perspective on the release of Michael Vick and the question on everyone’s mind: what will he do now?

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ASPCA Responds to Release of Suspended NFL Star & Convicted Dogfighter Michael Vick from Federal Custody

NEW YORK— The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) issued a statement from ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres prompted by suspended NFL star and convicted dogfighter Michael Vick’s release today from federal custody:

“I have spent over 35 years in animal welfare, and currently serve as President of an organization whose very mission it is to prevent animal cruelty. So I do not exaggerate when I say that my thoughts surrounding the future of Michael Vick test the very limits of my objectivity. I have dedicated my life to bringing an end to the very activities that Mr. Vick himself admitted to perpetrating—yet it is with the utmost level of objectivity that those of us in the animal welfare world must employ when discussing ‘What next?’ with Mr. Vick’s career in the NFL.

“Being as objective as possible, the facts are clear: Mr. Vick participated in a six-year pattern of illegal activity. His plea clearly stated that along with these activities, he savagely electrocuted and beat dogs to death after they lost their brutal fights. It is this barbarism that sets the crime apart. This was not a one-time transgression or crime of passion—this was a multi-year pattern of behavior that demonstrates a startling lack of moral character and judgment.

“Regardless, Mr. Vick most decidedly deserves to be employed. However, the question isn’t whether he deserves to earn a livelihood…. The question is whether Mr. Vick should be able to re-join the ranks of the elite athletes in the NFL. The NFL is not your average workplace—with stratospheric salaries, licensing agreements, corporate endorsements and tens of millions of adoring fans, the NFL represents, to many, the achievement of ‘The American Dream.’ These athletes are looked upon as our heroes… our role models… and with Mr. Vick in the enviable role of quarterback, they are viewed as leaders.

“Given the stature of what it means to be a part of the NFL, it is crucial that Mr. Vick first express remorse for what he has done—something that he has yet to do throughout his incarceration. It is also critical that Mr. Vick take advantage of the opportunity granted to him by Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States. Through his association with HSUS, Mr. Vick has a tremendous opportunity to address those many years of horrific judgment and finally demonstrate responsible community behavior.

“It is this conscientious presence in their communities that truly made heroes of men like Walter Payton and Jack Kemp. These men had a sense of integrity, compassion and dedication that was apparent throughout their illustrious careers. It is these legacies that Mr. Vick should aspire to emulate.

“Most people will be seeking a cut-and-dried answer to the question of whether Mr. Vick should be allowed to return to the NFL. It is simply not my place to make such an assertion—instead, this is the challenge that awaits NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. But Mr. Goodell has amply demonstrated his capacity for leadership in the past, and as a representative of a community that truly has been tested by Mr. Vick’s ruthless actions, I ask that we give Mr. Goodell the time and space to deliberate on what will undoubtedly amount to a precedent-setting decision.”

Note: The ASPCA worked closely with federal authorities at every step of the case, first assisting in the investigation itself through the involvement of Dr. Melinda Merck, senior director of Veterinary Forensics with the ASPCA, and later when Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, CAAB, executive vice president of ASPCA Programs, led a team of several Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists in the behavior evaluations of the seized dogs.

Source:  ASPCA.org

Posted:  Just One More Pet

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July 25, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rescues, animals, Just One More Pet, Political Change, Stop Animal Cruelty, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , | 5 Comments

Humane Society of the U.S. finally changes its policy on fighting dogs

 

Careful – you might get cuddled to death by this sweetie    Photo: BestFriends.org 

In a reversal of their decades-old stance, the Humane Society of the United States has reportedly decided on a new interim policy that all dogs seized from fighting operations should now be evaluated for their suitability for adoption on a case-by-case basis.  This is a reversal of longstanding HSUS policy that any dog impounded from a fighting situation was inherently too dangerous to be safely placed in a home and should therefore be killed by authorities as soon as legally permissible.

[Author’s note: Though it is common practice to refer to such government-sanctioned killings of animals as “euthanasia,” the Merriam-Webster definition of euthanasia is “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy,” hence the term cannot truthfully be used to describe the killing of healthy animals who have not yet been determined to be irreversibly aggressive.]


Former Vick fighting dog Leo takes his job as a therapy dog very seriously  Photo: msnbc.com

The announcement of this change in policy came from the Best Friends Animal Society website, and has yet to appear on the HSUS website as of this writing.  A call to the Washington office of the HSUS was not returned.

The reversal comes in the wake of the recent killing of 146 pit bulls who were seized at or born after a raid on a fighting dog operation in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Seventy of the dogs killed were puppies; nineteen of whom were born after the seizure had taken place.  The killings were ordered by Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson Jr. after testimony from local animal control officials and two representatives of the HSUS.  According the Best Friends website, Judge Wilson ordered that the dogs be killed “without evaluation to determine suitability for placement.”

Scarred ex-fighter, now therapy dog Hector snuggles with new mom Leslie Nuccio  Photo: Eric Risberg/AP

Prior to this incident, the Humane Society of the United States’ policy on fighting dogs came under public fire during the Michael Vick case, when HSUS representatives advocated the killing of all dogs seized from Vick’s “Bad Newz Kennels.”  Subsequent case-by-case evaluations ordered by Judge Henry Hudson revealed that only one dog was too aggressive to be safely placed with a rescue.  That dog was euthanized, another was euthanized due to severe health problems, and the rest were sent to rescues around the country.  Subsequently at least two of these dogs, Leo and Hector, who were considered experienced fighters due to their scars, have gone on to become therapy dogs who visit and comfort patients in hospitals.

I would like to note that I am a supporter of the Humane Society of the United States.  They have done unsurpassed work over decades to increase public awareness of cruelty to animals, including exposing the issue of puppy mills; their groundbreaking work in helping to pass Prop. 2 in California, which is an important first step in decreasing cruel farming practices; and their unparalleled work in exposing shocking cruelty to downed dairy cows headed for slaughter at the now-defunct Hallmark/Westland meat packing company, which led to the nation’s largest-ever beef recall. 

Their stance on fighting dogs, however, has been uncharacteristically rigid and inhumane and I am extremely glad that although it took the senseless, indiscriminate deaths of 146 dogs, HSUS is starting to reexamine their policy in this matter and the injustice of judging and condemning any creature without knowing them personally.

By:  Kate Woodviolet

Source:  Examiner.com – LA Pet Rescue Examiner

Posted By:  Ask Marion – Just One More Pet

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March 21, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rescues, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Stop Euthenization, Success Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments