There are plenty of people who love dogs but can’t have one for one reason or another. Now the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service has an answer to that problem – people can take shelter dogs out on field trips for a few hours.
The Dog Meets World program launches in March for a monthlong trial run.
“Right now it’s for volunteers only,” said foster coordinator Hava Moran. “It’s not open to the public.”
However, people can easily and quickly sign up to be a volunteer once they complete a short online orientation and get a few pointers at the shelter. “We want to make it as easy as possible,” Moran said.
The idea is to get the protocols and processes in place before hopefully opening it up to the public at the end of the month, said SCRAPS director Lindsey Soffres. The monthlong trial is also part of a study being done by Arizona State University to examine how short field trips affect the behavior and stress level of shelter dogs, Soffres said.
Other shelters around the country have begun similar short-term field trip programs and say they have noticed an improvement in the happiness and behavior of their dogs, she said.
“We see a lot of shelters taking on novel approaches,” she said. “What Arizona State is trying to do is add science to the discussion.”
She said she fully expects the field trips to help her dogs. “We believe this to be extremely beneficial,” she said. “Even a short-term break from a shelter environment is amazingly cathartic.”
People who take a dog on a field trip will be asked to fill out a short form after each trip that asks questions about the dog’s behavior. The forms will also be a good way to gather information about a dog’s personality before an adoption, Soffres said. The shelter will know if the dog likes car rides, long walks in the park or lounging on the couch.
It can be hard to get a true picture of a dog’s personality in a shelter, and the more information they have the easier it will be to find a good fit with an adopter, she said.
“The more that we can ease their stress, the better they can interact with potential adopters,” she said.
Once a dog is selected for a field trip, the person checking them out will be given a water bowl, leash, harness, treats and food. The dogs will also be wearing a vest or bandana that says “Adopt me.”
“They can be out for an hour, they can be out for two hours, they can have them all day,” said Moran.
People can do whatever they like on their field trips, whether it’s a hike, a jog or a simple stroll through a local park. Moran said she wants to make a list of local businesses and restaurants that are dog friendly so people can bring the dogs out in public.
Sitting on the couch for a Netflix marathon with a shelter dog for company is also an option. “We have a lot of dogs who would just love that,” Soffres said.
The only requirement is that the shelter dogs must be kept separate from other pets in the household if they are brought to someone’s home, Soffres said.
Anyone interested in signing up for the Dog Meets World program can send an email to scrapsrescue@spokanecounty. org to be sent a link to the online orientation.
It’s possible that people who take a dog on a field trip will fall in love and decide to adopt it and that’s just fine with them, Moran said. “The goal would be to get them adopted,” she said.
Even if that’s not possible, taking a dog out of the shelter for a few hours is very beneficial to them, Soffres said.
“Maybe you’re not in a position to have a dog of your own, but here’s your chance to make a difference,” she said. “We just really encourage people to help us get this off the ground and give us feedback.”
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