Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Volunteers train dogs from criminal cases to make them more marketable for adoption

By Alison Morrow, WFTS

Hillsborough County euthanizes more pit bulls than any other breed, mostly because they come into shelters at a faster rate than they're adopted out.
Animal control is working to change that with a new dog rehab program.
"This is the beginning of teaching these dogs that have never had human contact before how to look to a human for leadership," trainer Duane Bryant told a class of eleven dogs and their volunteer handlers Wednesday night.
Most of the dogs come from criminal cases involving drug dealers, fighting rings or animal abuse situations.
"They've not had any social skills," said Hillsborough County Animal Services Investigations Manager Sgt. Pam Perry.
"Swiss", a pit bull terrier, is one of them. Officers found crack cocaine under his dog house a few months ago. They believe his owner used him to scare away law enforcement. Except when they found him, he was social enough to pass a behavior test and go up for adoption.
Problem is, no one seems to want him or the ten other dogs participating in his ADOPT (Amazing Dogs On Positive Training) class.
"The dogs that come in here are the dogs people have given up on," said Swiss' volunteer handler, Victoria Parker.
They've all passed temperament tests, but have lived life with no training.
Some don't even know how to walk on a leash. So, even though they're flooding shelters, they're also the dogs no one's adopting.
Two-hundred pit bulls are euthanized in Hillsborough County every month.
"That's unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. Every life makes a difference," Sgt. Perry said. "They don't know what it's like to be loved by a person, to be that companion pet. What this program provides for them is that human animal bond again."
In the 15 weeks volunteers have showed up, 16 dogs are in new homes.
The hope for Swiss is that he might be number 17.
"He's come a long way," Parker said. "It's worth it. If they're still here, they're still alive, they're still willing to learn, they can still be helped."
For more information on how to volunteer with ADOPT, visit I Train Dogs Nu

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