Koret Shelter Medicine Program Launches Behavior, Training, and Enrichment Bootcamp for Animal Shelters
The Koret Shelter Medicine Program, a UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine program that works to improve the welfare of homeless animals and reduce euthanasia in animal shelters, is turning its attention to behavior and training.
“One thing the pandemic solidified is just how important the human-animal bond is to our personal well-being,” said Dr. Cynthia Delany, UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program’s resident behavior and training expert. “The vast majority of pet guardians reported their pet was a source of substantial support to them through the pandemic; more Americans adopted and fostered in 2020 than any year in history. We’re working with shelters to ensure those bonds stay strong by expanding animal shelter access to behavior and training resources that help animal guardians navigate the challenges that sometimes come with being a new pet parent. Big changes, like returning to the workplace, can be stressful for a new family.”
The program is expected to launch in the winter of 2022 and will include assessment and training in running a behavior, training, and enrichment program in the shelter setting. These wellness-centric programs are goal-oriented: preserve the mental and physical well-being of animals while in the shelter setting, help improve behaviors in preparation for adoption, and support post-adoption success through behavior support and training. Shelters will learn how to create virtual behavior resource centers that help guardians work through behavior issues instead of surrendering their animals to the shelter.
“Study after study shows us the majority of people surrendering don’t want to give up their pet, they just don’t know what else to do,” said Dr. Kate Hurley, director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program. “When behavior is the reason an owner is considering surrender, ideally shelters would be able to work with the guardian to find a solution and keep the animal in the home they already know. We can help with that.”
The program will train 10-15 shelters in the first year using a “communities of practice” model whereby shelters are led by subject matter experts in live virtual training sessions and work together in cohorts to implement the programs in their respective shelters.
“Shelters that implement programs to address common behavior issues can expect to see an increase in adoptions and a decrease in behavior returns, as well as fewer animals surrendered to begin with,” said Dr. Delany. “We chose a delivery model based on its potential to be scaled. We want to get these resources into the hands of shelter workers as quickly as possible.”
The program was green-lighted in July, 2021, after receiving a $51,042 grant from the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation.
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Additional information, including training platforms, dates, and shelter eligibility can be found on the Koret Shelter Medicine Program website.
In 2000, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine launched the first shelter medicine program in the world. Since then, the Koret Shelter Medicine Program has moved beyond the basics—how to vaccinate, clean, feed, and handle animals—to guide the whole animal-shelter system. The program offers organizational evaluations, facility design consultations, and online training all intended to provide practical, cost-effective advice to improve animal welfare and adoptability.
The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation was established in 1998 through a gift from John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold. The Foundation is committed to bettering the lives of domesticated and undomesticated animals, including supporting the efforts of animal rescue and land conservation organizations and advances in veterinary medicine. The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation became a supporting organization of the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation in 2012.