2019 All About Dogs

​The Everyday Impacts of Complex Placement for Dogs

(Presentations & Important Documents are included below)

Sunday, October 20, 2019  About the meeting:

We had a fascinating discussion about complex placement issues for shelter dogs – and the struggles the dogs and their adopters go through – with a focus on how to address this issue more humanely and responsibly.

Introduction: Case studies of adopters who have struggled with difficult dogs.

Lindsay Hamrick discussed the consequences of balancing local dogs and transport programs, the disturbing results of ineffective adoption follow up programs, the amount of time dogs are waiting to be adopted, and national trends, including the increase in legislation of dangerous dog laws.

Erika Lessa  talked about the role of behavior assessments, the importance of getting an accurate history to get a clear picture of a dog, how to build an accurate profile of a dog, and what the impact of complex dog placement is on our adopters.

Seana Dowling-Guyer looked at the science and research related to aversive versus positive training methods, their effectiveness and successes, and related risks. 

Group Brainstorm: We asked these questions:  What have we learned?  What are you seeing in your community? What can we do to improve on existing programs? How do your programs stack up? How can they be improved to result in better outcomes for dogs and adopters?

Our Speakers:

Erika Lessa’s path to working with dogs unknowingly began 10 years ago when she adopted a dog with developing aggression issues. In the course of his rehabilitation she was introduced to the world of dog behavior. Her education came by way of hands on experience, multiple apprenticeships, and self-education. She most recently received her diploma in Canine Behavior Science & Technology from the Companion Animal Science Institute requiring approximately 500 course hours. She also holds her Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) from the IAABC, CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer Knowledge Assessed) with CCPDT, is a member of the Pet Professional Guild and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). Erika is registered with the American Kennel Club as a Canine Good Citizen (AKC CGC) Evaluator. She has been published in the IAABC Journal as well as local publications, developed and co-presented webinars, workshops, and programs on canine social interactions. Erika has worked with many shelters and rescues with adoption transition support for difficult-to-adopt and marginal dogs. Currently, She is currently living with 2 rescue dogs of her own.

Presentation: Complex Placements – About marginal and difficult to place dogs

As Policy Director for Companion Animals at The Humane Society of the United States, Lindsay Hamrick works to support local, state and federal policies protecting pets. She holds a M.S. in Animals & Public Policy from Tufts Veterinary School and was previously the New Hampshire State Director for HSUS, passing stronger animal cruelty laws at the state level. Prior to her role in advocacy, she spent a decade as Chief Operating Officer, overseeing operations at three of New Hampshire’s animal shelters. As a CPDT, Lindsay has deployed to assist victims of dogfighting, puppy mills, and has a consistent flow of foster dogs through her home. She is currently owned by four dogs, one disgruntled cat, five rescued cockfighting birds and, depending on the month, about 10,000 honey bees.

Presentation: Everyday Impacts of Placing Complex Dogs

As Associate Director of the Center for Shelter Dogs, Seana Dowling-Guyer, MS helps set the Center’s strategic direction and priorities, including research conducted by the Center on behalf of dogs in shelters. Seana’s research focuses on improving the welfare of dogs in shelters, gaining a better understanding of the behavior of dogs, and supporting dogs in the home and community. In addition, she is interested in how people’s knowledge and perception of dog behavior influence their relationships with their dogs. Seana also teaches in the Masters in Animals and Public Policy program, part of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Her courses include Research Methods and Animal Behavior. She oversees student research related to dogs and animal behavior.
Previously, Seana worked for 14 years at hi-tech market research firm IDC where she designed, managed, and analyzed data from surveys around the world. Seana is a past President of the Board of the New England Federation of Humane Societies and is a past President of PoundHounds Inc., a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization helping the dogs in municipal animal care and control facilities. Seana holds an MS in Clinical Psychology from the University of Alaska Anchorage and a BA in Psychology from the College of the Holy Cross and served in the United States Army.

Presentation: Evidence over Anecdotes: Research about Dog Training

Here are some links to provide guidance for organizations to add additional programming to help adopters with animal integration.

Important Documents:

Animal Introductions

Organizations are welcome to add to the “Integrating shelter animals into a home with other pets” document, use it for staff/foster parents/adopters, etc. HOWEVER, as we discussed, handing over a word document to an adopter or foster parent and hoping they understand the details and how to read behavior, isn’t enough especially if organizations are sending home dogs with a history of harming other animals.  With highly social animals, this process takes 48 hours – with highly reactive animals, it can take up to six weeks to either integrate or feel confident that integration is not possible.  Organizations are encouraged to walk adopters through this and talk about specific behaviors/defining reactivity, etc.   

CA Dog Bite Disclosure Law

This new law in CA is requiring dog bite disclosures by shelters and rescues.  (We’re not necessarily endorsing these bills or believe this is the best model but we’re seeing more and more of them.  Some have had more serious penalties, but haven’t passed into law.  This one is a civil fine of up to $500/non-disclosure.

Dog bite research – National Canine Research Council

Socially Conscious Sheltering

A discussion called “Fallout From the Use of Aversives” in training dogs


MAC thanks the following sponsors of All About Dogs:
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)