Shelter Dogs: An Untapped Public Health Resource

Cute Dog Rescued From a Shelter

As growing research supports the health benefits of pet ownership, consider that people may benefit from animals, even if they can’t own them. Thousands of animals remain in shelters, or worse, are euthanized, when they could be doing what they do best-spreading unconditional love. Let’s ramp up the policy-change initiatives and get these animals where they belong. With us!

Here is a short and incomplete list of some places shelter dogs can help, if given the opportunity. Look for a more expansive description of each location in my upcoming blog series on shelter dogs.

Shelter Dogs in the Workplace

Progressive (and cool) companies are introducing, “Bring Your Dog to Work” programs to improve employee satisfaction, increase productivity, decrease stress, and decrease negative office gossip. Companies such as Google, Amazon, and Purina all have dog-benefits for their employees.
But maybe you don’t have a dog, or your company is not ready to institute a full-blown everyone bring-your-dog policy. Imagine that you are at work, and you go to the break room and there is a shelter dog. Or maybe a few dogs. You sit down, scratch a belly, take a walk, then head back to work. Productivity increases, the dogs will have a wonderful time, dogs will be adopted (undoubtedly), and then new dogs can be brought in.

Shelter Dogs in Retirement Communities

Picture a volunteer run program to foster 5-6 dogs who live as communal pets. Everyone’s dogs. Volunteer opportunities provide a sense of purpose, decrease loneliness, increase socialization, and improve depression. And guess what…dogs do all those things, too. So this one is a double win-win.

Shelter Dogs in Schools

Kids love dogs. Having dogs in school could be a wonderful way to teach responsibility and foster a loving, caring atmosphere. Possibilities include charter schools with veterinarian programs, agricultural schools, schools with disabled kid (which is all schools these days), or vocational training in the pet industry. Today’s children are tomorrow’s solutions. Increasing awareness and creating an emotional connection to this problem will improve the future for our furry friends.

Shelter Dogs in Prisons

Georgia and Colorado both started innovative programs, which have been proven effective at saving dogs and decreasing violence in jails. Arguably the most compelling reason to institute such a program – lower rates of recidivism.  Regardless of whether you like dogs, ex-cons who have participated in the program are less likely to end up back in jail and that saves taxpayer money!
So don’t be afraid to get involved. Start a Shelter Dog program wherever you may be.

Dr. Julie Huthmaker
Clearly Loved Pets

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