Animal Care Sanctuary’s (ACS) alternative housing program pairs dogs with behavioral difficulties that may decrease their adoptability, with college-level pre-veterinary or animal science interns in onsite housing.
Since the inception of the internship program in 2014, ACS has hosted 33 interns from well-known universities across the United States. ACS intern alumni have attended New York University, Purdue, Notre Dame, Penn State University as well as students from two of the top veterinary schools: Cornell University and the University of Minnesota.
Behavior issues in dogs are common in the shelter environment, and resolving the issue often requires consistent training with the guidance of a trainer or behaviorist. Since we have a low number of foster families, utilizing interns was the best solution!
Within a homelike environment, with their dedicated person (intern), dogs undergo individually tailored behavior-modification training regimes. The intent is to decrease their stress while increasing their behavior modification training to prepare for adoption. According to Emily Watson of Animal Wellness magazine, “Combined with quality care, positive training programs for shelter dogs can help increase adoption rates and ensure successful integration into forever homes.”
Dogs in this program typically had a very long length of stay (three years being the longest) and a limited chance of being adopted due to challenging behaviors ranging from fear of strangers to dog aggression. After spending three months in a homelike environment with round the clock training they were an adoption success. To date, the program has a 96 percent success rate, with 27 of its 28 dogs now in new homes.
Although, some of the dogs in the program have been quite challenging, having an alternative housing dog remains one of the highlights of this internship. Zoe P. from Unity College says that “I loved the idea of getting to spend individual time with a specific dog at the sanctuary to help with training and increase their potential for adoption. Cooper improved so much by the time he was adopted. Even just living in the home with me helped him gain trust and confidence in himself to meet new people.”
Interns actively market their Alternative Housing dogs to ensure adoption is a priority. Interns act as their dogs’ ambassador when showing them to potential adopters. Interns then serve help the dog transition into its new home by providing their forever family with advice on how to continue their training for a long lasting relationship built on trust resulting in a forever home.
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