You may not be shocked to hear that one thing our Community Programs Department gets a lot (a looooot) of requests for is to bring our shelter dogs to off-site events for stress relief or promotion or various other reasons. From a community programs perspective, this is a legitimate inquiry and it would obviously drum up a lot in interest in both our adoptable doggies and the organization as a whole.
However, if you consider it from the perspective of someone working in our Animal Behavior Department, or just anyone with any general experience in an animal shelter, taking shelter dogs off-site (which in and of itself requires preparing them with collars, harnesses, and leashes and then loading them into vans to be transported across the city – all potentially stressful situations on their own) opens up the door for a number of potentially disastrous situations to arise.
Considering it from the perspective of a shelter dogs – brought in by your owner without an understanding of why, moved around from kennel to kennel, undergoing a physical examination (and possibly even a spay/neuter surgery if necessary), going through a behavior assessment, and then being visited every day by different patrons for hours on end – taking a trip in a van with a handful of other stressed dogs to go meet sometimes hundreds of other strangers sounds like a recipe for misunderstandings and negative interactions. Obviously, we do not want to put the dogs in this type of situation.
So that is why we initially created our Pet Visitation program, which now allows us to (usually) satisfy the many requests we get to have Anti-Cruelty Society-endorsed dogs attend off-site events. Pet Visitation volunteers operate outside of our normal volunteer programs, and they get to work with their best friend while they do it!
The primary requirement for participating in this program is to have a dog that is Canine Good Citizen certified through the American Kennel Club. A CGC certification is similar to a therapy dog certification (although not quite as strenuous) and simply says that the dog has proven him or herself to be well-mannered around strangers. This includes allowing a friendly stranger to approach the dog and speak to the handler, sitting politely, loose-leash walking, behaving and/or not reacting to another dog, coming when called, supervised separation, and more. For a complete list of all of the CGC test items, please visit this link: http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/training/canine-good-citizen/cgc-test-items-and-pledge/.
Our small, but dedicated, corps of Pet Visitation volunteers and their pooches step up to join Society staff members in representing our organization at a wide variety of different off-site events. Sometimes, this is just a promotional or educational gatherings where we’re trying to raise awareness about the work that we do, but most often it is when we are invited out to visit schools, businesses, or other organizations for de-stressing events where people can take a break from their busy days and spend a few minutes meeting and petting a friendly furry face. We’ve attended events at the University of Illinois Chicago for students during finals week, stopped in at local corporate offices, and even have a standing monthly “Pet Pause” event for employees at the Rush University Medical Center. The hard work and dedication of these volunteers and their pets allows us to go out into the community and making lasting and meaningful connections with individuals and other organizations and is a very beneficial part of what we do here.
Unfortunately, the downside to the Pet Visitation program is that because it uses volunteers and their pets, as opposed to shelter dogs, it can be hard to schedule events around their already busy schedules. It’s even more difficult during weekdays, which tend to me the most commonly requested times. So, if you stumbled across this blog, happen to live in the Chicagoland area, and have a well-behaved pooch that you think would make a great Pet Visitation dog (or know someone else who does), we’d love for you to become part of our Pet Visitation team! To make things even more convenient, The Anti-Cruelty Society’s School of Dog Training offers an AKC CGC 3-week test prep course here in our Education & Training Center (169 W. Grand Avenue). The cost for this class is $60. We also administer CGC tests on-site; just taking the test costs $10 (the cost of the test is included if you take the whole course). If you’re interested in getting your dog CGC-certified at The Anti-Cruelty Society, you can learn more by visiting this link: http://anticruelty.org/pet-behavior-and-training/school-of-dog-training/akc-canine-good-citizen/.