For dogs cooped up in kennels at the Animal Protection Society of Durham, a break of a couple days, or even a couple of hours, makes a big difference.
That’s why the society started a dog walkers program, which has now expanded to include a dog day foster program. Volunteers take dogs out for a walk or a few days.
Stephanie Kirby, the volunteer coordinator for APS, said the program works great for volunteers who travel during the week. They can have a dog for the weekend and bring the animal back to the shelter for the rest of the week.
“It just is a break from the routine,” Kirby said. “Living in a kenneling environment is tough.”
Kirby herself contributes by taking a dog into her office for part of each day.
The goal at APS right now is to get every dog out of its kennel twice a day, which is a sign of progress, Kirby said, because a few years ago most dogs got out once a day.
Veterinarians at the shelter make sure all the animals are current on vaccinations, Kirby said, to keep down the risk of disease from dogs leaving the shelter and coming back.
Kirby has seen dogs that were so nervous they would not go through a door change into more confident animals.
Also, dogs that are rambunctious go out for a 5-mile run, for instance, and are nice and tired when they get back.
Socializing and training increases the chances that dogs will find permanent homes.
Molly Stone, a behavior and training expert at the Wake County office of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, agrees that getting the dogs out for a while is a good idea.
“It’s extremely valuable for them,” Stone said.
There may be some risk of confusing the dogs when they go to different homes, Stone says, but generally the more socialization a dog gets the better.
“A lot of socialization really does make for a well-adjusted dog,” Stone said.
There is a trail in back of the Durham shelter where volunteers can take dogs out for a couple of hours of special attention.
Other popular spots to take the foster dogs include the Eno River, Duke’s East Campus and Ninth Street.
Day fostering can also lead to a more permanent foster arrangement.
Seeing animals in a more natural environment can lead to people taking them, Kirby said.
“If you see a picture of them in a back yard,” Kirby said, “you can picture them in your back yard.”
Kitten homes needed
There is also a big need for kitten foster homes right now, Kirby said. Cats usually breed in the spring and early summer, and the kittens are arriving now.
“When they come in without their moms, they can’t make it through the night,” Kirby said.
Very young kittens must be bottle fed every two hours.
The APS has more than 200 dog walking and 10 day foster volunteers now but needs more to meet the demand, Kirby said.
The APS, a nonprofit organization that has managed the Durham animal shelter since 1990, also holds special adoption events where they bring at least one dog and one cat to sites such as the Regulator Bookshop or Petco.
The APS provides food, shelter and medical care to nearly 7,000 stray, surrendered, abandoned, abused and neglected animals each year. Last year, only 1,365 were adopted.
Volunteers must be 18 years old and take two training sessions. They must work eight hours a month and commit to volunteer for at least six months.
“It’s good for the soul,” Kirby said.