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Protocol for Dogs Removed from Hoarders/Collectors

Jacque Lynn Schultz, Director, Special Projects, ASPCA


  1. Get thorough veterinary examination. Look for any zoonotic conditions that would preclude hands-on socialization by staff/volunteers. If emaciated, put on multiple (4-5x daily) meal feeding schedule of small meals.
  2. Determine legal status of dogs. Can they be placed in volunteer foster homes or if pertinent, with purebred rescue groups pending legal release? Can they be placed with potential adopters on a foster contract, which would then be finalized, when they are legally released? Or must they remain in your possession until the court case is settled?
  3. Conduct temperament evaluations of dogs. Are they fear- or dominant-aggressive? Are they undersocialized? To what degree? Are they depressed? Are they completely dog-oriented or do they show interest in people?
  4. Write up socialization protocol for staff/volunteers to follow. Example: Sit quietly and talk to the dog in a quiet, yet upbeat voice, first through the cage bars and then with the cage door open. If the dog approaches, offer a small food reward and introduce collar and leash. (Buckle collars are a must for fearful dogs–nothing that tightens up on them when they panic.) Take for walks starting in quiet areas and increase levels of noise and activity as dog adjusts. Stroke, massage, brush, and offer small food rewards (a severely stressed dog may not take food) to get dogs used to human touch and handling. Introduce disinfectable toys (rubber Kong toys work well) to encourage sense of play.
  5. When released for adoption, screen potential adopters carefully. The ideal adopters are an experienced adult household. Respectful teens would probably be okay. These animals are usually too stressed to go into households with young children. If the dog is dog-oriented, limit access to other dogs until bonding with humans is accomplished. The quickest way to promote bonding is through umbilical tethering (attaching a leash to belt or wrist and having the dog with you wherever you move throughout the house). Beyond promoting bonding, umbilical tethering will also aid in housebreaking the dog since crate training is usually not an option with these dogs. For both bonding and housebreaking purposes, the ideal home would be one in which the dog is not left alone for more than 4-5 hours a day for the first few months.


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