Shelter Enrichment Team

Woman scratching dogs face

The Shelter Enrichment Team was created to solve the issue of enrichment for animals in the care of the County. A medically healthy dog isn't necessarily behaviorally, mentally, or emotionally well. It is no surprise that animals are stressed within the shelter system. They are deprived of whatever normalcy they had prior to coming to the shelter. They are flooded with sounds, sights, scents and the adrenaline that comes with the animal mindset of fight or flight from unfamiliar experiences.

Our Enrichment program provides dogs in the shelter system an outlet for built up energy, while building trusting relationships with the people who care for them daily. We focus on the animals who are not yet ready for adoption. We work to help these animals improve their relationships with people by addressing the specific issues that make it challenging to place them in forever homes. 

Dog playingFor animals who are unsafe or not able to be handled, we work in 'protective contact' which allows for learning to take place while the animal is secure in their kennel. This removes the risk of injury and builds that trusting relationship, which improves an animal's ability to work in direct contact in an open space.

We also focus on the long term residents and on dogs who are struggling from the unavoidable aspects of being in the shelter. Many longer term residents have difficulty being managed on leash or being around other animals. We work with volunteers and maintenance staff to help deliver consistent protocols to reduce the situations which aggravate the negative behaviors.

For dogs who are displaying kennel stress or who resist returning to their kennel, we spend time making their kennel a place that is engaging and appealing. We can do this simply by providing part of their enrichment and training within their kennel or leaving surprise goodies inside so that on return, there's something exciting. This simple fix can drastically reduce the animal's stress as well as the risk of injury to staff or volunteers.Dog lays next to ball in crate with open door

Environmental enrichment stimulates the dog through smell, sound and physical structures in their run. With focus in just these two areas, we can drastically prevent decline from the first moment a dog enters shelter care. With fewer stressed animals in shelter care, we can help to improve the numbers of successful adoptions and far fewer returns. The most direct aim of the Shelter Enrichment Team is to aid in the flow of animals that move through the shelter while directly addressing their physical, mental and emotional needs.

See an outline of the full scope of work (PDF).