Image: Volunteer Lynn O’Sullivan, an officer of The Homeless Animal Kindness Society (THANKS), read Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat to Snowball (white terrier looking dog) and her other friends on Monday, December 18, 2017. Reading to the dogs is part of the animal socialization process that O’Sullivan, THANKS, and others are leading to make dogs friendlier to people so they’ll be more adoptable, as part of a behavior training movement across the United States.
Conroe, December 27 – If you go into the Montgomery County Animal Shelter on a Monday afternoon, there’s a good chance you’ll observe one or more people reading books to the dogs waiting for adoption. Seriously. People are reading books to dogs. What’s even more amazing is that the dogs not only seem to enjoy the reading but also they react positively to human reading through gaining greater comfort being around people.
The nonprofit organization, The Homeless Animal Kindness Society, THANKS, under the leadership of local activists Bill O’Sullivan, Lynn O’Sullivan, and Robbie Benson, is leading the behavioral training and education efforts at the Animal Shelter. Popular former Animal Shelter Director Charles Jackson is a member of the THANKS Board of Directors.
As Bill O’Sullivan, who is also known as a local political “sage,” explains, “THANKS raises funds to educate and train animals, so they’re more readily adoptable. Mostly, we’re working to remove the fear from the animals so they’ll be friendlier around people and won’t be defensive or frightened. We teach animals to be calm, trained, and friendlier.”
Lynn O’Sullivan, who spends many hours at the Animal Shelter working with dogs, told The Golden Hammer, “I love reading to the dogs, especially to my friend Snowball [white terrier looking dog pictured above]. I see real differences in their behavior. While I’m reading, they lie on their stomachs with their noses close to the front of the cages. They get used to a person being around them.”
On December 18, 2017, O’Sullivan read the entire Dr. Seuss classic, The Cat in the Hat, to Snowball and her friends. The dogs sat for several minutes and appeared to listen to every word of the story. After O’Sullivan finished reading, she looked up to several rows of caged dogs staring directly at her quietly and attentively.
Benson, whom the Montgomery County Commissioners Court appointed to the Animal Shelter Advisory Board in October, 2017, explained, “We had a combined total of 4,571 volunteer hours – times the average going volunteer rate for Texas ($25.00) which give us a value to MCAS of $114,275.00 for the past year. What is particularly noteworthy about these hours and value is that no one had to manage us (much), so we accomplished almost all as a ‘stand-alone.'”
Benson is a renowned national advocate for the “no kill” movement in animal shelters, which has tried to reduce the euthanasia rates in animal shelters nationwide by placing the animals in adopted homes as quickly as possible and by reducing animal deaths from disease and accidents. Benson is leading a training and education program at the Animal Shelter to teach others how to train and teach dogs to become “Canine Good Citizens” following a program which Austin Pets Alive championed.
Benson provided the following statistics which Austin Pets Alive gathered for the “Canine Good Citizens” behavioral enrichment and training program for dogs in the Austin animal shelter:
Rates of Return:
• Control Group: 20%
• CGC Dogs after behavioral training and enrichment: 7%
Almost 3 times less likely!
• Control Group: 20%
• CGC Dogs after behavioral training and enrichment: 68%
3 times faster!
Average Length of Stay:
• Control Group: 200 days
• After CGC behavioral training and enrichment: 41 days
During the Animal Shelter crisis last year (2016) during which the Animal Shelter suffered from terrible management under the reckless direction of Todd “Boss” Hayden, many citizens, who were both animal activists and true fiscal conservatives seeking a reduction in the amount of Montgomery County government spending, found a natural alliance between those two groups. Animal activists want better treatment for the animals and realize that a strong volunteer and private contribution program is the way to achieve that goal, especially with the amazing examples of private programs in successful shelters in Denver and Austin. Conservatives want to find creative ways to reduce the amount of citizen’s treasure spent in government programs. By working together to find ways to improve the behavioral health of animals, both groups work jointly to achieve these important goals.
Bill O’Sullivan told The Golden Hammer, “We’re very excited about the formation of THANKS, whose intent is to enable the adoption of more homeless animals. Our mission is ‘Through tax deductible donations financially and otherwise, support systems, programs, and education to eliminate the killing of companion animals. ‘From Lost to Loved.'”
O’Sullivan explained the theory behind behavioral enrichment and training programs: “While many animals at shelters arrive through various means, the most frequent are strays that are caught and those that are owner-surrendered. In both of those situations, trauma can occur. For the stray, they have been taken by a pole with a noose and put in a kennel. For owner surrender, they lose not only their home but their human companions that they have known and given unconditional love for many years. Once the trauma is eliminated or greatly diminished, their likelihood of getting adopted is greatly increased and their shelter time, hence County expense, greatly reduced.”
“Behavior enrichment and training is the process where we overcome issues which prevent ready adoptions. We try to re-instill human trust. That involves gradual interaction with the animals until trust builds. We’re holding classes to train the trainers for this purpose with the goal to have friendly, trained animals available for adoption,” O’Sullivan added.
O’Sullivan concluded, “Saving animals is not only good practice but also good fiscal sense.”
Individuals interested in donating to THANKS may do so at “thehomelessanimalkindnesssociety.org.” THANKS has requested that inquiries go through firstname.lastname@example.org.