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Tue, Sept. 17

Making the Yavapai Humane Society the best it can be

Courtesy photo<br>
Brandy is a 9-year-old spayed boxer mix, and Axle is her 15-year-old neutered brother. Brandy and Axle are part of the YHS Seniors for Seniors program, which means if you are 59 years of age or older, you can adopt these buddies for free. If you are younger than 59, you can adopt two for the price of one. Both dogs are good with children, not good with cats, and know some basic commands. Sadly, these trusting dogs were abandoned by their owner because he had to move out of state and could not be bothered taking them with him.

Courtesy photo<br> Brandy is a 9-year-old spayed boxer mix, and Axle is her 15-year-old neutered brother. Brandy and Axle are part of the YHS Seniors for Seniors program, which means if you are 59 years of age or older, you can adopt these buddies for free. If you are younger than 59, you can adopt two for the price of one. Both dogs are good with children, not good with cats, and know some basic commands. Sadly, these trusting dogs were abandoned by their owner because he had to move out of state and could not be bothered taking them with him.

Imagine an animal shelter that is quiet and smells clean; where pets are stress- and disease-free; where dogs are led outside to eliminate, enjoy fresh air and exercise a minimum of four times each day; where adoptions into loving homes are permanent; where well-trained staff and volunteers are plentiful to meet the needs of shelter pets and clients; and where the community generously supports shelter activities and programs.

In the enduring words of John Lennon, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." In fact, I recently attended a presentation proposing an enrichment program for the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS). What is an "enrichment program"?

Simply put, an enrichment program attempts to make life at the shelter the best it can be in every possible way for the animals, staff, volunteers and the public. Enrichment makes sure the best in a shelter's homeless pets is always on display making them more adoptable.

The presentation was made by the owners of the Hassayampa Canine Resort and Spa, Marcia Gatti and James Holt. They brought together a group of Prescott stakeholders and animal lovers to discuss this timely vision. After all, YHS is the largest animal rescue organization in northern Arizona, and we are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. What better time to chart a course that more closely reflects our community's compassion for animals?

The consequence of not having a robust enrichment program in an animal shelter is dire; pets may become less adoptable over time. They can become hyperactive, bored, anxious, frustrated, lose housetraining skills, and dogs may develop an uncontrolled exuberance at seeing people or withdraw and isolate themselves in fear. All these outcomes diminish an animal's quality of life and their chance at adoption. However, with an enrichment program pets can learn and retain valuable skills that make them happier and more adoptable.

Gatti and Holt demonstrated their personal commitment to this vision by donating more than $10,000 to replace the chain link fence dividing the kennels with solid dividers. This simple improvement created greater privacy for the dogs, resulting in less anxiety, barrier aggression and barking. The outcome has been transformational, creating a greater feeling of security for the dogs and a quieter more enjoyable shelter for the public to visit.

Gatti and Holt's presentation suggested many ideas that would greatly enhance an animal's shelter experience. Ideas included:

• Adequate, well-trained staff and volunteers capable of consistently and positively training dogs and counseling adopters before and after an animal is adopted;

• Covered outdoor facilities for training, exercise and fresh air;

• An HVAC system to ensure eight air exchanges per hour in the kennels to drastically reduce the risk of disease and odors; and

• Educational materials, videos, free handouts, training classes and behavioral services and strategies that provide guidance and information to adopters and the community, a veritable animal welfare academy.

These components would immediately and directly benefit the thousands of animals rescued by YHS each year. The estimated cost to implement all these pieces is about $170,000; but they can also be put into service sequentially as funds permit.

The results would be priceless. An enrichment program will reduce behavior problems and stress-induced illnesses, making animals healthier, happier and more adoptable. It would also allow YHS to better serve our community by creating a much needed community center where we can all be proud of the compassion, care and training we provide our homeless animals and their adoptive owners.

If you are interested in learning more about how an enrichment program can make a difference at YHS, visit our website at www.yavapaihumane.org or call me at 445-2666, ext 21. Your participation in funding this vision will make a life-saving difference to our community's neediest pets for our next 40 years.

As John Lennon said, "I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one."

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at eboks@yavapaihumane.org or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

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