Dog Pound, 2.0: How Shelters Are Changing For The Better

by Edie Jarolim

In anticipation of Z Living's new original series Finding Fido (premiering January 17), where dog expert and photographer Seth Casteel plays matchmaker to people and pooches, we're collecting and telling a series of inspiring pet stories. Follow along and check out our special Finding Fido spotlight here.

Animal Shelters Can Be Traumatic  – But They Don't Have To Be


Entering a shelter is traumatic for most dogs – in many cases, for good reason. According to the ASPCA, about 31% of dogs who go into such facilities in the U.S. are euthanized. Moreover, lots of shelters are grim places, underfunded and overcrowded. This makes entering a shelter traumatic for humans, too.

The Changing Face of Animal Shelters

But we’ve come a long way in recent decades, both in improving facilities and in finding creative ways to get dogs out of shelters more quickly. The need to decide about adoptions on-site has been minimized too.

You can find prime examples of the newer, more appealing models at the facilities run by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA)Madeline Bernstein, spcaLA’s President, says, “Rather than the hidden away dungeon concept, our shelters are a destination point.”

Also on Z Living: VIDEO: Tell Us Why You're Thankful For Your Dog!

In addition to providing housing for adoptable pets, the complexes include a pet hotel, a pet salon, an education center, a shop for pet supplies, a children’s day camp, and a training center. Weddings and birthday parties have been held there, according to Bernstein.
The goal of shelter stays, Bernstein says, is “housing, nurturing, and rehabilitation.” Dogs are assessed medically and behaviorally and the process of making them comfortable and more adoptable begins right away. Food is presented in a stimulating way – for example, in frozen yogurt pops in the summer – and treats are only given to dogs that “have four paws on the ground and that are sitting nicely.”

Bernstein says, “When I walk into the facility, all the dogs immediately sit. Visitors always ask ‘how do you do that?’ I explain that it’s not me, but the volunteers.”

GET INVOLVED! Help Z Living find more dogs their forever homes with our #FindingFido grant-giving program that helps shelters and adoption organizations in need. It's as simple as sharing a pic of your pooch! Find out more here.


Off-Site Shelter Outlets

Enrichment program such as dog walking and soothing music and aromas have been integrated into a lot of facilities around the country. Still, lots of shelters remain depressing — or at least potential adopters fear they will be, and shy away. For people who don’t like the idea of going to shelters, these days the shelters have started coming to them.
In most cities, dogs are brought to regular adoption events at large pet supply chains like PetSmart and Petco. And some humane societies have created their own adoption outlets. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona, for example, runs two PAWSH stores, upscale adoption boutiques that rent space at local malls. Dogs that are showcased in these places have the benefit of retail traffic – and they’re absent the shelter dog stigma.

Also on Z Living: How I Found My Fido: Sweet, Quirky Hattie Mae

Virtual Sheltering

The importance of using social media and other creative marketing techniques to save the lives of shelter dogs has also been emphasized in recent years.  Volunteer photographers take appealing pictures of dogs and post them on sites like Petfinder, Facebook, Twitter, and Craigslist. Some shelters make YouTube videos to ease people into the visiting process. This way, potential adopters can think about the dogs they might want to take home in the comfort of those homes – without the pressure of too many sad faces in front of them.

Tell us YOUR heartwarming dog adoption story! We're starting a new series called How I Found My Fido and would love to hear how you found your dog. Click here to submit your story. You could be featured on Z Living!


Related Articles

Join The Conversation



What's On Now & Next


Channel Finder

Find Z Living in your area