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Humane Society grant to help address animal behavior

December 26, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

MAUGANSVILLE - Pet problems such as aggression, chewing or the need for housebreaking needn't cause owners to give up on their animals.

Many such behavioral problems can be stopped or modified with proper training, according to Shelly Moore, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County.

She said an increasing amount of pets at the shelter are there because of behavioral problems. Formerly, the majority of animals were brought there because of overpopulation, which has decreased but is still a problem, she said.

As of Friday, the shelter was home to 30 dogs, 25 to 30 cats and 2 ferrets - a number Moore considers high.

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"We're trying to prevent animals from ending up at the shelter who a lot of times have behavioral problems," she said.

Moore said the shelter recently received a $3,000 grant from the U.S. Humane Society, based in Gaithersburg, Md., to address the issue of behavior.

The money will fund several pet obedience training clinics - which haven't been scheduled yet and may require a nominal fee. The training will be also sponsored by the Washington County Parks and Recreation Department.

The shelter will provide discount coupons for pet owners to take their problem pets to area trainers.

In January, a behavior help line will go into effect, where people can call and leave a message about their animal problems. A shelter staff member or trainer will call back and provide information and ideas to remedy the situation. The number is not being released until January, Moore said.

The training's success rate is hard to gauge, said Moore.

"A lot of it depends on the animal - and how the owner disciplines and deals with the pet," she said.

Many times the owner may need training as well as the pet, she said.

Behavioral workshops will be offered in which pet owners can learn about such things as how separation anxiety affect animals. In some cases, the humane society will arrange training for pets on a one-on-one basis.

"This is for repeat offenders," she said. Animals that chronically get loose while their owners are away would be an example, she said.

The shelter can arrange private sessions with a trainer and may subsidize the cost if necessary, she said.

The remaining grant money will be used to produce and film a movie focusing on the shelter's behavior remediation programs.

The Humane Society of Washington County was one of three shelters across the United States selected to take part in the film, which will be presented at national conference held in Las Vegas in February.

The local shelter also received further distinction in being chosen to have an employee travel to Denver for intensive training in behavior issues from a premier trainer in the field in the spring, she said.

In addition, Moore was one of 20 people selected to participate in a program at Johns Hopkins University focusing on nonprofit management of animal shelters.

When she completes the certification, she will be better equipped to run shelter, she said.

"I'm excited. It's a great opportunity," said Moore.

Those interested in adopting pets or contributing to the Humane Society of Washington County's $2 million capital campaign - $1.65 million of which has been raised - can call the shelter at 301-733-2060.

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