McKinney Shelter Leading New Effort to Rehab Neglected Dogs

It's a harsh reality: Animals found in a state of neglect face an uncertain fate.

But the outlook is much more optimistic because of a new, first-of-its kind program in north Texas.

The SPCA in McKinney is the first animal shelter in the country to use a program that focuses on improving behavior of dogs seized from severe neglect.

The program which officially began on Monday includes six dogs. Four of them were seized in June from a hoarder who had 57 Chihuahua mixed-breeds living under one roof.

“They were isolated from the world basically,” said Valerie Masters, senior behavior manager.

But now, the-all-but-forgotten pets are the focus of a new behavioral rehabilitation program aimed at bringing abused animals out of their shells.

“Without behavior modification, really euthanasia is the most likely outcome for these animals,” said Kelly Adkins, behavior coordinator.

For 15 minutes a day, Adkins sits with each dog in their kennel using food to create a connection.

“We’re just trying to create a positive association with people and the most powerful tool we have for that is food,” Adkins said.

Serana, a seized lab mix, is so traumatized she wouldn't eat the treat left on her bed unless Adkins moved as far away as possible and turned her back.

It could take between 10 and 15 weeks for the animals to be rehabilitated, Masters said.

The SPCA of Texas partnered with the ASPCA’s Learning Lab program to implement the rehabilitation techniques.

The ASPCA opened its permanent Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in North Carolina following the success of a four-year pilot program in New Jersey, where hundreds of dogs with behavior issues were successfully treated and placed with rescue groups and shelters across the country for adoption.

“It’s sad, in a way, to see what these animals have been through and that's difficult sometimes to just know that they've come from situations that were the way they were. But the good news and the flip-side to that of course is that happy side of that,” Masters said.

She's talking about success stories like Pippin, one of the 57 dogs seized in June.

But after a couple months in rehab, he's almost ready for adoption in classic case of people and pets leading by example.

“It makes it all worthwhile,” Adkins said.

Right now, just six dogs are part of the program.

The shelters expects to expand to accommodate 30 dogs at a time.

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