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Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

The funds were used to pay the tuition for Amanda Kopec, one of the deputies at CCAS, to go to the DPFL mentorship training session in Longmont, Colorado.

Since starting the Dogs Playing for Life model, we have seen remarkable changes: Our live-release and save rates both increased. Our euthanasia rate went under 10%. We have also seen our return rate go from 8% to 4%, as we are making better adoption matches. Aside from the favorable statistics, something really special happened: Our staff and volunteer engagements started to change dramatically. Our volunteers were invigorated by simply allowing the dogs to be dogs and play. Staff and volunteers are working together in a way that they weren't able to do before to achieve a common goal: Run daily playgroup. Do it for the dogs: rain, sun, or snow. It is my opinion that when both the people and animals find happiness, only then can greatness be achieved. We are beyond excited to see where this can go for our organization. Thank you for being a part of that process!

How many pets did this grant help?

Each year we bring in approximately 2,100 dogs, and almost every one is given the opportunity to participate in playgroup.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

One great story is the story of Franklin (first photo). Franklin was saved and learned to thrive thanks to the playgroup program at CCAS. When Franklin first arrived at our shelter he came to us with a list of very challenging behaviors: He displayed extreme barrier reactivity towards people and other dogs, was a known leash-biter, displayed leash reactivity, was labeled “dog aggressive,” and he even displayed significant food/resource guarding. The volunteers and staff had a difficult time handling Franklin with his reactivity issues and his very intense behavior, and we were running out of options for this boy.

Franklin had been tried on-muzzle in the play yard with little to no success. One day one of our deputies decided to try Franklin in playgroup with one of our rock-star females. While we did not expect the best outcome, we hoped that this would at least provide an outlet for his energy. The outcome of his first session surprised everyone. Franklin let out a play bow and everything just got better from there. Franklin ended up turning into one of our rock stars in the play yard. We also observed another side effect: When we added playgroup to Franklin’s daily routine, his leash behavior improved, his kennel reactivity vanished and his resource guarding disappeared. Playgroups not only gave Franklin a second chance, but allowed him to thrive, and turn into a dog we never thought he could be.

Franklin finally found his forever home four months after his arrival, and the best news of all was that Franklin went home with a canine sibling (second photo). We get updates on him and they are still doing great to this day.

Further Reading