The SPCA of Westchester’s The Way Home Program concentrates on enrichment and training for dogs that may have a harder time finding a forever home, with the ultimate goal of decreasing the average length of stay for long term dogs. Any dog that spends longer than 2 months in shelter care will be served by this program. Dogs labeled as pit bulls will be the bulk of the dogs served
because this breed type makes up about 60-70% of the population sheltered by the SPCA of Westchester. Pit bulls and other bully breed dogs tend to spend more time looking for a home due to the public’s perception of them.
It is their hope to help maintain their mental and physical health while in the shelter by providing more training and enrichment to this underserved population.
This program will help to maintain and increase adoptability to all dogs in the shelter concentrating upon those in with the greatest need. Through the Way Home Program, the SPCA has been able to add a part-time trainer position to its staff. This allows for more individual attention for the targeted dogs and supplements the SPCA’s full-time Behavior & Enrichment Coordinator’s efforts.
The hiring of this part time trainer has afforded the behavior department the ability to implement many additional programs for the dogs. The trainer oversees a kennel enrichment program that includes something for all the senses. Daily music, kong feeding, smells for the kennel and toy rotation are just some of the things that make up this program. Special adoptions for dogs with training needs above and beyond the routine are now completed with the oversight of the Coordinator. With the trainer’s help the Coordinator has been freed up to continue to build the canine companion volunteer program so that we can have more volunteers involved in implementing the extra work the department has received. Leading to each dog receiving an individualized training plan and enrichment schedule to fit the needs for each dog in shelter care for an extended period of time.
In addition, the part-time trainer, working in conjunction with the Behavior & Enrichment Coordinator, oversees play groups, socialization walks and other inter-canine interactions which we are now able to facilitate daily. Other activities include individual training sessions, quiet time with people, nosework, therapy dog training and massage. Although, some of these were in place prior to the hiring of the part time trainer, the frequency with which they are offered has greatly increased.
Future goals of the program involve locating foster homes for dogs who are deteriorating in the shelter environment and providing support to fosters as needed.
The SPCA will meet with potential adopters to review and implement training plans for dogs that have been in shelter care for more than 1 month and arrange for additional “out of the box” adoption options such as working with other rescues, sanctuaries and programs including Pets for Vets. The identification of willing and able foster home participants is critical to the success of transitioning The Way Home dogs out of the shelter and into a home-like environment.