Living in a shelter can be a very traumatic experience for an animal – something Nancy Clarke has witnessed first-hand over her years working at the Vancouver Animal Shelter.
“Animal shelters are very stressful environments for dogs,” said Clarke, a PhD student in the UBC Animal Welfare Program. “The noise in shelters can have damaging health and behavioural effects, causing [dogs] to develop bad behaviours that can make them less appealing to potential adopters.”
In an effort to improve the welfare of dogs living in animal shelters and increase their chance of adoption, Clarke is researching the link between lack of rest and the amount of barking noise in several Lower Mainland shelters.
The idea took root in 2002, when Clarke was working as Manager of Animal Control Services at the City of Vancouver. She observed that, as the day wore on, the noise level in the shelter rose and the dogs became more agitated. In response, Clarke instituted an hour-long afternoon “siesta” to give them an opportunity to rest.
“We noticed that the noise levels went down quite substantially,” she said.
In 2012, Clarke started her PhD and began gathering data on how much time dogs spend resting, and the difference between their home resting behaviour and their behaviour when temporarily kenneled. This spring, she will try to prove if there is indeed a definitive reduction in noise level when a resting period is introduced at shelters.
“It’s a cost effective solution for rescue organizations that depend on public donations to operate,” she said. “Ultimately, if it proves to be effective, I’d like to see all shelters adopt daytime rest programs.”
Projects such as Clarke’s are made possible thanks to the generous support of donors. For more information on how you can help create a more sustainable future for companion animals, please visit: http://awp.landfood.ubc.ca/support/