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Decompression dogs: How PACC helps scared dogs become adoptable

Posted at 11:17 AM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 15:53:42-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Getting a dog ready for adoption is a top goal at Pima Animal Care Center, some just need a little more attention.

If a dog is brought to the shelter and shows signs of fear or aggression, they may need to work with staff or volunteers before they become adoptable in the eyes of others.

These type of dogs go through a special program at PACC known as the Behavioral Decompression Program.

"Almost five years ago there was a need for dogs that weren't passing evaluation that weren't so adoptable and so we asked if we could try this trial program to see if we can save some lives and make them more adoptable and get them out into homes vs them not having a chance at all," said volunteer Kelly Comstock.

Since its inception, nearly 1,500 dogs have gone through the program.

Volunteers work day and night to give the dogs the attention they need to overcome emotional barriers.

They start with petting the dogs to get them desensitized to touch, followed by leash training and finally social time with other dogs.

Comstock says owners who adopt a decompression dog should be prepared.

"It's frustrating and sometimes it's hard and sometimes you feel like you're not making any progress at all. We've had dogs that take months sometimes, longer even sometimes. It's a commitment that you want to take on," she said.

There are eight to twelve dogs at a time in the program on average and all are deserving of a home.

Next time you visit PACC, ask a staff member or volunteer about their decompression dogs and see if adopting one would be a good fit for you.

It's worth it in the long run.

"Those that want maybe a project dog to watch a dog come out of it's shell is probably the most rewarding thing. And then a year from now you're out in Mount Lemmon and you won't remember that old dog. They will get there eventually," Comstock said.

Volunteer with Pima Animal Care Center