These Teens Train Abandoned Dogs To Give Them A Second Chance At Life

Rita Brhel
by Rita Brhel
What do you do when a few shelter dogs need proper training before finding a home? You send them to high school!

Sit. Stay. Rehabilitate. Go to your forever home.

Six pooches are getting a second chance at life in Miami after at least one came perilously close to euthanization at a local animal shelter.

At the same time, high school students in the veterinary science program at Felix Varela Senior High School are getting a jumpstart to their dream career.

The school’s SPOTS Dog Training Program, in collaboration with local veterinarian and dog lover Dr. Karen Ashby, is working with the dogs on behavior training — the lack thereof being the top reason why dogs are abandoned, and the reason why these six dogs were having a difficult time at being adopted.

The SPOTS program came in a roundabout way through Karen’s personal mission to reduce the number of abandoned dogs in local shelters. It was a problem that kept her up at night researching for a practical way to make a widespread difference. Along the way, she happened upon materials that demonstrated improved dog behavior was associated with a lower risk of abandonment.

From there, Karen developed the Miami Veterinary Coalition to Prevent Unwanted Pet Euthanasia, a program of the South Florida Veterinary Foundation, which teaches veterinarians and dog owners about force-free training. Download informational handouts for free.

Karen then became connected with Yleana Escobar, who teaches Felix Varela’s veterinary science program — their discussions leading to the creation of the SPOTS program.

Here’s how it works: Each semester, six dogs are selected from a local shelter to participate in the program. They are kenneled in the school near the veterinary science classroom and have access to a large outdoor area behind the school. Training lasts 10 weeks for the six dogs, with students coming in as early as 6 AM and squeezing any free moment between classes, homework, and other activities to spend time with the dogs. More formal training happens in the SPOTS class during the school day as well as on weekends.

The students are also involved in finding homes for all the dogs by the end of the semester, which unsurprisingly is the hardest time for the teens. But this bittersweet moment is short-living, because another six dogs arrive at the beginning of the next semester.

Another six lives saved, changed, and loved.

[Source: The Ledger]

Rita Brhel
Rita Brhel

Rita Brhel is a freelance writer with a huge heart for animals that she's passed on to her 3 children. Rita herself has a cat named Tippy (in photo) and 4 finches. Her 3 kids and husband share an additional 3 cats, 3 small parrots, 3 rabbits, 5 pigeons, 8 chickens, and 2 ducks on their acreage near Hastings, Nebraska, USA. She has experience with a lot of different species of pets of her own, has worked a 1-year stint in a vet clinic as part of a hands-on journalism project, and has been a foster pet parent for an animal shelter. Each of her children dream of careers working with animals, and Rita wholeheartedly supports them!

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