For those of you who have attended my workshops or read my books you know my feeling about group caging dogs. I think that in a shelter environment it is one of the most important tools to increase your live release numbers. Believe it or not there are countless shelters that kill dogs for space and do not opt to group dogs together because of the risk of injury or disease. I think this flies in the face of logic. Yes, there are some risks in grouping dogs together, but the concept of killing for space makes less sense to me – and the risk to the dog is far greater.
There are several reasons for group-caging which I discuss in my book Desperate Dogs Determined Measures, for anyone working in a shelter or a rescue I strongly urge you to read this book. I’ll give a brief overview on my position here:
1. Dogs are social animals and thrive in groups. Most people, when bringing a second dog home, say they are doing so to keep their dog(s) company. Remember, dogs live in packs in the wild and form deep bonds with packmates.
2. Dogs that are isolated are more likely to develop stress and show signs of stress when kenneled alone. These can include, self mutiltation, kennel rage, emotional shut down and more. Physical ailments and sicknesses also increase when stress is high in dogs.
3. Dogs that are kenneled together show better to the public. We can assertain that if a dog is kenneled with another dog he is likely dog-friendly.
4. Kenneling dogs together saves space which in turn saves lives.
For the risks, we can look at what those who oppose this concept state. Dog fights and increased workload. On the dog fight aspect, I don’t suggest putting two strange dominant dogs together (obviously), I break down the process of how to introduce the dogs and see the probability of them getting along. There is no guarantee that the dogs will get along 100%, but there is a guarantee that we will be saving lives. What we need to look at is are we truly looking to save lives and are we aware that there are some risks involved. Some may say they are trying, but trying involves doing! We may see a dog-fight, we may even have a serious injury, these are the risks we face in the shelter environment. I feel that the greater risk is killing innocent dogs every day because we don’t have the space and are too afraid to try what would help!
There is no excuse for this! NONE!
I would rather be held accountable for an injury or even a death that may result from kenneling dogs together than be held accountable for killing innocent dogs because “there’s no room at the inn.” I find this senseless, cruel and ignorant. Once dogs are evaluated we can move toward dog to dog introductions, play-groups and kenneling them together. All of this is part of the process to change the way shelters help save lives. Many shelters I’ve worked with have increased the dogs they kennel together and thereby increased the amount of lives they save each and every day. Furthermore, i feel the greatest benefit is the quality of life these dogs have during their stay at the shelter and the behavioral benefit that the dogs gain from having someone to share time and space with during a very stressful time of their lives.
I urge you to read my explanation on group caging in Desperate Dogs Determined Measures and give it a shot. For shelters that cite increased workload for group caging I can only say that there is a small cost for saving lives – isn’t a bit of extra work worth it. In truth there really is no evidence that shows any increase in labor / hours if there are 2 dogs in one cage versus 2 dogs in 2 cages. Logically I would think it would take less time to clean the single cage containing 2 dogs.
As always, I welcome your comments.