The Santa Barbara Humane Society, which will host its annual open house this Sunday, is transforming the world of pet adoption. Each morning, 9 a.m.-noon, the shelter’s dogs get together in an outdoor pen for a playdate that helps socialize them with other dogs and people. “Thirty minutes in a play session is equivalent to a two-hour leash walk. We want their stay here to be like summer camp,” said Tucker Eurman, technical animal rescue training coordinator.
These playgroup sessions have become part of the dogs’ daily routines, and the Humane Society has seen a major improvement in the animals’ overall well-being. Socialization is key to ensuring that the dogs live happily and healthily. When “shelter dogs spend up to 23 hours of their day in a kennel,” said Erica Jackson, dog adoption counselor, running around outside is a “refreshing experience.”
The Humane Society has been hosting playgroups for one year, and they are the only shelter in the area with a consistent playgroup program intact. Dogs Playing for Life, a nonprofit organization that teaches shelters how to successfully run playgroups, visited the Humane Society last March. Since then, the Humane Society has seen an increase in adoptions. In the past year alone, the average length of stay for dogs at the Humane Society dropped from two and a half years to nine months.
When workers spend quality time with the animals during playgroup, they can better gauge how the dogs will act once they are adopted. “We treat everyone as an individual,” said Jackson. The Humane Society’s open adoption technique also helps their dogs find forever homes. In the past, adoption involved yard and landlord checks, but under open adoption, there are fewer restrictions.
Instead, the Humane Society hopes to “use education to prevent cruelty to animals,” said Rebecca Tivang, public relations and events coordinator. “With the proper education and tools,” said Jackson, “an individual can become the perfect person for their dog.”
On Sunday, May 1, from noon-4 p.m., the Santa Barbara Humane Society will host its annual open house at 5399 Overpass Road. This free, family-friendly event will feature adoptable dogs in playgroup sessions. It will also offer discounted $5 pet vaccinations at its on-site clinic, as well as activities including face painting, a magic show, and a children’s reading corner. Feel free to bring your dog to join in on the fun — or maybe take one home with you for a same-day adoption. Come be part of the four-legged Santa Barbara community!