Transitional Dog Shelter Helps Pups Get Adopted

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance -

  • Gigi's Shelter for Dogs picks up dogs from rural pounds and other animal shelters with limited resources and takes them in for a quick pit stop
  • At Gigi’s, dogs receive medical care, behavioral evaluations, pampering and TLC, getting them ready for adoption
  • The dogs are then moved to a busy animal shelter with a high, and fast, adoption rate
  • Gigi’s goal is to shelter 1,500 rural dogs in its first year, helping to dramatically reduce the time the dogs spend without a home; plans are underway to create similar transitional shelters across the U.S.

An animal-loving couple in Ohio, George and Tina Skestos, has invested $4 million to open an innovative halfway house shelter for dogs. Gigi's Shelter for Dogs helped 112 dogs to get adopted in its first month of operation alone, and plans are underway to create similar transitional shelters across the U.S.

What makes Gigi’s special is that it’s not a final destination for dogs in need — rather, it’s a passing-through point. Gigi employees travel to rural pounds and other animal shelters with limited resources, where dogs may be euthanized or destined to spend long months at the shelter because of a lack of potential adopters.

Dogs who end up in busy urban shelters typically see a very different fate, as it’s not unusual for them to be adopted in a matter of days. So Gigi’s employees pick up dogs from shelters in need and take them to Gigi’s, where they receive some much-needed TLC before traveling to a shelter to find their forever home.

Gigi’s Aims to Shorten the Time Dogs Spend Homeless

Gigi’s goal is to shelter 1,500 rural dogs in its first year, helping to dramatically reduce the time the dogs spend without a home. The premise is simple: take dogs from shelters that are overwhelmed with animals and move them to those with empty kennels and greater resources, which are typically those found near high-population areas — locales with a large pool of adopters looking for a furry friend to add to their family.

The stop at Gigi’s state-of-the-art facility is the icing on the cake, as there the dogs receive medical care and behavioral evaluations to ensure they’re ready for adoption. Because dogs often become sick in shelters while waiting for their new homes, Gigi’s was specially created with isolated holding areas, each with its own ventilation system and kitchen, to separate dogs from each county and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.1

Stress reduction was also taken into account, so the facility incorporates essential oil diffusers, calming music, natural light, canine massage and soothing colors to help lessen the dogs’ anxiety. The hub, which isn’t open to the public, is situated on 3 acres, giving dogs plenty of space to exercise.

There’s even a building where dogs take part in programs that help them acclimate to the setting and help them adjust to a new lifestyle.2 The average dog spends about a week at Gigi’s before moving to a destination shelter, which right now is Columbus Humane. CEO Rachel Finney told NBC 4:3

"There are a lot of dogs that are available in abundance and they are friendly and healthy and they just need a ride home … Source shelters are working so hard with very limited resources to provide great care for dogs.

They often don't have the funding, physical space, supplies or equipment, or even the training to be able to deliver the best care … We can get dogs into homes really quickly. We want to make sure those kennels and the resources we have at Columbus Humane are utilized for the dogs who need it most."

According to Gigi’s, “Adoptions that used to take weeks and sometimes even months, are now accomplished within days on the Gigi’s Path and dogs don’t get sick while waiting for a new home.”4

Innovative Animal Shelters Help Dogs Find Homes

There are approximately 3.3 million dogs in U.S. animal shelters, each wanting and deserving of a loving home. While 1.6 million dogs are adopted each year,5 about 670,000 will be euthanized before getting that chance.

Sadly, the typical animal shelter environment, with its concrete floors, kennels and chaotic environment, is so stressful for many dogs that it brings out behavioral issues, like fearfulness or excessive barking, that may keep them from getting adopted. Some shelters are trying to change that, however, by playing calming music or allowing dogs to attend obedience classes.

Other projects are more ambitious and include creating animal shelters in prime locations in the heart of communities, surrounding by retail establishments. Building a shelter in a visible location can double adoptions.6 Another strategy aims to create “real-life” rooms within existing shelters, where animals can get a reprieve from the chaos.

Such rooms may look like a typical family room and include a cozy couch, rug, easy chair and perhaps a television or radio. Spending time in a more family-like environment can bring out a dog’s true personality, allowing him to relax and giving him a chance to get adopted sooner. Other innovative strategies that serve to make animal shelters more humane and comfortable for dogs while inviting speedier adoptions include:7

Placing indoor plants as a barrier between rows of kennels, which reduces barking

Adding skylights for natural light and fresh air

Offering behavioral classes for dogs and “pet parenting” classes for humans

Enrolling dogs in agility classes or taking them for walks in nature

Windows facing sidewalks, so passersby may be tempted to come in for a closer look

Outdoor park-like settings for dogs to exercise

Improved air quality and ventilation systems

Behavioral enrichment options, such as kiddie pools filled with water and community play areas

If you want to get involved, ask your local officials to create not just a dog pound but a humane shelter for animals in your community. Donate what you can to your local shelter as well, including dog toys, blankets and other items they may need. Fostering a homeless pet will also help immensely, as fostered animals are better prepared for adoption. And if you have a place in your heart and your home, consider adopting one of the many shelter animals in search of a loving, forever home.

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