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These Dogs Were Thrown Away - Guess What Happened Next?

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance -

  • Carol Skaziak founded the Throw Away Dogs Project to bring together abandoned dogs and police departments without funding for K9s
  • Skaziak’s mission is to “repurpose” certain types of relinquished and abandoned dogs, turning them into police K9s or service dogs for military veterans
  • To date, the organization has donated 27 K9s and several service dogs for veterans

Toward the end of 2013, a woman named Carol Skaziak of Philadelphia, PA was working in public relations for a luxury boarding facility. She quickly noticed that a disturbing number of dogs were being "permanently" boarded, meaning they were dropped off and never picked up. They were typically high-energy dogs who needed more than the average of amount of physical and mental stimulation.

Skaziak lamented our throwaway society and decided she wanted to try to change how dogs like the kennel's "throw away dogs" are viewed. She saw such potential in many of the abandoned dogs and wondered, "Could they be 'repurposed' and offered a new life doing something they loved?"

As luck would have it, Skaziak's husband is a police officer, and so she began to think about the possibility that police departments without the funds to purchase K9s (at $10,000 to $15,000 a dog) might be open to taking abandoned, well-trained dogs.

She also wanted to see if there was a way to train some dogs to be service animals to help military veterans. Her goal was to offer the dogs free-of-charge to both police departments and veterans around the U.S. Two months later, Skaziak and co-founder and police officer Jason Walters launched their nonprofit, The Throw Away Dogs Project.

"I said from day one that I wanted to change things around in this nation," Skaziak told PetMD. "Not only is the Throw Away Dogs Project recognized throughout the United States, we are now known internationally. We have people reaching out to us as far as Australia, India, Iraq, Hawaii and, just recently, South Africa. Never in a million years did I expect this."1

With the help of head dog trainer Bruce Myers, the organization has placed 27 K9s to date.2 According to PetMD, eight service dogs for veterans and two service dogs for children have also been placed.

Potential Police K9s Have Certain Traits

Some of the dogs come to Throw Away Dogs Project from owners who can no longer keep them; others are rescued from animal shelters. Recently, a few dogs have also been donated. Age is always a factor, since most police departments only accept dogs between 12 and 28 months.

New arrivals are first acclimated to the environment, and no training begins until they're comfortable, relaxed, and ready to work and learn. Skaziak's team has created a homelike environment and social atmosphere that works very effectively to get the dogs settled in. During this time, the dogs are also taken for a wellness checkup with a veterinarian. Dogs with the right stuff to be K9s demonstrate the following qualities:

Play drive — The dog is motivated to play to the point of exhaustion.

Hunt drive — The dog is single-mindedly focused on finding a specific toy, doesn't get distracted from his search and doesn't give up until he finds it.

Confidence — The dog will do whatever it takes and go wherever is required to retrieve the ball.

Possessiveness — The dog fights for possession of the toy once he finds it.

Social skills — The dog can be approached by people she doesn't know.

Floors — The dog is unafraid to walk or run on different types of flooring such as ceramic tile, wood, stairs, etc.

Dogs That Don't Make It as K9s Become Family Pets

Dogs accepted into the Throw Away Dogs Project training program live and work with the head trainer for about three months. Training is customized to each dog's individual needs with the goal of preparing them to be police K9s. At the end of the training, the dogs are deemed either "Green Dogs" or "Imprinted Dogs."

Green dogs demonstrate the appropriate drive and courage to be police K9s. Some of these dogs will be "dual-purpose," meaning they have the ability to be trained for detection (e.g., narcotics, explosives) and patrol functions such as tracking, apprehension and handler protection. Single-purpose green dogs are suitable for either detection or patrol, but not both.

Green dogs move on to K9 school. If a dog fails out of K9 school, Skaziak takes him back and tries to find a replacement K9 for the police department. Returned dogs get a refresher basic training course, and then a decision is made to either place them with another police department or adopt them into a family home.

Like the police departments Skaziak works with, adoptive families also sign a contract promising to return the dog to the organization if things don't work out in the new home. For more information on this wonderful organization, you can visit the Throw Away Dogs Project website or find them on Facebook. You can also check out their YouTube channel for videos of some of their success stories.

+ Sources and References