Have you ever seen the rehabilitation of a severely mistreated dog? I love those kinds of stories; they make me smile. You, too?
Recently, I saw a screening of a new film called Second Chance Dogs, a one-hour documentary by the ASPCA®, and just released on Netflix. It chronicles the stories of six extremely fearful, abused dogs rescued from cruelty and taken to the ASPCA’s Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in New Jersey. It’s a behind the scenes look at what goes into rehabbing an emotionally challenged dog, and the methods they use to get them there. I thought it was extremely interesting and moving, and recommend it.
The goal of this film is to educate the public about the long-term effects of cruelty and neglect and to promote the adoption of shelter dogs. Through this special ASPCA facility, behavior experts use innovative therapies and a dedication to recovery, to help these vulnerable and victimized dogs become suitable for adoption.
The ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center
Launched in 2013, the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center is an amazing place. It’s the first and only facility dedicated to rehabilitating dogs suffering from severe fear and under socialization resulting from puppy mills, hoarding cases, and other situations that put them in peril.
“Animals traumatized and betrayed by abuse and neglect are still at risk when adoption is not yet appropriate, but programs like the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center help rebuild their trust so they can be placed in safe and loving homes,” said Matthew Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “Watching this process unfold in ‘Second Chance Dogs’ helps people understand that we can change the fate of these animals when we understand the possibilities and commit ourselves to that goal.”
To date, the center has worked with more than 300 homeless dogs from various backgrounds, many of whom have already been adopted through the ASPCA’s network of rescue groups and shelters across the country.
In addition to the dogs themselves, one of the stars of the film is Kristen Collins, the senior director of ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Rehabilitation. She worked patiently with each featured dog talked about how there’s no cookie cutter method to get through to a dog; each one may respond to something different. So, using their expertise as behaviorists and trainers, their challenge is to find which approach works well for each. And, they did.
“Dogs who come through our Rehab Center have experienced so much pain and suffering at the hands of humans, and they’ve never had a chance to live their lives as pets,” said Collins. “By implementing behavior treatments based on sound scientific principles, we’re able to help the vast majority of these dogs overcome their fears and become comfortable with normal pet activities like walking on a leash, enjoy petting, and playing with toys.”
Sometimes, an unexpected love connection takes place, putting both dogs more at ease.
Writer/director, Kenn Bell, did a great job of showing the nuances of each dog’s condition and of the relationship establishing process between dog and behaviorist. As Bell took us on this journey, the entire audience was rooting for each dog’s success, and it was so satisfying to see these six graduate and find their loving homes, especially after seeing how fearful or aggressive they were when they first arrived.
Avalon, one of three Alaskan Malamutes rescued from a mill, was terrified of stairs. The dachshunds were scared of being handled. Many are scared of entryways.
Because of its success, the ASPCA is in the process of building a larger facility in North Carolina in 2017. Kristen will relocate and oversee the launch of the new facility. This larger center will allow her to help even more dogs and will include a training program for other shelters, where they’ll come to learn the methods used at the center to rehabilitate dogs at their own shelters.
This is amazing because, just seeing how the behaviorally challenged dogs at my local shelter languish week in week out, held back by their fears, with this program, my shelter could learn how to move those dogs forward towards adoption into a loving home.
At the end of the documentary is graduation day, and as you might expect, the six dogs featured pass with flying colors, demonstrating how far they’ve come with patience, guidance and love.
Check out an exclusive Bark & Swagger snippet here:
“We hope animal lovers across the country enjoy the film and feel inspired to open their hearts and homes to abused and neglected dogs,” added Collins. “They deserve a second chance.”
We couldn’t agree more, Kristen.
The dachshunds on graduation day. All found loving homes.
Second Chance Dogs is executive produced by the ASPCA and The Dog Files. The documentary was written, directed and edited by Kenn Bell.
Access the full documentary on Netflix.
Do you have a rescue to recovery story?