New Behavior Center Opens in San Diego
This month, San Diego Humane Society is celebrating the grand opening of our new Behavior Center. This state-of-the-art facility is now home to one of our most unique lifesaving programs. Since it launched in 2013, the Behavior Center has rehabilitated more than 3,000 animals to prepare them for new homes.
Behavior issues are among the most significant challenges animal welfare organizations face today. With nearly 35,000 companion animals entering our shelters, we’re grateful to be able to offer them a true rehabilitation program, without which, many of these animals would not be able to be adopted into homes. The Behavior Center is one of our most important tools in achieving our mission of saving lives.
Our behavior team works intensively to address complex challenges such as anxiety, fear, resource guarding, overstimulation and other behavior issues. Whether for a few days or a few months, animals in the Behavior Center benefit from individual rehabilitation plans to help them become adoptable and ready to share their lives with their new families.
Our Behavior Center, directly across the street from our Gaines Street location, is one of only a handful throughout the country and the only one with the capacity to serve hundreds of animals each year. It provides a uniquely designed space that removes the noise, unpredictability and other barriers to rehabilitation found in a traditional shelter, and replaces them with an environment that supports the intensive work these animals require. This Center plays a vital role in ensuring zero euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals throughout San Diego County and is the only hope for hundreds of our community’s most at-risk animals every year.
The New Behavior Center Features:
- 44 dog habitats, specifically designed with:
- Privacy and sound-proofing to reduce stimulation.
- Access directly into shaded outdoor play yards, allowing trainers to work with dogs in a safe environment who are too shy or fearful to be leashed without extreme anxiety.
- Cat housing for more than 40 cats in an isolated wing that provides separation from dogs to reduce stress and facilitate their individualized training plans. This cat housing provides unique features, including:
- Hiding places for shy and fearful cats.
- Use of primarily-horizontal bars on habitats – research shows that cats naturally scan their surroundings horizontally, and that vertical bars interrupt this process and cause unnecessary stress.
- A community cat room with access to the outdoors for enrichment.
Community Education and Training Resources:
As revolutionary as the Behavior Center is, ultimately, we want to be able to help pet owners get ahead of behavior challenges before they ever get to the point of needing to relinquish their pets. By offering public training classes, consultations for adopters and a Behavior Helpline, we’re able to give the community direct access to our professional trainers, which is vital in reducing the number of animals in need of behavior intervention.
The new Behavior Center will enable a new level of care for homeless animals with severe behavioral issues. But we can’t do that alone. It takes an entire community to ensure animals receive the care they need once with us and, better yet, before they ever end up in the shelter. Thanks to the support of a generous community, we’re truly changing the landscape for our most vulnerable animals. Those who may never have seen the compassion, heard the gratitude, or felt the care that we humans are able to give them.
Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA
President and CEO, San Diego Humane Society