LOS ANGELES (AP) — People want their dog to be a friend, not afraid.
But sometimes, fear grips dogs so tightly they shake, cower, bite, growl or pee. It can be constant, painful and hard to overcome. Such dread can consume a dog when it's freed from a cage at a puppy mill or hoarder's home because that's the only life the dog has ever known.
Until now, it was up to animal shelters to ease the fears, knowing if they didn't, euthanasia was the likely alternative. But this week, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opens its Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J.
It's a two-year research project being financed by the ASPCA.
For now, dogs seized from puppy mills and hoarders will be the primary patients, said Kristen Collins, ASPCA's director of anti-cruelty behavior rehabilitation and director of the center. It will also include some dogs that have been confined for long stretches as evidence in court cases.
Dogs will come from shelters across the country as well as from seizures involving the ASPCA.
It's groundbreaking and exciting, Collins said. "It's the first ever facility that's dedicated strictly to providing rehabilitation for dogs that are victims of animal cruelty."
The research will also provide some numbers, Collins said. No one knows how many shy dogs are being placed in homes now. And little is known about how they fare after placement, so center staff will spend a lot of time following up on animals.
There are 27 kennels, an office, real life rooms, treatment rooms and common areas at the center.
The average stay for most dogs will be six to eight weeks, "but we don't have a hard and fast rule. All dogs are individuals. We will be flexible," Collins said.