While some dogs are in malamute rescues waiting for the right owner, many have found forever homes. Sutherland and his wife, Nicole McCullough, adopted one.
When the dogs were in evidence custody, Sutherland would visit to help out once a month. Cinder, a 6-year-old female, became his special project.
She is missing the tip of her ear, has broken teeth and a broken toe, injuries Sutherland said were caused when what little food was given to the dogs was thrown over a fence, causing food fights. Many of the dogs are even missing their tongues, he said.
Cinder has come a long way. "We took a shy dog, and she's all grins and giggles now. If you work with these dogs, they rise and shine. That's why this ASPCA facility is so valuable to us. We were super excited to get these dogs in there to go through a training regimen. It saves us a lot of heartbreak about what we do with these dogs," Sutherland said.
There will be those dogs that cannot overcome the fear, Collins said. But behaviorists will do everything possible and consider euthanasia as a last resort only if the dogs are suffering from an extremely poor quality of life or if they pose a significant threat to the public, she said.
The center will only be able to handle about 400 dogs during the project's two scheduled years, so it won't take an immediate burden off shelters, Collins said, but if researchers can come up with new ways to ease fear, anxiety and shyness in abused dogs, it could have a widespread impact.
And success could mean another phase in the study, to include fighting dogs, or even cats, Collins said.