Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Virginia Tech and Arizona State University are partnering with Maddie’s Fund and a Roanoke Animal Shelter to see if short-term fostering and field trips lower the stress level of shelter dogs.
Meghann Cords is the Foster Coordinator/FRVR Kittens Lead Coordinator for the Regional Center for Animal Care & Protection.
She says 90 RCACP dogs are involved in the study.
"The dogs go on field trips, the volunteers act as chaperones, and everyone has fun.
When they arrive on their field trip day, we let the volunteers decide what adventure they’d like to go on and we match them with one of our dogs that would enjoy whatever activity they have planned.
We’ve had volunteers take dogs on hikes, walks on the Greenway, to Explore Park, local restaurants and breweries, Black Dog Salvage and many more places.
We really want the volunteers and our dogs to just enjoy some time together."
When the volunteers bring the dog back to the shelter, they fill out a "report card" about where they went and more about the dog's personality.
Cords says researchers also follow up with dogs that have participated and have been adopted or transferred to other shelters.
"We’ve been working with Virginia Tech and ASU researchers since May of this year and will most likely be participating through the end of 2019.
However, the RCACP is planning on continuing our field trip program indefinitely as long as there are volunteers willing to take our dogs out for adventures."
She says while the study uses select dogs on specific days, the Roanoke Adventure Dog Program is held Monday through Friday. The person checking out the dog must be over 18, but the entire family is welcome to participate.
"We then check to make sure you are able to handle that dog on leash, go over our basic field trip rules, and volunteer paperwork.
We will also answer any questions you have at that time!
The whole process should take about 15 to 25 minutes and then you can be on your way with your four-legged adventure companion!"
The shelter asks that the field trips last at least two hours and that the dogs don't go to a dog park or a place where animals aren't allowed.
While it could be a few years before there are any concrete results released, Cords says the RCACP has already benefited from its participation in the study.
"It’s a win-win, our dogs are getting breaks from the shelter and we’re learning how to help decrease their shelter stress. And so far our Roanoke Adventure Dogs have gone on nearly 200 field trips!
We also hope that through our participation in this study that we are actively contributing to the well-being of not only the RCACP dogs, but shelter dogs throughout the country and abroad."
To participate in the study, volunteers must sign up ahead of time through SignUp Genius using this link for the time slots that are listed.
Sign ups are being taken for participation in the study tomorrow and Saturday.