How shelters deal with aggressive dogs


INGHAM COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) – “We don’t let any dogs that we have any behavior concerns with come in contact with the public,” said Holly Lawrence; Director of Operations at the Capital Area Humane Society.

When the Capital Area Humane Society deals with a case of an aggressive canine including those rescued from a dog fighting ring, officials work very closely with the animal.

“You just handle them differently, you keep them from having direct eye contact with other dogs,” Lawrence stated.

Lawrence says ferocious dogs are often fearful and it’s important to build a relationship of trust and ramp up their confidence.

“You can do enrichment with them, you keep their minds busy, you give them puzzle toys, you give them interesting different foods, you do obedience work with them one-on-one,” Lawrence stated.

Lawrence says doing those types of activities gives their minds something to work on and it’s a similar tool John Dinon, Director of the Ingham County Animal Control says officials there implement as well.

“Every dog that we put up for adoption goes through a medical evaluation but they also go through an behavioral evaluation called the SAFER test,” said Dinon.

According to the ASPCA, the SAFER test consists of seven items…look, sensitivity, tag, squeeze, food/toy behavior and dog-to-dog behavior.

“It’s a tool that’s been used by hundreds of shelters on thousands of thousands of dogs and it’s proven to be pretty predictive of aggressive behavior,” Dinon stated.

Dinon says if those tools don’t work and officials fear for the public’s safety than unfortunately officials have no choice but to euthanize a dog.

Fortunately, Dinon says the Ingham County Animal Control hasn’t had to euthanize an adoptable animal in the last five years.

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