Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Features
HAWS Mod Squad
by Jennifer Tomazic


WAUKESHA -- An animal rescue organization in Waukesha County has found a way to give some animals a second chance that would have been deemed unacceptable.

HAWS (Humane Animal Welfare Society) created a Mod Squad. It's a group of volunteers that work with dogs that have not passed all aspects of a behavior test. The Mod Squad spends 15 minutes a day with the dogs and Dr. Claudeen McAuliffe says in just two to three weeks, most dogs have made enough progress to be ready for adoption.

She created the program in three years ago, and already, she says, it has saved 637 lives.

"We have taken dogs with really tough behavior issues and we've been able to fix those problems so that we can take these dogs and put them into adoptive homes and have them stay there successfully for a lifetime," said McAuliffe.

She says there are three types of dogs that would qualify to be part of the Mod Squad: ones that show aggression when fed or with other dogs, ones that mentally can't handle the shelter and are hanging out in the back of their cage or are disengaged, or older dogs.

When the dogs meet with a member of the Mod Squad, they do things like learn commands and how to find a treat hidden under a cone. McAuliffe says mental exercises like that are just as beneficial as physical exercise for a dog.

She says some smaller dogs have anxiety issues so volunteers will swaddle the dogs with a wrap, helping them to relax and calm down.

"It used to be that those dogs that didn't pass a behavior evaluation with flying colors would be euthanized because we didn't have the means to fix the problem," said McAuliffe, but she says 90% of the Mod Squad dogs have been adopted.

"The program gives us hope for the animals," said HAWS Executive Director Lynn Olenik, "it also makes us a more upbeat organization and one that's vital and active and everything is concentrated on what more we can do for this individual animal to get it ready to go into a family that it's going to stay in."

Even the first time she meets a dog, Mod Squad volunteer Sydney Small says it's easy to pick off where the dog left off because all the volunteers use the same manuel so the dogs get used to the consistency of the activities instead of the particular volunteer.

"I get the reward of seeing these dogs learn and grow and seeing them have more chances to become part of a family," said Small.

Because the program has been so successful, Olenik and McAuliffe are looking to offer it to other animal rescues around the state that want to save more animals.

"People and dogs create a synergy that is good for us physically, spiritually, emotionally and we're putting these animals out there to create that human/animal bond within our community," said McAuliffe.

For more information on HAWS and it's Winter Symposium coming up on December 1, log onto http://www.hawspets.org/