Humane Society's "Real Life Room" makes Shelter Dogs Feel like They're at Home

(CBS NEWS) For better or worse, animal shelters in the United States are packed with hundreds, sometimes thousands of animals each day. They are off the streets, clean and fed, but they’re also crammed into small rooms with tons of other animals, constantly barking and clawing for attention. In short, life for a shelter dog can be extremely stressful. 

So, one animal shelter in Ohio -- the Toledo Area Humane Society -- has come up with an innovative and heartwarming way to combat that stress.

It’s called a “Real Life Room,” and it is intentionally decorated to feel like a living room in a house. There’s a leather recliner with pillows on it, a fluffy rug, a lamp, a box of dog toys, even a TV. 

“The way it is furnished, even the lighting, plays right into creating a natural home environment where these dogs can forget all their “worries” of kennel life and be at peace for even just an hour while they are waiting for their new families to come find them,” says Jessica LaValley, Annual Fund Manager at the Toledo Area Humane Society.

The hope is that, when the homeless dogs are in there, they will feel like they have a home again. And LaValley says the results have been immediate.

“It is obvious the change in the dogs’ personalities when they are in the Real Life Room versus the kennels,” explains LaValley. “Some dogs simply don’t do well in the kennels, whether it be because they don’t get along well with other dogs; they are easily stressed out from the noise and people; or they become depressed because they are used to being in a home. Upon entering the natural and calm environment of the Real Life Room, we can instantly see these dogs relax and become a whole different animal.”

The Toledo Area Humane Society takes in about 5,000 animals every year. They are also the only organization in Lucas County, Ohio that investigates animal cruelty reports. So, while they work with special rescues and shelters all over the country to find homes for each animal who comes into their care, finding the right home environment for every animal can take time. 

 In the meantime, the shelter’s staffers and volunteers now work to give dogs that need rehabilitation as much time in the Real Life Room as possible.

“It is usually anxiety or stress from the kennel life that brings them to the room in the first place,” explains LaValley. “So, as much relief from that as possible is what this room is all about. Creating a safe space for them to relax and decompress while they wait for their forever homes.”

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