Behavior Helpline

E-mail helpline@awla.org

The majority of animals that come in to our shelter are not strays, but owner relinquishments. There are many reasons why owners release their pets to shelters: moving, allergies, pets not allowed, owner illness, or pet behavior problems. While we can’t keep people from moving, cure allergies or other illnesses, or make all rental properties pet friendly, we can help owners resolve their animals’ behavior problems.

In an effort to decrease the number of owner relinquishments and keep more pets united with their families, the League has established a behavior helpline. The helpline will assist pet owners in resolving basic behavior problems. Our assistance will not replace the advice of a veterinarian or behavior consultant. In some cases, their assistance may be recommended or required. League staff members have been trained to ask questions, gather information, and provide direction and referrals to other professionals when needed. We also have informational handouts that address specific behavior problems.

While every animal is unique, certain behavior problems account for the majority of owner relinquishments. Some of the frequently sited issues for cats are: not using the litterbox, scratching furniture, constant meowing, spraying, aggression towards other cats, or aggression towards the owner. For dogs typical behavior problems include: excessive barking, hyperactivity, escaping from the yard, house soiling, destructive chewing, separation anxiety, and aggression towards other animals or people.

By the time they decide to bring their pet to a shelter, many owners are too frustrated to consider new ways of resolving the problem. They’ve done all they know to do, and bringing the animal to a shelter is their last option. In some situations, the problem may be too severe to resolve, and the animal may be unadoptable. But in many cases help is available, and there is hope for resolution!

One important step in resolving a behavior issue with any animal is to address the problem as soon as it begins. This is critical for the pet as well as for the owner. For the animal, the longer a negative behavior continues, the more that behavior is reinforced. For the owner, the longer his or her animal exhibits a negative, undesirable behavior, the more frustrated the owner becomes, and the greater the chance that the owner will give up. Animal behavior issues (like human behavior issues) typically do not resolve themselves. Intervention on some level is usually necessary to change an undesirable or even dangerous behavior.

So, if your cat, dog, or critter exhibits a behavior problem, we can help. Call us before a little problem becomes a BIG problem. The helpline e-mail is helpline@awla.org. Trained staff will return your e-mail within 48 hours.

AWLA