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Dorchester Paws emptied shelter of adoptable dogs

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Dorchester Paws animal services manager April Howard gets a kiss from a dog that was adopted and was being picked up April 17.

The only open-admission animal shelter in Dorchester County announced this month that all of their adoptable dogs had found homes.

The achievement was made possible by a successful adoption event sponsored by the Bissell Pet Foundation in which adoptions were only $25.

It has been two years since most of the dog kennels were empty, according to April Howard, director of shelter operations.

Typically the shelter is only this bare when it has been evacuated due to major flooding that comes with a hurricane.

In May of last year, the shelter was operating overcapacity and had far more dogs than available kennels. The shelter was making use of pop-up kennels and had more than 100 dogs on site.

As an open admission shelter, Dorchester Paws expects their kennels will quickly fill up again. They currently have about 250 animals who are residing in foster care or awaiting spay and neuter surgery that will need permanent homes.

Maddie Moore, interim director at the shelter, said during quarantining and social distancing, Dorchester Paws saw a rise in community members willing to foster dogs and cats.

However, that rise was matched with an increase in the number of owner surrender inquiries. Moore said she believes the rise in fosters was due to an increase in community members working from home.

“Now our goal is to do everything we can to ensure that animals are able to stay in the homes that they’re in, whether fosters or adoptions,” Moore said. “To make that happen, the shelter is bringing attention to separation anxiety, tips to fight it and how to help your pet thrive in a changing situation.”

The shelter released a guide for pet owners and fosters to help pets deal with separation anxiety.

According to the guide, some common ways that pets exhibit separation anxiety include digging and scratching at doors or windows, destructive chewing, barking and whining, and having accidents in the house (even with otherwise house-trained dogs).

What causes separation anxiety? It isn’t understood why some dogs struggle with separation anxiety and others don’t.

However, this behavior is a part of a panic response that can be triggered by various events like being left alone for the first time, suffering a traumatic event, and even change in the family routine.

How can you treat minor separation anxiety? Don’t make a big deal out of departures and arrivals, leave your dog with clothes that smell like you, establish a word or action that tells your dog you’ll be back, crate your dog for a limited amount of time to develop comfort in kennel and consider consulting with your veterinarian about calming products to reduce your animal’s anxiety.

How can you learn to cope while dealing with the situation? Ask your veterinarian about drug therapy to reduce their overall anxiety, consider taking your dog to a daycare facility or kennel, or leave your dog in the care of a trusted friend.

Things that won’t help are punishment, background noise, obedience training, and another dog.