Fear-free training makes Ingham shelter a haven

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Roxann Wilkinson giving a treat to Warren Wiggins, one of the many adoptable dogs.

Fear-free environment and other programs like personal dog training, animal food drives and more are just a short list of things that the Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter provide.

“We have a lot of programs that most animal shelters don’t have,” said Behavior Enrichment Coordinator Roxann Wilkinson. “Everyone who fosters, volunteers, or works here goes through the fear-free program. And it just means that we’re all working in the same direction to lower the animals’ stress levels.”

Thomas Twiddlebug stretches as he exits his kennel.

Wilkinson, who started as a volunteer 11 years ago, has fostered over 346 dogs. She joined the staff last year in this new role designed to focus on the animals’ mental health.

“I would’ve never accepted a job here unless I knew we were going in the right direction,” said Wilkinson. 

Since COVID-19 hit, the shelter has implemented a fear-free program based on the research of Dr. Marty Becker, a best-selling author known as “America’s Veterinarian.” Workers have noticed the change.

Community Outreach Manager Julie Hill said, “fewer animals are stressed out here because of what we do like daily enrichment, daily walks, giving them their privacy … things that they need every day. They’re just so well kept here.”

Raiden Jane greets another puppy while passing by.

Fear-free care includes physical help.

Tammy Perkins, a front desk worker said, “When you adopt from this shelter you are getting an animal that is already spayed or neutered, they are up to date on vaccines, and they’re licensed and microchipped.”

Wilkinson and Hill said these are some of the nicest animals they have encountered and that the stigma around shelter pets needs to be broken.

“They’ve had hard lives and, in my opinion, I think they need the love more, and they’re willing to give just as much, too,” said Hill.

“These animals aren’t damaged, they’re just lost, or unloved, or need a new start in life. And I don’t think they should have a stigma because they’re a shelter dog,” said Wilkinson. 

So if you are looking at adding a furry friend to your family or want to volunteer, check out the Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter: https://ac.ingham.org/departments_and_officials/animal_control/  

“It’s the hidden gem of Ingham County,” said Hill.

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