PACC shelter dogs participate in stress study

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 6:26 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima Animal Care Center is one of two animal shelters in the country involved in a study that will find how a dog’s stress level is reduced when placed in a foster home versus staying in the shelter.

“When all of us walk into a shelter, it’s really loud, there’s lots of barking. We only have to experience it for 15 or 30 minutes, but dogs are living under those conditions all the time,” said Dr. Lisa Gunter, the Arizona State University research fellow leading the study.

Gunter said in past research, she’s found that a shelter dog’s stress levels are cut in half through spending just one or two nights in a foster home. This study will place dogs in a foster home for a full week. Researchers expect to study about 50 dogs.

“I’m excited for the dog that comes home with me. I have a big yard and a relaxing house,” said Alexandra Cox, a volunteer in the study.

Daniela Torres and Anshu Kamur are adopting a dog that’s involved in the study.

“We are both graduate students and Ph.D. students so we know what research means,” Torres said. “You have to take samples and be meticulous.”

Dogs will wear activity monitors on their collars to track their behavior. The dog’s cortisol will be measured through daily urine samples to find how their stress level changes.

“We collect so much pee. We do it easily. We get up in the morning kind of like they do and get them out first thing,” Gunter said.

She said fostering allows the shelter to see how a pet interacts with families or other pets in a home environment.

“When we think about adopting dogs and placing them in new homes, I think any information we can get about how they are in a home where they also get to live in less stressful conditions, I think is a real win,” she said.

PACC is continuing to see a very high intake of animals and encouraging the community to foster or adopt. Last week the shelter reported taking in more than 370 dogs and more 261 cats. The seven-day foster study starts this week and is still recruiting people to participate as fosters. Find more information about the study, here.

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