We dog lovers know that with its doggie daycares, dog-friendly breweries, and Dog Welcome Center, Asheville earns its rep as Dog City, USA. But did you know that puppy love extends to homeless dogs as well? In addition to our area rescues + shelters, we are also home to the ASPCA’s Behavioral Rehabilitation Center — the first-ever permanent facility dedicated to rehabilitating extremely fearful + undersocialized dogs, many of whom would not have been candidates for adoption.
Open since 2018, the 28,000 sqft center — located in Weaverville — covers 13 acres and focuses on dogs that have been victims in animal cruelty cases, such as those coming from puppy mills + hoarding situations. They do not accept owned dogs from the general public. The facility has the capacity to treat up to 65 dogs at any given time, and the staff — which includes veterinarians, researchers studying canine behavioral therapy, and dog trainers who use gentle, scientifically supported training methods — works to reduce dogs’ anxiety, teach socialization, and ready them for adoption, a process which typically takes about 3 months.
Fun fact: Many of the techniques used in the program were created during a 4 year behavioral rehabilitation pilot program in New Jersey, which saw the ASPCA successfully rehabilitate 300+ dogs suffering from severe behavior issues. Since the program’s inception, more than 440 dogs have graduated, and in 2020, 64 dogs graduated and 27 were placed with foster families.
The care the dogs at the BRC require is highly specialized, and so are their living quarters. The dogs live in specialized kennels, and in addition to techniques to help dogs acclimate to real-life situations, like getting petted and walking on a leash, the center also has rooms that are modeled after kitchens + living rooms to help expose the dogs to the sorts of things that they will encounter in a home environment.
The center offers direct adoption for some of its graduates and also works with rescue groups and shelters across the country, including the Asheville Humane Society + Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, to place the dogs when they are ready for adoption. Canine graduates from the program — like sweet Ajax, shown here — are placed with shelters and rescue groups throughout the country for adoption.
Wanna get with the program? The org offers volunteer opportunities, but due to the pandemic, they’re not looking for folks to help out in the building right now. Their real need is for fosters for the program’s graduates. Get more info and fill out a foster application here.