Welcome to Dogtown USA

In DOG FANCY'S search for the best cities in which to be a dog, we discovered innovative shelter programs, generous amenities, thoughtful policies, and many wonderful dog-lovers.

By | Posted: Tue Sep 25 00:00:00 PDT 2001

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dogs euthanized has shrunk. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2001, the shelter took in more than 1,200 animals. Of those, 1,200 were adopted and 34 euthanized.

Although exact statistics were unavailable, in the days before the shelter adopted its no-kill policy, it euthanized hundreds of pets each year, Thornburg says.

When Bob Rohde began cleaning kennels at the Denver Dumb Friends League 28 years ago, the agency took in 45,000 animals and killed 40,000 of them annually. While it was routine to those who ran the shelter, Rohde was convinced there had to be a better way.

Nearly three decades later, under Rohde's leadership, the shelter has set the standard for training programs and saved the lives of thousands of dogs in the Mile High City. And since the agency last year began holding seminars for animal-control officials throughout North America, similar programs now help dogs all over the United States and Canada.

Rohde began thinking about the need to teach people how to deal with their dogs in the mid-1990s when he realized spay and neuter programs did little to reduce the number of dogs dumped at the shelter. The problem, he quickly discovered, was some dog owners lacked the skills to care for their pets. "And instead of taking responsibility, they would blame the dog," he says.

The programs Rohde devised with Suzanne Hetts, an animal behaviorist, reach far beyond Denver to residents in five surrounding statesWyoming, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, and New Mexico. By calling a toll-free number (877-738-0217), people can get tips on how to overcome their dogs' bad habits or are referred t o agencies that can help them solve more serious problems.

For Denver-area residents, the shelter offers classes to first-time dog owners, alerting them of what to expect and teaching them how to solve predictable problems, and obedience classes to those who already own dogs.

In addition, the shelter runs its dogs through obedience classes and trains each of its volunteers how to modify dogs' behavior in the shelter. Too often, Rohde says, those with the most contact with the animals would allow dogs to do things they shouldn't. They would let the dogs jump on them or run away when they called. So, the dog didn't learn that

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