As adoptions taper off, overwhelmed shelters and rescues all across the country are doing their best to ensure that the animals in their care receive physical and mental enrichment. They rely heavily on volunteers to make that happen, which is where the rest of us come in.
Pets in any situation need to receive proper nutrition, mental stimulation, and emotional support. Place them in a kennel setting and those requirements are even more vital for maintaining the health of the animal.
In Minneapolis, the city’s Animal Care and Control began a pilot program late last year pairing runners with dogs to ensure they’re getting the kind of exercise and freedom they need to thrive. The runners are volunteers who take dogs out on 10- to 30-minute runs, and it’s becoming quite popular.
Once members of the community become volunteers, they can take the dogs on nearby Mississippi River pedestrian paths. The prospective dog runners must first complete several hours of orientation, and the dogs get a feel for things on a canine treadmill.
Between the indoor training and outdoor walks, volunteers and staff can guarantee the canines are exercised four to five times a day. But recently, with declining adoption rates and rising intake numbers of lost or homeless animals, many of them are spending much more time in kennels instead.
“So, the longer that an animal stays in a shelter setting, no matter how good the shelter is, no matter if it’s the best in the world, it’s still a stressful place, right? So, running really takes that edge off,” Madison Weissenborn, the shelter’s volunteer coordinator, explained to KARE 11.
One particular volunteer, Amanda Christiansen, also an avid runner, has helped a number of canines remain active over the months. She told the station, “Today, I’m with Mr. E. He came in maybe a month ago as a stray. I run regularly anyway … and he’s got a lot of energy, so we try to get him out as often as possible.”
She went on to rave about the pairing program and credited it with giving her the extra motivation needed to run daily.
“If you’re a runner, there are days that you’re kind of hard on yourself if you don’t do so well. This is a little bit of an excuse, like, I was running with a dog. I was going at their pace, so there’s a little bit of that too.”
Minneapolis Animal Care and Control now has more than 30 volunteers endowed with dog-running responsibilities. Not surprisingly, as word’s gotten out within the local running community, the shelter has received tons of applications from dog-loving runners. The best part? There’s no special equipment necessary, and you can run, jog, or sprint at your own pace.
With 30 canines needing high-level exercise daily, MACC is thrilled by all of the interest the program is receiving. If you enjoy running, look into your own local rescues and shelters to see if you and they might be a good fit, and make some doggo’s day that much happier. If presidents can do it, so can you!