COLUMBIA — It's more difficult to find homes for large dogs than small ones, and a local animal rescue organization is hoping to change those odds.
Columbia Second Chance has received an $8,320 grant through the Humane Society of the United States to train older and large-breed dogs with behavioral issues to help make them more adoptable.
Second Chance Executive Director Valerie Chaffin said the new program will employ a trainer to focus on less desirable characteristics such as excessive barking, whining or jumping, rather than making dangerous dogs safe.
Second Chance, a no-kill facility, doesn't have many dogs with behavioral problems, Chaffin said.
"We're not taking in those animals, so they're being put down," Chaffin said. "We want to give them a better shot at becoming adopted or staying in their homes."
Half of the trainer's time will be dedicated to helping the dogs already in Second Chance's adoption program. The trainer will help address problem areas, provide free obedience lessons for foster animals, assess behaviors of dogs with particular behavior issues and provide guidance to foster homes.
About a fourth of the trainer's time will be spent assessing dogs and their potential entry into Second Chance's adoption program.
The trainer will also work with the public to help keep pets in their homes and out of adoption agencies such as Second Chance.
Second Chance takes in and places about 700 animals per year. In 2012, more than half of the 500 dogs Second Chance took in were large or mixed breed, according to a news release from Second Chance.
"We average three to four calls per week from people wanting to relinquish dogs for whatever reason," Chaffin said. "The training program is a shot to keep those dogs in the home."
Chaffin also said the training initiative will be helpful in recruiting new foster homes, making those who are reluctant to foster an animal more comfortable with the idea.
While Second Chance has an adoption program, none of its dogs are kept on location; instead, they are all placed in foster homes.
Second Chance is looking for an experienced trainer for the initiative. The rescue group is hoping to get the three-part program started once a trainer is hired, Chaffin said.
Since 2013, the Lowell Fund of the Humane Society of the United States has given out about $410,000 in grants to 47 rescue groups to "help large mixed-breed, pit bull type and large senior dogs who have been abandoned, injured, mistreated, neglected, exploited or are otherwise in need," according to a news release.