Large Scale Enrichment

by Katie Rapkoch

Katie is located in Phoenix, Arizona and has been involved in rescue for the past two and a half years. She currently volunteers for Maricopa County Animal Care & Control and Community Canine Project. 

In Maricopa County, AZ, a group by the name of Community Canine Project is focusing their manpower on multiple unique efforts. Most innovative of these efforts is their large-scale enrichment in the Maricopa County Shelter. Over the past eight months, CCP has enriched the lives of thousands of dogs between the two locations of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. Both shelters house roughly 300+ dogs on any given day, and MCACC is one of the highest intake shelters in the country. With that many dogs coming into the shelter on a daily basis, CCP took their unique approach in order to make a large impact as efficiently and effectively as possible.

In-kennel enrichment efforts include: distribution of toys, stuffed Kongs, Nylabones, frozen treats, or Bully Sticks. Volunteer groups of anywhere from 3-10 band together in order to make this generous outreach happen in a span of 1-3 hours. This generally takes place on weekdays, when fewer dogs may have received individual interaction. With the support of this many volunteers, CCP is able to enrich the lives of every dog in the county shelter in a short period of time.

On weekends, when manpower may be stronger, volunteers have spent countless hours organizing and facilitating group walks, photography and marketing events, and training/playgroups. On any given weekend day, when a large-scale enrichment effort is taking place, volunteers from CCP have been known to get 20-80 dogs out of their kennels in a matter of a few hours. Full day efforts have even resulted in over 100 dogs receiving individual interaction on a given day.

According to volunteers at CCP, their biggest strength in large-scale enrichment is “the amount of dogs that receive interaction in such a short period of time.” This innovation helps keep dogs mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy while they are awaiting their forever homes. It also gives volunteers valuable information on characteristics of specific dogs, thus making marketing much easier and more in-depth. 

In terms of implementing this innovation, volunteers from CCP encourage other groups to start small. As resources, time, and volunteer-base grows, so can the enrichment efforts. If you plan to implement something like this in your local shelter or rescue organization, start by reaching out to any enrichment or behavior specialists involved in said shelter/organization. They can provide valuable insight into specific needs of dogs that they have assessed. Next, do not hesitate to reach out to the local community for donations of resources. 

When the MCACC shelter was under recent quarantine due to a distemper outbreak, CCP received countless donations from the community to distribute to the dogs who could not leave their kennels. This support came largely from social media efforts, resulting in increased awareness of the situation to the community. Lastly, find one day a week that the highest number of volunteers can participate. This day may rotate on a weekly basis, as it does for CCP. Having one day per week allows volunteers to focus a majority of their efforts in a short amount of time in order to make the most powerful impact.

CCP also exhibits very strong collaboration efforts with multiple groups in Maricopa County. With a tagline of “We are better together,” CCP truly embodies the importance of connecting with fellow volunteers of other groups, and the greater community, in order to make a difference in the lives of homeless pets.

If you’d like to support Community Canine Project’s unique efforts in Maricopa County, enrichment items including Bully Sticks, non-rawhide chews, pig ears, and toys are always appreciated and welcomed. Feel free to visit @communitycanineproject on Instagram, and don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly for more specific questions or suggestions to improve their program.