The need for behavioral interventions that increase adoption rates are crucial to animal shelters. A recent intervention, based on each dog’s preference for toys in addition to structuring the first interaction between the dog and adopter was successful in increasing adoption rates by 68% in one municipal shelter site. The benefits and feasibility of this Meet-and-Greet intervention remained to be established using a large-scale randomized and controlled multi-site study. Nine animal shelters in four states in the US were enrolled into a multiple baseline design. Each shelter was randomly assigned to 2-4 months of the baseline condition, in which they continued their current unstructured adoption counseling program, followed by 2-4 months of the experimental condition. During the experimental condition, the staff were asked to conduct the intervention. Throughout the study, data was recorded using automated equipment that tracked the number of adopter-dog interactions and the number of interactions that resulted in an adoption. Data from the initial shelter showed that play with specific toys in the preference assessment predicted play in more naturalistic settings (χ2= 10.50, P < 0.001, n = 20) and that dogs in the experimental group were 2.49 times more likely to be adopted than dogs in the control group. Preliminary data from the multi-site study revealed different methodological constraints depending on shelter type. The successful development of the automated data tracking device and an alteration to the procedure to reduce staff effort has allowed for circumventing these constraints. Data on adoption rates within each shelter is forthcoming. The successful multi-site validation of the SADI intervention will result in an immediate benefit to shelter dogs; this provides a robust behavioral treatment package that can be implemented at various shelters to increase adoption rates and decrease unnecessary euthanasia.
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