TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The goal of animal shelters is to provide a safe haven for pets until their forever homes come along. But, sometimes, that doesn’t happen quickly enough. That’s the case with Benson, a Belgian Malinois, who has become a permanent fixture at SPCA Suncoast in New Port Richey.
Full of character, the 55-pound Benson spends a lot of time with SPCA staff, who do their best to keep the dog, a resident of the shelter for a year, from being institutionalized.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep him household-friendly,” said Brennan Autry, who retired from the Navy and now runs the SPCA Suncoast facility. Autry’s also an expert in animal behavior and dog trainer.
Autry says keeping dogs active, not just playing in the yard, but socializing with other animals and people, and allowing dogs to do mentally stimulating activities, like sniffing and exploring, is imperative to preventing longtime shelter animals from getting too used to living a sheltered life.
“We need to keep him thinking, OK, there’s things outside of the shelter,” Autry explains, adding that, when possible, SPCA Suncoast volunteers take Benson on walks, to parks, and even on short errands.
A recent renovation project at SPCA Suncoast added a living room environment, so dogs can get a sense of what living in a home is like. The renovations also updated the dog kennels and cat facility. And, Autry says, SPCA Suncoast is creating a neighborhood garden to grow fresh vegetables for the animals in its care.
Longtime shelter pets, like Benson, need some time to settle in after adoption. Because they’re adapting to a different lifestyle, new families need to understand a dog’s personality develop and adapt to a new environment after three or four months.
Autry adds that larger, older dogs like Benson often aren’t given a chance that they deserve because many people wanting to adopt a dog go to facilities with a certain “type” in mind.
“Coming in with a closed mind really does close off some of the great opportunities like Benson, and some of the other dogs that we have out here,” Autry said.
Interested in Benson? Here’s more about him. It’s believed he’s five to six years old, isn’t a big barker, and loves being in the presence of people. SPCA Suncoast isn’t sure if Benson will get along with cats, mainly because the dog hasn’t interacted with many of them. Also, the shelter says Benson would do better in a single-dog home (he loves to protect his toys, and be the center of attention), and a family with older children is best suited for him.
To learn more about Benson, and the other pets housed at SPCA Suncoast, visit the shelter’s Facebook page or website. Currently, shelter visits are by appointment only, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also reach the SPCA Suncoast at 727-849-1048.
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