Tuesday, December 12 , 2017, 6:39 am | Smoke 41º


Local News

Santa Maria Humane Society, District Attorney’s Office Join Forces to Give Dogs a Day

Adoptable dogs spend time with volunteers in program that createes exercise and experience opportunities — for animals and humans


A new program pairs well-mannered dogs from the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society with Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office staff for a weekly walk or run during lunchtime to benefit both the two-legged and four-legged participants.

Friday marked the fourth run for the program, and followed a training class taught by Sarah Dyar, a certified dog trainer, to spell out dog handling skills and how to read their body language.

“Some guys run, some of them walk, but they take them for an hour while they’re on their lunch and they bring them back thoroughly exhausted,” said Sean Hawkins, executive director of the Humane Society.

The program, believed to be the first in California, gives the dogs exposure to different aspects of life outside the shelter along with leash-walking skills and manners around unfamiliar people.

“Exposing these guys to as many unfamiliar people, unfamiliar places as possible is really important,” Hawkins added.

“So the dogs are getting socialized. They’re learning to be calm around strange people. They get a little practice in a car ride,” he said, adding the goal is to have each dog well-adjusted to before heading to a permanent home.

The program also promotes the human-animal bond, and already has led to one adoption by a program participant, Hawkins said.

Dogs sport “Adopt Me” vests to help highlight their search for forever homes while on the walks or runs.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley met some of her staff members’s exercise partners Friday, and noted the benefits they gain from the program.

“This kind of exercise enriches both the body and the soul and can help to reduce their stress at what can, at times, be a very intense work environment,” she said.

During her 27 years in law enforcement, Dudley said she has recognized the ways animals have played a role, including being first responders and serving as comfort dogs in courtrooms.

Hawkins, who arrived in the spring to lead the Humane Society, is looking to create other programs to help the animals and their supporters.

“Our Communities that Care Initiative at the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society works outside our shelter walls to elevate the status of dogs and cats in the neighborhoods we serve and advocate for improved animal welfare and well-being,” he added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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