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ASPCA Opens Rehab Center In NJ To Help Traumatized Dogs

'This Means For Them A Second Chance'
Musketeer, five-year-old Shepard-pit bull mix, in his indoor portion of his kennel working with Lauren Zvernia, ASPCA animal behavior enrichment coordinator, at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, N.J. Musketeer is available for adoption at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center. (Photo: ASPCA)

Musketeer, five-year-old Shepard-pit bull mix, in his indoor portion of his kennel working with Lauren Zvernia, ASPCA animal behavior enrichment coordinator, at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, N.J. Musketeer is available for adoption at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center. (Photo: ASPCA)

MADISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has opened the first-ever facility dedicated to providing rehabilitation to dogs that are victims of animal cruelty.

The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. will help dogs rescued from puppy mills and hoarding cases to overcome their fear and anxiety.

“For some animals, the reality is that after a lifetime of neglect and abuse, the rescue is just the beginning of their journey to recovery,” said Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA‘s Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team.

The dogs will undergo an intensive six to eight week program “designed to reduce the dogs’ fear of people and other dogs, acquainting them to unfamiliar objects, sounds, living areas, and real-life situations that can induce trauma and severe stress.”

“Take the dogs and expose them to all the things that they will encounter in pet homes and create new associations,” said Kristen Collins, director of ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Rehabilitation.

Animals that graduate from the rehabilitation program will then be prepared for adoption.

Until now, it was up to animal shelters to ease the fears.

“Many shelters around the country are doing great work in terms of rehabilitation and behavior modification, but often times they are stretched thin and may not have the resources to work with animals who need more time,” Collins said.

The work done at the center will be featured in a two-year research project that will provide rescue groups and shelters with successful methods and treatment protocols to rehabilitate animals seized from cruelty cases.

Weather permitting, the first few dogs will arrive in the next day or two from the Pacific Northwest, Collins said.

They will be the last of 213 Alaskan malamutes seized from a Montana breeder who was convicted in December 2012 of 91 counts of animal cruelty. After being starved and living in filth at the breeding facility, the dogs then had to be kept in kennels as evidence for 16 months while the trial played out.

Malamutes are 75-pound dogs. “Eighteen of the dogs were pregnant. One pregnant dog only weighed 48 pounds and had eight pups. Only one survived,” said Bob Sutherland of Anchorage, president of the Alaska Malamute Assistance League.

The dogs were released to a humane society in Helena, Mont., where they were spayed and neutered, and another group helped place the animals.

The center will only be able to handle about 400 dogs during the project’s two scheduled years, so it won’t take an immediate burden off shelters, Collins said, but if researchers can come up with new ways to ease fear, anxiety and shyness in abused dogs, it could have a widespread impact.

“This means for them a second chance,” she said.

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