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COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE

THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE

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Dr. Nancy Howell
The University of TN
College of Vet. Medicine
2407 River Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996 
Email:  nhowell@utk.edu 

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FACT SHEET

HALT - Humans & Animals Learning Together

A nonprofit program benefiting adolescents and dogs

PURPOSE:

To provide a therapeutic intervention for at-risk adolescents through dog obedience training.

OBJECTIVES:

  • To offer adolescents an opportunity to develop a positive sense of accomplishment, self worth and pride.

  • To offer adolescents an opportunity to improve specific living skills such as assertiveness, patience, staying on task, communication and commitment.

  • To introduce adolescents to career opportunities in animal related fields.

  • To provide a successful experience for the adolescents and dogs.

  • To increase the adoptability of selected adult dogs through basic obedience training.

Through a series of classes, a canine obedience instructor helps student trainers teach basic obedience commands to dogs from an animal shelter.

Suitable dogs are selected from a local animal shelter and medically and behaviorally screened. They are given a standard series of inoculations, neutered or spayed, and boarded at the class site.

Student trainers are adolescents from residential centers for treatment of substance abuse, behavioral or alienation problems. They are selected by the staff of their agency and are transported to the class site for the classes.

The student trainer commits to one four-week course, meeting two times per week. Up to four agencies may furnish student trainers to work with one group of dogs. They train on different days. The dogs get up to 8 hours of quality attention each week.

Each dog is placed in a suitable home after graduation.

HISTORY:

In the fall of 1987, representatives of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, a local humane society, the Detoxification Rehabilitation Institute and a professional dog obedience instructor designed the pilot project based on the concept of adolescents and dogs teaching each other.

As of 1997, nearly 250 troubled teens have graduated from HALT, and each one of these young lives has been affected; more than 125 adult dogs have been rescued from euthanasia, obedience trained and successfully adopted.

POPULATIONS SERVED:

  • DRI Adolescent, an agency for the detoxification and rehabilitation of adolescents recovering from substance abuse.

  • The Tennessee Department of Youth Development Oak Ridge Group Home For Boys, a residential group home for juvenile offenders.

  • Haslem Center, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescents with behavioral and/or alienation problems.

EVALUATION OF BENEFITS:

End-of-class surveys of 46 recent graduates indicated that all student trainers felt they helped the dogs (100% felt successful). Forty-two graduates (92%) felt the program helped in their recovery. Student trainers reported increased patience (39%), increased confidence (15%), and reduction in stress (13%). Other reported benefits include a sense of giving and receiving affection and acceptance, increased trust and communication, and fun. All 13 therapists recently involved in the program reported benefits to each student trainer such as a sense of love and trust (54%) and increased patience, confidence/self esteem, and responsibility.

All dogs have been adopted. A follow-up survey of the dogs' new families is currently being conducted.


Sponsored in part by the University of Tennessee
College of Veterinary Medicine