Choice, Control & Empowerment for Shelter Animals

Empowering animals by providing opportunities for choices within their daily lives is a popular topic and an important welfare strategy in zoos, aquariums, and, more recently, professional dog-training settings. But in animal shelters, a focus on choice and environmental control is only gaining momentum slowly. Yet, it is in this environment that behavioral-welfare strategies are most essential; shelter animals lose control over their environment and experience significant reduction in choice from the moment they enter the shelter until the time they leave. Empowerment strategies can and should be in practice throughout an animal’s length of stay. However, it simply isn’t enough to say that we provide the opportunities; we need to also acknowledge and respond when an animal makes a choice. Let’s explore how we can support behavioral welfare from shelter admission to exit through the provision of daily choices and attention to responses. How can we give some control back to the animals in our care? How can we do so in a manner that is both practical to the setting and beneficial for the individual?

Lindsay Wood Brown

Lindsay Wood Brown,  is a board-certified applied animal behaviorist (ACAAB) and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) with a master's degree in psychology and a concentration in animal behavior from Hunter College. Lindsay works at Karen Pryor Academy  as a Course Developer and has been a member of the  KPA faculty member since 2012. She specializes in resolving behavior conditions and consults for animal shelters on the design and implementation of behavior programs, effective modification methods for a range of behavior conditions, and development of robust operational strategies to achieve behavioral health within the shelter.

Lindsay served as the Director of Operations for Lynchburg Humane Society (LHS), an open-admissions animal shelter located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her role at Lynchburg Humane included the oversight of all shelter operations, with a strong focus on behavior and behavior modification to increase the number of animal lives saved and rehomed successfully.

Prior to her role as Director of Operations in Virginia, Lindsay served as the Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colorado. She developed Boulder Humane's Training and Behavior Department, including the curriculum for a wide array of positive reinforcement, clicker training classes for community members. Lindsay also developed the organization's comprehensive behavior modification program, which focuses on rehabilitating dogs with specific concerns, including food-guarding, fearful behavior, body-handling sensitivities, separation anxiety, and dog-dog aggression.