The Fear Free Shelter Program Reduces Stress in Shelters

Fear Free has released free training for staff and volunteers in animal shelters.

Fear Free has released training for shelter staff and volunteers. Photo shows dog with ball.
Photo: Emily on Time/Shutterstock

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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Fear Free, known for its revolutionary approach to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress for pets at the veterinarian, has just launched the Fear Free Shelter Program. The program provides free online training for anyone who works or volunteers at an animal shelter that will teach them how to reduce stress for the animals and provide them with enrichment.

The program covers all stages from the intake of animals through to adoption. It also provides resources that adopters and foster homes can use to promote the emotional well-being of the pets in their care and ease the transition to a new environment.

The program was created by lead author Dr. Brenda Griffin, along with three veterinary behaviourists who all have experience in shelter medicine. Griffin is an adjunct associate professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida, and is also an instructor at the University of Georgia.

“We created the Fear Free Shelter Program to improve the experiences of animals by educating shelter personnel about the emotional needs of dogs and cats,” said Dr. Marty Becker, founder and CEO of Fear Free. “This program will empower them to apply key concepts, strategies, and techniques designed to reduce the negative emotional states that are commonly experienced by shelter animals, including fear, anxiety, stress, and frustration.”

The training is designed for anyone involved in shelter and rescue, including kennel and cattery staff, behavior staff, those who work at reception, and animal control officers. People who foster shelter pets or volunteer at a shelter are also encouraged to take the program.

The program involves four modules which cover emotional health, recognizing how animals are feeling in the shelter, how animals learn, and Fear Free communication and animal handling basics. The introduction is available to view on the website for anyone who wants a preview.

Everyone who completes the course will get a certificate of completion, and will have access to articles, additional educational materials, and handouts, that have been reviewed by a board-certified veterinary behaviourist.

Fear Free launched in 2016, and has already provided education to over 50,000 veterinary and pet professionals.

Already Fear Free certified? This program is not for you, since it covers topics that are already included in the Fear Free curriculum. Those not involved with animal shelter and rescue can learn more about Fear Free and the programs available at Meanwhile, pet owners can find great resources at Fear Free Happy Homes.

If you would like to learn more about the Fear Free initiative, check out my interview with Dr. Marty Becker.

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the award-winning author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. She is the creator of the popular blog, Companion Animal Psychology, writes The Pawsitive Post premium newsletter, and also has a column at Psychology Today. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats. 

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