Pet help a phone call away

Pets can be our best friends that see us through the toughest of times — and at times the source of our biggest heartaches.

A dog that just won’t stop barking or a cat that can’t give up clawing the couch can lead to problems with neighbors, landlords and most of all, the pet owner, too. And sadly, it can result in that pet being given away or dropped off at the Kauai Humane Society.

Don’t despair. There is help.

KHS recently launched a behavioral helpline. Callers can leave a message describing their situations, and one of several volunteers who have a background in animal behavior and canine training will call back.

“They are there to help people keep the animal in the home,” said Penny Cistaro, KHS executive director. 

“If a dog has separation anxiety or leash aggression, chewing problems, cats not using litter box or cat is scratching furniture, whatever the problem might be, we can provide that assistance and guidance,” she said. “We should be able to help people solve those problems.”

It’s not uncommon for someone to adopt a dog or cat, then decide they’re too much trouble to keep. It could be a longstanding problem, or a new one. Problems with puppies usually top the list because they’re young, untrained and full of energy. The behavioral helpline could be the key to the animal staying with its owner rather than winding up at KHS. 

“This is another piece to help people keep the animal in the home, rather than getting frustrated and bringing it to the shelter because they can’t keep it any longer, or putting the dog in the backyard because it can’t live well inside the house,” Cistaro said.

The Behavioral Helpline is (808) 632-0610, ext. 116. Callers are asked to leave a name, number, description of the problem behavior and time for return call. Every effort will be made to return the call within 24 hours. There are no guarantees, of course, but volunteers will do their best to work with the pet owner until basic behavior issues are solved. 

If it’s something that can’t be handled over the phone, a more complex, troubling habit such as constant barking, there may be recommendations on where to go for help — websites, books, pamphlets, trainers and training classes.

Becky Gagnon is one of the volunteers for the program and a dog trainer.

“Many dogs and cats lose their homes and families because of ‘behavior problems’ yet most of these problems can be solved,” she wrote. “Basically we will guide people through the issue or concern, explore options, get them involved in the solution, and share additional resources. Sometimes just talking can help sort out the problem.”

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