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Dog in animal shelter waiting for adopti

Community Involvement

(Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming)

At Dalmatia BnB we are passionate about improving the lives of dogs and their owners. To help accomplish our mission we work closely with the Clinton Animal Shelter. Using the SAFER Assessment we can determine if a dog is aggressive, what kind of aggression they have, and what kind of rehabilitation is needed to help them overcome their aggression. 

What is the SAFER Assessment?

The SAFER (Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming) Assessment is a standardized behavioral evaluation used to assess the potential for aggression in dogs. Developed by Dr. Emily Weiss and adopted by many animal shelters, the SAFER Assessment helps to evaluate a dog's behavior in various situations that mimic real-life interactions. This evaluation is critical for determining the best possible outcomes for dogs in shelters, ensuring the safety of both humans and animals.

Purpose of the SAFER Assessment

The primary purpose of the SAFER Assessment is to:

  1. Identify Aggressive Tendencies: Assess the potential for aggressive behavior in dogs to ensure they are safe for rehoming.

  2. Understand Behavioral Triggers: Determine specific situations or triggers that may lead to aggression.

  3. Guide Training and Rehabilitation: Provide valuable information to create behavior modification plans tailored to individual dogs.

  4. Inform Adoption Decisions: Aid in making informed decisions about the suitability of dogs for adoption into various types of homes.

Components of the SAFER Assessment

The SAFER Assessment consists of seven standardized subtests, each designed to elicit specific responses from the dog:

  1. Look: Evaluates the dog’s reaction to being stared at in the eyes.

  2. Sensitivity: Measures response to gentle handling and touching.

  3. Tag: Assesses reaction to being playfully touched and engaged in a game.

  4. Squeeze: Evaluates tolerance to paw handling and mild discomfort.

  5. Food Behavior: Tests behavior around food, assessing for guarding tendencies.

  6. Toy Behavior: Measures the dog's possessiveness over toys.

  7. Dog-to-Dog Behavior: Observes reactions to other dogs, usually through a barrier.

Using the SAFER Assessment at a Local Shelter

At the local shelter, the SAFER Assessment is used systematically to evaluate each dog upon intake or before being placed up for adoption. Here is how the process typically works:

  1. Preparation:

    • Environment: Conduct the assessment in a quiet, controlled environment to minimize external stressors.

    • Tools: Use standardized tools such as a fake hand for food and toy behavior tests, a leash, and toys.

  2. Conducting the Assessment:

    • Trained Assessors: Only trained staff members or volunteers who understand dog behavior and the SAFER protocol conduct the assessment.

    • Observation: Carefully observe and document the dog’s responses to each subtest, noting any signs of aggression, fear, or stress.

  3. Scoring and Analysis:

    • Each subtest is scored based on the dog’s reactions, with specific criteria for scoring ranging from relaxed and friendly to highly aggressive.

    • Analyze the scores to determine the overall aggression level and identify any specific triggers or types of aggression (e.g., fear-based, resource guarding).

  4. Outcome and Action Plan:

    • Behavior Modification: Develop a tailored behavior modification plan for dogs with manageable aggression issues.

    • Training Recommendations: Provide training recommendations for adopters, particularly for dogs that show mild to moderate aggression.

    • Adoption Decisions: Make informed decisions about the types of homes suitable for each dog. Dogs with severe aggression may be placed in specialized foster care or with experienced handlers.

  5. Follow-Up:

    • Monitor the dog’s behavior during its stay at the shelter and re-evaluate as necessary.

    • Provide ongoing support and advice to adopters to ensure successful integration into their new homes.

Benefits of Using the SAFER Assessment

  • Increased Safety: Enhances the safety of shelter staff, volunteers, and potential adopters by identifying dogs with aggressive tendencies.

  • Better Outcomes: Improves the chances of successful adoptions by matching dogs with appropriate homes and providing necessary training and support.

  • Informed Decisions: Empowers shelter staff with detailed behavioral information, leading to better decision-making regarding the management and placement of dogs.

In summary, the SAFER Assessment is a crucial tool used in animal shelters to evaluate and understand dog aggression. By systematically assessing dogs' behavior, shelters can ensure the safety of their staff, volunteers, and adopters, while also increasing the likelihood of successful rehoming for the dogs.


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