While in the U.S., private individuals are being waitlisted for the increasingly selective dog adoption process, local adoption centers here are struggling to keep afloat in the pandemic. The sudden loss of volunteers and donations are threatening to send rescues back into the streets to fend for themselves or to fall prey to catchers.
At the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), strays are not only housed but also trained to be a part of an emergency K9 unit. UPD Sagip K9 consists of pets living in the safety of good homes and stray dogs who used to roam the streets of the campus. They are trained to help the UP community in case of natural disasters and emergencies.
Aided by trainers who are UP faculty, staff, security personnel, and students, 18 dogs were trained earlier this year. The sessions are focused on scent, search and rescue, socialization, and agility.
One of the challenges, according to the volunteer handlers, is reorienting stray dogs to learn new behavior outside of the ones they’ve picked up on the streets. Dogs also had to be matched with trainers who spent months getting to know the canines. The sheltered family dogs, on the other hand, also had some learning to do, including socializing with campus dogs.
Out of the 18 dogs, only 13 passed the training to become part of the final roster of UPD Sagip K9. Together with the volunteer handlers, these trained dogs are now at UPD’s service to respond to emergencies within the community.
The university is no stranger when it comes to welcoming and integrating animals into the community. In 2019, UPD introduced emotional support dogs as part of the university’s efforts to strengthen psychosocial support for students and university staff experiencing depression or anxiety and to avoid having animals impounded.
One of the dogs who was part of that program is Kotton, a Labrador-aspin mix who was adopted by a university professor. Kotton is now part of the UPD Sagip K9 unit.