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  • Meet PACC's new training and behavior coordinator

    Having a well-behaved pet is important in almost any situation, but it can be a make-or-break deal for people looking to adopt a pet from their community shelter. That’s why Pima Animal Care Center has invested into hiring Thamzen Carson – its first training and behavior coordinator. 

    carsonCarson will create a behavior and training program to help keep the thousands of pets admitted to PACC each year happy, healthy and safe. Her program will focus on expanding the shelter’s pet-enrichment activities, creating pet playgroups and working one-on-one with pets who need additional help.

    “I’ve always wanted a sheltering position that’s focused solely on behavior,” Carson said. “And this job is all about the mental and behavioral health of our pets.”

    Carson has worked in the animal field for over seven years in many capacities, including sheltering, boarding, grooming and training. Before joining PACC in April, she worked at the SPCA Tampa Bay and the Humane Society of Tampa Bay in Florida, where she helped build training and behavior programs.

    In addition to her work experience, Carson holds a master’s degree in Animals and Public Policy from Tuft’s University, where she worked in their pioneering Animal Behavior Clinic. 

    She has also spent countless hours volunteering at animal shelters.

    During her first few weeks on the job, Carson has learned the shelter operation and developed a strategy to help her build a strong foundation for the behavior program. Due to the large number of pets housed at PACC, she plans to first focus on those who need her the most – the dogs who have lived at the shelter for more than one month. 

    Carson will start playgroups to evaluate dog behavior in group settings. In these groups, she plans to have the dogs off leash, allowing them to act out their natural behaviors. 

    By giving them the opportunity to play, in addition to their daily walks, Carson hopes to improve the pets’ kennel behavior and ultimately, their adoptability.

    “When you allow dogs to have an outlet, it helps them decrease their undesirable behaviors, making them better candidates for adoption,” she said.

    In addition, Carson plans to rehabilitate dogs who need additional help recovering from behaviors that turn off adopters, such as resource-guarding, not knowing how to walk on a leash, fear, shyness and not knowing how to be handled. Her goal is to work with them one-on-one until their behaviors improve and provide counseling to adopters and empower them to continue their pet’s training at home. 

    “What I’ve found is that not one thing works for all pets. You always need to look for new ways to help and you have to treat them as individuals,” Carson said.

    Carson also plans to improve the shelter’s current enrichment activities, from creating more kennel toys to teaching volunteers how to enhance the dog-walking and cat socializing experiences for long-term pets. Eventually, she hopes this will evolve into an enrichment model that serves all pets.

    Ultimately, Carson’s training and behavior program will improve the mental well-being of many PACC pets, while also helping to reduce their length of stay at the shelter. By allowing pets to express their natural behaviors and correcting the aspects of their personality that need work, pets will have an increased possibility of getting adopted sooner.

    “The timeframe for development generally depends on staffing and resources, I expect this will be a gradual process,” Carson said. 

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