Canine Crusader Volunteer Program Aims to Increase Dog Adoptions

Dog adoptions are down at the Oshkosh Area Humane Society (OAHS). “Adoptions of dogs are down about 45% at OAHS compared to the numbers from June and July of 2022.  We typically see a dip in adoptions in the summer anyway since families are going on vacations and are out of their school-year routines.  But even factoring that in, adoptions have really slowed, “says OAHS Dog Team Manager Jennifer Ollanketo. 

The latest quarterly report from Shelter Animals Count, a nationwide data collector of animal welfare organizations, shows this problem is not isolated to our local area.  Shelters across the country are seeing an increase of dogs coming in, and fewer getting adopted.

Ollanketo says there are many factors contributing to the influx of animals into shelters along with longer-than-normal wait before adoption.  “We’re seeing an increase of stray dogs not being redeemed by their owners, inflation has affected the cost of everything animal-related, there’s a nationwide veterinary shortage, and we’ve seen an unprecedented number of animals from evictions, homelessness, abandonments, etc.  Affordable pet-friendly housing is also proving very difficult to come by as we’ve received many surrender requests from people who are moving and they can’t find a place that will allow them to have their animal. It’s a really difficult time for many people and animals.”

 The combination of factors has amounted to more dogs waiting longer in a shelter environment.  “A shelter is not a home.  The different people coming and going, the strange smells, the other animals, and living in a kennel can really wear on dogs, both mentally and physically.  They can begin to exhibit stress and frustration behaviors, which aren’t appealing to adopters.”   Ollanketo says most of the dogs they take in are medium to large size, mixed breed dogs that have had little training, if any.  “Usually between 1-2 years old is when we see dogs coming in as strays or being surrendered because the cute puppy behaviors that weren’t addressed or worked with aren’t quite as cute when it’s a 70-pound adolescent.”

The Oshkosh Area Humane Society wants to promote mental and physical exercise while increasing adoptability of the dogs through a new Canine Crusaders volunteer-based program.  Trained “crusaders” will be assigned to a specific dog with an individualized behavior plan. They will then be trained on how to work with the dog to reduce or eliminate negative behavior issues and encourage more positive behaviors.

Ieva Engel, OAHS President, says “The Canine Crusaders program does require an investment of time to make a difference, but a volunteer will be that dog’s biggest advocate and spokesperson so they can find their new family faster, be more engaged, and less stressed while waiting for adoption.”

Those interested in learning more about the Canine Crusaders program should send an e-mail with their contact information to