Animal shelters are scary. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is trying to change that.


The staff of 40+ people are ready to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress (the same way as their peers) by learning about animal behavior and body language.

ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to be certified in what’s called “fear-free” training; a way to make their furry patients more comfortable.

Veterinarian Matthew Galati joined the Animal Welfare League of Arlington about two years ago. “When I first started working here I had the training cause I had it from my previous job,” said Galati. “So I’d say, ‘Why don’t we do it like this?’ And everyone would kind of look at me sideways.”

When it comes time to be spayed or neutered, Galati sets the mood with music and special scents. “Cats make a smell only cats can smell. Same goes for dogs,” said Galati. That scent has been manufactured and bottled up. Every morning before his surgeries, Galati and his team spray the room with scents for dogs and cats. “So there’s a scent trail that, ‘OK, this is a scary place but there’s a familiar scent so it’s not the worst thing in the world to be here.'”

That trick is a page from the book of fear-free training. Now, fewer people at AWLA are looking at Galati sideways…last week, the entire staff of over 40 people participated in the training; learning how to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress by learning about animal behavior and body language with a refresher on the handling basics.

“We all interact with the animals at some point and time while they’re here so it’s always helpful to have everyone on the same page and that consistency helps the animals, too,” said Rebecca Yoo, behavior and training manager at AWLA.

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