Located in Knoxville, TN, H.A.L.T. (Humans & Animals Learning Together) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) program that provides a therapeutic intervention for at-risk adolescents through a series of dog obedience training classes. Dogs are rescued from local animal shelters to participate in the class. With the help of adult volunteers, adolescents teach the dogs basic obedience commands, providing a therapeutic intervention for the student trainers while increasing the adoptability of shelter dogs. The dogs are adopted into suitable homes after the class is complete.
In the fall of 1987, representatives of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, a local humane society, the Detoxification Rehabilitation Institute and a professional dog obedience instructor designed the pilot project based on the concept of adolescents and dogs teaching each other.
To date, H.A.L.T. has successfully worked with close to 1500 troubled teens, and each one of these young lives has been affected by their experience at H.A.L.T. Close to 400 adult dogs have been rescued from euthanasia, obedience trained and successfully adopted.
- To offer adolescents an opportunity to develop a positive sense of accomplishment, self-respect, self-esteem, and pride.
- To offer adolescents an opportunity to improve specific living skills such as assertiveness, patience, responsibility, staying on task, communication, and commitment.
- To introduce adolescents to career opportunities in animal-related fields.
- To teach the adolescents about responsible pet ownership, reasons for pet over-population and the importance of spaying and neutering.
- To provide a successful and fun experience for the adolescents and dogs.
- To increase the adoptability of selected adult dogs through basic obedience training and improved social skills.
Suitable dogs are selected from a local animal shelter and medically and behaviorally screened. They are spayed or neutered, given a standard series of vaccinations, heartworm preventative, microchip identification and boarded at the class site.
Student trainers are adolescents from residential centers for treatment of substance or physical abuse, behavioral and/or alienation problems. They are selected by the staff of their agency and are transported to the class site for the classes. The student trainer commits to one four-week course, meeting two times per week.
Classes are held in the Spring and Fall and are lead by our volunteer trainers. Up to four agencies provide student trainers to work with one group of dogs, training on different days. The dogs get 8 hours of training each week in their classes, plus additional socialization by attending adoption events around the area with our volunteers.
The kids take home memories of a job well done and the knowledge that they helped save the lives of these dogs. They also take with them some very valuable life lessons that we hope will help them make smart choices for their futures.
QUOTES FROM PAST STUDENT TRAINERS:
“Dear adopter of Sadie… I want to thank you for helping save and protect Sadie from harm and danger… she is an amazing dog and just needs a great caretaker… I believe God has chosen Sadie and will put her in a good home with a caring family… I hope she touches your heart as she did mine… please love her as much as I do… I have struggled with depression, insecurity and poor self-esteem. Sadie put a smile on my face, brightened my day and kept my faith in wanting to become a veterinarian…. please love her and treat her well… Thank you for helping me save Sadie’s life.”
“When I first met Callie she was scared but after she got to meet me and bond with me she was a really hiper dog. Sometimes she gets distrackted but she is really fun to work with. Who ever adopts Callie please take good care of her and make sure she feels comfterble.”
“Dear new owner for Teddy, The first thing I want to tell you about Teddy is that he is a very very sweet puppy. He does tricks and listens very well. In his small body he has a very great big heart. If your in a bad mood or even a sad mood he will be right next to you night and day, rain or shine. I hope you fall in love with him as I did. He will give you happiness as he did me. Please take care of my baby boy. It is hard to give him away.”