Music reduces pet stress in shelters
Can music tame the wild beast? Can it hush puppies and calm kitties?
A veterinarian thinks so. She is Dr. Pamela Fisher. The vet has put music in over 1,100 animal shelters. She says that it calms dogs and cats. And it even cuts down on barking.
Fisher started the nonprofit Rescue Animal MP3 Project nearly four years ago. She asked artists around the world to donate dog- and cat-friendly music. The result was MP3 players packed with 30 hours of classics. The classics include music by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin. There were nursery rhymes like "Three Blind Mice." And harps, pianos and violins copied ocean waves and gentle breezes. She gives them free to animal shelters. She also gives them to sanctuaries and spay-and-neuter clinics.
"I have used therapeutic music in my practice and wanted to figure out a way to help the shelter animals in my own community," said Fisher.
She is a holistic veterinarian. Her practice is in North Canton, Ohio. It includes other methods of treating pets. One way is with aromatherapy. Her "community" has grown to include shelters in all 50 states. They house over 115,000 dogs and cats.
One fan is Tina Gunther. She is vet tech at the Cut Bank Animal Shelter. It is near Cut Bank, Montana. She also is its only volunteer. There are no paid employees. Winter temperatures at the rural shelter for six dogs and six cats often run well below zero.
"The wind blows nearly every day. We call them black blizzards. The top soil is just blown away," Gunther said.
Gunther tried the radio to calm the animals. It had hit-and-miss reception. The news and sports also had people yelling. There were upsetting sound bites. Then the project MP3 player was installed for the dogs on one side. "The difference has been dramatic," she said.
She and her husband had to buy a second player for the cats. "When they play songs they like, they go and sit by the speakers," Gunther said.
No one has studied the impact of Fisher's specific music recipe. But others have looked at how music and noise in general affect animals. A 2012 Colorado State University study found that dogs were more likely to sleep and less likely to bark when Mozart, Beethoven and other classical artists were playing. But not when heavy metal, altered classical and other sounds were playing.
Fisher's website has a lot of good comments about the effects of her MP3 players. It includes a video from the Tuscarawas Humane Society. It is located in Dover, Ohio.
The video shows dogs relaxing and settling down after hearing the music. Tuscarawas shelter director Lindsey Lewis says on the video that the music has calmed the shelter. It also has lowered the noise level.
A survey of more than 500 shelters done by Fisher also proved her approach. It found that barking was cut in half. And that the animals on average were more relaxed.
"It just de-stresses them. They are still happy and wiggly. They just are not barking," explained Tania Huycke-Phillips. She is the foster and facilities coordinator at Bay Area Humane Society. It is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Beyond the music, the shelter staff does all it can to reduce stress for the dogs. The staff offers toys, treats and food. And the staff spends time with them. "Reducing stress shows off their personalities. They get adopted quicker," she said.
Fisher applies for grants to buy the MP3 players. She also collects donations and holds fundraisers.
The music also helps relax staff members. That helps the animals too, said Fisher. She grew up singing and playing folk music on the guitar.
The project brought Fisher a new best friend. It took a look and not a sound to seal the deal. She was installing the music system at Summit County Animal Control in Akron, Ohio, in 2012. That is when a mutt named "Lili stole my heart with her glance."