Music reduces pet stress in shelters
Music reduces pet stress in shelters Pamela Fisher and her best friend, Lili pose in a field of flowers in Canton, Ohio. (Dr. Pamela Fisher via AP/Thinkstock)
Music reduces pet stress in shelters
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Can music tame the savage beast? Can it hush puppies and calm kitties?
A veterinarian thinks so. Dr. Pamela Fisher 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 by asking artists around the world to donate dog- and cat-friendly music. The result was MP3 players packed with 30 hours of classics. The songs included music by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin and nursery rhymes like "Three Blind Mice." They also included harps, pianos and violins mimicking ocean waves and gentle breezes. She gives them free to animal shelters, 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 whose practice in North Canton, Ohio, includes alternative approaches like 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 near Cut Bank, Montana. She also is its sole volunteer (there are no paid employees). Winter temperatures at the rural shelter for six dogs and six cats regularly run well below zero. And "the wind blows nearly every day. We call them black blizzards - the top soil is just blown away," Gunther said.
To calm the animals, Gunther tried the radio. Besides hit-and-miss reception, the news and sports had people yelling. And 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 published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior 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 features many statements about the positive effects of her MP3 players. It includes a video from the Tuscarawas Humane Society 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 atmosphere. It also has lowered the noise level.
A survey of more than 500 shelters conducted by Fisher also proved her approach. It found that barking reduced by half and animals on average were more relaxed.
"It just de-stresses them. They are still happy and wiggly. They just aren't barking," explained Tania Huycke-Phillips. She is the foster and facilities coordinator at Bay Area Humane Society in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Beyond the music, the shelter staff does all it can to reduce stress for the dogs, including giving them toys, treats and food. And they also spend time with them. "Reducing stress shows off their personalities and they get adopted quicker," she said.
To buy the MP3 players, Fisher applies for grants. She also collects donations and holds fundraisers.
The music also helps relax staff members and 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, but it took a look, not a sound, to seal the deal. She was installing the music system at Summit County Animal Control in Akron, Ohio, in 2012 when a mutt named "Lili stole my heart with her glance."

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Why does music seem to calm the animals?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • jackb-dav
    10/09/2015 - 12:15 p.m.

    I wish I could get a dog. I have a dog named Scarlet. She is very fuzzy. Super dogs are awesome.

  • pauld-dav
    10/09/2015 - 12:18 p.m.

    I wish I could be a dog or a cat because it would be awesome. Dogs and cats can roam around wherever they want to go.

  • brianw-1-dav
    10/09/2015 - 12:20 p.m.

    It is really cool to have music for a dog. If I could have a dog I would take it to your vet. clinic everyday. If I could be a dog I would want you to be my owner.

  • taylorr-day
    10/09/2015 - 01:24 p.m.

    I think its really cool how the dogs reacated to the music. The calming music redouces the dogs barking and makes them less stressed. I also feel like this could help get them adopted faster if they're not barking all the time and are playful and more relaxed.

  • samanthao-ver
    10/09/2015 - 01:24 p.m.

    I like this article because i have three dogs and a lot of other pets so this will help me out.

  • brennar-bai
    10/09/2015 - 02:23 p.m.

    Why do I think music calms the animals. I think it calms the animals because it gives themselves comfort, soothing, and it reduces stress. Another reason is it lowers the noise levels for example, when they turned on the loud music I think the animals would get stressed and maybe even bark and when they turned on music by Beethoven and Mozart they would calm down and they were less stressed.

  • marak-buh
    10/09/2015 - 02:38 p.m.

    This post captures what it's like to be a dog in a shelter ,and why they should get proper treatment like music, good ,food ,toys and attention.I love the idea!

  • jacobd-ver
    10/09/2015 - 02:45 p.m.

    I think that it was cool that it was proved by over 500 shelters that music can calm or relax dogs and puppies.

  • owenh-ver
    10/09/2015 - 02:54 p.m.

    i think that it is cool that animals calm down from music and that i hope that she keeps doing stuff for animals and pet shelters.

  • gracef-kus
    10/09/2015 - 03:48 p.m.

    I think that putting music in vets offices is a cool idea because it is not just for the animals it can also be for the people.

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