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, including music by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin, nursery rhymes like "Three Blind Mice" and 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 routinely 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 disturbing 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.
Fisher's website features many testimonials about the positive effects of her MP3 players, including a video from the Tuscarawas Humane Society in Dover, Ohio, that 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 and lowered the noise level.
A survey of more than 500 shelters conducted by Fisher also validated her approach. It found that barking reduced by half and animals on average 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 toys, treats, food and spending 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 benefits 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

  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    10/07/2015 - 10:01 p.m.

    It is really cool to have these people play music to calm down the dogs. I think that whenever these people do this to these dogs, they are getting smarter and they are just learning more from these songs. I hope that they aren't listening to rap music and I hope that they don't. I want the dogs to be listening to classical music because it will make the dogs calm and sleepy.

  • ziont-orv-orv
    10/08/2015 - 01:21 p.m.

    I think that music calms down animals because they have never heard anything like it and could be very soothing to them. They could like the music like we do and lay down and sleep to the music. They would like classical music because it's soothing and not at loud like our music today.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    10/08/2015 - 07:29 p.m.

    I think that it is helpful and intriguing that the studies shown by Dr. Pamela Fisher was correct. Many dogs and cats' stress was reduced and they were more happy. The music helped the dogs and cats to relax and be cheerful. I also think that the people in the group are doing a good job and they aren't even getting paid. They are doing it for the good of the animals and for the new owners who might adopt them.

  • jennac-orv
    10/08/2015 - 08:48 p.m.

    Animals in the shelters have a lot of stress, they have to be there instead of with a family. I think it is a good idea to have music in a shelter because it sooths the animals, it helps them relax and stop barking. The music that is played to them probably sounds like things in nature, one part of the article says the sounds played on an instrument are sometimes made to mimic the waves an the ocean. The music could help sell the animals beacause no one wants a loud noisy dog.

  • camdenc-ver
    10/09/2015 - 02:36 p.m.

    Music calms me down,and it is cool to see that it calms animals down too. I have to try it on my dog now!

  • lukem-orv
    10/09/2015 - 02:58 p.m.

    Because the sounds of music brings an exciting joy to people and now, pets. Music can be wonderful, loud, smoothing, and relaxing, too. That is why animals can be calm to music.

  • josepht-2-bar
    10/09/2015 - 10:44 p.m.

    Music calms the animals because it is soothing and makes them relax. I think it is vary interesting because the animals never heard of the music and they seem to be calm by the effects of the music.

  • matthewp-6-bar
    10/11/2015 - 04:02 p.m.

    Music seemed to calm the animals because the animals didn't bark as much and some fell asleep to the music.Also since the music is more classical it has a more relaxing vibe than other sounds.My opinion about the article is that scientist should do more research about the affect of music on dogs.

  • josiec-1-bar
    10/11/2015 - 10:31 p.m.

    Music seems to calm the animals because it de-stresses them so they don't have to worry about anything. My opinion is that all owners should do this for their pets.

  • taylorl-3-bar
    10/12/2015 - 11:50 a.m.

    Music seems to calm animals because the sound is relaxing. Dr.Fisher saw the results of music on dogs and cats in one shelter, and started the MP3 program to spread music to many shelters. I think bringing music to animals is important because it reduces their stress and makes them happier.

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