From Parking Lot To Barking Spot

Anicira Completes Outdoor Dog Park At Adoption Center
Daily News-Record  7/29/19
HARRISONBURG — Anicira, an area dog adoption and veterinary organization, hosted an open house to celebrate the completion of its new dog park outside the adoption center in Harrisonburg on Saturday.
“This was our vision from when we first opened our adoption center,” said Dan Chavez, operations coordinator for Anicira.
The dog park is behind the group’s adoption center on North Liberty Street, which was the group’s veterinary center up until January 2017 when it moved to 1992 Medical Ave. By the end of that year, the former veterinary center had become an adoption center and the goal to have an outdoor space persisted.
“If we’re going to have a shelter, we needed to have a safe enclosed area to do it,” Chavez said.
Anicira is primarily foster based, and those foster owners will be able to take Anicira dogs down to the park, he said.
But the park is not open to the public, Chavez said, due to socialization and health concerns.
The group began fundraising for the improvements in December 2018 and completed much of the work, including the fencing, by February.
“We were able to get a lot of community support to help fundraise for this,” Chavez said.
Donations totaled about $7,000, which was approximately half the full cost of the work, he said.
The former parking lot features many improvements, including tunnels for the dogs to walk through, a mound for the dogs to cross over, half-buried tires, many colorful flowers and fencing, Chavez said.
“The main thing is you constantly want to help stimulate the animal to be able to help reassure them,” he said.
The park is just a part of some of the other enrichment features, Chavez said. Some other enrichment features for the animals Anicira offers include playing relaxing music for the animals and access to toys.
“Doing all these type of things helps to reduce anxiety and make them feel confident,” he said.
And that enrichment shines through to potential adopters when they meet the animals, Chavez said.
When the dogs get out and interact with others in the outdoor space, it gives Anicira staff the ability to better inform potential adopters about the dogs’ relationships with other animals, people and commands, he said.
“It also helps out with our fosters and volunteers because they’re able to do these really fun activities out here,” Chavez said.
Anicira partners with underserved communities and shelters, Chavez said, including the Lee County Animal Shelter, to help adopt dogs, he said.
“We pull animals from them every other week in order to help their shelter,” Chavez said. “They don’t have the human population in order to maintain adoptions.”
Anicira also has many veterinary support systems for spaying and neutering of dogs prior to adoption.
Every dog they get, just like people, have different backgrounds and stories and will act differently. The new space will help introduce the dogs to each other.
“We don’t know how well they do with other dogs, so we’re able to do proper introductions in a safe environment to see how well they are interacting with them,” Chavez said.
The open house event saw the adoption center connect 11 dogs, about a third of the group’s animal population, with homes.