Nonprofit's dual mission offers training for shelter dogs while helping young children grow

Young children from underserved communities work with shelter dogs and professional dog trainers - all while learning new skills.

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Sunday, November 6, 2022
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"That's really why we started this program," said the co-founder of K9 Youth Alliance. "So that these dogs can get out of the shelter and these kids have a chance to have that love."

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- Animal shelters throughout Los Angeles County are overcrowded.

As cities try to find more funding and staff to meet an incredible need, there are nonprofit organizations like K9 Youth Alliance that provide shelter dogs with hands-on training, teaching them better behavior through basic skills, and also putting them in a better mental state.

"This is working their mind, and dogs need that too," said Kelly Osburn, the co-founder and executive director of K-9 Youth Alliance. "They need a whole bunch of things to be happy and using their mind is one of them."

What sets her organization apart is their dual mission.

Young people from under-resourced communities participate in a three-week program, working with shelter dogs and professional dog trainers.

Daily one-on-one work where the student becomes the teacher.

"For our kids, they learn not just dog training and the clear communication and leadership skills around that, we have a graduation ceremony where they give a presentation about their experiences, they get a chance to show off what they've learned to an audience of their friends and family members ... and for them it really is an empowering thing," said Osburn.

Founded in 2016, K9 Youth Alliance has helped more than 100 kids grow in confidence through the shared experience of training shelter dogs.

Now, adult volunteers are participating, helping larger dogs that don't always show well in a kennel.

Agnes Sibal-Von Debshitz with L.A. Animal Services points out why even timid dogs can benefit from the work provided by K9 Youth Alliance.

"When they get shy and nervous, they start doing these things, and it will help calm them down and so, these kinds of programs really help the dogs, but also for when families adopt these animals, because then they have animals who already know some of the basic tricks, maybe some basic house rules, it will really help the animal," she said.

Working with L.A. Animal Services and the Pasadena Humane Society, K9 Youth Alliance is enriching the lives of both dog and child.

"For kids, that maybe come from homes where they never had a pet or they can't have a dog because they're in an apartment," said Osburn. "That's really why we started this program, so that these dogs can get out of the shelter and these kids have a chance to have that love."