When Joe Tatom starts his volunteer dog-walking shift at Animal Care & Control in East New York, Brooklyn, he knows he is in for an emotional few hours. New York City's dog pound, which is run by the Department of Health, is the only place in the city required to take in each and every animal brought to its door, no matter what its condition or how little space is available. As a result, AC&C is almost always operating at full capacity.
The majority of dogs here are pit bulls. Surrendered by their owners, abandoned in parks, left behind during home foreclosures, seized in drug raids - the reasons for their arrival at the shelter are many.
In addition to the regular shelter staff, volunteer dog walkers like Tatom give these dogs much-needed exercise and human interaction, without which they would suffer physically, emotionally and socially. A 15-minute walk a few times a day can mean a run around the warehouse-lined blocks of East New York, one-on-one time with a human being, training, fresh air, new scents, and a break from the chorus of barks inside the kennels. This is just enough to keep these dogs sane, socialized, and better prepared to meet potential adopters.
Tatom says it's hard to return the dog to its kennel after that 15 minutes of freedom. Still, volunteering at AC&C is the highlight of his week.
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