The Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA helps thousands of animals each year. During the month of December, we will share twelve stories about animals saved by the SPCA this year. These stories exemplify our commitment to maintaining Charlottesville-Albemarle as a No Kill community and all of these stories have a happy ending because of the commitment of our SPCA, the generosity and support from our community and support from people like you.

The 10th Save(s) of Christmas: Behavior Help Keeps Pets and Their People Together


Cooper & Tucker

Sadly, across the country, many pets end up in a shelter and lose their lives because of solvable behavior problems. Whenever it is possible and in the best interest of the pet, our SPCA tries to keep pets and their people together through our pet retention programs.

It can be heartbreaking when a beloved pet begins displaying negative behaviors that are difficult to understand. Whether it is destructive chewing, barking, refusal to use the litter box or some form of aggression, many pet owners are suddenly faced with choices on how to handle the situation. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find the right resources and many find themselves thinking that the only choice left is to find their pet another home.



Finding a home for a behaviorally challenged pet can be difficult, and when a home cannot be found many look to their local animal shelter to take the pet. This is heartbreaking for both the pet owner and the pet. The stories below are just two of the many stories about families saved from the heartbreak of giving up a beloved pet through our Pet Retention and Behavior Program.

When the Callahan family adopted Tucker, a sweet Beagle mix pup, two years ago, they never thought they would be faced with a behavior problem that could make them consider relinquishing their pet to a shelter. Their problems began when they adopted a second dog, Cooper, at the start of this year. At first, the two dogs seemed to get along with no problems. Then Tucker started to develop issues with Cooper. At one point, Tucker became very possessive of toys and other resources and would growl if anyone, especially Cooper, came near him while he was playing or had a treat. Over time Tucker’s behavior became worse, even going so far as attempting to bite his owners! The family (Cooper, too!) were quite worried and did not know what steps to take to help resolve this issue with Tucker. Their fears of having to surrender him back to the shelter were growing. Thankfully they reached out to the SPCA for help. They were connected with Lisa Sweet, the SPCA’s Pet Retention & Behavior Specialist, who spoke with them at length, offering information on what they could do to help Tucker get over his resource guarding. Lisa even made a home visit meeting with the whole family and observed the interaction and Tucker’s behavior in the home firsthand. Though it took some time and understanding, Lisa worked with the family until Tucker’s behavior improved. All family members, two-legged and four, are now back to happily living in peace.


Bailey when he first arrived at the SPCA.

Our next story is about one of the many cat owners that we helped to keep the peace in her feline family. We have found that people are quick to give up on cats because they erroneously believe that cat behavior cannot be changed. Thankfully, we know that this isn’t the case and many times all it takes is a little education and reassurance for a cat owner to solve their problem, be it litter box trouble, nervousness, destructive behavior or inability to get along with other feline housemates.

Lisa Sweet helped adopter Erin with the addition of a new kitten to her home. New to having a kitten in her house, Erin reached out to Lisa Sweet when she feared that her new kitten was picking on her older cat Jasper and playing too rough for him. She became especially concerned after she noticed Jasper limping after one of their spats.

12saves-Bailey1Lisa reassured Erin that this was something that they could work with and gave her recommendations for keeping the two felines happy. Jasper needed his space to sleep during the night and higher perches to get away from the kitten energy when needed, and Bailey the kitten was in need of interactive toys and play sessions so that he could exhaust some of his kitten energy without annoying or hurting Jasper. Lisa also recommended that Erin try a spay bottle of water and to make a “no-no” sound when Bailey was playing too rough for Jasper. Lisa noted that cats learn quickly and after a few squirts, you often only have to say “no” and they catch on.

12saves-b2As you can see in the photo, all has worked out in Erin’s feline family and Jasper and Bailey are fast becoming friends.

Our Pet Retention and Behavior program is completely donation supported. Please make a donation so we can continue to keep pets and their people together.

Give a holiday gift in honor of a friend and we will send them a holiday card announcing your gift.makeagift


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