Bacon, a cream-colored retriever mix, took a behavior test recently at an animal shelter here. He flunked.
Bounding into the evaluation room, Bacon seemed like an affable goofball, ready for adoption. But as he gulped down food, Dr. Sara Bennett, a veterinary behaviorist, stuck a fake plastic hand attached to a pole into his bowl and tugged it away. Instantly, Bacon lunged at the hand, chomping down on it hard.
Shelters have used this exercise and others for some 20 years to assess whether a dog is safe enough to be placed with a family. For dogs, the results can mean life or death.
“If you failed aggression testing, you did not pass go,” said Mary Martin, the new director of Maricopa County animal shelter in Phoenix, which takes in 34,000 dogs annually. Between January and June 2016, 536 dogs were euthanized for behavior, most because of test results.