VCA Charities® Partners with Shelters to Pilot Dog Day Out Field Trip Program

By October 10, 2023 March 16th, 2024 Charities, Press Release
VCA Charities Dog Day Out Program

VCA Charities, the charitable arm of VCA Animal Hospitals, today announced the launch of a new pilot program designed to take highly adoptable dogs out of shelters and into our communities through a volunteer-based field trip program called Dog Day Out.

The pilot program kicks off with a three-day class in Los Angeles, October 10 – 12, and will be taught by animal welfare expert Kristen Hassen, founder of Outcomes Consulting, along with subject matter experts from Virginia Tech, Mutual Rescue, Maui Humane Society, and KC Pet Project. Curriculum will focus on creating and growing a Dog Day Out program, expanding much-needed enrichment activities for dogs that may be experiencing kennel stress as well as adding support and temporary relief for animal care teams and existing volunteers. The program brings attention to loving, family dogs that have been overlooked simply because of the sheer number of pets currently in shelters.

VCA Charities is calling on first-time volunteers, vacationers, and members of the community to take shelter dogs on field trips, giving the dogs invaluable exercise and enrichment and ultimately helping them get adopted. Soon-to-be published research conducted by applied animal behaviorist Dr. Lisa Gunter, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech School of Animal Sciences, shows dogs that leave the shelter on a field trip are over four times more likely to be adopted than dogs that do not participate in these programs.

“As part of a nationwide study with over 50 animal shelters, our research team at Arizona State University and Virginia Tech explored the impacts of field trip and sleepover programs on dogs’ likelihood of adoption as well as factors associated with successful programs,” said Dr. Lisa Gunter. “What we’re finding is when dogs leave the shelter, for just a few hours or stay overnight in a foster’s home, they were much more likely to be adopted. We are also seeing when shelters open these programs to their community and allow individuals with no prior relationship to the shelter to participate, they’re simply more successful.”

The inaugural class includes leaders from some of the largest shelters in the United States including Arizona Humane Society, Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), County of Santa Barbara Animal Services, County of San Diego Animal Services, Humane Society of Tulsa, Los Angeles Animal Services, Maricopa Animal Care and Control (Phoenix, Ariz.), Massachusetts Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), Riverside County Animal Services (Jurupa Valley, Calif.) and San Diego Humane Society. Collectively, these 10 shelters represent an annual intake of nearly 200,000 pets.

“My family experienced the magic of taking a shelter dog on a field trip earlier this year when we visited Maui Humane Society. Not only did it allow us to provide a sweet dog named Jake with a few stress-free hours of walking (and snuggling), but it also provided a meaningful way for us to explore the island,” said Kim Van Syoc, executive director of VCA Charities. “It truly felt like we improved Jake’s whole life by giving up a few hours of ours—and if we can replicate that experience for more people, pets and shelters, it’s a win for everyone.”

As part of this learning experience, attendees will partner with VCA Charities board directors Kimberly West, Michelle Beach, Diana Duncan, Dr. Todd Lavender and Brandon Antin to take dogs from Los Angeles Animal Services on field trips to parks, businesses, and nearby neighborhoods. In addition to the training, VCA Charities will also provide grants to each of the participating shelters to launch the field trip program in local communities as well as create comprehensive Dog Day Out field trip kits including “Adopt Me” backpacks and leashes, dog seat belts, 2 Hounds Design Freedom No-Pull Harnesses and training leash, portable water bottles, toys, towels, treats and report cards.

Helping pets find and remain in loving homes is at the heart of VCA Charities’ mission. Since 2021, VCA Charities has donated more than $2.5 million in grants and provided nearly 1.8 million meals to hungry pets in partnership with Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Whether it’s responding to disasters, transporting pets from at-capacity shelters to ones with a waitlist of adopters, or funding emergency veterinary care for pets belonging to low-income pet owners, VCA Charities works to support the joy of pet ownership in communities across the country.

Learn more about our impact by reading VCA’s fourth annual Impact Report, Joy of Caring, at