New Benton-Franklin Humane Society director has big plans

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldMarch 17, 2013 

Elaine Allison is settling into her new job as director of the Benton-Franklin Humane Society and has some big plans for the facility.

She wants to fix the kennels with sound baffles, offer pet training and provide more education to the public in an effort to ease public fears about certain breeds.

"In my 20 years of dog training experience, I've found there is no breed (easier to rehabilitate) than a pit bull," Allison said. "A pit bull's best trait is their loyalty to people. They used to be used as nanny dogs for children."

What Allison would like to change is to have specific breeds removed from the wording in the potentially dangerous dog law.

The law should be based on the action of a particular dog and not just because it's a pit bull or pit mix, she contends.

She has been talking with Kennewick officials about the dangerous dog law. And though she understands that the breed restriction was born from the dog-fighting ring, the law does not stop illegal dog fighting that still exists.

Allison also plans to tackle the critical decibel factor in the facility's kennels.

"This is a beautifully designed building except for the sound problem in the kennels," she said. "Currently, it's at 91 decibels. A jumbo jet running at full power is 80 decibels. That is not good."

She wants to have the ceiling and walls of the kennels lined with sound panels, so when all the dogs start barking at once it won't interfere with conversations in the building or agitate more animals.

"Even the animals get jumpy with how loud it is in the kennels when the barking begins," Allison said.

The cost would be about $10,000. She plans to ask citizens to help sponsor individual panels and, in exchange, people can put up a photo of their beloved pet or a piece of art on the panel.

Allison also plans to add a behavior department that offers obedience training to the public at a reasonable rate. The cost hasn't been established yet, but Allison plans to do the training.

"I have 20 years of experience as a dog trainer," she said. "I used to train dogs to find bombs for the Port of Los Angeles."

And she also worked with movie studios providing animal training before she moved to New Hampshire to be the director of operations for the city's animal shelter three years ago.

Moving to New Hampshire was a sort of shock for a California girl, she quipped. The severe winters were hard to get used to, so when she was offered the Tri-City job in December it didn't take long for her to pack up her two dogs and two cats, and hit the road hauling a trailer.

"That (cross-country) trip was a little scary weatherwise that time of year, but I made it," Allison said.

She replaced Ed Dawson after he stepped down last August after six years with the agency to join the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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