Episode 3: Thommy Harley – From Kennels to Homes

Thommy Harley

Thommy Harley

From Kennels to Homes provides training and behavior modification (BM) to animal shelters and rescues for dogs that have been labeled “unadoptable” due to behavior issues. As a result of this effort, they hope to reduce unnecessary euthanasia, as well as eliminate dogs from being housed long-term.

 

Learn more about From Kennels to Homes

From Kennels to Homes website: fromkennelstohomes.com

How sponsorships work: fromkennelstohomes.com/sponsors

View success stories: fromkennelstohomes.com/success-stories

Contact Thommy: fromkennelstohomes.com/contact-us

Follow From Kennels to Homes on Social Media

Facebook: facebook.com/from-kennels-to-homes-llc

Instagram: instagram.com/fromkennelstohomes

Thommy on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/thommy-harley


Thommy:

This is Thommy. Welcome to Animal Innovations.

 

Narrator:

You’re tuned in to the Animal Innovations Show, where we feature people, products, services, and ideas that are helping animals and the people who care for them, live better lives.

If it’s innovative, and it helps animals, you can find it here first. So, get ready, here comes this week’s newest innovation for animals.

 

Chris:

Hey, Thommy, thanks for coming on.

 

Thommy:

Hey, thanks for having me, Chris.

 

Chris:

I’m really excited to talk to you. So, why don’t you tell us who you are and how you’re innovating to help animals?

 

Thommy:

Okay. So, my name is Thommy. I work with troubled dogs, behavior issue dogs, and what I did is I created an organization called From Kennels To Homes, which basically allows smaller rescue, smaller shelters to have people like me go in there and work with dogs with behavior issues.

What I found talking to a lot of shelters and rescues were: anywhere from 20 to 60% of these dogs were deemed unadoptable or with behavior issue.

So, one of two things that unfortunately would happen is that they would spend years there, or they would be euthanized. I realized that we need to get people in there to give these dogs a chance. So, that’s been the main goal of it.

 

Chris:

I think that’s brilliant. So, really, up to 60% of those dogs and shelters have some sort of behavior problem?

 

Thommy:

Some of the county shelters, yes. And a lot of it can vary from food guarding to labeling a dog “aggressive”, and a lot of them, Chris, are relatively simple things.

Food guarding is relatively simple to help a dog work through. Dog aggressionaggression is usually motivated by fear. So, we can’t just label them and leave them. Let’s see what, you know, from a behavior standpoint, what’s actually causing that? What’s the root cause?

 

Chris:

Yeah, that’s what I was gonna ask you. What is causing these things? Because I think, sometimes, I’ve heard people say that shelter dogs were damaged and all those other things, but it sounds like you’re able to look past that and say, “There’s a really good dog underneath all this.”

 

Thommy:

So, I really believe there’s a good dog under all of them. And, honestly, the issue I have with using the term “aggression” is… the one thing I know about dogs is, they don’t like it.

They want to avoid conflict. It is their last resort. So, I don’t think that’s really fair to use the term “aggression”. That’s more of a human thing. We’ll do it out of nowhere. We slow down for car crashes.

Dogs want to avoid it at all costs, so the root of that is almost always a lack of confidence or fear. Those are the two major things I do. So, from a behavior standpoint, that’s where I start. Well, let’s okay, let’s build your confidence. If we do that, we build your trust. We reduce your fear.

 

Chris:

So, now, how does the program work? Is that, you’re just going to the shelter, and you’re taking the dog and work with them? I mean, walk us through how From Kennels to Homes works.

 

Thommy:

So, basically, From Kennels to Homes is set up as we get outside sponsors, so outside sponsors will sponsor a dog. That’s with the rescue or with a shelter that needs help.

There’s one of two things: they could sponsor a certain number of hours, or I’ll go to the rescue and shelter and work with them there. They can also sponsor, where they come to me, and maybe in more severe cases, a feral dog, a shutdown dog, or an abused dog can come and stay with me.

The goal is to get outside sponsors to help these rescue subsidize it. They’re spending all their money on just food and bad bills. One thing to help the behavior issue dogs.

 

Chris:

Yes, so you’re taking the hardest, the hardest cases, right? Like you said. And the money is already gone for care and feeding.

But, if they’re exhibiting, I’m guessing signs of fear and aggression and things like that, they’re gonna be overlooked in the shelter because they’ve got these behavior problems.

 

Thommy:

Yes, they are. And unfortunately, they’re gonna be labeled something aggressive or something. And it’s very tough to remove that label after a while. Once they’re labeled, it’s difficult.

So, I like to get there before the label and say, no, they’re probably not aggressive. They’re probably just fearful or damaged or have trust issues.

 

Chris:

So, are there specific organizations you work with? I mean, how are you finding these dogs that need your help?

 

Thommy:

So, I’m based in South Florida, and for years, I’ve worked with multiple rescues down here as well as a couple up in Georgia.

So, they’re aware of me because, prior to starting From Kennels to Homes, I have worked with their dogs, so they’ll contact me. “I have this dog. They need this.” And then we try to find sponsors for that dog.

 

Chris:

Interesting. So, now, the sponsors are paying. Now, what does that money go towards? How does that work?

 

Thommy:

The money goes completely to the behavior training. So, for instance, this dog has food guarding issues. Okay, that’s probably gonna take eight hours. Will you donate money for eight hours of behavior training for this dog? And that every penny will go directly to help this dog.

 

Chris:

That’s really cool. Now, you just know from your experience, right? You snapped off eight hours just like that, right? Like you just… from having done this once or twice, right?

 

Thommy:

Exactly. So, yeah, I have a pretty good idea when people call me based on behavior. Kind of how much time it’s gonna take.

 

Chris:

Now, how do these dogs get these labels? I mean, when they come into the shelter, I know they, sometimes, they’re doing some sort of behavior testing. I mean, is that really where this is coming from?

 

Thommy:

A lot of the larger shelters are able to do behavior testing. But, to me, there’s a big difference between training and behavior.

So, training to me is, you’re solving the issue right then and there. It’s more like you would with a child of… Okay, what’s causing the issues that you have? Let’s get to the bottom of that.

But also, Chris, I’ve seen it simply as: someone goes to give the dog a treat. And he growls and snaps. All of a sudden, that dog’s labeled aggressive without any context or environment taken into it.

 

Chris:

Yeah, I know. And I know it’s a complicated issue, right, because the shelters are often under, you know, restrictions that they have to do that because if somebody ultimately gets bit and things like that, it becomes a liability issue.

So, they’re calling you, you’re going in, and you’re… are you removing that animal? Or are you working with them in the shelter? Give me some…

 

Thommy:

It depends on the situation. If I feel that I can work with them there, a lot of times, I’ll either work with them there or take them off site and work with them. Because if I get them out of that environment, take them to a park, work with them there, I can have a better idea of who they really are.

 

Narrator:

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Chris:

Now, it sounds like you’ve been doing some behavior training for many years, Thommy. Is that… give me a little bit of story on you. How did you get into all of this?

 

Thommy:

Okay, so I’ve always volunteered at rescues and shelters. And then, about 15 years ago, when I moved to South Florida, I went to work, volunteered at a very large shelter. And in the back, Chris, they had this building of the human aggression, dog aggression, never-could-be-adopted building of about 21 dogs. And, to be honest, it just kind of broke my heart!

So, I thought, I don’t know… let me walk a couple of them. Let me just kind of see… And so, I really just started with them. Some have been there 3, 4, 5 years. And, you know, so I just kind of started with them, and what I kind of realized was, they seem to respond to me pretty good. They may have bitten another human or done something, but they weren’t doing it to me.

And so, I thought, huh, maybe you deserve a chance. So, that’s all I wanted: to give them a chance. Let me work with them. Let me try it, and ended up just finding out that a lot of them were mislabeled. And it was fortunate because, out of 21, I think by the time I left, 18 had homes.

 

Chris:

Wow! That settles from working with you, and you working with them and understanding them and giving them space.

 

Thommy:

And the credit goes to the dogs. I mean, they were probably mistreated by humans. So, I’m very humbled with what I do because the first thing I need with these dogs is trust. And that’s a huge gift from a dog that’s been mistreated.

And it just kind of went from that point. I was still in the corporate arena and so forth. And then, about six years ago, you know, I actually just went into work one Monday, and all I kept thinking about was, “I can’t wait to help the dogs on the weekend.”

And so, I thought, you know what? I just needed to do this on my own. So, I kind of said, “Okay, bye, corporate world, let me see how many dogs I could help.”

 

Chris:

Now, what was your background in the corporate world? What kind of things did you?

 

Thommy:

Oh, I was a manager in technology, pharmaceutical sales for a large cell company.

And so, the business was fun, but it wasn’t as fun as helping dogs. You know, giving them a chance. And that’s all… From Kennels to Homes wants to do is go in there and say, “Okay, we work with this dog, you know, and gave them a chance.” That’s all these dogs wanted. Just a chance. Somebody to believe in them.

 

Chris:

Any idea of how many dogs you’ve worked with now to date?

 

Thommy:

No, I really don’t. I can say since June, I’ve probably taken in 10 to 15 dogs. And all, but… Well, one went back to the rescue but now has the ability to go into a foster, the other in homes.

So, it’s a cool feeling to know these dogs just couldn’t go anywhere. And now they’re in homes.

 

Chris:

Yeah. So, what’s your goal for the program? I know you said you kind of launch From Kennels to Homes in June, you said. So, what’s your goal? What do you want to happen?

 

Thommy:

I’d like to see it expand. I would like to see, you know, other people like myself in other areas of the country and in the world saying, “I can do this.”

I mean, we’re doing this as a living anyways, you know, for owners and stuff. Why shouldn’t we be also doing it for these poor dogs stuck in rescues and shelters?

So, that’s what I would love to see. There’s no reason that every community out there needs something like From Kennels to Homes.

 

Chris:

Yeah, I know right now, you’re a one-man show. Is your goal to try and recruit others to even work with you?

 

Thommy:

Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. If I expand beyond where I can get to, I absolutely would.

You know, it’s interesting ’cause there’s a skill set that I’ll be looking for, which is basically, “Have you worked with rescue dogs? Have you worked with damaged dogs? You know, do you understand them? Can you help them from a behavior standpoint, not just a training standpoint?

Because, honestly, every dog I worked with, I consider my dog. So, if I’m looking for a home for him, it has to be the home that I like.

 

Chris:

Yeah, that’s really cool. And it’s really cool that you really want to share and get others involved. I mean, if somebody is listening to you this time, and they want to get a hold of you. They wanna learn more. They wanna be a part of the program, or maybe, franchise your program, right, in their community. What? What should they do? How do they get a hold of you?

 

Thommy:

Yeah, I would say go to our website at www.fromkennelstohomes.com. And on there, take a look at what I’ve doneweme and the dogs, basically, are my own employees right nowand what’s interesting on their success stories.

And I think those are powerful because you look at these distraught dogs. The frustration of everyone saying, gosh, we could never get it in a home. And then, you see their progress through these videos, and it’s just amazing. It’s amazing!

You know, there’s a lot of feral dogs who could never be touched by humans, and you see them through the development. All of a sudden, “Whoa, you’re on a leash. Whoah, your petting me. Hey, I get on the bed!” And then through there, they’re able to email me directly if they’d like to.

 

Chris:

Well, Thommy, I think this is a really innovative and brilliant idea. It’s an amazing use of your skill. You’re giving back. You’re giving the most difficult dogs the best chance at life. And I think that is just so cool. So, kudos to you for doing this and making this take action.

 

Thommy:

Oh, I appreciate it. And like, I say a million times, the dogs deserve the credit because they’re willing to trust me and to allow me to do that.

But I hope that people will step up and look at their communities and, you know, who have an experience like mine. You take one or two dogs that have been there for three years, and you find a home, you realize dogs really do want to make progress when given a chance.

 

Chris:

Yeah, they’re man’s best friend, and they’re sentient beings. And, as you said, if you can earn their trust, there’s probably a wonderful dog deep down inside just waiting for somebody to help them out.

 

Thommy:

Yes, and it’s kind of interesting, Chris, because everyone will say, “Do you think this dog can be helped?”

I don’t think I’ve ever said no. (laughs) I don’t think I’ve ever said no. It’s how much I believe in dogs. And I never guarantee people, but what I do guarantee is they will make progress. They want to make progress. They don’t want to be like this. It’s not what dogs are. So, when given a chance, they will definitely surpass all of our expectations.

 

Chris:

Well, Thommy, I’m really excited. I’m really glad I appreciate you coming to the show today. We’ll definitely encourage people to go check out your website From Kennels to Homes and contact you.

And of course, I’ll remind all of our viewers and listeners that if they’ve got an innovative idea or product or service or know of somebody that we should talk to, just go to www.innovations.show and let us know about it.

So, thanks again, Thommy! It was great to have you on. Appreciate it.

 

Thommy:

Appreciate it. Thank you.

 

Narrator:

Thanks for joining us for the Animal Innovations Show!

If you want to volunteer to help animals, check out www.doobert.com where you can join tens of thousands of Dooberteers supporting rescues and shelters around the world to help animals.

And, if you know of something or someone innovative that’s helping animals, let us know by going to www.innovations.show.

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