Underdog Program: Rehabilitation for animals and teens


Underdog in the News




Mission Statement:

The Underdog Program will work to enrich the lives of at-risk youth enrolled in the 180 Program and displaced animals from the Eau Claire County Humane Association through positive interaction, humane education, and responsible training. We promote a safe and humane environment by inspiring positive relationships between humans and animals.  


The Underdog Program strives to harness the therapeutic relationship that evolves naturally between humans and animals. This relationship is then used to assist participants in developing compassion, accountability and responsibility.

The Underdog Program pairs youth at the Northwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center (NWRJDC) with animals in need from the Eau Claire County Humane Association (ECCHA).

The animals have a variety of needs. Some may require basic obedience training or medical assistance.  Youth learn responsibility while simultaneously benefiting from the therapeutic companionship these animals provide.

Why it matters:

The program helps animals in need.

  • Placing injured, sick, or behaviorally challenged animals in a long-term foster home will ensure their needs are met.
  • Animals who require long-term care won’t take up a kennel at the shelter, enabling more animals to find homes faster and reducing the number of animals facing euthanasia.

The animals will be able to live in an environment that will provide them with consistency and structure, making them better candidates.

The program helps at-risk youth.

  • Taking part in the Underdog Program helps demonstrate to troubled teenagers that they can be a part of something positive and productive.
  • Program participants learn life lessons about the importance of responsibilities and the rewards of fulfilling commitments.
  • By making the unconscious connection between themselves and the displaced animal they’re rehabilitating, many youth will understand that they, too, can make changes in their own lives and look forward to a rewarding future.
  • The Underdog Program provides an incentive for juveniles to modify their behavior and will boost morale for both staff and juvenile residents.
  • Working together to rehabilitate animals will help to enhance a safe environment within the facility, promote mental health, and offer therapeutic treatment to juveniles struggling with mental and emotional pain. 

The program helps our community as a whole.

  • Instilling in our at-risk youth a sense of empathy and compassion is integral to their education and rehabilitation. Participants will also learn vocational skills that will help them to return to the community as productive members of society.
  • Working with animals will help at-risk youth develop confidence and skills, and will teach them about issues related to animal welfare and safety.
  • Animals that may otherwise face very slim odds of adoption will be given the time they need to become successful adoption candidates. In this way our community’s animal citizens will be given the best chance they can get at having a long, happy life. 

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