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More deaf dogs at Franklin County Dog Shelter than ever before

The Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center has more deaf dogs in the facility than it has ever had before. (WSYX/WTTE)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) -- The Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center has more deaf dogs in the facility than it has ever had before.

Susan Smith, Communications Director for the shelter, said they have had about 65 deaf dogs in a little over two years. There are currently seven deaf dogs up for adoption at the shelter.

"We had about 23 in 2015, 28 last year, and so far in 2017 we have had 14 deaf dogs come in," said Smith. "The deafness is often a genetic trait so dogs that have that gene should never be bred because they are going to create more deaf dogs."

"If you notice you have a deaf dog, please, we will help you find a place to get it spayed or neutered because we don't need another deaf dog in the community when it can be so easily prevented by not breeding that dog," said Smith.

The shelter said it began tracking the deaf dogs in 2015 because volunteer Debbie Klug saw an uptick in the numbers. Klug began helping the shelter identify deaf dogs and she now has a map showing the zip codes and neighborhoods where the dogs have come from.

A defective gene can cause congenital deafness. In addition to white coats, the dogs usually have pink skin around their eyes, ears, and nose and sometimes have two different colored eyes.

Klug teaches the deaf dogs American Sign Language dog obedience signs. The shelter has posted signage on the kennel where the dogs are kept and has flip cards depicting each sign for other volunteers.

Klug said the dogs look for cues from our bodies to find out what we want them to do. She said the deaf dogs love human company and many do well in a home setting where someone is with them.

Deaf dogs do bark and can bark for longer periods than hearing dogs and their bark may be high pitched and whiny.

The experts said deaf dogs are quick to respond to their people and tend to be highly social and eager to please. Because they have less distraction due to their lack of hearing that can often excel at special training, like agility.

"These guys do have special needs and these dogs have been picked up, most of them as strays. They are running around in the community. They can't hear cars coming. They don't know to watch out for traffic," said Klug.

The shelter said there are special "deaf dog" leashes and collars to help people identify their disability.

"I love the moment the light bulb goes off as they realize that by looking at my hands we can communicate," said Klug.

"They are so easy to train and you see how much she watches me for direction. I hope that people in the community, if you have a deaf dog, you can teach them signs. It is really easy to do," said Klug.

The Franklin County Dog Shelter has additional information on how to work with deaf dogs and a training class for people who adopt them.

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