Working with man’s best friend: Shelton's Trap Falls Kennel Club

It’s been said that dogs are man’s best friends. For 45 years, the Trap Falls Kennel Club (TFKC) has consistently exemplified the many ways that mankind befriends all breeds of canines.

As one of the American Kennel Club’s network of 5,000 dog clubs nationwide, TFKC provides information about dog training, etiquette, safety and obedience to dog owners in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

“We do this because of our love and passion for educating people about the care and welfare of their dogs,” said Laura Wells, president of the Shelton-based nonprofit dog club.

“We understand that public education starts at the grass-roots level," Wells said.

Some of its members recently talked to students at Multicultural Magnet School in Bridgeport about responsible dog ownership. This is one of many outreach and educational programs that TFKC sponsors at schools, libraries, civic organizations and their monthly meetings.

Dog ownership is a commitment

Wells said families need to understand what they’re getting into before obtaining a dog as a pet.

Cindy Sherman, the club’s recording secretary, agreed.

“There’s a huge financial commitment,” Sherman said. “You’ll spend $800 in vet bills in the first couple of months for vaccinations. There’s a huge time commitment and emotional commitment. There’s potty training, too — that has to happen.”

Through public education, club members encourage responsible dog ownership.

“If you look at the [dog] pounds, more than 80% are 12 to 15 months old,” Wells said. “Children receive dogs for Christmas, but when you don’t train them, they become monsters. Then mommy and daddy bring them to the pound.

“The AKC feels that if we educate people, it’s less likely that a dog will end up at a pound,” Wells continued.

Classes, training and testing

Local dog owners may sign up for obedience classes beginning every six weeks. “We help the owner and the dog to build a working relationship,” Wells said.

The club, which currently has about 65 active members, also offers Canine Good Citizen training and testing and Therapy Dog International testing.

Club member Lauren Friedman and her therapy dogs have been working since December with the families affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

With an overall growing need for therapy dogs, TFKC recently recruited local dogs for testing. Wells said nine dogs showed up, but only two passed. “Not every dog is mentally capable of doing therapy work,” Wells noted.

Pawz in the Park

One of the club’s major events is its annual AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day. This year’s “Pawz in the Park” event on Sept. 15 will take place at Warsaw Park in Ansonia.

A variety of vendors will showcase dog-related items, such as organic doggie treats and handmade collars. There also are food trucks on site.

Dog-related activities are scheduled throughout the day. Sherman said these include obedience and agility matches, police dog demonstrations, and “fun contests,” such as awarding the Best Dressed and Best Kisser.

There will be information about neutering, health and nutrition, visits to the veterinarian, leash laws, and teaching children how to behave around dogs.

“We also have a low-cost, micro-chipping clinic this year,” Sherman said. “We usually have a vet on site who sets up a booth.”

In 2009, TFKC received the American Kennel Club’s Community Achievement Award for its Responsible Dog Ownership Day.

Sherman estimates more than 1,000 people attended in 2012.

Role in the community

Every April, the Shelton club also hosts a dog show in Springfield, Mass.

In partnership with the U.S. Tennis Association, TFKC participated in the Tennis to the Troops program by sending supplies to canine units in Afghanistan.

“In return, the U.S. Tennis Association sent portable tennis courts and equipment to those troops,” Sherman said. “Trap Falls is the first AKC kennel club to participate in this program.”

Sherman said the club tries to help out wherever there is a need. For example, shortly after Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island, N.Y., TFKC sent donations to an Animal Care and Control Center there.

The club now is raising funds to support Newtown Police Department’s canine unit.

A diverse membership

Members come from a variety of backgrounds. “We have quite a diversity of people involved,” Wells said.

“Everybody has their niche and we let them run with it as long as it puts the club in a good light and it’s good for dogs,” she said.

For example, one member from Naugatuck is affectionately known as “The Poodle Lady.” Wells said the woman “rescues poodles in New York City, so if you know anyone who is looking for a poodle, send them to the Poodle Lady.”

The club meets monthly at Shelton Lakes Apple Rehab, and often features guest speakers. Learn more at