Animal shelters exist in the tension between being highly competent at inefficient systems and finding ways of turning efficiency into incompetence, all in the hunt for efficacy.

I travel around to a lot of shelters and see many organizations which are highly efficient at being incompetent. These are the places which follow their rules to the letter and are models of consistency. Unfortunately, they are consistently engaging in terrible operations, have ludicrous policies, and inevitably have terrible outcomes. While this is certainly a step up from places which are wildly inefficient and have terrible outcomes, clinging to such an efficiency is like the court telling the innocent condemned man that he still has to hang because he received a “fair” trial.

There are also many sheltering organizations which may excel in the outcome realm, but have no competence and efficiency at all. They often kill themselves to have a great outcome for animals but they have to try so much harder than is necessary for the outcome and are far more prone to some small problem snowballing into something massive and damaging.

Perhaps the scariest scenario is when a highly effective organization becomes so highly efficient that it can begin to negatively impact its success. Sometimes every improvement and step forward, every means of squeezing more work out of the time or money available or getting more work out of the limited staff resources, or every attempt to improve outcomes, can actually backfire and lead to a negative return.

This is the one that scares me when I think of my organization. We’ve gone through efficiency/competence/efficacy cycles before. We’ve used computers, internet and databases to increase our efficiency in managing people or volunteers to the point where the efficiency leads to so little contact with our people and volunteers that we lose the connection with them. What’s the point of being able to handle more volunteers through “efficiency” if they no longer enjoy the process?

Ironically, we have constantly had to guard against increased performance leading us backward in animal care because of our new veterinary capacities. When we had no access to high quality vet care, any care was welcome and served the animals. But when you can deliver nearly unlimited vet care- but don’t have unlimited resources and time- we can end up spending too much time and care on some and risk not giving enough to others on balance.

We also face the negative impacts of staff competence. As our staff gets better and better and more and more skilled, they begin to ask for or even demand to do things in ways which can be too big a drain on resources and actually damage the entire organization. As a manager, I spend an awful lot of my time explaining why just because a staff member has the skills and wants to do to do something a particular way doesn’t mean we (the organization) can do it that way.

I’ll give a specific example. Ten years ago we performed sterilization surgeries in the standard model of shelter surgeries, not the American Animal Hospital Association model we do now. Although the “standard” model demonstrated no greater negative outcomes that our “advanced” model, we moved to the new model because it’s the model you and I would want for our pets. It was a “preferred” way of providing surgery. The two approaches were exactly as effective, with every animal getting sterilized, and without any demonstrable difference in negative outcomes, but for good reason we moved to a new model and we are highly competent at it.

Except we now do half the number of sterilizations in the same period of time. We are highly competent and highly effective, on an individual animal level. But we are about half as efficient and it costs us double in time and resources to do what we feel to be best for the animals. And that can be a real danger to the well-being of the organization.

That is the tension we find ourselves dealing with more times than not. We have become highly effective. We have become highly competent. But in doing so we can sometimes become less efficient and delivering the most services, helping the most animals, connecting with the most people. Or conversely, we can become so efficient we become less effective.

Suddenly, we tip toe our way into being an incompetence of efficiencies rather than the other way around. It is very tough to explain to staff that there are ways in which we were actually doing better before they had the database, or the new equipment, or did things to the highest level of expectation, rather than the average level. But that’s where a close eye on outcomes is important.

If we have a better fundraising event that costs us more money but doesn’t raise more money, is that truly a better event? If we start providing medical services that don’t save more lives and actually cost so much more that we get short on resources in other vital areas, is that a beneficial service? If we empower our staff to do the things they aspire to but these things don’t actually save the lives of more animals or uplift the organization, are we doing right by our staff, the animals, or Humane Pennsylvania?

I don’t always know. You don’t wonder these things when you have all the money in the world. But we don’t and never have. So we are left juggling competence, efficiency, and efficacy, trying to keep all the balls in the air at once. It doesn’t help animals to be so good at our job we can’t afford to help all the animals. But it’s also never an excuse to do less than we can and should because we claim we don’t have the resources.

If the job was easy, everyone would be good at it.

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I often joke that I thought I got into animal sheltering to worry about animals, not worry about money. The reality is that those two things are intertwined and the way we help animals is by having the resources to give them what they need.  As an organization we’ve done a pretty good job of that.

Ain't too proud to beg!

Ain’t too proud to beg!

We’ve pretty much always had to work off “cash flow”. In other words, how much we can spend doing our job of saving the lives of animals is based on how much we can bring in in donations and service revenue.  We have a pretty limited saved buffer and we’ve never been lucky enough to have a giant endowment like some shelters in our region.

That’s why it kills us when we have budgeted income that doesn’t come in when it’s supposed to.  Such as the $110,000 which was supposed to come in to our coffers this month but didn’t.  Surprise! That’s money we need to adopt animals, provide surgery and vaccinations, feed the pooches, keep the lights on, heat the buildings, and pay our excellent staff.

We budget as tightly as you probably do with your household income and when we get told, as we just were that the overdue check is “in the mail” in a month or two, it doesn’t help pay the bills right now.  It’s even more frustrating when we have had a great year, like we have had, because it means we have to decide where we will cut back on programs or services, even if it’s just for a month or two, services which won’t be in place to help people and pets.  When it is life or death, a month or two can be a long time.  Too long.

I wish we had ten, twenty, or thirty million bucks in the bank to draw from when an accountant decides to wait an extra couple months before distributing over one hundred thousand dollars given to us by a generous donor who passed away. But we don’t (can you imagine what we could do for animals if we did?!).  We just have to squeak by and hope this unexpected and unwelcome shortfall hurts our mission as little as possible.

Fortunately, we are highly efficient, we’ve got discipline and good financial practices- there’s a reason we have a four star charity rating! – and we’ve got you!

Our supporters have always come through for us because they know we do more with less than pretty much anyone out there and we do work on their behalf that makes them proud. I hope our work makes you proud. That’s why I hope you’ll consider helping us out right now, when we need it and are waiting for our critically needed gift to arrive.

Please consider making a gift online right now.  Consider giving a gift for holidays (the animals don’t care which one!) in honor of a friend or family member.  Have an office dress down day and ask people to donate funds or items from our wish list to help offset our costs.  Make a year-end stock transfer to avoid those pesky capital gains taxes or distribute a mandatory IRA payment to the animals.  If you’ve already made a gift this season or this year, double check to see if your employer makes matching gifts before the year ends.

We know you probably don’t have an extra $100,000 just sitting around (if you do, call me!) but every little bit helps and together we can all chip in to ensure that the animals get the holiday they deserve and our staff can focus on worrying about the animals and not worrying about money.

That’s my job.  Thanks for all you’ve done- and I hope will do- for the animals!

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HB 869, which rolls up a couple important animal cruelty efforts to help horses and increase penalties for torture and extreme animal abuse would seem to be an easy win.  But somehow it was killed by the NRA over their great desire to protect pigeon shoots.  The only problem is this bill had nothing to do with pigeon shoots.  But in their paranoia they killed a pet and horse bill to appease their diminishing base of faux sportsmen, who think shooting boxed birds is fair chase.  You and I and real sportsmen and women know this is disgusting sham.

There is a renewed effort to pass HB 869 and Humane Pennsylvania will be keeping you up to date and letting you know how you can help.

Until then, take a gander at how a group based in suburban Virginia can walk into our legislature in Harrisburg and derail a bi-partisan cruelty bill supported by a supermajority of our elected officials in both parties, and even the Farm Bureau and the AKC.  Then, when you’ve swallowed the vomit in your mouth, get ready to take action.

Click here to read an anatomy of the murder of HB 869.

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Professional Chew Toys

November 1st, 2016 | Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

When I tell people I am in charge of an animal sheltering organization they inevitably launch into how wonderful it must be, helping all those animals, working with all those people who share my mission, and how they’d love to be able to do the work I do.  It must feel great, right?

I try not to disabuse them of their naiveté. Helping animals is great and I do love most of the people I work with and for, because we do share a common mission. But if I was truly honest, I’d tell them that they should stick to volunteering.  The second you take a dollar for this sort of job, especially if you are sitting in the leadership position, it’s a whole new ballgame, and its pro ball.

Animal shelter directors and CEOs are very often professional chew toys. We take heat for not doing the job others want us to do.  Staff, volunteers, the public, supporters, or detractors, you’re going to get it in some form or another from someone or everyone at some point.  We take heat for not changing, then we take it for changing from the people who liked the way we did it before.  If you take donations, you’ll take heat from the donors.  If you take government contracts (or even help out the government for free), you’ll take heat from politicians.  If you are a cruelty officer, you’ll take heat from district attorneys.  Hell, if you are an officer, you’ll take heat from everyone.

This is an industry which tends to chew up and spit out an awful lot of its executives. The latest departing, ravaged, executive announced her exit from our ranks recently.  If you haven’t been following the saga in Lancaster County, I’ll leave you to click on the previous link and jump down the rabbit hole.  If you have been keeping up, you know there is a lot of back story.

Her stated reason for leaving was, she “could no longer endure the emotional challenge of seeing abused animals come through the doors without having the actual or persuasive authority to find justice for them.” That sounds a lot like the reason I gave for leaving animal welfare for a couple years a little over a decade ago. But the real reason I left was I was tired of getting kicked in the crotch over and over by people in my own camp and on my own side, let alone by animal abusers. I suspect that may be the case for her, too.

Maybe she’ll return to the profession (I did) or maybe she’ll stay a volunteer. But a profession comes with costs as well as a paycheck and these costs are fair.  People hold us to a higher standard, reasonable or not, that volunteers are not because we take a paycheck.  It’s up to us to prove ourselves worthy, and to improve our performance as the world and its expectations change and evolve.  I don’t think I understood that a decade ago the way I do now.

This is also a reminder to the community that it is the professionals who are here, day in and day out, to do this very demanding job. When volunteers can’t make it, staff must.  What volunteers won’t accept, staff will.  When a home foster network fizzles out, the brick and mortar shelter remains.  And when leadership in one place transitions, the community has us to be here, like we have been for 100 years.  Humane Pennsylvania knows why people care about animals, it knows why people are passionate and even sometimes unreasonable.  It knows why people expect more and more, sometimes more than we can deliver, but we know we have to try continually to deliver anyway.

It’s an old chestnut but it’s true: We are here for the animals but we can only be here for them because the community is here for us.  Your donations, your support, your high expectations.  That’s what keeps us going and keeps us improving.  Every time I think someone is heaping a pile of crap on me, I remind myself it’s what I signed up for and they have every right to.  “Professional Chew Toy” is in the job description.

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Occasionally, a parallel between the world at large and the animal sheltering world leaps out at me. Today it was how animal shelters have preached what amounts to abstinence-only education when it comes to finding a new pet (especially dogs).

wpid-1000621_708563222506720_737533432_n_2Be patient, go to your local upstanding animal shelter, wait until you find the right dog for you, and then go through the process of getting to know it really well before you commit. And never, ever go to a breeder, under any circumstances.  If you don’t end up with some deadly disease you’ll go blind and get hairy palms and no good dog will ever want to be your companion again.

This message has in large part been effective at getting people to choose to adopt rather than slut around with Puppy Millers. But is this message causal?  Or is it that more people simply opt to adopt for a variety of reasons, just like a majority people don’t have children out of wedlock, regardless of what type of sex ed they get?

We’ve been arguing about sex ed for decades without agreement, despite the clear research that shows that any sex education is better than none and that abstinence only provides neither a positive or negative impact in the long term. I doubt that we will get more than anecdotal proof to support my industry’s general agreement that shaming people in adopting adult mix breeds rather than buying a pure breed puppy is a credible alternative to a fully educated adopter/purchaser.

That’s because we all know some people simply want a puppy. That’s fine.  Some people want a particular breed.  That’s fine, too.  Why should we expect everyone to want to adopt a mixed breed dog?  Let’s be honest, many shelters have moved into a shameless pit bull adoption shaming mode of, “If you don’t want to adopt this pit bull you are a bad person!”  Maybe the person just wanted to adopt a Yorkie?

And if you know the person who is not responding to our abstinence only message about breeders, a person who is hot to trot and get promiscuous with their dog purchasing options, how are they supposed to know what to do? Our message has been “All breeders are bad” and “Adopt, don’t buy.”  But then we put a premium on pure bred dogs up for adoption at shelters and we all drool over The Working Dog Group Competition of the Westminster Kennel Show.  It’s like telling our teenagers not to think about sex while we channel surf the Lingerie Bowl and DVR Magic Mike.  Parents aren’t the only ones giving mixed messages.

Just like some kids are going to have sex before they are married, some people are going to want to buy a damn puppy. Shouldn’t we work harder to make sure they know how to be safe in their purchase?  How to avoid getting a dog with a disease, or one with a behavioral problem down the road, or avoid a breeder who will just take advantage of their naivety?

All things being equal, I want people to go to a shelter and wait to find that perfect pet, and remain committed to that pet forever. But all things aren’t equal.  That’s why I also want people to know how to choose the right resource other than animal shelters and make the best possible choices.

The world is changing. So many people are making better decisions about obtaining a pet than ever before and animals are benefiting more than ever before.  Certainly fewer face death as unwanted pets in shelters than any time in the last 50 years.  But we can’t take our eyes off the ball.  People still need to be educated and we need to acknowledge their desires for options we don’t think are the best for them.  We need to help them find a good match and not some dude who will proverbially grab them by their genitalia while they are dog shopping.

 

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What Is Better Than All?

October 3rd, 2016 | Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

empty-kennelHumane Pennsylvania and our partner adoption organizations, Humane Society of Berks County and Humane League of Lancaster County, have recently been facing a novel problem. We are routinely emptying our shelters of adoptable pets.

Over the past decade, thanks to a combination of policy improvements, program development, quality and staff upgrades, and a very real demographic shift seen by animal shelters across huge swaths of the United States, we have made steady and consistent movement. First, we went from euthanizing animals routinely for space to never euthanizing strictly to make space for the next incoming animal.  Then we moved to not having to euthanize for minor injuries or illnesses.  Then we started saving more and more significantly injured, ill, or impaired animals.  But empty cages and kennels were unheard of.

Until now. Three times in 2016 we’ve emptied our adoption centers of all adoptable animals.  And not just on days when we’ve been light on animals. We’ve cleared out adoptions centers that were full to the brim.  Of course, there are always more animals to replace them, as we get animals in, get them vetted and sterilized, and move them to the adoption floor.

Is the next step in our progression to have fewer and fewer pets for adoption to the point where we routinely have none? For years animal shelters disingenuously parroted that our job was to put ourselves out of business.  Has spay/neuter, cruelty and relinquishment interventions, veterinary and behavioral supports, and better public awareness actually put us on the road to it?  Or at least to the point where our adoption role is eclipsed by all those other programs?empty-cattery

We started out getting hate mail because we killed healthy animals for space. Then we moved on to hate mail because we pioneered (or at the very least were extremely early adopters of) and championed life-saving free adoption promotions.  Now we get hate mail because people show up a few hours into a free adoption program day or weekend only to discover we’ve already adopted nearly everything out and there’s no “selection” for them.  That’s the kind of angry email I’ll gladly take.

Humane Pennsylvania is about to enter into our next round of long-term strategic planning. It is surreal that one of the things we need to plan for is how to we do better than adopting them all.

We have our staff, volunteers, and, of course, everyone who adopts, to thank for this new and welcome problem. But we couldn’t do this without some significant donors and supports.  These are the people and businesses who generously underwrite our adoption promotion weekends so that we don’t lose critical adoption revenue while we are clearing out our adoption centers.  If you know any of these generous people or patronize their businesses, please share your appreciation with them for helping to make what was once a pipedream become- someday- commonplace.

Recent Adoption Promotion Weekend Supporters – Thank you!

Dr. Chris Cooke & Meredith Jorgenson

Top Flite Realty

Auman Funeral Home

Pamela Neville

Berks Plastic Surgery

Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad

Edi Young & David Lounsbury

Muller Rare Coins & Fine Jewelry

Alan & Melissa Jo Schlechter

 

Would you or your business like to join this life-saving list? Please contact Brian Pinto, Chief Advancement Officer, at bpinto@humanepa.org!

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You’ve probably been in a parking lot where you saw a dog in a hot car that needed help. Until now, police or humane officers would often turn away from helping these animals because the law was not clear on what they were allowed to do. One phone call from you could change this. Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering new legislation to protect pets: HB 1516 will allow law enforcement to enter an unattended vehicle to rescue a dog or cat, without liability for any damages caused in doing so.

Even better, an amendment to HB 1516 will ban live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania. You may know that Pennsylvania is one of the only states where pigeon shoots are openly held and Berks County is one of the only counties to “host” these shoots. Humane Pennsylvania has long fought against these gambling-motivated contest shoots, which have nothing to do with real sport hunting. This amendment would finally make the law clear and explicitly outlaw these shoots.

One phone call to your State Representative in Harrisburg today can help save dogs from suffering and stop a blood sport in our Commonwealth. Please make a brief, polite phone call to your State Representative to urge support for HB 1516. You can say, “I’m a constituent concerned about animals, and I’m urging you to support HB 1516 with the pigeon shoot ban amendment.” Click here to find your State Representative.   Please also share this post on your social media pages and urge your friends to join you.

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I kind of know what Daisy meant in The Great Gatsby.  After months of construction and years of planning, the new Humane Veterinary Hospitals Reading opened for business.  We got so busy with all of the new capabilities and resources it offered the animals of our shelter and our community that the event itself essentially pass us by.

reception

Wowee! Pretty sharp, eh?

I went right from the last post, with pictures of concrete and wall studs, to working on the next round of priorities.  A little like waiting for the longest day of the year then realizing you missed it!

The opening of this hospital deserves proper recognition, and I’m going to give it to you.  Our new hospital is part of a 9,000 square foot DOUBLING of our animal services space in Reading, PA.  It expanded our vet services space and capacity by 150%, taking us from two exam rooms to five.  It provides individual radiology and dental suites, with a state-of-the-art digital X-ray unit which is higher resolution and quality and safer for pets and staff, and brand new dental treatment equipment.  Plus, we doubled the space for surgery and treatment.  It also has a gorgeous, comfy, and spacious reception and waiting area, with plenty of room for people and pets (and to spread out people and rambunctious pets).

exam

Ooooo….Ahhhhh…BIG exams rooms- and look at those windows!

 

A little less “sexy” for the public, but it has secure records space, a secure pharmacy and supplies area, and our three full time vets and their support staff actually have a dedicated administrative office- you’d appreciate that as much as they do if you ever say the 24 inch desk they all had to share in the old hospital.

Why does this matter?  First, we were literally prevented from providing the care we knew we could and in the quantity we were capable of in our old hospital simply because it was too small and lacked some of our new equipment.  We were maxed out.  By increasing and improving upon our space we have increased our capacity and efficiency without having to add addition staff (yet).  In fact, even with the learning curve of a new hospital (where are those sutures over here again?) and intentionally light starter schedule, we had one of our most productive months in our hospital’s history in our very first month.  More productive means more animals helped!

staff

And tell me that’s not one photogenic staff we’ve got (even the ones who aren’t in this shot)!

Second, let’s be honest, our old building was not what we wanted it to be and what the public always wanted it to be.  Let’s be really honest, it was a little skeevy.  Our goal is not merely to provide great care.  We want to give everyone who uses our services- from the adopters, to those on limited incomes, to just the general public who want to put their healthcare dollars in the place which will help even more animals- to have a great, pleasant, top notch experience.  Now they do.

I used to be able to say we had the best staff in Berks County working at our hospital.  I couldn’t say we had the best hospital facility.  That’s all changed now.  We have, hands down, the best staff, the best programs and mission, and the best damn hospital facility in the County (in my humble opinion).  And since we are in the process of getting our accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the quality of our care won’t ever be up for debate.

Why does accreditation matter?  Because only between 12% and 15% of America’s 35,000 or so veterinary practices are accredited using the 900 point set of AAHA standards.  Among non-profit hospitals, and Humane Pennsylvania and Humane Society of Berks County have been nationally recognized pioneers in non-profit community veterinary services, that number is even shockingly smaller: only 19 AAHA accredited non-profit hospitals in the entire US and only one in Pennsylvania!  Guess who operates that one?  We do!  Our Humane Veterinary Hospitals Lancaster facility is already AAHA accredited and Reading will be the 20th in the entire nation!

Having our new hospital open and accredited, with it’s high standards and mission to serve the entire community is like having the veterinary equivalent of Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania right here in Reading.  It’s that big a deal.  People shouldn’t have to give up or kill pets just because they don’t have access to vet care.  By showing that it can be done in our community we are also leading the way in helping other communities around the country to do the same.

This is cutting edge animal welfare and it is helping to make what was formerly considered impossible- ending needless euthanasia in our shelters- a reality in our lifetimes.

I invite you to help us in our fight to bring about this reality.  If you are looking for a vet, give us a try.  We are just like the best vets and hospitals around- because we are the best vets and hospitals around!  The only difference is the dollar you spend at our hospitals in Reading and Lancaster are reinvested in local animals.  Our hospitals provide nearly a million dollars in care value each year to animals in our two adoption shelters, our adopted pets through our health care follow up programs, and to those in financial need.  Use your vet health care dollars to make a difference in your community (and we even have New Client discounts and referral benefit programs to make it even more enticing!)

We still have a few odds and ends to finish- such as waiting for our awesome signs so we can put away our sad little banner- but it’s here, it’s open, and it’s waiting for you and your pet.  Don’t let this pass you by.

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Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

*4-5-16:  We’re open!  We’ve been so busy getting open I haven’t had a chance to update with the latest news.  Pix and details up soon, I promise!  KM

After unforeseen delays and a major change of design and plans, construction is approaching completion on Berks County’s newest- and best- animal hospital! Humane Veterinary Hospitals Berks (HVH Berks) is just weeks away from opening and it’s already looking amazing.

When we announced at last year’s Art for Arf’s Sake that we’d be opening a new hospital we asked for our supporters help, and we’ve been getting it. We’ve already received three of the largest donations in our history in support of the project, which will go a long way (we can’t wait to share that news soon). But with a $1.2 million dollar commitment to the future of animal welfare and the people and animals of Reading and Berks County, we still have a long way to go and we’ll be reaching out for support to as many people, businesses, and organizations as we can.

We hope everyone will chip in because this isn’t merely a new vet hospital.  It is going to be nationally accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, the gold standard for hospitals.  Out of 36,000 practices, only about 4,500 are accredited.  Out of all of those, fewer than twenty in the nation are non-profit, charitable hospitals, and there is only one in Pennsylvania- that’s Humane Veterinary Hospitals Lancaster, our other animal hospital! We can’t leave Berks behind, can we?

Accreditation means the best care, practices, and policies, based on a 900 point standards list. HVH Berks will be the only accredited hospital in the city.  This means access to high quality vet care in what is a “veterinary desert” for many people who can’t easily reach good practices out of the city.  The improved services and quality means our own sheltered animals, as well as public animals, get even better care, including new state of the art digital radiology and more.

It also means we can provide even more sliding scale and reduced cost care for those in financial need and we can serve even more people like you and me who not only want great vet care for our pets, but we want to spend our vet health care dollars someplace where the revenue goes right back to helping animals in the community. Our Humane Veterinary Hospitals aren’t just great; they are open to the public.  You will spend your money on veterinary care one way or another.  Why not make sure your choice of doctors also makes a difference for strays or other at risk pets, too?

With a huge off-street parking lot, easy access from Route 12, 222, and 422, and the ability to take a walk across the street to say, “Hi!”, to the adoptable pets, we know you’ll love the new HVH Berks! We are looking forward to sharing it with you.  In fact, if you’d like a tour, we will be scheduling regular tours once we open and we’d be happy to arrange a personal one for you right now (subject to construction activity).

If you’d like to arrange a tour or learn how you can help support the hospital’s work with a gift, please contact Humane Pennsylvania Marketing Director, Lorraine Storms, at lstorms@humanepa.org.

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crucibleTwenty five years ago when I started in animal welfare I would never think of Pennsylvania as a particularly innovative place. Most people looked to New York or Boston or the West Coast.  But one thing that came along with the disruptive influences of the “no kill” model, technology, research, and social media, was a reimagining of what shelters could do.  Not just shelters in the broad sense but shelters as individuals.

We could suddenly focus on individual approaches and models. We were no longer in the cookie cutter, “we are THE shelter in this county and we must do things exactly like this because we always have” mold.  We could do what we wanted.  And we did.  In the past ten years especially, Pennsylvania shelters have become diverse and unique, both from one another and from others around the country.

Some, like Berks Humane and Lancaster Humane League, along with Pennsylvania SPCA and Delaware County SPCA, got out of the dog catching business altogether. Others, like Chester County SPCA built on and developed the animal control model away from being a mere dog catcher, while expanding their service areas.  Even among those who dropped animal control, the divergence expanded.  Lancaster Humane League move to a “no kill/restricted access model” more in line with the traditional “no kill models”  Berks Humane’s expanded veterinary offerings to drive an aggressive relinquishment prevention model while remaining an open door/open access shelter.

Pennsylvania SPCA moved into expanded statewide cruelty law enforcement. Delaware County SPCA brought the more expansive and aggressive no kill models of the North East US to Pennsylvania.  Bucks County went to a dual facility model.  Berks and Lancaster undertook a merger, uncommon among animal welfare organizations.  And all this is in just our five contiguous counties!

I’m obviously most excited about the veterinary model we have pioneered and aggressively promoted as a logical and effective means of helping more animals, if not being the future of animal welfare. This is much to the dismay of some veterinarians who fear the competition and in some places both here and across the country have actively tried to block non-profit animal hospitals.  Like the whale oil industry and the human healthcare market, which were long ago respectively replaced by petroleum or overtaken by non-profits and charities, these fears are too little and too late for a transition which is inevitable.

With two hospitals, one nationally accredited by American Animal Hospital Association, the gold standard among vets, and one soon to be when our new hospital opens in March, we remain at the cutting edge of this evolution. But we aren’t alone.  In the past few years we went from the only fully public practice in Pennsylvania to one of many- in Delaware, Chester, Bucks, Crawford, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and probably beyond.  We are still the only AAHA accredited hospital in PA and one of only 18 nationwide, but others are gaining, following our model and pressing us to keep on our toes.

That’s progress and innovation. We demonstrate and inspire, then we look to see how others are improving on our model and we take those lessons to improve ourselves.  As I look around the Commonwealth, I’m actually surprised and proud of what I see.  It may have been a long time in coming, but progressive and innovative animal welfare in Pennsylvania is finally arriving.

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