OK, maybe not the final frontier, but a final frontier.  When animal “shelters” started over a hundred years ago they were pounds in the truest sense.  A place where animals were rounded up to be killed as nuisances.  Transition to more modern adoption shelters and behavior was hardly relevant.  With overflowing numbers, bad behavior was not something to be addressed, it was a solid excuse for making space.

Even today, when the number of animals entering shelters nationwide is continuing to plummet and adoptions increase, physical issues are often the first to be addressed. In shelters with veterinary support or staff, which nearly all have these days, a broken leg or simple illness can be repaired and an otherwise happy animal can be rendered healthy.  Viola, adoptable.

It is the nebulous “behavioral problem” which now nags at shelters. Overpopulation is no longer the driver of dogs entering animal shelters throughout most of America.  REPEAT:  There is not an overpopulation problem for dogs any longer and I will call you grossly misinformed if you claim otherwise.  How do we know?  There are virtually no puppies in shelters most shelters any longer.  There are ten homes- twenty- for every puppy.

The dogs in shelters are not there because there aren’t enough homes. They are there because there is something “wrong” with them.  Put away the pitchforks and let me clarify.  Sometimes that something wrong is nothing more than being an adult rather than a puppy, or being the wrong breed.  People love what they love and what people love the most is puppies.  But virtually any dog or any age or breed that is healthy, happy and well behaved gets adopted now.

Note my emphasis on well-behaved. Most of the dogs that get waves of sympathetic apologists beating drums, such as Big, Black Dogs and pitbulls, aren’t languishing in shelters because of their size, color or breed.  The ones who have trouble being adopted are idiots.  I mean that in the gentlest but most honest sense of the word.

The reality in modern shelters is that we get young adult to middle age dogs who never received the kind of basic obedience training (along with basic veterinary supports) that makes a good dog a great dog. A poorly behaved dog isn’t a bad dog, but it can often be an unadoptable dog.  Especially when it’s big, or a breed that has some baggage.

Well trained, perfectly behaved dogs get adopted. A dog that sits, stays, waits to eat until you say he can, doesn’t get on the couch without permission, doesn’t pull on a leash, jump on guests, or bark incessantly- the hallmarks of well trained dogs- get adopted.  It’s that simple.  Making a dog without those attributes into one with them takes time, effort, people power, and space.  Until recently, we could give the effort and we could find the people, but the overcrowded shelters of the past didn’t allow for the time.

To quote Harry Bemis, we now have time enough at last. What we need it the space.  Space to turn obnoxious dogs into great dogs.  Dogs who listen and wow potential adopters.  Our Lancaster campus has always been blessed with excess space, but Reading was been a landlocked postage stamp until we acquired our new hospital and corporate office facility across the street from the shelter.  It has space which is about to be put to good use.

On May 24, at 10:00 AM, we will be dedicating Humane Pennsylvania’s new Spike’s Woods Canine Enrichment Center (1729 N. 11th St., Reading, PA 19604).  The new space will have three individual fenced training and socialization yards, with covered seating areas for staff and volunteers for snowy and rainy training days.  It will be beautiful, with 18 big flowering and shade trees recently planted, and shady seating for staff and adopters.  It’ll have flowers, it’ll have a gazebo, it’ll have super keen shade sails, and it will be boffo.  It’ll also be adjacent to a brand spanking newly paved parking lot and entry skirts, which doesn’t matter to the dogs but if you’ve ever dragged the bottom of your car coming into our lot, it will be pretty awesome, too.

It will let our staff and volunteers- mostly of spectacular volunteers who put in hours of time working with our dogs- create ideal canine adoption candidates. This will get more dogs adopted, which frees up more space to let us work with even harder to place animals for even longer so they get adopted…and so on.  We have needed it and we are about to have it.  Our behavior program can start going to warp speed.  This space is only the first step in implementing some transformation behavioral responses in both our shelters.

The canine enrichment center was made possible through the generous support of many kind supporters, with special thanks going to Joan Baldino and her very patient family, Jerry Roba, and Purina, as well as dozens of Arf’s Art Auction supporters who bid on last year’s Fund-A-Need project, which was this project. We managed to do more with less (which we are pretty good at) with the help of carpentry volunteers and staff swinging some hammers and landscape support from Moore Landscaping in Oley and Geissler Tree Farm in Leesport.

We hope you will join us for the dedication May 24. It’s not too late to show your appreciation and support of this lifesaving project by making a donation (just click here).  Or, get an update on the project in person and learn about this year’s Fund-A-Need project by joining us at this year’s Art for Arf’s Sake Auction on May 19.  It’s a Westworld theme, but with no killing and more clothing.  Everybody loves robot cowboys!

Join us May 24 for the dedication. If you can’t, swing by some other time and check things out.  This is just one of many steps in some very exciting transformations that will help Humane Pennsylvania realize its mission of building the best possible community anywhere to be an animal!

PS…I didn’t mention cats in this post. Don’t worry, that’s coming.

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An amazing thing happened recently in Western Pennsylvania. One of the very few politicians to vote against the wildly popular omnibus Libre’s Law, a major animal welfare/anti-cruelty victory, lost his bid to become a US Congressman in a special election.  In a district that skewed heavily toward his party’s advantage.  By 500 votes.

Now, when a loss margin is only 500 votes, everyone can and does claim to be the group votes that put the winner over the top. But if any constituency can take some satisfaction in this anti-animal welfare politician losing, it’s animal welfare voters.  Because they were pissed.

The person who beat him jumped on the animal welfare train with a vengeance- and he needs to be held to his promise to be his district’s pro-animal legislator in Washington. The politician who lost may have paid for standing tall in support of animal cruelty by refusing to vote for a law that passed overwhelmingly in a rare bi-partisan vote in Harrisburg.

There is a price to pay for being bad on animal welfare. There is a new third rail in politics, and it’s furry.  It cuts across party lines and the old trope that it’s only granola crunching hippie Dems who care about animals being demolished.  The ship of animal welfare is being lifted by Republican women voters.  Politicians are taking notice.

On April 16, 2018, I joined a swarm of citizen animal welfare advocates in Harrisburg for Humane Lobby Day. It was by far the largest group I’ve ever seen.  Politicians made time to meet with these advocates and some of them were a little less smarmy about these silly little animal issues than they’ve been in the past.  Not because they see it as an easy way get votes to pad their already gerrymandered vote counts.

No, they now see this group of voting advocates as a threat, and well they should.  The power of a lobby is in swinging elections.  Educate, yes.  Advocate, yes.  But if that doesn’t work, vote the intransigents out and replace them with someone who sees things our way.  That’s a power lobby.  Just ask the NRA.  We’ve learned at the feet of the masters.

Humane Pennsylvania is a 501c3 charity and cannot endorse or oppose candidates for election (as a reminder, we are not the similarly named Humane PA PAC, the political action committee which can and does endorse candidates).  We welcome every elected official and every candidate to visit, talk, and learn what we do and how they can help us help animals.  Humane Pennsylvania can only encourage you to ensure that every candidate, from every party, starting in the primary elections, is a pro-animal candidate, so we can do our work to help animals better.

If you elect great pro-animal candidates in your party primaries, then partisans on both sides can go back to fighting over guns and taxes, like God intended, knowing that no matter which hard boiled gun lover or Prius driving pinko wins, animals won’t lose. If you keep letting them hear your voice, at the local, state, and national party level, in their offices, in the letters page of your local newspaper, or on social media, you will keep them worried about the price for turning your back on animal welfare and the voters who think it’s important.

We only need to point to Western Pennsylvania, where someone who turned his back on animals paid the ultimate political price.

Mark your calendar. The next Primary in Pennsylvania is May 15.  Who are you voting for and how do they feel about animal welfare?

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The Power of the Dog

April 12th, 2018 | Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

This week I thought I’d take a detour from the usual topics and share again a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair— But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care, And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there) Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

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Sometimes you can get more done by being more efficient. Sometimes you need to get bigger to get more done.  And we’ve just gotten a little bigger!  Our Humane Veterinary Hospitals (HVH) Reading welcomed Dr. Linda Womer to the family this week.

Dr. Womer is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and Penn State (We are…you know the rest) and has been practicing for over 20 years. She brings a wealth of knowledge in a wide variety of veterinary approaches, including veterinary chiropractic, holistic and acupuncture, and rehabilitation.  As we expand our services and capacity in Reading to help even more animals in the community, Dr. Womer will be a great asset and partner!

Last week we also welcomed Lindsay High as our new Director of Marketing. Lindsay, who has deep roots in Lancaster County, has extensive experience in non-profit and corporate marketing, branding, and communications.  As we continue to expand and roll out new programs and initiatives, Lindsay will guide to process and content you’ll be seeing.  We are really excited to welcome Lindsay and Dr. Womer to the Humane Pennsylvania family.

They are coming on board at an exciting time for Humane Pennsylvania (see last week’s teaser!). We are about to try some new things and some old things in new ways to test a hypothesis.  We think we can show that when you give animals and animal caretakers in a community everything they need to be healthy and well, we won’t need traditional animal shelters any more.

Nobody ever said on their deathbed that they wished they had though smaller.

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