By: Jacqueline L. Connolly, DVM for Humane Veterinary Hospitals

Lyme disease is caused by the spirochete bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, and is transmitted through the bite of infected ticks.  Not only is this disease one of the most common tick-borne illnesses in the United States, but it is also zoonotic – meaning it can infect both humans and animals. According to The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a large number of reported cases are in the northeast region, putting our furry family members in Pennsylvania at a greater risk.

Lyme disease is most commonly transmitted by the black legged tick (Ixodes species), after prolonged feeding (>24-28 hours). Over the span of 2-5 months, the bacteria will migrate to the skin, muscle, joints, lymph nodes and kidneys which can result in serious illness. Therefore, tick prevention is the key to keeping our pets protected and Lyme disease free.

Clinical Signs                                                                                                                        

Clinical Signs of Lyme disease vary with the patient and the stage of the disease. Initial infections may cause fever, lethargy, anorexia, lymph node enlargement, and muscle and joint pain.  Many pet owners will notice limping, a reluctance to move, and joints that are warm to the touch.  In more serious and chronic infections, the bacteria can infect the kidneys, causing ‘Lyme nephritis’ or kidney failure. Some studies suggest this may occur more often in Golden retrievers and Labradors.

Once infected with Lyme disease, dogs generally remain infected for life and can have continued flare-ups that require treatment.  Others may never show clinical signs, or may even clear the infection on their own.

So when do we test and treat for Lyme? This has been a controversial subject in veterinary medicine.

Testing

If your pet has shown any of the clinical signs of Lyme disease your veterinarian will order a blood test to determine if he/she is Lyme positive.  One of the commonly used tests is a SNAP 4DX, which also screens for heartworm disease and two other tick borne illnesses. This test is generally done at every annual exam to ensure your pet is healthy and on proper prevention.

If your dog is Lyme positive, a urine test and comprehensive blood test may be advised. This is an important step in making sure your pet does not have a more serious form of Lyme disease, Lyme nephritis.

To Treat or Not To Treat

Treatment is not always recommended for Lyme positive dogs.  If your dog is showing clinical signs, your veterinarian will prescribe a 3-4 week course of an antibiotic such as Doxycycline. In more severe cases, your veterinarian may also prescribe medications for pain.  Symptoms of Lyme disease should resolve within the first week of treatment.

In non-clinical cases, your veterinarian will recommend additional tests to determine kidney function. If your dog has protein in his/her urine, or evidence of kidney dysfunction, antibiotics will be prescribed. If laboratory tests are all normal, your veterinarian will continue monitoring with yearly physical examinations and bloodwork.

The general consensus at this time, is that treatment with antibiotics in pets that are asymptomatic is not necessary. Treatment may put your dog at risk of possible side effects from the antibiotic, such as vomiting and diarrhea, with little benefit. As medical professionals, we take antibiotic resistance very seriously, and do not want to overuse these medications when they are not needed.

Prevention

Keeping your dog protected from ticks year round is the best way to prevent Lyme disease. There are many products on the market including topical and chewable monthly preventatives and collars. Some products are more effective than others, which is why it is important to speak with your veterinarian about which products work best.

For patients at a greater risk of contracting the disease, your veterinarian will give a yearly Lyme vaccine. High risk patients include dogs that live in endemic areas (northeast region), those with outdoor lifestyles, and those who frequently visit wooded areas such as with hiking, camping, or hunting.

Checking your dog for ticks can help limit the amount of time a tick is on your pet, and therefore decreases the probability of transmission.  Black legged ticks can be very small and hard to find especially if in the groin, between the toes, inside the ears, or under the tail.  A thorough check of both yourself and your pet should be conducted when coming in from outside.

At Humane Veterinary Hospitals we understand your pet is a member of your family. Please make an appointment if you have any additional questions regarding your pet and Lyme disease. It is our goal to keep your pet healthy and free from disease for many years to come.

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by: Karel Minor, CEO/President of Humane Pennsylvania

There is a risk in charitable service work to decide what people need and who needs it without actually asking them.  That makes sense since as service delivery organizations, we are generally experts at what we do and we have the experience to think we know who needs that vital service.  The only problem is we are often wrong.

While charities are different from for-profit businesses in crucial ways, imagine how well a great business would survive if it didn’t seek out a better idea of what their customers wanted and instead just kept giving them the same, great old thing.  You don’t need to imagine too hard.  Just think of Blockbuster Video.  Their business model no longer worked in the world of digital access to entertainment and they didn’t change to adapt to new consumer desires.  And now they are gone.

Some businesses do adapt and change to pursue the preferences of their customers.  Netflix started as a company that mailed(!) you DVD’s(!!) of movies through a tiered subscription service(!!!).  Can you even  imagine now waiting to get an envelope with a physical copy of a movie in it based on whether you paid enough to have one, two or three movies at a time?  That would be a ridiculous model now, but it helped kill off Blockbuster.

Netflix was almost killed off when video on demand made it possible by faster internet speeds.  But instead of being the next Blockbuster, they figured out what people wanted next.  They became a giant of today, not a relic of yesterday.  Imagine if they had just stuck to their guns and their old business model without surveying the needs of the marketplace.

It’s a lesson I take in my charitable world for two reasons: 1. Netflix figured out what people wanted and how to give it to them, and 2. Netflix didn’t abandon one model to chase the next new model.  They transitioned to a new one while still embracing the old one effectively.  It turns out the still mail out DVDs.  Who knew?  A for-profit company may go out of business when their product becomes obsolete, like the whale oil companies went out of business with the rise of petroleum alternatives.  Or if they are lucky, they can transition into new markets, like Netflix did.

Charities face issues of obsolescence, too.  The “March of Dimes Movement” is an old standard example of how a charity can respond to changes.  The March of Dimes was founded to fight polio.  When a vaccine allowed the US to completely overcome the disease, they had to decide what their purpose was since they couldn’t exist to fight a disease that no longer existed.  They turned their focus to fighting birth defects, and still exist with that focus today.

Unfortunately, charities are often bad at surveying what the real needs of the day are, as well as who needs them.  We say we don’t sell products, we provide critical services, so we don’t always learn from the lessons of the for-profit world.   We are sometimes so wrapped up in our work we don’t look outward to see what is changing in our industry.  That doesn’t make a charity bad, it just means we are kind of bad at doing that.  What I think is bad is when we make the mistake of not actually asking people what they need and how they need it delivered to be most effective.

When we decide in advance what the need is and who needs it, we are likely to provide the wrong services or services that are right, but delivered in the wrong way.  We might be right to think this or that group needs this or that service.  Or we might be wrong, and we may be ineffective or end up applying Band-Aids when a cure or, better yet, a prevention is within our grasp.

How do you determine what people – or animals – need, you ask?

Humane Pennsylvania just conducted a full survey sent to every one of the 30,000 households in the City of Reading to determine the needs of pets and their caretakers, thanks to the generosity of the Giorgi Family Foundation.  The survey, which was developed with the assistance of experts from Penn State University, provides an extremely high confidence interval and low margin of error.  We are still crunching the numbers with the help of experts from Albright College (we love higher ed!) and will be sharing them soon.

The goal was to see what the community thought they needed, what they felt they didn’t have access to, or what pet related issues they felt caused stress for them or their family.  We asked everyone, not just “poor” people or this group or that group.  We asked all people.

The answers were surprising.  A lot of it made sense.  People at lower incomes shared that they had a harder time affording the cost of food and veterinary care.  But we also saw that a large number of people at higher income levels, levels which are not generally targeted by “charity” veterinary services, expressed concern of these costs, too.  And that these costs had resulted in an inability to pay for or to have to choose between pets and family necessities.  It turned out far more people may need help than we thought or were even attempting to help. To quote Big Bird, “Asking questions is a good way to find things out.”

Fortunately, this has served to reinforce the work Humane Pennsylvania has been doing to ensure that meaningful access to veterinary care and other supports are available to all, through a continuum of services.  Until now, we just didn’t have the data to prove it.  To quote a t-shirt, “In God we trust. All others bring data.”

Humane Pennsylvania is dedicated to helping animals and people, in old time-tested ways like adoption and in new ones like community access to veterinary care, supported by fact and data.  We try to do it by redefining the problems we seek to overcome, not by predefining the problems and solutions.  We do it because we know it’s the best way to help the most animals and people, in the most cost effective and impactful way.  We know we can love animals and hug puppies and kittens, and also be rigorous and face ever-changing realities and needs in our community.  We think doing one well requires doing the other well, too.

We also do it because we want our organization, and the entire animal welfare sector, to go the way of Netflix, not Blockbuster Video.

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Be the Change

January 18th, 2021 | Posted by Chelsea Cappellano in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
By: Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations for Humane Pennsylvania

Changing a life doesn’t require an incredible amount of wealth or time. If you have compassion and a desire to help, then YOU can change a pet’s life! January 24th is Change a Pet’s Life Day and we couldn’t be more excited to tell you the ways you can celebrate this day. Change a Pet’s Life Day was created to bring awareness to animal welfare and encouraging pet adoption. While I could find a reason to tell you on ANY day why it is important to support your local animal shelters and rescues, it seems even more appropriate to talk about the importance of this with the upcoming designated day.

Animal welfare has come a long way in education, advocacy, and reduced euthanasia rates, but there are still many animals finding themselves in shelters and in need of homes. So, how can you help be a part of changing a pet’s life?

Adoption

Looking to add a furry, slimy, or feathered friend to your family? Check out your local shelter or rescue group. Many animals of all shapes, sizes, personalities, and species are looking for loving homes. When you adopt, you aren’t just changing the life of the animal you will be taking home, but you will also change the life of the animal who needs that open space in the shelter.

Fostering

Many people don’t foster because they fear they could never give them back. We do see many foster families end up keeping their foster pets and making them a permanent part of the family. However, many others find it very rewarding to be able to provide a place for an animal out of the shelter, and many times increase their care by providing medical or behavior intervention, and then see that animal get a wonderful home. Some of our fosters have helped HUNDREDS of animals over the years. Hundreds! Even helping just one makes a significant difference. You can choose to temporarily house animals who need some extra TLC and time away from the shelter.

Volunteer

Ellie Scheurich, our Canine Behavior Specialist, said it best when she wrote the following about our volunteers: “Thank you for volunteering your time to help us find homes for all the animals that walk through our shelter. Thank you for spending your weekends or evenings at events helping us raise money to continue our mission in helping as well as saving as many fur lives as possible. Thank you for showing up in the snow, rain, and hot summer to walk, play, and train our dogs. Thank you for coming in regularly to help clean the cages alongside our busy staff, with a big smile on your face while giving chin scratches to a cat that hissed at you the week prior. Thank you for answering phones, greeting adopters, and staying long hours just to help the staff assist our community. Thank you for wearing your heart on your sleeve and helping us continue to do the work we all love at Humane Pennsylvania. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Volunteers play a huge part in our mission and they also play a huge role in changing a pet’s life every single day. While the pandemic has changed the way to volunteer, there is still a need and they are just as important as ever.

Donating

Non-profits operate solely off of the donations from the community. Any amount helps. Donating money helps the organization continue to operate the lifesaving programs that change pet’s lives every day. Donating products is also very helpful! Check out our wishlist on our website to see which items we are in need of on a regular basis.

Shout your support from the rooftops!

Funds tight from the pandemic? Busy raising young humans to become future life changers and your “free time” is limited? Allergic to animals so unfortunately they can’t be in the home? No problem! YOU can still change pet’s lives. Sharing social media posts helps raise awareness and spread the word for shelters looking for homes for animals or that are in need of specific donations. Attend events! Some in person and virtual events held by shelters and rescues don’t cost money to attend. Attending events helps you to learn what your local shelter is doing in the community and shows other people just how many people support the organization! Encourage your friends and family to adopt and support their animal shelter.

Also, show support for animal welfare workers. They work tirelessly to help and need lots of support to continue to show up and keep doing what they do!

Talk about your own story.

Have you adopted or visited a local animal shelter and had a great experience? Tell people about it. Write a review. These things can all change an animal’s life by bringing awareness to how wonderful it is to adopt and support your local shelter organization.

Hopefully you found that changing a life is easier than you may have originally thought, but I can tell you with certainty you will find it is even MORE FULLFILLING than you could have ever imagined.

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By: Karel Minor, CEO/President of Humane Pennsylvania

I’m sure by now you are tired of having people tell you, as if you don’t know, what a tough year it’s been.  So I’m not exactly going to do that.  I think Humane Pennsylvania has been pretty lucky, or blessed, depending on your inclination.

So far we’ve only had a single employee test positive, although we fear a second is on the way, despite several quarantines based on government guidance due to emergent symptoms.  That places our infection rate as a staff at less than half the 4%+ rate in Berks and Lancaster Counties, which I’ll chalk up to a very mindful staff in their personal lives and very rigorous safety protocols in their professional ones.  And we are certainly grateful of our fortune given that our two counties have lost 1,130 lives to COVID so far.

We are equally grateful that we did not have to lay off a single employee from our staff during the economic hardship our community faced and is facing.  Thanks to exceptionally good planning and financial management on the part of our finance team, the benefit of Federal pandemic funds, amazing generosity from our donors and supporters, and some dumb luck, we managed to respond to the expanded and unexpected needs of animals and people in our community by stepping up and expanding services, not standing down and cutting services.  This wasn’t easy and we, like so many charities and businesses, are still going forward one day at a time under ever changing circumstances and restrictions.  I honestly didn’t think we would have managed as well as we have, when all this started in March.

We kept taking animals in and adopting them out, with occasional pauses and slowdowns reflective of mandates and safety needs.  We kept seeing clients at our two public hospitals, even though we had to facilitate it mostly through curbside.  We kept up our audacious Healthy Pets Initiative in the City of Reading and adjacent municipalities, although greatly impacted by conditions.  We had to cancel, postpone and change most of our fundraising activities and events, and while some were complete losses, some proved to be surprisingly successful as we learned how to cope with our new reality.

Moving forward we still expect at least three to six months minimum impact in 2021 before we can approach anything “normal”.  We enter 2021 with a lot of trepidation.  We don’t know if there will be additional Federal support of businesses, like the PPP loan to grant funding that literally kept us from laying off half our staff and closing some of our doors.  But with recent history now to guide us, we keep an optimistic eye to the future, matched with careful planning and action, and organizational rigor.  If you’ve ever read Jim Collins’ book, Good To Great, we are trying to embody the Stockdale Paradox.  We are planning for the best but preparing for the worst.  And if the best doesn’t come as soon as we’d like, we won’t lose hope.  I hope you won’t either.

So, with a hopeful attitude, I’d like to give you a brief retrospective of 2020 with some of our notable accomplishments on the ground at Humane Pennsylvania, as well as our best guess of how we will be tackling an uncertain 2021….

The Reading Center for Animal Life-Saving:  In 2019 we demolished our old shelter in Reading to create the next phase of our work on behalf of animals in Berks County.  The new facility will be a combination adoption center and community veterinary center, built on the human wellness and urgent care model.  It’s a groundbreaking new approach made possible thanks to a joint vision by our staff and board, and the financial generosity of the Giorgi Family Foundation. They kick started the expanded vision through a stunning grant to Humane Pennsylvania.

In March, all construction was halted by order of the Commonwealth.  Although we were designated an “essential” operation, through some gap in logic the building which would support those operations was not.  Ultimately, before we could figure how to appeal the no appeal designation, construction was allowed to begin again. Precious weeks lost turned into months of backups and delays.  Fortunately, our amazing builder, Purcell Construction, got things back up and running. We expect to have full access to the new facility right after the New Year.  It will still be three months or more before we can open to the public as we outfit the facility with veterinary and animal care equipment and get all the furniture in.

After that, we don’t even know when we will be allowed to open to full capacity (c’mon, vaccine, work your magic!). However, we fully expect that when the weather is warm again, we will be debuting the new animal welfare jewel of Reading and Berks County.

Animal Services:  Despite the pandemic’s impact, we kept the doors open and took in homeless and stray animals as always, and adopted them out to loving forever homes.  In fact, as I type this, we are in our 6th day of our 12 Days of Adoptions promotion, and we’ve already adopted out every dog we have (!) and are trying to empty the entire shelter of every dog, cat, and critter by Christmas!  Our adopters have been great as we’ve had to shift between models, changing from phone adoptions and direct delivery, to outside, appointment only adoptions, open door, socially distant adoptions, and back.  Sometimes in the same week.

Vet services have only been able to operate at an 80% level, due to curbside services required by the state vet board and our sanitation protocols.  That’s still a lot of animals being helped, but we’d really like to return to our full capability.  We’ve also been able to continue our community vaccine and microchip clinics in Lancaster and Berks Counties, although these are also much harder to manage and dramatically reduce our targets.  All these services are designed around direct and close contact with pets and their people.

Maybe the program which succeeded beyond our expectations was the COVID response pet food distribution facilitated through Spike’s Pet Pantry.  The PA State Animal Response Team and Berks EMA activated the Berks County Animal Response Team, which is directed by Humane Pennsylvania, and asked us to be the lead agency in charge of coordinating emergency food distribution for Eastern PA.  We had a plan in place, we had the capacity built as part of the Giorgi Family Foundation grant, and we were willing.  Whether we would be able was the question.  Thanks to the hard work of our amazing staff and volunteers we were able to receive and distribute over 300,000 pounds, about 1.2 million pet meals, since March, plus tons of needed supplies.

From the farthest north to farthest west counties in our Commonwealth, Humane Pennsylvania delivered or distributed pet food to dozens of organizations, school districts, and food pantries, which in turn shared with countless more.  Our Spike’s Pet Pantry quickly went from being a small local effort serving hundreds to a regional program serving thousands, perhaps tens of thousands.  Organizational capacity and our work to build it made the difference. It has been gratifying to help so many animals and people, but to also have our plan and execution of a bold model proven effective.

These are just a few of the bigger happenings from this past year.  There have been so many more, too numerous to list, big and small, worth mentioning.  Fundamentally, they all stem from the hard work and dedication of our staff and volunteers, and the generosity of our donors.  It because of this that I have undaunted optimism for what is to come in 2021.

We know that by hook or by crook the new Center for Animal Lifesaving will open to the public.  We are also pretty hopeful that we can get back on track with our paused capital campaign with a goal of ending the year with the entire building paid off in just three years.  Did I hear you wonder aloud how you can help?  Well, for less than a cheap cup of coffee (92 cents a day) you can join Spike’s 700 Club, a special giving club limited to just 700 members, or be one of the 200 Tilly’s 200 Club members ($1.83 a day).  If we filled just these 900 donation spots, we’d complete our campaign once and for all!  Join me as a founding member!

We are expecting to be able to ramp up our Healthy Pets Initiative program services to make up for lost time and get thousands more animals’ sterilized, vaccinated, and microchipped, in both counties!  And we really look forward to throwing the doors wide open for full adoption services and veterinary services again the moment we are allowed to and can do so safely.

Our success bringing over a million pet meals to hungry animals has inspired us not to lower our expectations in the future.  Keep an eye out, we will have a big, furry, audacious plan to share within the coming year, and we are going to need your help.

We really can’t wait to get back to our normal events and fundraising model.  The cancelled Pints for Pups, the virtual Walk for the Animals, and the virtual Art for Arf’s Sake Art Auction ranged from a total loss (Pints) to a surprisingly successful 60% of target for the Art Auction (a big shout out to our amazing volunteer Art Auction committee and Lauren Henderson and Chelsea Cappellano in our Advancement department for swinging that minor miracle).  Even with their success, we came out literally hundreds of thousands of dollars under between lost event and operations revenue.  We can continue on that trend.  Fortunately, we don’t think we will.

In 2021 we have flipped the Art for Arf’s Sake Auction permanently to November, which seems like a safe bet at this point for an indoor event, and the return of the MEGA-Pints for Pups will be in mid-summer, which seems like a pretty good bet for an outdoor event.

We’ve also flipped the Walk to permanently be a spring event, currently scheduled for May, 2021.  However, if there are any outdoor gathering restrictions still in place in May, a September live Walk is still in the cards.  Keep up to date and please sign up for the Walk for the Animals like the world is getting back to normal, because we think it will!

I cannot thank you enough for working your way through 1,800 words and for sticking by Humane Pennsylvania and the work we do on your behalf, even during troubling times.  I hope you and your family have been safe and will remain safe.  I cannot wait until we can see each other in person again.  I hope next year we don’t have to talk about what we’ve overcome, but instead can share what we’ve accomplished together to build the best community anywhere to be an animal or an animal caretaker.

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a happy and healthy New Year from everyone at Humane Pennsylvania.

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By: Maddy Marker, Animal Care Technician for Humane Pennsylvania

The paw-lidays are fast approaching and if you are anything like me, pets get presents too. Holidays can be stressful. You are constantly looking for the right gift for your aunt, your friends or even a coworker. Because we are so easily consumed by gifts, glitter, sales and finding the right outfits we often times overlook our 4 legged friends. Here’s a guide to help you pick the best and safest products this holiday!

  1. Busy Bowl: Do you have a pet that eats too fast? How about a pet that seems less interested in their food lately? Try a busy bowl! Busy bowls are great toys that pose as an everyday item. Animals who eat too fast may end up with an upset stomach which can cause vomiting. Busy bowls are meant to help slow them down. They now work a little harder for their food trying to get all the pieces. On the opposite end, busy bowls are used as enrichment in most shelters! Because the animals have to work for their food, it can make eating a fun game.
  2. Red Barn Bones: These bones are great for enrichment! If you have a dog who really enjoys peanut butter or cream cheese, these bones are the perfect gift! They come in different flavors and sizes but they also have hallow ones that you can fill with whatever you want. Red Barn Bones are also nice because you can freeze them and they’ll last a little longer.
  3. Kong: Similar to the Red Barn Bones, kongs can be filled with peanut butter or whatever else you choose to make a fun treat for your dog.  They can also go in the freezer for a cool snack later on.
  4. Training treats: If you have a high energy dog or even a dog that loves to learn, training treats are the way to go. During your holiday break, you can spend some time with your pet and teach them a few tricks you’ve been wanting to. Training treats come in all flavors and sizes so picking out the best one for your furry friend can be fun!
  5. Beds: Does your pet prefer to lounge instead of leap? If so, getting your pet a new bed will make their lazy Sundays so much better. There are tons of beds to choose from and some stores let your pet test them out first.
  6. Slow Drink Water Bowl: A slow drink water bowl works wonders for pet owners who have pets who drink water too fast. Most slow drink water bowls will have a large piece that floats in the center of the bowl and allows water through at a slow rate. This allows you pets to drink but not too fast that they may get sick.

Let’s be honest, going to the pet store can be confusing. There’s so many options, isles and tons of products to choose from. It’s easy to pick all of the things that are on sale, especially if you are on a tight budget. Remember, sale does not equal safe! Below, you will see a list of gifts and things you should try to avoid for your pawsome friends.

  1. Rawhides: Rawhides are hard chews for dogs of all sizes. They are made from leather industry’s leftovers. These chews can pose a threat to your dog’s health. Rawhides, when chewed on break off into hard medium-small pieces. The problem lies in their digestibility. Rawhides are not easily digested by dogs. Along with them being hard, they also tend to break off in sharp shards. These shards can be very dangerous for dogs especially when trying to be digested.
  2. Wood: Similar to rawhides, wood isn’t easily digested by dogs. Not only do they pose a threat to the dog’s stomach but when chewing on wood, it can begin to splinter. A splinter doesn’t seem too dangerous but one small splinter can get infected and cause more health problems, especially in older dogs.
  3. Tinsel: Who doesn’t love decorating the tree with tinsel? It’s shiny, beautiful and adds such a wonderful holiday glow to the room. If you love tinsel, don’t panic! This doesn’t mean you can’t put tinsel on the tree, it just means be careful with it. Tinsel is often times more of a threat to cats but I’ve seen dogs who confused it for spaghetti too. Tinsel isn’t meant to be digested by animals. It can get caught or build up in your pet’s stomach and cause serious health issues. Try not to make tinsel a toy for your furry friends. Avoid playing with tinsel and avoid using too much tinsel too.

It can be tricky picking out the right thing for your animals. Now that you are fully equipped with ideas, get out there and have fun howl-iday shopping for your pets!

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By: Suzanne D’Alonzo, Community Outreach Programs Manager for Humane Pennsylvania

This December has the Healthy Pets Initiative Team, the Community Outreach leg of our organization, launching Targeted Pet Wellness Services.  “Targeted Pet Wellness” is veterinary care offered to specific audiences we’ve identified as in need of access to basic vet care for their pets.  The end goal is keeping more pets healthy and with the people who love them.  

If you recall, we’ve been providing pop-up Vaccination/Microchip Clinics.  With COVID, these morphed into Drive-In Vaccination/Microchip Clinics, offering the same services in a different set up that provides social distancing.  The Drive-In clinics are open to any pet owner in our community, and make  the two most important  vaccinations (rabies and distemper), plus microchipping, all affordable and reasonably easy-access.  We offer these around town in 3 seasons of the year, and a generous grant from the Giorgi Family Foundation permits us to offer them at a pay-what-you-can rate.

Our Target Pet Wellness Services are geared slightly differently.  When we planned the pop-up/Drive-In Clinics we of course considered the needs of our community’s pet owners, taking into account which pet owners would utilize those services.  Then we took the next step, considering who wouldn’t be able to utilize those clinics, and why.

What community outreach programs all over the U.S. have realized- and what data has proven- is that most pet owners want to do the best they can for their pets.  If given opportunities, pet owners make use of those chances to do more for their pets- if they can.

In planning the Targeted Pet Wellness Services we paid attention to which pet owners were missing in large numbers from the Drive-In Clinics.  That let us identify the following subsets of pet owners:   individuals and families facing homelessness, survivors of domestic abuse, and a portion of our community’s veterans.  We thoughtfully tried to list what stops those distinct populations from bringing pets in for care.  Situations vary, but that list includes facing a lack of the following; permanent housing, money, transportation, phone and/or internet access, domestic violence, information as to where to bring a pet for medical care and how often to do so, available time to get to a vet while during business hours, and even the simple fact of having too much on one’s plate.

For example, for a family facing homelessness, it may seem out of reach to find a veterinarian, book an appointment, drive to that appointment, and pay for it.  Complicate that example by not having easy access to the internet to find and contact a vet, having car trouble, and knowing every penny counts and there are other more immediate needs pressing.  Suddenly, what some of us take for granted becomes impossible.

Whenever a program anticipates where it may fall short of its intended goals and develop alternative options, the more likely it is to be a success.  Targeted Pet Wellness Services eliminates hurdles.  This program creates free, walk-in appointments at a location where those pet owners are already going for services. We are paving the way for more pets to get the care and services they need: that’s success overall!

We planned carefully to make these services the best they could be for this selected audience- but we asked for help with our homework:  Humane Pennsylvania is partnering with regional organizations to best connect with those pet owners who are having trouble accessing pet medical care otherwise:  Hope Rescue Mission (where we will be available to any clients of the organizations of Berks Coalition to End Homelessness), Veterans Coalition of Pennsylvania, and Safe Berks.  They’ll help us reach some of the most vulnerable human populations, and therefore help us assist the most vulnerable pet populations.

Each month on specific dates and times, our team will set up in the parking lot areas of these organizations.  We’ll provided to the pets that need them:

  • Physical examinations for dogs/cats
  • Rabies vaccinations
  • Distemper vaccinations
  • Intestinal deworming
  • Flea/tick treatment
  • Ear cleaning
  • Ear mite treatment
  • Sanitary trims
  • Nail trims
  • Microchip implantation and microchip registration
  • Collar, ID tag
  • Leash/carrier
  • Pet food
  • Toys and other items as we have available (e.g. pee pads, litter)

No appointments are needed; any pet owners using the services of these organizations are welcome to bring their dogs and cats to our team as “walk-ins.”  Every client will have a chance to talk with our veterinarian and team about their pet’s health and needs. The team will also be available to share basic behavior suggestions or assist owners in identifying novel solutions to issues they may be facing given what else may be happening in their lives.

Our team is really excited about the Targeted Pet Wellness Services.  It’s stacking the odds in favor of keeping more pets healthy and with the families that love and cherish them.

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By: Karel Minor, CEO/President of Humane Pennsylvania

Wow, so how about this year?  It’s really the gift that keeps giving.  It’s delayed all our major projects, ruined our events, and tormented our staff at every turn as they try to do what they do best: help animals and people in our communities.

Despite all this, they’ve pulled through. They’ve found new, creative ways to do their best work under ever changing (I mean, seriously EVER CHANGING) conditions.  It’s been harder to help animals and people, especially at the rates and levels we try for, but our amazing staff have been doing it with their usual skill and grace.

Our donors and supporters have also been amazingly generous and where we’ve been unable to have our spectacular events because of crowd restrictions, they’ve helped make up the difference through donations.  With the reductions in operating revenue due to COVID related operating mandates, this extra generosity has allowed us to ensure not a single staff member had to have hours cut or jobs lost.  Thank you, to each and every donor.

A Federal operating loan under the PPP program also helped.  Another round of stimulus in 2021 would really help our staff, and all the animals and people we help.  Looking at you, Congress.

This is the time of year I always write a “We are thankful for…” post.  I’ve never meant it more than I mean it this year.  From our donors, adopters, volunteers, fosters families, staff, board to, yes, even our US Senators and Representatives who gave us the PPP loan lifeline, everyone has come together to make sure we can do what we do best: Building the best community anywhere to be an animal or an animal caretaker.

A mission like that doesn’t come easily or without a lot of effort.  That’s why we are deep in planning for next year and we have two plans.  One is the worst case scenario.  We are good at worst case planning since we were small and poor not that long ago and even though we aren’t as small now, we are not flush with cash, either.

But we’ve got another plan.  It’s the “What if everything works out OK and we can get back to normal?” plan.  We’re really hoping that by the middle of next year we can start working to that plan, and make up for the time and service we’ve lost during this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

Thank you for your support during this tough time.  All of us at Humane Pennsylvania are truly grateful of it and of you.  We hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and we can’t wait to see you again in person.

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By: Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations for Humane Pennsylvania

Humane Pennsylvania loves seniors and that is why we are so excited to share that November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month! It is a sad reality that many senior pets find themselves in shelters every day. Our organization is extremely fortunate to be able to help rehome many seniors, but that doesn’t mean it is always an easy task to do. As we celebrate a very special month that brings extra attention to those senior pets who find themselves in shelters, we encourage you to consider adopting an older pet at your next trip to the shelter. You aren’t sold on why seniors are so great? Then let me continue…

Before I tell you of all the benefits you may have never realized are involved with adopting a senior pet it may be helpful to share a personal story to give you a better inside look.

On March 14th, 2015 a 19 year old, stunning, domestic longhair feline named Fluffy was brought into our Humane Society of Berks County shelter location. The owner stated they were moving and were not allowed pets where they were going. Before we continue, let’s pause to talk about what I am sure many are currently thinking, “How can anyone surrender their 19 year old pet to a shelter? I could NEVER do that to my pet let alone a senior. They must not have cared about her or they would have figured out a way to keep their pet.” For those of you who were not thinking those things, good for you. Thank you for not casting judgement to someone whose story you know nothing about. For those who thought those exact same things, trust me, this does not make you a bad person. However, I think it is important to explain why I encourage you to adjust your thinking.

People always assume that those who surrender their pets are evil people who don’t care about animals. When in fact, I have met some of the kindest people who have had to surrender their pets. I’ve had to literally hold people up who were collapsing from the sorrow of having to surrender their pet. The guilt most people feel when they are forced to make the difficult decision to surrender their pet can come out in many ways. Sometimes it is by avoidance and pretending they don’t care, anger that gets directed at anyone in their path, or sadness that results in many tears. We say there is no one way to grieve when someone loses a loved one, so maybe consider giving that same grace and understanding to someone who is forced to give up their pet.

Yes, there are people who surrender and are not good pet owners. Those who should not have had a pet in the first place, but we try to acknowledge the fact that they at least made the decision to bring them to the shelter to get in the hands of the biggest animal lovers there are to provide an opportunity at a second chance for that animal.

But how do you know who is good and who is bad? You do not. Which is why I encourage you to withhold making judgements and statements regarding people you know nothing about. Instead, be a part of the solution in helping those animals that have found themselves, for whatever reason, in need of a place to call home.

I will admit that I fell in the category of judgement at first. Tears filled my eyes when I was informed we had a 19 year old cat surrendered. How could someone do this to such an old cat? But I forced myself to change the narrative and instead looked at the history which showed this owner had Fluffy for all 19 years. This cat, while old and not without medical issues, was still in decent shape and appeared content and comfortable. This means that the owner made sure that Fluffy was safe and had all the necessities she needed to be able to live NINTEEN long years! Whatever your thoughts are, to me that means that this owner loved Fluffy. I told myself that this woman must have been heartbroken to find herself forced to move somewhere where she couldn’t take Fluffy and how difficult that must have been. Maybe there was more to it, but we will never know except that she brought Fluffy to a place where there were many animal lovers ready and willing to take her in and give her the best chance at some more time.

Which takes us back to March 14th, 2015 when she entered the shelter. Our vet checked her out and found she was on the thin side, had dental disease, but there was no heart murmur heard and lungs sounded clear. It was decided that she was comfortable enough to put up for adoption and attempt to find a home. She went up for adoption and waited, and waited, and waited. After almost a month of seeing her, and falling in love with her every time I walked by her cage, I could no longer think about coming into the shelter and seeing that she passed away on her own, alone in the shelter, because of her old age and possibly some underlying condition we weren’t aware of. So after discussing what we would be taking on with my husband we made the decision to adopt her and on April 3rd, 2015 we did just that.

We decided that while she had the name of Fluffy for 19 years, a new chapter deserved a new name and after realizing she didn’t respond to Fluffy anyway, possibly from being hard of hearing, we gave her the new name of Cleocatra. Her name came from her stunning grey eyes, smoky colored long fur, and regal presence. She owned any room she was in. This queen joined our family existing of a small dog and two other cats. After a small acclimation period she quickly took charge. It was as if the other animals knew her age was significant to theirs and gave her the respect and hierarchy she deserved. She was the first to eat and when she wanted ear rubs, she was first in line to receive ear rubs.

We discovered in the first month of having her and conducting bloodwork that she had hyperthyroidism, which is a common disease that usually affects older cats. It meant her thyroid gland produced too many hormones and usually display symptoms in cats such as weight loss, increased appetite, thirst and urination, We were able to get Cleo regulated on medication to help with this disease. We saw improvements that appeared to make her more comfortable.

Over the months we quickly got to know Cleo’s personality, her likes and dislikes, and it felt like she had been there forever with us. In October she started to decline. Unfortunately hyperthyroidism affects almost all other organs and generally causes secondary problems. After follow-ups and discussions with our wonderful veterinarian team at the Humane Veterinary Hospital in Reading it was recommended that if she continued to decline we may be faced with the tough decision to euthanize or put her through stressful tests and surgeries that may not fix the overall problem(s). On October 29th, 2015 the extremely difficult decision was made to send Cleocatra off to a pain free state. I wept as I held her in my arms and the veterinarian sent her into a forever sleep with extreme care and compassion. Cleo left the world with dignity and surrounded by so much love.

My husband and I reflected on our time with Cleo and we both admitted that we knew when we made the decision to adopt Cleo that we could have days, weeks, months or years with her, but we could have never known how quickly and deeply we would fall in love with her. I remember saying to my husband that I loved her more than I thought I ever could and his response to me was, “maybe that means she loved us more than she thought she would.” And I hope that is true. I hope that we gave her a life of love, fun, comfort and snuggles…even if it was only in 7 short months.

And back to the owner. She could have taken her then Fluffy to the vet to be euthanized instead of bringing her to the shelter, but I believe she realized Fluffy wasn’t quite ready and hopefully there was more someone could give that she couldn’t. And boy, am I thankful to have known this special cat and be part of her life.

Love isn’t created over a specific amount of time. There is no rule to how long you must know someone to love them. There are people who fall in love at first sight and are together for their entire lives. Love is about the bond and experience you have with someone, not about how long that experience is together.

To me that is what I would want people to know when they see a senior animal seeking a home. Yes, you may have less time than you would if you were to adopt a younger animal, but that does not mean your time together will not result in sharing lots of memories, love, and lessons. Will the pain still occur when you do lose your companion, yes, but is it worth it to know that you gave them a proper send off and took great care of them in their final days, weeks, months or years…absolutely yes.

Benefits people may not consider when adopting older pets include:

  • Most are already trained. This may include being housebroken, knowing tricks, or even just being more socialized to other people, pets, and situations.
  • You have a better idea of their personality and needs. When you adopt a puppy or a kitten you don’t always know if they are going to be affectionate and cuddly or spunky and playful. A senior pet has an already developed personality, so you can find one that fits exactly what you are looking for to fit your family!
  • They usually fall into a routine quicker.
  • Most may be less demanding since they are usually less active and require less training than a puppy or kitten.

At Humane Pennsylvania cats 11 years and older and dogs 8 years and older have discounted adoption fees to encourage people to take notice to them since they are often overlooked. However, this does not mean they will cost less in their care. During the counseling process for a senior pet our technicians will go over any existing health issues that will require ongoing care as well as what special health recommendations there may be for senior pets, such as visiting the vet every 6 months, instead of the recommended 12 months for a healthy younger pet.

If you have the room in your heart and means to take on a senior pet please don’t let their age get in the way. You may be missing out in an animal who can teach you the best lessons about companionship, life, and love. Cleocatra taught me that we all deserve to be cared for and loved for the entirety of our lives and when that love is given it is typically returned tenfold. If you can’t adopt a senior pet consider making a donation that will help go towards the medical care that is involved in caring for a senior pet in the shelter until they find their forever home.

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By: Dr. Heather Lineaweaver, Associate Veterinarian for Humane Veterinary Hospitals

Most dog owners are aware of the core vaccines recommended for all dogs – Rabies and DHPP, which protects against distemper, infectious hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.   Lifestyle/non-core vaccines are those that are recommended based on your dog’s individual risk factors.  How much time they spend outdoors, their exposure to other dogs or wildlife, their activities, and where you live help determine which of these vaccines may benefit your dog.  Examples of lifestyle vaccines include leptospirosis, lyme, bordetella (kennel cough), and canine influenza.  The focus of this article will be leptospirosis and its risk factors.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can occur in a wide variety of mammals, including humans.  After infection, the bacteria spreads to multiple organs, but the  liver and kidneys are typically the most severely affected.  Because the bacteria like to live and colonize within the kidneys, urine is the prime avenue for the spread of infection.  Dogs become infected through exposure to the urine of affected wildlife.  This exposure can occur by drinking standing water and eating or licking contaminated grass or other substances.  The bacteria can also enter the body through damaged skin.  Not all dogs that are exposed will develop infection, but those that do are at risk for liver and kidney failure.  Permanent organ dysfunction is common, even in dogs that have been successfully treated. While it’s not common, leptospirosis is a serious and potentially fatal illness.  It is important to note that it is also zoonotic, meaning that it can be spread to humans, and owners of infected dogs are at risk of contracting it via contact with their dog’s urine.

At-risk dogs should be vaccinated to protect both them and the humans they live with. Risk factors include living in a rural or suburban setting, hiking or spending significant time outdoors, access to standing water, or living in an area prone to flooding.  Dogs in urban areas are less at risk, although living in an older house where they may have access to mice can increase this risk.  The vaccine provides protection against the four most common strains of leptospirosis.  Infection with the less common strains is possible but rare.  Dogs initially receive a series of two vaccines given 2-4 weeks apart.  After that, they must have a booster yearly to maintain protection.  If your dog has any of the above risk factors, be sure to discuss starting the vaccine at your next veterinary visit.

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By: Suzanne D’Alonzo, Community Outreach Programs Manager

At your last regular doctor’s visit for a check-up, were you asked if you exercise?  Smoke?  Even if you wear a helmet while you bike?  If your doctor is looking to help you stay in top working order, sure, they see what childhood diseases you might have been vaccinated against, but they also focus on some of the other things that keep you healthy.  Much of good medical care is about prevention.

The Drive-in Vaccination Clinics of our Healthy Pets Initiative offer important vaccinations to pets in our community that otherwise might not have access to them.  That’s great, because pets who avoid illness from disease have a better chance of a long, healthy life.

Yet these Drive-in Vaccination Clinics also focus on prevention, much like your doctor’s visit.  We offer microchips.  Microchips can be the ticket home for lost pets, and that’s as valuable as vaccination!

Microchips are about the size and shape of a grain of rice, can go in a pet as tiny as a kitten, and have no ill-effects.   A pet who gets chipped will have that chip last their lifetime.

Bear with an oversimplification:  if you think about how a barcode on, say, a box of cereal works, it’s really just ink on paper.  It doesn’t “do” anything, but a scanner can read and “translate” that zebra pattern into information at check out.  Each product bar code pattern is different, and each has specific info that goes with it.  That’s how the cash register ends up translating “zebra stripes” to “box of Cheerios, $1.99.”

Bear with a rough comparison:  a microchip that has been implanted in a pet works much like the barcode on a cereal box in the sense that it’s not “doing” anything until it’s scanned, and scanning holds the key to more information.

Each chip has a unique identification number connected to it.  That number pops up when a lost pet is scanned with a microchip scanner.  A shelter, rescue, veterinarian’s office, or the finder of a pet that has taken the pet to be scanned at one of these locations is able to easily and quickly figure out which brand of chip it is, and call that company.  The chip company will share what’s been registered in their database for that number- pet’s name, pet owner’s name, phone numbers for the owner, and emergency contact information.  The owner gets contacted and if all goes well, the pet is back home in a very short time!

Those of us in animal sheltering regularly hear cat and dog owners say their pets don’t need ID.   “He never goes out.”  “She always comes when called.”  “He wears a collar when we’re outside.”  But accidents happen.  A door gets left open by visitors.  Someone trips on a walk, dropping the leash.  A collar is just loose enough when a truck rumbles by.  A tree takes out a fence.  A meter reader doesn’t close the gate.  Even serious emergencies happen- car accidents with pets in the car, EMT crews helping relatives, household fires, rising streams- and pets are often separated from owners in the chaos.   Microchipping simply lets us hope for the best and plan for the worst, doing the best to keep pets in the homes that love them.

At our Drive-in Clinics, we can implant a chip quickly- it’s a placed under the scruff of the neck, where there aren’t a lot of nerve endings, with a special tool that works like a needle and syringe that would give a vaccine.  And it takes the same time that getting a shot takes!  So it’s fast, is only a quick “ouch,” and the chip works immediately.  Our team registers the chip for our clients because we know life can get in the way, and a chip without contact information is a dead end for a lost pet.

It’s just as important to share what a chip isn’t:  it’s not a GPS-type tracker.  There’s no way it can tell you if Fluffy is under the porch three doors down or if Scrappy is headed west on Elm Street.  And it’s good to relay that an implanted chip never “runs out” or “gets canceled,” because of the original enrollment plan.  Sure, the services that each microchip company offers pet owners may vary and many offer buy-up plans with additional services, but the basic ID will always be there.

Our Healthy Pets Initiative also goes old-school with its preventative measures:  we encourage dog and cat owners to rely on microchips in tandem with a collar and identification tag.  There’s only an increased chance of pets getting home with these, as someone finding a pet has immediate access to a phone number.  That’s good, especially in situations where the finder can’t access a scanner (after-hours or holidays and in cases where transportation is an issue for the finder).

We’re glad we’re able to provide microchips, one of the most practical preventative measures to keep pets safe and in their loving homes.  Not only does it make a difference to a lost pet and their family, but a community with a high rate of chipped pets drops its volume of stray animals.  Historically, many strays weren’t getting back home.  Chipping changes that, creating positive outcomes, and subsequently letting shelters better focus on fewer animals- the ones that don’t already have homes- and stretch out our limited resources.

Not sure if your pet’s microchip info is up to date or registered in your name?  Have your pet scanned at your next vet visit and note the number.  You can figure out which brand of chip your pet has by using one of the universal pet microchip look-up registries (such as https://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/).  Then head to that microchip company’s website and follow their instructions to update information.  There is often a small fee to transfer a pet’s information from one owner to another, but updating your own is typically free (that is, there’s usually no cost to change to your new cell number or new address).

 

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