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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By: Karel Minor, President/CEO of Humane Pennsylvania

Did I get you again?  It works every year.  Of course, as a 501c3 charity, Humane Pennsylvania does not and never has made endorsements in elections.  While there are political action and politically partisan animal welfare groups out there who legally can and do make endorsements, we are not one of those. I’m glad we aren’t.

Why?  Because we are here to help animals and the people who care about them.  As soon as we pick a side, any side, we lose the other side.  Instead of picking sides, we pick issues.  What policies and laws will best help animals, animal caretakers, and the organizations which work on their behalf?  That’s our focus exclusively when we wade into “political” discussions.

Humane Pennsylvania knows that every elected official and every candidate is a potential ally on issues important to our work.  That’s why we engage with all of them, regardless of policy affiliation.  It turns out donkeys, elephants, and greens all have cats and dogs at home.  If ever there was a constituency that crosses party lines, it’s the animals who share our lives.  That’s why we have the support of elected officials of all stripes and parties.

Does that mean that it doesn’t matter who you vote for?  Of course not.  Heck, I’m as partisan as it comes – personally.  Professionally, my ultimate goal is to work to have any candidate of any persuasion to be right on the issues important to animals, and if it’s because they are a little afraid of voters, that’s OK.  It’s what I call the “furry third rail”.  If every candidate would all be as pro-animal welfare as they are pro-Grandma and apple pie, we could vote for whoever we wanted knowing that we’d only have healthcare, government spending, and our personal favorite number on the Bill of Rights to fight over.

Not many people are single issue voters so it’s not even reasonable to expect people to vote exclusively on animal issues.  Instead, we ask you press the candidates you support in your party to be good to animals and do things which makes the work of Humane Pennsylvania and our peers to be easier, not harder.  When we get two great animal welfare candidates running against each other, animals win – no matter which candidate wins.

For those who are interested in learning about the animal stance of candidates, all you need to do is Google “Animal Issues Endorsements” or something similar.  You’ll get more information than you ever wanted on endorsements based on cat and dog issues, farm animals, wildlife, or platypus conservation, whatever is important to you as a voter.

We share more than we don’t with one another, no matter how loud things get at election time.  One of them is a love for the animals that share our lives.  Go ahead and vote.  Then go hug your pet and remember that more people have a pet to hug than will ever vote for any politician.  It’ll make you feel better about the world, and about the idiot next door with the sign for the candidate you can’t stand.

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by Katie Bergeman, Animal Care Technician for Humane Pennsylvania

As soon as you hear team building what comes to mind? Do you see a bunch of people hand in hand trying to figure out a problem? Team building is meant to bring individuals together to accomplish the same goal. Incorporating team building into a meeting or event can not only help staff get to know each other but can also help make that meeting or event not so much of a drag. But how can you get people excited to participate in a team building activity? By choosing the most appropriate activity to do for your group.

Activities range in time, number of participants, equipment needed and the overall message or take away from it. If you have a group of 40 people and your activity needs equipment for each person, maybe try finding a different activity that would work better for a larger group if you don’t have the means to get the equipment. If you have only 20 minutes for an activity before a meeting, making sure you have enough time to set up, explain and actually execute the activity is really important. Trying to do an activity meant to be an hour long in 20 minutes could just add unneeded stress and frustration to the group. The other thing to keep in mind is how well your group knows each other. Some activities do involve holding hands, being blind folded, sometimes even lifting people up. So gauging the comfortability of the group beforehand is important.

At the Humane League of Lancaster County, we have monthly meetings to ensure everyone is up to date with important information, procedures and events. I was given the great opportunity to use my background knowledge from college to provide team building activities to my fellow employees before the meetings. I tailor the activities for the group size and timeframe. When we had new employees hired, I would gear the activity for more of an ice breaker activity. One activity that I did was called “The Toilet Paper Game”. This activity involved taking a toilet paper roll (to save on toilet paper, I used small pieces of paper) and passed it around the group, telling them “Take as much as you think you need”. Of course I got questions like “why?” or “what do I need it for?” but all I replied was “take as much as you think you need”. So naturally some people took a whole bunch and some more cautious people only took a couple. Once everyone had their pieces then I said that for every piece you need to tell us one fact about yourself. Some people we learned four facts about them and others we learned twenty plus facts about them.

On the other hand when we had more senior staff and knew each other pretty well, I geared the activity more towards team building. One activity that I facilitated at one of our staff enrichment days, was called “Minefield”. This activity involved a minefield of different objects. We used safety cones, frisbees, crates and anything to create an obstacle. From there I split the group in two and handed each group a blind fold. The objective was to get everyone through the minefield blind folded. The teams could decide to all work together, pair up within the group or potentially have one person lead everyone through the minefield. As a facilitator, I had to change up the course as they were going through and I also noticed that one person from each group stepped up to lead everyone through. So in order to get more involvement within the group I told the ‘leaders’ that they had to remain quiet for a little to encourage other people to step up to guide other people through. Everyone made it through the minefield unscathed.

Team building has definitely helped improve the morale in the shelter. It’s tough working in the animal care industry but when you have an amazing team to support and help you, you can get through it! We are constantly learning from each other and growing together. By doing these team building activities, it may seem just like fun but there is so much more. As a team, we are learning about each other, trusting each other and working together to solve a common goal. All of which can be translated and used in the shelter.

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By: Dr. Jackie Connolly, Associate Veterinarian for Humane Veterinary Hospitals

 Imagine you are a cat; living your best life on a sunny windowsill, thinking about when your human’s are going to bring you your next meal.  Suddenly your owner places you in an unfamiliar carrier, puts you in a moving vehicle and brings you to a place where they touch your ears, look in your mouth and poke you with needles. Scary right?  Now imagine you are a dog, about to go for a car ride. You are so excited to go to the park, but then your owner pulls up to the scary building where they trim your nails. You hate having your paws touched, especially since a few times the nail trim really hurt! Your owner pulls you by the leash and through the door as you try your hardest to pull in the other direction. When the nurse goes to pet you, you start to urinate because you are so scared of what they might do.

For many years we did not consider the emotional health of our pets, even in the veterinary setting.  Now, we know that we can do so much better to keep our patients free from anxiety and stress during their visit.  Through open communication, proper planning, and the use of toys and treats, we at Humane Veterinary Hospitals know how to make your pet’s experience at the veterinarian a good one.

Identifying Fear and Anxiety

 Since our patients cannot speak to us, we have to rely on behaviors to identify fear and anxiety.  When dogs and cats are stressed, they show many nonverbal pleas for help before reaching the point of ‘fight or flight.’   These behaviors may include shaking, tucking their tail, ears back, tense body, enlarged pupils, showing the whites of their eyes, yawning, or avoidance.  As with humans, fear may not always be rational and once our pets feel they are in danger, it can be difficult to tell them everything is going to be ok. If my patients are running from me, urinating on themselves, or trying to bite, continuing to push them is the worst thing I could do.

Luckily, our animal care team can identify these behaviors, as well as common stressors, and take action before they become a problem. We can also use rewards and distractions to keep our patients calm in uncomfortable or painful situations.

Communication

The first phone call you make to the veterinarian is the best time to voice any behavioral concerns you have with your pet. This is especially important if your pet has certain “triggers” for fear such as other dogs, men, loud noises, carriers, stainless steel tables, nail trimmers, etc.  Some pets may even have a history of lunging, biting, and scratching (the ‘fight’ response of fear) and may require sedatives for their visit.  By discussing your pet’s behavioral needs with our receptionist or nurse, we can make accommodations such as, scheduling at a less busy hour, or for a longer appointment slot. We can also address these behavioral concerns at the time of the appointment to make sure your next visit is even better!

Communication is a two way street. Our team will make it a priority to explain to you what needs to be done or what cannot be done given your pet’s emotional state. Our staff are trained in animal behavioral and body language, allowing us to identify when your pet is feeling stressed or anxious. The goal is to identify what works best for the individual patient and to make the experience positive.

Planning for Your Visit

Fear and stress in our patients may start as soon as they see their carrier or are put into the car.  As we know from dealing with stress in our own lives, it can become exponentially worse the longer we are in the situation. If a patient enters our hospital already stressed, this makes it even harder for us to ensure a positive experience for them. The good news is that there are things owners can do at home to help.

It helps to keep our canine patients retrained during transport so they do not become car sick or feel unstable. Non slip liners can be used for their comfort. Training your dog to sit calmly in the car before making a trip to the vet’s office can also be very helpful. The use of classical music, phermone sprays, and puzzle toys can also help keep your dog distracted and free from stress.

Cats are very sensitive to loud noises and changes in their environment, especially new smells and people. It is best practice to get them used to their carrier as a kitten, and leave it out at all times.  Though the use of pheromone sprays (Feliway), toys, and treats, the carrier can be made into a ‘safe space.’ I recommend my clients purchase a hard carrier that opens easily from the top. This allows our patients to feel secure, and makes it easier for us to do our examination where they feel safe.  Keeping a soft, clean blanket in the carrier and placing a towel over the carrier can keep our feline friends comfortable and allow them to hide.  Owners should never force cats into carriers or attempt to wrangle a cat who is biting or scratching. Always call your veterinarian if you are having trouble, so we can figure out a new plan that works.

The Power of the Food Reward

At the Humane Veterinary Hospital, we use peanut butter, squeeze cheese, hard treats, whipped cream and even baby food to keep your pet happy.  Sometimes this means putting peanut butter all over the wall during an exam, putting treats on the scale, or putting cheese in a muzzle. This allows us to do a physical exam, get a blood sample, or treat an ear infection without having to use heavy restraint or cause the fight or flight response. In some patients anxiety medications or sedatives can be used to improve your pet’s overall experience.  We also use pheromone sprays, towel wraps, and classical music.  Our nurses and doctors will record what works and what doesn’t work for each individual patient including their favorite foods, places they don’t like being touched, and if they do better with certain staff members.  We also offer ‘happy visits,’ or visits that allow you to bring your pet in as a training exercise, where we shower them with food and love and avoid any of the scary stuff. By doing this we can make sure that at each appointment, they are as excited to see us as we are to see them.

Focusing on keeping our patients free from fear while at our hospital is one more way we can keep them healthy. It allows us to do a more thorough examination, and get diagnostic procedures done in a timely manner.  We love when they greet us with tail wags and kisses and are committed to helping you make that happen.

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

Perhaps you’ve been to a drive-in movie.  Surely you’ve gotten fast food through a drive-in restaurant.  Maybe you have recently attended a drive-in graduation?  Well, Humane Pennsylvania is happy to give “Drive-in” a whole new meaning!

Since late spring, we’ve resumed serving our community with a new form of affordable, accessible pet care:  the Drive-in Vaccination/Microchip Clinic.  Our previous vaccination clinic offerings were walk-in models, with many people gathering in the same room- clearly something that had to be tweaked once COVID-19 struck.

Wanting to hit the ground running, we contacted other shelters and health departments that had been offering drive-in vaccination services for years to see how they had operated such clinics.  Using their tips, as well as some of their “lessons learned,” our clinics have gone smoothly.

The clinics are now popping up around Reading.  They started in our own Humane Veterinary Hospital parking lot, but it’s made sense to move them to various locations, just as we did with our original vaccine clinic model.  Each new location has the potential to expand our audience, which is just what we want:  the more people that know about the Drive-in Clinics, the better!  Different spots also mean that we get the chance to create positive new relationships with other businesses and organizations in the community, and that always opens opportunities.  For example, we’ll be in the parking lot of Nightclub Reverb for one of the October clinics (thanks, Reverb!).  Nightclubs previously had been overlooked, not coming to mind as an obvious shelter or vet hospital connection.  This gave us the chance to ask, “why not?!”  Their parking lot is a great space for our Drive-in Clinic, plus their neighborhood and their general audience are pet owners too!

So, what’s the goal of our Drive-in Vaccination/Microchip Clinics?  To get as many dogs and cats vaccinated and chipped as possible, of course!  Drive-in Clinics let us offer affordable, accessible vaccines for some of the diseases that are most dangerous to our pets.  (We’re able to provide Rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats, DA2PPV for dogs and FVRCP for cats.)  And the microchipping increases the chance that a lost pet gets reunited quickly.

It’s a Pay-What-You-Can model that lets us provide services to everyone.  Our cost is about $10 per service.  Pet owners who can pay for the services their pets receive helps cover our costs.  The pet owners who contribute a little more help us to provide services to those who can’t pay anything.  And for those pet owners who can’t afford to pay anything, it’s free; we happily vaccinate/microchip those pets too.

Pet caregivers register ahead of time, online or by phone.  This lets us keep the flow of cars going as they arrive.   Our team of staff and volunteers check clients in, line up the cars, review previous vet records, and confirm the vaccinations and/or microchips that will be given.  We serve dogs and cats on separate dates, so kittles don’t have to hear barking (we know the car ride is tough enough).  In turn, pets are taken to the vet’s station, vaccinated and/or microchipped, and placed back in their car before they know it.  Owners conveniently and safely stay in their vehicles, with the whole process taking only minutes.

Opening up Drive-in Clinic options can really be a game changer for pet owners.  It’s another tool in the toolbox for taking care of pets.  For some of our clients this is their only opportunity for veterinary care for their pet at this time.  For others, pets may get the “basic” vaccinations from us, letting their owner sock away money for additional vet care, like a dental cleaning or other vaccines their pet may need.  With COVID’s impact, our clinics are seeing an even wider range of clients, and we’re here for them all.

We’ll continue to explore how we can best serve our community.  With so many things that are currently in flux, it’s likely that we may tweak the Drive-in option or introduce new options.  What won’t change is our commitment to working towards every pet getting what they need to be happy and healthy and at home.

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Weeble: An Adoption Story

September 1st, 2020 | Posted by Chelsea Cappellano in Uncategorized - (6 Comments)
By: Laura Gibbs, Animal Care Technician for the Humane League of Lancaster County

In January of 2017, a man brought a small cat in a laundry hamper into our shelter. He said he found her on the side of the road. She was near death: pale, sick, severely emaciated, and she couldn’t walk or stand. She also had the worst ear infection I had ever seen.

After a thorough exam, our medical team was uncertain if she was going to survive. Regardless, we had hope. She was put on a strong regiment of antibiotics, and I opted to bring her home into foster care with me. I named her Weeble after those toy commercials back in the 90s, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

For the first few weeks, Weeble’s care was almost around the clock. She needed medications, regular cleanings for her ear infection, and general help getting around. But through it all, she was a trooper who purred constantly and was always down for a cuddle and a head bonk. She had won me over, pretty quickly to be honest, and I promised her that if she made it through this, I would adopt her.

Then, almost a month into her stay with me, came the scariest night. I noticed something wasn’t right— she was very lethargic and just not herself. I took her temperature and my heart sank when the thermometer read 105—I ended up taking it three times in case I was wrong. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if she would make it through the night. But I stayed up with her; I had the window open in the room she was staying in with a fan on (in the middle of February) and covered her in bags of frozen peas to try and get her temperature down.

Thankfully, Weeble made it through the night. That morning, I took her to the shelter to see what we could do and get her on the path back to recovery. I will be forever grateful to my coworkers that day—she was very touch and go and her fever kept spiking, but they got her through it. A couple days and a tearful reunion later, Weeble was back at my house.

Over the next few weeks, Weeble seemed to be feeling better, so I started to introduce her to my crew at home. She and Henry (my blind cat) became inseparable and could often be found curled up in his favorite igloo bed together (while Henry groomed her). It was during this time she was well enough to be spayed, and during surgery, our vets found a large polyp that they removed and a cleft palate that they fixed. After she healed from surgery, Weeble started to play and play hard—and almost two months to the day when she was brought in was the first time she did stairs, this also happened to be the day I adopted her.

Then, Weeble very suddenly took a turn for the worse. She again became very lethargic and had an extremely high fever. We had taken her to the veterinary hospital the day before, but this time it would be different. Although her fever broke, this illness was one too many. I stayed up with her all night again, and at 4:55am in the morning, Weeble passed away.

This is not the end of Weeble’s story. She still lives on in our hearts. I even got a tattoo memorializing her, and I think of her almost every day. She taught me determination—like when I saw her play so hard she would pant and when she did steps for the first time; she fell down but got right back up and did them again. She taught me courage—for a cat that was found on the side of the road, she had to go through a lot of medications and ear cleanings multiple times a day all while she purred and made biscuits. And she taught me how to simply be happy—because I think, at the end of the day, for those good few weeks, that’s what she was… simply happy.

It’s been two years since Weeble has passed, and I wouldn’t trade the two short months I had with her for anything. I know firsthand how hard it can be to adopt those hard luck cases, but it’s always worth it… especially when you realize that you’re giving them a real chance at happiness. While you may not have them for long, for these animals, it’s all the time in the world. The rewards and the lessons they teach us outweigh the sadness they leave when they cross the bridge.

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