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

If you ever had a pet go missing, for any length of time, you know how terrifying and stressful it can be.

The fear of never seeing them again sets in immediately. Or if they end up hours away – how will someone get in contact with you? What if they’re hurt and need help?

The thoughts, concerns, and anxieties can go on and on until your beloved pet is back in your care, safe and sound.

July is National Pet Loss Prevention Month, which is intended to bring awareness to the many animals that go missing every year. Animals are family – and they deserve to stay safe in their homes, by their owner’s side.

To help ensure your animals remain safe by your side, we are going to discuss some helpful pet loss prevention tips.

Microchip

What is a microchip? A microchip is a tiny radio-frequency identifier that is inserted under your pet’s skin, typically between the shoulder blades.

The chip has a unique identification number that appears when it’s scanned with an appropriate device (typically found at shelters and veterinary hospitals). Some police officers even carry microchip scanners now so they can immediately scan stray animals to see if they can get them back to their owners quickly.

If your dog or cat is not already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about setting up an appointment. Many shelters and rescue groups hold vaccine and microchip clinics, some of which you don’t even need an appointment to attend.

Throughout the year, Humane Pennsylvania offers pay-what-you-can vaccine and microchip clinics. You can find upcoming dates by going to humanepa.org.

Register and update the chip! Many people who have had their pet microchipped make the mistake of not keeping their information updated or even checking to make sure their pet’s microchip is registered. Contact your microchip company regularly to update addresses, phone numbers, and alternate contacts.

Not sure if your pet is microchipped? Many shelters and veterinarians will scan your pet at no cost. Call those in your local area to find one that can help.

Once you receive a microchip number, you can use AAHA’s microchip lookup at https://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/ to determine whether the microchipped is registered, what company your pet’s chip is registered through, and how you can update necessary info. You can also find out how to get your pet’s chip registered if it isn’t already.

Report a Lost or Found Animal

If you find a lost pet, there are some important things you should do to play your part in helping that animal get back to its owner.

  • Check with neighbors to see if anyone recognizes the pet.
  • Take the animal to a local shelter or veterinary hospital to get scanned for a microchip.
  • Call your local shelter to complete a found report or to see if they have any lost reports that match the description of the pet you found.
  • Post to Facebook groups and websites created for helping owners find their lost pets.
  • If you are unable to keep the pet safe while you try to find the owner, call the municipality where you found the pet and see who they contract with to advise you on where to take the pet to safely stay while the owner is located.

Spay and Neuter

Spay and neuter isn’t just important for controlling the pet population; it can also prevent animals from going astray. Intact males are highly driven to roam and find a mate, so they are more likely to find ways out of the home.

Supervise

Don’t leave your pets unsupervised. Even in a fenced yard or enclosure, you should always be with your pet in case they find a faulty fence post, are a master digger, or have perfected the art of fence climbing.

Collars, Harnesses, and Leashes

Make sure your dog wears an appropriate fitted collar or harness. You don’t want to find out the hard way that the collar was too big and your beloved pet slipped out of it while trying to chase a bicycle or squirrel.

Use the “two-finger” rule to check for a proper fit by sliding two fingers between your dog’s neck and collar to make sure the collar is not too snug or too loose. You should not be able to pull the collar up and over the dog’s head.

Remember that dogs grow, lose weight, and gain weight just like people do, so it is important to frequently check how your dog’s collar fits and also that it is in good condition.

Harnesses are also great options for smaller breeds and brachycephalic breeds (short nose dogs like pugs and bulldogs) with delicate windpipes. Harnesses can discourage pulling, provide you with better control, and prevent injury to the neck area.

There are many different kinds of harnesses, so do your research or work with a professional to identify which harness is best for you and your dog.

Retractable leashes are generally not safe and are not recommended. Retractable style leashes provide little control and often extend very far, which can be dangerous if you and your dog are walking near roads or encounter other animals that are not pet-friendly.

Additionally, the cord used in these leashes is not durable and can snap or easily tangle around the walker or dog and cause serious injury.

Talk to your veterinarian or trainer before making the decision to purchase a retractable leash.

Proper Identification

Not only should your pet have properly fitted collars and harnesses, but they should also have proper identification if they happen to get loose.

An identification tag with your pet’s name, along with your phone number and city, can increase the chances of you reuniting with your pet.

Having your pet’s current rabies tag, license tag, microchip tag, and identification tag on their collar is beneficial and increases the chance of your furry friend getting back home.

We hope you never have to experience the terrible stress of having a pet go missing, but hopefully, following these tips will result in a quick, healthy, and happy reunion!

 

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Today we celebrate Lauren Henderson, our Director of Development, who continuously perseveres and exceeds our expectations! Lauren truly puts the “L” in building the best community anywhere to be an animal or animal caretaker, and we are so happy to have her on our team! Learn more about Lauren and some of the fantastic things she’s done since her time with Humane Pennsylvania!

What do you love most about working for Humane Pennsylvania?
I genuinely enjoy connecting people to our organization, whether by attending an event or having their business partner with us for a fundraiser. It’s so lovely to see people really embrace our mission and have an understanding of what Humane Pennsylvania is all about.

What do you see as your most significant accomplishment since your start with Humane Pennsylvania?
My biggest accomplishment has been my ability to continue to grow and learn within the organization. When I started here five years ago, I was the Events/Donor Relations Manager. Now, to be Director of Development is very exciting and rewarding for my career.

What is one of your favorite Humane Pennsylvania memories from the past year?
A couple of months into the pandemic, we started selling mystery boxes to boost the Humane PA’s income. My coworker Chelsea and I would come into the office (with masks on, of course) for a few hours a day and stuff hundreds of boxes! It was a lot of work, but seeing the support still coming in was fantastic, and hanging out with Chelsea is pretty great too.

What part of your position do you enjoy most?
I love forming relationships with the donors and corporations I work with to become as passionate about supporting the animals we serve as we are.

What is one fun fact about you that we might not already know?
I am a HUGE Philadelphia sports fan; I love the Sixers, Phillies, Eagles & Flyers!

Thank you, Lauren, for all you do for Humane Pennsylvania and the animals in our care!

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In light of Pet Fire Safety Day, which takes place on July 15th this year, we took time to chat with Andy Gudinas – Berks County Suppression Instructor, Lieutenant and Paramedic, Samantha Kaag – Berks County EMT and Firefighter, and Chad Moyer – West Reading Fire Chief, about the different ways we can ensure the safety of our pets before and during a fire!

What are some common ways pets can start a fire?

Andy Gudinas (A.G.): Most common are kitchen fires, whether by bumping the knobs for the burners or knocking something onto the stove.

Samantha Kaag & Chad Moyer (S.K./C.M.): Stoves are the number one cause of fires by pets. Electrical cords are also a hazard because dogs, cats, mice, bunnies will sometimes chew on them. Unattended lit candles are not only dangerous on their own but can be easily knocked over by pets.

How can I prevent my pet from starting a fire?

A.G.: Prevention is not so easy when animals have free reign. Keeping them out of the kitchen unattended is best practice.

S.K./C.M.: You can remove stove knobs or use stove knob covers, block off access to the kitchen, and never leave an active stovetop or a lit candle unattended. Also, DO NOT leave food boxes, bags, or anything your pet may want to jump up to get in, on top of the stove. Keep pet-designated food/water bowls away from risky areas. Hide your plugged-in electrical cords appropriately and check on your pets (especially smaller ones), periodically, when left to roam.

What should I do with my pets during a fire?

A.G.: You would be surprised; the pets usually have a natural instinct to flee when there is a fire. A lot of the time the pets beat the humans out of the house.

S.K./C.M.: Try to evacuate the house with them; this can be made easier by keeping leashes and crates near an exit and having an escape plan in which someone is designated to grab the animal, if able to do so safely. If you cannot secure them get out and stay out.

What if I can’t take my pet with me when I escape from the fire?

A.G.: If you can’t get them out, DO NOT go back in to get them. Let the arriving responders know the last known location and a description of the animal.

S.K./C.M.: You should get yourself to safety and let the dispatcher and/or firefighters know that there are pets inside, upon arrival, and tell them about any potential hiding spots your pets may run to. When you get out, stay out, leave it to the firefighters on the scene.

How can I prepare myself, my family and my pet for a fire (in general)?

A.G.: Practice fire drills and establish escape routes. Designate a meeting place. If you do this often, it becomes muscle memory for your pet. Positive reinforcement is key. Lastly, post pet finders on or near the front door — they let responders know to keep pets in mind while performing primary and secondary searches.

S.K./C.M.: You can prepare by having a fire plan in place for your family that includes your pets; having a plan for a fire is important for any family to practice. There are also stickers you can put on your doors and windows to alert firefighters that there are pets inside.

In one year, there are nearly 360,000 house fires; pets cause over 1,000 of them. Unfortunately, almost 40,000 pets do not survive because of fires each year.* Awareness and having a fire plan can save the lives of not only you but your loved ones and your pets as well.

*These statistics were provided by Samantha Kaag, Berks County EMT and Firefighter.
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As summer slowly (but surely) approaches, many of us are getting ready to enjoy some family-friendly barbecues and lively firework shows to celebrate the season. While these traditions are just what we need for this summer, we also want to be mindful of how they might frighten and become a danger to our pets. Here are some useful tips to keep your pets safe during upcoming events.

NEVER Use Fireworks Around Pets

  • Lit fireworks can be extremely dangerous to pets. Sparks from the fireworks can cause severe burns and/or trauma to the face, paws, and skin. Never use fireworks around your pets, as many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic, and other heavy metals.

Leave Pets at Home

  • While most humans enjoy summer parties, most pets do not. Loud noises, crowded areas, and unfamiliar settings can frighten pets and cause them to become stressed and disoriented. For your pet’s safety, refrain from taking them to firework festivities. Leave them at home instead, away from direct noises, in their own environment where they will feel safe.

Keep ID’s Current

  • Loud noises from fireworks and other festivities may scare your pet and cause them to escape from your yard or home if they are not safely enclosed. Be sure that your pet is always wearing a collar with an ID tag that includes: your name, current phone number, and any other relevant contact information.

Visit HumanePA.org to learn more about our Healthy Pets Initiative, which provides microchip services to keep pets safe and happy in their homes.

Beware of Hazardous Products

Create Barbeque Boundaries

  • Barbeques are a lot of fun, full of delicious foods and drinks…for humans, however, some of these items can be deadly to your pets. Be sure your pets cannot get into any alcoholic beverages.
  • Keep in mind that many human foods are not meant for pets; pet treats are always better to give your pets than human food, as human foods can cause severe digestive issues for pets. Be sure to avoid avocado, raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, and products with the sweetener xylitol.

No Glow Jewelry for Pets

  • While it might look cute to put glow jewelry or glow sticks on your pets, the plastic and chemicals inside the tube are hazardous to pets if ingested. If your pet chews and/or swallows the plastic attachments or chemicals, they can be at risk for excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation, as well as intestinal blockage from swallowing large pieces of the plastic.

Safely Store Matches and Lighter Fluid

  • Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which, if ingested, can be hazardous to pets. Lighter fluid, meanwhile, can be irritating to your pet’s skin, and, if swallowed, can cause gastrointestinal irritation, and other issues.
  • Be sure to store all matches and lighter fluid in a safe place where pets cannot access the items by jumping or climbing.

If your pet(s) ingest a poisonous substance like the ones listed above, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline ((800) 213-6680) immediately. Do not induce vomiting or give anything orally to your pet unless specifically directed to do so by your veterinarian.

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This week is National EMS Week! To celebrate, we wanted to shed light on some of the amazing first responders throughout Berks County and surrounding areas, as well as the animals that keep them motivated to help save lives!

First, we have Sarah Galbraith, an EMT for Western Berks Ambulance Association whose favorite companion is her cool cat, Randy Savage!

  • Tell us a little bit about you and your pet.
    • “Hello! My name is Sarah Galbraith. I’m an EMT for Western berks and I’m the proud Mom of a cute little 2-year-old cat named Randy Savage. Randy’s favorite activity is laying inside the window to watch birds and bunnies. We have to make sure our screens are properly secured at all times lol.”
  • How did you find your pet, or should I say how did your pet find you?
    • “About 2 years ago, I felt like I was stuck in a rut and usually felt very alone. I went to the local shelter to consider a pet and saw Randy. I fell in love instantly. He was found as a stray and brought in. He was sick at the time so he was separated from the other cats and he had a scar on his eye. They were guessing he was about 3 months old so he was still pretty small. I’ve always loved black cats so when I saw him, I just knew that I couldn’t leave without him. Best decision I ever made.”
  • After a long day on the job, what does your pet provide for you?
    • “My cat comes and greets me at the door when I come home no matter what time it is. This is something that sounds so minuscule but I look forward to it every day. Just hearing him run down the steps to see me always puts a smile on my face, no matter how my day went!” 
  • When you have had to deal with a more difficult call or encounter, how does your pet help you cope?
    • “My cat is generally like your stereotypical cat. Everything is on his terms. The majority of the time he just stares at us from far away, judging. But I think animals can sense our moods and know when something is off. There are days that I come home feeling so defeated and don’t want to deal with anything but then Randy comes and greets me. He’ll stick around and stay close to me. He’ll convince me to play with him and without even realizing it, I’ll start to feel better. He’ll remind me that I have to feed him so then I’ll make sure to eat as well. Caring for him reminds me to also care for myself.”
  • Have you ever experienced any animal encounters on the job?
    • “I love when there are animals on a call! Well, friendly ones at least. I find it interesting to see what kind of pets people have!”
  • Have you ever had any positive personal or professional experiences with Humane Pennsylvania/Humane Society of Berks County?
    • “I, unfortunately, have not but I look forward to their opening. I’m thinking about getting Randy a friend :).”

Next, we heard from Platoon Shift Supervisor for the City of Allentown, part-time Paramedic with the Wester Berks Ambulance Association, and dog dad to 3 amazing pups, Philip Banks!

Being part of the EMS life is harder than most can handle! You see people at perhaps the worst times in their lives — when they are extremely sick, injured, facing death, or even when they are at rock bottom. Most times the comfort you provide, besides the medicine and treatment, is all people need. When I come home from my shifts, it takes a while to unwind and clear my mind from everything that’s been encountered in my shift. I come home and before I can get the door open, my pups — Koda, Bella, and Hunter — are usually whining and crying because they can’t wait for me to come in!

As soon as the knob is turned, there are noses sticking out the crack of the door. After dinner and some playtime with the pups, it’s time for bed. They can never sleep close enough! They surround me and lay so close to me with their heads on my chest! The love and affection they provide, perhaps knowing the things I see during shifts, makes it so easy to drift off and sleep! It’s truly something I look forward to every day when I get home from work.”

We also heard from Teresa Weaver, Owner/Handler of Skip – a certified KPETS Therapy Dog. Skip provides comfort to first responders in crisis!

“Skip is a purebred Golden Retriever, born in July 2016. I’ve had Skip since he was a puppy and have been his trained KPETS handler since he was one year old. His acquired specialty is being a first responder and crisis therapy dog. Below are a few of the activities with which Skip has been involved:

  • Frequent visits to local fire, ambulance, hospitals, and police stations.
  • Crisis events for First Responders & Emergency Room Staff.
  • Community service events with fellow first responder friends.
  • Crisis response events for several high schools that have dealt with student deaths
  • Emotional support programs for at-risk youth.
  • Berks County DA Office/Children’s Alliance Forensic staff visits and special request assignments
  • Assemblies at local elementary schools with Reading Fire Department & Berks County Sheriff’s Department to help educate children on the various purposes of working dogs.

Skip does so much to bring joy to people in the community and I am so honored to be his dog mommy!”

Finally, Kristin Racis, EMT-B at Western Berks Ambulance Association, shares her favorite things about her furry companion, her dog Keeley! 

  • Tell us a little bit about your pet.
    • “Keeley. She just turned 3 years old on May 9th. Keeley is a Pitbull mix. Keeley loves being outside. Whether it is for a hike/walk, doing yard work around the house, playing, or simply just lying in the sun. As long as she is outside, she has no care in the world!”
  • How did you find your pet, or should I say how did your pet find you?
    • “I adopted Keeley my senior year of college when she was 6 months old. I found her at a rescue shelter online. They adopt and foster their dogs out to the east coast for a greater chance of a new home. They shipped Keeley to me and I picked her up in Harrisburg. Adopting Keeley was the best decision of my life. She helps me in so many aspects of life, she doesn’t even know!”
  • After a long day on the job, what does your pet provide for you?
    • “Working EMS can be a very stressful job at times. We see people in their most vulnerable state. A day or night of work can be tough. I think one of the reasons why I wake up every day and continue to serve my community and help people in need is because of my dog. She instantly gives me peace of mind and makes me forget about everything bad that happened as soon as I walk through the door. Just the instant smile, love, and happiness she provides as soon as she sees my face just lights up my world — there’s no other explanation. She is a great company. I think everyone who can, should invest in some type of animal. They really are great for emotional support.”
  • When you have had to deal with a more difficult call or encounter, how does your pet help you cope? 
    • “Dealing with difficult calls with the job and happen almost every day. Keeley helps me by distracting me. Her love, her kisses, her wanting to play and go on walks. All of this helps me clear my mind and let go of that day’s stress and worries. She greets me and jumps on me and is just so excited to see me. It’s like she hasn’t seen me in weeks! It’s another reminder that I am cared for and I am needed.”
  • Have you ever experienced any animal encounters on the job?
    • “I have not experienced any encounters on the job where an animal needed help, but have heard stories and they seem very tough.”
  • Have you ever had any positive personal or professional experiences with Humane Pennsylvania/Humane Society of Berks County? 
    • “No, I have not had any encounters at all with Humane Pennsylvania/Humane Society of Berks County but I am looking forward to visiting the new building in the future.”

Thank you to all of the first responders that put their life on the line in order to save ours! Your hard work and dedication do not go unnoticed and we’re so happy you have furry friends to help you get through the toughest of days! If you or anyone you know is in need of a companion as amazing as the few mentioned above, please visit us at https://humanepa.org/adoption/.

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Being associated with a hardworking, dedicated employee like Aida May makes us proud. Her contribution and commitment to our work are unmatched and, without her, this journey would certainly not be the same. On behalf of Humane Pennsylvania, Happy 10 Year Work Anniversary! To show our appreciation, we sat down to learn more about Aida and the impact she’s made – here’s what she had to say:

  1. What do you love most about working for The Humane League of Lancaster County?

The difference we’re able to make in people’s lives every day. It’s a different experience here. We’re able to come in and help everyone, whether it be re-homing their pet, finding them a new pet, or even situations where they come to us for resources when they’re not able to financially care for their pets for medical reasons. That’s probably the greatest thing — being able to keep the animal in their home.

  1. What keeps you motivated to do the great work you’ve been doing for the past 10 years?

I would say just seeing the difference in some of the animals that come to us, like Ned for example. I’ve seen him come in with matted hair and underweight and just not in the best condition. Now he’s 100% different. So you see these animals, whether they’re bottle baby kittens or underweight adult dogs, and the care that the team here puts into them and the general dedication from the public. It really helps and we’re able to turn it around for these animals and get them into loving homes.

  1. Are you a dog person, cat person, or critter person?

I’m a cat person for sure!

  1. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I would say definitely both of my first and current supervisors. Becky – she worked with me when I first started here and I had no experience. I worked in retail prior to coming here. I had pets growing up, but no experience with animal welfare, and she really molded me into what I am now. And of course, Leann. She has helped me grow so much, from working as a tech to now being in a managerial position. It’s something that I didn’t even know I could do, but she helped me grow and helped me make decisions that led to my continued growth within the organization.

  1. What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is it important?

I’m constantly learning about the medical aspects of the shelter. That’s something that’s a pretty big passion of mine and it’s something that’s always evolving. I love working with our veterinary team and learning about why our animals are feeling certain ways and what we can do within the shelter to help them. That way in future cases, it helps me make decisions in regards to what the next step would be for the animal. Does it need immediate care? Can it wait until our veterinarian and I have a minute to calm the animal down?

  1. What do you see as your biggest accomplishment since your start with HLLC?

My biggest accomplishment would be: starting with no experience when I first came into the shelter and being able to move up within the organization. I started as a temp in the front office, left for a little bit when I had my first child and then I was hired back, full-time, as an animal care technician. I was a tech for a few years and now I’ve worked my way into a supervisory role with the rest of our team. I’m always amazed by how far I’ve come within the organization. It’s a great organization, and I love that we’re able to see people grow within it.

  1. What’s one of your favorite Humane Pennsylvania memories from the past year?

Hmm, from within this past year? This has definitely been a crazy year but I would say, even with Covid-19, we were still able to help with transports from hoarding situations and we were able to work alongside other locations. I love that we were able to make a difference despite COVID and still keep the ball rolling. We continued helping our community and anywhere else that it was needed.

  1. Do you have a favorite animal at the shelter currently? If so, who?

My favorite would have to be Vincenzo! He is an FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) positive cat that has been with us for a little while. He came to us after a caretaker outside of the shelter noticed that he had some pretty severe wounds and his eyes were not in the best condition. I really loved watching him come around. He was so shy when he first got here and now he just makes biscuits everywhere. I love him. He’s so sweet and, after months of medical care, he’s finally ready for adoption.

  1. What’s a task you love doing around the shelter?

I would say anything that involves being hands-on with my team. They’ll typically call me when we have cats that are a little bit harder to handle. I love working with the team. I spend a lot of time in my office, with paperwork and stuff to do, but being able to help them when they’re giving vaccines or just giving them an extra hand with anything, in general, makes me happy.

  1. What three words would your coworkers use to describe you?

I would say compassionate and understanding and patient.

  1. What’s one fun fact about you that we might not already know?

I own a pretty wide variety of animals. Of course, I have my cats and I have a couple of dogs. I have an axolotl, which is a Mexican Walking fish. I have guinea pigs and beta fish as well.

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Brandea Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator for Humane Pennsylvania

It was August 11th, 2016. I was scheduled as an Adoption Technician and was called up for an incoming dog. I walked into the front lobby and there she was — cold, wet, and shaking. The man who found her was holding her tightly in his arms. His wife walked me through how they stumbled across her that afternoon while they were walking out to their truck. They found her curled up underneath it in the parking lot. Unsure of what to do next, they decided to bring her to us. I thanked them for helping her as we slowly exchanged her from his arms to mine.

I carried her back to her new bedroom in our kennel, where she was greeted by several barking dogs. The louder it got the more she started to shake. I placed her on a big fluffy comforter, opened her cage door, and placed her information card in the slip on the front of her cage door. She sat up, looked in the direction of the door, and ran outside. I made it a point to walk past her kennel several times that day to see if she was acclimating okay. Each time I saw her curled up in the outside part of her run, I walked around and placed a blanket on that side to make sure she remained comfortable. “You don’t want to lay on the hard cement, Anastasia.” She stood up and walked as far away from me as she could.

Another week went by and we didn’t hear back from any rescues that we reached out to. All the while, I was working on gaining Anastasia’s trust. By the end of the second week, I was able to get Anastasia out of her kennel on her own without forcing her. This is when I realized she wouldn’t walk on a leash or cement but would run around as soon as she felt grass. I worked on her leash walking, with the assistance of hot dogs, and carried her from one grassy area to another. She came to me whenever she heard my voice and started following me everywhere. Shortly after, the Director of Shelter Operations asked me if I’d be interested in doing an adoption write-up on Anastasia. She told me that it was decided that they were going to place Anastasia up for a special adoption. My heart sunk. Of course I wanted to help but the thought of not being around Anastasia was one I didn’t want to get used to.

At the time, I was still living with my family so I couldn’t just take her home. I talked them into being okay with Anastasia staying with us temporarily as a foster. This way I could see if she would fit in with the other family pets before I got my hopes up. Our Doberman, Ava Mae, wasn’t a fan of her at first. After all, she was the “baby” of the family and didn’t like to share much. Anastasia was oblivious to pretty much everything. As long as she was sitting next to me, on my lap, or playing in the yard, life was great! It reached a point where I decided we had to see if the relationship between the two dogs was going to work out or not. One morning before work, I removed both of their leashes in the backyard and hoped for the best. Within seconds, they started playing. I burst into tears — happy ones of course — as I saw Ava Mae appearing to guide Anastasia around the backyard. I looked at my mom and said “That’s it, she is staying.”

On September 12th, 2016, I signed the paperwork and made it official.

Anastasia had her 5th birthday this past March. She loves spending time with her new little human and enjoys scrambled eggs and deer bologna regularly (she upgraded from her love of hotdogs). Every now and then she will still run into furniture, trees, or humans when she’s overcome with excitement. Anastasia has come so far over the past four years and has taught me so much about life, unconditional love, and patience. She was brought into this shelter for me to meet her. Little did I know that I needed her just as much as she needed me.

Adopting a shelter pet is a life-changing experience. By adopting, you may not have the chance to go and handpick the perfect puppy from a litter. The animals may even come with “baggage” – but who doesn’t? The animals that come into our shelter, and any other shelter for that matter, are positively unforgettable and deserving of forever homes.

So, do it! Go out to your closest animal shelter and say “hello” to all of those happy tails and biscuit-making paws. Not sure of what you’re looking for? That’s okay! The shelter staff is happy to help walk you through the animals that are available. You might be surprised who you end up creating an unbelievable bond with and, I promise, you won’t regret it.

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This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week! With over 300 volunteers that have served us throughout Berks County and Lancaster, it is only right that we thank each and every one of you for dedicating your time and efforts to helping Humane Pennsylvania build the best community anywhere to be an animal!

Here’s what some of our staff had to say about our pawsome volunteers!

“Volunteers are critically important to every aspect of Humane Pennsylvania.  Most people tend to think of the vital role animal care volunteers play as fairly simple, but as a community-supported charitable organization, volunteers serve in so many other ways.  Our volunteer board of directors helps guide the mission and vision of Humane Pennsylvania and ensures stewardship of our donor resources.  Event and fundraising volunteers help connect Humane Pennsylvania with people in the community who want to support our work.  Professional service providers — ranging from attorneys to mechanics to builders — help us stretch our dollars so we can put the most into care for the animals.  There is no part of our work that is not touched and improved through volunteer efforts and I am truly grateful to work with all of these dedicated animal lovers!”

    – Karel Minor, CEO/President

Humane Pennsylvania is a community service organization.  Volunteers are a critical component to providing those services, as they help to connect us to the communities we serve. They provide critical perspectives and insights into the values of those who utilize our services. They represent Humane Pennsylvania by demonstrating through their volunteerism that they believe in our values and the impact of our programs. They reflect those values back out into the community, helping to carry our message farther and with greater authenticity than we could on our own.  Their support, willingness to participate, passions, and dedication help to sustain our own.  When we think of our dedicated volunteers working alongside us without compensation in what is an often joyous, but frequently difficult (and occasionally heartbreaking) line of work when they could more easily be keeping their free time for themselves, we are reminded of the privilege we enjoy most: the privilege of helping others.”

   – Damon March, Chief Operating Officer

Volunteers help the Veterinary Department of Humane Pennsylvania in a variety of ways. One way has been their help with office work in the reception area. Volunteers have helped organize medical records, scan medical records into our new cloud-based software, and have helped with data entry. This volunteer assistance helps our receptionists have more interaction directly with our clients.

In addition to office work, volunteers have helped with check-in and check-out at spay/neuter clinics. Check-in is a busy time at clinics and volunteers provide a tremendous amount of help when it comes to client interactions and discharging pets at the end of the day.

The Healthy Pet Initiative program and Community Vaccine and Microchip Clinics rely heavily on volunteer support to run as smoothly as they do. The wide array of volunteers help with everything from client interactions, translation, traffic control, data entry, and taking donations – they even assist with holding animals for exams and preparing vaccines and microchips. For the continuous hard work and dedication, we are ever so grateful!”

   – Dr. Simoneau, Chief Veterinary Officer

“Volunteering is defined as “a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labor for community service.” This definition truly sums up the volunteers of Humane Pennsylvania, and specifically, those that assist with our fundraisers, community events, mailings, and so much more. We couldn’t do it without them. The advancement team has been so fortunate to meet some of the greatest people. Volunteers help us take part in more community events, go above and beyond for our fundraisers, spend their days off stuffing envelopes and letters for mailings, and just making this the best community anywhere to be an animal. During this National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we extend our gratitude to the volunteers who give so selflessly to our fundraisers and initiatives that support our mission and the animals in our care.”

   – Lauren Henderson, Director of Development

“Our volunteers are THE best. Not only do the shelter volunteers spoil the animals and provide amazing love and care to each and everyone, but they also spoil the staff! They listen to the staff, provide amazing ideas and suggestions, and ease the very heavy load that shelter work puts on the team. Our volunteers also help our community by assisting with people coming into or calling the shelter with questions. What they do for us is unmeasurable. The most incredible thing is that they choose to take their own time, out of the kindness of their hearts, to help us. That is a big deal. They are a big deal. In the culture we live in people are go-go-go and there are always a million things going on that make it difficult to find time to do much of anything. Yet, we have an army of people who day in and day out provide such wonderful support and assistance to enable us to continue our mission. Our volunteers are devoted, caring, silly, and intelligent people we consider part of our team and helps us move mountains and make a difference. “Thank you” never seems to be enough, but we truly hope they know how much they do mean to us.”

   – Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations

“The CRC really is a resource center for Berks pet owners and more recently, community cat caregivers as part of the Healthy Pets Initiative (HPI).  A vital function of the facility is a tactile presence to verified clients who stop by Spike’s Pet Pantry as they pick up supplemental pet food and supplies, learn about our services, and come to trust us as their “pet partner”.  Volunteers keep our program running efficiently by performing regular, timely data entry, sort/prepare pet food/supplies on pantry days and pick up pet food/supply donations throughout the community. We also rely on them to help us unload and distribute tractor-trailers full of donations from the Greater Good Affiliate Program and other high volume donors so we can share resources with other animal welfare organizations, including state/county animal response teams. Volunteers graciously extend their existing relationships with valuable, pet-friendly individuals and businesses to encourage, create and maintain local engagement and support of HPI events (community vaccination/microchip clinics, etc.) and programming.  When existing, more fortunate pet owners truly understand our mission to improve local pet care and ownership habits, they become an integral part of achieving our goal to be the best community for pets and their owners. For these reasons, we are beyond grateful for the volunteers that continue to help make Humane Pennsylvania an amazing organization for animals and animal caretakers.”

– Alexandra Young, Community Outreach Programs Manager

“No animal shelter would be complete without its foster volunteers. Foster volunteers play such an important role in Humane Pennsylvania because they selflessly provide a great amount of dedication to helping save animals’ lives. Oftentimes, shelters receive animals into their facilities that can’t be placed up for adoption, whether it’s for medical or behavioral reasons. Foster volunteers open their homes and their hearts to nurse them back to health or work on their behavior – all without expecting anything in return. If it weren’t for their endless efforts, we wouldn’t be able to continue to do what we do here at Humane Pennsylvania. We are forever thankful to have such kind, caring, and loving foster volunteers.” 

– Tawny Kissinger, Lifesaving Programs Coordinator

These words cover only a fraction of how we feel about our devoted and selfless volunteers. Every person, no matter the age, that has volunteered with us has taken the concept of giving back to the highest level. For this, on behalf of the entire Humane Pennsylvania organization and the animals in our care, we are eternally grateful.

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Dr. Alicia Simoneau, Chief Veterinary Officer for Humane Pennsylvania

Spring has sprung! The warm weather will have people and pets outdoors more frequently. Be warned: temperatures like this also mean ticks and fleas will be out in full force. Here are some tips on flea and tick preventatives and reasons why prevention should be a part of your regular pet maintenance plan.

Pennsylvania is a hot spot for tick borne disease.  Some species of ticks in our area frequently transmit Lyme, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia. Infrequently seen tick borne diseases in our area include Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The same ticks that transmit tick borne disease to dogs can transmit the disease to humans as well. A tick needs to be feeding for over 18 hours before it transmits disease. It is important to use a reputable product that acts quickly to kill a tick before it can spread disease. Some products will repel ticks as well. Checking animals for ticks after they come in from outside is advisable. There are many great products on the market with a variety of routes of administration. These routes include a chewable that last one to three months, collars that last up to 8 months and once monthly topical applications. Choosing the right one will depend on your pet and your preference. Products made to be effective against ticks are also effective against fleas. It is extremely important to make sure a product that is effective against ticks is specifically labeled for use in cats.

While ticks can transmit diseases that harm the inside of a pet’s body, fleas cause diseases on the inside AND outside of our pets’ bodies. Fleas are a common cause of skin disease, allergies and intestinal parasites for dogs and cats. They are contagious external parasites that can readily jump from animal to animal or can be carried by people into a home as they jump on our clothing. Wild animals coming into back yards where our pets roam is another way a yard can be a source of fleas.  Once a flea is observed it is not sufficient to bathe once and call your problem resolved. A flea treatment needs to be used for a minimum of 3 months to get rid of an infestation. This length of time is due to the life cycle of the flea. Fleas can live in an environment without a blood meal for over 3 months. Flea dips and shampoos are not recommended due to their harsh ingredients. Flea dips do not help rid the animal of an infestation because pupae and eggs are already in the environment. Bathing with a gentle shampoo made for pets is a better option for removing adult fleas. A quality chewable or topical application for a minimum of 3 months is important treatment and prevention against future fleas. Because fleas are so contagious, all pets in a household need to be treated concurrently. Fleas carry diseases such as tapeworms, and Bartonella most commonly. Not all products that are effective against fleas are effective against ticks. Cats can have particular sensitivity to certain ingredients in low quality flea products, which should be avoided.

In summary, ticks and fleas serve as vectors for human disease. Preventing these external parasites on pets is a better option than dealing with the consequences of the diseases they cause or an infestation. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable product for your pets.

 

DO: Use year round

DO: Use a reputable brand your veterinarian recommends

DO: Ensure the product is labeled for the correct body weight and species

DO: Follow label instructions closely

DO: Check your animal regularly for fleas and ticks

 

DO NOT: Use dog products on cats

DO NOT: Use flea dips or shampoos

 

 

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By: Sarah Armstrong, Animal Care Technician for Humane Pennsylvania

So many people seem confused or disgusted when I tell them I have pet rats.

“You have what living in your house?!”

“They’ll give you the plague!”

“Aren’t they super vicious?”

I’ve heard it all.

Pet rats have been domesticated since the 18th century, so it is a wonder to me that many people still don’t realize they’re a common pet, let alone a GOOD pet. Walk into any pet store that sells small animals and you’re sure to find them amongst the guinea pigs and hamsters. They come in dozens of different colors, patterns, fur types, and varieties. Celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Clint Eastwood, and even Theodore Roosevelt have/had pet rats.

So why do rats have such a bad reputation? I think the reason many people see having rats as “icky” is due to their portrayal in media. In many movies where rats appear, they are the villains. Cartoon rats are angular and toothy, with snarling, vicious smiles, while mice are small, round, wide-eyed, and cute. Toy rats, popular around Halloween, are usually pitch black with grimy fur and red eyes. And then of course, there’s Western Society’s hatred of the wild Norway Rat, who’s lived alongside humans for centuries, following us wherever we (and our trash) go.

The people that recoil in horror when I tell them I have pet rats usually change their tune after they actually meet my rats. It’s hard to see something as a cartoonish, red-eyed monster when it’s intently licking your hand or gently taking treats from between your fingers. And as more people open their eyes and their hearts to the true nature of these intelligent little animals, more are adopting them as pets.

So, here are five reasons why rats make the best pets!

1. They’re “Pocket-Sized!”

Many apartments don’t allow for large pets like dogs or cats, but will make an exception for small caged pets like hamsters and guinea pigs. So, as long as you’re not letting your rats run around unsupervised to chew on the siding, landlords will often overlook them. While a dog, cat, or rabbit will use the whole house as their territory, rats will only take up as much room as their cage does. They’re also quiet (unless you get a particularly squeaky wheel) and won’t leave the apartment covered in fur, so any musophobic guests may not even realize they’re there! And, unlike a dog, you don’t need to expend too much energy to take them out for walks or play with them. A rat will simply be happy riding around on your shoulder or sitting with you while you watch TV.

2. They’re Friendly and Family-Oriented!

Rats are incredibly social animals. In the wild, rats live in large family groups, all caring for each other and working together, and as pets they are no different. They play together, store their food in a communal storage area, take care of their sick and elderly, and love to sleep in one big “rat pile.” Unlike the more solitary hamsters, rats are designed to be social.

Rats need to live with other rats, as a human can not provide the same type of companionship a fellow rat can, but they will still bond with their humans just as readily. I often marvel at how my rats seem to understand just how big I am compared to them, yet still treat me as if I’m just a giant rat. They will groom my hands with gentle licks and nibbles, pounce on my feet, and they are very good at communicating what they want. If my rats want to be picked up they will reach up to me, if they want me to come closer they’ll tug on my sleeves, if they want me to play they’ll pounce on and nibble at my hands, if they want to be left alone they’ll push my hand away, and if they’re very displeased with a situation they will squeak!

They also know how to be gentle. Rats have very strong sharp teeth and, just like a dog or cat, can really do some damage if they want to! But their teeth are also extremely sensitive, and they use them to explore just as much as we use our hands. When a rat uses its teeth on something, it is immediately calculating what it’s biting into and how much pressure to use to avoid damaging it. I am consistently amazed at how my rats can so gently take a sesame seed out from between my fingers with their teeth, all while barely touching my skin.

Friendliness, communication, and gentleness are all great skills to have for an animal that lives in a big family in a tight space, and that’s why rats are so good at it!

3. They’re Super Smart!

Behavior experiments on lab rats have proven time and time again that rats are highly intelligent animals. While not only socially intelligent, they are also great problem solvers  and thinkers. Studies have found rats to show empathy and regret, dream, reciprocate favors, strategize, and adapt quickly to new environments. In fact, the reason they’re so often used in experiments is they’re so neurologically, physiologically, and psychologically similar to humans!

As rats are highly food-motivated and love to learn new things, teaching them tricks is a great way to bond with your rats. Rats will usually quickly learn to come when called (mine certainly know to come when I open a bag of snack mix) but some people have trained their rats to fetch, jump through hoops, drive little scooters, pull drawstrings, and run obstacle courses! I rarely have the time to attempt all that anymore, but I do like to make sure my rats at least know “spin”, “up”, and “walk” (on their hind legs.) They love showing off these tricks for treats. Sometimes if my rats see me pull out a bag of treats they’ll come running and start doing every trick they know!

4. They’re Playful!

A side effect of being both sociable and smart is that rats love to play! Unlike a hamster, guinea pig, or even a mouse, rats love to engage in play simply for the joy of it. They will chase and tussle with each other, toys, and their humans. Studies have even found that rats will “laugh” when engaging in play (though this sound is too high-pitched for human ears.)

Rats are all individuals though, some may prefer to chase a feather on a string while others want to play “tag”, and some may just prefer to cuddle rather than be rowdy. Rats are also usually most playful as babies, winding down with age. Even so, if you want the “play factor” of a dog or cat compacted into a tiny little pocket pet, then rats are the pets for you.

5. They’re Clean! 

Pet rats are domesticated. That means they’re a lot tamer and more comfortable around humans than their wild counterparts, such as the difference between a mangy coyote and a pampered pooch. Your average pet rat won’t be scampering around in the sewers and digging through the trash for scraps.

Rats actually are very clean animals. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other (and their humans, too!) They like to be in a clean environment and you may even find rats creating a designated “trash area” and “poop area” in their cage, and they can be litter-trained. In fact, they consider humans to be pretty dirty themselves, and usually spend a lot of time cleaning themselves after having been handled (which I try not to be offended by.) As long as you keep their cage clean, they’ll be just as clean as a dog or cat, perhaps even more so since they won’t be outside playing in the dirt!

Cons to Owning Rats

So by this point you may be asking, “If rats are so great, why don’t more people have them? They’re still not as common a pet as a dog or cat!” Well, aside from the previously mentioned societal bias against them, they’re also not for everyone. For all their pros, there are also cons that may not make a rat the perfect pet for you.

Because rats are so intelligent and playful, they need a lot of space. Since it’s not very doable to let a rat safely free-roam around your house, they need a large cage, with multiple levels. A general rule of thumb is that each rat should have about two square feet of flat space to themselves. Depending on how many rats you have, that need for space can quickly add up! I have 4 rats right now; their cage has four levels and is taller than I am! I was lucky to find this cage for cheap, but if you want to have rats, the size and price of an adequate cage may be beyond your budget.

Since we’re on the topic of expenses, rats may seem like inexpensive pets at first, but you may find them costing much more than you bargained for when it comes to vet bills! Since rats are not cats or dogs, they are considered “exotics” and you need to find a vet trained in small mammal medicine. The cost of this specialized vet care can sometimes be more than even dog or cat vet bills. And rats will need a vet at least once in their lives as they are prone to respiratory issues and tumors, especially as they get older.

I find owning rats to be worth these expenses. I use CareCredit for their vet bills and budget for their needs. I buy Oxbow pellets in bulk so I save on food, use fleece as bedding so I save on bedding, and make toys for my rats (who tend to be more happy with a cardboard box than an expensive toy anyway… but isn’t that just the way with any pet?)

But the hardest part about having rats as pets is their lifespan. The average lifespan for a domestic rat is two and a half years. They start to slow down at around one and a half, and really show their age at two. I’ve heard of some rats living to be five or even nine, but I’ve had over forty rats in the last twelve years, and my longest-lived ones barely made it past three. For some, this can be too heartbreaking. To develop a bond with a highly intelligent, social animal only to have it pass away in a short time could be your deal-breaker when it comes to owning rats. I have met a few people who said they used to have rats but after they lost them they couldn’t go through it again.

And it is hard. Every time. But I believe that the love and joy that rats can give in that amount of time more than makes up for the heartbreak at the end. It also means that you’ll be more prepared for the next rat in need of a home. And there are always good rats in need of homes. If there aren’t any here at the Humane League, rat rescues are almost always at capacity, and you can usually find them on petfinder with a quick search.

Rats are fun, friendly, smart, and a drain on the wallet… but that’s what being a good pet is about, isn’t it? When I come home to see my rats all waiting to give me snuffly little kisses, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect pet.

 

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