A Manifesto

September 24th, 2018 | Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Karel Minor, Humane Pennsylvania CEO

Last week I gave you a thesis. A thesis comes from the head. You need to plan from the head or you don’t get things accomplished. But you need to be driven from the heart or what you get accomplished is meaningless. At the Walk for the Animals & Walktoberfest earlier this month I got a bit whipped up in my welcoming remarks about what we are doing with our new funding and service partners. It felt a bit like a manifesto. Manifestos come from the heart. Sometimes you need to actually write out what you actually feel, not just what you think.

#####

A Manifesto:

American shelters are Death Machines.

For a century animal shelters killed millions and no one cared. For decades animal shelters killed millions and told us it was inevitable. For years animal shelters killed millions of animals and told us it was our fault. Now animal shelters kill millions of animals and tell us they are not killing them because they only kill 10% or less. The No Kill of 10% is 100% death for the animals in that 10%.

No Kill is a lie shelters tell themselves and we tell you. We pretend that if we save 9 out of 10, we save them all. Simple math shows this is a lie.

Animal shelters focus on death. Bad animal shelters kill. Good animal shelters are good because they kill less. Good is better than bad, but it is not good enough.

Would we brag that we send our children to be educated in a No Kill school? That we work at a No Kill job? That we worship in a No Kill church? Do we shop at No Kill grocery stores? Do we count ourselves lucky to walk out of our school, job, church, or grocery store alive? In what other part of our lives do we sing the praises of merely walking out alive?

Not dying is not the pinnacle of achievement, it is the base line expectation. Yet we pat ourselves on the back for only killing 1 in 10. We pat ourselves on the back for supporting organizations that only kill 1 in 10.

We sing our own praises that we offer the humane alternative of death in exchange for life. Why is the binary choice life or death for animals who are not dying?

  • The alternative to hunger is not death
  • The alternative to suffering is not death
  • The alternative to homelessness is not death
  • The alternative to illness is not death

The alternative to hunger is food. The alternative to suffering is succor. The alternative to homelessness is a home. The alternative to illness is health. The alternative to death is life.

In all lives, death is inevitable. Sometimes it is the best choice to relieve profound illness or suffering. It is not always the only choice. It is never the right choice just because there are no alternatives at hand. It may be a choice but it is never the right choice. Even if it is the choice only 1 time out of 10.

People and animals have rights. They have the right to food. They have the right to a safe shelter. They have a right to be free of fear and pain. They have a right to be made healthy when they are sick. They have a right to being treated with respect and dignity, even if they can’t access or even articulate these rights.

American animal shelters steal these rights from animals when they steal their lives in the name of welfare. Even when it’s only 10% of the time. They steal these rights when they warehouse, stack, cage, and hide animals away and declare it to be a life. A life in a shelter is not the life intended for animals. Being a caged animal is not the alternative to death. Life in a home is the alternative.

Humane Pennsylvania will not be a place of death, it will be a place of life. It will not be a place of hunger, suffering, pain, fear, perpetual jail, or indignity. It will be a place of life.

When death is the right choice for an animal, it will not be a place of disrespect for life or truth. Humane Pennsylvania will not lie and tell the world that death is not death because we have a new term for it. We will be a new organization. We believe in life and we repudiate death.

Death is death. Life is life. Humane Pennsylvania chooses life. Choose life with us.

 

#####

Whew! I sure glad I got that off my chest! I think I’m going to cancel my haircut and hang out my freak flag now. Or, I’ll just get right back to work marrying our Manifesto with our Thesis, and save some more animals.

Share

Karel Minor, Humane Pennsylvania CEO

A Thesis

For over 100 year the animal welfare community has been approaching animal welfare as if it was the disease itself, and not merely a symptom of something else.  It wouldn’t be the first time people have done that. Ulcers were thought to be caused by stress by the entire medical community until they were proved mostly be caused by the Helicobacter bacteria.  A similar misdiagnosis was made for cervical cancer, which is now recognized to be overwhelmingly the result of an Human Papillomavirus infection. 

What if we’ve been similarly misdiagnosing animal cruelty?  Humane Pennsylvania (HPA) believes this is now largely the case.  We think that the cures for the underlying causes of much of the animal cruelty and suffering we see have already been discovered.  In fact, much of the cure has been utilized, but without a clear understanding of how the cure should be applied, what the proper dose may be, and what the curative mechanism is.

Humane Pennsylvania, with the help of The Giorgi Family Foundation and its staggering $3.1 million dollar gift to HPA, is intend to change that. The Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives initiative is the vehicle by which HPA will test a new thesis on how we can end nearly all companion animal suffering in our community.

For over a decade HPA has worked to change the approach to saving animals and we’ve danced around three core ideas…

  1. That animals are not the problem to be solved, it’s the problems of animals which need to be solved.
  2. People aren’t the problem, they are often as much victims of the problems facing animals as the animals themselves.
  3. And most importantly, there is solution.

This final statement is important because for over a century, even as recently as 26 years ago when I started professionally in animal welfare, the assumption was that the problems facing animals were insurmountable and broadly untreatable.

Humane Pennsylvania has been developing a model of attacking animal suffering as a disease, one with underlying causes we could address and overcome.  We’ve compared it to fighting a Polio or a Typhoid outbreak.  Our newest approaches have been modeled in community and world health interventions.  These approaches have been effective, but not fully curative.  That’s because we didn’t quite have it right.  Animal suffering isn’t usually a disease like Polio or Typhoid.  It’s more akin to lung cancer or diabetes.  It is a disease which presents as an acute illness but is the result of a constellation of underlying factors, factors which are often controllable.

Some people spontaneously present with lung cancer or type 2 diabetes.  Nothing they have done or no way they have lived can explain why they got the disease.  But we also know that 80%-90% of lung cancer is related to smoking.  Lung cancer is very definitely a disease, but in 9 out of 10 cases the real “disease” is smoking cigarettes.  Just as most type 2 diabetes is the result of issues in diet, weight, and exercise, factors which can be changed and negative impacts can be reversed.

So, too, is the case with most companion animal suffering.  A small number are truly out of the blue, acute cruelty issues.  It is hard to plan for a budding psychopath torturing his first dog.  But most cases of animal suffering are not the result of things that are out of our community control.  Most animal suffering is more akin to the slow progression to type 2 diabetes as a result of a build-up of the negative impacts of lifestyle, until one day the person is diabetic.  Worse, like the “choice” to smoke, “choices” made for animals lead to acute danger for animals when they face life and death in a shelter or on the streets because of the actions of their caretaker.

What if we could offset these dangers to animals based on the choices and actions of people?  Could we wipe out the life threatening animal welfare equivalent of diabetes or cancer by changing how people choose to live with and care for their animals?  Yes, we can.  Not the way animal shelters have been trying to do it for years, but we can.

Circles of Control and Limits of Capability

For years, animal shelters have been trying to make people do things out of our control.  You should love your dog.  You should keep your cat inside.  You should adopt, sterilize your pet, feed them well, see a veterinarian, you should, should, should…. For people who were naturally inclined, this message took, and to great effect.  Death in our shelters is down 80% in the past 40 years.  Sometimes it took because the message resonated and sometimes because people just opted for the best path.  Why do these messages and the cajoling we do work with some people and populations and not with others?  Why do some people “choose” to care for their pets properly and others care for them in such a way that their animals end up languishing or dying in shelters?

For the same reason some people still get diabetes, or lung cancer, or become addicts, despite all the messaging out there telling them not to smoke, be sedentary, or take drugs.  Simply telling someone what they should or shouldn’t do isn’t enough to change behavior, even behavior that may prove profoundly dangerous or damaging.  Chronic disease or behaviorally caused acute disease can’t be lectured into remission.  Treatment is needed.

Humane Pennsylvania believes that the animals entering shelters overwhelmingly do so because the humans they are attached to lack one or more of the following:

  • Caretakers lack genuine knowledge or skills required to prevent animal suffering.
  • Caretakers lack ready access to (or skills to access) better alternatives or resources to prevent animal suffering.
  • Caretakers lack the positive habituation required to prevent animal suffering.

Why are these three points significant and what can they tell us about how to achieve rapid positive impacts?

First, many people lack the skills or knowledge required to properly care for a pet.  This is not necessarily willful ignorance but can be a factor of socioeconomic factors.  At Humane Pennsylvania’s veterinary hospitals we routinely treat the pets of people who do not have the experience many others do when it comes to navigating the animal healthcare network, let alone a clear understanding of exactly why successfully navigating that pet healthcare network is fundamentally good for animals.  Let’s focus on just the veterinary piece of the puzzle.

Often these are people are at an educational or economic strata that has resulted in being ill equipped and inexperienced.  Many of these people use the emergency room as their primary care health provider.  They use school resources or the local free clinic as their pediatric resources.  They’ve never experienced what so many take for granted, such as a long-term relationship with any healthcare provider, at a well-staffed and equipped office, and receiving reminder cards and texts.  Let alone a modicum of respect.  If people haven’t experienced this in their own family’s healthcare, why would we think they’d have experienced it with their pets?  This lack of basic skills acquisition is a major hurdle for many, who do not even know what they don’t know about caring for a pet.

Second, let’s assume that our lecturing has worked and these folks who lack skills try to access resources.  Where will they find them?  Will they be able to afford them?  Poverty is an enormous barrier to providing proper care to a pet.  Simple distance and transportation is often enough to prove an insurmountable barrier.  The City of Reading has about 90,000 people and it had only one veterinary hospital until HPA opened its hospital.  By comparison, the rest of Berks County is home to no fewer than 20 veterinary practices for the remaining 320,000 odd people in Berks.  That’s a one vet to 45,000 people in the Reading City and one vet to 16,000 people or less everywhere else.  Some people simply have less access to good veterinary resources and all of the benefits they bring.  Even those who do may not have the financial resources to afford the level and quality of care you and I may take for granted.  That results in delayed care, sub-standard care, or potentially no care provided by even some of those who have the knowledge and skills to seek proper care out.

Finally, good choices must become habitual. Cognitive behavioral changes are crucial. For the same reason people don’t keep New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to not remember to take your pet to the vet every year.  That’s why we get reminders.  I’d never remember to go to the dentist let alone the vet if it wasn’t for text and mail reminders.  But what if you move around a lot because you’re poor and reminder cards can’t reach you? What if you don’t use “regular” services that even provide these reminders because they are inconsistently offered?  You never build up that habit, that “muscle memory.”

If we want at risk communities to have those good habits, we need to be the people to help create them.  We can’t fault people for not knowing what they need to do, how to do it, and then complain they don’t figure it out on their own.  We need to not just educate them (we’ve been doing that for decades), not just provide generic access (we’ve been doing that for years), we need to actually help them to put that knowledge to use, in the places where it will help their pet, in a way that will stick, be repeated, become a generational expectation and habit.  Does that mean reminding people to show up more than you or I might need?  Yes.  Does that mean driving some people to their appointments?  Maybe.  Does it mean possibly even bribing people to show up with incentives?  Possibly.

And before anyone gets all high and mighty about helping bad pet owners:  We aren’t helping them, we are helping their pets.  Come to grips with that.  If you don’t like people but you like animals you still need to work with the people.

Now, I just came at this from the angle of basic veterinary healthcare.  Extend this to proper nutrition, behavioral counseling and training, general good care and husbandry, or what to do in emergencies.  There are so many things that so many people don’t know how to do, don’t know how to access, and don’t have good habits for doing.  We intend to try a new approach to change all that.

Same Pieces, Different Puzzle

Just as the causes of diseases have sometimes gone undiagnosed, sometimes the treatments for them go unrecognized.  Sometimes these treatments were used for some other disease or in some other way but it turns out to be useful in new and novel ways.  This is often the case for cancer or anti-viral drugs, which may be effective in treating new diseases or are even more effective against old ones when used in combination or in different doses.

That’s what we are doing in our Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives initiative.  The pieces are very familiar.  But we’ve recognized the puzzle has changes.  So, what are the pieces of the puzzle?

  • Pet sterilizations services to 100% of community need.
  • Pet vaccination services to 100% of community need.
  • Identification microchipping services to 100% of community need.
  • Pet food insecurity program expansion to 100% of community need.
  • Emergency/disaster response and sheltering capability for 1,000 animals at a time.
  • Detailed and expansive data collection (complete pet and needs census).

These may all sound familiar.  That’s because they are.  The difference is the scope, scale, timing, and duration.  HPA has identified a specific population to serve – Reading and Reading adjacent municipalities – to provide a focus of services.  We are targeting and leveling the services – delivering differentiated services to the financially capable, the financially at risk, and the financially destitute – to deliver the right services in the right way to suit the needs of specific populations.  And we have picked a time frame to deliver these services.  This duration aspect is critical.

We seek to achieve this service delivery in just three years.  We want the biggest bang for the buck and to deliver all these needed services all at once in a short time span.  To follow the disease model, we are seeking to identify those suffering and deliver treatment, identify those as risk and deliver inoculation against disease, and to identify and combat any outbreaks as the happen.  Whose animals are suffering now, whose animals are at risk for suffering, and whose animals might begin to suffer?  By attempting to reach 100% of the need in a short span, we can then ramp down the need for ongoing high level efforts and costs.

We picked this above list of services because we think these are the key services which will drastically cut the number of animals entering shelters for preventable reasons, or allow animals to leave shelters faster.  Our hope is a 50% decrease in intake from the service area.  This reduction has been targeted because we know a 50% reduction allows shelters to suddenly make huge strides in life saving because they are no longer constrained by space and time to help the neediest of the truly homeless pets.  Reaching this goal community wide – we’ve already done in in our own shelters – is what leads to reaching no kill community save rates of 90% or better. 

We also picked these services because they are largely veterinary based and we know, and research shows, that veterinary interventions and relationships are among the single biggest positive factors in a pet’s life and are most likely to keep them out of shelters as either surrenders or strays.  There is a great deal of planning, thought, and research that went into this list and I’ve already gone on too long in this post to address them each now.  However, in future posts I will be returning to each one to provide detailed explanations for why we believe these are the keys to successful implementation and outcomes of this initiative.  And why we are betting $3 million dollars on this approach.

In A Nutshell

After 2,300 words, I’ll put this in a nutshell and give you the elevator speech (the explanation you can share with someone in the amount of time it takes you to ride with them in an elevator).

Animal shelters have done a lot in the last 50 years but we still have animals dying in shelters and suffering in our communities.  We think that the right combination of existing approaches, used in new ways, scope, and scale can change that and make a big enough change that any community can reach true no kill lifesaving outcomes in an extremely short period of time.  We are spending $3 million dollars in three years to deliver targeted services; spay/neuter, vaccination, microchipping, and pet food supports to people and pets who need it, to 100% of community need.  We believe that this will decrease shelter intake from the target community by 50% and that will allow save rates in our local shelters to sky rocket.  Berks County will become a no kill county, not because we get them all adopted, but because we keep most pets from ever entering a shelter in the first place. Berks will become the first No Suffering County.*

Will it work?  Beats me, but we really think it will and we are basing that optimism on data, research, and experience.  The Giorgi Family Foundation, and many other lead donors on this project have enough confidence in our vision and plan to support it with their hard earned money.  Hundreds of staff and volunteers trust it enough to give us their valuable time and talent. I hope you will consider giving us some of each.

This is the start of the effort and the conversation. Be a part of it and be a part of our attempt to achieve something new and wonderful.  And save lots and lots of animals from needless suffering and death.

*P.S.  Lancaster County, don’t feel left out! Many of the models that the Giorgi Grant will help create will be rolled out in Lancaster for pets and people there, too.  Of course, what we need is some visionary donor leadership in Lancaster County like the Giorgi’s provided in Berks.  If you’re that visionary donor, call me….

Share

By Tawny Kissinger | Lifesaving Programs Coordinator at Humane Pennsylvania

We love our foster care volunteers and it is because of their compassion, kindness, and patience that our Foster Care Program continues to thrive. However, we are always looking for new foster families to become involved!

Foster families provide a lifesaving second chance to animals in need and foster animals range from; puppies and kittens too young to go up for adoption, animals recovering from surgery, those who find the shelter environment difficult to adjust to, etc. and include cats, dogs, and small animals.

The summer months bring about an increased need for fostering, so we sat down with Tawny Kissinger, Lifesaving Programs Coordinator at Humane Pennsylvania, to learn more about how foster families provide valuable care to foster pets throughout our community.

HPA: For those who are not familiar with the program, what is the Foster Care Program?

TK: The Foster Care Program facilities animal care as they transition from the shelter to stay in a person’s home. This length of stay varies depending on the reason for fostering. Animals are placed in foster care for a variety of reasons, which include…

  1. An animal has an extreme medical condition that prevents us from placing them up for adoption at that specific time.
  2. They are too small to receive spay or neuter surgery.
  3. An animal needs socialization.
  4. They need time to decompress, outside of the shelter environment.

HPA: Why is this a significant program for our organization?

TK: Without the Foster Care Program the shelter would become over crowded. This would cause one of two outcomes…

  1. Animals would be euthanized due to overcrowding or…
  2. We would not be able to accept animals that are in need.

During the summer months foster care is most needed. We see tons of kittens come into our shelters that are too small to receive spay or neuter surgery. Without the care of foster families and individuals in our foster care program, a majority of these kittens would not be properly cared for.

HPA: Who benefits from this program?

TK: Both animals and people benefit greatly from our Foster Care Program! Foster parents see the direct impact they have on the pets in their care – as they help us save animal’s lives.

Studies show that animals that go into foster care have a higher chance of being adopted. The animals are in a less stressful environment and typically show their true colors. The Foster Care Program also benefits adopters. Adopters are provided with a greater understanding of how their new pet will adapt to living in a home setting.

HPA: What is the goal of the program?

TK: The ultimate goal of our Foster Care Program is to save animals lives and help them be happier, healthier pets.

HPA: How can people get involved with the program?

TK: Fostering is easy! If someone is interested in fostering they can start by filling out the Foster Volunteer Application. Or they can stop by either The Humane League of Lancaster County or The Humane Society of Berks County shelter locations to complete the foster volunteer application.

As an organization we are continuing to improve our Foster Care Program. I would love to see more and more animals transition into foster homes. This type of focused care greatly helps animals that are stressed or are experiencing anxiety within the shelter environment.

Right now, our foster program is concentrated on kittens that are under age, however, I would love to see more adult animals receive foster care. So far this year, we have transitioned about 240 animals in to foster care from both shelters.

This is a great success, however, we are always looking to grow our Foster Care Program and connect new foster parents with animals in need of their special kind of TLC.

To learn more about our Foster Care Program and ways you can get involved, visit the Foster Care page of our website or contact Tawny Kissinger, tkissinger.humanepa@gmail.com or in Berks County call, 610-921-2348 ext. 218, or in Lancaster County call, 717-393-6551 ext. 240.

Share

By Jennifer Wiese, Lead Veterinary Technician |Humane Pennsylvania

Patients being taken to the receiving area

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer with a nonprofit veterinary program called RAVS. The Rural Area Veterinary Services is an outreach program that combines community service, veterinary care and mentorship to bring free pet care services to underserved rural communities.

In these communities, poverty and geographic isolation make regular veterinary care inaccessible. RAVS focuses on wellness care where spaying and neutering are extremely important. They also provide intestinal parasite control, preventative medications and vaccinations, soft tissue surgeries (tumor removal, hernia repair) and urgent care issues.

My particular trip was located at White Mountain on the Apache Tribe reservation in Arizona. The majority of the community is living at or below poverty level. Often these clinics are their only source for veterinary care for their pets. The majority of the team was made up of veterinary students, as the program is geared towards those seeking certification in veterinary care. We had seven RAVS staff veterinarians and technicians and about thirteen volunteers comprised of; veterinarians, licensed, and unlicensed technicians.

The clinic ran for seven days. Day 1 was travel, set up and orientation. Day 2-6 was surgery and wellness clinic and day 7 was wellness clinic, tear down and travel. My days started at 6:00am or earlier and the day ended at 10:00pm. During this particular clinic we saw a total of 589 patients and performed over 200 surgeries.

Early each morning, clients would line up outside of the facility in order to be sure that their pets were scheduled for spay or neutering services. This list would quickly fill up and sometimes clients had several pets in need of care.

Rosie on her way home

Unfortunately, the majority of the patients we saw were immune compromised making it impossible for the animal to fight infectious diseases. Mange and tick disease were prevalent as most of the pets that were brought to us live outside 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. During the day they roam the reservation returning home at night. Because so many of the pets were unneutered or not spayed, I expected to see more aggression among them or toward us, but that was not the case.

I found it interesting that some pets were anxious about entering the building or walking on the smooth floors but realized many have never experienced being indoors. However, most pets were very sweet and were happy to be handled and shown attention.

Part of my responsibility was to help the students but I also learned important things myself…

While being a vet tech can be difficult in the face of neglect or improper care, it is important not to judge pet owners in these circumstances.

Worked along side these very talented professionals

Proper care can be many miles away if available at all and many find it financially difficult to provide proper veterinary care for their pets. Additionally, I learned how to come together with “strangers” to install and prepare an efficiently run clinic with the common goal of providing a desperately needed service to that area of the US. I have been asked to volunteer again and look forward to the opportunity to serve in a capacity that will enrich my skills, both in veterinary care and good will.

Share

By Lindsay High, Director of Marketing | Humane Pennsylvania

Recently team members from Humane Pennsylvania were invited to join other animal welfare advocates, community leaders, and government officials at a reception hosted by Governor Tom Wolf in celebration of the one year anniversary of the signing of Act 10: Animal Abuse Statute Overhaul bill or more popularly known as – Libre’s Law.

A year ago, in July 2017, an anonymous rescuer visited a farm in the Quarryville, PA and found a puppy in dire need of medical attention. The rescuer convinced the farmer to surrender the puppy.

Saved from deplorable conditions, the courageous 7-week old pup was barely distinguishable and covered with skin irritations and maggots. The puppy was within hours of death, suffering from extreme neglect and struggling to survive. Following extensive medical care, the puppy was treated and began to recover from his ordeal.

Janine Guido, from Speranza Animal Rescue, named him Libre — Spanish for “liberty,” since he was rescued on Independence Day. Following an investigation the farmer and breeder was tried and convicted.

Now a year later, Libre is a lively, healthy dog who’s fight to survive inspires countless animal welfare organizations, advocates, and animal lovers to continue to demand change.

“I want to thank Libre and we are here to celebrate him. Because of him we have celebrated a really good year in Pennsylvania. Let me just name four things; a year with stronger protections for our pets and our animals, and a year with harsher penalties for those that would harm an animal, a year where we have a better and more humane Pennsylvania. ” – Governor Tom Wolf

Karel Minor, CEO and President of Humane Pennsylvania highlited that Humane Pennsylvania played a key role in bringing forth additional improvements to the law in order to enact the most comprehensive animal protection bill in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. With impassioned conviction and in association with the Federated Humane Society of America, we mobilized our supporters, community members, and government officials to push for changes to the law. In alignment with the Act 10 bill, many other anti-cruelty provisions have been enacted.

“Most people do not realize that before this law was passed, veterinarians could be sued for reporting animal cruelty and Humane Society Officers could also be sued for enforcing animal cruelty laws.” – Karel Minor, CEO and President, Humane Pennsylvania

Over the course of the past year, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other humane organizations have partnered with Humane Police Offices, state and local police agencies, and legal authorities to provide training on Act 10. We are beginning to see the impact of the new law through these training programs, increased prosecutions, and trials for misdemeanor and felony charges, and sentences with appropriate penalties.

We are now shifting gears to the Animals in Distress, also called the “Hot Cars” bill. This bill includes all distress situations such as extreme weather conditions, tangled collar, etc. This is another opportunity for us to push great legislation through to become law. Please make the call to your state senator and ask them to Vote Yes on House Bill 1216.

This bill has two of three necessary considerations before final passage. Find your legislator now. We need to protect distressed dogs and cats in motor vehicles by allowing law enforcement to remove unattended pets without liability for damages.”

Following remarks by Governor Wolf and other advocates, Libre was celebrated by all of those in attendance and even enjoyed what we can only assume was a delicious pup cake!

Learn more about Libre’s Law and the importance of the impact of House Bill 1216, the Hot Car bill, and contact your legislator today.

In the insightful words of world renowned Primatologist, Jane Goodall, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Share

The Miracle which is Maisy

June 18th, 2018 | Posted by marketing in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

By Chelsea Cappellano | Office Coordinator at Humane Pennsylvania

When I was asked to write about a positive front desk experience, I truthfully didn’t even know where to begin. While I get to interact with several wonderful customers, most of the time in the shelter world it feels like we sometimes have to experience the bad before we get to see the good…which brings me to Miracle Maisy.

If you’re not familiar with Miracle Maisy, she was a 2 year old, spayed female cat discovered by two local sanitation workers during their route in Reading last April. As their trash truck ran, they stopped compressing the trash in the back of the truck when they heard an unusual animal-like sound. They dug through the trash until they found the source of the noise. A cry for help. A cat had been brutally abused, tied up, and discarded in the trashcan. She was inside a trash bag doused in gasoline. The two trash men acted very quickly in getting her into the Humane Society of Berks County shelter, which in turn gave her the best chance of survival.

Maisy Before

As someone who was still getting familiar with the animal welfare field, seeing a petite cat look up at me drenched in gasoline was an absolute shock. So many emotions where running through my head, and I knew we had to act quickly. Immediately after receiving as much information as possible from her rescuers, I booked her in and she was taken across the street to The Humane Veterinary Hospitals Reading for treatment.

After receiving round-the-clock care from our diligent veterinarian team, Maisy was finally stable enough to be placed in a foster home where she continued to improve. This was the first step in trying to find her a forever home. At the front desk, we received hundreds of phone calls and emails daily in regards to Maisy’s condition and if we knew when she would be available for adoption. People from all over the world were following her story.

After sorting through hundreds of adoption applications, we found the best home possible for Maisy. Maisy was adopted almost a month after she was brought to us for care. With any adoption, we always follow up and check in for updates. Within the first week pf being in her new home in we were relieved to learn how well Maisy was adjusting. This again was confirmation she was placed in the perfect environment.

Over a year later, the heroes who found Maisy, were recognized at the Local Red Cross Heroes Award breakfast. I was thrilled to attend the breakfast and awards ceremony, where they featured Maisy’s story and recognized the two gentleman who ultimately saved her life. This story impacted so many people and animal lovers around the world. It truly affected me on a personal level, not only because of the condition of Maisy when she was brought in, but because of my involvement throughout her time at the shelter.

Just because an animal may be in rough shape, doesn’t mean they can’t have the life they truly deserve. Sometimes in the shelter environment, animals must be given a lot of help in order to gain the life they truly deserve. Seeing an animal like Maisy, receive dedicated care and strive forward proves how rewarding this job can be.

Maisy After

For more information on how Miracle Maisy is thriving and to donate to the Miracle Maisy Medial Fund, which supports all life-saving services and emergency medical care for abandoned, abused and neglected animals in need visit HumanaPA.org.

Share

We are thrilled to announce that in partnership with Redner’s Markets and Purina, we are expanding our Ani-Meals Pet Food Program into the new and improved, Spike’s Pet Pantry.

As we continue to grow and differentiate our pet food pantry program, we have renamed the Ani-Meals Program to Spike’s Pet Pantry. This new nomenclature better defines the goal of the program which is to provide resources, specifically food, for pet owners in need of proper nutrition for their pets. The ultimate goal is to prevent pet surrender due to food insecurity or temporary hardship.

Thanks to the generosity of the teams at Redner’s Markets and Purina, in support of our mission to empower people in our communities to increase their capacity to care for animals so that all animals are healthy, safe, and treated humanely – throughout the months of June through December 2018, Redner’s Markets will be offering the opportunity for customers to easily donate to this life-saving program.

In seven Redner’s Markets throughout Reading, customers will find Spike’s Pet Pantry endcaps with simple tear-and-show donation slips in $1.00, $5.00, and $10.00 increments. Customers can grab a donation slip from the display and during check out, give that slip to the cashier. The donation slip total will then be added to their total bill and the funds will directly benefit Spike’s Pet Pantry recipients. Customers are also encouraged to use the hashtag #NoPetHungry and share their contributions and participation on social media throughout the six month campaign.

During the planning of this fundamental campaign, Meredith McGrath, Corporate Dietitian for Redner’s Markets, shared that her and her team were inspired to collaborate on this campaign because…

“Last year our friends at Purina approached us about doing some adoption events in our stores with the Humane Society of Berks County. After the four day event, we noticed what an impact it had on the community and we were all eager to take this mission to the next step to help more animals find and stay in loving homes.”

This program is in alignment with the mission of The Humane Society of Berks County to provide accessible resources for families facing temporary hardship. As opposed to families having to surrender their furry family member due to momentary difficulties, Spike’s Pet Pantry provides proper nutrition for pets to remain in their familiar and loving environments. Karl Minor, President and CEO of Humane Pennsylvania highlights the importance of this program within the community by stating…

“One of the main reasons why pets are surrendered is pet food insecurity. Sadly, animals die because families cannot fed their pets. The Spike’s Pet Pantry program helps ensure pets in our community are happy, healthy, and well-fed at home.”

The seven (7) participating Redner’s Market location are listed below…

  • #26 Lessport
    5471 Pottsville Pike
    Leesport, PA 19533
  • #42 Sinking Spring
    4870 Penn Ave
    Sinking Spring, PA 19608
  • #72 Muhlenberg
    3205 N. 5th Street Hwy
    Reading, PA 19605
  • #77 Berkshire
    1149 Berkshire Blvd
    Wyomissing, PA 19610
  • #87 Douglasville
    1179 Ben Franking Hwy West, Suite 11
    Douglasville, PA 19518
  • #89 Kenhorst
    300 Kenhorst Plaza
    Reading, PA 19607
  • #93 Exeter
    Shelbourne Square
    5462 Perkiomen Ave
    Reading, PA 19606

For more information about this partnership and Spike’s Pet Pantry, please visit humanepa.org or contact Tawny Kissinger, Lifesaving Programs Coordinator, at tkissinger.humanepa@gmail.com or call The Humane Society of Berks County at 610-921-2348.

Share

By Dr. Alicia Simoneau | Humane Veterinary Hospitals Reading Veterinarian

A frequent concern I hear from new pet owners with brand new puppies or a newly adopted adult dog regards house training. I wanted to give some tips for success that may work for your recent or next puppy or dog addition.

The first thing I think works great is positive reward. We can do this in two ways. One way is with our voice. Praise such as “Yay for potty” reinforces that is what you are looking for. The second way is with a food reward. Dogs need instant gratification. It is important that we are rewarding while the good behavior is happening. This means while your dog is urinating or defecating outside. Take treats with you. Giving a treat once your dog is back in the house reinforces that they should come inside, not go potty outside.

In order to give a treat and acknowledge good behavior we have to be right there with the dog. I recommend taking the dog or puppy on a leash and harness to the same part of the yard every time. And the same times of the day too. Tell them with your voice the goal of the trip outside: “Potty time”. Or get fancy and ring a bell attached to a string from the door knob. Over time your dog will understand that if they ring the bell with their nose that this is a signal to you they want to go outside.

Regular, consistent potty breaks outside every 2 hours initially at age 2 to 6 months, then every 4-6 hours once a puppy is 6 months, and then every 6-8 hours when over 9 months will help. If a situation arises that a dog or puppy needs to be left alone for longer than those time frames an alternative means for relief must be given. For instance, a potty patch (artificial turf on a plastic tray), puppy pads, or a dog walker can be used.

Don’t let your dog or puppy have the run of the house as the norm until they are reliably house trained. They need to be able to be seen for signs of needing to go outside. You may try a small area in a kitchen with a play pen, a crate, or keeping the leash and harness on in the house and having them follow you around. What you chose depends on the age and size of the dog. Look for those signs: A sniff of their rear end, sniffing and circling, acting anxious, looking at the door that goes outside.

In short, consistency from the family with positive reward is the best approach to house training success!

Share

Differentiation

May 1st, 2018 | Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

If I could distill the reasons for the success of Humane Pennsylvania and the animals we serve have enjoyed over the past 13 years in one word it would be “differentiation.”

Differentiation stands in complete opposition to the way most sheltering organizations view the world and the problems we face. Our industry tends to think in terms of broad generalities and in the plural.  It thinks of animals, people, and breeders. Humane Pennsylvania has long focused on the animal, the person, the breeder.

Why does this matter? It matters because animals, people, everything, are not the same and how one handles them and their needs vary widely.  A cat is not a dog or a boy and a golden retriever is not a chihuahua and a house cat is not a feral cat.  Yet most animal advocates still try to take our work down to the broadest, most common denominator.

For example, at Humane PA 13 years ago (then The Humane Society of Berks County), we had a “cat problem.” We took in 4,000 cats, we killed 3,000 cats.  Broadly, that was a problem for cats that seemed insurmountable.  But we began to differentiate.  Of those 3,000 doomed cats, 1,000 were deemed “feral” and that was not something we could handle, so they were killed.

1,000 seemed like a lot of feral cats to those of us who were new to HSBC, so we further differentiated.  What did we mean by feral?  It turned out that we meant cats that hissed, clawed, and were nasty, and maybe truly feral, too.  Truly feral cats were, in fact, pretty much impossible for us to handle at the time so we set aside that group for the moment and looked at the nasty ones.

Why were they nasty and what could we do about it? We gave all incoming cats a 24 hour cooling off period.  The result was nearly four out of five cats demonstrating themselves to be simply unhappy cats, not ferals.  With a little time those cats were happy.  We reduced euthanasia of supposedly feral cats by 800, literally overnight.

That left us with 800 extra cats for the adoption pool. We didn’t look at them as generic “cats” we broke down the population to those most in danger of being killed.  This included cats who would be killed just because we ran out of space.  We created what was then a groundbreaking, controversial, and largely unheard of practice of simply giving cats away when we ran out of space (Free to a Great Home Program).  If our goal was to not kill cats, why not simply choose to not kill them?

It worked. We only gave away about 200 cats that first summer of 2006 but the extra space allowed us to avoid killing any for space the entire rest of the year.  We won a national best practices award, our first time on the national stage.  And we gathered the data to show that these adoptions were actually more successful long term than normal adoptions.  Fee waived adoptions are now common practice across the country.

We then extended the practice to special needs cats; cats that had been with us more than 90 days, then 60 days, then 30 days; and older cats. Then dogs.  By the last quarter of 2007 we killed our last animal for space and we haven’t looked back.  Euthanasia rates of 75% turned into live outcome rates of 85%, 90%, and higher.  Now we have even found ways to handle feral cats successfully.

We did it one, two, ten, one hundred animals at a time. We did it by seeing the trees that made up the forest, not just the forest.  We have tried to extend that to everything we do.  Our events are tailored to provide as many opportunities to give for as many people as possible.  We create services that target as many groups and pockets of people and animals in need as possible.  We differentiate.

Is it easy? Hell, no, it’s way harder.  But it’s way more successful and it’s the only way to get that last, hard to place group of animals adopted, or hard to serve humans served, or hard to hook donors giving.

Shelters want to know how to save them all? Stop thinking about them all.  Differentiate.

Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share