Written by: Inga Fricke, Director of Community Initiatives, Humane Pennsylvania

Like most of you, I am trying to navigate our new reality, trying to stay vigilant but still maintain as much normalcy as possible.  And like you, I’ll bet, I’m grateful for the reassuring presence of my pets as my interactions with other humans become fewer and fewer thanks to social distancing.  Watching the news this morning, I happened to hear an interview with Rabbi Jeffrey Myer from the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh (the site of a horrific mass shooting in October of 2018) and what he said resonated with me – he said we shouldn’t actually be practicing social distancing, we should be practicing PHYSICAL distancing with social CONNECTION.  To me, this sums up the best of what I’m seeing in our communities right now, and it is especially relevant to us as pet lovers.

I’m seeing messages all over social media encouraging people to foster pets while they’re stuck at home, and it’s working!  Shelters are hosting drive-through foster events, scheduling adoptions by appointment, and coming up with other creative ways to help clear out their kennels and cages.  Wisconsin Humane Society, for example, announced on Friday that 159 animals were adopted and another 160 went into foster care just 5 days after they put out the call for help – that’s amazing!  It’s a wonderful example of what can happen when animal lovers come together through social connection to help pets in need. If you’ve ever been curious about fostering before, now’s the time to try it!

Not all pets have been lucky enough to find temporary or permanent placement, of course, so shelter workers, just like doctors, nurses, truck drivers and grocery store clerks, aren’t getting time off while the world is shutting down around them.  They perform a critical lifesaving function each and every day, and they serve the animals in their care regardless of what type of disaster is happening around them. If you are able, consider dropping off some snacks or cookies (or toilet paper!) at their front door as a thank you, or maybe give them a shout-out on social media for staying in the trenches so others can stay safely at home – they deserve it!

Pet food pantries, like Humane Pennsylvania’s Spike’s Pet Pantry are continuing to serve pet owners in need.  Our methods of operation have changed to keep everyone at a safe distance, to be sure.  At Spike’s, we used to welcome people into the lobby of our Community Resource Center to pick up their food, now we’re talking to them through our Ring doorbell and leaving their food outside the door.  Other groups, like Baltimore’s Charm City Companions, are packing pet food into care packages and leaving them right on clients’ doorsteps.  But while the physical distance between us and those we help has changed, our social commitment to serving their needs remains intact.

Each and every one of us can do good for pets while we’re stuck indoors. Newly minted home-school parents can start your own “Rescue Readers” program by having your children read a favorite story to their cat or dog (many shelters, like Humane League of Lancaster, have had to suspend their formal reading programs for shelter animals temporarily, but will be eager to restart them when they can).  Or perhaps add some shelter-friendly crafts and projects to your child’s routine.  Shelter pets always need a stash of Kong toys stuffed with frozen peanut butter and biscuits inside, you can store them in your freezer and eventually drop them off at the shelter.  Empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls (you know you’ve got ‘em!) can be converted into wonderful treat dispensers just by putting kibble or small treats inside, cutting a small hole in the middle, and squishing the ends together.  You might also crochet soft, warm blankets for shelter pets to warm up on – or if you’re like me, and aren’t especially crafty, there are easy no-sew blanket options with instructions available online.  Just Google “crafts to help shelter pets” and you’ll find pages full of fun ideas (like this one from GreaterGood.org).

You can also look for ways to connect directly with other pet lovers in your community who might need some extra support right now. I’m sure you’ve seen the heartwarming stories of people offering to make food deliveries, pick up medicines, or provide other necessary services to neighbors in need. To be sure, people self-islolating because they are in a high risk category are likely to be in need of food for their pets, which can be dropped off right at their front door, or might be grateful for a helping hand to take their dog to the park for them to get some exercise. And just knowing they have a neighbor they can call on to take more extensive care of their pets should they become ill will be a huge relief (all indications right now are that dogs and cats are not sources of virus transmission, but of course everyone should wash their hands thoroughly after handling a pet that may have been exposed and ideally wash dogs to eliminate any chance of virus lingering on the fur).  Using Nexdoor, Facebook neighborhood groups and other social media outlets you can connect with pet owners around you and look for opportunities to provide social support while maintaining appropriate physical distance.

Now more than ever, we have to come together as a community of pet lovers – even as we are heeding warnings to stay physically apart. Physical distancing with social connection – that is precisely what we all need to stay strong and get through this together.

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Written by: Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations, Humane Pennsylvania

When you think of an animal shelter do you envision cuddly kittens rolling on their backs while playing with toy mice? How about dogs pleading with their eyes through their kennel doors for you to adopt them? Of course that is what comes to mind! But what about a curious ferret who reaches out of the cage to grab your sleeve or an active hamster running on their wheel? Most people go to a pet store when they want to add something other than a cat or a dog to their family. In addition to dogs and cats, many shelters also help “pocket pets” which are smaller pet mammals like guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, mice, chinchillas, gerbils, ferrets, as well as other animals like birds and even reptiles! There are even rescue groups who specialize in these smaller furry and scaly animals. In honor of National Adopt a Guinea Pig Month we would like to talk about the wonderful animals looking for homes in animals shelters who sometimes don’t receive the spotlight.

Let’s start by talking about different types of small animal pets:

Hamsters are fun and active, but they are nocturnal so they might be best if you work longer days or are home at night time. Being independent creatures they enjoy running on wheels and climbing in tubes. Each hamster is unique, so you may have a hamster who enjoys being held or you may have one that rather be on its own. Hamsters typically can live up 2 or 3 years.

Rabbits are fun animals, but require more care than most people think. They should not live their lives in a small enclosed area. They can spend their time sleeping and resting in smaller pens, but they need room to run and play. Rabbits are intelligent and emotional creatures, so regular interactions or companionship is important. Rabbits also need to stay occupied or they can get into trouble by chewing on things they shouldn’t. Be prepared to provide appropriate items for them to chew on. On average, a domestic rabbit can life 8-12 years!

Mice and rats are very active and love to play, investigate, and move around their surroundings. Rats love social interactions and make great pets. Mice can be more difficult to hold, so they may not be a good choice if you are looking for a pet you want to cuddle and hold regularly. Mice and rats typically live a similar lifespan to hamsters at 2-3 years, but some rats in good health can live even longer.

There are many different kinds of birds and some can live as long as humans. They need appropriate space and can have very particular diets. Make sure you do ample research before taking on a pet bird if you have never had one before.

Ferrets are curious, mischievous, and smart! They can be litter boxed trained and act similar to a dog or cat with their training and interactions. They generally live 5-10 years.

Reptiles require special temperatures, diets, and enclosure needs. Be sure to research and talk with professionals before taking on a reptile.

Guinea pigs are very active and have big personalities! They prefer big cages they can run around freely, but also enjoy being able to hide in a small igloo or space that makes them feel safe when they are scared. Guinea pigs are also social animals and prefer to be with others of their own species, so it is best to get more than one guinea pig so they don’t become depressed. Guinea pigs are known to live approximately 4-8 years.

Education and Care

Research, research, research! There are so many different types of small mammals, birds, and reptiles you can adopt and each kind has specialized needs from their enclosures, diet, and enrichment.

Considering your lifestyle and sleep schedule is important before taking on any new pet. Some pocket pets are nocturnal and are most active at night. Other pocket pets are prey animals and by instinct are more prone to stress. Because of this you may need to make extra considerations on where the critter is housed and if any other animals in your home may cause extra stress for the critter. Changes in diet, loud noises, moving, and bringing in new animals can all cause stress.

Veterinary Care

Just like with cats and dogs, critters require veterinary care. It is always important to establish a relationship with a veterinarian if you have an animal as they require routine care and may need emergency medical assistance. If you are adopting a critter it is especially important to take the time to find a veterinarian in your area who specializes in caring for critters because not all veterinarians will see rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles, birds, etc.

Environment

Enclosure and environment are extremely important for critters as they help them to stay safe. It is important to keep your animals enclosure cleaned regularly. Many people fail to clean critter enclosures as often as they should and this can cause serious and life-threatening medical issues. The size of the enclosure, temperature, lighting, and access to enrichment and toys are all important things to consider. There are many different critters, so if you are unsure of what type of enclosure you should get talk to an animal care professional and they will be happy to assist you.

One of the many benefits to adopting small animals is that the wonderful staff will educate you on what enclosure to purchase if one doesn’t come with the animal and how to properly care for them.

Pocket pets and other smaller critters can be fantastic pets, but they are different from cats and dogs. Take your time to research the specific needs of the animal you are considering adopting and remember that animal shelters and rescue staff are knowledgeable and happy to assist you if you are looking for information or resources. Just because these pets are typically smaller than cats and dogs doesn’t mean they require less care or can’t be loving and fun pets.  Rats are very intelligent and can learn lots of tricks, ferrets can make your sides hurt from laughing at their mischievous antics, and guinea pigs can melt your heart with their cooing and excited squeals. Open your big heart to the small animals who are in shelters or rescues looking for homes.

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I’m sure you all needed another “How we are responding to COVID-19” piece to read like a hole in the head, but here is ours.
 
In order to protect our staff and clients and to support the intent of the universal recommendations of health professionals at a national, state, and local level, Humane Pennsylvania and Humane Veterinary Hospitals will be dramatically scaling back operations until Monday, March 30, 2020.
 
  • What does this mean for animals? All animals in our care will be safe and sound, cared for by dedicated staff, as usual. However, we will be operating with a stripped down number of staff who will be providing food, care, cleaning, and medical treatment for our sheltered animals. Adoptions services will be halted until March 30. Animal intake appointments will be rescheduled until March 30 or after.
 
  • What does this mean for clients? We acknowledge that this will be inconvenient for clients and we ask that everyone appreciate the intent of the service reductions. Non-essential transactions and appointments will be rescheduled. This includes wellness veterinary appointments and elective veterinary services. Critical services and medications will be provided to clients but we will have limited staffing at both of our hospitals. We are implementing contact procedures for veterinary clients to allow them access to information and veterinary supports, including limited “televet” services. Please refer to hvhospitals.org for updates and information.
 
  • What does this mean for our services? Until March 30, some services will be curtailed completely, such as adoptions and community clinics. Others will be limited, such as veterinary services. Others are being worked out right now, such as food pantry and other Healthy Pets Initiative services. We will be maintaining staff at the phones to answer questions, and we will be posting and responding on Facebook, social media, and HumanePA.org as promptly as possible, as well as responding to emails.
 
  • What does this mean for staff and volunteers? Since we cannot operate without people, the safety of our staff and volunteers are foremost in our minds (tied with our animals!). Volunteers will be asked to stay home through March 30. Staff will be assigned as needed but there will be no furloughs. Staff not scheduled will be “on call” as needed and will be furthering their skills by completely required and supplemental continuing education opportunities. Humane Pennsylvania is proud to offer our staff a safe workplace, medical benefits, and a family friendly environment. Keeping those employees and their families healthy is important to us.
 
  • What does this mean for events? Most events conducted by Humane Pennsylvania staff will be canceled until March 30. Events after that are still on, but we will update and make changes as circumstances dictate. The Auction, Pints for Pups, etc. are still a go! And boy will we need the donations! Speaking of which….
 
  • What does this mean for donations and support for Humane Pennsylvania? We hope nothing, but we know major crisis almost always result in a short term decline in donations as everyone focuses on the problems at hand. We understand and we want everyone to focus on their own safety and the safety of their family, human and not. However, if you wish to help us when we will need it most, we would welcome it. Consider setting up monthly giving, then you won’t even need to think about it!
 
Humane Pennsylvania is well suited to handle this situation. We deal with illness and disease routinely, from kennel cough to parvo to ringworm. We know that thoughtful, consistent, decisive action is the key to saving lives and keeping a bad situation from getting worse. In this case, we are ensuring we do this for our human friends and family.
 
This situation is literally unprecedented. Some folks are freaking out, some folks are thinking it’s an over-reaction. Like most of what we do, we rely on science and the advice of experts in their fields. Health experts are telling us that social distance is what we should be practicing and non-essential activities should be curtailed. We can hope that in a couple of weeks this will have seemed like overkill. But we can’t count on that and my job as CEO and the job of our board is to protect our animals, staff, volunteers, and the public. This is the approach experts are suggesting in order to do that and we are following that advice.
 
Thank you for your support, understanding, and service to our mission. We can’t do our work without you and we truly wish you and your family safety and good health.
 
Your partner in animal welfare,
 
Karel Minor
Chief Executive Officer
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Written by: Inga Fricke, Director of Community Initiatives, Humane Pennsylvania

If you care about animals like I do, I’m sure you’ve heard a fellow animal-lover proclaim “if people can’t afford a pet they shouldn’t have one!” Chances are you shared that sentiment.  After all, seeing an animal succumb to a preventable disease or suffer with a treatable condition is heartbreaking, and makes us instinctively want to shield them from any circumstances that are likely to put them in harm’s way – and an easily identifiable, inherently “risky circumstance” for pets is the very fact that they are living with people in poverty.

But pets aren’t luxury items, like Bentleys or Birkin bags, reserved for only the privileged few who live in affluent communities. They are our constant companions, our protectors, our sources of unconditional love. They make sure we get our exercise, open doors to form connections with strangers we otherwise never would have met, and teach our children about empathy and caring for others. They are everything that’s good and pure about our lives – and they couldn’t care less what neighborhood we live in, whether we drive a car or use the bus, or how much take-home pay we have left at the end of the month.

There is no direct correlation between a person’s income level and the love and care they will provide for their pets. If that were the case, I would never have dealt with horrible animal neglect or abuses cases in middle-or upper-class neighborhoods – but I have. Nor would I have ever met amazing people living in dire personal circumstances who skip their necessary medications so they can afford to spay the stray cat who just showed up on their street, or who go without eating so they can ensure their pets stay well fed until their assistance check finally shows up – but I have. Money doesn’t stop some people from neglecting their pets, treating them like disposable commodities. And the lack of money doesn’t prevent people who

have almost nothing from doing all they can to put their pets’ needs first.

You might think “well that’s all well and good, but people still have a responsibility not to get a new pet if they know they will struggle to care for it.” Another well intentioned thought, but not necessarily reality. Most Americans are just one or two paychecks away from financial ruin – what would people say about you, as a pet owner, if you suddenly lost your job or were diagnosed with an illness that quickly drained away all your savings?

And something most of us don’t consider — very often the pets in the poorest homes are actually rescues, taken in after someone in the neighborhood passed away, lost their job, was evicted by their landlord, or found themselves unable to care for their animals for some reason. In fact, one program serving the poorest residents of Baltimore found that nearly ¾ of the pets living in those homes were acquired this way. The people who have protected them from a brief, brutal life on the streets are actually animal heroes – deserving of our praise, not our disdain.

If you still think that “’THEY” shouldn’t have pets, ask yourself – where is the cutoff? Should you be allowed to have a pet only if you make more than $50,000 a year?  $75,000?  $100,000?  What if the clerk at the pet store notices you are feeding your cat Friskies, rather than a super-premium $80-a-bag prescription diet food — should you be placed on a “watch list”, flagging you as a potential “bad pet owner”? If you can’t spend $3,500 for laser treatment and aqua therapy for your arthritic dog, should he be immediately removed from your home and placed with an owner who can? Who will decide which homes are “worthy” of a pet and which aren’t? If the idea of someone else deciding whether or not you deserve to keep your pet feels icky and uncomfortable, that’s because it is! We all know that our love for our pets has nothing to do with what food we can afford to buy, or how many luxuries we can give them; the same is true for people who are living in our most underserved communities.

It is true that proper pet care costs money, there’s no doubt about that. But we can do more good for animals by putting our judgments aside and instead lending a hand in support. Humane Pennsylvania is doing just that; our new Community Outreach team is working hard every day to ensure that pet owners in our community can get the best possible care for their pet, regardless of their level of income, whether they have a car, or what language they speak. If they want to provide better care for their pets, we want to help them get it, no questions asked.

As animal lovers, we instinctively want to keep all animals out of harm’s way; the easiest way for us to do that is to stop judging the quality of pet owners by the size of their paychecks and instead look at the love they have in their hearts. By this measure, ours is easily one of the richest communities around!

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Written by: Karel Minor, President & CEO of Humane Pennsylvania

Humane Pennsylvania recently sent out an email appeal asking our supporters to donate to another organization, the

Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PASART).  If you think organizations don’t normally invite people to give money to another organization, you are correct!  But in this case, PASART’s success benefits us and the animals in Berks and Lancaster County and beyond.

 

Unloading surviving chickens

PASART is a national caliber organization that serves to assist the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and other state and local responders with how to handle animals in the event of emergencies.  It was only the third SART formed in the US, Berks County was one of the earliest County Animal Response Teams (CART) formed way back in 2006, and Humane Pennsylvania was and remains the only animal welfare organization which took on leadership of its local CART.

Berks CART has been activated in floods, ice storms, blizzards, hurricanes, and even in large scale animal disasters like the recent case of a trailer load of crated chickens being lost all over the highway.  Our expertise in handling animals allows other first responders and agencies to focus on the human aspect of their job, while we focus on the humane aspects.  Our CART is self-funded through donations and relies on Humane PA staff and volunteers.

 

PASART receives extremely limited State funding, has only one part time employee, and coordinates CART efforts around

Some of the chickens Berks CART was mobilized to rescue

the entire state.  If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t have the crucial support we need to do our job well.  That’s why their financial health is important to us.  They make a very little bit of money go a very long way.  That’s why Humane Pennsylvania is proud to support them, why I am proud to serve on their board of directors, and why I hope you will consider supporting them financially with a donation.

 

When you give to them, you help Humane Pennsylvania, too.  Disasters can and do happen here.  We need a strong Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team to be ready and able.  Please click on the link below to make a donation now and please check out their website to learn more about the importance of this high quality animal welfare agency.

 

 

Donate to PASART 

Learn more about PASART

 

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The Importance of Enrichment

February 10th, 2020 | Posted by Holly Giffin in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Written by: Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations

When the cold, winter temperatures drop outside, the dangers to your pets can also increase.  The cold winter days can also make it difficult to get some quality time outside with your pet.  We all know a tired dogs makes a happy dog, so what can you do if 20 degree snowy days are stopping you from getting in your routine walk, dog park visit, or outdoor play time?  You may be surprised to find that physical exercise isn’t the only way to tire out your playful pooch.

Pet enrichment can be described as altering or manipulating an animal’s environment to increase activity and encourage normal species behavior in order to satisfy that animals innate needs. This means when we place animals in environments, like zoos, shelters, and even homes, it can restrict their ability to act out their natural instincts, such as digging, hunting, or herding. Animals can develop behavioral problems if they aren’t able to express these natural behaviors. Similarly, consider how humans read books, meditate, knit, or play video games to help them relax, reduce stress, and stimulate their mind and senses. Sometimes animals need our assistance to create the ability for them to act on their inborn behaviors to reduce stress and anxiety.

Enrichment comes in many forms, including feeding, toy, social, cognitive, sensory, and of course physical. Many toys and games can fall into multiple categories of enrichment.

Feeding enrichment can come in the form of puzzle feeders that make your pooch take a little extra time and actually have to work to get their meal, which is similar to hunting in the wild.

Toy enrichment is easy now that the pet toy market has exploded and provided many different options. You can provide your dog a toy like a Kong, which you would stuff with treats after adding a base, like peanut butter or broth, and then freeze overnight. Your dog has to work to get the frozen treats out of the inside. There are also toys like flirt poles that can help dogs with impulse control and tire them out quickly with minimum energy expense on your part.

Social enrichment is great for dogs who enjoy meeting people and animals. If your dog displays anxiety or aggression towards people or animals then this would not be an appropriate form of enrichment for your pet without the assistance of a professional trainer. For the dogs who do enjoy social interactions, parks, beaches, and pet friendly events can be great places for your dog to meet new people and pets. A bonus is that they will be surrounded with LOTS of new smells. Which leads us to sensory enrichment.

Sensory enrichment is any type of enrichment that stimulates one of the five senses. For hounds or dogs who are particularly good at nose work, you can bury spices or other animal’s scents and then have your dog investigate and find the scents. Sensory enrichment can also include bubbles, or a noise machine to expose your dog to new sounds they may have never heard.

Cognitive enrichment would include puzzle toys or games that require the pet to have to think and problem solve.  Teaching your dog new tricks can be stimulating by causing them to follow instruction with repetition and reinforcement.

Physical enrichment is probably the most well-known, but most people think this strictly means taking your dog on a walk or run.  This can also mean allowing them to dig in a sandbox or learn how to run an agility course.

Enrichment doesn’t have to be expensive.  Many people think they need to purchase an expensive feeder or toys, but in reality a lot of things can be made from things you already have around the home.  For example, you can make an obstacle course from items in your garage or basement.  Yummy frozen treats can be made in your ice cube tray with yogurt, bananas, and other pet friendly food you most likely already have stocked in your fridge.  Don’t let the concern of breaking your budget stop you from creating great bonding time with you and your pet.

Cats also benefit greatly from regular enrichment.  Many domestic cats are overweight, which can lead to major health issues.  Just like with dogs, cats don’t just benefit from physical enrichment, but from all types.  Toys like the “Babble Ball” include diverse sounds to create excitement for your cat and encourage them to get up and place chase!  It helps their natural instincts to catch prey. Use a feather toy to mimic your cats prey (don’t forget to let them catch it so they feel like a good hunter).  It creates a better bond with your furry friend and helps to prevent boredom.  Play can help to decrease anxiety and aggression in cats, which in turn helps your cat to feel more confident and relaxed.

It is important to find a balance between physical and mental stimulation for your pets.  While exercise is extremely important, it is just as important to remember their mental wellbeing.  Remember that each dog is different and while they may follow certain breed characteristics you will need to tailor enrichment to your dog’s specific personality and needs.

Enrichment in the shelter environment is critical.  Animals are placed in cages that hinder their ability to act naturally, even more than in a home environment.  At Humane Pennsylvania, we use many of the same ideas stated in the blog to help provide enrichment.  We greatly appreciate our volunteers who are devoted to making up Kongs and other forms of enrichment, as well as the people who donate enrichment items.  These efforts make a huge difference to the animals and can even be lifesaving in certain situations.  There are tons of ideas on the internet for ways to provide enrichment, so what are you waiting for?  Don’t let the chilly weather get you down.  Go enrich your pet’s life OR volunteer and enrich the life of a shelter animal!

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By: Dr. Alicia Simoneau, DMV Humane Veterinary Hospital

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a transponder that works using radio waves when activated by a scanner that is waved over the animal. A microchip is about the size of

a grain of rice. It is implanted under the skin, above muscle, in the subcutaneous layer. In dogs and cats the area between the shoulder blades or upper back is the standard area of placement. It is implanted by medical professionals using a sterile hypodermic needle similar to a vaccination. Once implanted the microchip remains active for the rest of the animal’s life.  Once a scanner is hovered above the animal with a microchip the unique microchip number appears on the screen of the scanner.  Every animal hospital and animal shelter has the ability to scan an anim

al to see if they have a microchip.  There are also tags that can be placed on collars to identify that the animal has a microchip. This is helpful if a stray dog or cat is found as it indicates the pet has a home and a family that is eager for a reunion. The finder can even call the microchip company and get in touch with the owner.  The unique microchip number needs to be registered with current owner name, address and correct phone number.  It is important to ensure a chip is registered and information is up to date.  It is a good idea to have the pet scanned by a vet or animal hospital a month or two after implantation to ensure that the chip is still in and hasn’t migrated out of the implantation site.

Why should you have your pet chipped?

Microchips save lives! The majority of animals reunited with owners from shelters are because they are microchipped, registered and with up to date contact information.

You may not think your pet is at risk of becoming a stray. However, accidents happen. Unknowing company can leave a window or door unsecured. A weather event or other accident can damage a house and cause a pet to unforeseeably become a stray. Microchipping is kind of an insurance policy.

Also, you can save money by getting a lifetime license when a dog is microchipped and spayed or neutered.

It is not a GPS tracking device. Millions upon millions of microchips have been implanted worldwide with virtually no adverse reactions. They are very safe.

There are no ongoing fees required. Once a microchip is implanted and registered it is good for the dog or cats life. Typically it costs between $20 and $75 for microchip implantation and registration.  However, at Humane Pennsylvania we think microchips are so important that we will microchip and register any cat or dog for FREE! Our Humane Veterinary Hospitals in Reading and Lancaster can scan and implant a microchip at any regular appointment. Alternatively, you can bring a pet to one of our Healthy Pets Initiative Clinics for a free microchip, needed vaccines (Rabies, DA2PP or FVRCP) and deworming, also at no cost to you. To get more information about a clinic, please click here.

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Humane Pennsylvania 2019 Year in Review

by: Karel Minor, CEO Humane Pennsylvania

 

It’s time once again for Humane Pennsylvania’s year-end round up!  This past year has been especially eventful and impactful, so buckle up, this will be a long one.  2019 was the first full calendar year in which we felt the impacts of the amazing $3.1 million Giorgi Family Foundation grant in support of our groundbreaking new approach to preventable animal suffering.  The Healthy Pets Initiative (HPI) is a methodical and data based constellation of services aimed at helping the animals most at risk for relinquishment by providing specific, targeted services to them before they come to us with problems.  One of the keys to this approach is to be able to deliver services at a high rate and number but in an extremely short period of time- essentially we will be providing ten years of service in just two years.

Beyond simply helping tens of thousands of animals in a very short period of time, we project we can decrease animal intake in our regional shelters from target service areas by 50% through HPI.  Based on past trends a 50% decrease would take ten to fifteen years.  We are shooting for doing it in just two.  If it works, we will have identified a model that can be scaled and replicated.  Although the bulk of services are being directed at the City of Reading, adjacent municipalities and targeted adjacent ZIP codes (19600 to 19612) due to the requirements of the grant, we are mirroring our services where ever possible in our Lancaster service area, as well.  This means the benefits of this approach are being felt on the ground across Berks and Lancaster Counties, and beyond.

HPI is the focus of our work for the next couple of years and it is built on several key areas of growth, expansion and improvement in order to help ten times more animals.  These include: capital/building/renovation projects, emergency services and response expansion, partnership expansion, expanded veterinary services, key staffing additions, and training and learning opportunities, both offered and received by our staff.

Capital Projects:

Humane Pennsylvania’s 1801 N. 11th St., Reading, animal shelter is under a near complete demolition, rebuild, and renovation process.  This project will be finished in 2020 and will be the final component of the Giorgi Family Campus.  This campus currently features our Schumo Center for Animal Wellness, our full service community veterinary hospital which is one of fewer than 25 AAHA accreted non-profit veterinary hospitals in the United States (and it’s here to serve your pet!).  But the Giorgi Campus and HPI needs a new type of animal shelter that focuses on health and behavior.  Our new Center for Animal Lifesaving will be that new shelter, featuring the best of animal housing merged with the best of shelter veterinary care and a high efficiency, high volume “walk-in/urgent care” veterinary service model to close the gap for those who have little or no resources but want to provide for their pets.  The groundbreaking was Friday, December 13, at 10 AM!

This project will cost about $2 million and the Giorgi Family Foundation grant covered about 1/3 of the cost.  We have been very fortunate to have several other donors make early gifts to bring our committed amount to over $1 million.  This includes a generous $250,000 naming donation from a longtime friend of Humane Pennsylvania.  We will still need to do final campaign asks of middle to low donors.

We also added to our fleet a box truck, trailer, pickup truck, passenger car, and mobile “tiny house” clinic were purchased.  We were also fortunate to be on the receiving end of Savage 61’s generosity.  They donated a Dodge ProMaster for use in our humane mission!  Combined, these vehicles help us move food and supplies, set up our mobile clinic services, and do all the “stuff” we have to do and with the right vehicle for the job.  We even got a fork lift (and our backs are very pleased about that.)

Emergency Service/Response:

We identified a building for program storage and emergency response use, which will be doubling as a wellness clinic and community resource center.  It is the former Land Displays property, and they are a longtime supporter who worked with us to get a great deal and a temporary lease until our purchase this January so we could use the building immediately!  Because of their creative and generous support, we were able to take the Giorgi Family Foundation support in the form of two years’ worth of warehouse lease funding and convert it to owned property.

Humane Pennsylvania representation has also returned to the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team.  Karel Minor (me!) rejoined the board of directors (I was prior board member and chair) to establish a more expansive program partnership using our newly acquired resources and programs to help statewide even more effectively.

Partnerships established:

We have also been rapidly expanding our partnerships to have an even bigger impact.  Some of our new or expanded partnerships include:

  • No Nonsense Neutering: Feral and community cat sterilization contractor relationship
  • Animal Rescue League of Berks County:  We have begun discussions for a sterilization and microchip subsidy which will allow us to share the Giorgi Family Foundation funds with ARL for work they do to support animals in the target service area
  • PA State Animal Response Team: Board of Directors, response partnership expansion
  • Brandywine Valley SPCA: Response & adoption partnership
  • Berks County Center for Governmental Excellence at Albright College:  Animal control and emergency response issues/program development
  • VCA Animal Hospitals: Food pantry and clinic support partnership
  • Municipal: City of Reading, Exeter, Muhlenberg, Fleetwood, Laureldale and more
  • Service and technology development partnership with Dr. Michael Moyer (former director of shelter medicine at Penn Vet School, former Chair of American Animal Hospital Associations board, former Chair of PA Veterinary Association) to develop an “app” based service delivery options and a sustainable fundraising model
  • Beginning a conversation with the Reading School District to investigate establishment of a veterinary science training or apprenticeship program to introduce students to a great career path
  • PetSmart charities, HSUS, Rachel Ray Pet Food, Chewy.com and Helping Harvest Food have partnered with us to provide pet food and supplies to our Spike’s Pet Food Pantry programs
  • BARTA has partnered with us for dog bed distributions in the county
  • And this is just a partial list of our new and expanded partnerships this year!

Healthy Pets Initiative Services:

Our Healthy Pets Initiative is picking up steam rapidly with multiple community clinics being offered around our Berks/Reading targeted area.  These clinics range from large ones with 75 to 100 animals served to smaller clinics that provide more expansive care to smaller numbers of animals in their own neighborhoods.  We have also expanded to begin providing low and no cost vaccination and microchip clinics in our Lancaster service area (if you know a Daddy Warbucks who would like to underwrite vastly expanded services, call me maybe?).  Since the first of the year (2019) we:

  • Served 1,682 animals in 31 community clinics
  • Together with our Healthy Pets Initiative service partner, No Nonsense Neutering, sterilized 3,500 feral and neighborhood cats
  • Our community based animal hospitals, Humane Veterinary Hospitals Reading/Lancaster provided 20,599 client visits
  • We implanted 4,092 free identification microchips
  • In-house surgeries provided 2,197 sterilizations

Thanks to our new Community Resource Center warehousing facility and very generous corporate support who has donated 10,000 square feet of storage, we were able to obtain 10,000 new dog beds to share with the community and distribute over twenty tons of food and supplies in just the last three months as we expand Spike’s Pet Pantry services.  These services, combined with the new Reading animal shelter and clinic facility will expand even more rapidly next year, providing a multiplying effect on the great work we can do.

Training/Learning Opportunities:

Humane Pennsylvania has built much of its success due to a commitment of two things:  teaching and learning.  We are always on the hunt for great new ideas and models we can build on or improve in our service areas.  We also actively share our best ideas, improvements or skills through Animal Welfare Management Services, our training division.  Thanks to both targeted grants for our staff to travel, grow and learn, and through fee for service programs offered to other organizations, we were able to learn and teach more than ever before- without having to divert funds from animal care needs.

Some notable opportunities for our staff to teach and learn included:

  • Best Friends Boarding, toured and interviewed staff at a premier third party run, corporate built (Walt Disney World, Orlando) boarding facility that converts to disaster shelter at need.
  • Animal Care EXPO, the major industry training conference:  four senior staff attended, as well as presented on community outreach models for addressing cat issues based on Healthy Pets Initiative model in New Orleans.
  • Access to Affordable Veterinary Care Symposium, University of Tennessee Veterinary School, Knoxville, TN:  Invitational attendance to assist in developing service models as part of a nationally funded effort (Maddie’s Fund & Dr. Michael Blackwell, former Asst. Surgeon General)
  • Damon March, one of a handful of HSUS accredited trainers nationally, is providing shelter medical training on behalf (and funded by) the Humane Society of the United States in Puerto Rico and reviewed disaster response and recovery efforts, results, and lessons learned.
  • Damon March provided shelter medical training on behalf (and funded by) the Humane Society of St. Croix in St. Croix, USVI, and reviewing disaster response and recovery efforts, results, and lessons learned.
  • Karel Minor toured several major community non-profit veterinary hospitals in CA (San Diego SPCA, Best Friends Mission Hills Animal Center, and San Francisco SPCA), as well as several animal control facilities, to learn from the longer established West Coast animal welfare models and to share Humane Pennsylvania’s innovative approach and programs.

Growing Staff:

Humane Pennsylvania has also been fortunate to add some great program staff to support all of this growth.  We were very fortunate to steal Inga Fricke from the Humane Society of the United States, who brings her national level experience to her new role as Director of Community Initiatives.  That will teach HSUS to send Damon off to a tropical island with their staff for a week.  Inga then promptly recruited Suzanne D’Alonzo from her former employer.  Suzanne and Inga have worked together in the past and they are building a whole new Healthy Pets Initiative team which is trying to not merely reduce preventable animal suffering but actually prevent it (gasp, what a concept!).  Holly Giffin and Kylie Layman joined us to serve as our new Events & Social Media Coordinators in Berks and Lancaster, respectively.  They are the reason our social and regular media presence has suddenly leapt forward and we have so many more things going on and being shared.  Dr. Jessica Walters joined our Humane Veterinary Hospitals Reading staff, and Dr. Kristin Heffner joined us in support of the Healthy Pets Initiative.

Homeless Animal Lifesaving:

As Humane Pennsylvania’s mission focus has increasingly targeted prevention of owner surrender and animal strays by supporting pets in their homes and empowering people and municipalities to identify owners of roaming pets and return them swiftly and in the field, plus the changing views of our community about giving up pets, our shelter intake numbers continue to be historically low.  Last year we took in 3,195 stray or owner surrendered animals.  They included healthy, sick, injured, and ones with behavioral problems; cats, dogs, reptiles and rabbits, you name it, we got it.  I am so happy to say that we were able to adopt or return to their owners 2,763 pets so far this year.  That is a “raw”, unmodified 89% save rate.  While our goal is obviously 100%, the reality is that we are now the “go to” shelter for animals with major illnesses, injuries, or behavioral issues so reaching 100% is increasingly hard.  When you remove catastrophic illnesses or injuries and dangerous aggression cases, the save rate jumps even higher.

To put that in context, in 2004, the year I started, just our Berks County facility killed 33% more animals than what entered both our shelters combined this year- over 4,000 animals were euthanized, many for no other reason than we ran out of space.  We have reduced that number to just 382 in Berks and Lancaster Counties combined.  That is amazing progress and we are striving every single day to improve upon that success, because one animal is too many.

In conclusion:

I had to write “in conclusion” to stop myself from going on and on and on.  We have done so much great stuff this year and are going to be doing even more in 2020.  It is cliché’ but it is true:  We couldn’t do it without you and everyone who supported us with time, money, items, resources, advice, and good will.  Please keep it up and we promise we will keep up our hard work to build the best community anywhere to be an animal or an animal caretaker!

 

Your partner in animal welfare,

Karel Minor

CEO, Humane Pennsylvania

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Karel Minor, CEO of Humane Pennsylvania

We are finally knocking it down.

Humane Pennsylvania is very excited to have announced the beginning of the next step in our Healthy Pets Initiative in Berks County: the demolition and rebuilding of our animal shelter in Reading, PA.  This project isn’t merely about building a prettier shelter, although it will definitely be a prettier shelter.  The new facility will be a groundbreaking new approach to how animal welfare services are delivered, one which will serve as a model for the nation.

Having moved our community up to, and often over, the edge of the “magic” no kill 90% save rates for healthy and treatable animals, we have been developing innovative ways to help more of the most health and behaviorally challenged animals currently entering our shelters.  We have also been focusing on providing resources to keep animals from entering our shelters in the first place.  Out of this work, Humane Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pets Initiative was born, and America’s first Healthy Pets Community is just around the corner.

The Healthy Pets Initiative took a constellation of lifesaving services that are proven to make a positive difference in animals’ lives and to decrease shelter intake and euthanasia, and reconfigured them strategically to have a multiplying impact.  Ultra-low and no cost vaccinations and sterilizations, free microchip identification, community cat services, and pet food supports (all offered via Humane Pennsylvania’s veterinary hospitals and staff) target the core foundations of pet relinquishment.  Combined with our existing services offered through our nationally accredited Humane Veterinary Hospitals in Reading and Lancaster, which offer market rates for those who can afford them and sliding scale rates and payment plan supports for those in economic distress, we’ve made a significant impact.

But there is still a portion of the population of pet caretakers that need more support than these hospitals can provide.  Our new animal shelter will provide that additional support by combining sheltering operations with ultra-high efficiency and volume veterinary services.  This can provide services economically for our charitable organization and close the “sick care gap” that exists for the most economically challenged in our community.

Put simply, if you have money, you can turn to any vet.  If you have some money, our hospitals have been here to help.  But if you have no money or face a major and expensive health crisis with your pet that is beyond your economic means, you may have faced giving up or even euthanizing your pet just because you didn’t have any other option.   Our new community animal shelter and veterinary clinic will provide caretakers with options they previously did not have.  In fact, the new facility will place veterinary professionals and social work oriented staff at the front line of animal intake to offer the supports which might keep that pet at home where it belongs.

Once we have this entire continuum of care provided for the City of Reading and adjacent municipalities, we will have accomplished something no other community in the nation has.  We will have created a universal Healthy Pets Community where all animals and their people have meaningful, actually affordable health and wellness supports.

The downside of this big hairy, audacious plan is that it requires closing our sheltering operations for six months or more in Reading.  We will be maintaining our Humane Veterinary Hospital operations, keeping our Healthy Pets Initiative services and clinics operating, still operating our Lancaster adoption center, and all our Berks based staff are remaining with us and will be helping in the interim in different roles.  We will be working with local and regional partners to ensure the animals we are unable to take in for the construction period have safe harbor, and we are continuing to accept animals in our Lancaster shelter.  Unfortunately we can’t rebuild and remain open at the same time, so we are going to work as quickly as possible.

We also made sure that we notified our local municipal and animal shelter partners for this disruption as far back as the fall of 2017 and will continue to work with them to help animals until our new facility is open.

The entire construction project is going to cost about $2 million dollars and we are extremely pleased that we currently have over $1 million dollars in hand or pledged and have several other major donors we are working with right now to close most of the remaining gap.  We cannot thank the Giorgi Family Foundation enough, who provided a $3.1 million grant in support of this project and the Healthy Pets Initiative services for kick starting this fundamental change in the way we will approach animal welfare in our communities.  We hope that their generosity continues to inspire other donors to come forward and partner in this campaign.

I hope you’ll consider supporting us, too.  Please reach out to me at kminor@humanepa.org for more information about how you can be a part of this effort, as well as naming opportunities big and small that are available.

We can’t wait to complete this project and begin marshaling our new forces to better combat the underlying causes of animal suffering in our community, and then roll-out this new approach into the other communities we serve.  We don’t know exactly what America’s first Healthy Pets Community will looks like, because it’s never been done before.  But we are about to find out.

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By: Dr. Heather Lineaweaver

The ongoing goal of veterinary medicine is to provide the highest standard of care to our companion animals. One way we’re doing that is updating vaccination protocols. In the past, vaccines for viral diseases were given yearly.  Studies have shown, however, that vaccines against most viral diseases last at least three years. Three-year rabies vaccines have been around for decades, but now there is more availability of the core vaccines (DHPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats) labeled for three year protection. Over-vaccination is a concern for veterinarians and clients alike, and increasing the period between vaccines helps alleviate these concerns. The only downside is that three-year vaccinations can lead to the mistaken impression that our pets only need physical exams every three years as well.

Yearly veterinary visits are essential for several reasons. Most importantly, pets age an equivalent of five to seven years in one human year, and many changes can occur in that time. Regular physicals allow your veterinarian to identify abnormalities and address them as early as possible. Early detection and intervention increases the likelihood of successful treatment. Heart disease, dental disease, weight changes, lumps, behavioral problems, and skin and ear issues are just a few of the things that your veterinarian will look for.  When your pet becomes a senior (7-10 years, depending on breed and species), screening blood work will be recommended to check internal organ function and test for diseases that may not be apparent on exam. Again, early intervention leads to better treatment.

In addition to detecting disease processes early, yearly visits are important for preventive health care. Several vaccines are only protective for one year. They are considered lifestyle vaccines and depend on how much time your pet spends in different environments. These include Lyme, leptospirosis, canine influenza, bordetella, and feline leukemia vaccines. For dogs and cats, regular screening for intestinal parasites is also important. In addition, a yearly 4DX test is recommended for dogs. The 4DX checks for heartworm infection and exposure to three tick-borne infections – Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma. Lastly, appropriate flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives can be reviewed and discussed during the visit.

The ready availability of three-year vaccines has improved the quality of care we are able to provide to our patients. Even with advancements in medicine; however, the yearly exam is still of utmost importance in keeping our four-legged friends happy and healthy. We look forward to seeing you and your pet at their next checkup!

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