by Tawny Kissinger, Lifesaving Programs Coordinator, Humane Pennsylvania

Humane Pennsylvania provides several focused lifesaving programs. One of these programs is our Bottle Baby Kitten Program. The program was developed to provide resources to care takers that are caring for orphaned kittens that are too you to be adopted. Young kittens that are separated from their mother sadly are unlikely to survive on their own without assistance.

Did you know?

  • Kittens under 4 weeks of age need kitten formula. Our Bottle Baby Kitten Kits come complete with a can of kitten formula. Never feed your kitten cow’s milk! Cow’s milk can cause diarrhea, which could quickly dehydrate a kitten.
  • The greatest single danger to bottle baby kittens is hypothermia or getting cold. Between 0-4 weeks kittens are unable to control their body temperature. This is why we include a rice sock in our Bottle Baby Kitten Kits. Having a warm rice sock in the kitten’s enclosure will help them stay warm.
  • Handling kittens regularly is important to socialize them. Kittens under 4 weeks of age should only be handled for 5-10 minutes at a time. Too much handling at one time can be stressful.

As part of Humane Pennsylvania’s Bottle Baby Kitten Program, we offer care takers of unweaned kittens a helpful kitten kit. This free Bottle Baby Kitten Kit is available to any community members that are seeking insights for how to best nurse and care for unweaned kittens.

Bottle Baby Kitten Kit: Unboxing Video

Visit HumanePA.org to learn more about this and other lifesaving programs, or contact Lifesaving Programs Coordinator, Tawny Kissinger at tkissinger@humanepa.org.

Share

by Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations, Humane Pennsylvania

Last week, Deb Dreisbach won the American Red Cross Animal Rescue Hero award. Each year the American Red Cross awards this honor to either an animal who protected a human in a time of need, or an individual who protected an animal from pain or suffering. This year the award went to an amazing individual and we want to take the time to congratulate this beautiful person who has helped our organization to save numerous lives, and is continuing to save more and more lives in our community.

Deb, or Debbie as many of us refer to her by, worked at the Humane Society of Berks County in 2007 and assisted as a front office employee. As an employee, Debbie was able to get a full view of what went on in an animal shelter. Over a decade ago, I can tell you that it wasn’t a pretty place. Debbie was upset to see that many animals were being euthanized at that time and there was just not enough space for the ones that kept coming in and needed help, especially cats. Being the compassionate and intelligent person she is, Deb knew that more needed to be done to stop the flow of animals from entering the shelter in the first place.

Knowing the importance of spay and neuter, Debbie worked with No Nonsense Neutering and found a location in Reading, at 1500 Frush Valley Road, for a high-volume spay and neuter clinic. She became a board member for No Nonsense Neutering and played an active role to make sure they helped become a part of the solution to increase spay and neuter in Berks County and decrease animal intakes in the shelters.

Debbie became the go-to person for feral and kitten assistance and advice. She created a barn home program that helped relocate numerous feral cats escape euthanasia and find their way out of the shelter and into alternative placement housing. Although she is no longer a Humane Pennsylvania employee, Debbie is frequently a friendly and welcoming face we still see around our veterinary hospital and shelter in Berks.

Whether she is at a vet appointment, picking up a three legged foster, transporting a feral to their new home, or performing feral cat workshops with our staff, Debbie is still an integral part of our organization. As someone who has had the pleasure of knowing Debbie for over a decade, I can attest that Debbie is beautiful inside and out. She always has a story about her adventures with trapping that will make you laugh until your side hurts, but the next minute she can have you in tears with how she managed to save an animal that anyone else would have thought was not able to be saved.

She is purely a good human.

I was fortunate to attended two different conferences over the past few months, which allowed me to be in the same room as hundreds of other animal welfare professionals, people with similar passions and dreams. It made me realize how important it is to appreciate those around you, fighting the same fight. At these conferences I watched connections happen between complete strangers who knew nothing about the other person, yet knowing that one of them had a specific need to help animals, and the other person had a solution to that problem, was enough to bring the two together.

The great relationship between Debbie Dreisbach and our organization has created so many lifesaving opportunities for animals of all sorts. A shared goal and innate desire to help others is what sets a foundation to move forward together.

Jim Stovall said,

“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”

This is a very moving statement, because in animal welfare we all share many of the same goals and too often we forget we are all in it for the same reason. If we can lift each other up, support one another, and work together, then we can do more and better things.

Debbie Dreisbach, you have been an employee, rescue partner, foster, and best of all, friend to Humane Pennsylvania for over a decade. We are so thankful to have someone like you in the community to help the people and animals have better lives. We are so proud of you and want to congratulate you on your well-deserved American Red Cross Animal Rescue Hero award.

Share

by Karel Minor, President & CEO, Humane Pennsylvania

What’s the one thing that people could do that would save more animals’ live every year more than anything else? Microchip identification.

More animals die in animal shelters each year based on being unidentified strays than for any other reason. Fundamentally, any animal that enters a shelter as a stray and doesn’t get back into its owner’s arms swiftly faces a huge risk. No matter the reason it is ultimately killed – lack of space, illness, behavior – the original cause is that it didn’t go home.

Dogs are far more likely to be reclaimed as stray by their owners for two reasons:

  1. They are more likely to wear a collar with some form of ID or license.
  2. When your dog runs off, you are more likely to call the local shelter or police soon after.

Even with these two factors, shelters are lucky to have 20% of stray dogs claimed by their owners. So only 1 in 5 of the hundreds and thousands of stray dogs being picked up in Berks County each year get back to an original owner.

For cats it is even worse, with a typical owner claim rate of 1-2%. That’s because cats rarely have collars and ID (the old “I don’t want my cat strangled on a collar” line is darling, since apparently people would rather their cats die in an animal shelter) and because people tend to think a cat can wander off for a day or two, or seven, before calling a shelter or local police. In that time a stray cat has likely already faced death or been adopted in a shelter.

But cats and dogs who have identification have completely the opposite outcome, with 90% or more getting returned to owners. The simple act of giving your pet ID could save its life and save the lives of other animals in a shelter by not taking up precious space for days or weeks as an unidentified stray.

There is no easier way to identify your pet than with a tiny, safe, cheap microchip implanted under its skin and registering that chip with a national database. It can’t lose a chip like it can a collar. Every shelter, and most police departments, now have universal scanners. Most microchips come with free registration of your name and address. All vets and most shelters offer microchipping services.

Universal microchipping could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of pets each year in American shelters. We believe this is the single most important thing you can do to avoid preventable death of your pet. That’s why we incorporated it into our groundbreaking Healthy Pets, Healthy Communities initiative as a cornerstone of the program. It’s why we microchip every pet adopted from us.

In fact, we think it’s so important we have made it free to all. Humane Pennsylvania and our animal hospitals started providing all clients’ pets with free registered microchips. Zero charge.

All vet clients will be offered a free chip during a regularly scheduled exam, treatment or surgery. Any client utilizing our newly expanded ultra-low cost sterilization services gets a free chip during surgery.

At any of our Healthy Pets, Healthy Communities free microchip clinics, microchips are offered to all for no charge. When our new Berks County shelter is built and operating, we will be working on a program to allow for walk-ins to receive on demand microchip services.

Our goal is to implant an additional 20,000 microchips in Berks County pets (as part of our recent Giorgi Family Grant) in the next three years, with the greater goal of ensuring that 100% of Berks and Lancaster County eventually have microchip identification.We project that increased microchipping will result in fewer strays lingering in shelters because their owners can be identified.

The closer to universal we can get adoptions of this type of ID, the fewer and fewer the number of unclaimed strays will be. That will free up space for truly homeless animals. It will decrease the burden on animal control agencies. It will decrease costs for municipal and state governments.

And it will save lives. Lots and lots of lives.

Share

by Dr. Jackie Connolly, Humane Veterinary Hospitals Lancaster

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

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

Clinical Signs

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

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

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

Testing

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

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

To Treat or Not To Treat

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

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

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

Prevention

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

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

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

At our Humane Veterinary Hospitals in Lancaster and Reading, we understand your pet is a member of your family. Please make an appointment if you have any additional questions regarding your pet and Lyme disease. Click here to contact us.

It is our goal to keep your pet healthy and free from disease for many years to come.

Share

by Dr. Heather Lineaweaver

People brush, floss and receive regular dental cleanings to maintain healthy teeth and gums and to prevent tooth loss. Preventative dental care is just as important for our pets. Without appropriate care, plaque and bacteria will build up on the teeth and above the gum line. Over time, this plaque will harden into calculus (tartar). As the calculus becomes thicker, it will start to cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), and they will start to recede and pull away from the teeth. This allows bacteria and debris to move further above the gum line.

As periodontal disease progresses, the teeth can loosen and abscesses can develop. Chronic disease can even lead to weakening of the surrounding bone, making the jaw more prone to fractures. Periodontal disease is painful for pets and can interfere with eating, but the associated bacteria can also cause problems. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream and affect internal organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Taking care of our pets’ teeth will help them live longer, healthier, happier lives.

So Fresh & So Clean

Regular brushing is the best way to maintain a healthy mouth. Daily brushing is ideal, but even doing it a few times a week is better than nothing. With dogs and cats, only the outer surfaces of the teeth need to be brushed, which makes it a little easier.

There are multiple types of brushes available, including one that slips over the finger. Only toothpaste specifically formulated for pets should be used. When first starting out, using only your finger to rub along the teeth and gums can help your pet get used to the feeling of have their teeth brushed. Starting when your pet is young also helps. There are treats designed to help prevent plaque build-up, but they should be used as a supplement to brushing rather than replacing it. Bones and hard chew toys for dogs should be avoided, as they can cause tooth fractures.

Regular Check Ups

A yearly physical exam is also very important to assess your pet’s dental and overall health. Your veterinarian will check the teeth, discuss any issues, and determine whether your pet will need a professional cleaning under anesthesia.

Some pets may need a cleaning every year or two, others only once or twice in their lifetime. Genetics play a role in dental health, so even with appropriate care, some pets will need more frequent professional cleanings.

It is never too late to get started with a dental hygiene regimen for your pet. Our veterinarians are happy to provide you with insights and additional guidance. Contact us today to schedule a visit.

Share

by Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations, Humane Pennsylvania

It’s finally spring! To some people this might mean that all the snow melted and they now have lots of poop scooping to catch up on in the yard, but it also means nicer weather for more walks with your dog. Going on walks regularly with your dog provides many physical and mental health benefits that help to keep you and your dog loving and living the good life. Below are helpful pet safety tips we recommend to keep you and your dog safe on those beautiful spring strolls.

Collars, Harnesses, and Leashes

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

  • Use the “two finger” rule by sliding two fingers between your dog’s neck and collar to make sure the collar is not fitted too snug or too loose.

You should not be able to pull the collar up and over the dog’s head. Remember that dogs grow, lose weight, and gain weight just like people do, so it is important to frequently check how your dog’s collar fits and also that it is in good condition.

Harnesses are also great options for smaller breeds and brachycephalic breeds (short nose dogs like pugs and bulldogs) with delicate windpipes. Harnesses can discourage pulling, provide better control, and prevent injury to the neck area. There are MANY different kinds of harnesses, so do your research or work with a professional trainer to identify which harness is best for you and your dog.

Retractable leashes are generally not safe and are not recommended. Retractable style leashes provide little control and often extend very far, which can be dangerous if you’re near roads or other animals who are not pet friendly. The cord on these leashes are not durable and can snap or easily tangle around the walker or dog and cause serious injury. Talk to your veterinarian or trainer before making the decision to purchase a retractable leash.

Head collars can be a good option for certain dogs who are having difficulty pulling on leash, but if you are looking into this option it is recommended to work with a trainer or veterinary professional to help you acclimate your dog to this style of head harness. Dogs tend to either respond really well or face challenges adjusting to the “funny thing” on their face.

Keep Your Dog on Leash

Most places have laws stating your dog needs to be on leash, and for your dog’s safety it is very important to follow this rule. Even if you have your dog well trained you never know what could scare or spark your dog’s interest and cause them to take off, which puts them at risk of getting hit by a car, in a fight with another animal, or lost. Use designated dog parks that are fenced in for off leash play.

Proper Identification

Not only should you have properly fitted collars and harnesses, but your dog should also have proper identification in the chance they do get loose on your walk. Identification tags with your pets name, your phone number, and city can increase the chance of you reuniting with your pet. In addition, it is highly recommended to get your pet microchipped, which involves a very small chip being inserted under the skin and between your pet’s shoulder blades. This chip has a unique number which is detected by a microchip scanner and entered into a database.

Most shelters, veterinary hospitals, and even police officers carry microchip scanners and can scan a stray animal brought to them. Having your pet’s current rabies tag, license tag, microchip tag, and identification tag are all beneficial and increase the chance of your dog being reunited to you.

Be Prepared with Supplies

Make sure you have poop pick-up bags ready because most cities will issue a fine if you do not clean up after your pet. If you are going on a longer walk or hike it may be good to bring water and treats with you so your dog can stay hydrated and energized.

Environment

Watch the weather and lighting when you go on your walk. Dogs can easily overheat and even moderate temperatures, like 70 degrees, can cause heat stroke depending on the circumstances. Be mindful of your dog’s coat and tolerance to heat. Check with your vet if you are not certain what temperatures you should avoid for walk days. If you are walking very early or very late, make sure you are seen. Put reflective gear and clip on lights that will make you and your dog stand out to a passersby. Play it safe and stay on sidewalks.

Get Cleared by a Veterinarian

Just like when you pop in that new Jillian Michaels DVD to tone in 30 days, Jillian recommends you consult with a doctor or medical professional to ensure you are healthy enough for exercise. The same goes for your pooch. Regular vet visits can make sure that your dog is in sound condition to accompany you on walks. Regular vet visits also mean getting routine vaccinations, which can protect your dog from catching diseases.

Ask Before Approaching

This goes both ways. If you are walking your dog and see another dog walking by, ask before approaching to let the dogs meet. The other dog may be dog aggressive or be working on their confidence with other dogs, but not quite ready to meet other dogs. Don’t ever assume. Be alert for people who do not practice the “ask before approaching” rule with or without dogs.

Over the weekend I had two very different interactions when my husband and I were walking our two dogs. The first involved a young child running full speed at my 8 year old pug mix in full Frankenstein fashion with arms stretched out far in front and wide eyes. She was clearly excited and had one goal in mind, to touch the dogs. The child’s parent was nearby and not once intervened. The child approached so quickly my dog snapped at her because he was terrified by the quick approach of a stranger. Thankfully there was no injury or contact. This was not the child’s fault, but the lack of supervision or interference from the parent.

In another situation three children were riding their bicycles and asked from across the street if they could pet my dogs. My dogs are friendly dogs, with the right approach, so I said yes and the children came over slowly and crouched down and offered a hand to sniff. Both dogs were presenting bellies and giving kisses galore. They welcomed this respectful approach. Two different approaches and two different outcomes. Supervise and teach your children appropriate interactions to avoid incidents. If you don’t know confidently how your dog will react in different situations, don’t chance it by allowing strangers to approach.

Walks are a great way to bond with your dog and get some fresh air. Follow these helpful tips to make sure you are protecting yourself and your dog every time you leash up. Next time you ask your dog, “Wanna go for a W.A.L.K?” remember to keep it S.A.F.E.

Share

by Karel Minor, President & CEO, Humane Pennsylvania

If you haven’t yet purchased your 2019 Art for Arf’s Sake Auction tickets yet, you really should. This year will be a blast. You just know our staff and auction committee are going to manage some magical surprises with our Harry Pawter theme (that’s right, Pawter. Not only is that cute, but we don’t want to find out how litigious J.K. is). Think of our Dogwarts as Hogwarts’ less prestigious party school alternative.

We are back at the old Rajah Theater, now the Santander Performing Arts Center, which is tailor made for this theme. We will have food, drink, and entertainment, featuring the Dogwarts House Student Band. You’ll get sorted or pick your own house, and if your house bids enough, maybe you’ll take home the Dogwarts Cup.

Through an unspeakable act of sorcery – or just because we have so much more room than we did at the last venue – we have cast a shrinking spell on the ticket price. It’s only $40 a person! You’d have to be crazier than a Bellatrix to think you can find a better deal for a night of food, open beer and wine bar, and the chance to see Humane Pennsylvania staff dressed up and making fools of themselves.

For just a little more, you can become a patron-us (get it?) and get a pair of VIP passes for both the art auction and the Portkey Preview Party at the home of honorary event co-chairs, John Herman and Lisa Tiger, in Wyomissing on Friday, April 12.

You will be joining local artists and luminaries in supporting the spectacular and unique work of Humane Pennsylvania. We’ve also got some better known folks, too: Betsy Lewin, Caldecott Honor winning illustrator of such books as “Click, Clack, Moo”, and legendary west coast punk icons Chris D. (The Flesh Eaters), John Doe & DJ Bonebrake (X), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), and Dave Alvin (The Blasters), have personally donated pieces in support of this year’s auction!

So I need you to do something for us. If you haven’t yet bought your tickets, do it right now! If you have bought your tickets, help us reach our goal of 100 new recruits and bring two guests with you! The success of this event directly determines our ability to deliver critical life-saving animal welfare and medical service in Berks and Lancaster Counties.

Check out our website to see some of the awesome art, items, and experiences featured at the art auction the April 27.

Now, let’s see if this works. With tap of my wand and a flourish of my hand, I command, “Imperious!” Now go buy some tickets, you are under my control. 

Share

by Kristi Rodriguez, Volunteer Coordinator, Humane Pennsylvania

I recently attended the 3rd Annual Technical College High School Career and Job Training Fair in Downingtown and met with students interested in a career in Animal Services.

The students participating in the career fair were seeking to further their education and obtain jobs as veterinarians or veterinary technicians. As an attendee of the career fair, I interviewed about 20 students in the program and spoke with them about the field of animal welfare. Many of the students were interested in the difference between working in a shelter environment versus a private veterinary practice.

I was pleasantly surprised that so many of the students had already decided what they wanted to do with their futures but also encouraged them to keep their options open. We discussed the benefits of volunteering at their local animal shelter as a means of gaining practical experience in the field prior to going off to college, as well as increasing their understanding of the specific area of animal services.

One particular student stood out among the others. He was a high school senior and had already been accepted into the Biology program at a school in Rhode Island. He came prepared for the interview, dressed in a suit and offered a strong hand shake. His confidence in himself showed, and he had a very personable demeanor. He spoke with passion about wanting to help animals and make a difference in the animal welfare world. We talked about the current issues many shelters face and how students like him can get involved at their local shelter. After discussing his future plans and current interests in the animal welfare field, we parted ways as he moved on to the next table and interview.

It was refreshing to meet a young person who already has such drive about their future plans and such a desire to help shelter animals.

Our shelters in Lancaster and Berks Counties are often assisted by students from local colleges and high schools in need of completing community service hours or who are missing their personal pets while they are away from home.

We are always eager to connect community members with meaningful volunteer opportunities within our organization. We welcome you to visit our website, HumanePA.org/Volunteers to learn more about ways you can get involved and make a meaningful impact on the lives of the animals in our shelters.

Share

by Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations, Humane Pennsylvania

“It’s time for recess!” This glorious sentence was probably one of the most exciting things you heard in early grade school. What makes recess so important for children remarkably mirrors the benefits of playgroups for dogs.

The many benefits that come from physical activity, improved social skills, and reduced stress are some of the commonalities that recess and playgroups have in common. As an adult, even if you consider yourself an introvert, think about the important relationships with the people closest to you and how those people make your life all around better. People generally feel better when they socialize with other people.

Is the same true with dogs? Research outlets state that dogs who are able to play and socialize with other dogs provides enrichment, which improves their quality of life. Playing is beneficial to the dog’s mental and physical health, and in some cases, can be lifesaving for the dog.

The longstanding concerns that surround playgroups include:

  • safety of the dogs and staff
  • disease spread
  • staff time

These concerns have prevented, and continue to prevent, many shelters from implementing playgroups.

We were one of those shelters until recently. Why risk the chance of a fight breaking out? Why risk the possibility of anything from happening when there are enough daily concerns to be dealt with in the shelter?

Because of dogs like Teddy, that’s why.

Teddy is a 2 year old Rottweiler/Doberman Pinscher/Labrador Retriever mix who was surrendered with a history stating that he was an outdoor dog who never lived with other animals and had a list of other behavioral issues. Teddy presented as an adolescent dog with minimal training and lots of energy, but was shy and scared in his kennel. Teddy was introduced to playgroups and immediately proved to be a playgroup rock star by getting along with dogs of all shapes, sizes, and energy levels.

Over the course of a few weeks and handful of playgroups we were able to identify that Teddy not only did well with dogs, which we didn’t know beforehand, but came out of his shell and presented completely different from the scared, shy dog people saw when he was in his kennel. Playgroups gave Teddy the ability to show his fun, silly, and dog-loving side which brought him attention and allowed our staff to better match him, which led to his adoption mid-February of this year.

Playgroups are not only physically beneficial to dogs in the shelter, but there are many mental benefits as well. Allowing dogs to participate in playgroups helps them to learn better social skills with other dogs, burn off energy, and reduce stress. All of these benefits assist in increasing adoptions by enabling the dogs to be more relaxed in their kennels and present better during meets with potential families.

Staff also gain useful information about each dog that can be shared with adopters and potentially help make more appropriate matches. Dogs can act completely different outside of the shelter environment, so to be able to see them in a more natural environment, like playing with other dogs, we are obtaining critical information we may have not received otherwise.

After attending a wonderful seminar explaining how to perform playgroups in shelters, presented by Dogs Playing for Life, which was founded by Aimee Sadler, we are embarking on something new for Humane Pennsylvania.

We started working on playgroups about a month ago and we already see the benefits these play groups hold and are excited to continue training staff and volunteers to allow even more play and socialization for the dogs in the shelter.

Let’s play!

With your help we can continue to make playgroups better and safer. We have a wish list of items used during playgroups and will need fence work done at both of our play yards in Berks and Lancaster Counties to ensure we are facilitating the best playgroups.

Your support will help save lives.

To discuss how you can further support playgroups by sponsorship please contact Lauren Henderson, Director of Events and Corporate Relations, at lhenderson@humanepa.org or 610-750-6100 ext. 211.

Come on, let’s go play!

Share

by Karel Minor, President & CEO, Humane Pennsylvania

Occasionally you get a compliment you just know you’re going to remind people of. A lot. Humane Pennsylvania just received a doozy. In a recent article about veterinary services being increasingly offered accessibly to the poor, The Philadelphia Inquirer singled out Humane Pennsylvania for recognition with a headline referring to our programs and services as the “gold standard.”

I tell people that all the time, but to have it stated in an article that highlighted the work of nearly a dozen animal welfare organizations across the region and nation is pretty awesome. In this case, it’s also pretty true. Humane Pennsylvania’s at risk pet programs, now consolidated under the Healthy Pets, Healthy Communities umbrella are, quite simply, the best. They were also among the first in the nation to take this approach.

Nearly fifteen years ago tiny little Humane Society of Berks County (before we joined forces with Humane League of Lancaster County to become Humane Pennsylvania), converted its former grooming room into our first public clinic. We didn’t know that 120 square feet of community veterinary space would transform our mission and community, and inspire other organizations around the nation to follow our lead.

Our staff quickly figured out that what was missing from the community wasn’t merely access to a veterinarian. For many, what was missing was access to veterinary care with dignity. A place where you were treated with dignity. A place where you could foster in yourself and in your family a sense of dignity because you are providing your family pet with the care it needs. We provided an accessible and affordable service, to be sure, but a service delivered with respect and dignity, regardless of your ability to pay, the language you spoke, where you lived, or the color of your skin.

From that humble room and single veterinarian providing a couple hundred client visits a year, we have grown to have two 7,000 square foot, full service, nationally accredited, community veterinary hospitals in Reading and Lancaster, with seven veterinarians serving our neighbors (and we are hiring, in case any vets are reading this!). These hospitals now provide a combined 20,000 client visits annually. Humane Veterinary Hospitals (HVH) Reading and Lancaster are only among two dozen accredited non-profit practices in the entire nation.

They were the first and third to be accredited in Pennsylvania, and they both led the way and assisted in getting our peer non-profits accredited. This burgeoning non-profit practice wave is transforming the face of veterinary services and will be a create a sea change in the next decade, as more and more communities open practices which answer to a mission motive, not a profit motive. That’s good for animals, communities, and for veterinarians, who got into their work because they love animals, not to follow some corporate practice treatment checklist intended to maximize shareholder profits.

Our Humane Veterinary Hospitals are fully integrated into Humane Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pets, Healthy Communities program. This program, supported by our donors large and small, delivers key services critical to maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of our community pets living in economically challenged circumstances. Key among these are sterilization services, preventative vaccinations, microchip identification, food supports, and emergency shelters in times of crisis and disaster.

These key services are backed up by comprehensive services delivered by our state-of-the-art veterinary hospitals because our goal is to transition clients in acute need into long term, regular recipients of veterinary services. The same regular care that folks with money and resources have access to. And delivered with the same respect and dignity.

Before the big national groups discovered that poor people had pets and needed vet care too, we had already begun providing large scale programs to deliver these services. Before the big national groups stopped judgmentally telling poor people they shouldn’t share the joy of a pet with their children because they were too poor began reminding everyone that access to vet care is about human dignity as much as it’s about animal health, we were already there.

We were already doing it, we were already promoting it, and we were presenting it nationwide at national, regional, and state conferences. We planted the flag and welcomed everyone to join us in this new humane world.

As an aside, one of the big national groups reported serving 60,000 animals a year through a well know nationwide program that focuses on the poor. Last year we served 20,000, just in Berks and Lancaster Counties. Their budget is about two hundred million, our budget was just about four million. It turns out we are also a pretty good return on investment.

Healthy Pets, Healthy Communities is the “gold standard” for good reason. The quality is excellent, the cost is low, and the return is high. But fundamentally, it’s because we started early and from a unique place that recognizes that pets come with people. If we are not helping, respecting, and dignifying, those people, we won’t be effective at helping animals. Since our pets are woven into the fabric of our communities, healthy communities literally require healthy pets.

 

 

In case I forgot to mention it – our hospitals are also open to everyone, including you and your pet. If you are going to spend your hard earned dollars someplace, why not do it someplace where your dollars go directly to helping the community?

Why not spend your dollars someplace that will be there for you and your family should you ever face hard times and need a little help? With respect and dignity.

Share