Written By: Dr. Alicia Simoneau, Chief Veterinary Officer, Humane Pennsylvania

The Humane Veterinary Hospitals are still here for you and your pets. Access to affordable veterinary care is paramount in our mission as an organization. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania we have commenced a partial shutdown of both our hospitals. Services we regularly offered are being altered at this time. The whole veterinary community nationwide has had to adapt. Our main goal is to do our part to help keep you, our staff and our community safe. We are doing this by maintaining social distancing, decreasing public access into our facilities and implementing stringent cleaning protocols.

To this end, we have moved to a curbside concierge service to bring your pet into our hospital when an appointment to see a doctor is needed. You speak to a doctor via a phone call during the appointment as if you were in an exam room. We are prioritizing sick pet visits and postponing elective procedures at this time. Elective surgeries such as sterilization have been suspended by the veterinary community locally and nationally mainly to conserve the use of personal protective equipment such as disposable gowns and gloves. This also allows us to utilize time to serve a greater number sick pets. Lifesaving surgeries will continue to be offered on an as needed basis. These measures are consistent with what all healthcare workers have been asked to do by the state government.

By concentrating our efforts in this way we are helping the community by offering advice to clients’ pets over the phone, utilizing telemedicine as much as possible and continuing hospital appointments as needed to avoid a trip to the emergency vet. Medication pick-ups have continued to be available with a parking lot pick up by calling ahead. Of course, end of life services are still available as needed. Previously postponed vaccination appointments for puppies and kittens will be able to be scheduled starting in mid-April. Our adapted protocols are expected to continue into summer. Our staff is prepared to meet the challenges of our current national situation while maintaining our AAHA standards and our community’s needs. Updates will be provided regularly via our Facebook pages and website.

Thinking of us? As we our part as an essential business in your community continued donations of cleaning supplies like Clorox wipes, bleach, laundry detergent, washable triple layer cloth facemasks, hand sanitizer and hand soap would be appreciated.

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By: Inga Fricke, Director of Community Initiatives of Humane Pennsylvania

At the beginning of this year, Humane Pennsylvania’s (HPA) Healthy Pets Initiative was truly hitting its stride. We were holding mass vaccination/microchip clinics for dogs every week and for cats every other week, creating a consistency of service that pet owners in our community could rely on. Spike’s Pet Pantry was serving a steady flow of clients, establishing personal connections with people who love their pets but just needed a little extra support. Our subsidized spay/neuter surgeries were booked out months in advance as people took advantage of our low-cost pricing.  And we were just days away from launching our brand new initiative, a targeted wellness program aimed at bringing veterinary care directly to those who needed it most: the homeless, at-risk veterans and victims of domestic violence.  We were proud of the help we had already been able to provide and were looking forward to doing even more.

Then our world went sideways, just as it did for the rest of you, and it felt like all of our planning and momentum went right along with it. In the blink of an eye we could no longer invite people into our pantry and chat with them about their pets’ needs. We couldn’t perform spay/neuter surgeries anymore, low-cost or otherwise, even though to most animal welfare professionals they are absolutely essential for healthy communities. And we certainly couldn’t invite hundreds of people into a community center to perform mass pet vaccinations. It would have been completely understandable for us to feel helpless and defeated.  But at HPA we look for opportunities to serve no matter the challenge before us, so instead of simply waiting for “normal” to return, we looked for new ways to help, and boy did we find them!

Our first challenge was to completely revamp our in-house Spike’s Pet Pantry to ensure we could continue providing pet food to residents without compromising safety. That meant figuring out a system for communicating with clients without actually coming face-to-face with them. We purchased a video doorbell to facilitate conversations, and figured out a system whereby we hold up signs at our door to ask questions like “How many dogs do you have?” and “Do you need more cat food or dog food today?” While it sounds very impersonal, I can honestly say a highlight of my day is hearing my colleague laughing with Spike’s patrons about the challenges of through-the-glass-door communication, making the very best of a completely unnatural situation. And our numbers tell the story of how critical our service has become – since March 15, more than 13,000 lbs of pet food have passed out the doors of Spike’s Pet Pantry, a more than 200% increase over the same period last year. Perhaps more telling is the fact that over 55% percent of those receiving that food had never had to use our services before this pandemic hit.

Next, we saw an opportunity to leverage the unique relationships we have cultivated with national organizations like Greater Good to allow us to serve as the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team’s official pet food distribution hub for Eastern Pennsylvania.  Within a week we had secured donated warehouse space (our thanks to NAI Keystone) and begun accepting, inventorying and tracking truckloads of donated pet food. To date, we have fielded more than a dozen deliveries to that warehouse and have distributed over 75,000 lbs. of pet food to dozens of groups from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, including schools, community organizations and food pantries.

While that effort alone would have been enough for most organizations, HPA continued looking for opportunities to serve. We began providing pet food delivery to individuals who found themselves unable to reach our pantry, and we arranged multiple drive-thru pet food giveaways in communities across our region. Almost 13,000 lbs. of pet food has been distributed through these efforts, enough to keep more than 1,300 pets fed for a full month, and more of food giveaway events are planned.

Most recently we asked ourselves “How can we restart our mass pet vaccine clinics safely?” We’ve found a way, holding our first ever drive-in pet vaccination clinic at the end of last month. By adapting our service delivery in this creative manner, we are able to ensure that we can continue providing critical, lifesaving, preventative vaccinations and microchips to pet owners in our community without compromising safety, and we are in the process of adding more drive-in clinics to our calendar.

Are we 100% back to normal? Certainly not. Spay/neuter services are still largely on hold due to state and national veterinary restrictions, and despite our best efforts, our drive-in vaccine clinics will likely not serve every pet owner the way our prior walk-in clinics did. But HPA will continue stretching, adapting and innovating to keep meeting the challenge of helping as many pet owners in need as possible. It’s what we do, and it’s all part of our commitment to make this the best community anywhere to be an animal.

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As we work to fully reopen our facilities, we are following State mandates and CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of our staff, clients, volunteers, and supporters.

  • Upon entering any of our facilities, we ask that everyone complies with the CDC guidance and has on a face mask. We ask that you keep this face mask on during the entire length of stay at our facilities. If you do not have one, one will be provided to you.
  • Humane Pennsylvania Lancaster adoption center continues to take great care of the animals in our shelter! Over the last two and a half months, we have adapted some of our policies and started doing adoptions by delivery, which allowed many animals to find their forever homes. If you are interested in adopting an animal, please visit humanepa.org. We have also resumed animal intake appointments.
  • Humane Veterinary Hospitals Reading and Lancaster, in response to revised State mandates, have started expanding services offered and are now accepting appointments for wellness visits, surgeries, and sick visits. At this time, we are still asking all clients to wait in their vehicle outside and call us when they arrive, and we will come out to get their pet. Please call to schedule an appointment, Reading 610-921-8387 and Lancaster 717-826-9762. Our televet services and curbside medication pick ups are still available. Please refer to hvhopsitals.org for continuing updates and information.
  • Healthy Pets Initiative continues to operate our Spike’s Pet Pantry. We have seen a 575% increase of clients served. We have also started to resume our vaccine and microchip clinics. Please visit humanepa.org/healthypets for continued updates and information.
  • We have contacted all Humane Pennsylvania volunteers, and have remained in weekly communication with them. At this time, we are approaching the subject of returning to assist in our shelter, vet hospitals, and events, as a decision for each volunteer based on their comfort level. We have plans in place to ensure their volunteering is done in a safe space, and also provides us with critical support.
  • Most events that were scheduled over the last two and a half months have been canceled or postponed. We are starting to see an increase in events being hosted in June, July, etc., and are eager to participate in a safe way. Check our social media pages for updates on events and how you can support us!
  • One of our biggest events, Walk for the Animals & Walktoberfest has gone virtual this year! Click here for more information on how you can get involved! 2020 Mega Pints for Pups has been canceled, and will now take place in the summer of 2021. The Art for Arf’s Sake Auction is still scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14th.
  • While we understand and want everyone to focus on their own safety and the safety of their family first, Humane Pennsylvania is still in need of lifesaving monetary donations. If you wish to help us when we need it most, we would welcome it. Consider setting up monthly giving, then you won’t even need to think about it! Click here for more information.

Humane Pennsylvania has remained 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 continuing to do this for our human friends and family.

We will continue social distancing, wearing masks, and frequently changing gloves, as long as public health directives require it, as it is our responsibility to protect our animals, staff, volunteers, and the public.

Thank you to everyone for their continued 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.

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Virtual

June 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Chelsea Cappellano in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
By: Lauren Henderson, Director of Events & Corporate Relations of Humane Pennsylvania

Virtual. A word I’ve never used so much in my life, than I have these last two months. I think I’ve developed a love hate relationship with it. On one hand I’m thrilled to have the technology and virtual world to still be able to do my job, communicate with donors, adaptive ways of fundraising, and getting our message out through social media. And on the other hand, I’m missing the in person interaction all of our events and fundraisers have to offer. Our annual Art for Arf’s Sake Auction had to be rescheduled from May 16th to November 14th. Our mega 2020 Pints for Pups event had to canceled and rescheduled for next summer. And now our 43rd Annual Walk for the Animals & Walktoberfest has gone, you guessed it, virtual!

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the safety of gathering together 1,000+ people and their pups, we made the decision to move up our Walk to take place now in the spring, June 19th – 21st, to help us raise some critically needed funds for our organization. Last year, our Walk raised over $125,000 for our organization, which was the most its raised in many years. We were hoping to take that momentum into 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans. Now we’re in full swing of promotion for this year’s virtual Walk, with the hopes that supporters from all over the country will support our efforts!

With each event that is canceled, postponed, or paused, it hurts our overall fundraising efforts. So I am looking to each donor and supporter to help us fill this gap and support our virtual Walk. It’s not the same and it definitely feels different, but it’s the funds raised that make the biggest impact.

Let’s embrace the virtual, and register to walk virtually, form a pack virtually, become a virtual sponsor or vendor, make a virtual donation, and/or purchase virtual raffle tickets! The event might be virtual, but the funds raised are real, and they’re lifesaving.

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By: Karel Minor, Chief Executive Offer/President

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Humane Pennsylvania has been breaking all the rules.  And we intend to continue to do so.

I don’t mean breaking rules like the dummies at the bars and pool parties.  We were following the quarantine rules before they were even officially “the rules” because disease prevention is kind of our thing.  Plus, we don’t want to kill anyone’s granny.  I mean the rules for what is possible for an animal welfare organization, whether it’s in a pandemic or not.

We kept our hospitals open and serving the community.  We kept adopting animals out and we’ve been taking them in.  We kept all our staff working.  We expanded our services and coordinated over 120,000 pounds of pet food distribution in the past two months.  All safely, all within the Governor’s orders and health protocols.

If we had played by the standard rules as they applied to so many other organizations, we’d have cut staff, cut services, and helped fewer animals and people.  Instead we reached out to more people and we changed how we operated so we could operate safely.  Screw the rules, we have pets and people to help.

It has not been without cost.  We had several staff down and out from confirmed or likely COVID-19.  We are front-line workers.  Our work continued but our revenue has not.  Our biggest spring fundraiser, the Art for Arf’s Sake Auction which raises $100,000 each year had to be postponed until November.  Our operating revenue has declined up to 80%.  We have been aided by the generosity of our donors (thank you!) but it’s not enough to offset long term losses if things continue on much longer.  We were fortunate to be in a position to take advantage of the Federal emergency funding, but that’s only an eight week salvation.

How will we continue on?  By breaking the rules some more, of course!  And this time we need you to help.  We will be making a change to one of our major fundraisers this year- I can’t say what or how yet because our Director of Events, Lauren Henderson, will kill me if I spill the beans- which you’ll hear more about soon.  The capital campaign to raise the last half of the funds needed for our new Reading Animal Shelter and Community Hospital, came to a screeching halt, but is going to take an approach that is definitely breaking the rules.  And believe me, the words “ninety-two cents a day” will be coming your way soon.  They will haunt you in your sleep.  Ninety-two cents a day….

We are breaking new ground in tele-vet medicine.  We are finding new ways to deliver critical vaccines and services to larger numbers of people.  We will be finding creative ways around the vague prohibitions against so-called “elective” treatments.  We call them life-saving.  We are pioneering video adoption screening and counseling and direct adoption delivery.  Corona has killed enough people, we aren’t going to allow it to result in needless animal death, too.

Humane Pennsylvania has always been of the mindset that barriers are merely challenges.  Rules can be changed.  We’ve lived that belief and it’s why we succeed when times are great, and we succeed when times aren’t so great.  We don’t know how things will work out but as an organization we have always prepared for the worst while we were planning for the best.

We are going to come out of this smarter, stronger, and surer of ourselves.  We hope you are going to be sticking by us (“ninety-two cents a day”…).  I hope you are able to keep optimistic, too, because we are going to be here standing by for you, whether you and your pets need it or just to work on your behalf for those who do need our help right now.

Thanks for being there for us so we can keep being there for them.

Oh, what the heck, I’ll break one more rule and just flat out ask you to make a donation right here at the end.  Go ahead, live dangerously.  Give like you’re at an Ozarks pool party.  YOLO!

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 Written By: Ellie Scheurich, Animal Care Technician, Humane League of Lancaster County

Separation anxiety in dogs is a very common issue brought up by pet owners. A lot of us have been working from home during this pandemic which has allowed for more walks, fetch, and treat giving to our four legged companions. As most would see this as “living their best lives” it can also be described as a blessing in disguise. Being home 24/7 with our dogs can cause issues down the road when things go back to “normal.” Meaning we will have to go back to saying goodbye to our four legged love bugs as we run out the door, racing the clock, to punch in on time.

As we slowly start making our way back into the normal routine, here are some behaviors to look for when departing and leaving your dog at home:

  • Pacing around different areas.
  • Barking, howling or whimpering upon departure.
  • Urinating/defecating when left alone.
  • Destroying objects in the home, or exit points such as doors, crates, etc.

Keep in mind, while these are possible signs of separation anxiety, they are also signs of boredom. They’re currently used to us being at home entertaining them, going for extra walks, and receiving chin scratches under the desk while we work. Even the thought of going back to work makes some people feel guilty about not being at home with their dog(s) BUT there are so many different ways to keep them occupied that will also help adjust them back to their, and our, normal routine.

While some dogs may still chew up our favorite pair of sneakers when left alone, we can help set them up for success by putting them away where they can’t chew them and provide constructive “busy” work for all of us feel good about. Here are a few ideas:

  • Go back to our original routine before the stay at home order. Wake up at your normal time, get dressed, and have your favorite cup of cold brew. Then prepare them as you normally would for your departure. Whether that be putting them in their crate or putting them in their safe space. After they are in their normal area, give them a busy toy to keep them occupied (such as a frozen peanut butter Kong). Then grab your keys and head out the door. Now, it sounds crazy, but hang outside for a little while. Enjoy the fresh air, maybe even take a walk around the neighborhood. This exercise helps prepare your animal for your normal departure in the morning, but also gets them back in the routine of having alone time during the day. You can do this routine throughout the day to give them alone time and help them practice your departure and arrival. Remember when you are leaving or coming home to stay calm and relaxed. You don’t want to get them excited. Instead, you want to act like it’s completely okay and not unusual for you to leave the house.
  • Enrichment. Enrichment. Do you know how important enrichment is? Sure exercise really helps get a dog’s energy out, but the key to a healthy dog is offering them the opportunity to use their brain. Imagine your day consisting of just a walk, being fed twice a day, then sleeping on the couch all day. Followed by the occasional keep tabs on your human around the house for some extra love routine. That’s going to get boring and believe it or not your dog will appreciate the extra mental stimulation.
    • Frozen peanut butter Kong’s are a wonderful way to keep your pet busy AND it requires them to think about how to get the peanut butter out.
    • Food bowls are overrated, seriously throw out your food bowl already and start making your pet work for their food. You can use slow feeding bowls or that cereal box you were going to throw out last night after your midnight snack. Fill that sucker up with their food and some treats and let them destroy the box to work for their food. You can also feed them by doing a training session and work on their basic obedience commands. Also, have I told you one of my favorite ways to feed dogs? No? Well get ready. Fasten your seat belt. The best way to feed your pet is to do a treasure hunt for them. Hide their food throughout the house but remember where you hid the different kibbles so you don’t step on them late at night when you are trying to sneak a snack. Not only do they get to use their nose to find their food, but it also keeps them busy and isn’t as boring as eating out of the same bowl every single day.
    • Slow feeding bowl resources through DoggieDesigner- https://doggiedesigner.com/best-slow-feed-dog-bowls/
  • Remember those walks you’ve been taking them on multiple times a day? Well you need to start cutting them back if its not your normal routine. Instead, walk them the same amount of times your normal routine allows you to BUT make the walks more engaging. Work on their basic obedience throughout the walk. Have you ever seen parkour? Where people jump off stuff and do cool tricks? Well don’t have your dog jump off high areas, but practice urban agility on normal everyday objects. Let them jump up on picnic tables and ask them for a sit. Allow them to walk across park benches as if they’re walking the plank. Enjoy your time with them and get creative. Urban agility is so much fun and your dogs will appreciate the extra fun during the walk.

As difficult as it will be for all of us to adjust back to our normal routine, it will also be difficult for our pets to adjust too. Now is the time to work on their training and prepare them for your return to work. You will appreciate it in the long run if you prepare your dog now. No one enjoys coming home to a destroyed couch and chewed up slippers.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and most importantly stay positive.

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Written by: Dr. Alicia Simoneau, CVO, Humane Pennsylvania        

Why it is best to have your pet seen regularly and not just for sick visits:

  • Assess dental health: The majority of cats and dogs over the age of 5 have significant dental disease. You might get a whiff of some bad breath and think it’s just the food you feed your pet. However, your vet will inspect your pet’s mouth and can explain to you at the visit the signs of dental disease and how to slow it down. These recommendations can range from starting an at home dental health program, teeth cleaning and assessment under general anesthesia (dental prophylaxis) to oral surgery and tooth extraction.
  • Monitor weight: Living with an animal every day we may not realize they are getting beyond their ideal body condition. The majority of pet’s can use some friendly nutrition and exercise advice to keep them in tip top shape. We know that lean animals live years longer than obese animals.
  • Monitor lumps and bumps: Some masses are nothing to worry about, others are quite dangerous. Your vet will feel, chart (measure and document location) and make recommendations about a mass. Knowing where the masses are and monitoring their progress can help your vet and you make an informed decision on the most appropriate course of action. Sometimes monitoring is advised, other times a needle sample with analysis is best or removal and biopsy.
  • Monitor cardiac health: When your vet listens to your pet’s chest they are listening for the rate, rhythm and character of the heartbeat and lung sounds. Heart murmurs are the sounds of blood swirling in the heart instead of flowing through the heart valves smoothly. There are age related heart diseases common in many dog breeds that are typically first discovered at a wellness visit. Your vet will give recommendations based on the intensity of the heart murmur, if intervention needs to happen, and what types of diagnostics would be beneficial. Knowing this information can extend your pet’s life when interventions are needed. Dental disease and weight also play a role in optimal cardiac health.
  • Discuss behavior concerns: Wellness visits are a great opportunity to ask your vet about any quirky or concerning behaviors you are noticing in your pet. Behavior concerns can start out small and escalate to the point of being a reason people choose to rehome their pet. Seeking advice early can lead to increased satisfaction in your relationship with your pet.
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The world of animal welfare has changed a great deal in the past few decades.  Unfortunately, “Big Philanthropy’s” view of our work hasn’t changed with it.  Despite the fact that animal welfare is now a diverse sector of charitable endeavors which help a broad spectrum of people- not just animals-  foundations, government, and united funds still have an antiquated perception of what many of us do, how we do it, and for whom we do it.

Their view is as old timey as the title of this blog.  I’d like to take a moment to make a case for why it is time for that view to change.

For many years animal welfare has been lumped into a sector of the charitable world referred to as “Animals/Environment”.  Most funding organizations don’t give to this sector because they consider themselves “Human Services” funders.  The same is true for most government funding.  The idea was that taxes and charitable funds were intended for people, not animals.  Since animal welfare organizations just helped animals, we couldn’t access the pools of funding out there for people in need.

That may have been a valid case 30 or 40 years ago, when most animal welfare organizations were primarily or exclusively animal shelters.  Saving an animal from homelessness really only saved the animal, the “Who Saved Who? (with paw print)” bumper sticker aside.  There has always been a case that animal control work was a human benefit- ask the person who didn’t get rabies from that stray cat or bitten by that stray dog- and we made it strongly for the past 25 years, largely to no avail.  Government has always operated under another old timey adage: “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”?  And we always gave away the milk in the name of helping the animals.

But about 15 years ago the role and operations of what would have been formerly known as an animal welfare organization began to change.  Humane Society of Berks County, now Humane Pennsylvania, was on the national vanguard of this change.  We started to target our services directly at people, not at the animal.  We did this as pet “ownership” underwent a sea change in the US.  Overwhelmingly, the role of animals changed from pet to companion animal to family member.  More people and families had pets, but fewer of them at a time and for longer.

Pets were no longer disposable.  Euthanasia and pet surrender to shelters plummeted by 80% over 40 years. Like children, people began making sacrifices for them rather than sacrificing them during times of economic turmoil.  Even at the cost to themselves and their human families.  Humane Pennsylvania recognized that if we wanted to help animals stay in families, we needed to help people.  We changed our approach and began offering direct assistance that had a positive financial impact on families, as well as a health benefit for animals.

We were early adopters of the broad pet food pantry model. More profoundly we were leaders in moving to provide universal pet health care to the entire community, not just to those who could afford it.  While these things can seem almost uncontroversial now, when we started this work 15 years ago we got hate mail- not just from the community, but from other animal shelters.  The general argument was that if people were too poor to feed their pets or give them proper medical care, they shouldn’t have them, they should just give them up.

Those were identical arguments made about poor people having children over a century ago.  It was elitist and revolting 150 years ago in the age of government run orphanages, just as it was 15 years ago in the age of dog pounds.

And we knew that, just like kids, people would keep having pets.  And, just like kids, they’d often do so regardless of the financial risk to their families and themselves, and that many simply did not have access to or experience with the normal healthcare and social services nets that many of us are fortunate enough to have been born into.  Humane Pennsylvania knew that if we could help a family in financial crisis save a dollar on pet food or veterinary care, they had an extra dollar to spend on their child, or food, rent or clothing.

Our animal service became a human service.  We flipped the model from helping animals in need and making people happy to helping people and making animals happy.  We became a family services organization.  Only our definition of “family” is a little broader. In large part our “animal welfare” sector has come a long way with this change. We no longer get hate mail from other shelters, we get asked to help them develop their own human oriented service models.

During the COVID-19 crisis the wisdom change has never been so readily apparent.  Humane Pennsylvania was immediately appointed by the PA State Animal Response Team, which operates under the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency during emergencies, to be the agency in charge of large scale pet food distribution across Eastern PA and beyond.  This was not food given directly to individuals.  It was major deliveries to human food pantries, to school districts distributing food via Federal lunch programs to students in need, to governmental operations.  To agencies and organizations focused on people, and who recognize that people come with furry baggage called pets.  When we help carry that furry baggage, families benefit in this crisis.

In the past month of the emergency declaration Humane Pennsylvania has distributed- from our warehouses, with our equipment, with our staff and volunteers- over 50 tons of pet food to these human service agencies.  From Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to the Northern Tier.  On top of being the sole provider of sick veterinary care in Reading, Pennsylvania’s 5th largest city.

You might think with all the money flowing from government to support emergency response we received some emergency funds for this work, or an emergency grant from one of our community funding organizations.  Care to guess how much we have received?  Not one penny.  We, and you as a private donor, has subsidized Humane Pennsylvania’s work.  After all, we are apparently just an animal organization, right?

This is why it is time for foundations, government, and united funds (including our local United Ways and community foundations) to reconsider how they view some animal welfare organizations in their giving classifications.  Some organizations, like Humane Pennsylvania, are fully invested in and directed toward human services as the central approach to our work.  Others have dedicated and highly effective individual programs which help people and deserve equal funding consideration.  This is akin to churches, which may not qualify for government or charitable funding as religious entities, but can still access service funding for specific programs and work.

But even during this crisis, when requesting charitable funds from foundations and United Ways, Humane Pennsylvania has been denied, often explicitly because we aren’t a “human service” organization in their view.  Despite the fact that we are providing support and supplies to the very same food pantries and school districts as they are.  There is a logical disconnect, and it’s unfair and is hurting families.

I do not wish to blame or point fingers, but in order to fix a problem, it must be recognized.  Sometimes that is uncomfortable, just as it was uncomfortable for animal organizations- for us- to look in the mirror and acknowledge 15 years ago that we were operating under a failing model that hurt animals.

That same self-reflection is needed now in the charitable community funding world.  The old category of “Animals/Environment” no longer applies.  Antiquated views of family and human services no longer fit the times or community need.  Berks and Lancaster County should take the lead by re-evaluating the funding barriers put in place two generations ago.

Our counties have proven themselves to be innovators who can see over the horizon, as Humane Pennsylvania has consistently done over the past decade.  Family/Animal organizations- a new category?- deserve a seat at the funding table and major funders can give it to us.  If they can see where our families are today, as well as where families will be over the horizon.

If they want to.

Your Partner in Family Animal Welfare,

Karel Minor, CEO

Humane Pennsylvania

P.S.- Until Humane Pennsylvania has equitable access to community charitable funding, we rely exclusively on your financial support.  Please make a gift today to help animals and families in our community.

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Written by: Genisus Hess, Adoption Counselor, Humane League of Lancaster County

If you haven’t met my pup, Cricket, she is a 70 lb ball of wild, excited, joyful energy. Being a German Shepherd / Australian Shepherd Mix, she loves nothing more than sharing her opinion on everything, and sprinting around the yard like a four-legged race car. In short, she very much embraces the German Shepherd side of herself.

Despite being a mischievous goofball, I learned rather quickly that she is a smart lady.

Maybe she runs into the door now and again because she wasn’t looking, or trips over her own four paws, but in the time I have spent with her, she has taught me numerous valuable lessons about life, and how to live it to the fullest.

On a normal day, Cricket and I could usually be found taking hikes with our best friend, stopping by Dunkin’ Donuts for a sweet treat, or just being out on the town in general. Now, with everything going on, we have found ourselves spending a lot of time at home. While I have been feeling cooped up and anxious to get out, Cricket has been calm and content. I actually haven’t noticed much of a difference in her at all – she is still happy and excited, just as she was before. Taking a moment to ponder, I realize that this is the first lesson Cricket is teaching me – being content and finding joy, no matter the circumstance. During my working hours, where I am calling clients and have my full attention on my computer, Cricket is happy to just be curled up by my feet, treating every small ear scratch she can get as the best thing in the world. Even though we can’t go on our hikes as often as we used to, she still finds pleasure in romping around the yard, and taking the same meadow path we have taken day after day after day. Instead of feeling cooped up, Cricket has found joy merely in the fact that we are together more often than usual. In all, she has always been finding the silver linings, and has encouraged me to do so as well.

Speaking of being content, Cricket has also taught me a valuable lesson of slowing down. Lately, my mind has been racing at a million miles per hour, with dozens of “what-if’s” and general worries bouncing around my mind. I, in general, have a very go- go-go personality, and have found the slowed down pace of quarantine frustrating. It isn’t in my nature to settle and slow down. Cricket, however, has been showing me how it’s done. When she finishes the tasks that need doing (annoying the cats, stealing some of mama’s breakfast, etc.), Cricket finds importance in taking a good nap, or in spending some time chewing on her favorite Nylabone (which is shaped like a dinosaur, very cool). It is during these times I find myself drawn to stop my rushing, and sit beside her, and just be. I let my thoughts slow down, and stop my worrying. I just allow myself to slow down and enjoy this moment together. When necessary tasks are finished, it is important – especially at a time like this – to invest in what you enjoy doing, and to take some time for self-care. Cricket reminds me daily that instead of worrying, I should settle down and take it slowly. Read a book, work on a drawing, or – Cricket’s favorite – cuddle up and binge watch Supernatural. 

Lastly, Cricket taught me the importance of reaching out when I need to. Despite being a joyful, happy lady, there are some things that frighten Cricket. Due to a worrisome past before we found each other, Cricket finds a lot of anxiety when it comes to strangers or people she doesn’t know. While she is always polite and kind, strange humans can cause a good deal of stress and anxiety for her. Whenever Cricket comes upon something that makes her uneasy and that she feels she cannot handle, she always, without fail, will sit quietly pressed up against me or quietly behind me, and will look to me for what she should do. We have a trust that says that she can always come to me if she is frightened, and can rest knowing that I will take care of her and keep her safe. In this way, she shows me how important it is to reach out to those that I trust when it feels I cannot handle what is in front of me. When everything feels overwhelming, it is important that I reach out for guidance and comfort, instead of trying to deal with it all on my own.

All in all, Cricket continues to be a teacher to me, especially during this time of uncertainty. Take a moment to think about your own pets, or any animals you care for – what lessons do they have for you, during this time? What can you learn from them?

Keep an ear out – they may surprise you with their wisdom.

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

Are you feeling lonely while social distancing? Has your increased screen time watching kitten videos and seeing your relative post 900 videos of her dog making the same face (this is me, I am that person) making you seriously consider adding a furry friend to your home of isolation? Are you struggling to decide if it’s the right time to adopt?  Adding a pet to your family is a serious decision that should not be taken lightly. Whether you are considering a temporary stay, like fostering, or a more permanent option like adoption, there are things you should consider ahead of time. There are also key things you can do to help you and your new pet during their acclimation period to give you both the best chance at success in your new found relationship. Read on to find out more!

What should you do before you bring a new animal home?

Talk to everyone in your household. Ensure that everyone in the home who plans to play a part in the animal’s life, or simply interact with the animal on a regular basis, are all on the same page with expectations or concerns. Everyone needs to be ready to put in the time and effort to help with training, cleaning, exercising, and socializing. This also includes roommates. If you share any common space with someone else, that person will play some part in the animal’s life, so it is important that considerations are taken to make sure all parties are on the same page.

Evaluate your finances. While it can be difficult to know if you will ever be financially “ready” for a pet (none of us have a crystal ball to know what the future holds) it is good to still discuss finances and make sure you can cover the animal’s needs, which should include having a plan for preparing for emergency cases. This preparation can include setting a credit card aside specifically for pet emergencies, devoting a portion of your paycheck each week to an emergency fund, or researching some of the common things that can happen and how much they typically cost so you have an idea of what vet bills can run so you are not blindsided by even just the routine care. You certainly do not need to be wealthy to provide a loving home to an animal, but there is a level of responsibility that needs to be acknowledged and planning ahead of time can prevent heartache in the future. This may even help you decide what type of animal is best for you as some animals are generally more high maintenance than others. Since you don’t have a crystal ball to refer to, if you do find yourself in tough times, whether it be from a job loss or death of a family member, there are thankfully many resources to help you get through temporary hardship without having to give up your furry friend. There are pet food banks and organizations specifically devoted to helping with emergency vet care. These resources shouldn’t be part of your expectations when planning, but are important to know they are out there if you fall on hard times.

Research! It is common for people to say, “I grew up with such and such pet twenty years ago, so I know all there is to know about caring for them.”  Fortunately, animal care guidelines and research has expanded exponentially over the years due to an increased interest in the animal welfare field. Because of this, the training or care you applied to

your pet two decades ago may now be proven to produce negative results, and there are new training techniques that are safer and provide a better experience for you and your pet! In addition, there are many people who pick their dog based solely off looks, which can pose problems. While each dog is an individual and even pure bred dogs do not always display typical breed traits, there is still research that should be done to make sure you are able to provide a lifetime commitment. For example, if you rent and have a 40-pound weight limit, your research will tell you that the St. Bernard puppy you fell in love with is going to turn into a dog that is 3 times the size of your approved weight limit! Do you spend your weekends watching Netflix with the occasional short walk to get some air? Then a pug might show up on your list of couch potato dogs as opposed to the high energy herding or terrier breeds.

Evaluate your schedule. This is a big one to consider right now. Just because you have the time now does not mean you will have the time when you go back to your regular schedule. If you didn’t feel you had enough time before working from home or cutting back your hours, it might be a good idea to consider fostering instead of a full-time commitment. Who will watch your pet while you are away? Thankfully, there are many options for pet-sitters and doggy daycares, as well as reliable neighbors and family members. You will want to research this ahead of time though, because they can be costly and certain daycares require vaccines and interviews before booking appointments. You might be thinking that because you are home now more than usual, wouldn’t that be the best time to train a puppy? Yes, and no. Puppies require consistency with training for weeks and months. If your situation were to go back to normal in a month, it is unrealistic that your 3-month old puppy is going to be able to be at home alone for a ten-hour shift.  So, consider your training schedule not only for your current situation, but especially for your “normal” situation since you don’t know when that could resume.

You’ve decided you are ready to foster or adopt. What’s next?

Gather supplies. You will want to make sure you have what you need before bringing your new pet home. For a cat, this includes purchasing the appropriate amount of litter boxes and determining the best place to set them up, food and water dish, toys, scratching post, food and treats, carrier, bed, etc. For a dog, this might mean a crate to help with training, food and water dish, food and treats, leash and collar, toys, identification tags, etc. For cats, it is suggested to set them up in a smaller room with all of their supplies to create a safe place for them to get adjusted into the home. For dogs, you will want to carefully consider where the crate and dishes will go, especially if you have other animals in the home.

Where to put these supplies? Cats can be more prone to stress and difficult to adapt to change, so putting all of their essential items in a smaller area before giving them full access to your home, even if you live in a smaller home or apartment, can be essential to a proper start. Even if you aren’t bringing a puppy home, a crate can be a good tool for training and create a safe space for your dog. Dogs are den animals and the small, covered feeling of a crate can imitate the feeling of being in a den. In addition, you never know when your dog will need to stay in a crate or cage at an animal hospital, relative’s home, or in an emergency situation, so it can be good to make sure they are at least exposed and have a positive experience with one. My dogs will often choose to take a snooze in their crate over many different options of pet beds and the couch.

Pet proof your home.  If you have lots of plants around your house you may want to check and make sure they aren’t on the list of plants that are poisonous to animals if eaten. Keep wires out of reach and eyesight, especially for puppies and kittens. Keep medications and household cleaners out of reach. Look for holes in your walls that a small animal could fit into.

The animal is home! How do I acclimate them?

Set up a vet visit. Even if you just adopted your pet and they are said to be up to date with their vaccines, it is important to establish a relationship with a veterinarian immediately. If your animal does get sick or have an emergency, you may not be able to quickly get into a regular vet hospital as a new client and will be forced to go to an emergency vet hospital where you will most likely pay significantly more money.  Establishing a relationship with a vet is helpful so you can ask any questions you may have about diet, exercise, and overall health.

Resist having visitors over right away. That will be easy right now as you should be practicing social isolation and shouldn’t have anyone who doesn’t live in the home over to visit.  However, during normal circumstances it is important to let your new pet adjust to you and the home before having strangers over. This is not the time for a welcome home party. Even the most secure and sociable animal can feel stressed and overwhelmed by a new environment, and you do not want to trigger those stressors and cause anxieties that could affect the animal for the rest of their lives.

Create a schedule even if you are home all of the time. Try to stick to the same schedule for feeding and potty breaks and prepare to take your new dog out more frequently during the adjustment period, particularly if they are not housebroken. Even if you work from home normally and are often home it is good to make sure your animal can be alone or else they may develop separation anxiety. Make sure when you leave you make the “alone time” positive for your pet. You can do this by providing a good treat. For example, give your dog a Kong filled with a tasty treat to eat while you are away and then remove the Kong when you are back. Start with small trips and work up to longer ones. Maybe it’s a quick trip to the mailbox, a longer trip to the grocery store, and working up to a few more hours. Don’t make a big deal about coming and going.  Provide lots of physical and mental enrichment when you are home so they are tired when you aren’t there.

Set boundaries. This is key for starting on the right foot. Don’t allow animals to do things you aren’t intending to let them do in the future because it will be harder to change the behavior after you have allowed and enforced it. For example, if you don’t intend to let the pet sleep in bed with you don’t let them do this the first week they are home because you feel bad they were in a shelter. Think of it like children; we give them rules and boundaries to protect them because we love them and know it is critical to their wellbeing and acclimating to society. Setting boundaries with your dog allows you to build your relationship and reduce the chance of problems.

Work on socialization and bonding. You shouldn’t set up puppy play dates during a pandemic when you should be social distancing.  What can you do instead to help your new dog, especially if they are a puppy, is work on their social interactions. Play different sound recordings for them, introduce them to different surfaces, let them see or even visit (keep a safe distance with the owner if still in pandemic) with neighborhood dogs you are familiar with and know are vaccinated. All should be done while providing good treats that allow them to start positive associations with the new items and if any signs of fear or stress are witnessed, remove your pet from that trigger. You may need to involve a trainer depending how bad the fear or anxiety is toward the object or situation. If you have a playful cat, you can bond by playing with something like a wand toy.  However, if you have a cat that is shut down and scared, you can help them get used to your presence by sitting in their “safe room” for a few minutes at a time and read a book or offer them a tasty treat to help them associate you with good things. Calm and quiet is best for a scared cat.

Remember that while this can be a wonderful time to add a new animal to your household, there are challenges that should be considered. Certain resources may not be fully accessible and so you will need to maneuver those things differently. You know your situation best and there are plenty of resources and educated individuals willing to help you determine if now is a good time to foster or adopt. It is important to think long and hard before making any commitment to an animal because they deserve the good life you want to give them. Be honest with yourself when asking the questions that were posed. While so much is uncertain in the world right now, these things are certain: animals are loyal, they do not judge, they don’t care whether you can cook well or sing beautifully, they love unconditionally and we could all learn how to be better humans from them.

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