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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Dr. Alicia Simoneau, CVO of 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, 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 continue our part as an essential business in your community, continued donations of cleaning supplies like Clorox wipes, bleach, laundry detergent, washable triple layer cloth face masks, hand sanitizer and hand soap would be greatly appreciated.

 

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Donors Save Lives

April 8th, 2020 | Posted by Chelsea Cappellano in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Written by: Chelsea Cappellano, Donor and Alumni Relations Coordinator, Humane Pennsylvania

Donors play an extremely important role in regards to Humane Pennsylvania’s success. Their kindness supports our unique and highly effective approach to helping animals. Without them, Humane Pennsylvania (HPA) would not be able to rescue or adopt out thousands of homeless pets, stray or surrendered, each year and provide other cutting-edge programs such as Spike’s Pet Pantry, Safe Haven, and our Healthy Pets Initiative.

HPA is a private, non-profit, charitable organization (501c3). All of our funding comes from direct charitable gifts. HPA does not receive funding from the federal, state, or local government, or from national interest groups like the HSUS or ASPCA. Since many of us are experiencing the emotional and financial stresses associated with COVID-19, our hearts are truly touched by the continued support shown by our community members.

Even though our buildings are partially shut down, our staff is still very dedicated to HPA’s mission, whether it be through day to day care of the shelter animals, scheduling appointments for animals in need of veterinary care, or assisting community members with accessing pet food. These services are able to continue because of the donations received. Items such as food, litter, cleaning supplies, or monetary donations all make a very big difference. Every donation means an animal can be cared for or a service can be continued.

At this time, Humane Pennsylvania wants to say thank you for the outpouring of love and support.  We are here to support you and the animals of Berks and Lancaster counties during this national crisis.

If you would like to more information on how to make a monetary donation, please visit https://humanepa.org/donations/online-donations or contact our Donor & Alumni Relations Coordinator, Chelsea Cappellano, at ccappellano@humanepa.org or 610-750-6100 ext. 299.

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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.
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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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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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