June is Adopt-a-Cat Month!

June 9th, 2022 | Posted by Ronai Rivera in Adopt A Shelter Cat | Adopt A Shelter Pet | Animal Welfare | Cat Lovers - (Comments Off on June is Adopt-a-Cat Month!)
By: Humane Pennsylvania Community Outreach Programs Manager, Alexandra Young

June is Adopt-a-Cat Month! Our Community Outreach Programs, Alexandra Young, loves cats so much, she wanted to tell you all about why cats make pawsome pets!

“Many people eagerly await the spring showers and flowers in April, as well as the pleasant warmth of summer temperatures in June. But for people who work and volunteer in animal welfare and cat rescue, spring marks the start of kitten season as free-roaming, outdoor cats start giving birth to litters of up to seven kittens.

Forty-five years ago, this inevitable tidal wave of kittens was the impetus behind American Humane’s first Adopt-a-Cat Month campaign to urge the public to adopt cats and kittens from local animal shelters rather than buying them from breeders. The organization has existed for over 100 years, creating public service campaigns and performing animal rescue during wars, 9/11, and weather disasters.

I have been a pet owner since childhood, caring for a variety of creatures, including lizards, fish, birds, rodents, cats, and dogs. Each species presents certain challenges, but if you’re looking for a warm-blooded, soft, fuzzy friend, it’s wise to consider adopting a shelter cat or kitten.

Cats make excellent pets for many of the same reasons dogs do: unconditional love, affirmation of the human-animal bond, stress reduction, and providing you with a sense of purpose. And cats have some outstanding characteristics that may make them more suitable companions than dogs, which are higher-maintenance pets.

Independence: For busy working folks, especially ones who travel or have an unpredictable work schedule, the self-sufficient nature of cats is a big bonus. They instinctively use litter boxes as tiny kittens and, if basic maintenance guidelines are followed (and there are no health issues), they’ll reliably use them when needed. It’s simple!

With the advent of motion-activated gadgets, it’s even easier to leave your cats for a few days, as long as your pet is familiar with a routine using automatic food dispensers (set to timed meals) and litter boxes.

They should already have plenty of high shelves and cat trees near windows on which to perch and view their kingdom, which will keep them occupied and content. Battery-operated interactive toys and food puzzles abound, so a friend could come every other day and reset such items for their fun time.

Even cats that are very bonded to their people do not typically suffer from separation anxiety, so there is very low risk for property damage while you’re away, regardless of the time frame.

Intelligence: Many people know that cats inherently do not try very hard to please their owners, and their respect must be earned. But people may not realize that cats can also be taught as many tricks as a dog can!

Cats have the mental capacity and physical ability (maybe even more than dogs!) to learn the same kinds of antics and obstacle course athletics, but they respond well only to positive reinforcement and force-free training methods, such as clicker training[1].

This method is also used regularly — and successfully — on animals in zoos and aquariums to desensitize them to being handled in certain ways so they can be examined and undergo important medical procedures. If they can train a grizzly bear to safely display his teeth, you can certainly teach your kitty to give a high-five, fetch, or roll over on command.

Budget-friendly: Because of their small size, any anesthesia or medicine a cat needs will cost less than it would for a medium- or larger-size dog. Of course, cats should still be sterilized and get the same basic veterinary care annually (or more often as they get older), but they are generally more affordable to keep.

Opportunity: Lastly, but far from the least important factor, is that when you adopt a cat, you save more than just that kitty! When you adopt a shelter cat, you save that cat’s life as well as open up a space at the facility for another needy purrball. Although not all outside cats are suitable for adoption[2], if you rescue a neighborhood cat that clearly enjoys being a family house cat, you remove that cat as a breeder from the area and provide it with a healthy, safe home.

Even in areas with robust programs that humanely manage cat colonies, there are still lost pets, kittens that are born outside, and older cats that are surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them that end up in shelters and are looking for their next family.

Be a part of the solution to pet overpopulation in our country and don’t shop, but adopt your next pet. Stop in either Humane Pennsylvania’s Berks or Lancaster County animal shelters to find your next faithful, furry friend!”

[1] https://www.clickertraining.com/cat-training

2 https://blog.humanepa.org/?m=202110

 

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Prepare Your Pets For Natural Disasters

May 10th, 2022 | Posted by Ronai Rivera in Animal Rescue | Animal Welfare | Emergency Preparedness | Humane Pennsylvania | Natural Disasters - (Comments Off on Prepare Your Pets For Natural Disasters)
By: Humane Pennsylvania Community Outreach Programs Manager, Alexandra Young

In 2005, I spent several months in Louisiana doing animal rescue and recovery work after Hurricane Katrina. Of the 250+ cats in our care at the Alley Cat Allies base camp in Bogalusa, LA during that time, only 11 pets were reunited with their owners. Although some progress has been made since then, human evacuation shelters do not automatically accept pets in the same areas where their owners are living (called co-sheltering).

In 2010, as a direct response to the outcomes of Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Citizen Corps declared May 8 as the National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day to raise awareness and encourage pet owners to actively plan for their pets’ safety long before a disaster strikes.

Why Being Prepared Is Important

Some thoughtful planning and a little research will go a long way when you find yourself and your beloved pets in an unexpected situation.

In our area of Pennsylvania, we don’t have to worry too much about natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. However, severe weather here can easily lead to flooding. And no matter where you live, you can be affected by a local water main break or power outages due to high winds and ice storms.

A more common scenario, and one that’s often overlooked, includes auto accidents. Dogs can easily be thrown from vehicles — especially if they’re smaller, sitting on your lap, or near an open window. A crate secured with a seatbelt is generally considered the safest method to transport a dog.

New safety products are always emerging, although few pet seatbelts/harnesses are actually crash tested. However, there are some products that have been independently reviewed that may increase the chances of your dog surviving a car accident. [1] [2]

Remember: Your pet will observe your behavior and mirror your energy — especially during an unusual, chaotic situation. The key to calmness is advanced preparation: Envision the difference between trying to corral your loose dog with…your bare hands, or maybe a belt, versus clipping a sturdy leash to his well-fitting collar! Taking the following steps now can significantly reduce everyone’s stress later, regardless of the scale of “disaster”.

How To Get Prepared

Get Ready

  • Pack a “go” bag of your pet’s essentials: medications, food and water for several days, extra collars, leashes, and/or harnesses, and a favorite toy/scent article. Pack a duplicate bag to keep in the car if you travel often with your pet, and be sure to rotate medications so they stay fresh.
  • Consider investing in a solar-powered battery pack for your phone, water treatment tablets, and a solar-powered weather/emergency radio. Pack these in your personal “go” bag with other human essentials.
  • Regularly incorporate positive association tasks with your pet so traveling and confinement (crates and carriers) are normal places for treats, toys, and relaxation.
  • Create a first aid kit that covers basic needs for both you and your pet in case of minor cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or other minor injuries. Large towels make great slings and can act as padding or absorbent material.

Be Current

  • Keep your pet’s vaccinations and microchip registration updated in case you need to board them or stay at a pet-friendly hotel. Pandemic schedules are still causing longer wait times for veterinary appointments, so don’t wait!
  • Ensure your vet’s records are easily accessible, both on your phone and as hard copies in your vehicle. Use a PVC pipe with threaded end caps to store hard copies that show yours and your pet’s veterinarian’s contact information, along with your pet’s most recent vaccination history and medical conditions.
  • Keep digital and hard copies of current photos of you with your pet in case you get separated. It’s especially important to show multiple views of markings on cats.

Stay Informed

  • Keep a list of local boarding kennels (preferably with veterinarians on-site), pet-friendly hotels, and the local animal shelter if they offer emergency services.
  • Research your county’s disaster response agencies and keep their contact information handy.
  • Confirm if any local agencies offer co-sheltering options during disaster evacuations.

Extend Your Family

  • Identify one or two trusted people who can access and care for your pet in case you are separated, injured, or otherwise unable to do so.

Humane Pennsylvania Maintains Disaster Preparedness

Humane Pennsylvania is home to the Berks County Animal Response Team (CART), which works directly with the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PSART) and serves as the primary Eastern Pennsylvania large-scale emergency distribution resource for pet food and supplies. We are gearing up to deploy emergency supplies for up to 1,500 animals.

We attend ongoing training with the Berks County Department of Emergency Services and coordinate with numerous other county agencies to prepare for a variety of disasters, including chemical spills, radiation contamination, and severe weather damage.

Our organization also supports families and their pets by offering temporary foster housing for needy pets in emergencies. PeNet has been recognized by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as a “Government Innovation” program. Find more information on both of these programs and much more at humanepa.org.

 

[1] https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/care/collars-harnesses-leashes-muzzles/dog-car-harnesses-review/

[2] https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/lifestyle/small-dog-car-safety/

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Adopt A Shelter Pet

April 26th, 2022 | Posted by Ronai Rivera in Adopt A Shelter Pet | Adoption Story | Animal Welfare - (Comments Off on Adopt A Shelter Pet)
By: Melanie Reynolds, Humane Pennsylvania Animal Care Technician

Is adopting a shelter pet the way to go? Does adopting an animal really make that much of a difference? For some, the answer is simple and automatic. For others, it’s not.

A little over 13 years ago, my family faced these exact questions. Our first dog had passed away. He was one of those Heinz 57 dogs. You know the ones I’m talking about.

When he passed away he left a void that, to me, felt like the size of a small crater. Coming home without him to greet us when we came in the door, seeing the spot where his bed was kept — now sitting empty — felt like a wound that wouldn’t heal.

Everyone’s grieving period is different, but two months of feeling emptiness when I came home was enough for me. I needed another dog. A discussion with my parents revealed they felt the same.

Then came the aforementioned questions. Our first dog had just kind of fallen into our laps. A dog of someone we knew had an accidental litter of pups, so finding him was easy. We’d have to do a little more work to find dog number two. My parents wanted a puppy. I wanted to adopt from a shelter. Finding a middle ground was going to take some work and research.

13 years ago, I was working my first job in animal care. I knew of puppy mills, but the image in my head was that of animals in unsanitary conditions and cramped cages. Research opened my eyes to the different types of puppy mills that were out there.

There’s the “breeder” with several different breeds, instead of focusing on one. The “breeder” who won’t show you the young animal’s parents. Or the “breeder” who won’t take the animal back if there’s a medical or behavioral problem. These are all signs of a potential mill — and the last thing anyone in my family wanted to do was inadvertently support one.

After our research, we agreed adopting from a shelter would be the way to go for us. Though we still wanted a puppy or a very young dog, we didn’t realize all the advantages that would come with adopting an animal from a shelter.

Did you know the vast majority of shelters won’t adopt animals out until they’ve been spayed or neutered, unless there’s a medical reason to not do so? That’s potentially hundreds of dollars saved for you. They’re also most likely already fully vaccinated or as up-to-date on vaccines as they can be, depending on their age and length of stay in the shelter.

Depending on the shelter, they may have even been given a dewormer and flea and tick preventative. If the shelter has any medical or behavioral history on the animal, they’ll disclose that at the time of adoption as well.

Does all this mean the animal will never have medical or behavioral problems? Of course not. But you get a ton of information about the animal right from the start. If you get an animal from a mill, or even a reputable breeder, they most likely will not be spayed or neutered, and they might not even be started on vaccinations.

There’s also the emotional aspect of adopting an animal. This may seem obvious — the animal you adopt no longer has to spend their time in a small cage or kennel — but there’s an emotional aspect for you as the adopter, too. You will always be the one who changed that animal’s life and gave them their forever home. It creates a bond that you will always feel.

My family ultimately did end up adopting our second dog from a shelter, and yes, he was a puppy. He recently celebrated his 13th birthday. When I walk in the door, he’s always there to greet me, even if he is being snobby and turns up his nose at me as soon as he smells the animals from the shelter on my clothes. He made our home complete once again.

April 30th is a day every shelter anxiously anticipates each year; it’s National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day! It’s a day when the spotlight is on the animals in their care. It’s a day when hundreds of animals find their soft place to lay and spend the rest of their days. Is it the way to go for you? That depends on what you want, but I can tell you this: it most certainly makes a difference — and not just for the animal, but for you too.

Learn more about the animals in our care and make one yours today at https://humanepa.org/adoption/.

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Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month: How You Can Make A Difference.

March 30th, 2022 | Posted by Ronai Rivera in Animal Cruelty | Animal Health | Animal Welfare | Healthy Pets Initiative | Humane Pennsylvania - (Comments Off on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month: How You Can Make A Difference.)
Written by: Alexandra Young, Humane Pennsylvania Community Outreach Programs Manager

Since 2006, April has been recognized throughout the U.S. as National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, thanks to the efforts of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

From the Middle Ages onward, there have been barbaric practices related to how animals are treated. Many of these actions come as the result of superstition, religious beliefs, or outright lack of compassion or respect for the animals humans use to increase capacity and make money, especially animals like working horses. Although we live in what is considered to be a civilized world, animal neglect, abuse and cruelty are still pervasive today.

In Pennsylvania, a person commits cruelty to animals (Sec. 5533 of the Pennsylvania Statute1) if they intentionally, knowingly or recklessly ill-treat, overload, beat, abandon or abuse an animal. Aggravated cruelty, as defined by Sec. 5534 of the Pennsylvania Statute, is committed when torture, neglect or cruelty causes serious bodily injury or the death of an animal.

With some thoughtful planning and your smartphone, you may save animals’ lives when you least expect it.

The first thing you can do is research the laws in your most frequented area (your workplace or home). These laws include, but are not limited to:

  • Tethering unattended dogs; there are specific requirements depending on the weather
  • General neglect of basic needs (food, water, and shelter) and medical care
  • Animal fighting and possession of animal fighting paraphernalia
  • Outdated cosmetic procedures, including: cropping ears, docking tails (puppies over 5 days old) and surgically debarking dogs
  • Animals trapped in overheated vehicles

Next, determine the municipality of a street address or intersection. In Pennsylvania, you can find this information through the Pennsylvania Department of Community of Economic Development’s Municipal Statistics website: http://munstats.pa.gov/Public/FindMunicipality.aspx

Now you can obtain the phone number of the local Humane Officer or Animal Control agency for the area and save it in your favorite contacts. If you frequent more than one city or county on a daily basis, save this information by location. If the agency (or agencies) you’ve identified offers online reporting of cruelty, save the link within that contact for quick retrieval.

When you make a report through a phone call or online, you’ll need to leave your contact information so the agency can follow up with you, but your identity is kept strictly confidential. Just remember that you could be the only — or last — chance at survival for an animal.

See it, say it: To avoid retaliation, many people hesitate to report their neighbors even when they know an animal is being mistreated. However, I realized through my experiences working at a shelter with animal control officers that many people frequent the same daily routes where they may regularly see a neglected or suffering animal.

In pre-pandemic times, that included mail carriers, bus drivers and package couriers. Today, COVID has increased deliveries from retail stores and restaurants, whose staff must now take pictures as verification of successful deliveries!

If you see something, do not hesitate. Report animal abuse!

One of the most common situations is finding a dog (or a cat) locked in a parked car on a warm day. Many people do not realize that even on a 72-degree day, a car’s internal temperature can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour.2

To protect pets that are left unattended in parked cars in hot weather, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolfe signed House Bill 1216, the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, in 2019. It allows law enforcement officers to enter a car if an animal is believed to be in danger or being neglected.

NOTE: This law does not protect citizens against liability; it protects police/humane/animal control officers or other public safety professionals in this specific situation.

If you see an animal stuck in a hot car:

  • Record the make, model and license plate number of the car.
  • If possible, take a photo of the animal in the car as well as the surrounding area (ex. showing no shade in the parking lot).
  • Go to the nearest business and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner. Many owners are unaware of this danger and will quickly return when notified.
  • If the owner is not found, do not wait and do not break into the car yourself. Call the authorities!

Recently, there have been new guidelines announced associated with tethering dogs, increased penalties for animal abuse, and more protection for horses and other animals. Fines range from $300 to $2,000 with jail time even for a summary offense.

Community change may be slow to occur, but it can only occur when individuals refuse to accept the status quo. Be the voice of animals that depend on compassionate, empathetic, courageous and proactive humans. Join Humane Pennsylvania in building the best community anywhere to be an animal or animal caretaker.

 

Learn more about our Healthy Pets Initiative and other resources we offer at humanepa.org.

References:
1. www.legis.state.pa.us
2. https://patch.com/pennsylvania/newtown-pa/pas-new-hot-car-law-protect-pets-what-know-summer)

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