An End to Animal Suffering

March 30th, 2018 | Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

A while back I reached the conclusion that the “No Kill” Contingent (capital N, capital K) essentially had it right when they philosophically paraphrased Ronald Reagan: Animal shelters aren’t the solution to our problems, they are the problem.

The once radical premise that shelters aren’t to be pitied, let alone applauded, for being the ultimate doom of millions of animals, fundamentally changed our approach to animal welfare. Shelters and their management became personally responsible for the lives in their hands and could no longer point a finger at “society.”  Shelters that did not save enough were failures.  The ones that did, were successes.

Humane Pennsylvania is a success. Over ten years ago we killed our last healthy animal for space.  Over the past ten years we’ve diminished the number of animals killed in our shelters so that even sick, injured, and behaviorally challenged animals now have over a 90% chance of leaving alive.  By the arbitrary “No Kill” formulas, we are a success.

But an organization which claims to be an “animal welfare” agency declaring victory because most animals leave its cages alive is like a prison claiming success over social ills because it has a high prisoner release rate. Prisons and shelters are the response to failure.  Our claims of success are like a chef who serves tainted meat and then wants to be congratulated for getting you to the hospital before you died of botulism.

The animal welfare world has tip toed around targeting the causes of animal intake at shelters over the years. Humane education was supposed to make people love their pets.  Increased cruelty law enforcement would stop animals from being abused.  By far, the most successful has been sterilization campaigns and the change in public attitude about having litters of puppies and kittens.  To a lesser degree (the first two) and greater degree (the last), efforts like these were targeted at stopping animals from entering our shelters in the first place.  That is true success.

In the past decade there has been an increased focus on relinquishment prevention. These are too often based at the front counter and assumes that there has already been a breakdown in the pet/caretaker relationship which has resulted in the animal coming to a shelter, even if it is successfully returned to its home with targeted counseling and supports.

Humane Pennsylvania began focusing on some core reasons for the break in the pet/caretaker bond back in 2006, by targeting preventable health issues and delivering affordable, high quality vet care to at risk communities. Yes, before there was HSUS’ Pets for Life, there was us.  This approach worked and it has changed the lives of thousands of animals and their families in our communities.  We believe it will prove to be the most successful “humane education” program ever because children in families who never experienced animal health care services as a normal part of life now see it as the proper way to care for pets.  They will grow up to believe, rightly so, that animals need and deserve that care, and they will know how to access it.

Despite this, we know that we are still receiving animals, as are other shelters in our communities. Can’t we take the lessons we learned about getting animals out of our shelters successfully by targeting approaches to suit specific populations (different breed, species, feral, stray initiatives) and merging that approach with intake prevention efforts?  Isn’t it time to have a goal where no animal enters our shelters because no animal needs to?

Too lofty a goal? So was a 97% save rate for healthy and treatable dogs 13 years ago, but we did that.

If we break down intake by shelters by major cause in our region (these causes vary around the country) we see some specific groupings:

  • Kittens
  • Stray cats and dogs without identification
  • Young adult dogs with health and behavioral issues
  • Animals with acute injury or illness, or mere hunger, which pose a financial burden on caretakers
  • Animals needing temporary short to medium term housing that are relinquished because caretakers can’t find an alternative
  • Lastly, animals entering because of the need of appropriate end of life euthanasia support

Just these six intake categories account for 80-90% or more of shelter intakes. How much more successful would we be if we could eliminate the causes and stop these animals from entering our shelters?  What if we could very nearly eliminate litters of unwanted kittens by providing universal, on demand sterilization for every cat in our community?

We can.  We don’t, but we can.

What if we provided every single cat and dog in our community with microchip identification so that strays could be identified in the field and returned to caretakers without coming to a shelter? Or if they did come to us, they’d get returned immediately?

We can.  We don’t, but we can.

What if every pet caretaker could receive all medically appropriate vaccinations, sterilization, and veterinary engagement and guaranteed access to a proper diet, which we know decreases the likelihood of current and future health and behavioral problems?

We can.  We don’t, but we can.

What if we had a means of providing emergency short term foster care for all animals, during a disaster or just for a week while someone is in the hospital or between houses?

We can.  We don’t, but we can.

Community expectations have changed. Demographics for companion animals have changed nationwide.  Wanting to be a “no kill shelter” is a laudable goal but, it’s not only easily possible, it’s fundamentally not enough.  Even declarations of being a “no kill community” are hollow. Not dying isn’t a good enough yardstick to measure ourselves against.

We need a no suffering animal community. We need a 100% thriving and safe animal community.  We need to build it brick by brick and the time to do it is right now.

I listed a string of things that we could do but don’t do. Humane Pennsylvania intends to start doing them.  We are going to build the very best community in which to be an animal and an animal caretaker anywhere.  Period.  We are going to show that it can be done anywhere.

And we are about to announce how, where, and when. Watch this space….


Whew, it’s just under the wire but I have kept up my New Year’s Resolution of sticking to a weekly posting schedule! And I’m sticking to my “State of Humane PA” detail follow-ups this week (don’t worry, I’m sure there’s a tirade post in the near future). This week: Update on our events!

Let me start with some background on what our events are supposed to accomplish. We define events as being successful is they are good at raising funds, friends, awareness, or level of mission delivery. We use this as a yardstick to decide what works and what doesn’t. If an event doesn’t get us a lot of at least one of those, it doesn’t stay on the calendar. For example, 13 years ago we used to do a fundraising yard sale. It was a ton of work, it didn’t have anything to do with mission, and it might have raised $1,000 in a good year. Bad return on time, effort, mission, and money. So we scrapped it to put our effort into better returns.

That’s how we ended up settling onto out four major special events: Art for Arf’s Sake Auction, Walk for the Animals, Pints for Pups, and Tailwagger’s Trick-or-Treat. These each serve(d) a particular purpose. The Walk for the Animals raises a lot of money (about $100,000 annually), gets us our biggest crowds (thousands) and has a low barrier to entry (low registration fee and open to the public if they just want to check it out. I am super excited to announce, again, that the Walk will be returning to First Energy Stadium in 2018 on September 15! The Walk will return to its City origins, will be expanded to return it to its Walktoberfest full glory, and will have an additional focus on mission, with a developing (stay tuned) community pet health fair component. The revitalized Walk will check off all four boxes of funds, friends, awareness, and mission!

The Art for Arf’s Sake Auction is also switching things up by returning to the old Rajah Theater in Reading, currently known as the Santander Performing Arts Center, on May 19. The return to the theater will allow us to open the doors to more attendees. The Reading Museum was a blast, but it had a hard limit on attendance and we hated turning away friends who wanted to join us (and give us their money). The Auction is an event which has a smaller friend raising potential but it also raises about $100k each year and it allow us to share important news and plans with a few hundred of our best and most financially capable friends, and that allows us to build our mission capacity. Again, all boxes checked. This year’s theme is Westworld. I know, weird. But we do weird well.

The Tailwagger’s Trick or Treat is a newer event that grew out of having two Walks to manage when Berks Humane merged with the Humane League. The Humane League’s Walk was not as big in attendance or in revenue. So we decided we’d scrap the money motive entirely and just make it an event about introducing people to Humane PA and raising awareness of our work. A true “friend-raiser”! And although it is free and open to the public, thanks to sponsors and voluntary donations it still raised over $12,000 last year! It is growing and we hope that it can become a major community event open to all, and bringing together lots of partners who share our love of animals and our humane ethic for society at large. This year we will return to Buchanan Park in Lancaster on October 13, which helps keep a solid anchor event among our Lancaster family!

Now for the big change in 2018. Pints for Pups grew out of a one year anniversary party thrown by the old Legacy & Reading Brewing Company as a benefit for the animals a decade ago. It went from a couple dozen people to a hundred to as high as 500. It was a good intermediate fundraising event with a modest admission cost and it brought in some new friends. It was a good event to have one on one time with donors over a beer, but it wasn’t great for sharing news with a whole crowd. It was always on the weaker end of the check boxes. Modest financial, attendance, and awareness returns, and zero mission. It was also a LOT of work for the staff. As much work than the walk for a financial net that was only a quarter the return. It was also very subject to finding a good host, which was always tough due to the booze aspect, or the weather when we had it outdoors- last year tornadic thunderstorms and the year before sweltering heat. This year, we just couldn’t find the perfect venue.

Which is why we are announcing that Pints for Pups as we know it is evaporating, like foam on a draft beer. Awww, I know, bummer, right? Don’t worry! We wouldn’t leave you high and dry! We are announcing the creation of a Mini-Pints for Pups series! Bigger than our Yappy Hours, smaller than a full blown PfP. It will be a variety of events at different breweries and restaurants around Lancaster and Berks County! We have confirmed our first two (Stoudt’s Brewing Company In Adamstown and Union Jack’s Inn on the Manatawny) and we will have more to come. The new model will be more cost effective by a mile, won’t kill the staff, and will give everyone a chance to attend a Pints (or four) near them. We will be putting details out soon. There will still be sponsorship opportunities, tees, glasses, and beer, lots of sweet, flowing beer. It just won’t all be on one day. That means we improve our chance to make new friends and share our mission across our service area.

And, of course, we still have all our mission and awareness focused events. We have a slew of adoption days, community event participation, veterinary service delivery community events, and more in the works. These are all the ones we do with a strict focus on the mission, awareness, and friends.

Speaking of which, we always need volunteers to represent us at these events. They are fun, low impact, and flexible ways to help the animals of Humane PA. Trained event volunteers help us share our important work with the community at large. Consider learning more and joining us in this important volunteer role! Click here for more information about volunteering.

And if you want to join us for any of our events or learn how to be a sponsor or patron, visit our events page here. Your support makes our work possible and events are a way to support us and have a little fun, too!