by Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations, Humane Pennsylvania

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

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

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

The longstanding concerns that surround playgroups include:

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

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

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

Because of dogs like Teddy, that’s why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s play!

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

Your support will help save lives.

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

Come on, let’s go play!

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by Karel Minor, President & CEO, Humane Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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by Chelsea Cappellano, Donor Relations Coordinator, Humane Pennsylvania

It was on April 8, 2017 that Marshall, an emaciated American Pitbull Terrier, was brought into the Humane Society of Berks County. I can remember it was a typical day at the shelter – a few adoptions, a few surrenders – nothing out of the ordinary. Later that afternoon, a gentleman came into the shelter and stated that he had found a dog. The dog was in his car and he needed help getting him inside, since the dog did not have a leash or collar on to safely bring him into the lobby.

The team and I, quickly responded grabbing a few pieces of hot dogs (to earn trust and make friends with the dog), and a slip lead. I followed the man out to his car. As the car door opened, my jaw dropped. The dog was extremely skinny and was covered in ticks from head to toe. Due to the dog’s condition, he quickly took the pieces of food and I escorted him on the leash inside.

Marshall upon arrival, 2017

I remember taking the dog to a quiet room to keep an eye on him until our animal care technicians could take him for evaluation. As I began to process this situation, I knew he deserved a name immediately. Marshall was the first name that came to mind since he was found at Blue Marsh Lake. As one of our lead technicians came around the corner, we both looked at each other and began sobbing. Never in my life have I seen a dog in such poor condition. While we were all sad and frustrated by Marshall’s situation, we used it as motivation to begin providing him with the care he so desperately needed.

Marshall was put on a strict health recovery plan by the veterinarians at the Humane Veterinary Hospital – Reading. The staff provided Marshall with everything they could to ensure his best chance at a full recovery. This included removing all of the ticks, multiple baths, fluids, medications, and a nutrition regimen. Multiple times throughout the day, the team would hand feed him, and of course give him endless affection. Despite the lack of care Marshall received prior to being brought into the shelter, he did not let that hinder his love for people. He loved to give kisses, be pet and play – especially with tennis balls!

On May 5, 2017 Marshall was deemed healthy enough to be neutered and placed for adoption. Because this was not your typical adoption case, potential adopters filled out an application and interviews were conducted to ensure that Marshall found the best home possible. One day on the radio, Ashley and her husband heard about Marshall. They quickly inquired about him and sat down with our Director of Shelter Operations, Leann, for an interview. After learning more about him and having him meet with the whole family, we knew this family was a perfect match for Marshall.

It has now been over a year since Ashley and her family adopted Marshall. Ashley recently shared…

“Marshall is the most amazing, loving, loyal, gentle 70lb lap dog ever! He is the absolutely sweetest with both our young children. He has been such a pleasure to have and is especially playful with other dogs, he also loves to play with Div (when she lets him).

He listens so well and followed commands almost instantly after he joined our family. He loves to give kisses and loves to snuggle. We LOVE him and I just could not imagine our life without him.”

Our deepest gratitude to Ashley and her family for opening up their hearts and home to Marshall. It is tough cases like Marshalls’ that encourage the Humane Pennsylvania team to work hard each and every day for the animals in our shelters.

Marshall with his family, 2018

Marshall would not have made a full recovery without receiving critical care that was provided through the financial support of community members like you and the Miracle Maisy’s Medical Fund. This fund supports all life-saving services and emergency medical care for abandoned, abused and neglected animals in need.

To help animals like Marshall receive life-saving care, please donate to the Miracle Maisy’s Medical Fund.

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