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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The Importance of Enrichment

February 10th, 2020 | Posted by Holly Giffin in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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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