Written by: Dr. Alicia Simoneau, CVO, Humane Pennsylvania        

Why it is best to have your pet seen regularly and not just for sick visits:

  • Assess dental health: The majority of cats and dogs over the age of 5 have significant dental disease. You might get a whiff of some bad breath and think it’s just the food you feed your pet. However, your vet will inspect your pet’s mouth and can explain to you at the visit the signs of dental disease and how to slow it down. These recommendations can range from starting an at home dental health program, teeth cleaning and assessment under general anesthesia (dental prophylaxis) to oral surgery and tooth extraction.
  • Monitor weight: Living with an animal every day we may not realize they are getting beyond their ideal body condition. The majority of pet’s can use some friendly nutrition and exercise advice to keep them in tip top shape. We know that lean animals live years longer than obese animals.
  • Monitor lumps and bumps: Some masses are nothing to worry about, others are quite dangerous. Your vet will feel, chart (measure and document location) and make recommendations about a mass. Knowing where the masses are and monitoring their progress can help your vet and you make an informed decision on the most appropriate course of action. Sometimes monitoring is advised, other times a needle sample with analysis is best or removal and biopsy.
  • Monitor cardiac health: When your vet listens to your pet’s chest they are listening for the rate, rhythm and character of the heartbeat and lung sounds. Heart murmurs are the sounds of blood swirling in the heart instead of flowing through the heart valves smoothly. There are age related heart diseases common in many dog breeds that are typically first discovered at a wellness visit. Your vet will give recommendations based on the intensity of the heart murmur, if intervention needs to happen, and what types of diagnostics would be beneficial. Knowing this information can extend your pet’s life when interventions are needed. Dental disease and weight also play a role in optimal cardiac health.
  • Discuss behavior concerns: Wellness visits are a great opportunity to ask your vet about any quirky or concerning behaviors you are noticing in your pet. Behavior concerns can start out small and escalate to the point of being a reason people choose to rehome their pet. Seeking advice early can lead to increased satisfaction in your relationship with your pet.
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The world of animal welfare has changed a great deal in the past few decades.  Unfortunately, “Big Philanthropy’s” view of our work hasn’t changed with it.  Despite the fact that animal welfare is now a diverse sector of charitable endeavors which help a broad spectrum of people- not just animals-  foundations, government, and united funds still have an antiquated perception of what many of us do, how we do it, and for whom we do it.

Their view is as old timey as the title of this blog.  I’d like to take a moment to make a case for why it is time for that view to change.

For many years animal welfare has been lumped into a sector of the charitable world referred to as “Animals/Environment”.  Most funding organizations don’t give to this sector because they consider themselves “Human Services” funders.  The same is true for most government funding.  The idea was that taxes and charitable funds were intended for people, not animals.  Since animal welfare organizations just helped animals, we couldn’t access the pools of funding out there for people in need.

That may have been a valid case 30 or 40 years ago, when most animal welfare organizations were primarily or exclusively animal shelters.  Saving an animal from homelessness really only saved the animal, the “Who Saved Who? (with paw print)” bumper sticker aside.  There has always been a case that animal control work was a human benefit- ask the person who didn’t get rabies from that stray cat or bitten by that stray dog- and we made it strongly for the past 25 years, largely to no avail.  Government has always operated under another old timey adage: “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”?  And we always gave away the milk in the name of helping the animals.

But about 15 years ago the role and operations of what would have been formerly known as an animal welfare organization began to change.  Humane Society of Berks County, now Humane Pennsylvania, was on the national vanguard of this change.  We started to target our services directly at people, not at the animal.  We did this as pet “ownership” underwent a sea change in the US.  Overwhelmingly, the role of animals changed from pet to companion animal to family member.  More people and families had pets, but fewer of them at a time and for longer.

Pets were no longer disposable.  Euthanasia and pet surrender to shelters plummeted by 80% over 40 years. Like children, people began making sacrifices for them rather than sacrificing them during times of economic turmoil.  Even at the cost to themselves and their human families.  Humane Pennsylvania recognized that if we wanted to help animals stay in families, we needed to help people.  We changed our approach and began offering direct assistance that had a positive financial impact on families, as well as a health benefit for animals.

We were early adopters of the broad pet food pantry model. More profoundly we were leaders in moving to provide universal pet health care to the entire community, not just to those who could afford it.  While these things can seem almost uncontroversial now, when we started this work 15 years ago we got hate mail- not just from the community, but from other animal shelters.  The general argument was that if people were too poor to feed their pets or give them proper medical care, they shouldn’t have them, they should just give them up.

Those were identical arguments made about poor people having children over a century ago.  It was elitist and revolting 150 years ago in the age of government run orphanages, just as it was 15 years ago in the age of dog pounds.

And we knew that, just like kids, people would keep having pets.  And, just like kids, they’d often do so regardless of the financial risk to their families and themselves, and that many simply did not have access to or experience with the normal healthcare and social services nets that many of us are fortunate enough to have been born into.  Humane Pennsylvania knew that if we could help a family in financial crisis save a dollar on pet food or veterinary care, they had an extra dollar to spend on their child, or food, rent or clothing.

Our animal service became a human service.  We flipped the model from helping animals in need and making people happy to helping people and making animals happy.  We became a family services organization.  Only our definition of “family” is a little broader. In large part our “animal welfare” sector has come a long way with this change. We no longer get hate mail from other shelters, we get asked to help them develop their own human oriented service models.

During the COVID-19 crisis the wisdom change has never been so readily apparent.  Humane Pennsylvania was immediately appointed by the PA State Animal Response Team, which operates under the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency during emergencies, to be the agency in charge of large scale pet food distribution across Eastern PA and beyond.  This was not food given directly to individuals.  It was major deliveries to human food pantries, to school districts distributing food via Federal lunch programs to students in need, to governmental operations.  To agencies and organizations focused on people, and who recognize that people come with furry baggage called pets.  When we help carry that furry baggage, families benefit in this crisis.

In the past month of the emergency declaration Humane Pennsylvania has distributed- from our warehouses, with our equipment, with our staff and volunteers- over 50 tons of pet food to these human service agencies.  From Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to the Northern Tier.  On top of being the sole provider of sick veterinary care in Reading, Pennsylvania’s 5th largest city.

You might think with all the money flowing from government to support emergency response we received some emergency funds for this work, or an emergency grant from one of our community funding organizations.  Care to guess how much we have received?  Not one penny.  We, and you as a private donor, has subsidized Humane Pennsylvania’s work.  After all, we are apparently just an animal organization, right?

This is why it is time for foundations, government, and united funds (including our local United Ways and community foundations) to reconsider how they view some animal welfare organizations in their giving classifications.  Some organizations, like Humane Pennsylvania, are fully invested in and directed toward human services as the central approach to our work.  Others have dedicated and highly effective individual programs which help people and deserve equal funding consideration.  This is akin to churches, which may not qualify for government or charitable funding as religious entities, but can still access service funding for specific programs and work.

But even during this crisis, when requesting charitable funds from foundations and United Ways, Humane Pennsylvania has been denied, often explicitly because we aren’t a “human service” organization in their view.  Despite the fact that we are providing support and supplies to the very same food pantries and school districts as they are.  There is a logical disconnect, and it’s unfair and is hurting families.

I do not wish to blame or point fingers, but in order to fix a problem, it must be recognized.  Sometimes that is uncomfortable, just as it was uncomfortable for animal organizations- for us- to look in the mirror and acknowledge 15 years ago that we were operating under a failing model that hurt animals.

That same self-reflection is needed now in the charitable community funding world.  The old category of “Animals/Environment” no longer applies.  Antiquated views of family and human services no longer fit the times or community need.  Berks and Lancaster County should take the lead by re-evaluating the funding barriers put in place two generations ago.

Our counties have proven themselves to be innovators who can see over the horizon, as Humane Pennsylvania has consistently done over the past decade.  Family/Animal organizations- a new category?- deserve a seat at the funding table and major funders can give it to us.  If they can see where our families are today, as well as where families will be over the horizon.

If they want to.

Your Partner in Family Animal Welfare,

Karel Minor, CEO

Humane Pennsylvania

P.S.- Until Humane Pennsylvania has equitable access to community charitable funding, we rely exclusively on your financial support.  Please make a gift today to help animals and families in our community.

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Written by: Genisus Hess, Adoption Counselor, Humane League of Lancaster County

If you haven’t met my pup, Cricket, she is a 70 lb ball of wild, excited, joyful energy. Being a German Shepherd / Australian Shepherd Mix, she loves nothing more than sharing her opinion on everything, and sprinting around the yard like a four-legged race car. In short, she very much embraces the German Shepherd side of herself.

Despite being a mischievous goofball, I learned rather quickly that she is a smart lady.

Maybe she runs into the door now and again because she wasn’t looking, or trips over her own four paws, but in the time I have spent with her, she has taught me numerous valuable lessons about life, and how to live it to the fullest.

On a normal day, Cricket and I could usually be found taking hikes with our best friend, stopping by Dunkin’ Donuts for a sweet treat, or just being out on the town in general. Now, with everything going on, we have found ourselves spending a lot of time at home. While I have been feeling cooped up and anxious to get out, Cricket has been calm and content. I actually haven’t noticed much of a difference in her at all – she is still happy and excited, just as she was before. Taking a moment to ponder, I realize that this is the first lesson Cricket is teaching me – being content and finding joy, no matter the circumstance. During my working hours, where I am calling clients and have my full attention on my computer, Cricket is happy to just be curled up by my feet, treating every small ear scratch she can get as the best thing in the world. Even though we can’t go on our hikes as often as we used to, she still finds pleasure in romping around the yard, and taking the same meadow path we have taken day after day after day. Instead of feeling cooped up, Cricket has found joy merely in the fact that we are together more often than usual. In all, she has always been finding the silver linings, and has encouraged me to do so as well.

Speaking of being content, Cricket has also taught me a valuable lesson of slowing down. Lately, my mind has been racing at a million miles per hour, with dozens of “what-if’s” and general worries bouncing around my mind. I, in general, have a very go- go-go personality, and have found the slowed down pace of quarantine frustrating. It isn’t in my nature to settle and slow down. Cricket, however, has been showing me how it’s done. When she finishes the tasks that need doing (annoying the cats, stealing some of mama’s breakfast, etc.), Cricket finds importance in taking a good nap, or in spending some time chewing on her favorite Nylabone (which is shaped like a dinosaur, very cool). It is during these times I find myself drawn to stop my rushing, and sit beside her, and just be. I let my thoughts slow down, and stop my worrying. I just allow myself to slow down and enjoy this moment together. When necessary tasks are finished, it is important – especially at a time like this – to invest in what you enjoy doing, and to take some time for self-care. Cricket reminds me daily that instead of worrying, I should settle down and take it slowly. Read a book, work on a drawing, or – Cricket’s favorite – cuddle up and binge watch Supernatural. 

Lastly, Cricket taught me the importance of reaching out when I need to. Despite being a joyful, happy lady, there are some things that frighten Cricket. Due to a worrisome past before we found each other, Cricket finds a lot of anxiety when it comes to strangers or people she doesn’t know. While she is always polite and kind, strange humans can cause a good deal of stress and anxiety for her. Whenever Cricket comes upon something that makes her uneasy and that she feels she cannot handle, she always, without fail, will sit quietly pressed up against me or quietly behind me, and will look to me for what she should do. We have a trust that says that she can always come to me if she is frightened, and can rest knowing that I will take care of her and keep her safe. In this way, she shows me how important it is to reach out to those that I trust when it feels I cannot handle what is in front of me. When everything feels overwhelming, it is important that I reach out for guidance and comfort, instead of trying to deal with it all on my own.

All in all, Cricket continues to be a teacher to me, especially during this time of uncertainty. Take a moment to think about your own pets, or any animals you care for – what lessons do they have for you, during this time? What can you learn from them?

Keep an ear out – they may surprise you with their wisdom.

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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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