By: Karel Minor, Chief Executive Offer/President

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Humane Pennsylvania has been breaking all the rules.  And we intend to continue to do so.

I don’t mean breaking rules like the dummies at the bars and pool parties.  We were following the quarantine rules before they were even officially “the rules” because disease prevention is kind of our thing.  Plus, we don’t want to kill anyone’s granny.  I mean the rules for what is possible for an animal welfare organization, whether it’s in a pandemic or not.

We kept our hospitals open and serving the community.  We kept adopting animals out and we’ve been taking them in.  We kept all our staff working.  We expanded our services and coordinated over 120,000 pounds of pet food distribution in the past two months.  All safely, all within the Governor’s orders and health protocols.

If we had played by the standard rules as they applied to so many other organizations, we’d have cut staff, cut services, and helped fewer animals and people.  Instead we reached out to more people and we changed how we operated so we could operate safely.  Screw the rules, we have pets and people to help.

It has not been without cost.  We had several staff down and out from confirmed or likely COVID-19.  We are front-line workers.  Our work continued but our revenue has not.  Our biggest spring fundraiser, the Art for Arf’s Sake Auction which raises $100,000 each year had to be postponed until November.  Our operating revenue has declined up to 80%.  We have been aided by the generosity of our donors (thank you!) but it’s not enough to offset long term losses if things continue on much longer.  We were fortunate to be in a position to take advantage of the Federal emergency funding, but that’s only an eight week salvation.

How will we continue on?  By breaking the rules some more, of course!  And this time we need you to help.  We will be making a change to one of our major fundraisers this year- I can’t say what or how yet because our Director of Events, Lauren Henderson, will kill me if I spill the beans- which you’ll hear more about soon.  The capital campaign to raise the last half of the funds needed for our new Reading Animal Shelter and Community Hospital, came to a screeching halt, but is going to take an approach that is definitely breaking the rules.  And believe me, the words “ninety-two cents a day” will be coming your way soon.  They will haunt you in your sleep.  Ninety-two cents a day….

We are breaking new ground in tele-vet medicine.  We are finding new ways to deliver critical vaccines and services to larger numbers of people.  We will be finding creative ways around the vague prohibitions against so-called “elective” treatments.  We call them life-saving.  We are pioneering video adoption screening and counseling and direct adoption delivery.  Corona has killed enough people, we aren’t going to allow it to result in needless animal death, too.

Humane Pennsylvania has always been of the mindset that barriers are merely challenges.  Rules can be changed.  We’ve lived that belief and it’s why we succeed when times are great, and we succeed when times aren’t so great.  We don’t know how things will work out but as an organization we have always prepared for the worst while we were planning for the best.

We are going to come out of this smarter, stronger, and surer of ourselves.  We hope you are going to be sticking by us (“ninety-two cents a day”…).  I hope you are able to keep optimistic, too, because we are going to be here standing by for you, whether you and your pets need it or just to work on your behalf for those who do need our help right now.

Thanks for being there for us so we can keep being there for them.

Oh, what the heck, I’ll break one more rule and just flat out ask you to make a donation right here at the end.  Go ahead, live dangerously.  Give like you’re at an Ozarks pool party.  YOLO!

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 Written By: Ellie Scheurich, Animal Care Technician, Humane League of Lancaster County

Separation anxiety in dogs is a very common issue brought up by pet owners. A lot of us have been working from home during this pandemic which has allowed for more walks, fetch, and treat giving to our four legged companions. As most would see this as “living their best lives” it can also be described as a blessing in disguise. Being home 24/7 with our dogs can cause issues down the road when things go back to “normal.” Meaning we will have to go back to saying goodbye to our four legged love bugs as we run out the door, racing the clock, to punch in on time.

As we slowly start making our way back into the normal routine, here are some behaviors to look for when departing and leaving your dog at home:

  • Pacing around different areas.
  • Barking, howling or whimpering upon departure.
  • Urinating/defecating when left alone.
  • Destroying objects in the home, or exit points such as doors, crates, etc.

Keep in mind, while these are possible signs of separation anxiety, they are also signs of boredom. They’re currently used to us being at home entertaining them, going for extra walks, and receiving chin scratches under the desk while we work. Even the thought of going back to work makes some people feel guilty about not being at home with their dog(s) BUT there are so many different ways to keep them occupied that will also help adjust them back to their, and our, normal routine.

While some dogs may still chew up our favorite pair of sneakers when left alone, we can help set them up for success by putting them away where they can’t chew them and provide constructive “busy” work for all of us feel good about. Here are a few ideas:

  • Go back to our original routine before the stay at home order. Wake up at your normal time, get dressed, and have your favorite cup of cold brew. Then prepare them as you normally would for your departure. Whether that be putting them in their crate or putting them in their safe space. After they are in their normal area, give them a busy toy to keep them occupied (such as a frozen peanut butter Kong). Then grab your keys and head out the door. Now, it sounds crazy, but hang outside for a little while. Enjoy the fresh air, maybe even take a walk around the neighborhood. This exercise helps prepare your animal for your normal departure in the morning, but also gets them back in the routine of having alone time during the day. You can do this routine throughout the day to give them alone time and help them practice your departure and arrival. Remember when you are leaving or coming home to stay calm and relaxed. You don’t want to get them excited. Instead, you want to act like it’s completely okay and not unusual for you to leave the house.
  • Enrichment. Enrichment. Do you know how important enrichment is? Sure exercise really helps get a dog’s energy out, but the key to a healthy dog is offering them the opportunity to use their brain. Imagine your day consisting of just a walk, being fed twice a day, then sleeping on the couch all day. Followed by the occasional keep tabs on your human around the house for some extra love routine. That’s going to get boring and believe it or not your dog will appreciate the extra mental stimulation.
    • Frozen peanut butter Kong’s are a wonderful way to keep your pet busy AND it requires them to think about how to get the peanut butter out.
    • Food bowls are overrated, seriously throw out your food bowl already and start making your pet work for their food. You can use slow feeding bowls or that cereal box you were going to throw out last night after your midnight snack. Fill that sucker up with their food and some treats and let them destroy the box to work for their food. You can also feed them by doing a training session and work on their basic obedience commands. Also, have I told you one of my favorite ways to feed dogs? No? Well get ready. Fasten your seat belt. The best way to feed your pet is to do a treasure hunt for them. Hide their food throughout the house but remember where you hid the different kibbles so you don’t step on them late at night when you are trying to sneak a snack. Not only do they get to use their nose to find their food, but it also keeps them busy and isn’t as boring as eating out of the same bowl every single day.
    • Slow feeding bowl resources through DoggieDesigner- https://doggiedesigner.com/best-slow-feed-dog-bowls/
  • Remember those walks you’ve been taking them on multiple times a day? Well you need to start cutting them back if its not your normal routine. Instead, walk them the same amount of times your normal routine allows you to BUT make the walks more engaging. Work on their basic obedience throughout the walk. Have you ever seen parkour? Where people jump off stuff and do cool tricks? Well don’t have your dog jump off high areas, but practice urban agility on normal everyday objects. Let them jump up on picnic tables and ask them for a sit. Allow them to walk across park benches as if they’re walking the plank. Enjoy your time with them and get creative. Urban agility is so much fun and your dogs will appreciate the extra fun during the walk.

As difficult as it will be for all of us to adjust back to our normal routine, it will also be difficult for our pets to adjust too. Now is the time to work on their training and prepare them for your return to work. You will appreciate it in the long run if you prepare your dog now. No one enjoys coming home to a destroyed couch and chewed up slippers.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and most importantly stay positive.

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