By: Karel Minor, President/CEO of Humane Pennsylvania

Did I get you again?  It works every year.  Of course, as a 501c3 charity, Humane Pennsylvania does not and never has made endorsements in elections.  While there are political action and politically partisan animal welfare groups out there who legally can and do make endorsements, we are not one of those. I’m glad we aren’t.

Why?  Because we are here to help animals and the people who care about them.  As soon as we pick a side, any side, we lose the other side.  Instead of picking sides, we pick issues.  What policies and laws will best help animals, animal caretakers, and the organizations which work on their behalf?  That’s our focus exclusively when we wade into “political” discussions.

Humane Pennsylvania knows that every elected official and every candidate is a potential ally on issues important to our work.  That’s why we engage with all of them, regardless of policy affiliation.  It turns out donkeys, elephants, and greens all have cats and dogs at home.  If ever there was a constituency that crosses party lines, it’s the animals who share our lives.  That’s why we have the support of elected officials of all stripes and parties.

Does that mean that it doesn’t matter who you vote for?  Of course not.  Heck, I’m as partisan as it comes – personally.  Professionally, my ultimate goal is to work to have any candidate of any persuasion to be right on the issues important to animals, and if it’s because they are a little afraid of voters, that’s OK.  It’s what I call the “furry third rail”.  If every candidate would all be as pro-animal welfare as they are pro-Grandma and apple pie, we could vote for whoever we wanted knowing that we’d only have healthcare, government spending, and our personal favorite number on the Bill of Rights to fight over.

Not many people are single issue voters so it’s not even reasonable to expect people to vote exclusively on animal issues.  Instead, we ask you press the candidates you support in your party to be good to animals and do things which makes the work of Humane Pennsylvania and our peers to be easier, not harder.  When we get two great animal welfare candidates running against each other, animals win – no matter which candidate wins.

For those who are interested in learning about the animal stance of candidates, all you need to do is Google “Animal Issues Endorsements” or something similar.  You’ll get more information than you ever wanted on endorsements based on cat and dog issues, farm animals, wildlife, or platypus conservation, whatever is important to you as a voter.

We share more than we don’t with one another, no matter how loud things get at election time.  One of them is a love for the animals that share our lives.  Go ahead and vote.  Then go hug your pet and remember that more people have a pet to hug than will ever vote for any politician.  It’ll make you feel better about the world, and about the idiot next door with the sign for the candidate you can’t stand.

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by Katie Bergeman, Animal Care Technician for Humane Pennsylvania

As soon as you hear team building what comes to mind? Do you see a bunch of people hand in hand trying to figure out a problem? Team building is meant to bring individuals together to accomplish the same goal. Incorporating team building into a meeting or event can not only help staff get to know each other but can also help make that meeting or event not so much of a drag. But how can you get people excited to participate in a team building activity? By choosing the most appropriate activity to do for your group.

Activities range in time, number of participants, equipment needed and the overall message or take away from it. If you have a group of 40 people and your activity needs equipment for each person, maybe try finding a different activity that would work better for a larger group if you don’t have the means to get the equipment. If you have only 20 minutes for an activity before a meeting, making sure you have enough time to set up, explain and actually execute the activity is really important. Trying to do an activity meant to be an hour long in 20 minutes could just add unneeded stress and frustration to the group. The other thing to keep in mind is how well your group knows each other. Some activities do involve holding hands, being blind folded, sometimes even lifting people up. So gauging the comfortability of the group beforehand is important.

At the Humane League of Lancaster County, we have monthly meetings to ensure everyone is up to date with important information, procedures and events. I was given the great opportunity to use my background knowledge from college to provide team building activities to my fellow employees before the meetings. I tailor the activities for the group size and timeframe. When we had new employees hired, I would gear the activity for more of an ice breaker activity. One activity that I did was called “The Toilet Paper Game”. This activity involved taking a toilet paper roll (to save on toilet paper, I used small pieces of paper) and passed it around the group, telling them “Take as much as you think you need”. Of course I got questions like “why?” or “what do I need it for?” but all I replied was “take as much as you think you need”. So naturally some people took a whole bunch and some more cautious people only took a couple. Once everyone had their pieces then I said that for every piece you need to tell us one fact about yourself. Some people we learned four facts about them and others we learned twenty plus facts about them.

On the other hand when we had more senior staff and knew each other pretty well, I geared the activity more towards team building. One activity that I facilitated at one of our staff enrichment days, was called “Minefield”. This activity involved a minefield of different objects. We used safety cones, frisbees, crates and anything to create an obstacle. From there I split the group in two and handed each group a blind fold. The objective was to get everyone through the minefield blind folded. The teams could decide to all work together, pair up within the group or potentially have one person lead everyone through the minefield. As a facilitator, I had to change up the course as they were going through and I also noticed that one person from each group stepped up to lead everyone through. So in order to get more involvement within the group I told the ‘leaders’ that they had to remain quiet for a little to encourage other people to step up to guide other people through. Everyone made it through the minefield unscathed.

Team building has definitely helped improve the morale in the shelter. It’s tough working in the animal care industry but when you have an amazing team to support and help you, you can get through it! We are constantly learning from each other and growing together. By doing these team building activities, it may seem just like fun but there is so much more. As a team, we are learning about each other, trusting each other and working together to solve a common goal. All of which can be translated and used in the shelter.

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