By: Suzanne D’Alonzo, Community Outreach Programs Manager

At your last regular doctor’s visit for a check-up, were you asked if you exercise?  Smoke?  Even if you wear a helmet while you bike?  If your doctor is looking to help you stay in top working order, sure, they see what childhood diseases you might have been vaccinated against, but they also focus on some of the other things that keep you healthy.  Much of good medical care is about prevention.

The Drive-in Vaccination Clinics of our Healthy Pets Initiative offer important vaccinations to pets in our community that otherwise might not have access to them.  That’s great, because pets who avoid illness from disease have a better chance of a long, healthy life.

Yet these Drive-in Vaccination Clinics also focus on prevention, much like your doctor’s visit.  We offer microchips.  Microchips can be the ticket home for lost pets, and that’s as valuable as vaccination!

Microchips are about the size and shape of a grain of rice, can go in a pet as tiny as a kitten, and have no ill-effects.   A pet who gets chipped will have that chip last their lifetime.

Bear with an oversimplification:  if you think about how a barcode on, say, a box of cereal works, it’s really just ink on paper.  It doesn’t “do” anything, but a scanner can read and “translate” that zebra pattern into information at check out.  Each product bar code pattern is different, and each has specific info that goes with it.  That’s how the cash register ends up translating “zebra stripes” to “box of Cheerios, $1.99.”

Bear with a rough comparison:  a microchip that has been implanted in a pet works much like the barcode on a cereal box in the sense that it’s not “doing” anything until it’s scanned, and scanning holds the key to more information.

Each chip has a unique identification number connected to it.  That number pops up when a lost pet is scanned with a microchip scanner.  A shelter, rescue, veterinarian’s office, or the finder of a pet that has taken the pet to be scanned at one of these locations is able to easily and quickly figure out which brand of chip it is, and call that company.  The chip company will share what’s been registered in their database for that number- pet’s name, pet owner’s name, phone numbers for the owner, and emergency contact information.  The owner gets contacted and if all goes well, the pet is back home in a very short time!

Those of us in animal sheltering regularly hear cat and dog owners say their pets don’t need ID.   “He never goes out.”  “She always comes when called.”  “He wears a collar when we’re outside.”  But accidents happen.  A door gets left open by visitors.  Someone trips on a walk, dropping the leash.  A collar is just loose enough when a truck rumbles by.  A tree takes out a fence.  A meter reader doesn’t close the gate.  Even serious emergencies happen- car accidents with pets in the car, EMT crews helping relatives, household fires, rising streams- and pets are often separated from owners in the chaos.   Microchipping simply lets us hope for the best and plan for the worst, doing the best to keep pets in the homes that love them.

At our Drive-in Clinics, we can implant a chip quickly- it’s a placed under the scruff of the neck, where there aren’t a lot of nerve endings, with a special tool that works like a needle and syringe that would give a vaccine.  And it takes the same time that getting a shot takes!  So it’s fast, is only a quick “ouch,” and the chip works immediately.  Our team registers the chip for our clients because we know life can get in the way, and a chip without contact information is a dead end for a lost pet.

It’s just as important to share what a chip isn’t:  it’s not a GPS-type tracker.  There’s no way it can tell you if Fluffy is under the porch three doors down or if Scrappy is headed west on Elm Street.  And it’s good to relay that an implanted chip never “runs out” or “gets canceled,” because of the original enrollment plan.  Sure, the services that each microchip company offers pet owners may vary and many offer buy-up plans with additional services, but the basic ID will always be there.

Our Healthy Pets Initiative also goes old-school with its preventative measures:  we encourage dog and cat owners to rely on microchips in tandem with a collar and identification tag.  There’s only an increased chance of pets getting home with these, as someone finding a pet has immediate access to a phone number.  That’s good, especially in situations where the finder can’t access a scanner (after-hours or holidays and in cases where transportation is an issue for the finder).

We’re glad we’re able to provide microchips, one of the most practical preventative measures to keep pets safe and in their loving homes.  Not only does it make a difference to a lost pet and their family, but a community with a high rate of chipped pets drops its volume of stray animals.  Historically, many strays weren’t getting back home.  Chipping changes that, creating positive outcomes, and subsequently letting shelters better focus on fewer animals- the ones that don’t already have homes- and stretch out our limited resources.

Not sure if your pet’s microchip info is up to date or registered in your name?  Have your pet scanned at your next vet visit and note the number.  You can figure out which brand of chip your pet has by using one of the universal pet microchip look-up registries (such as https://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/).  Then head to that microchip company’s website and follow their instructions to update information.  There is often a small fee to transfer a pet’s information from one owner to another, but updating your own is typically free (that is, there’s usually no cost to change to your new cell number or new address).

 

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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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