Funding Second Chances

January 28th, 2019 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Funding Second Chances)

by Lauren Henderson, Director of Events & Corporate Relations, Humane Pennsylvania

Before I started working at Humane Pennsylvania, animal welfare was not something that crossed my mind on a daily basis. Of course, I wanted animals to be treated humanely, but the constant thought about donations, being an advocate, raising funds, who could I talk about sponsorship, those thoughts were not something that kept me up at night. But that was almost three years ago. 

I have been a part of Humane Pennsylvania since June of 2016 and the support I see for the animals we serve everyday could bring tears to your eyes, and sometimes it does. I hear all the time how much people love animals, but on a daily basis I see so many people prove that. By the donations they make, the support they provide, the sponsors that care about their community, and the staff that fights every day for that hope.

Animals like Marshall, Maisy, Lady Luck and so many others that don’t make it into the headlines. Those are the ones that you, our donors, help to save. That gives me goosebumps just writing it. It is not the easiest thing to say, but money saves the lives of so many helpless animals.

Humane Pennsylvania is not subsidized by any national animal welfare organizations or any county, state or federal tax funding. It is only with your generosity that we’re able to save the lives of thousands of animals each year!

Your contributions give our shelter staff the resources they need to care for the animals, some of those animals facing the most extreme circumstances. Your contributions give our veterinarians the tools they need to perform lifesaving surgeries and give those animals a second chance.

For some money is a scary word, that just the mere thought of it causes anxiety. But money here at Humane Pennsylvania means hope.

On a daily basis, I look for that hope in every event sponsor I obtain, in every corporate meeting I have, in every fundraiser someone hosts on our behalf. Because that hope is what gives a family the animal they never knew they needed. That hope becomes a second chance.

Fundraising allows me to provide countless animals with a second chance. But I couldn’t do any of that without the incredible generosity of our sponsors, donors, corporations, supporters, and volunteers.

Whether you’ve supported Humane Pennsylvania a month ago, or ten years ago – thank you. You provided hope to an animal that desperately needed it.

I invite anyone and everyone interested in providing hope to the animals to contact me, Lauren Henderson, Director of Events & Corporate Relations, at [email protected] to learn more about how your support can provide second chances.

There’s always more hope to give and you can be the one to give that hope to so many animals in need.


Driven to Provide Purposeful Community Engagements

January 21st, 2019 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Driven to Provide Purposeful Community Engagements)

by Lindsay High, Director of Marketing, Humane Pennsylvania

Humane Pennsylvania is thrilled to share that Lauren Henderson, former Events & Corporate Relations Manager, has been promoted to Director of Events & Corporate Relations at Humane Pennsylvania.

Lauren joined the Humane Pennsylvania team in June of 2016 as the Events & Donor Relations Manager. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a minor in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management from Penn State University, she was eager to focus her talents on unique fundraising and event planning opportunities.

“I am excited, honored, and humbled to have been promoted to Director of Events & Corporate Relations for an organization that is leading the way in animal welfare. I’m so fortunate for their belief in me and my abilities to make a difference in the lives of the animals!” – Lauren Henderson, Director of Events & Corporate Relations


Along with receiving her Principles of Fundraising Certification from Villanova University, Lauren applies her depth of event development experience to create meaningful donor engagements throughout both Lancaster and Berks Counties. With a focus on continuously evolving her skills, Lauren is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Berks County.

As she continues to develop memorable events and experiences for the community, Lauren is dedicated to ensuring that all Humane Pennsylvania events and fundraisers are mission-driven and focused on providing sustainable funding resources for the animals she serves.

Please join us in congratulating Lauren on her new role! For more information about Lauren Henderson and ways you can get involved with the organization please call 610-750-6100 x211 or email: [email protected].


Volunteer Spotlight: Making a Meaningful Difference

January 14th, 2019 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Volunteer Spotlight: Making a Meaningful Difference)

by Kristi Rodriguez, Volunteer Coordinator, Humane Pennsylvania

Humane Pennsylvania and its partners can only do the work we do for animals with the help of the over 600 volunteers who donate their time, expertise, and love every single day. Each quarter we take a moment to highlight two of our caring and committed volunteers.

Whether it’s animal care and dog walking, event support, clerical, fundraising, weeding, adoption promotion, or any other of the many volunteer opportunities we have to offer, every volunteer job is part of our success.

Thanks to each and every one of our 2018 volunteers, last year was a phenomenal year for Humane Pennsylvania. Because of their dedication and volunteer efforts, our organization continues to serve homeless animals in both Berks and Lancaster Counties and provide our community with new family members all year long.

Below we are thrilled to spotlight two of our pawsome volunteers!

Humane Society of Berks County: Melissa Snyder

Melissa Snyder began volunteering at the Humane Society of Berks County as a Cat Room Assistant in August 2018.

In just a few short months, her dedication to our shelter felines has become quite evident! Melissa spends just about every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday assisting in the daily cleaning and care of our shelter cats. And as if she doesn’t have her hands full enough with her family and volunteer efforts, Melissa recently adopted a giant, fun-loving Cane Corso from the Humane Society named Tank.

Thank you Melissa, not only for being such an amazing volunteer, but for not having to go far to find a loving family for an amazing dog.



Humane League of Lancaster County: Wilma Beachy

Wilma Beachy has been a foster for the Humane League of Lancaster since April this year.

Since she started fostering she has helped 3 nursing mothers and a total of 18 kittens! Wilma’s most recent litter was the most challenging. At times she would wake up every two hours to help supplement feed the kittens and stimulate them to go to the bathroom. Wilma documents her experience on Instagram at Purrs in Paradise.

We are truly grateful for everything she does for our organization and for all the animals she has help saved.




Want to join our pack of all-star volunteers? Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities or contact Kristi Rodriguez, Volunteer Coordinator at [email protected] to get involved. We welcome volunteers to help us make Pennsylvania the most humane state in the nation!


Announcing a New Chief Veterinary Officer of Humane Pennsylvania

January 8th, 2019 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Announcing a New Chief Veterinary Officer of Humane Pennsylvania)

Humane Pennsylvania is excited to announce Dr. Alicia Simoneau has been promoted to Chief Veterinary Officer of Humane Pennsylvania, which represents the region’s largest partnership of animal welfare organizations.

Dr. Alicia Simoneau

Dr. Simoneau is a graduate of Western University of Health Sciences in Southern California. She attended Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, PA where she attained a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology before veterinary school. Her special interests include holistic and integrative medicine, spay/neuter surgeries and nutrition.

She practices classical homeopathy and is certified to perform acupuncture on dogs, cats and horses. She adores the three rescued Siamese/DSH cats and two adopted Thoroughbred horses.

Dr. Simoneau began her career with Humane Pennsylvania as an Associate Veterinarian then advanced to Senior Veterinarian prior to being promoted to this new role as Chief Veterinary Officer.

In her new role and in alignment with the organization’s mission to build the best community anywhere to be an animal and to provide the highest level care, Dr. Simoneau will be the veterinary director and coordinate the veterinary initiatives undertaken by Humane Pennsylvania’s shelters, practice, and the consulting services.

Dr. Simoneau will also serve as Chief Veterinary Officer for Animal Welfare Management Services, Humane Pennsylvania’s consulting division, which provides consulting and management services across the nation and in Canada.

She will have direct management authority over the medical programs of the Humane Society of Berks County shelter as well as the veterinary services provided through the Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives program. This program is a groundbreaking initiative created by Humane Pennsylvania with support from The Giorgi Family Foundation, to help animals and their families lead better, healthier, and happier lives together.
Through this program, Reading area pet owners are encouraged to take advantage of paramount opportunities to receive low-cost veterinarian services from the region’s leading veterinarians to help their pet receive the highest level of care at an affordable cost.

Health and wellness, or lack thereof, are among the driving forces leading to the breakdown of the human/pet bond, potential shelter intake, and needless death. Dr. Simoneau will be leading efforts to help ensure pets in our community receive the care they need and are able to remain happy and healthy in their homes.

Humane Pennsylvania is also proud to be one of the nation’s only networks of non-profit veterinary animal hospitals. As AAHA Accredited veterinary hospitals, our Humane Veterinary Hospitals of America (HVH), located in Lancaster and Berks Counties, are recognized among the finest in the industry, and are consistently at the forefront of advanced veterinary medicine and veterinary excellence.

We believe that the best way to keep pets happy and healthy at home is to make sure they have access to high quality and affordable veterinary care. Access to veterinary care is shown to be one of the most important factors in keeping animals out of shelters, and our veterinarians help provide that care to animals throughout the community.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Simoneau on her new role. To learn more about her expertise and the exceptional care both her and her team provide to pets throughout our community, please contact us at [email protected] or call 610-921-VETS (8387).


The Healthiest Way to Serve Vegetables and Data: Raw

December 21st, 2018 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Healthiest Way to Serve Vegetables and Data: Raw)

We approach the time of year when animal welfare organizations start sharing their annual animal data.  That means it’s the time of year when I start getting frustrated and annoyed when shelters don’t share their raw data.  Raw data is exactly that, it means getting the numbers without them being “cooked.”

As shelters we may operate and report our numbers as we choose, as long as we can continue to get the support we need to keep the doors open.  We all define terms like “save rates” and “positive outcomes” in different ways.  For example, when we say we “save” 90% or more of our animals, we qualify that as treatable animals.  We exclude some animals from those we consider treatable.

We exclude animals that came to us dead (duh).  We exclude animals that came to us for end of life services, (owner requested euthanasia).  We exclude animals who fall under rabies law protocols due to bites.  So, we do sympathize with those who want to put their best foot, and best outcomes, forward.

But we also report our raw numbers.  We show every single animal entering and leaving our shelters, regardless of how.  We also post a detailed description of every term we use, so you know what we mean when we save “treatable,” “untreatable,” or “positive outcome.”  You and the rest of the public can analyze both our raw data and our contextual data and reach your own conclusions.  Some states, but not Pennsylvania, require this.  We’ve been doing this for 15 years and was among the first in PA to post these numbers online.  It is the only honest way to report numbers.

Some organizations only report their “save rates” with no numeric values at all.  That’s not only meaningless, it’s dishonest.  There, I said.  It’s dishonest and deceptive.

Saying nothing but “90% Saved!” without defining what saved means, or noting how many came in or went out, tells us nothing.  Were 9 out of 10 saved or 900 out of 1,000?  Both are 90%.  Did we include every animal or just those that are savable?  That would be like a store having a 50% off sale without telling you the price.  Maybe it’s a good deal.  Or maybe they just always charge a lot and 50% off is still worse than the store next door.

Pennsylvania should mandate consistent, transparent, and complete reporting.  Until it does, we should demand it, of ourselves and of other organizations.  I’m not saying organizations intend to be dishonest, but some do.  I’m not saying it means we put up numbers we are not always happy with, we do. I’m not saying reporting it’s not a major pain in the butt, it is.  Heck, I always run later in posting than I want to because we have to pull together all the data, double and triple check all the numbers, convert the files, etc.

But if a dummy like me can do it, so can everyone else. We deal with lives and the public deserves to know the reality behind the work we do on their behalf and with their money.  If we don’t deliver that transparency, we deserve their mistrust.


Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives: Microchip Identification

November 5th, 2018 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives: Microchip Identification)

What’s the one thing that people could do that would save more animals’ live every year more than anything else? Microchip identification.

More animals die in animal shelters each year based on being unidentified strays than for any other reason. Fundamentally, any animal that enters a shelter as a stray and doesn’t get back into its owner’s arms swiftly is at huge risk. No matter the reason it is ultimately killed – lack of space, illness, behavior – the original cause is that it didn’t go home.

Dogs are far more likely to be reclaimed as stray by their owners for two reasons:

  1. They are more likely to wear a collar with some form of ID or license.
  2. When your dog runs off, you are more likely to call the local shelter or police soon after.

Even with these two factors, shelters are lucky to have 20% of stray dogs claimed by their owners. So only 1 in 5 of the hundreds and thousands of stray dogs being picked up in Berks County each year get back to an original owner.

For cats it is even worse, with a typical owner claim rate of 1-2%. That’s because cats rarely have collars and ID (the old “I don’t want my cat strangled on a collar” line is darling, since apparently people would rather their cats die in an animal shelter) and because people tend to think a cat can wander off for a day or two, or seven, before calling a shelter or local police. In that time a stray cat has likely already faced death or been adopted in a shelter.

But cats and dogs who have identification have completely the opposite outcome, with 90% or more getting returned to owners. The simple act of giving your pet ID could save its life and save the lives of other animals in a shelter by not taking up precious space for days or weeks as an unidentified stray.

There is no easier way to identify your pet than with a tiny, safe, cheap microchip implanted under its skin and registering that chip with a national database. It can’t lose a chip like it can a collar. Every shelter and most police departments now have universal scanners. Most microchips come with free registration of your name and address. All vets and most shelters offer microchipping services.

Universal microchipping could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of pets each year in American shelters. Humane Pennsylvania thinks it is the single most important thing you can do to avoid preventable death of your pet. That’s why we incorporated it into our groundbreaking Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives initiative as a cornerstone of the program. It’s why we microchip every pet adopted from us.

In fact, we think it’s so important we have made it free to all. This month, Humane Pennsylvania and our animal hospitals started providing all clients’ pets with free registered microchips. Zero charge.

All vet clients will be offered a free chip during a regularly scheduled exam, treatment or surgery. Any client utilizing our newly expanded ultra-low cost sterilization services gets a free chip during surgery. At any of our Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives community clinics, microchips will be offered to all for no charge. When our new Berks County shelter is built and operating, we will be working on a program to allow for walk-ins to receive on demand microchip services.

Our goal is to implant an additional 20,000 microchips in Berks County pets (as part of our recent Giorgi Family Grant) in the next three years, with the greater goal of ensuring that 100% of Berks and Lancaster County eventually have microchip identification.

We project that increased microchipping will result in fewer strays lingering in shelters because their owners can be identified. The closer to universal we can get adoptions of this type of ID, the fewer and fewer the number of unclaimed strays will be. That will free up space for truly homeless animals. It will decrease the burden on animal control agencies. It will decrease costs for municipal and state governments.

And it will save lives. Lots and lots of lives.


Cats: A Working Solution

October 3rd, 2018 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Cats: A Working Solution)

While outcomes have improved dramatically for dogs over the past two decades in animal shelters across the country, there is still a crisis facing cats.  Kittens have great outcomes in our region.  Healthy, happy adult cats have pretty good outcomes in our region.  But adult cats with behavioral issues and feral cats still face nearly universal death in shelters.

Humane Pennsylvania has been attacking this life and death crisis for over 15 years. In the coming weeks we are going to be rolling out very major public expansions of two of our long running programs: Humane Pennsylvania’s Free Roaming Cat Solutions and Working Cat program.  Today I want to share our expanded Working Cat program.

Working Cat – Alternative Placement Program

Working Cats are cats which can’t successfully be placed in a traditional home adoption setting but are candidates for non-traditional placements.  These cats may have behavioral challenges such as having limited socialization (but not being “fully” feral) or have litter box issues.  They are often wonderful cats that just don’t particularly dig being hugged, or dig using the litter box as appropriate.

As a result, their chances of being adopted are virtually zero.  Blunt reality: adopters don’t choose cats which will hide in a closet their entire lives and refuse to be petted, nor will they pick a cat which doesn’t use a litter box.  We can’t blame people for making a choice to adopt a cat without these issues.  With unlimited time and space, we might even be able to rehabilitate many of these cats in our shelter.

But we don’t have unlimited time and space.

That means these cats are almost certainly going to be euthanized in our shelter or some other shelter.  But there is an alternative to death and that’s an alternative placement.


Humane Pennsylvania has been partnering with businesses, commercial greenhouses, families with barns, and other locations where cats like this can have an alternative housing placement.  These are places where they will be given shelter, supervised, fed, and provided with regular vaccinations and medical care as needed.  It just isn’t in a traditional home setting.

These cats provide service in return:

  • First, they are often loving pets, if sometimes from a bit of a distance.
  • Second, they often help businesses and homeowners control rodent populations.  Hence the “Working Cat” moniker.

In the old days the philosophy of shelters was to kill these cats because of the potential they may face living largely outdoor lives.  Some shelters still have that philosophy.  Humane Pennsylvania has come to grips with a simple reality:  A cat can face certain death in a shelter, or it can go into an alternative placement and face a small chance of danger due to being outside.  If we could ask the cat, I think I know what the cat would choose.  If you ask our staff, I know what they choose.  We are here to save lives, not end them when we have a better alternative.

Working Cat alternative adoption placements is an alternative we’ve been practicing quietly for over a decade.  We have decided to stop being quiet about this lifesaving option.  In fact, we are looking for partners.

If you are interested in learning more about how your family or business can provide an alternative to death to one of these great cats, please reach out to our Life Saving Coordinator, Tawny Kissinger. She can fill you in on how the program works and how you can help us save more lives.  We often have healthy, sterilized, vaccinated cats who need your help.

This is not a program for feral and other free roaming cats.  We will shortly announce a dramatic expansion of our long running program to help these cats thanks to the amazing $3.1 million Giorgi Family Foundation Grant received by Humane Pennsylvania.  Stay tuned!

There are no silver bullets to solve the problems of animals in our community or shelter deaths.  These solutions require lots of bite sized approaches to help ever smaller groups of animals which were once deemed unsaveable by animal shelters.  That includes our working cats.

I once heard that a journey to save a thousand lives starts by saving one.  Or something like that.  No wait.  I think it was in a fortune cookie.  Either way, it’s true.


A Manifesto

September 24th, 2018 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on A Manifesto)

Karel Minor, Humane Pennsylvania CEO

Last week I gave you a thesis. A thesis comes from the head. You need to plan from the head or you don’t get things accomplished. But you need to be driven from the heart or what you get accomplished is meaningless. At the Walk for the Animals & Walktoberfest earlier this month I got a bit whipped up in my welcoming remarks about what we are doing with our new funding and service partners. It felt a bit like a manifesto. Manifestos come from the heart. Sometimes you need to actually write out what you actually feel, not just what you think.


A Manifesto:

American shelters are Death Machines.

For a century animal shelters killed millions and no one cared. For decades animal shelters killed millions and told us it was inevitable. For years animal shelters killed millions of animals and told us it was our fault. Now animal shelters kill millions of animals and tell us they are not killing them because they only kill 10% or less. The No Kill of 10% is 100% death for the animals in that 10%.

No Kill is a lie shelters tell themselves and we tell you. We pretend that if we save 9 out of 10, we save them all. Simple math shows this is a lie.

Animal shelters focus on death. Bad animal shelters kill. Good animal shelters are good because they kill less. Good is better than bad, but it is not good enough.

Would we brag that we send our children to be educated in a No Kill school? That we work at a No Kill job? That we worship in a No Kill church? Do we shop at No Kill grocery stores? Do we count ourselves lucky to walk out of our school, job, church, or grocery store alive? In what other part of our lives do we sing the praises of merely walking out alive?

Not dying is not the pinnacle of achievement, it is the base line expectation. Yet we pat ourselves on the back for only killing 1 in 10. We pat ourselves on the back for supporting organizations that only kill 1 in 10.

We sing our own praises that we offer the humane alternative of death in exchange for life. Why is the binary choice life or death for animals who are not dying?

  • The alternative to hunger is not death
  • The alternative to suffering is not death
  • The alternative to homelessness is not death
  • The alternative to illness is not death

The alternative to hunger is food. The alternative to suffering is succor. The alternative to homelessness is a home. The alternative to illness is health. The alternative to death is life.

In all lives, death is inevitable. Sometimes it is the best choice to relieve profound illness or suffering. It is not always the only choice. It is never the right choice just because there are no alternatives at hand. Then it may be a choice but it doesn’t make it the right choice. Even if it is the choice only 1 time out of 10.

People and animals have rights. They have the right to food. They have the right to a safe shelter. They have a right to be free of fear and pain. They have a right to be made healthy when they are sick. They have a right to being treated with respect and dignity, even if they can’t access or even articulate these rights.

American animal shelters steal these rights from animals when they steal their lives in the name of welfare. Even when it’s only 10% of the time. They steal these rights when they warehouse, stack, cage, and hide animals away and declare it to be a life. A life in a shelter is not the life intended for animals. Being a caged animal is not the alternative to death. Life in a home is the alternative.

Humane Pennsylvania will not be a place of death, it will be a place of life. It will not be a place of hunger, suffering, pain, fear, perpetual jail, or indignity. It will be a place of life.

When death is the right choice for an animal, it will not be a place of disrespect for life or truth. Humane Pennsylvania will not lie and tell the world that death is not death because we have a new term for it. We will be a new organization. We believe in life and we repudiate death.

Death is death. Life is life. Humane Pennsylvania chooses life. Choose life with us.



Whew! I sure glad I got that off my chest! I think I’m going to cancel my haircut and hang out my freak flag now. Or, I’ll just get right back to work marrying our Manifesto with our Thesis, and save some more animals.


Animal Cruelty is Symptom of a Disease. There is a Cure.

September 12th, 2018 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Animal Cruelty is Symptom of a Disease. There is a Cure.)

Karel Minor, Humane Pennsylvania CEO

A Thesis

For over 100 year the animal welfare community has been approaching animal welfare as if it was the disease itself, and not merely a symptom of something else.  It wouldn’t be the first time people have done that. Ulcers were thought to be caused by stress by the entire medical community until they were proved mostly be caused by the Helicobacter bacteria.  A similar misdiagnosis was made for cervical cancer, which is now recognized to be overwhelmingly the result of an Human Papillomavirus infection. 

What if we’ve been similarly misdiagnosing animal cruelty?  Humane Pennsylvania (HPA) believes this is now largely the case.  We think that the cures for the underlying causes of much of the animal cruelty and suffering we see have already been discovered.  In fact, much of the cure has been utilized, but without a clear understanding of how the cure should be applied, what the proper dose may be, and what the curative mechanism is.

Humane Pennsylvania, with the help of The Giorgi Family Foundation and its staggering $3.1 million dollar gift to HPA, is intend to change that. The Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives initiative is the vehicle by which HPA will test a new thesis on how we can end nearly all companion animal suffering in our community.

For over a decade HPA has worked to change the approach to saving animals and we’ve danced around three core ideas…

  1. That animals are not the problem to be solved, it’s the problems of animals which need to be solved.
  2. People aren’t the problem, they are often as much victims of the problems facing animals as the animals themselves.
  3. And most importantly, there is solution.

This final statement is important because for over a century, even as recently as 26 years ago when I started professionally in animal welfare, the assumption was that the problems facing animals were insurmountable and broadly untreatable.

Humane Pennsylvania has been developing a model of attacking animal suffering as a disease, one with underlying causes we could address and overcome.  We’ve compared it to fighting a Polio or a Typhoid outbreak.  Our newest approaches have been modeled in community and world health interventions.  These approaches have been effective, but not fully curative.  That’s because we didn’t quite have it right.  Animal suffering isn’t usually a disease like Polio or Typhoid.  It’s more akin to lung cancer or diabetes.  It is a disease which presents as an acute illness but is the result of a constellation of underlying factors, factors which are often controllable.

Some people spontaneously present with lung cancer or type 2 diabetes.  Nothing they have done or no way they have lived can explain why they got the disease.  But we also know that 80%-90% of lung cancer is related to smoking.  Lung cancer is very definitely a disease, but in 9 out of 10 cases the real “disease” is smoking cigarettes.  Just as most type 2 diabetes is the result of issues in diet, weight, and exercise, factors which can be changed and negative impacts can be reversed.

So, too, is the case with most companion animal suffering.  A small number are truly out of the blue, acute cruelty issues.  It is hard to plan for a budding psychopath torturing his first dog.  But most cases of animal suffering are not the result of things that are out of our community control.  Most animal suffering is more akin to the slow progression to type 2 diabetes as a result of a build-up of the negative impacts of lifestyle, until one day the person is diabetic.  Worse, like the “choice” to smoke, “choices” made for animals lead to acute danger for animals when they face life and death in a shelter or on the streets because of the actions of their caretaker.

What if we could offset these dangers to animals based on the choices and actions of people?  Could we wipe out the life threatening animal welfare equivalent of diabetes or cancer by changing how people choose to live with and care for their animals?  Yes, we can.  Not the way animal shelters have been trying to do it for years, but we can.

Circles of Control and Limits of Capability

For years, animal shelters have been trying to make people do things out of our control.  You should love your dog.  You should keep your cat inside.  You should adopt, sterilize your pet, feed them well, see a veterinarian, you should, should, should…. For people who were naturally inclined, this message took, and to great effect.  Death in our shelters is down 80% in the past 40 years.  Sometimes it took because the message resonated and sometimes because people just opted for the best path.  Why do these messages and the cajoling we do work with some people and populations and not with others?  Why do some people “choose” to care for their pets properly and others care for them in such a way that their animals end up languishing or dying in shelters?

For the same reason some people still get diabetes, or lung cancer, or become addicts, despite all the messaging out there telling them not to smoke, be sedentary, or take drugs.  Simply telling someone what they should or shouldn’t do isn’t enough to change behavior, even behavior that may prove profoundly dangerous or damaging.  Chronic disease or behaviorally caused acute disease can’t be lectured into remission.  Treatment is needed.

Humane Pennsylvania believes that the animals entering shelters overwhelmingly do so because the humans they are attached to lack one or more of the following:

  • Caretakers lack genuine knowledge or skills required to prevent animal suffering.
  • Caretakers lack ready access to (or skills to access) better alternatives or resources to prevent animal suffering.
  • Caretakers lack the positive habituation required to prevent animal suffering.

Why are these three points significant and what can they tell us about how to achieve rapid positive impacts?

First, many people lack the skills or knowledge required to properly care for a pet.  This is not necessarily willful ignorance but can be a factor of socioeconomic factors.  At Humane Pennsylvania’s veterinary hospitals we routinely treat the pets of people who do not have the experience many others do when it comes to navigating the animal healthcare network, let alone a clear understanding of exactly why successfully navigating that pet healthcare network is fundamentally good for animals.  Let’s focus on just the veterinary piece of the puzzle.

Often these are people are at an educational or economic strata that has resulted in being ill equipped and inexperienced.  Many of these people use the emergency room as their primary care health provider.  They use school resources or the local free clinic as their pediatric resources.  They’ve never experienced what so many take for granted, such as a long-term relationship with any healthcare provider, at a well-staffed and equipped office, and receiving reminder cards and texts.  Let alone a modicum of respect.  If people haven’t experienced this in their own family’s healthcare, why would we think they’d have experienced it with their pets?  This lack of basic skills acquisition is a major hurdle for many, who do not even know what they don’t know about caring for a pet.

Second, let’s assume that our lecturing has worked and these folks who lack skills try to access resources.  Where will they find them?  Will they be able to afford them?  Poverty is an enormous barrier to providing proper care to a pet.  Simple distance and transportation is often enough to prove an insurmountable barrier.  The City of Reading has about 90,000 people and it had only one veterinary hospital until HPA opened its hospital.  By comparison, the rest of Berks County is home to no fewer than 20 veterinary practices for the remaining 320,000 odd people in Berks.  That’s a one vet to 45,000 people in the Reading City and one vet to 16,000 people or less everywhere else.  Some people simply have less access to good veterinary resources and all of the benefits they bring.  Even those who do may not have the financial resources to afford the level and quality of care you and I may take for granted.  That results in delayed care, sub-standard care, or potentially no care provided by even some of those who have the knowledge and skills to seek proper care out.

Finally, good choices must become habitual. Cognitive behavioral changes are crucial. For the same reason people don’t keep New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to not remember to take your pet to the vet every year.  That’s why we get reminders.  I’d never remember to go to the dentist let alone the vet if it wasn’t for text and mail reminders.  But what if you move around a lot because you’re poor and reminder cards can’t reach you? What if you don’t use “regular” services that even provide these reminders because they are inconsistently offered?  You never build up that habit, that “muscle memory.”

If we want at risk communities to have those good habits, we need to be the people to help create them.  We can’t fault people for not knowing what they need to do, how to do it, and then complain they don’t figure it out on their own.  We need to not just educate them (we’ve been doing that for decades), not just provide generic access (we’ve been doing that for years), we need to actually help them to put that knowledge to use, in the places where it will help their pet, in a way that will stick, be repeated, become a generational expectation and habit.  Does that mean reminding people to show up more than you or I might need?  Yes.  Does that mean driving some people to their appointments?  Maybe.  Does it mean possibly even bribing people to show up with incentives?  Possibly.

And before anyone gets all high and mighty about helping bad pet owners:  We aren’t helping them, we are helping their pets.  Come to grips with that.  If you don’t like people but you like animals you still need to work with the people.

Now, I just came at this from the angle of basic veterinary healthcare.  Extend this to proper nutrition, behavioral counseling and training, general good care and husbandry, or what to do in emergencies.  There are so many things that so many people don’t know how to do, don’t know how to access, and don’t have good habits for doing.  We intend to try a new approach to change all that.

Same Pieces, Different Puzzle

Just as the causes of diseases have sometimes gone undiagnosed, sometimes the treatments for them go unrecognized.  Sometimes these treatments were used for some other disease or in some other way but it turns out to be useful in new and novel ways.  This is often the case for cancer or anti-viral drugs, which may be effective in treating new diseases or are even more effective against old ones when used in combination or in different doses.

That’s what we are doing in our Healthy Pets, Healthy Lives initiative.  The pieces are very familiar.  But we’ve recognized the puzzle has changes.  So, what are the pieces of the puzzle?

  • Pet sterilizations services to 100% of community need.
  • Pet vaccination services to 100% of community need.
  • Identification microchipping services to 100% of community need.
  • Pet food insecurity program expansion to 100% of community need.
  • Emergency/disaster response and sheltering capability for 1,000 animals at a time.
  • Detailed and expansive data collection (complete pet and needs census).

These may all sound familiar.  That’s because they are.  The difference is the scope, scale, timing, and duration.  HPA has identified a specific population to serve – Reading and Reading adjacent municipalities – to provide a focus of services.  We are targeting and leveling the services – delivering differentiated services to the financially capable, the financially at risk, and the financially destitute – to deliver the right services in the right way to suit the needs of specific populations.  And we have picked a time frame to deliver these services.  This duration aspect is critical.

We seek to achieve this service delivery in just three years.  We want the biggest bang for the buck and to deliver all these needed services all at once in a short time span.  To follow the disease model, we are seeking to identify those suffering and deliver treatment, identify those as risk and deliver inoculation against disease, and to identify and combat any outbreaks as the happen.  Whose animals are suffering now, whose animals are at risk for suffering, and whose animals might begin to suffer?  By attempting to reach 100% of the need in a short span, we can then ramp down the need for ongoing high level efforts and costs.

We picked this above list of services because we think these are the key services which will drastically cut the number of animals entering shelters for preventable reasons, or allow animals to leave shelters faster.  Our hope is a 50% decrease in intake from the service area.  This reduction has been targeted because we know a 50% reduction allows shelters to suddenly make huge strides in life saving because they are no longer constrained by space and time to help the neediest of the truly homeless pets.  Reaching this goal community wide – we’ve already done in in our own shelters – is what leads to reaching no kill community save rates of 90% or better. 

We also picked these services because they are largely veterinary based and we know, and research shows, that veterinary interventions and relationships are among the single biggest positive factors in a pet’s life and are most likely to keep them out of shelters as either surrenders or strays.  There is a great deal of planning, thought, and research that went into this list and I’ve already gone on too long in this post to address them each now.  However, in future posts I will be returning to each one to provide detailed explanations for why we believe these are the keys to successful implementation and outcomes of this initiative.  And why we are betting $3 million dollars on this approach.

In A Nutshell

After 2,300 words, I’ll put this in a nutshell and give you the elevator speech (the explanation you can share with someone in the amount of time it takes you to ride with them in an elevator).

Animal shelters have done a lot in the last 50 years but we still have animals dying in shelters and suffering in our communities.  We think that the right combination of existing approaches, used in new ways, scope, and scale can change that and make a big enough change that any community can reach true no kill lifesaving outcomes in an extremely short period of time.  We are spending $3 million dollars in three years to deliver targeted services; spay/neuter, vaccination, microchipping, and pet food supports to people and pets who need it, to 100% of community need.  We believe that this will decrease shelter intake from the target community by 50% and that will allow save rates in our local shelters to sky rocket.  Berks County will become a no kill county, not because we get them all adopted, but because we keep most pets from ever entering a shelter in the first place. Berks will become the first No Suffering County.*

Will it work?  Beats me, but we really think it will and we are basing that optimism on data, research, and experience.  The Giorgi Family Foundation, and many other lead donors on this project have enough confidence in our vision and plan to support it with their hard earned money.  Hundreds of staff and volunteers trust it enough to give us their valuable time and talent. I hope you will consider giving us some of each.

This is the start of the effort and the conversation. Be a part of it and be a part of our attempt to achieve something new and wonderful.  And save lots and lots of animals from needless suffering and death.

*P.S.  Lancaster County, don’t feel left out! Many of the models that the Giorgi Grant will help create will be rolled out in Lancaster for pets and people there, too.  Of course, what we need is some visionary donor leadership in Lancaster County like the Giorgi’s provided in Berks.  If you’re that visionary donor, call me….


An Inside Look into the Impact of Fostering

July 17th, 2018 | Posted by KMdirector2* in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on An Inside Look into the Impact of Fostering)

By Tawny Kissinger | Lifesaving Programs Coordinator at Humane Pennsylvania

We love our foster care volunteers and it is because of their compassion, kindness, and patience that our Foster Care Program continues to thrive. However, we are always looking for new foster families to become involved!

Foster families provide a lifesaving second chance to animals in need and foster animals range from; puppies and kittens too young to go up for adoption, animals recovering from surgery, those who find the shelter environment difficult to adjust to, etc. and include cats, dogs, and small animals.

The summer months bring about an increased need for fostering, so we sat down with Tawny Kissinger, Lifesaving Programs Coordinator at Humane Pennsylvania, to learn more about how foster families provide valuable care to foster pets throughout our community.

HPA: For those who are not familiar with the program, what is the Foster Care Program?

TK: The Foster Care Program facilities animal care as they transition from the shelter to stay in a person’s home. This length of stay varies depending on the reason for fostering. Animals are placed in foster care for a variety of reasons, which include…

  1. An animal has an extreme medical condition that prevents us from placing them up for adoption at that specific time.
  2. They are too small to receive spay or neuter surgery.
  3. An animal needs socialization.
  4. They need time to decompress, outside of the shelter environment.

HPA: Why is this a significant program for our organization?

TK: Without the Foster Care Program the shelter would become over crowded. This would cause one of two outcomes…

  1. Animals would be euthanized due to overcrowding or…
  2. We would not be able to accept animals that are in need.

During the summer months foster care is most needed. We see tons of kittens come into our shelters that are too small to receive spay or neuter surgery. Without the care of foster families and individuals in our foster care program, a majority of these kittens would not be properly cared for.

HPA: Who benefits from this program?

TK: Both animals and people benefit greatly from our Foster Care Program! Foster parents see the direct impact they have on the pets in their care – as they help us save animal’s lives.

Studies show that animals that go into foster care have a higher chance of being adopted. The animals are in a less stressful environment and typically show their true colors. The Foster Care Program also benefits adopters. Adopters are provided with a greater understanding of how their new pet will adapt to living in a home setting.

HPA: What is the goal of the program?

TK: The ultimate goal of our Foster Care Program is to save animals lives and help them be happier, healthier pets.

HPA: How can people get involved with the program?

TK: Fostering is easy! If someone is interested in fostering they can start by filling out the Foster Volunteer Application. Or they can stop by either The Humane League of Lancaster County or The Humane Society of Berks County shelter locations to complete the foster volunteer application.

As an organization we are continuing to improve our Foster Care Program. I would love to see more and more animals transition into foster homes. This type of focused care greatly helps animals that are stressed or are experiencing anxiety within the shelter environment.

Right now, our foster program is concentrated on kittens that are under age, however, I would love to see more adult animals receive foster care. So far this year, we have transitioned about 240 animals in to foster care from both shelters.

This is a great success, however, we are always looking to grow our Foster Care Program and connect new foster parents with animals in need of their special kind of TLC.

To learn more about our Foster Care Program and ways you can get involved, visit the Foster Care page of our website or contact Tawny Kissinger, [email protected] or in Berks County call, 610-921-2348 ext. 218, or in Lancaster County call, 717-393-6551 ext. 240.