Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Welcome to The Society Page!

Welcome to the first installment of the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society's new blog. We hope this forum will provide a place for animal advocates to learn about the latest work of the DPVHS as well as engage in respectful dialogue about some of the latest issues in our movement.

First, a little bit about us. The DPVHS was created in 2006 when the Dakin Animal Shelter of Leverett, MA merged with the Pioneer Valley Humane Society of Greenfield, MA. This event marked a new beginning for animal welfare in the Pioneer Valley region of western Massachusetts. You can learn more about our organization by visiting

As cold weather descends upon New England (and as my resident animal friends jockey for the best spot near the woodstove), I am reminded of the less fortunate souls relegated to a life outdoors.

At this time of year, the media draws our attention to the plight of homeless humans, huddling under blankets on park benches or competing for a cot at the local shelter. And rightly so. The tragic effects of homelessness can be seen even in small, rural communities like ours.

And the economic and social forces that lead to homelessness for humans are often the very same that lead to homelessness in companion animals--poverty, substance abuse, violence. We speak daily to people who love their animals but are forced to make choices between feeding their children or caring for their pets.

We also hear from some members of our community that people who can't afford to care properly for pets--vaccinating them, neutering them--shouldn't have them in the first place. They certainly shouldn't need handouts from the community to make sterilization surgeries or vaccines affordable.

At the DPVHS we realize that cats and dogs (and sometime rabbits and birds) wander into the lives of loving people with few financial resources. Maybe they had money when they first opened their doors and their hearts to a new dog. Maybe they just have a soft spot for stray cats. The fact of the matter is that people who can't afford regular veterinary care--or even good food--do share their lives and homes with animals. And without resources, the animals will suffer.

The DPVHS provides free pet food and supplies to needy people through our Pet Aid program in Greenfield. We are currently working on a program to provide Pet Food Meals on Wheels for the pets of seniors in Amherst. Our CatSnip, Feral Spay Sunday and other low-cost or free sterilization programs make pet sterilization surgeries accessible.

We know that a lack of choices often leads to homelessness for people and pets. We are here to provide the safety net that keeps animals in their homes.

What do you think?

Leslie Harris
Executive Director, DPVHS


  1. Leslie,
    This is an AWESOME write-up. As an ex ACO, I have been dishartened by many out there that are cruel to not only their animals, but many "animal advocates" (as they call themselves) who bash anyone who isn't perfect or doesn't do things their way. (which often isn't the best way either.) I get so sick of people who "think" they know what is going on in the world of rescue and animal advocacy bashing people for rehoming their animals when hardship comes upon them or for asking for a little help with medical bills and food bills for a short time. There are many out there that state that because they "do rescue" (although most of what they do is NOW illegal in Mass.) or have volunteered to walk a dog or pet a cat at the MSPCA for the last ten years...they KNOW all of what is going on out there and how to fix it. Usually it's to steal someone's pet because THEY don't think it's being cared for properly.

    Thanks to DPVHS for taking a stand and an UNDERSTANDING that people's circumstances can and do change. And that just because someone doesn't have a TON of money doesn't mean that they don't have a wonderful heart and a lot of LOVE to offer.

    This is not so much meant to be a posted comment, but just a comment to thank you guys for taking the time and making the effort to not only care for and understand the animals, but also to UNDERSTAND the people who love them so much as well.
    Linda Johnson
    Former ACO
    East Longmeadow

  2. Dear Linda,

    If there is one thing I have learned in my 20 years of work in the animal welfare field, it is that passions always run high. After all, we are drawn to this work--whether as paid staff or volunteers--because we care about animals and want to effect change on their behalf.

    I believe that the volunteers or animal advocates you write about have the best interest of animals at heart. And I also know that repeatedly bearing witness to abuse and neglect can make us distrustful of our fellow humans. It may even make us feel as if we alone have the monopoly on love and compassion.

    Remembering to extend that love and compassion we feel for non-humans to our fellow humans is one of the biggest challenges we face as animal advocates. Once we realize that no animal shows up on our doorstep of his own volition, we realize that our work to help animals is also work to help people.

    For the animals,