Monday, November 16, 2009

DPVHS Community Spay/Neuter Clinic Launches!

In only one month of operation--so to speak--the DPVHS Community Spay/Neuter Clinic has already sterilized more than 600 cats and dogs!

Here are a few fun facts:

*The Community Spay/Neuter Clinic is a key component of the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society's Three Year Plan to Adoption Guarantee.

*The Clinic offers spay or neuter surgery to any healthy cat or dog who is at least 8 weeks of age and weighs at least 2 pounds.

*We serve pet animals, feral/stray cats, animals in shelters or rescues, and animals held by animal control officers. There are no residency or income requirements.

*There are special reduced prices for feral cats ($35) and pit bull dogs ($50). Why? Because these populations of animals are at an increased risk of homelessness in our communities. By neutering them, we reduce their populations while also eliminating many of the behaviors that make them unwelcome members of the community.

*More than 1/3 of the public (i.e. not adoption center, animal control, or rescue) dogs we have served so far have been pit bulls or pit bull mixes!

*The overwhelming majority of public cats we have served have had no prior relationship with a veterinarian.

*We are not a full-service veterinary hospital. We encourage each person who cares for an animal to establish a regular relationship with a private veterinarian.

*We will serve any cat or dog within a 90-mile radius of Springfield!

*An appointment is required. Please call 413-781-4019 or email

Learn more about the DPVHS Community Spay/Neuter Clinic!

November 22nd is the Magical Night of Giving at the Ingleside Mall in Holyoke. Special shopping hours, discounts, and raffle prizes are available only to ticket-holders. Buy your ticket at one of our adoption centers and the proceeds benefit DPVHS!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This Just In...from North Carolina!

On Monday, October 12th, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society will open the first Humane Alliance-style spay/neuter clinic in Massachusetts. As part of the Humane Alliance training program, our entire clinic staff is spending the week before opening day at the HA training center in Asheville, North Carolina. What follows is a message from DPVHS Clinic Director, Karina King:

DPVHS's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic team is now halfway through our training week at Humane Alliance in Asheville, North Carolina - getting ready to open our own clinic next week on October 12th.

The Humane Alliance facility is gorgeous - 6 surgical suites with attached prep areas. It's designed as both a working spay/neuter clinic and also as a training facility to show other groups what they have learned over the years (they've now spay/neutered more than 200,000 animals at their own clinic and have helped more than 50 other clinics get started around the United States).

Humane Alliance serves animals within a 90-mile radius of their facility, and the euthanasia rate at their local animal shelter has declined 70% since they began operating. This - the reduction in euthanasia rate at the local shelter - is why we're here, and why DPVHS is opening our own spay/neuter clinic. We can never find homes for the number of animals born in our community; we've got to provide accessible spay/neuter so the number of births - and the number of homeless animals - goes down. It's the only way to lower the number of animals that die for lack of a home in our own neighborhood, the Pioneer Valley.

The professionalism of the veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and staff here is just amazing. I've watched these teams calmly, gently, and with the utmost skill spaying and neutering 25-45 animals per team (one team consists of one vet and 2-3 support staff), with 3-6 teams in action on any given day. Each animal receives only the best of care, but no time or motion is wasted, and constant attention is paid to keeping the day flowing smoothly.

The training program here is very much hands-on. Our training team shows us what to do, then we do it with them, then we do it ourselves with them standing by to assist us if needed and answer our many questions.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Therrien, says it's like being back in veterinary school again - not something she's used to, having been out of school for quite a while now! Although she is an accomplished surgeon with years of surgical experience, Dr. Therrien is learning new knots and suture techniques that have been developed to complete spay and neuter surgeries both safely and in the most efficient way possible.

Our technicians, Crystal and Kristin, and our veterinary assistant, Sara, are learning with veterinary technician Joey and veterinary assistant Shannon. They're learning about administering the type of anesthesia we'll be using, keeping the animals we'll be caring for safe and comfortable - as well as new kinds of medical records and the efficient flow used when you are caring for many more animals per day than veterinarians in private practice do. They're hearing again and again, "treat each pet as if he were your own". And even though we are caring for many pets each day, there's lots of snuggling and "oh my, isn't she cute!".

DPVHS clinic administrator Jodi and I are setting up the computer system we'll be using in the clinic and learning how to take in and send home 30 patients per day. We'll also be learning about running transports to bring in animals from a distance - those whose people cannot bring them to us (we are scheduled to begin transports to the clinic in Phase 2 of DPVHS's 3 Year Plan To Adoption Guarantee). I'll also be learning more about how to ensure that our clinic brings in enough income to cover our costs. Not as much fun as what the rest of my team is doing, but we need to ensure that we will still be around in years to come.

When we return to the Pioneer Valley and open our own clinic on October 12th, a veterinarian and technician from Humane Alliance will be accompanying us. They'll help us take a good look at our own clinic space and configure it most efficiently, help us get set up and started, and share the wisdom they've learned by helping more than 50 other clinics get started before us!

There are two folks from Ohio here at the training center this week, too. Their area is euthanizing way too many animals, and they would like to open a Humane Alliance-style clinic in their area. They're visiting to learn more about the program and see if this type of clinic is right for them. When I hear the Humane Alliance staff having the same conversations with the Ohio visitors that I had with Humane Alliance just this spring I think, "What a long way we've come in such a short time!"

We are grateful to be here with these wonderful people and excited to get back next week and get our own clinic started! The entire clinic staff can't wait to get going at home!

To learn more about Humane Alliance, visit


Monday, October 5, 2009

Vivi's Reprieve

In late September, our friend Joanne from the New England office of the Humane Society of the United States contacted animal shelters across the region to ask for our help with dogs rescued from a cruelty case that has stretched over three states. It seems William and Tammy Hanson, a pair of fugitives with convictions for animal abuse in Arkansas and Missouri, were finally arrested after a long run from the law that included a stop in Vermont.

The story began in 2006 when investigators, acting on complaints about stolen dogs, foul odors, and excessive barking, conducted an aerial investigation of a “rescue” center called Every Dog Needs a Home. What they found were more than 400 abused or neglected dogs—many dead or dying—wandering around a trash-strewn property. While the Hansons were convicted on several counts of cruelty to animals, they went on the lam prior to sentencing...which led them to Vermont.

In July 2009, the Hansons were spotted in Vermont, where Ms. Hanson was taken into custody (she is currently fighting extradition to Arkansas). Mr. Hanson fled…eventually landing in Missouri where he was rounded up by authorities at the end of September. And he had 30 more dogs.

Which brings us to Vivi (pictured above). This sweet, fat Australian cattle dog is a refugee from hell with the Hansons. Last weekend, the HSUS brought her from Missouri to Vermont. DPVHS has transported her to Springfield to find her a new home. But her real second chance at the good life depends on you. Please, visit Vivi—and the other homeless animals available for adoption—and consider adding a new best friend to your family.

Learn more about the Hansons' cruelty case and run from the law.

A great big tail wag to our friends at Five Star Building Corp. for their wildly successful Five Star Dakin Charity Golf Tournament! They raised more than $30,000 for the animals in one swing of the golf club. (Okay, it seemed that simple, but we know it was actually a lot of hard work). And we couldn’t have done it without our generous sponsors, including 84 Lumber, Nicky D’s, and the Taylor Agency. And thank you, too, to everyone who played a glorious day of golf at The Orchards to help the animals!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Heroes Needed. Spare Bedroom a Must.

It's the tail end of kitten season, so to speak, and our heroic foster volunteers have helped hundreds of kittens get a second chance. But today all of our foster homes are full. And the underage kittens continue to arrive. We need your help to save their lives!

If you have:

*a spare room where kittens (sometimes with a mother, but usually old enough to be without her) can stay separate from other household pets;
*a desire to enjoy the company of frisky kittens; and
*a big heart

then DPVHS needs you!

Learn more about being a foster parent. Contact DPVHS coordinator of volunteer services, Emily Kolod at or 413-781-4000 x 111 and sign up to be a foster hero today!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Boo Needs a Barn!

My friends, if you are a discerning cat lover like me, you know a good cat when you see one. Boo is one of those cats. He's both a lover and a fighter...which gets him in dutch with the staff here at DPVHS who try to take care of him every day.

If you've ever been lured in by a handsome fellow's charm, only to have your heart broken in the end, then you know what life would be like with Boo--he solicits love and affection...and then swats you for your trouble. We're hoping his recent neuter surgery (and the resulting dip in testosterone levels) will help reduce this behavior, but we're not holding our breath.

Instead, we're looking for a home where Boo can stretch his legs, enjoy the outdoors, and maybe not hurt people who seek to love him. In short, a barn home.

Like some of the cats who arrive at DPVHS, Boo isn't exactly presenting the prettiest picture of the perfect household pet. Other cats destined for the barn program include those cats who persist in "thinking outside the box" for no apparent reason. With so many healthy, friendly, well-socialized, box-thinking cats and kittens seeking homes, few people are lining up to take home our feisty and free-thinking felines. For these cats, a barn home is their last chance.

And you don't just need a working barn to successfully care for a barn cat--if you have a warehouse, workshop, or other non-residential space where you wouldn't mind a little rodent deterrence and a friendly purr, consider adopting a barn cat from DPVHS. You'll be a homeless cat's last chance at the good life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cats Galore!

In the week since opening our DPVHS Adoption & Education Center at 171 Union Street in Springfield, we have been inundated with cats and kittens. Our Leverett Adoption Center is overwhelmed, as well.

We need your help now more than ever.

Adult cats--cats 6 months or older--are coming in at 10 times the rate they are being adopted. Simple math will show you that, eventually, there will be no space left inside the adoption centers. We are doing everything we can to juggle cats and space:

*We are admitting all new cats by appointment. This helps us save lives by managing resources--including space and staff--better. We are grateful for the community members who have embraced this system and willingly made appointments for the animals they cannot keep.

*We are helping some of our shy adult cats adjust to the bustling adoption center environment by letting them spend their first few days in "time out" rooms. Some of these cats are even hanging out in administrative staff offices.

*We are making all adult cats at both DPVHS adoption centers members of the Lonely Hearts Club, effective immediately. This means that any cat 6 months or older may be adopted for half the regular adult cat adoption fee of $120. The adoption fee still includes sterilization surgery, microchipping, vaccinations, and important blood tests.

If you have room in your house for one more cat, please come to our Leverett or Springfield adoption centers and take a chance on love!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Join us on Saturday, August 1st!

The sign guys are putting the first coat of Dakin blue on the sign posts. The volunteers are gathering in the rain to lay the mulch. The community service guys have hauled away the last of the weeds and debris. The moving boxes are broken down and recycled. Our computers are on line. We've been trained on how to work the new telephones. Dr. Therrien and her crew have been neutering away to have animals ready to go home.....what's left?

Just you!

Join us on Saturday, August 1st from noon to 4:30 p.m. to celebrate the grand opening of the DPVHS adoption & education center at 171 Union Street in Springfield!

Can't make the drive to Springfield? Our Leverett friends will be celebrating, too--drop by the adoption center at 163 Montague Road in Leverett to join in the cheer!

And THANK YOU to everyone who made this expansion of DPVHS services possible. We are so excited to begin bringing our innovative programs to help even more people and animals.

See you Saturday!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Movin' On Up!

On July 15th, I received the keys to the new DPVHS adoption & education center at 171 Union Street in Springfield! And within days, thanks to our muscular friends at Five Star Building and Remodeling of Easthampton and plenty of volunteers and staff, we were able to relocate our administrative offices from Leverett to Springfield in one day...and equipment and animals from Greenfield to Leverett a short few days later.

As pleased and proud as we all are to be able to serve the Pioneer Valley region from Vermont to Connecticut and to have the opportunity to work from a state of the art adoption center, we also know that a building alone doesn't save or change lives. It's the people who make a difference each day.

Our seasoned Leverett adoption center staff have been working hard to carry on serving animals and people during our busiest time of year even while all around them is a swirl of activity and change. The little house in Leverett where our administrative staff had their offices now serves as the first stop for all cats and kittens who arrive in our northern adoption center.

In the midst of all the unpacking in Springfield, our newest adoption center staff members are gathered around the conference table watching webinars on disease control and animal body language. They are learning how to clean a cage without spreading germs, leash a strange dog without getting bitten, and calm a frightened cat.

Technicians in our clinic are preparing the surgical equipment for the spay and neuter procedures that will begin this week to prepare animals to go home on opening day.

Lori, our humane educator, has had to quickly get her new office set up: her summer programs start in Orange this week and in Leverett next week.

Coordinator of volunteer services, Emily Kolod, has been meeting with volunteers new and old to keep them updated with the latest DPVHS information.

And those volunteers--many of them former MSPCA volunteers--have pitched in to help with everything from toting boxes to sweeping floors to making sure all our animals are receiving the best of care.

Finally, we are pleased to welcome to the DPVHS staff some of our old friends from the MSPCA adoption center--Eliza, Betsy, Vanessa, Emily, Marni, Candy, Chrissy, and Dr. Atkins will all be essential to making the Valley a better place for animals.

The new DPVHS Adoption & Education Center opens on Saturday, August 1st at noon. I hope to see you there!

On July 24th, my best girl Hattie Brown and I attended Mutts and Muttinis, a benefit for DPVHS held by the Deerfield Inn. We were delighted to meet a number of Dakin Dogs and their people (I confess that my favorite was little Celeste, pictured here). Not only was my dinner delicious, but Ms. Brown sends her compliments to the chef for an extraordinary chicken, rice, and carrot "doggie stew. Thanks, Deerfield Inn!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Help End Convenience Devocalization of Pets

There is a measure currently before the Massachusetts legislature--HB 344, An Act Prohibiting Devocalization of Dogs and Cats--that would end the practice of "de-barking" dogs (and, yes, even "de-meowing" cats) for the convenience of their human guardians.

Opponents of the measure--primarily some people who breed dogs and others who oppose any restrictions whatsoever on what they see as their right to "use" animals in any manner they see fit--argue that preventing people from devocalizing their dogs means more dogs will become homeless and die in animal shelters.

Sadly, the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, is also opposing this measure, arguing that they need to be able to perform the surgery as a last-ditch effort to keep a noisy dog in his home (the measure would allow for devocalization for medical reasons).

Still, veterinarians are not in agreement about this. MSPCA's Angell Animal Medical Center, for instance, refuses to perform this surgery. Veterinarians supporting the bill state that devocalization poses serious risks--from chronic gagging to hemorrhage, infection to aspiration pneumonia. Tissue regrowth may subject the animal to repeated surgeries--all to attempt to stifle a normal behavior.

DPVHS--along with the MSPCA, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the New England Federation of Humane Societies and most major animal welfare organizations in Massachusetts--has formally endorsed this measure, and here's why:

Not only is “problem barking” not a significant cause for animals being surrendered to animal shelters, “resolving” problem barking through convenience devocalization is like chewing gum to try to solve an algebra problem—it doesn’t work. It might dull the dog’s barking to a horrid rasping sound, but it doesn’t address the significant social, emotional, or physical distresses that cause problem barking in the first place.

For breeds of dogs who are normally considered “talkative,” we recommend the placement of these animals into home environments where vocalization is both expected and accepted as part and parcel of living with a particular breed of dog. Devocalizing naturally talkative dogs--a standard practice for unscrupulous breeders--for the convenience of breed fanciers is an inhumane practice.

As with people, individual dogs have individual needs and personalities. Rather than performing an unnecessary and painful surgery on an animal in order to shoehorn him into an inappropriate living environment, the more humane alternative is to judiciously match a person’s lifestyle with the appropriate dog.

If the person already has the dog but her lifestyle has changed, then addressing the dog’s barking through behavior modification and enrichment is a far more humane alternative than subjecting him to a surgical procedure.

And, failing successful behavior modification, we submit that carefully re-homing the dog into a more appropriate environment—whether through a shelter, a breed-specific rescue, or the person’s own efforts—is a more humane alternative than convenience devocalization. The relatively low population of sheltered dogs throughout New England makes it unlikely that an otherwise well-behaved but noisy dog will be euthanized in a New England animal shelter for lack of a home.

Devocalization doesn’t keep dogs from becoming homeless—few shelters can lay claim to never having housed a devocalized dog. And if the pro-devocalization lobby were truly serious about keeping animals out of shelters, they would be working much harder to address the real reasons animals are in shelters in the first place—lack of accessible and affordable pet sterilization, a lack of pet-friendly housing, free-roaming animals without identification, and people who have unrealistic expectations of their animals’ normal behaviors.

With so many humane alternatives available to help people with noisy pets, allowing people to resort to the “quick fix” of devocalization is inexcusable. Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society urges passage of legislation prohibiting convenience devocalization.

How can you help?

Urge your state representative and senator to support HB 344. Find them at

Show your support by attending the public hearing at the Massachusetts state house on Tuesday, July 14th (call 617-722-1639 up to two weeks prior to confirm the date).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

P-L-A-N is not a 4-Letter Word

As DPVHS prepares to expand our services into Hampden county, we're planning, planning, planning. From my desk, I can hear Lori (our humane educator) arranging some donated moving trucks to help our administration team get from Leverett to Springfield and our rescue team to get from Greenfield to Leverett. Michelle, our development coordinator and website maven, is working with the graphic designer on a reconfiguration of the DPVHS letterhead. Martha (an adoption counselor) and Nate (a volunteer) just wandered through the administration trailer measuring every wall, window, and doorway to determine the best way to use the space once the administrators leave. This morning, Judy, a longtime DPVHS volunteer and board member accepted the assignment of dealing with our telephone systems. Everywhere I look, people who already work long, hard days are stepping up to the plate to plan as seamless a transition as possible.

One of the key parts of this transition is helping our community understand what we're doing. To that end, we've got another community forum scheduled. This one will be held at the Greenfield High School cafeteria (1 Lenox Avenue, Greenfield) on Thursday, May 21st from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. This is an opportunity to hear more about DPVHS plans for expanding services and to come and lend your opinion about what you would like to see happen for animals in the northern parts of the Pioneer Valley.

And once we're all idea'd out Thursday night, it'll be time to head on over to the Rendezvous in Turners Falls for a shindig benefiting DPVHS. Our cat ladies extraordinaire--Nicole, Erin, and Anja--have been working tirelessly to round up a veritable who's who of local musical and literary talent for the evening. Not only will you be hanging with the cool kids from 8:00 p.m. to whenever, but you'll also have a chance to eat, drink, be merry, and bid on auction items to benefit the programs and services of DPVHS.

Hope to see you there!
I just had to share today's charming photo with you. This is (L to R) MacDuff and Charlie, dog companions to Ella Smolenski. Ella is the Northampton Lions Club member who organized April's benefit dog walk. Charlie is a proud Dakin Dog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lions and Ringtails and Bears, Oh My!

Yesterday evening I was honored to be invited to join the Northampton Lions Club at their monthly dinner meeting. The Lions presented DPVHS with a portion of the proceeds from their April 26 Dog Walk benefit (the other beneficiary of the event was our host, Look Park).

This isn't the first time I have joined the Lions at their dinner meeting. A few years ago, the Lions chose to honor the memory of the late Michael Giusto with an annual scholarship in his name for one of our staff to attend the training conference of the New England Federation of Humane Societies. One of the best things about attending the meetings of civic organizations like Lions is that you bear witness to the long tradition of service and volunteerism in even the smallest of communities.
On my way home from the meeting, I came across a small bear wearing a red radio collar. He was ambling across a street in Florence, stopping only to stare down my car as I pulled to the side of the road. He soon disappeared into the trees at the back of a yard. As I drove on along the backroads to my home in Conway, I encountered two raccoons out for their evening stroll. All of this is a reminder that with spring comes more wildlife. Please remember to slow down, especially at dawn and dusk when they are active along roadways. And don't assume they'll know enough to get out of your way. Give them a brake.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Truth can be Hard to Come By

Thank you to everyone who expressed their joy and excitement at the prospect of DPVHS extending our operations to Hampden county by purchasing the MSPCA's Union Street animal care and adoption center! I am grateful for your support and inspired by your enthusiasm.

One unfortunate spot in all of this is the statement made by Greenfield's newspaper, The Recorder. The front page headline of the May 1st edition indicated that DPVHS is considering closing both our Greenfield and Leverett shelters. In addition, in the May 7th edition, an op-ed piece ran suggesting that DPVHS is "abandoning" the animals and people of Franklin county.

Regrettably this miscommunication has led to angry calls and letters from DPVHS supporters accusing us of turning our backs on them.

Here's the real story: DPVHS has never considered leaving this community. We are closing the Greenfield facility because it is old, rundown, and does not lend itself to remodeling or expansion. In fact, any DPVHS supporter who has followed the saga of our search for land to build a new facility knows the Greenfield shelter was eventually going to be closed when a new building was built.

Every service the Greenfield building performs for animals can be done more humanely and more safely in our Leverett and Springfield buildings.

Leverett is staying open precisely so we can continue to serve the upper valley. Located in Franklin county near the Hampshire county line, the Leverett shelter has traditionally served more animals and people than our Greenfield shelter did. Not only that, but the Leverett building lends itself to renovations better than does the Greenfield building.

Our administrative offices (development, bookkeeping, etc.) are currently located in a house trailer behind the Leverett shelter. The people who work in these offices will be moving to Springfield some time in June. The space they leave behind will be used to give work, meeting, and animal care space to the Leverett shelter staff.

DPVHS has its roots in Hampshire and Franklin counties. Our supporters and most of our staff (including yours truly) live here. We are committed to these communities and will continue to provide vital services to animals and the people who care about them in Hampshire and Franklin counties. The good news is that we will also be expanding these services to communities in Hampden county.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

DPVHS Buys MSPCA Springfield Building

When the MSPCA closed its Western New England facility in Springfield on March 31st an enormous void was left in relation to the future care and welfare of homeless animals. The nearly 7,000 animals received each year by that adoption center would no longer have a place to go.

I know from speaking to many of our DPVHS friends and volunteers that you shared my concern about what this closure might mean for the animals and people in our communities. For the past few months, we have been working with other agencies, exploring the best approach to ensure that no animal in need will be left without shelter and no person will be left without a place to turn.

DPVHS has been working and saving toward the building of a new facility to meet our growing needs and consolidate our efforts to help the animals of Hampshire and Franklin counties. However, with the close of the MSPCA, we needed to rethink our planning process to include the animals of Hampden county.

We chose to see the unfortunate departure of the MSPCA as an opportunity to help animals and their people on a much broader scale, bringing DPVHS’s innovative programming to a new set of communities, not just expanding our scope geographically, but also increasing services and outreach with a goal of helping more animals in need.

The MSPCA has generously worked with DPVHS to continue to meet the needs of animals and the people who care about them in western MA. While still owing a multi-million dollar debt on the building, the MSPCA accepted an offer of $1.2 million dollars to purchase the Union Street property.

The purpose-built facility at 171 Union Street in Springfield holds the promise of being able to bring DPVHS’s ideas about sheltering and preventing animal homelessness forward. In addition to our adoption and humane education programs, we will be able to provide a high-volume, low-cost, high-quality spay/neuter clinic to serve our own sheltered animals, as well as those in shelters in surrounding communities. This clinic will also assist low-income members of our communities in western Massachusetts with their own pets while serving even more dogs and feral cats than we are currently able to help through our existing mobile clinic or voucher programs. In addition, there is ample room to expand our cat areas to create beautiful and bright colony rooms, thereby reducing stress while increasing feline adoptions.

We hope to close on the building by the end of May. Although our administrative offices will move to Springfield, our adoption center in Leverett will remain open to serve the communities in the northern parts of our region. We plan to close our center in Greenfield at the end of June, transferring the rescue and rehabilitation function of this building to Springfield.

We anticipate a Grand Opening celebration of the new DPVHS animal care and adoption center in Springfield on Saturday, August 1st! Stay tuned for more information about a series of friend- and fundraising events being planned for the interim.

You are an important part of the success of DPVHS. You have helped us help animals, deliver programs to people in need, and given me the inspiration to continue to work for a brighter future—a future we hope you’ll embark on with us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Deadly Northampton Fire a Sobering Reminder

Last week a devastating fire swept through a Northampton apartment building, killing pets and leaving dozens of people homeless. Thanks to fast-thinking neighbors and hardworking firefighters, many pets were rescued from the blaze or found wandering nearby shortly afterward.

The good folks at the Pioneer Valley chapter of the American Red Cross were on the scene to help families find temporary housing. After reading about the plight of so many people and their animals made homeless, I called the Red Cross and offered the assistance of the DPVHS in providing pet food and supplies to people in need.

It wasn't long before I heard from Lisa. She and her family were lucky to escape the fire with all of their animals. While neighbors cared for the smaller pets, Lisa and some of her family were staying at a local motel with their dog, Blue. Blue was eating off paper plates, drinking out of an inverted Taco Bell container and had no collar or leash. We quickly put together a care package of food, leash, collar, bowls, and a temporary i.d. tag and headed off to deliver them to Blue and his family.

This tragic incident reminds me of the importance of having a disaster plan for your family and pets. The Humane Society of the United States has wonderful information about making your own plans--whether for large scale disasters like hurricanes, ice storms, floods, and chemical spills or smaller disasters like house fires.

If you had to evacuate your home quickly, how easy would it be for you to snap a leash on your dog? Wrestle your cats into a carrier? Lug your gerbil cage out the door? Would you have their medications? Their special foods? A can opener? What if all those things--and more--were ready to go in your family's disaster kit?

We all think it won't happen to us. Until we meet people like Lisa and her best buddy, Blue.

The best time to plan for a disaster is before the disaster strikes. Join me in making this pledge: "I will get my family (including my animal family) disaster plan in place before the end of May."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Include Pets in Domestic Violence Protection Orders

"He told her if she left him he'd kill her cats. Can you help?" The domestic violence volunteer advocate was pleading with DPVHS to provide safe haven for a pair of cats while their person found safety for herself. We were glad to help. And it wasn't the first time we've provided refuge to cats, dogs, and other animals who were being used by abusers to control their victims.

In fact, according to a recent study, animal abuse was present in 71% of non-fatal cases of domestic violence. Furthermore, the study found, 48% of victims will not leave their abuser for fear that animals will be hurt or killed. These sobering statistics demonstrate the importance of including animals in domestic violence protection orders.

As the 2009-2010 Massachusetts legislative session gets underway, lawmakers will be asked to consider this very thing. House Bill #1499 will provide protection for both human and animal victims of domestic violence, allowing judges to include household pets in domestic violence restraining orders. In considering this legislation, Massachusetts is following in the footsteps of other states with similar laws in place or bills pending. These include our neighbors in Maine, New York, and Vermont.

What can you do? Let your lawmakers know the importance of supporting this life-saving legislation. Volunteer to serve as a Safety Plan for Animals foster home to help DPVHS ensure safe haven for animal victims of domestic violence.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Holy Pack of Poodles, Batman!

One of the effects of the closure of the MSPCA's Western New England Animal Care and Adoption Center in Springfield is that the MSPCA's law enforcement officers working in western Massachusetts have lost their local place to take the nearly 500 animals they remove each year from situations of abuse and neglect.

So last week, when I got a call from my buddy Mike, manager of the MSPCA's Animal Care and Adoption Center at Nevins Farm in Methuen, I wasn't surprised to hear him ask DPVHS for help sheltering some cats and dogs about to be removed from a terrible situation a few towns to the east of us. Seems the MSPCA's Nevins Farm was prepared to remove the starved and neglected horses from the home, but they were hoping we could help with several standard poodles and a few cats. We agreed and made arrangements to meet the MSPCA's law enforcement officer the following morning.

Picture the usual standard poodle in your mind: a giant ball of black or white fluff prancing around the show ring like a cheerleader with a country-western hairdo. Not so these poor creatures. The poodles at this place--dogs who had been used to breed--were emaciated, terribly matted, and living outdoors in muddy kennels. Thanks to MSPCA law enforcement, the dogs, several cats, and a horse are now safely out of that horrible situation.

And thanks to DPVHS and the terrific folks at Fur's A-Flyin' pet grooming of Easthampton, the poodles are now freed of their horrible mats. One poodle's mats weighed 10 pounds! Think about all that weight pulling at the delicate skin of your feet or ears. Some of them couldn't even wag their tails because of the matted and urine- and feces-soaked fur. You can now visit these lovely dogs at the DPVHS dog adoption page.

Underneath all that fur were urine burns, sores, and infections. And while the dogs were so weakened by starvation that they couldn't stand long enough to be completely groomed, they are expected to make a full recovery.

Thank you to everyone who joined forces to make this rescue possible: the good folks at MSPCA for saving the animals from a lifetime of suffering, the staff at DPVHS who dropped everything to provide excellent care, and the Fur's a-Flyin' groomer for helping make the dogs comfortable again.

Stay tuned for updates on the cats!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ferrets, Inc.

With the closure of our region's only open admission shelter, DPVHS has decided to open the door to what animal shelter workers often refer to as "other" animals. We even added an "Adopt a Pocket Pet" section to our website to help our adopters meet the animals who are not cats and dogs.

We didn't have to wait long before the first "others" arrived at our doors! Mork and Mindy are a pair of ferrets whose antics have been entertaining staff and visitors. They are comfortably ensconced in a Tokyo cage near the front desk of our adoption center, poking their weasly heads out of their hammocks every now and again, just to say hello.

Mork and Mindy are a bonded pair and must be adopted together. To learn more about ferrets, visit Massachusetts Ferret Friends. There, among other (probably more useful) things, you'll learn that a group of ferrets is called a "business."

If you'd like to adopt DPVHS's little business of ferrets, stop by and meet Mork and Mindy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

25 Random Things About DPVHS

In the spirit of welcoming people to join Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society on Facebook I'd thought I'd share "25 Random Things About DPVHS."

1. Janet Wilder Dakin (founder of the original Dakin Animal Shelter) was author Thornton Wilder's sister.

2. In the early 1900's Greenfield had its own Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We still have their handwritten meeting minutes. One of the decisions they had to make at a membership meeting? Whether to send funds to help care for horses working in World War I.

3. DPVHS was formed in 2006 when the Dakin Animal Shelter in Leverett merged with the Pioneer Valley Humane Society in Greenfield. Today, those two buildings still serve animals--Greenfield as the rescue center and Leverett as the adoption center.

4. The board of directors of DPVHS can consist of anywhere between 11 and 19 volunteer members. There are currently 16.

5. The primary focus of DPVHS humane education programs is working with juvenile offenders and other kids who are at risk. These programs have been featured at conferences for both social workers and animal welfare workers.

6. It's very popular to name cats after foodstuffs here at DPVHS. In recent history, we've covered most of the dietary categories (depending on your chosen diet). Some of our kitties named after main courses and side dishes were Taco, Chili, Waffle, Bacon, Chicken, Meatball, Miso and Chowder. One must always appreciate the finer tastes in life, thus the following cats named after herbs and spices: Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Mint, Peppercorn, Sage, Parsley, Basil, Thyme and Ginger. Of course, we have the condiment cats (Gravy, Honey, Pickles and Olive); the Nuts (Cashew, Almond, Peanut, Pistachio); and the dairy (Butter, Pepperjack). We musn't forget to recognize our more nutritiously named kitties: the vegetables (Corn, Pumpkin, Pepper, Bean) and the fruits (Blueberry, Banana, Cranberry, Lemon, Gooseberry, Tangerine, Raisin, Raspberry, Apple). Of course, our most popular cat named based on food stuffs have been those named after candies (Butterscotch, Caramel, Jellybean, Kit Kat, Snickers, Fudge, Chocolate, Taffy, Bonbon, Lollipop, M&M, Reeses Pieces) and desserts (Creamsicle, Ginger Snap, Fluff, Frosty, Pie, Twix, Oreo, Cookie, Cupcake, Brownie, Double Stuff, Hostess). Finally, we must wash all these cat names down with our friends who are named after our favorite beverages: Cider, Latte, Hot Chocolate, Tea, Guinness, Martini, Whiskey, and last but not least, Got Milk!

7. Volunteers contributed more than 6,500 hours of time in 2008.

8. Thanks to an innovative free software for animal shelters called PetPoint, adoptable cat and dog profiles on the DPVHS website are now updated in real time.

9. DPVHS does not receive funding from any government agency, nor is it affiliated with any national animal welfare organization.

10. 81% of the animals admitted to DPVHS are felines. Most of these are kittens and will arrive in the 4 months of peak kitten season between June and September. Two-thirds of these kittens will need a stay in a foster home before they will be ready for adoption.

11. Thanks in part to aggressive spay/neuter programs like Feral Spay Sunday and CatSnip, the death toll for felines in Pioneer Valley animal shelters dropped 42% between 2002 and 2006.

12. All animals adopted from the DPVHS have microchip identification--a rice-sized radio transmitter injected just under the skin between their shoulder blades. When scanned, the chip can provide information about the animal's adoptive family. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like Lojack--you can't tell where your animal is through global positioning!

13. Some of DPVHS's Dixie Dogs come from Alabama. The others are from Menifee County, Kentucky. Our Yankee Dogs are from all over Massachusetts, including greyhound race tracks and animal control officers.

14. Jeff.

15. DPVHS believes so strongly that both indoor and outdoor cats should wear a collar and id tag that we give them away for free (in a variety of snazzy colors!).

16. It is a little known fact that copious amounts of chocolate are integral to the seamless operation of any animal welfare agency. Thanks to a special volunteer, both our sheltering locations have bottomless stashes of chocolate.

17. Our adoption center in Leverett may hold the record for the "Hardest Animal Shelter to Find." If it weren't for our road signs, we would have potential customers wandering all over the hills, trying fruitlessly to find cell service.

18. Ever heard that strange snorting sound coming from our dog kennel cd player? It's not Pigs on Tape. It's the sound of contented dogs being played over and over. The idea is to keep the dogs in our kennels relaxed by having them listen to the sounds of other dogs being happy.

19. DPVHS is the reigning holder of the much-coveted Furball Trophy. We retained the trophy (first won by Dakin staff at the 2005 Dog Day at Quonquont Farm obstacle course) by trouncing the MSPCA Springfield staff in the Great Bowling Throwdown of 2008.

20. DPVHS provides dog and cat food to be delivered to housebound seniors in local Meals on Wheels programs. We also work with the Amherst Survival Center to deliver pet food along with groceries to people with disabilities.

21. Volunteer Pet Taxi drivers shuttle daily loads of animals to and from local veterinarians for their spay/neuter surgeries. One volunteer even makes a weekly two-hour round trip to East Brookfield to a non-profit clinic that sterilizes most of our kittens.

22. Students from the University of Massachusetts can earn college credit through an internship with DPVHS. They participate in animal care, clinical procedures, behavior evaluations, customer service, humane education, and supply drives, all while learning about current issues in the animal welfare movement.

23. It makes our day when we receive letters and emails from our alumni animals. We just learned of a cat adopted from us in 1998 who has successfully recovered from surgery and treatment for cancer. Maxine is now fat and happy once again. We hope they all find such a loving home.

24. While our Greenfield rescue center was built as an animal shelter, our Leverett adoption center was originally built as a boarding kennel. The kennel owners lived in the house where our administrative offices are now located.

25. In 2008, DPVHS found new homes for more than 1,300 cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens. They were cuddly, rambunctious, tentative, frisky, mellow, loyal, frightened, silly, and (most of all) special.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wanted: Foster Heroes!

Of the 579 kittens DPVHS sheltered in 2008, 319 needed foster care prior to being placed up for adoption. That's 319 kittens too young, sickly, unsocial, or otherwise unprepared for life in the Big World.

The percentage of kittens needing foster care continues to go up as we make headway against feline overpopulation in our communities. So many people now do the right thing and spay their pet cat before she has a litter, that it is unusual for us to see healthy eight week old kittens being surrendered. Instead, we receive primarily the offspring of stray and feral cats--kittens with little vaccine history, a justifiable suspicion of humans, and often without even a mother to provide for their basic needs.

This is where our heroic foster parents step in. Thanks to the hard work, compassion, and spare bedrooms of dozens of Pioneer Valley residents, 319 infant and orphaned kittens got a second chance last year. Our foster parents bottle fed, cuddled, scooped litter pans, made special trips to the veterinarian, and taught kittens how to lap their food from a bowl. They reassured frightened mother cats, lured scared kittens with toys and treats, and taught their kids about the importance of gently helping animals in need.

Most of the 900 or more kittens we expect to see in 2009 will come in during the few short months of the late spring and summer. In fact, our first have already begun to arrive. We need your help.

Do you have what it takes? Do you like the antics of kittens but don't want to let your own cat contribute to overpopulation by having a litter? Do you have a spare room? Are your resident animals vaccinated and healthy? If so, we're looking for some everyday heroes like you to help us save a few hundred lives.

To learn more and to volunteer to be a foster parent, please contact our foster coordinator, Mike, at or call 413-773-3148.

If you can give them a home for a few weeks, we'll find them a home for life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hate Mail

Through our feedback form on the DPVHS website, I received this anonymous message: "I think that it is your responsibility, especially in this hard time for the MSPCA Springfield, to step up to the plate (for once) and become an open admissions shelter. I believe that any 'limited admissions' shelter has NO RIGHT to call themselves a 'Humane Society' for many reasons; one being that you constantly turn animals away and push your 'problems' onto true humane societies like the MSPCA. Who will no longer be your 'dumping ground' it's high time you actually help the aniamls [sic] that need it. You people may boast about your high adoption rate, but in reality it is only high because you turn a huge amount of animals away at the door or during a phone call! It's a disgrace! I hope you people decided to take action for once and not pawn your 'unwanted, non adoptable' animals on someone else."

Semantics about the definition of "humane society" aside (there being many humane societies with no sheltering function at all), this anonymous emailer does not say anything we at DPVHS do not already know. We do not boast about our "high adoption rate," because we are well aware that we achieve it only by accepting primarily those animals we believe we can successfully place for adoption. We also readily agree that this is a luxury afforded us by the presence of the MSPCA's open admission shelter in Springfield. The closing of that shelter is very likely to change some of the ways DPVHS operates, including which animals we admit.

What it is unlikely to change, however, is the DPVHS commitment to ending companion animal overpopulation. Our decision, years ago, to accept only those animals with a reasonable chance at finding a new home (even if they needed expensive rehabilitative care beforehand) was a decision based on one principal: adoption programs alone do not end animal homelessness.

DPVHS expends an enormous amount of resources--as a percentage of our budget, far more than most open admission shelters--on homelessness prevention programs (accessible or free sterilization, humane education for at-risk populations, pet food assistance, safe haven foster care, etc.). The challenge of keeping these successful programs operating while also adjusting to a higher than usual influx of animals will be a significant challenge.

While we recognize that our sheltering programs, which re-homed more than 1,300 cats and dogs last year (including 300 cats and kittens taken directly from the MSPCA in Springfield) make a difference to each of those 1,300 individual animals, they aren't the solution to too many pets and not enough homes.

The difference between a limited admission and an open admission shelter isn't simply whether all animals get admitted or not. It's an issue of how resources are allocated. In an ideal world, limited and open admission shelters (along with animal control agencies, trap-neuter-return groups, breed-specific rescuers, and others in the rescue community) all work together to end animal homelessness.

The 300 or so kittens DPVHS took each year from the MSPCA, for instance, were not adoptable kittens ready for adoption--they were infants needing weeks of foster care and medical treatment prior to placement. With the volume of animals coming through their doors during peak kitten season, the MSPCA did not have enough available foster homes to give these kittens a chance. Because DPVHS controls the influx of animals through an appointment system and prioritizing admissions for adoptable or rehabilitable animals, we do have foster homes available. Together, MSPCA and DPVHS saved those kittens' lives.

Neither of us could have done it alone. The MSPCA closing is a loss for the entire community. While my anonymous emailer's divisive and ill-informed hostility doesn't serve to help any animals, it does highlight the looming challenge facing all animal lovers in our region at the end of March when the MSPCA leaves town for good.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Feral Family Needs Your Help

When a Greenfield business closed down this winter, a colony of feral cats lost their home and their regular feeder. A truck driver whose route used to take him by the cats every day can now only visit on the weekends. And with the business closed down the cats will soon lose what little shelter they have under a trailer.

Thanks to the cats' neighbors and a volunteer from The Cat Hospital the colony is being fed and neutered. DPVHS animal care specialist, Rena, is trapping and neutering the remaining cats. Four have found a new home in a barn, but ten to fifteen cats still need to be relocated.

Although these beautiful cats are not suitable as house pets they would be perfect for a working barn that provides shelter, food, and veterinary care. Learn more about adopting a barn cat. And if you can help, please email Rena at

Monday, February 9, 2009

MSPCA Closing Marks End of Era...and a Chance for New Beginnings

When the announcement arrived late last week that the struggling MSPCA's Western New England Animal Care and Adoption Center in downtown Springfield would close at the end of March, I wasn't shocked so much as disappointed. The facility had been struggling to make ends meet even before the Angell hospital closed in the other portion of the building. And with no buyers for the building in sight, an endowment tumbling in a bad market, and an animal shelter racking up a $1 million annual deficit, the MSPCA made a difficult decision.

The impact of this decision will be felt for years in one of New England's largest, poorest, and most violent cities. Animals are at the bottom of any economic food chain. Springfield's animal population--both those who are homeless and those who have families with few resources--will soon have even fewer avenues for assistance.

But this is also an incredible opportunity. The MSPCA's departure gives the community a chance to come together and answer this question: "What kind of community do we want to be?"

Do we want to be a community that will fund a progressive animal welfare agenda? Do we want to be a community committed to ending the killing of healthy, adoptable homeless animals? Or do we accept euthanasia as the solution to ending their overpopulation?

Do we want to be a community who values life? Do we believe that to end animal homelessness, neglect, and abuse we'll need to do much more than shelter animals? Are we prepared to fund aggressive spay/neuter programs? Outreach to low-income communities? Education for underserved or at-risk populations?

If we truly are a community interested in finding the life-affirming way to address this challenge, now is the time to step up to the plate. We need your help as a volunteer and as a donor.

We also need your creativity and your brain power. Share your ideas with us!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lost Souls

One of the biggest challenges our staff faces are calls about stray dogs.

In Massachusetts, each town is required to employ an animal control officer (in some cases this is known as the "dog officer"). This person is required to hold stray dogs for a minimum of 10 days in an attempt to find the dog's original caretaker. After 10 days, the officer may find a new home for the dog, deliver him to an adoption agency like DPVHS, or euthanize him.

Because each town in the Commonwealth acts independently when it comes to animal control, one town may have a responsive and professional officer (like Amherst's Carol Hepburn or Northampton's Nancy Graham) while neighboring towns may have officers who never even return phone calls.

So when you find a dog in a town with one of those absentee animal control officers, what do you do? We recommend that you next call your town's police department. Unfortunately, several callers have told our staff that they have been instructed by the police department to turn the dog loose. In fact, one town's department told the caller to take the dog to a neighboring town and turn him loose because that town has a working animal control officer!

DPVHS will accept adoptable stray dogs from town officers after the 10 day impoundment. Unfortunately, we are not able to take the dogs for that impoundment period, partly because a person who loses her dog in, say, Southampton, may never think to look in Greenfield for her dog. But also because it is the town's legal responsibility to provide the public safety function of caring for stray dogs (as an aside, few towns are legally obligated to help stray cats, meaning that the burden of caring for our community's thousands of stray cats falls on non-profit organizations like DPVHS).

What to do if you've found a dog? First, call your local animal control officer. Failing that, call your police department. Still no luck? Visit the good folks at The Missing Pet Partnership for great tips on finding the dog's original family.

Be sure to contact all area animal shelters to file a found dog report. An animal shelter or your veterinarian can also scan the dog for microchip identification.

If you want to hold the dog for 10 days while you try to find his family, you can call DPVHS for a pre-admission screening to be sure the dog will be successful in the kennel environment and suitable for adoption. If he is admitted to the DPVHS adoption program, we'll find him a new home.

If we believe the dog will not be successful in a noisy, active kennel, we'll give you some tips on placing the dog on your own.

In the end, petitioning your town to employ an effective animal control officer may be the best longterm solution. Learn more about legislation pending to update our state's outdated animal control laws.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The First Dog

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Much has been made of President Obama's promise to get his girls a puppy should they make it into the White House. Websites abound recommending every possible type of dog, from labradoodles to Bichon Frises to the venerable Heinz 57, the theory being that they need a "hypoallergenic" dog to deal with young Malia's allergies.

Despite the fact that nearly as many allergists as animal rescues have weighed in on the myth of the hypoallergenic pet (pet allergies being caused by dander or saliva, rather than fur), the Obamas and their advisors continue to press for one of the breeds of dog traditionally considered to trigger fewer allergies--the poodles and other wiry-coated breeds.

Of course, those of us in the animal welfare movement are hoping our President and his family will set an example for us all by heading off to the nearest animal shelter to carefully interview candidates for the coveted position of First Dog.  

And they're always welcome to come on down to the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society for some personal, small-town service!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Buddy Fund Helps Kitten in Need

We're hoping Samson will grow into his name.

This little guy came to DPVHS after being found wandering around Greenfield with his sister, Aurora (you might remember Aurora as the calendar-perfect longhaired orange kitten whose website photos caused a stampede--and nearly a brawl--in our adoption center).

Samson is about three months old, but he is only the size of a two-month-old kitten.  While his sister may have been the picture of health and elegance, Samson suffered from a congenital disorder known as pectus excavatum.  This deformity, according to the website of Veterinary Surgery Central, Inc, results in the depression of the heart and lungs.  So while Samson's breastbone disorder wasn't obvious from the outside (it was covered with fur), it was impacting his ability to develop and grow normally.

Here's where the staff of DPVHS decide if it's time to dip into the Buddy Fund.  Started in 2006 and named after a shepherd mix with a heart problem, the Buddy Fund is what we use to provide veterinary care above and beyond the routine vaccinations and dewormers all our animal guests receive.

After consulting with Dr. Dave Thompson at Riverbend Animal Hospital of Hadley, we determined that Samson was likely to make a full recovery after having corrective surgery.

Indeed, Samson came through his surgery with flying colors.  His foster parent (and DPVHS animal care specialist), Rena, says his breast plate keeps him from jumping on furniture, but
 otherwise, he's a normal, healthy kitten.  She says he is social, loving, and curious about what his big cat brother Liam is up to.  Needless to say, Rena plans to adopt Samson.

Without the Buddy Fund, kittens like Samson would have no second chance. And without you, the Buddy Fund doesn't exist. Please consider making a contribution to DPVHS today.

Friday, January 23, 2009

When Cruelty Flies Just Under the Radar

The other morning, our staff arrived at the door of our adoption center to find a cat in a carrier wrapped in a plastic garbage bag. The temperature that night had fallen to below zero. Fortunately, the cat survived the night (without freezing or suffocating).

What was your first thought when you read that story? Mine, too. It's hard not to be angry when we hear about an animal being hurt. And many animal advocates allow bearing witness to such awful instances to tarnish their view of human nature. I usually have to take a deep breath and remember that, on the other end of this story, we'll find a person doing a good thing--opening her heart and adopting that abandoned cat.

While animal abandonment is illegal, one of the perpetual frustrations for animal welfare advocates is when we encounter cruelty or neglect that is just this side of the law. People who allow their longhaired cats to become painfully matted or who chain their dogs 24 hours a day or who keep their rabbits in freezing, filthy outdoor hutches usually aren't breaking any laws.

Proving cruelty or neglect and getting a case through the courts all the way to conviction are Herculean tasks. And the most common kinds of neglect--failure to provide socialization, adequate exercise, and basic compassion--aren't illegal at all.

Some communities decide that the minimal standards for what constitutes cruelty aren't enough. They might decide that there is more to caring for a dog, for example, than just giving him food, water, and a dog house. Those dog-loving voters then get together and pass anti-tethering ordinances. (For more information about anti-chaining legislation and other ways you can help end the torture of perpetual tethering, visit Dogs Deserve Better).

But legal options aren't always the best way to make change. For instance, communities with aggressive low-cost spay/neuter programs are more successful at achieving high rates of companion animal sterilization than those that pass legislation requiring sterilization. Making it illegal to care for an unspayed cat doesn't make it any more affordable to get her spayed.

Building a community that cares humanely for its animals involves educating people about the needs of different species, as well as the individuals within those species. Most people care for their pets the way they were taught to care for their pets--tie them up, let them run loose, keep them indoors, make them stay outside, take them to the vet, let them have a litter.

Our job as animal advocates is to provide accessible information. And by "accessible" I mean information people are willing and able to learn from--that means everything from delivering our message with compassion to delivering our message in a language our audience can understand (i.e., when I first started out in animal welfare 20 years ago, we served significant Spanish-speaking populations, but not only didn't we have Spanish-speaking staff, we didn't have Spanish-language materials).

DPVHS is fortunate to be located in the Pioneer Valley region, close to four renowned colleges and a major university. Our adopters, donors, and friends are often savvy animal lovers. Their attitudes about everything from farming animals to wearing them to hunting them to neutering them are typically more progressive than in other communities. But we still have a long way to go.

Some day, we'll live in a community where no one would consider wrapping a living cat in a plastic bag and leaving him outdoors in sub-zero weather. We'll live in a community where no one buys their puppy from a puppy mill or considers it okay to tie their dog up to a doghouse his entire life. Until then, we'll continue reaching out to schoolchildren, youthful offenders, college students, families with kids, elders in need, and all of the animals in their lives.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Animals and the Economy

The steep economic downturn and mortgage crisis of the past eight months has led to a flurry of phone calls from television and print reporters wanting to know if DPVHS has been inundated with homeless animals. The truth is that, unlike our colleagues in other New England animal shelters, we have not been overwhelmed with animals becoming homeless due to foreclosures.

While it's true that the upper Pioneer Valley region has simply not been hit hard by the mortgage crisis, that doesn't mean there doesn't continue to be a crisis of animal homelessness in our community. Animals lost their homes by thousands in the Pioneer Valley long before this latest housing bubble.  Maybe they wandered away from home without identification, maybe they were born before their family got their mother spayed, maybe their special old lady died without a plan in place for her pets...whatever the reason, animal homelessness is nothing new under the sun.

And there are other signs of an economic downturn on the animals in our community.  Demand for our CatSnip program--a subsidized spay/neuter program for cats of people in need--has more than doubled. The demand on the pet food bank at our rescue center in Greenfield has surged. We are seeing more animals coming to our shelter in worse condition, causing our veterinary bills to go through the roof.

Still, the DPVHS philosophy of not just helping homeless animals but preventing animal homelessness holds firm. We know that subsidizing the cost of spaying a cat is less expensive than caring for her kittens. We know that sometimes a bag of cat food may make a difference between being able to keep a pet at home or sending her to a shelter.

As we head into 2009, we're proud to report a new food program in partnership with the Amherst Survival Center. They have begun weekly grocery deliveries to housebound seniors  We'll supply pet food for that program. Keep a eye out, too, for an expansion of our successful pet food Meals on Wheels  effort to towns beyond Amherst.

If you would like to donate food to any of these efforts (cat food is especially needed), we will gratefully accept your contribution at the Leverett adoption center or the Greenfield rescue center. Monetary donations to any of our life-saving programs are also greatly appreciated.