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!