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!