Monday, December 13, 2010

Home for the Holidays

It used to be that animal shelters closed for the week preceding the Christmas holiday. Not so we could all go on vacation but so we could prevent people from adopting animals around the holidays.

The prevailing notion was that gift adoptions are bad things—impulse decisions that could ruin the life of an animal. We had this notion that people would be irresponsible in their gift-giving, adopting a six-month-old Rottweiler puppy for great aunt Madge or springing a kitten on allergy-ridden little Timmy. We thought people would just be too busy over the holidays to trouble with having a new animal in the house.

But we at the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society have re-examined these old myths.

Myth: Gift adoptions will result in the dumping of incompatible animals on animal shelters.

Reality: The statistics show that animals received as gifts are actually less likely than animals acquired by other means to be relinquished by their caretakers. In fact, it is unusual for the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society to receive an animal as the result of a gift gone awry.

The Christmas holiday is stressful and hectic in everyone’s life.

Reality: Not everyone celebrates Christmas. And not everyone’s household is Grand Central Station during this time of year. Many people stay home with only their immediate family or one or two other guests. Lots of people have a great deal of time off during the holidays (especially people on an academic schedule). This may actually be the perfect time to introduce a new animal!

Myth: Gift adoptions are based on impulse buying.

Reality: Many people put a great deal of thought into the gifts they give (remember, the thought does count!). Besides, people acquire animals for themselves on impulse all the time. Good adoption counseling should help to identify and prevent impulse buying.

Myth: The gift recipient needs to be involved in the adoption process.

Reality: This is true…to a point. Certainly matching many dogs may rely on pre-adoption introductions to all family members (and the family dog) to ensure everyone’s safety. But some cats and kittens may be successfully adopted as a surprise for other family members who want a feline companion.

Gift adoptions can go wrong if the giver does not take precautions to be sure the recipient of his generosity wants the animal and can care for the animal properly. After all, an animal isn’t a Billy Bass Singing Fish or a necktie. He is a sentient creature with a personality and needs. Think of giving an animal as being more like offering an engagement ring—you are offering your loved one a lifetime commitment. And such things should not be offered lightly.

Giving the gift recipient the opportunity to pick out her own pet may be a better idea than doing it for her. To this end, Dakin offers gift certificates. Dakin gift certificates are redeemable for adoptions or for any purchase from one of our adoption centers, our retail selection, our Diamonds in the Ruff thrift shop, dog training classes, or our Community Spay/Neuter Clinic. Just visit our Leverett or Springfield locations to purchase your certificate.

If you are considering adding a four-legged family member to your household this holiday season, please visit your local animal adoption agency first. You can talk to knowledgeable counselors who are committed not just to making a great match, but also to supporting your relationship with your new animal for years to come.

Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society adoption centers in Leverett and Springfield are open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5:30 (we’re open Thursday nights until 7:30) and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:30. We will be closed on Christmas day to allow our staff to spend time with their own families. Before that, we’d like to spend time with yours.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pedigree Foundation Helps Dakin Dogs

On my first day back from a long holiday weekend, I was pleased to find an award from the Pedigree Foundation as part of their "Dogs Rule" grant program. Pedigree donated $653.87 to the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society to help us get dogs adopted. You know what we're going to do with the money? We're going to use it to spay and neuter some of our adoption center dogs.

"But you already have your own spay/neuter clinic!" you say. Indeed, we do. Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic--which just completed its 10,000th surgery in a little more than a year--provides high quality, low-cost sterilization surgery for animals living in our community as well as animals in our adoption centers. But sterilizing adoption center animals costs money, and while we charge an adoption fee for our animals, it doesn't begin to cover the true costs of saving lives. There are the vaccines, the de-wormers, the flea and tick treatments, the antibiotics, x-rays, wound care, disinfectants, equipment, staff, electricity, heat, ....I could go on. Suffice it to say that every gift goes a long way around here!

So we'll gratefully take this generous grant from the good folks at the Pedigree Foundation and use it to help some great dogs find new homes. In the meantime, you might consider making one of these dogs your new best friend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Super Spay/Neuter!

It seems like a superhuman feat, doesn't it, neutering 10,000 cats and dogs in just over a year? Well, the team of professionals at Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic made it happen! Wearing colorful scrubs instead of blue tights and a cape, the clinic folks today celebrated their 10,000th surgery.

Cat 10,000 is Victoria, a demure brown tabby who, at only 2 years of age, has already had several litters of kittens. Although she has lived the hard life of a free-roaming cat, a kind person has taken her in and, after spaying her, will find Victoria a new home. Most importantly, Victoria will never again bring kittens into a world where there are already far too many.

Here are some quick facts about Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic:

*75% of the animals we serve are cats; 25% are dogs.

*Of the dogs we serve, 1 in 4 is a pit bull or pit bull mix. Pit bulls also comprise 30-50% of the dogs entering animal shelters or animal control agencies in our region so even though they are only 3%of the overall dog population, pit bulls are the dogs most at risk of becoming homeless in our community. The Community Spay/Neuter Clinic will neuter any pit bull or pit mix for only $50.

*Of the cats we serve, more than 70% have never received veterinary care. Of those few cats who have received veterinary care, most of them received that care at a low-cost vaccine clinic.

*Many of the female cats we see have already had more than one litter of kittens....which is why we will spay any cat who is at least 8 weeks old and weighs at least 2 pounds. Cats can come into heat and become pregnant as early as 4-5 months of age. Waiting until 6 months or a year to spay a female cat may lead to unwanted kittens.

*Although our prices are already very low, we have additional assistance programs for people who may not be able to afford surgery. If you or someone you know receives state or federal aid, we will spay or neuter your cat for only $25. Feed feral cats in Holyoke? We'll neuter your Holyoke ferals for only 10 bucks. Call us at 413-781-4019 or email for more information.

How can we afford to do this? Some of the fees we charge for services help to off-set some of our expenses. But the truth is that we do it with some small grants and through the generosity of individual donors like you. Please consider giving generously to Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dogs Deserve Better

When I was growing up in Ohio, it was commonplace to chain our dogs to doghouses. Most of them had no more than three or four feet of chain. Buck, my dad’s Brittany spaniel, lived his entire life at the end of that chain, within four feet of his doghouse.

It was my job to feed and water Buck every day after school. I dreaded this chore. Because Buck was so desperate for any type of warmth or contact, he lunged against his chain and jumped on me. His paws were inevitably muddied with the feces and filth that surrounded his little wooden doghouse. After shoving him off me, sometimes pulling him off by his thick leather collar, I righted his bowls and filled them. Then I walked away. The whole process couldn’t have given Buck more than thirty seconds of human contact. Once a day. For sixteen years.

While my childhood was longer ago than I care to admit, and dog care practices have come a long way since then, many dogs in our community continue to live their lives on the end of chains.

Such an existence is bleak beyond compare. Like Buck, most chained dogs have little room to move. Their once grassy area turns quickly to beaten dirt or mud. Their chain frequently becomes tangled or tips over food and water bowls. Their doghouses are often inadequate against the elements. And perhaps worst of all, they are socially isolated.

Like humans, dogs are social creatures. Even in their domesticated state, dogs crave the companionship of other pack members. When dogs don’t have other dogs to hang out with, they create pack members wherever they can find them—more often than not with us humans. Keeping a dog alone on the end of a chain frustrates this intense need for companionship.

When a dog lives his life on the end of a chain or in a small pen, he is often neglected in many other important ways. Chained dogs are less likely to receive adequate nourishment, shelter, or veterinary care. In fact, it is hard for many dog lovers to understand why people who chain their dogs have a dog at all.

If you know a dog who lives chained or penned, it is possible to help. Visit Dogs Deserve Better for ideas on how to compassionately approach people who chain their dogs. You can also learn how to work for legislation in your community that will prohibit or restrict this cruel practice.

In fact, residents of the Town of Amherst will debate a proposed bylaw at their fall town meeting this week. The bylaw would place limits on the ways outdoor dogs can be confined, including banning the use of heavy, short chains. The bylaw also prohibits any but working dogs from being confined outdoors at night. Based on similar ordinances in Greenfield and East Longmeadow, the Amherst proposal was initiated by citizens who care about dogs.

As I write this entry, my dogs are curled up next to me on the couch or snoring away on soft beds near the woodstove. Though it is a cold November evening, many dogs in our community are not so fortunate.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Dakinmobile Hits the Road!

In late September, our friends at Five Star Building Corp. put on the third annual Dakin Five Star Charity Golf Tournament at The Orchards in South Hadley. Golfing teams showed up bright and early on a clear, cool autumn day to have fun and help animals.

Thanks to Dakin board member, Kevin Perrier, and his team at Five Star, the tournament's sponsors, and the golfers, Dakin now has a shiny new van!

A spacious Ford Econoline 350, the new van is an integral part of the second year of Dakin's Three Year Plan to Adoption Guarantee. This is the year our Community Spay/Neuter Clinic begins transporting animals from outlying areas to Springfield for surgery.

We are grateful to everyone who made this year's golf tournament a success!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Every Buddy Needs Somebody

The theme of this year's Dakin summer fund drive was "Every buddy needs somebody." Our goal? Raise $15,000 for the Buddy Fund--the emergency medical fund that provides extraordinary care to the sick or injured homeless animals who enter our adoption centers.

Named after Buddy, a young shepherd mix who needed the special attention of a veterinary cardiologist, the Buddy Fund provides care for animals like Big Raul, a Chihuahua mix whose car accident led to the amputation of one of his rear legs. Visitors to Northampton have probably seen little black and tan Raul (now named Cheese Wagstaff) happily hopping around the city streets with his new family.

The Buddy Fund is an essential element to achieving Dakin's goal of Adoption Guarantee by August 2012. As the Pioneer Valley's only non-profit humane society, we rely on the generosity of our supporters to help animals in need. In fact, Dakin's Springfield Adoption & Education Center is currently playing host to Buddy Fund recipient, Bailey.

While big, red Doberman mix Bailey may appear to have little in common with tiny Raul, they both took on traffic and lived to tell about it. Bailey's front leg was broken in an encounter with a car. Thanks to Buddy Fund donors and Dakin adoption center veterinary staff, Bailey is on the mend....and in search of his new family.

Speaking of families...we recently heard from Buddy's people. Adopted in 2007, Buddy, now named Monty, is a star of another kind. His new guardians, Hayley and Adam, are actors with Ashfield's Double Edge Theatre. Monty even had a cameo in this summer's production of The Firebird.

To date, the summer fund drive has raised more than $23,000 to help sick and injured homeless animals. It's never too late to help save a life. Please consider making your gift today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

When the Internet Bites Back

A member of our Dakin Board of Directors just forwarded me one of those standard African nation phishing scam emails (you know, they need you to wire money to the Nigerian prime minister's account to help him out of a bad spot). But this one had a new and interesting twist: the scammer, George, is talking about pets. He writes:

Hello Seller, I got your contact as i was searching for a lovely pet to buy for our interested buyer is there i saw your advertisement that you have this particular one available under your possession to sell out.

I need puppy and breeds with a lovely bull dog or cat, please let me know the one that you have available to sell out, send me your list and the prices so i can select, or let me know if you have only this one you advertise.

I am the sales representatives of my company we have store in both UK and Ghana west Africa, my financial manager is ready to apy you through Money order and once you confirm your money in your bank in your hands i will give you the shipping information, but please let me know if you will handle the shipment , or i will handle it. Send down your full information with the price of your pet , your full names with your full address and your phone number for communications.



My first thought was that no one would fall for someone who needs puppies to breed with bulldogs or cats (!). But what if you had an ad in the paper or online trying to find a new home for an animal and you received this message? What if you weren't terribly computer literate? Certainly no animal would come to harm, but your bank account would be cleaned out in no time.

The Internet has been an incredible resource for the animal welfare movement. Not only can we showcase our adoptable animals, but we can communicate inexpensively with our constituents, mobilize them quickly to action, and raise much-needed funds to help animals.

But the Internet has a darker side, too. Not only is it a place where scam artists like "George" can prey on naive users, it's a place where animal hoarders, puppy millers, and abusers can present themselves as rescuers, responsible breeders, and law-abiding animal lovers.

In 2007, Maine animal welfare officials served a search warrant on J'aime Kennels of Buxton, ME, seizing more than 250 dogs found in horrifying conditions. I witnessed this tragedy first hand when I joined a small Dakin team that helped care for the dogs on site as the case began its long path through the court system. What was as nearly as disturbing as the herding breed dogs driven to insanity by constant confinement, the lapdogs living in their own excrement, and the puppies so covered with flies they did not, at first, appear to be white dogs, was that J'aime Kennels had a wonderful website. An unsuspecting dog lover looking for a particular breed of dog could search, for example, for French bulldog breeders and discover that J'aime would ship "hand-raised puppies" anywhere in the United States (while their website is now disabled, they still appear on other websites as "reputable" breeders).

At a Dakin event not long ago, I met a woman with two adorable Shih Tzus. She told me she bought them over the Internet from a breeder in "the Midwest." She never saw their parents, she never saw where they were raised, and she trusted the website and the person on the other end of the phone completely. She now has two lovely young dogs. I can almost guarantee you that the parents of those two lovely dogs live in squalor and loneliness somewhere in the Midwest.

People who would no sooner support such puppy mills by shopping at a pet store for their new dog often think nothing of buying a puppy over the Internet...from often the very puppy mills supplying the pet store trade. The growth in Internet puppy sales from breeding mills has increased as retail store sales have declined. Why? Puppy millers can avoid middle men--and often state and federal regulations--by selling directly to consumers.

So what are you to do when you can't find the puppy of your dreams at your local animal adoption center?

First, consider talking to the adoption center staff about breed specific rescue agencies. They can also help you negotiate adoption websites like or

If you have your heart set on a puppy, be sure to research reputable and humane breeders. In our region, the Pioneer Valley Kennel Club could be a terrific resource. A reputable breeder can be identified as someone who does the following:

*Specializes in one breed of dog. Any website or advertisement that advertises "Yorkies! Poodles! Frenchies!" will likely lead you to a puppy miller, breeding dogs with little regard for their health or well-being.

*Considers the health and well-being of their dogs by breeding infrequently and performing all necessary screening to be sure they are not passing on poor genetic characteristics.

*Requires the surgical sterilization of the pet you adopt.

*Will allow you to see where the puppies and the parents are being raised. If you cannot see the kennels, don't buy the dog. Do not accept photographs as an alternative.

Remember that AKC paperwork is not a stamp of sound health or temperament. The AKC does little to regulate unscrupulous breeders and will sell registration papers to anyone who can prove the consistency of their dog's bloodlines--for good or ill.

Of course, because this is a humane society blog, I'm going to make one more plug for adopting a rescued dog. My life is enriched immeasurably by the four dogs and two cats with whom I share my home. They are funny, clever, heartwarming, loud, messy, and lovable. Above all else, we found each other at the adoption center. You can, too.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's Raining Cats and...Cats!

In June we celebrate Adopt a Shelter Cat Month...and none too soon! Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society currently has nearly 300 animals in its care--most of them cats and kittens.

More than 100 kittens and their mothers are frolicking in the spare bedrooms of our foster volunteers, while still others await sterilization surgery at the Dakin Community Spay/Neuter Clinic prior to going up for adoption.

And, oh the cats and kittens in our adoption areas! Longhairs, shorthairs, calicos, Siamese mixes, giant Maine coon-types, and classic tabbies. We have ginger cats and black panthers, stunning blue-eyed beauties and Holstein-spotted troublemakers. Fat cats, svelte cats, polydactyl cats and cats with no claws at all. If you can't find a cat at our Springfield or Leverett adoption centers, my friend, you aren't looking for a cat.

We have cats who have never met a stranger and cats who will spend the first week hiding under your bed (before deciding you're okay). We have cats who want to live alone and cats who love a party. We even have cats with special needs, like Annie Oakley, who is living with feline immunodeficiency virus.

In our Springfield Adoption Center, we have office cats: cats too stressed by the hustle and bustle of the busy adoption center to remain in a cage, but who have blossomed in the offices of our administrative staff. These lucky cats "help" our staff get their work done (if your own cat insists on sitting on your computer keyboard, you know what I mean), until they find their new homes.

We have so many great cats needing homes, that we are waiving the adoption fee on cats one year or older for a limited time.

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Holyoke Ferals Receive Reprieve...For Now

At last night's Holyoke City Council meeting, the council voted by a narrow margin (8-7) to send the proposed ordinance prohibiting the feeding and sheltering of any animals outdoors back to committee for public hearing. This was a good and important step, not just because I think the ordinance, as written, should be defeated, but because it gives us a chance to work collaboratively to come up with a solution that can work for people and for cats.

And if last night's meeting taught me one thing, it's this: we have our work cut out for us in helping people understand the plight of feral and free-roaming cats. And it's not just our government officials who need more information...sometimes it's the cat advocates, themselves.

The Holyoke ordinance came about because one individual, in opposition to pleas from his neighbors, orders from the Board of Health, and, finally, a determination from a judge, refused to stop feeding cats on his property in a residential neighborhood.

Unfortunately, despite this gentleman's best intentions, he was not responsibly feeding his feral cats. A responsibly managed colony is fed only at specific times. This prevents wildlife from approaching and helps to control colony size. It also helps the feeder identify new cats immediately so they can be trapped, neutered, vaccinated, and returned (or placed, if social). When feeding time is over, all dishes (except water bowls) should be removed.

Other elements of responsible colony management include: neutering and eartipping all cats, removing and re-homing socialized cats, keeping rabies vaccinations current, and working with neighbors to avoid creating a nuisance.

As animal advocates, we do ourselves no favors by not being willing to look at both sides of an issue and look for common ground. While I'm the first to agree that Trap-Neuter-Return plays an important--even vital--role in reducing the population of feral cats, protecting the public health, and making cats a more welcome presence in a neighborhood, it may not be the right approach every time. In instances where the owner of the property does not welcome the cats or the cats are threatening protected wildlife, we need to look at trap-and-relocate (much more difficult than it sounds) or fencing the colony to protect other animals (a solution that is working in other parts of the country). Check out these communities where feral cat and wildlife advocates are drafting mutually-beneficial legislation designed to protect all animals--feline, wild, and human.

Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society is committed to working with trapping experts, community cat lovers, animal control, and government officials in the City of Holyoke to come up with reasonable, long-term, humane solutions that benefit both cats and humans. Dakin can help by providing low-cost sterilization surgery for feral cats at our Community Spay/Neuter Clinic. We can collaborate with experts like Homeless Cat Project to provide training sessions in the community on how to manage a colony--including trapping, feeding, sheltering, vaccinating, and working with neighbors.

If we choose not to work together to find a creative solution for feral and free-roaming cats, we don't have anything to lose. But the cats do.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Holyoke Homeless and Feral Cat Ordinance is Pending

Because I could not possibly say this better myself, I'm asking you to click on this link to the MSPCA's advocacy page to learn more about how you can help cats in Holyoke.
Holyoke Homeless and Feral Cat Ordinance is Pending

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rescue Waggin' Comes to Town!

At 5:00 Thursday morning, two guys in a truck filled with 20 dogs set out from the Augusta Regional SPCA in Staunton, Virginia and began driving north. The guys are drivers for PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin'. Rescue Waggin' saves the lives of dogs and puppies by transporting them from areas of high pet population (where they face almost certain euthanasia) to areas like the Pioneer Valley where adoptable dogs are in high demand.

While Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society has operated its popular "Dixie Dogs" program since 2003, our relationship with Rescue Waggin' is a new one. In fact, Dakin is the first New England animal welfare organization to become a part of the Rescue Waggin' program.

Rescue Waggin' partnership offers several advantages. In the past, Dakin staff have had to negotiate the arrangements with our partner agencies in the South. We had to help them understand our disease control standards, quarantine requirements, and behavior evaluations. With Rescue Waggin', PetSmart Charities assumes the task of training the sending and receiving agencies to work together. Not only do we have a standardized behavior evaluation, but we also have standardized paperwork and health certificates.

Best of all, PetSmart Charities works with the sending community to put programs in place to end overpopulation (spay/neuter!) while covering the transport costs for the receiving organization so that we can invest our hard-earned money in programs in our community that help animals in need (cats! pitbulls! rabbits!). Participation in the Rescue Waggin' program could save Dakin as much as $20,000 a year--no small sum when it comes to saving animals' lives!

The latest load of 14 dogs (6 of the 20 were dropped off at the ASPCA in New York City) will go through their state-mandated 48-hour quarantine period here at Dakin's Springfield Adoption & Education Center. At the end of that quarantine, we'll have our veterinary staff examine them, provide them with any necessary medical treatment or vaccinations, send them over to the Dakin Community Spay/Neuter Clinic for a quick snip, and then we'll split them between our Leverett and Springfield adoption centers. In only a few short days, this latest round of lucky Dixie Dogs will be living the good life in their new Yankee homes.

Whenever we talk about Dixie Dogs, we want to remind people of two important points: First, Dakin staff work very hard to make sure that we help every local homeless dog we can, including those housed at animal control agencies in our own communities and around Massachusetts. Second, wonderful dogs die every day in this country for lack of a home. It is our obligation to do everything we can to put an end to that tragedy.

As I write this, my Dixie dog, Howard, and my Yankee dog, Grampy, are snoring next to me. Who says the North and the South can't get along?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

De-Vocalization Bill Passes Massachusetts House!

Thanks to the hard work and support of a grassroots movement of dog lovers, the Massachusetts House just moved forward on HB 344, An Act Prohibiting De-vocalization, as written! In an overwhelming 150-1 vote, the House moved the bill forward where it will now be heard by the state Senate (the lone dissenting vote was Rep. George Peterson, R-Seventh Worcester).

What to do today? Hug a legislator!

Call, email or most appreciated of all, send a hard-copy note. It doesn't have to be long. Thank- you notes are important, and not just because your mom said so; they help cement relationships with legislators, encouraging them to embrace future humane bills.

If you choose to email, put “Thank you for supporting H344!” in the subject line. Then write a short message, with your name and address. Constituents rule.

Please also thank the heroes of the day, who saved the bill, even if they're not your representatives.

They fended off amendments proposed by the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, which would have effectively killed the bill. If the following are not your Reps, don't bombard them with calls. Send an email (with "thank you for supporting H344" in the subject line) or, the gold standard, a note that you put a stamp on and mail:

Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera,
Rep. Bill Bowles,
Rep. Will Brownsberger,
Rep. Jennifer Callahan,
Rep. Gene O’Flaherty,
Snail mail: State House, Boston 02133

Rep. Coakley-Rivera, from Springfield, made an impassioned plea for passage of the bill without amendment. She said, "(My dogs) are members of my family. They may not be search dogs who find people…or assistance dogs working with children. But they are special to me. (De-vocalization) involves monetary profit, not love of animals. (It) is inhumane and must be stopped. Most people who de-vocalize their dogs don't take the time and training. Little dogs have a tendency to yelp, it's their only defense. I brought my friend who has sat here for the last 40 minutes and not said a word. He gets love and humane treatment from my family. Please accept this bill as written."

Thank you, Rep. Coakley-Rivera! And thank you all the legislators who moved this bill forward!

What's next? The Massachusetts Senate! Stay tuned for updates on this measure as we continue to work to get it passed without amendment. Keep an eye on Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society's Facebook page for up-to-the minute news.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dakin's Buddy Fund Saves Lives

Bol has all the outrageous enthusiasm of any 6-month-old pit bull--he jumps, he romps, he loves to chase a ball. And he also has complete fractures to both bones in his right front leg. After being hit by a car in Springfield, Bol ended up at the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society when his person realized he didn't have the money to treat Bol's injuries.

The adoption center veterinary staff have splinted Bol's leg to help it heal. While he's not out of the woods yet, and surgery or a cast may still be needed, Bol is already putting weight on his bum paw and starting to enjoy life again. This afternoon, the veterinary staff were re-wrapping Bol's leg, fashioning a "pee-proof" glove for the splint to keep it from getting soaked every time the rambunctious guy goes for his daily constitutional.

From broken legs to dental extractions, from enucleations to ear infections, Dakin's adoption center veterinary team goes the extra mile to help homeless animals who need to recover from injury, neglect, or abuse before finding their second chance. We're grateful to have talented staff capable of helping animals in need. And we're also grateful that donors to the Dakin Buddy Fund make such treatment possible.

Named for a young shepherd mix with a cardiomyopathy, the Buddy Fund is the special account we use to provide treatment beyond the standard spay/neuter surgery or vaccinations. When an animal comes to us sick or injured, but with good prospects for recovery and a full life in a new home, we call on the Buddy Fund to help him out.

Please consider a donation to the Buddy Fund today. Your gift is a lifesaver.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Things are Hopping at the Humane Society!

Construction Zone!
We are a few short weeks away from unveiling our remodeled adoption center lobby in Springfield! Formerly the waiting room for the animal hospital that was here when the MSPCA owned the building, our bright new lobby will include two large, glass, multi-level colony rooms where our adoption cats will be allowed to roam and interact with people; a smaller colony room for cats who have been diagnosed with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV); a waiting room filled with toys and activities for children; and adoption counseling stations that will allow our clients to sit and talk with DPVHS staff, rather than crowding around a small counter area.

The remodeling of the lobby is part of the DPVHS Three Year Plan to Adoption Guarantee. It was funded through the generosity of Barbara Sullivan, a cat lover who passed away in 2009 and left a bequest that was designated for improvements to our Union Street building. We are grateful for Barbara's forethought and compassion for animals.

Celebrate Valentine's Day by Loving Somebunny!
In honor of Valentine's Day--and in celebration of Adopt a Rabbit Month--we invite you to come to one of our adoption centers and Love Somebunny this weekend. While the cost of all rabbit adoptions will be reduced for the celebration, your new rabbit will still receive the same great services, including a veterinary exam, spay or neuter surgery, a rabbit care handbook, and, this weekend only, a special Love Somebunny adoption gift pack! Visit our adoptable rabbits online. Our good friends from the House Rabbit Connection will be on hand in Springfield on Saturday and Sunday to help adopters learn more about living with rabbits.

Taylor's Tavern Bartender Shoot Out Benefits DPVHS!
What could be more romantic than watching people try to slide a mug of beer the length of a bar in competition to see who can hit the target? I submit that nothing is more romantic. That's why I'll be spending Valentine's Day with the cool kids down at Taylor's Tavern in Greenfield for the 13th Annual Bartender's Shoot-Out. All proceeds from the contest will benefit DPVHS. Festivities kick off at 1:00 p.m. Your $20 entry fee gets you a very cool t-shirt, a Magic Hat glass, a couple of beers, and a shot at greatness.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

DPVHS: 2009 Year in Review

2009 was a wild year for Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society. We started the year off normally enough--setting our budget, applying for grant funding, dreaming of a new building...and then, at the end of February 2009, we received word that the MSPCA would be closing their Western New England Animal Care and Adoption Center by the end of March.

Those of you who follow DPVHS closely know that we worked with the MSPCA to negotiate the purchase of their adoption center at 171 Union Street in Springfield, closed on the purchase in mid-July and re-opened the busy adoption center on August 1st. For the first time in its history, DPVHS had become an open admission humane society. But we did so with one goal in mind: to end the euthanasia of adoptable animals in the Pioneer Valley by 2012.

With our Three Year Plan to Adoption Guarantee in place, we held on tight and plunged forward. Here are some statistics for the year 2009:

*Our Leverett Adoption Center admitted 14% of the animals arriving at DPVHS...but that tiny facility adopted out more than 40%!

*Adult cat adoptions in Leverett are the big news this year. For the past 3 years we've tried to increase our adult cat adoptions there with no success. The number of adult cat adoptions remained static...until 2009! This was the first year we were able to significantly increase the number of adult cat adoptions performed, from 375 adults in 2008 to 489 adult cats in 2009!

*We ended the year with an 83% live release rate! What's a live release rate? You better catch up on your reading here.

*Despite operating as an open admission adoption center for the last five months of 2009, DPVHS euthanized no healthy cats or dogs in 2009.

*We increased our volunteer foster program from serving 393 animals in 2008 to serving 557 animals in 2009, an increase of 42%!

*Thanks to our "Certified Pre-Owned Cats" program, launched in September 2009 as a way to save lives and encourage the adoption of adult cats, we saw a 37% increase in the average monthly adult cat placements. The average jumped from 67 adult cats to 106 adult cats per month finding qualified homes. That equals about 156 extra adult cat adoptions during the promotion.

*Even though it opened on October 12, 2009, the DPVHS Community Spay/Neuter Clinic served 1,358 animals by the end of December 2009!

*Of the animals served by the Community Spay/Neuter Clinic, 80% are cats and 20% are dogs.

*Of the animals brought to the Community Spay/Neuter Clinic by their own families, only 37% have ever seen a veterinarian prior to coming to us. The difference is most marked in cats: only 17% of cats coming to the clinic have ever seen a veterinarian (compared to 77% of dogs). But of those animals who had been to see a vet, PETCO or Luv My Pet low-cost vaccine clinics are the single most popular provider of services. Still, 83% of felines and 30% of canines did not have a current rabies vaccine, as required by law.

*The Community Spay/Neuter Clinic served 201 animals from other rescues, shelters, or animal control agencies, including the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center in Springfield.

*DPVHS employed more than 400 volunteers by the end of 2009. The service they provide is the equivalent of having 4 additional paid staff members for each day of 2009!

*DPVHS was featured in the media 98 times, an average of 3 times per week, not including regularly-scheduled segments or advertising.

*DPVHS conducted regular humane education programming in 2009 at: Childrens Study Home (Springfield), Maple Valley School (Wendell), Victory House (Greenfield), Brightside (West Springfield), Behavioral Health Network (Springfield), Morgan Elementary School (Holyoke), Leverett Elementary School, Greenfield High School, Leeds Elementary School, Orange School District, and Deerfield Elementary School. Additional programs were delivered to schools and scouts throughout the Valley.

Thank you to all of you who volunteered your time, donated your hard earned money, or cheered DPVHS on from the sidelines to make 2009 a banner year! It is only with your help that we can create a community where every animal lives a full and peaceful life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Birds of a Feather

When most people think about humane societies, they think about cats and dogs. Maybe rabbits. But birds?

In fact, DPVHS provides shelter and adoption for more than 50 homeless birds each year. From tiny finches to parakeets and doves; from lovebirds and cockatiels to large parrots…birds of all shapes and sizes find refuge and new homes through Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society’s adoption centers. Many birds come to us because their people did not realize how much work caring for a bird can be.

Here are a few things to consider before adopting a bird:

Even though many people keep birds in their home, birds are not domesticated animals. They are the wild native species of other countries (which raises some real issues about the international bird trade and the inherent cruelty of removing animals from the wild and forcing them to live in cages).

Parrots, including lovebirds, parakeets, and cockatiels can be destructive, noisy, and quite messy. Not only that, but some species can live 20 to 50 years or longer. A commitment to a bird is a long one that may have to include provisions for the bird's care in your will!

Despite their chewing, squawking, seed-tossing way, birds are also beautiful and elegant. If you're thinking about acquiring a bird, consider adopting one from a rescue agency. Just as adopting a dog from the humane society instead of purchasing him from a pet store or online breeder helps end the cruelty of puppy mills, adopting your next bird from a rescue helps stop the perpetuation of the international bird trade.

But before you adopt, make sure you do your research. You want to be sure to adopt the kind of bird that will fit your lifestyle and also that you can provide a home that is healthy and fun for you and the bird.

In celebration of National Bird Month, DPVHS, the Springfield Falcons, and Red Robin are joining forces to celebrate our feathered friends and help homeless animals.

This month, you can have fun at the Springfield Falcons while helping DPVHS. On January 30, the Springfield Falcons will play against the Providence Bruins at the MassMutual Center. Tickets are on sale for $10 (regularly $17). $2 from each ticket sold will benefit DPVHS. Purchase two tickets and receive a free appetizer at Red Robin in Holyoke and a chance to win dinner for four!

Falcon ticket order forms are available at DPVHS, 171 Union Street, Springfield, or by calling or e-mailing Julia Kincade at (413) 739-3344 x105

And wait…there’s more! Along with catering to the winning entry, Red Robin will host a 10% night on February 8, 2010 to benefit DPVHS. With presentation of a coupon available through Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society and the Springfield Falcons, 10% of your party’s tab will benefit DPVHS!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Secondhand Dogs at your Service

They say you only get once chance to make a first impression. When Snickers, a chocolate Pomeranian mix, and Milo, a cream poodle mix, first arrived at DPVHS, they didn't do a good job of endearing themselves. Marni Edelhart, DPVHS's Behavior & Training Coordinator says of Snickers, "When Snickers first walked into the adoption center he was not selling himself very well. He darted hither and thither on his leash barking at everything that moved, humping me, and peeing on stuff." Doesn't sound like a dog people would line up to take home.

"Milo, on the other hand," states Marni, "came in very subdued and quiet until he got into a kennel where he let his voice be heard, barking whenever anyone entered the room. Like Snickers, he had a history of bad behavior with other dogs when on leash. In our evaluation here he did a lot of barking when he met another dog, but seemed more anxious than threatening."

Enter the good folks at New England Assistance Dog Services, or NEADS. NEADS provides trained dogs to assist people who are deaf or who have disabilities. They are the oldest hearing assistance dog provider in the country and the only organization of their type in New England. With headquarters in Princeton, Massachusetts, NEADS reaches out to animal adoption centers to find sheltered dogs with the qualities to make a great service dog. Diamonds in the ruff, so to speak.

Marni worked with NEADS evaluators to help Snickers and Milo get a second chance. She says, "NEADS has very high behavioral standards for their service dogs; there can be no evidence or history of aggression, and the dog has to be friendly with people of all ages and other animals. Additionally, hearing dogs (which is what both Snickers and Milo are training to become) should be highly energetic, motivated by both play and treats, and sound-sensitive. The more interest they show in novel sounds the better. Both Snickers and Milo had a physical appeal that sparked interest from adopters who wanted fluffy cuddlebugs. Their personalities, however, are much better suited to work than to snuggling. Although they are both social they prefer chasing a ball or following a scent to sitting quietly to be petted."

Snickers, the dog who paced frantically and loudly on the end of a leash, did great during his NEADS evaluation. "Once in a quiet room," Marni said, "some of his sweeter qualities became apparent and after a couple of days in a regular routine here he was a much more pleasant companion. The one concern in placing him with NEADS was his loudmouth behavior on leash when he saw other dogs. Fortunately he was barking out of love and interacted very nicely with dogs once he was close enough to smell them." Snickers won a recruitment slot. He began training as a hearing assistance dog with NEADS on December 21st.

Milo, although only about 25lbs, was surrendered because he was too much for his guardian to keep up with. According to Marni, "Unlike Snickers, when NEADS came to meet him he showed off as though he had prepped for the exam. With each new sound he calmly looked up and went over to investigate. He walked nicely on a leash for them and when he met the Labrador that they brought along he was a little over-eager, but perfectly friendly. NEADS was very happy to get such a promising assistance dog candidate and after watching him in their evaluation I felt even more sure that life as an assistance dog (always having a job to do) would suit Milo perfectly." Milo began his training on January 4th.

We are proud to send two DPVHS "alumni" to NEADS for their "graduate work." And even prouder that these two dogs will help a person with a disability navigate the world while providing them companionship. Congratulations, Snickers and Milo!

For more information about NEADS, visit