Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Nicole and Riley

In order to kick off next week's release of Everything But a Dog, here's the first of my interviews with Nicole, who works at an Erie Animal Shelter


Riley in the flowers
My son’s girlfriend, Nicole, worked at a shelter in New Jersey and is now working at one here in Erie.  She’s become a wonderful addition to our family and her enthusiasm for what she does is evident.   What's also evident is her very big heart.

Holly:  Hi, Nic!  Could you tell us about your work at shelters?

Nicole: The last shelter I worked in was the Animal Welfare Association. They are a small, private shelter located in Voorhees, NJ. It was a no kill shelter, which meant that any animal that came into our shelter stayed with us until it was adopted out. We did not euthanize any animals because of space or time restrictions. Unfortunately, this also meant that we had to turn animals away and had a waiting list to accept owner surrenders into the shelter. They also work with organizations in southern states that often euthanize animals in an inhumane manner by using gas chambers to euthanize many animals at one time. They were able to pull many animals from these shelters and find them loving homes. Every animal that comes through our facility is temperament tested and medically evaluated prior to being placed for adoption, as well as being spayed/neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. In addition to our adoption center, the AWA also had a high-volume spay/neuter and vaccination clinic. We were able to help hundreds of pet owners provide affordable care for their pets every week, as well as adoptable animals in other shelter and rescue organizations in the area. They work with many fundraising organizations to provide free spay/neuters for thousands of pets a year and feral cats through trap-neuter-release programs.

The Humane Society of NWPA is a private, open intake shelter in Erie, PA. An open intake facility is one that accepts all animals that are brought into the facility, including strays and owner surrenders. We are contracted with certain towns in the area (Millcreek and Summit) to take in and care for stray dogs and cats that are found in the area. These towns pay for the care of these strays that come into our facility. We accept animals outside of these areas as well for a minimal fee to help offset the large cost incurred by these animals. Though we receive some government funding, the shelter is run mainly by private donations. The Humane Society is classified as a low-kill shelter. We are an open-access shelter that does not turn any animal away, and because of this we sometimes have to make tough decisions to euthanize animals based on serious health issues, behavior issues or space. Every animal that comes through our facility is temperament tested and medically evaluated prior to being placed for adoption. Those that do not pass these tests are not able to be placed for adoptions. Those that pass these tests are then spayed/neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. At times, the number of animals we intake on a daily basis will far exceed the number of cages and kennels we have available and at those times, our managers sadly have to choose which animals are least adoptable.

It is because of situations like this that I am so passionate about working in the animal rescue industry. I want to do all that I can to see that no animal is euthanized simply because there is no space for it. I work to end overpopulation of animals by educating people of the benefits of having their pets spayed/neutered and discouraging the breeding of animals, particularly by inexperienced breeders (often referred to as backyard breeders) and those who breed irresponsibly. People often only consider the money they can make by breeding their animals (which is very minimal if a breeder is responsible) and do not care to promote favorable health and behavioral traits. It is because of overbreeding and accidental litters that millions of animals die in shelters every year. Nearly half of all animals that enter shelters never make it out of them alive. My goal in working in animal rescue is to minimize that number. I also strive to promote responsible ownership. Too many times I have seen animals neglected and mistreated by humans. I help to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Riley on Halloween
Holly: Can you tell everyone about my “granddog” and how you came to adopt her? 

Nicole: I got my own dog, Riley, from a shelter exactly three years ago. I had originally gone to the shelter to see an adult mastiff mix who was there, but unfortunately she did not do well with other dogs and my family and roommates all had dogs of their own. As I was walking out, I saw this adorable little black and white Pit Bull mix puppy who was in pretty bad shape. She was very thin and had both kennel cough and mange. I had not planned to get a puppy and was not excited to go through the puppy phase again, but when I saw those sad little eyes of hers, I knew that she was the reason I ended up in that particular shelter that day. A few days later, after her stray hold period was up, I returned to adopt her. After a month or two of food, love, medication and daily medicated baths (which she was very unhappy about) she was finally a happy, healthy and perfect little puppy, and she has been my best friend ever since.

Holly: What can people do to help? 

Nicole: There is so much that people can do to help support their local shelters. First and foremost, consider adopting your next pet, rather than purchasing one from a breeder or pet store (which often get their pets from puppy mills where dogs are kept in horrific conditions). When you adopt an animal, you are not only saving that animal's life, but the life of the next animal who enters the shelter and now has a cage or kennel to stay in as well. If you are interested in a particular breed, size, sex or age of animal, is a great tool to find your perfect pet in a shelter near you. You can also try to search for different breed specific rescue organizations near you if your heart is set on a particular breed. Also be sure to have all of your pets spayed or neutered to avoid accidental litters of puppies that end up in shelters, taking up cages that other cats and dogs desperately need. Speak to your local shelter to see what they are in need of as well. Many shelters have "wish lists" with items that the shelter needs to run, which often includes many household items. If your local shelter does not have a website or have a list posted on their website, you can call or email to ask them how you can help. Most shelters I know are overwhelmed and understaffed so don't be upset if they are unable to answer your questions immediately. Shelters are always in desperate need of money, donations and volunteers. Consider volunteering at your local shelter, or possibly becoming a foster parent who temporarily houses an animal to help overcrowded shelters to save more lives.

Thanks, Nicole for taking the time to share your experience.  I know you all can tell from the pictures what a lucky dog Riley is.  She's doted on!

Riley's 3rd Birthday Party...Nicole baked her a doggie cake

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