Exercise is good for your pets too! Here are some great ways to work with cats and dogs to trim down.
The Harrisonburg Police Dept. is reminding folks to keep their cars locks and any valuables out of sight. While people are distracted and playing with their canine friends, vehicles are vulnerable. Stay safe out there!
Check out these happy pups having a blast! We've been participating with this fun event for several years, and we're always happy to see alumni having fun with their families!
Thank you to our volunteers for coming out to help, and taking great photos!
As some may be aware, there has been a bid by another local rescue group to take over the impoundment contract for the City of Harrisonburg. What this means is that all stray animals for Harrisonburg City would be brought to a different facility run by a different organization. Without this contract, the RHSPCA would lose a significant portion of our funding to provide for the animals in our care.
The City of Harrisonburg currently has a partner in the RHSPCA that provides safe housing for stray animals, support for Harrisonburg's Animal Care and Control Officers and HPD, and provides incoming stray pets with flea and de-worming treatments, distemper and bordatella vaccinations, and an initial health exam to establish a baseline of care while the pet awaits owner reclaim. We provide housing and care for animals seized by Animal Control during cruelty and neglect cases, and emergency quartering for those in truly dire straits as resources allow. We also provide owner-requested euthanasia services for citizens of Harrisonburg should they be unable to afford the services of a veterinarian, euthanasia that is not differentiated in our annual VDACS reporting but we feel is the right thing to do for geriatric and chronically ill pets in our community.
Learn more about our efforts to save lives.
Many of our adopters and those we have served may feel that we have done the job we're required to do to the best of our abilities with the resources we have; if that's you, would you take the time to send a quick message to a member of Harrisonburg City Council to share your thoughts? They want to hear from you: our adopters, supporters, skeptics, friends, volunteers, and critics alike. Let's find solutions to make Harrisonburg a more PET-Friendly city too!
Mayor Deanna Reed
Vice-Mayor Richard Baugh
In the emotionally-charged world of animal sheltering and animal welfare, there are many things that every animal welfare advocate agrees on: promotion of pet retention, spay/neuter, humane training practices, access to quality veterinary care, and promoting adoption of orphaned pets. However, common ground often goes overlooked in the face of one topic: euthanasia.
There are many different shelter models out there, all designed to address stray or unwanted pets. In some areas, there are only animal control organizations whose soul purpose is to pick up stray animals and return them to their owners, and as a result have no need for an adoption program if their "return to owner" rate is 100%.
Other organizations only work with people who need to surrender their pets and do not accept pets with unknown owners at all, providing a re-homing service. Some of these organizations may be breed-specific, and only accept golden retrievers or Siamese cats for example. Some organizations only accept animals from shelters in the first place, and don't accept animals relinquished by individual owners.
Some are a combination of the two, accepting strays for Animal Care & Control while trying to find an owner AND also accept owner-relinquished pets. This hybrid system can be advantageous. If an area has a central location for its animal shelter, then owners missing their pets in the surrounding localities know where to go to look for them or make a lost or found report. Sometimes, these hybrid facilities screen incoming owner-surrendered pets, only accepting the most friendly, healthiest, and friendliest among them as space and resources allow and others do not pre-screen. Some may charge a relinquishment fee, anywhere from $10 to hundreds or have a waiting list of 1 week to months.
A truly open admission animal shelter accepts ALL pets, regardless of temperament, breed, health, age, color, whether or not the pet has ID or previous vaccination history, or the ability of the finder or previous owner to pay for the pets' care during their stay. Open admission animal shelters often receive thousands of animals a year, all of which require basic food, water, space, toys, bedding, cleaning, preventative vaccinations and parasite treatments along with any medical care they might require such as rounds of antibiotics and wound care or ongoing health management like antihistamines, specialized diet, or special bathing.
As you might have guessed, the RHSPCA is an open admission animal shelter for Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County. ALL cats, dogs, domestic rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, and other non-exotic companion animals from our jurisdiction are welcome here if their owner cannot keep them anymore. As the only one serving our area, we regularly receive animals that have been rejected from other local rescue groups and have no where else to go in time-sensitive situations.
As a result of our open door policy, some of the animals arrive here deathly ill, critically injured, or fractiously aggressive (or sometimes all of the above). An unfortunate reality is that those animals are beyond any reasonable means to cure or rehabilitate, and behavioral health is still part of an animal's (and community's) well-being. Euthanasia is in the best interest of these animals to prevent further suffering and to prevent further harm.
There is a wide gap between behaviorally health and fractious, proactive aggression, and we have consulted with many different sources to navigate these gray areas. For animal shelters, these are not unique questions, and so organizations like the ASPCA and professional experts such as Susan Friedman and Sue Sternberg have developed resources for animal shelters to break down animal behavior. While no behavioral assessment is 100% predictive, these assessments can help us understand what an animal needs to become behaviorally healthy if they are not, what kind of management or training program might be needed for an individual animal, and can help us identify risks or potential 'triggers' an animal might have.
While many behavior studies have been conducted with dogs and the overwhelming majority of behavior analysis has been with dogs, we use the same kind of evaluation for felines in our care. We ask the same questions our adopters ask: how do they like being handled? How are they with other cats? Dogs? Other kinds of pets? How are they with children (does the cat play rough? Will they allow themselves to be picked up by small, uncertain hands?)? How do they handle vaccinations, testing, and possibly medicating? The many questions associated with behavioral health all ask the same question at their core: is this animal reliably safe?
What our assessment allows us to do is create an individualized behavior plan should pets need some help becoming the best they can be. As Sue Sternberg points out on her Assess-A-Pet page, a standardized index of behaviors to reference helps animal shelters (ours included) understand what we're seeing and how to interpret it for a potential adopter. Our staff and volunteers work together to help pets in our care learn good manners, break bad habits, and replace undesirable behaviors with better ones while they are in our care so they'll be ready for to meet their new family.
In the last decade, this country seen a dramatic decrease in the number of dogs entering shelters; however, there will always be a proportion of them beyond reasonable means to re-home. As animal welfare changes and cultural shifts continue to embrace humane training practices, preventative vet care, and spay/neuter initiatives, we'll continue to see euthanasia of only the deathly ill and aggressive animals for whom euthanasia is the kindest option available to all parties involved. Perhaps a controversial statement, but a reality that needs a concrete solution that prevents harm to our friends, neighbors, and our community.
Curious about humane, force-free ways to teach your dog or cat polite behaviors? Want to better understand what they're thinking or up to? Check out the resources below:
The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
Karen Pryor Academy
Victoria Stilwell's Positively.com
Dr. Susan Friedman's BehaviorWorks.org (cats & parrots included!)
Pam Johnson-Bennett's Cat Behavior Associates
Dr. Ian Dunbar's TEDtalk on Dog Training (some language warning)
As the Humane Educator here at the RHSPCA, I often have the supreme pleasure of answering questions from children who have such a keen interest in their animal friends. Whether explaining that the hamsters are nocturnal or that most animal shelters don't accept elephants and ostriches, many of these exchanges bring joy to both parties.
During spring and summer, many children inform me in absolute innocence that their families raise kittens. I have to explain to them that, actually, we support spaying and neutering cats so that they DON'T have babies. While this often sparks a conversation about how too many kittens is a problem, and that while kittens are very cute and fun to play with, they don't stay small forever.
While the children listen to me, riveted, when I ask them to guess how many cats and kittens we accept every year (over 1,500 in 2016), I then explain that the reason there's so many is because people didn't spay and neuter their cats (among other reasons). When we start talking about how kittens need more than food, water, and shelter, we can then start talking about how kittens (and all pets) rely on us to take care of them for their entire lives. These responsibilities include taking them to the veterinarian not only when they are sick or hurt, but also for special vaccines so they don't get sick in the first place.
Children often understand that too many kittens leads to problems when it comes to finding homes for them all. Many of them know, from their own past experiences, how difficult it is to find homes for just one litter of kittens and sympathize with animal shelters tasked with taking on dozens (if not hundreds) of litters. Some kids even understand that finding homes for their kittens mean that kittens at the animal shelter have to wait for a different home.
While children understand, the adults in their lives sometimes hesitate. While it's true that spaying & neutering can be costly, the price of properly caring for an entire litter of kittens is likely even higher. (See a list of local veterinarians here to find one that's right for you.) The price of not caring for those kittens can lead to them getting sick, spreading diseases to other animals or people, or even dying. That's not a conversation I'd like to have with a child.
My suggestion, as an educator, is that if you'd like your children to be involved with raising kittens or observing the "miracle of life" is to foster. Fostering a mother and her litter gives you and your children the opportunity to responsibly provide care for a litter of kittens without adding to our local pet overpopulation. You'll also have the added support of the entire RHSPCA cheering you on, helping with care and providing vaccines, and checking in to make sure you and your fosters are doing well. Fostering teaches children charity, giving, altruism and nurtures a love for animals while preserving logistics of responsibility and communication.
Not only do you and your family get to give back to your community and help animals, you'll be teaching them responsibility by refraining from increasing the number of homeless animals. Your family will also get to see how much care is actually involved in raising kittens, such as vaccinations and their boosters, de-worming, and ongoing neonatal & "pediatric" care. The task of finding homes is not yours alone, but that doesn't mean foster homes aren't involved if they want to be. If you find homes for your foster kittens, that's fantastic! We also work with rescue groups who regularly take kittens from us, so your fosters may be accepted by limited admission ("no-kill") rescue group in New York or Massachusetts where there is a higher concentration of people looking to adopt.
There's also another great option when it comes to teaching kids about the perils homeless pets endure and the "miracle of life." The Adventures of Milo & Otis (1986) has it all, and you won't even have to scrub amniotic fluid out of your carpet.
We're now able to show animals in our custody here at the RHSPCA awaiting owners to come pick them up. However, the list isn't updated in real-time according to our pet management software, so making a lost report and coming to see recent arrivals with your own eyes is still the BEST way to let us know you're missing your pet! Check out the "Strays in Custody" page for more info.
Spring time means lots of baby animals, including kittens! Help us prepare for all the babies we're expecting by bringing donations of kitten milk replacer (KMR), Purina Kitten Chow, or a monetary donation to help us collect these supplies.
Interested in fostering? Find out about taking care of orphaned kittens, moms with litters, or just giving 'teenage' kittens a little more time to grow up before they're ready to get adopted!
We are SO EXCITED to participate with Hallmark Channel & North Shore Animal League's Kitten Bowl adoption event! Last year was a HUGE success with 16 cats and kittens getting adopted in just one day, so this year we're hoping for even more fantastic felines to find their forever homes!
Hall of Fame Inductions
A day celebrating kittens can't forget that our grown-up kittens need homes too! Our Hall of Fame inductees are waiting to find out who will join the Hall of Fame, or the ultimate honor of a forever home! Check them out on Facebook to vote (with your Likes) which of our inductees will join the Hall of Fame! Preview them below!
Get your adoption application in early!