With new vision and mission goals set by Executive Director, Karel Minor, for the Humane Society of Berks County (HSBC) in 2005, most projects were completed or underway by 2008.
Previously accomplished goals during 2005 – 2007:
1. The “Free To A Great Home” program for older dogs and cats (2005);
2. The “PetNet” program (2007), which provided food and shelter for pets in need so families could keep their pets;
3. The PetNet food bank for pets;
4. The opening of the innovative Cat Adoption Center (2007) with “get-to-know-you” rooms and individualized, highlighted displays of cats.
The HSBC was well on its way to fulfill its mission to becoming a “leader in animal welfare.”
Beginning January 2008, the HSBC hired new vets and offered complete comprehensive vet services to adopters and the general public. They began the innovative program of 30-day adoption guarantees, which extended “free health care for many illnesses to newly adopted pets.” They introduced a sliding scale fee for pet owners in need. In other words, they enabled owners to keep their own pets.
A major change of focus occurred in April of 2008. In his post, “The Death of the Dog Catcher,” dated 5-30-08, Minor says, “(W)e couldn’t go on aiding and abetting a failed system (playing dog catcher) that, in the end, results in more death and misery because it lets our (state and local) government off the hook for a societal problem.” Minor said they switched emphasis from animal control contracts with State and local government, which earned 15 to 25 cents on every dollar spent, on April 1, 2008. They invested the saved monies to extend emergency programs for animals and humans.
The modern LaVigna Dog Adoption Center opened in 2008. It featured heated floors; roomy “habitats” for individual dogs; no chain link; glass-front doors to each space with a water bowl, blanket and toys for each canine inhabitant. The rooms have the same quality-air control with Hepa filters as hospitals to prevent air-borne illnesses. Solid walls separate the habitats to avoid fights between neighboring dogs. All dogs have guillotine-style doors leading to outside runs, which are covered for protection from the elements.
Personal note: We have recently visited the Reading facility five times, hoping to adopt a dog as a playmate for our high-energy border collie mix we adopted last September (from Last Chance Ranch, previously written about). The facility is super clean. The workers are all trained (mandatory 1.5-hour orientation classes) and are very accommodating. The adoption visitation rooms are a bit small, but include chairs and homey artwork on the painted walls. Air quality from the mega-HVAC units is very good. There are no noticeable smells, except from the two, small, concrete-walled, uncovered pens (that usually hold rabbits or small animals, if any are available) in the dogs’ area. (I had an allergy attack after visiting the bunnies for too long.)
Visitors can look into the individual dog “habitats.” Most canine residents seem content on the heated floors, surrounded by a blanket, water bowl, and a toy or two. Sometimes two or three siblings or buddies share a room. Adoptable animals’ pictures and basic descriptions are on site at HSBC. You must fill out a pre-adoption form and show ID before “meeting” a dog (or cat). The volunteer will bring out the pet you want to see into the visitation room. They ask that you bring your own dogs, along with the rest of the family, for a visit. You can call ahead to check the availability of a particular animal.
Visits are pleasant. Seeing the dogs so content, with little barking, and none of the “old” feel of caged dogs on concrete, it is much easier to visit and walk away without regret or guilt. All dogs we have considered have been adopted within 3 days of us viewing them online. All pictures and write-ups are updated on Thursdays, showing which dogs were adopted, but sometimes they are updated much more often.
The HSBC opened a second facility, the Holly Miller Center, in Douglassville in October 2008. The idea was to create satellite services throughout the county and beyond. A third Center opened in 2010. With multiple facilities throughout the county, no Berks County citizen is farther than 30 minutes away from one of the locations, and the multiple facilities are now handling an average of 7,000 animals per year.
In April of 2010, the HSBC bought a new 30-foot long Mobile Veterinary Wellness and Adoption Center. This facility provides a fully equipped, mobile medical facility that can also handle pet adoptions. This vehicle will be used as part of future calls for help from the Berks County Animal Response Team (Berks CART).
Since its inception in 2005, as the lead agency of the team, the Humane Society participated in three CART cases: a massive cruelty case with hundreds of dogs in a nearby county; it helped with massive flooding in 2006; and it assisted pet owners during the July 2008 ice storms. It has provided volunteers, resources, organization, and finances involving major animal cases within Pennsylvania.
In one of those dream-come-true stories, in October of 2010, the HSBC received a generous donation of a 10-acre horse farm from J.P. Mascaro & Sons, valued at one million dollars. The “Danielle Ruiz-Murphy Center” became a public dog park and equine rescue center located in Exeter Township.
The Humane Society of Berks County can be proud of its accomplishments. No healthy, adoptable animals have been euthanized in three years. The Humane Society of Berks County has become a “leader in animal welfare.”
“Archived Director’s Message Page,” re: the Mobile Wellness Center, Karl Minor, 3-23-10. Http://www.berkshumane.org/news5.asp
“Berks CART Because it can happen here.” Http://www.berkshumane.org/services/services_cart.asp .
“HSBC History: Recent history” by Terry Scott Reed, former Board President of the Humane Society of Berks County. Http://www.berkshumane.org/about/about_history.asp .
Pictures of state-of-the-art Cat Adoption Center: Http://www.berkshumane.org/news2.asp .
Pictures of state-of-the-art Dog Adoption Center: Http://www.berkshumane.org/adoption/adopt_dogcenter.asp .