General Health

Posted on: October 18, 2013

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Helping Shelter Animals Thrive and Find a New Forever Family

Shelter Manager Melissa Frank is devoted to making the shelter experience easier for the animals.

Shelter Manager Melissa Frank is devoted to making the shelter experience easier for the animals.

I have spent the majority of my adult life pampering very well cared for canines in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Working in an upscale grooming salon and a luxury pet resort, where loving pet parents sent their “babies” for a monthly spa appointment or on a 10- day resort vacation, was the best training to prepare me for my position as Shelter Manager with the Bucks County SPCA Upper Bucks Shelter.

Before I started working for the Bucks County SPCA, I thought I knew them pretty well. I had adopted pets from them and had the pleasure of knowing Anne Irwin, the Executive Director (who spoils her baby at Holiday House Pet Resort). I was also a foster mom for some wayward pregnant pups. I quickly discovered there was a lot more to the organization than I first thought. Some of the first things I learned were:

  1.  Each SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is independently funded and operated. ALL of the monies received are from donations. We receive no monies from the federal, state or local governments.
  2. SPCAs across the country are only connected in name. Some organizations have multiple locations so it’s best to ask someone within the organization.
  3. People surrender their beloved pets for many reasons—it doesn’t matter if it’s a purebred Pomeranian, a sweet middle-aged Lab or an all-American mutt, from 8 weeks old to 16 years old…we see them all walk through the doors.

Living at a shelter can be a confusing and stressful time for an animal that once shared a home and a bond with one family. Placing pets in a foster home is not always an option, so I wanted to create a more pleasant environment for the animals and positive adoption experience. One of the first things I implemented at the shelter was soothing music played for every animal. From sun up to sun down, music can be heard throughout the shelter, and most of the songs on my I-pod were designed to comfort animals. Some of the songs are clinically proven to soothe the savage beast (Through a Dogs Ear –  http://www.throughadogsear.com ).  I ordered Homeopathic drops used for generalized anxiety, fear of noises and storm stress. I also implemented off-leash playgroups. It’s important to introduce the dog into a social group as quickly as possible, so twice a day we send the dogs outside into our gorgeous, fenced-in grass play yard to RUN!!

A tired dog is happy dog and happy dogs get adopted faster and transition more quickly into their new home. We also use alternative therapies such as Reiki and animal communicators to help each animal’s transition in and out of the shelter as smooth as possible.

As we celebrate National Adopt-a-Shelter Pet in October, I’d like to offer some helpful tips if you are new to adopting a shelter pet:

  • Fill out an application and have it put on file; most times, the first time you visit the shelter you may not find the type of pet you’re looking for.
  • Talk with a Shelter Staff Member about what traits appeal to you in a new pet. Be patient. Sometimes we have a dog that best fits your lifestyle and family, and sometimes, if you’re looking for something specific, it takes a few weeks or months. Be realistic about what you’re willing to work on with your new pet and what boundaries you’ve set.
  • Some dogs are “special-needs adoptions” which may require multiple visits to the shelter, hand feeding the dog from outside of their suite, behavior consultations or follow-up training sessions. However, adopting one of these dogs can be especially rewarding.

Lastly, ask how you can help support the organization. We would not be able to care for the animals and prepare them for a new forever family without the help of volunteers and donors! Even if you are not able to adopt a pet, everyone can make a difference to an animal in need.  From sewing dog beds and cat pillows, being a kitten foster parent, representing us at outreach events to walking a dog, spending quality one on one time with a shelter cat, or sharing an adoptable pet on Facebook, love and caring come in many forms.

The Bucks County SPCA has two shelter locations: 1665 Street Rd, Lahaska PA and 60 Reservoir Rd, Quakertown PA. The public is able to visit adoptable animals during our business hours. Please see our website for more details www.BCSPCA.org