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Creating America’s First Healthy Pets Community

Written By: Karel Minor, CEO of Humane Pennsylvania

Creating America’s First Healthy Pets Community

We are finally knocking it down.

Humane Pennsylvania is very excited to have announced the beginning of the next step in our Healthy Pets Initiative in Berks County: the demolition and rebuilding of our animal shelter in Reading, PA.  This project isn’t merely about building a prettier shelter, although it will definitely be a prettier shelter.  The new facility will be a groundbreaking new approach to how animal welfare services are delivered, one which will serve as a model for the nation.

Having moved our community up to, and often over, the edge of the “magic” no kill 90% save rates for healthy and treatable animals, we have been developing innovative ways to help more of the most health and behaviorally challenged animals currently entering our shelters.  We have also been focusing on providing resources to keep animals from entering our shelters in the first place.  Out of this work, Humane Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pets Initiative was born, and America’s first Healthy Pets Community is just around the corner.

The Healthy Pets Initiative took a constellation of lifesaving services that are proven to make a positive difference in animals’ lives and to decrease shelter intake and euthanasia, and reconfigured them strategically to have a multiplying impact.  Ultra-low and no cost vaccinations and sterilizations, free microchip identification, community cat services, and pet food supports (all offered via Humane Pennsylvania’s veterinary hospitals and staff) target the core foundations of pet relinquishment.  Combined with our existing services offered through our nationally accredited Humane Veterinary Hospitals in Reading and Lancaster, which offer market rates for those who can afford them and sliding scale rates and payment plan supports for those in economic distress, we’ve made a significant impact.

But there is still a portion of the population of pet caretakers that need more support than these hospitals can provide.  Our new animal shelter will provide that additional support by combining sheltering operations with ultra-high efficiency and volume veterinary services.  This can provide services economically for our charitable organization and close the “sick care gap” that exists for the most economically challenged in our community.

Put simply, if you have money, you can turn to any vet.  If you have some money, our hospitals have been here to help.  But if you have no money or face a major and expensive health crisis with your pet that is beyond your economic means, you may have faced giving up or even euthanizing your pet just because you didn’t have any other option.   Our new community animal shelter and veterinary clinic will provide caretakers with options they previously did not have.  In fact, the new facility will place veterinary professionals and social work oriented staff at the front line of animal intake to offer the supports which might keep that pet at home where it belongs.

Once we have this entire continuum of care provided for the City of Reading and adjacent municipalities, we will have accomplished something no other community in the nation has.  We will have created a universal Healthy Pets Community where all animals and their people have meaningful, actually affordable health and wellness supports.

The downside of this big hairy, audacious plan is that it requires closing our sheltering operations for six months or more in Reading.  We will be maintaining our Humane Veterinary Hospital operations, keeping our Healthy Pets Initiative services and clinics operating, still operating our Lancaster adoption center, and all our Berks based staff are remaining with us and will be helping in the interim in different roles.  We will be working with local and regional partners to ensure the animals we are unable to take in for the construction period have safe harbor, and we are continuing to accept animals in our Lancaster shelter.  Unfortunately we can’t rebuild and remain open at the same time, so we are going to work as quickly as possible.

We also made sure that we notified our local municipal and animal shelter partners for this disruption as far back as the fall of 2017 and will continue to work with them to help animals until our new facility is open.

The entire construction project is going to cost about $2 million dollars and we are extremely pleased that we currently have over $1 million dollars in hand or pledged and have several other major donors we are working with right now to close most of the remaining gap.  We cannot thank the Giorgi Family Foundation enough, who provided a $3.1 million grant in support of this project and the Healthy Pets Initiative services for kick starting this fundamental change in the way we will approach animal welfare in our communities.  We hope that their generosity continues to inspire other donors to come forward and partner in this campaign.

I hope you’ll consider supporting us, too.  Please reach out to me at [email protected] for more information about how you can be a part of this effort, as well as naming opportunities big and small that are available.

We can’t wait to complete this project and begin marshaling our new forces to better combat the underlying causes of animal suffering in our community, and then roll-out this new approach into the other communities we serve.  We don’t know exactly what America’s first Healthy Pets Community will looks like, because it’s never been done before.  But we are about to find out.