Do you have a pet that is part of your family? This is our story of how Samson came
to be a part of our family.
We took the kids to a Heritage Day festival in the town I grew up in. A local non-profit animal shelter was there with a tent set up for people to learn about adopting animals, and they even brought along two extended stay dogs. We immediately fell in love with one named Dodger that looked like a pit bull/dalmatian mix. He was listed as a pit mix because there are no papers listing whether he is or is not full breed. We filled out the paperwork right then and there, and we impatiently waited for them to call back. Okay, we didn’t wait – we called them. Repeatedly. Dodger was renamed Samson to fit in with our family (most of our children have biblical names), and he has definitely become part of our family!
Because we did adopt a pit bull, I want to point out that many of the reasons they get a bad name are because of the owners and not the breed. They are only aggressive toward everyone if you make them that way. Our pit is a big baby, a bed hog, and loves to cuddle. Their aggression is a natural instinct that exists in all of nature – the fight or flight response. This is mostly in response to other dogs. Our pit loves other animals, even cats. When they are raised in a loving household, they are like any other dog. Our kids LOVE playing with Samson. He plays inside with them, cuddles up to watch TV, runs outside with them, and snuggles up at bedtime. The girls say that it is like having another little brother around. He is gentle and sweet. He loves belly scratches and car rides. He even knows commands and gives hugs!
Samson was adopted from a no-kill, non-profit animal shelter. The employees are paid very little and do the job for the love of the animals. Volunteers are very important, as well as fundraisers and donations. If you are interested in volunteering at your local animal shelter, please contact them. Some allow children under 16 to volunteer when accompanied by an adult. If you are wishing to donate to your local shelter, here is a list of items they could use:
Dog Food (especially grain free)
Dog Treats (brands made in the USA are best)
Dog Toys (Kongs and Nylabones – all sizes)
Martingale Dog Collars (all sizes)
Easy-Walk Harnesses (all sizes)
Flea Treatment (Frontline Plus, Advantage, K9 Advantix – all sizes)
Scoopable Cat Litter
Large Covered Litter Boxes
Flea Treatment (Revolution, Frontline Plus, Advantage)
GENERAL SHELTER NEEDS:
Cleaning Supplies (Accel Cleaner, Clorox Bleach, Dawn Dish Soap, Laundry Detergent (high efficiency preferred), Dryer Sheets)
Brooms, New Mops, and Squeegees
Blankets, Towels, and Washable Rugs
Copier Paper (white and colored)
Gift Cards (Pet Supply Stores, Home Depot, Local Stores, etc)
Check to see if they have an Amazon Wish List
SPOTLIGHT ON STRAYHAVEN
Strayhaven is the animal shelter we adopted Samson from. The staff was very friendly and very thorough in checking our application and references. Our dog had been returned several times, so they had us do a two week home visit with him to be sure he was a good fit for our family. He is a GREAT fit for our family!! We just love him!
Here is a little Q & A with the manager at Strayhaven to help explain more about how shelters work.
How old do you have to be to volunteer? How old do you have to be to volunteer if a parent comes with you?
We welcome volunteers of all ages, but if a child is under 15 years old, the child must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Can volunteer hours count toward community service hours for a student?
For community service that fulfills an education requirement, we consider the time as volunteer hours, but it does count toward the student’s community service. Court-ordered community service is a separate program.
What kind of jobs do volunteers do?
Volunteers mostly walk dogs or socialize with cats. It helps so much. The pets who are most comfortable meeting people find homes faster than the shy pets. Volunteers also brush the dogs and cats, help with cleaning or landscaping, and more.
Do all shelters microchip? Do they do that in the shelter or does the vet do it?
Microchipping is not mandated by state law, so not every shelter uses microchips. In other states, many shelters prefer tattoos as a form of permanent identification. Shelter workers can inject microchips, but in most instances, the vet does it. Microchips do not hurt the animal except the initial pinch at the time of injection. We have reunited pets with their owners thanks to microchips, and while it is not a fail-safe system, it sure doesn’t hurt. Please note that microchips must be registered, and the information kept up to date, to be effective. Many breeders or other shelters leave the registration up to the adopter, and when the pet goes missing, the unregistered microchip is useless without the adopter’s contact information.
Do the fees for the dog license vary by county and/or state? I know there are yearly or lifetime fees.
Dog license fees vary by state. There are discounts for senior citizens and for animals who are spayed/neutered. In Pennsylvania, a dog who is microchipped or tattooed qualifies for a lifetime license. The one-time fee will cover the dog for life, provided that the dog continues to live in the state of Pennsylvania. (Other states have their own license laws.) The regular or one-year dog license must be renewed every calendar year, in January. Strayhaven provides applications for regular and/or lifetime licenses at the time of adoption.
How many of the dogs go through the C.A.R.E. program? I know is says 6 at a time for 8 weeks, but I am wondering if it tends to be about half of the dogs, most of them, only a small amount, extended stay, or…?
Six dogs attend an 8-week training program. Twelve highly-screened inmates, 2 per dog, work with our trainer to teach the dogs the skills that they will need to succeed in their new homes. Every dog is crate-trained, receives some basic obedience training, and learns some tricks to impress their future families. The inmate handlers also address the needs of the individual dogs. For example, the handlers have worked with dogs who jump on people, dogs who put their mouths on everything, and even dogs with more difficult behavioral problems such as separation anxiety or submissive urination. Eight weeks isn’t long enough to work miracles, but the dogs definitely benefit from the extra attention.
Most of the dogs who enter the program are rowdy, young dogs. We have trained senior dogs or extended stay dogs, but most of the training candidates are dogs under 3 years old, most of which have great temperaments but little to no training. Many times, these are the cute puppies who have been abandoned or surrendered after they grow up and become too much responsibility for their unprepared owners. The good news is that the training helps these dogs become more adoptable, and we have a high adoption rate for our graduates. Right now we only have two CARE graduates still available for adoption. (We have adoption applications in for both of these dogs now. Nothing is official yet, but we’re hoping these two dogs find new homes soon.)
How would companies who are interested in doing fundraisers go about setting them up with you? What are things that they would need to know before considering getting involved?
We receive support from some local companies already. Tractor Supply and Walmart already donate food, treats, and other supplies to the shelter. We have also received support from newspapers such as the Record Argus and the Herald, and a number of local companies have participated in annual fundraisers such as the Casino Trip in the spring and the Bark Crawl in the fall. Companies who are interested in getting involved with Strayhaven fundraisers must be willing to work with our active volunteer board of directors, who oversee fundraising efforts for the shelter.
What is the shortest time you have had an animal in the shelter? And the longest time?
We usually hold animals for at least 7 days. That provides any owners time to recover a stray, and it gives shelter workers the time to get to know the animals. I’m sure there have been exceptions to this rule, but typically 7 days is the minimum length of an animal’s stay. As for the longest stay, I know of one dog who stayed at the shelter for 5 years before being adopted out. Our former office mascot, a cat named Sinbad, was adopted and returned three times during his 14-year stay at the shelter, but he finally found his forever home last year. His adopter stops by with donations from time to time, and she loves him so, so much.
On average, how long are animals usually in there? I know it varies…
The length of an pet’s stay at the shelter varies so much that we’ve never figured out an average. I think most dogs are adopted out in less than three months, but I haven’t kept track well enough to say more than that.Small breed dogs are adopted out the fastest. Dogs who are seniors, black in color, or pit bull mixes tend to stay longer. On average, cats stay longer than dogs, though kittens have an easier time finding homes.
Approximately how many animals come in each month? How many are cats and how many are dogs?
We tend to get a trickle of cats in even when our cat intake is closed. We didn’t have space for any of them, but we took in 4 kittens this month, 2 of which were sick. We usually take in anywhere from 1-15 dogs in a month, but the number varies wildly throughout the year. At one point this past winter, we only had 7 dogs in the kennel, but we had the kennel back up to near-full capacity within a month.
How many of those get adopted?
Again, there is so much variation that I hate to figure out an average. I will say the 95% or more of our animals are adopted out. Because we are a no-kill shelter, we do not euthanize for time or space. Unfortunately, we still lose some animals to illness such as cancer or kidney failure.
How does a non-profit shelter work?
I can’t speak for other non-profit shelters, since every animal shelter is different. Strayhaven is a privately run company, headed by an active volunteer board of directors and run by a small paid staff. We raise money through fundraisers, grants, and, of course, adoption fees, but we depend the most on the generosity of the community. Donations are our lifeblood, and every bit helps.
Is there anything else that you think is important to add?
The only other thing I might add is that people shouldn’t view animal shelters as “doggie jail.” Many people have this vision of a dog warden as this cartoon bad guy and the shelter as a filthy, sad place where strays languish. Having worked at the shelter, let me say that is hardly the case. Personally, I see the dog warden as a hero for transporting so many strays to shelters where the dogs can receive medical treatment and be placed in homes. As far as the animal shelters go, there is a lot of love that goes on behind kennel doors. Shelter workers are paid poverty wages, so they certainly don’t do the job for the money. They do the work because they love the animals. I tell people that I fall in love with every dog and cat who walks through the door– and when the adopters see how much I love a particular dog, it helps the adopter see how special the animal can be, too.
If YOU are thinking about getting a dog or cat, I hope you will consider rescuing an animal from a shelter and giving him or her a forever home.