Who and What is Pets Alive?

Just who and what is Pets Alive?
I discussed some of this in another blog but I think this would be good to explain fully in a separate blog, because we often get the same question or confusions.
This is the Pets Alive mission statement:

Pets Alive is a no-kill animal rescue, located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, about 1 1/2 hours from New York City. Our mission is to improve the lives of companion animals everywhere by any means possible, including rescue, adoption, advocacy, collaboration, intervention and education.

Pets Alive is not a local SPCA or shelter. Our mission is not to provide local animal control. We respect the work that local shelters are already doing in this area (handling local animal control issues and working diligently to return lost animals to their owners).

The main focus of Pets Alive, however, is to build, create and help sustain no-kill communities across the nation. To that end, we will try to help any organization that reaches out to us, and help any animal from any location, if shelters want help to stop killing the animals in their care. We help teach them proven methods for increasing adoptions, how to implement successful education programs for the public, how to develop successful low cost spay/neuter programs, and we help them by taking in their overflow of animals so they do not have to resort to killing.

Our mission is also to be a resource for mass rescues. We have large facilities. When that puppy mill in WV gets closed down, we want to be able to pull 220 dogs here (like we did a few years ago). When that animal testing lab that tortured more than 120 beagles closed down, we wanted to be able to pull every one of those beagles here. And we did. And adopted every one out (or worked with other rescues that took them). When that hoarder in West Virginia finally got over taken, we want to be that resource that took her 86 animals, and that group that waded through dead animal bodies to pull the live ones to safety at Pets Alive. When the NYC ACC was getting ready to kill 108 kittens and their moms, we took in and saved every single one. When a rescue in Arkansas closed down, we took in all 130 of their animals. And yes, when the hoarder up the street had 98 rottweilers in miserable conditions, we also offered to take them all here when the town impounded them.

THAT is what we do. THAT is our mission. Because if not us, then who? Most rescues or shelters don’t have the capacity, the staff, the finances or the correct frame of mind (no kill!) to do such rescues.

Does Pets Alive take in any local animals?
Pets Alive takes in, and/or helps about 3500 animals a year. So comparatively the number of those that are local animals, probably actually BEAT the TOTAL number of animals the smaller local shelters take in all year. And WE do it by actually helping them all and not killing ANY of them.

It IS true that the GREATER percentage of the animals we save are NOT local. But that is like comparing the local shelter to the Bronx Zoo. Local animal control is NOT our mission. We have to have our base of operation SOMEWHERE and Middletown (& Elmsford) is where they are. But Pets Alive’s mission is to save those animals that have run out of options. The ones who have been put on kill lists of other organizations and they have an actual date when they are going to die. We wait until the last moment (in the hopes they will be adopted) but then when they have no where else to turn, we pull them here.

THAT is our purpose. To give them all a second chance and to save them. So yes we do save many hundreds upon hundreds of local animals, but we ALSO save animals from outside of the local area. I will note for you that we rarely ever will take in a pit bull or a cat that is not from the local area because the local area is so inundated with those two types of animals. So when we have an opening for cats or pit bulls we almost exclusively pull them locally from owner surrenders, the Animal Care & Control, or the local shelters in our immediate area.

Do you give back to the local community?
Because we are located here the local community benefits GREATLY from our presence. We take in local animal control overflow whenever we can help. We spearheaded a local pet chow pantry and help feed over a hundred animals a month from people that can not afford it. We are opening up a medical clinic here to help financially desperate pet owners with altering and vaccinations and low cost medical care. We offer cheap micro chipping. We started a senior foster program so senior citizens can still have pets and help assuage their lonliness. We handle all the TNR (trap, neuter, return) for Middletown and Wallkill, to help keep the feral communities healthy and under control.

We also do take TONS of local animals. Like I said, out of that 3500 animals, we have taken HUNDREDS of local animals. HUNDREDS. Many though come from the local shelters here, when they have trouble placing them or are out of space or time. Why would any shelter or rescue kill an animal – ANY animal, before reaching out to see if we could take them, or another organization could take them? That’s disgusting. They should be both embarrassed, and ashamed, to put to death any animal before they have reached out and exhausted every single other avenue, and every single option for that animal.

What happens if someone brings you a stray that has been found?
If an animal is found on our property (or someone brings them here), we immediately scan the pet for a microchip and contact the owner if one can be found. If no chip or tags are found then we are obligated to contact the local animal control officers to notify them of that animal’s presence.

In most cases the ACO will come and collect the animal. They will document the animal into their database, take pictures and hold the animal for a period of 5 to 7 days depending on the local laws regarding such. This is a NECESSARY arrangement. Because we have no contracts with the city, or state, or government agencies we are NOT a reclamation center. Owners of lost pets can not come here to reclaim or find their pets (we will always keep our own records of these animals in case someone does happen to call or come by). Since we are not the local SPCA or reclamation center that animal is placed somewhere where he or she can be FOUND if someone is looking for them. After that, the animal is usually placed for adoption at the local shelter it is currently residing at. If a home is NOT found and that animal faces euthanasia, we are then contacted, and can then take the animal into our facility.

So recently some people have been saying that we dump animals on the local kill shelters. This is not true. But since we have no contracts with the city, we do not take in stray animals. All stray animals must go through the “process” to give their owners every opportunity to find and reclaim them. We feel that is very important if someone is desperately seeking their lost pet – that they be able to find them! And it enables the local shelters to make some additional funds from reclamation fees as well.

Additionally ALL the local shelters know to reach out to us before killing ANY animals in their care to see if we can possibly help and take that animal here. If they are not reaching out to us, like the Port Jervis humane Society refuses to do, and killing animals ANYWAY …then shame on them. That is a disgrace.

What is a sanctuary?
What is the difference between that and a no-kill shelter?

There is only one legitimate definition of No Kill. It is where:

  • Healthy dogs and cats (and other animals) are saved;
  • Treatable dogs and cats (and other animals) are saved;
  • Healthy and treatable feral cats are saved.

You can not call yourself a no-kill facility if you are killing animals with treatable conditions such as ringworm in cats, dogs with food guarding, kittens with conjunctivitis, puppies with kennel cough, or a pet with a broken leg. You are not a no kill facility and you are definitely not a sanctuary.

An animal SANCTUARY however is defined as this:

An animal sanctuary is a facility where animals live and are protected for the rest of their lives. All sanctuaries do not seek to place animals with individuals or groups. Some, instead, maintain each animal until his or her natural death. (Note: Pets Alive does NOT do this, we seek to rehab and adopt out and find forever homes for all our animals.) In some cases, an establishment may have characteristics of both a sanctuary and a shelter; for instance, some animals may be in residence temporarily until a good home is found and others may be permanent residents. The mission of sanctuaries is generally to be safe havens, where the animals receive the best care that the sanctuaries can provide.

How are they different then?
Well, sanctuaries often house more difficult to place or aggressive animals. Sanctuaries also do not EVER kill animals (excepting medical euthanasia for suffering animals with no chance of recovery), and sanctuaries are challenged to provide a higher quality of long term care for their animals (more stimulating environments, more one-on-one help for their animals).

When you choose to run a sanctuary it is not enough to provide food and housing for the animals in your care. It is critical that you provide for ALL the animals needs which include emotional and mental stimulation.

Your responsibility when running a sanctuary is to provide the highest quality of life you can, and to do all you can to increase an animal’s chances for adoption. Some dogs do well with the normal routine of of care and feeding, time with staff and volunteers, and walks on a path. Others arrive with, or develop, behaviors that make them unsuited for, or at least, unattractive to, many potential adopters.

Most of these behaviors will not improve if you continue the same activities and interactions with them. Their behavior is, in part, a response to things as they are. Their behavior will not change for the better unless you change your behavior around them. It is critical to help these animals with their behavior issues so more people can interact with them and improve their chances of finding a home!

What do I mean by that? Well for example a dog with behavior issues may need extra time with trainers or experienced handlers. They may need extra stimulation and mental exercises – this can be an agility course, play time in groups with other dogs, off site time – such as trips to the ice cream parlor or overnights with staff or volunteers. It means looking at and evaluating each as a separate being and not lumping them in and treating them as “status quo”. And “warehousing” animals is not EVER acceptable. Taking an animal off a kill list and stuffing them into a back cage and thinking you saved them, is wretched and unacceptable. That is NOT enough.

Any other questions about Pets Alive?
If so please post in the comments and I will try to address them all! Please don’t believe the non “facts” people love to spew about us. It sometimes seems the more you do, the more people feel the need to try to tear you down.

I will always be honest with you – even when we screw up (and we have!) but always come and ask us directly for a response!

Filed in Animal Rescue by kerry on Jan 02, 2013.  There are 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Who and What is Pets Alive?”

  1. Linda Says:

    Excellent as always. Continue the great work. I admire the dedication of both you and the whole staff at Pets Alive.

  2. Diane Bruner Says:

    You are the best.

  3. Beret Says:


  4. Sandy Says:

    One only need come for a short visit to Pets Alive, to witness the love and caring for the animals there. It’s not just what you will see, it’s what you will feel. Hope is always in the air and shines through the eyes of the animals.

  5. Andrew Says:


    I was wondering how i can help.

    I live in Westchester County.Iv always owned either a cat or dog (sometimes both) and was wondering what I should do to help?
    My idea is to voluteer at a local animal shelter and make sure animals are properly taken care of. If I ever find a stray or know someone who needs to get rid of their pet then i will make sure to make the drive to the Catskills to drop the animal off to you guys!

  6. Samantha Says:

    I understand you aren’t contracted with animal control to take in stray animals… that is the job of a humane society… Then why are you setting Middletown Humane Society up to refuse to sign contracts with townships for animal control? I’m curious as to where these animals should go now? Do you think stray animals will just disappear. Middletown is a large area to have no animal shelter taking in animals. Perhaps you should do your job and let them do theirs.

  7. kerry Says:

    Hi Samantha, You seem to be confused.

    Pets Alive isn’t affiliated with the Middletown Humane Society. We do not manage, run them, or make any decisions for them.
    Our problem with the PREVIOUS administration of the Middletown Humane Society was that, like the Port Jervis Humane Society, they would not contact us BEFORE KILLING ANIMALS IN THEIR care and give us the opportunity to take them here.

    Now they do.
    They contact us if they are full, and we will try to take animals here for them, they contact us when they need help with a behavior eval and we will lend them Pat, or they contact us when they need help with a situation, and we try to help. Likewise we reach out to THEM when we need some help.

    We now have a mutually beneficial relationship that helps animals and no animal dies before he or she has an opportunity for rescue, which is all we ask.

    As to any other issues or situations with Middletown or the Middletown Humane Society, you would need to take that up with them.
    We have no input on any of that or contractual negotiations between them and the town.

  8. Samantha Says:

    Then why were you at the Middletown City Clerks office telling them they can’t force the Middletown Humane Society to take stray animals?

  9. kerry Says:

    I wasn’t.
    Sheesh, you are TRULY very misinformed dear.
    I have never been to the City Clerks office to tell them they can’t force Middletown Humane to take stray animals.
    I have nothing to do with Middletown Humane and the city agreements or contracts. Enough now, you’re just being weird now.

  10. Charles Reinhorn DMD Says:

    Dear Kerry, Just so deeply grateful for your generous offer to help Olive Branch achieve NoKill. You have given us so many ideas now; we are on the case with all we have. We are sending a donation this week, and you can be assured we will raise donations for you in nearby Memphis, too. Middletown will have many supporters down here as we publicize and promote your mission.
    Sincerely, Chuck

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