What’s happening now at the Port Jervis Humane Society?

photo 2-1Many people have been wondering what is happening now at the Port Jervis (Deepark) Humane Society.
You’ll remember that we did a series of blogs a few months ago about some really horrid conditions there, and the people that were running it.

In the months that followed, there have been some really fantastic changes to be noted at the Port Jervis Deerpark Humane Society.

The first positive thing to come of the whole mess was that the previous director, Bill is gone. Retired, forced out, left, quit – many different versions of what happened but it doesn’t matter. Bill is no longer there. He was the person responsible for the management and care of the animals there for the past 35+ years…and the person I would hold mostly responsible for the way things were.

My own experiences with trying to stop him from killing a dog that pets Alive could save was documented in a blog I wrote a number of years ago.

The fact is that if you don’t support no kill and don’t support NOT killing animals in your shelter then things can never really change.

When we first started our diatribe against the PJHS and all the horrors there, they had just recently hired a new shelter manager, Katrina who was working with Bill. Katrina, Bill….was all the same to us. The pictures and videos stood for themselves.

But once Bill was out, something beautiful happened.
Katrina, and the board that was left, decided to change things.

It wasn’t an overnight change…but they were committed to it.

One of the first things they did was reach out to us and arrange a meeting.
And we talked for a couple of hours.
Katrina, myself, some of the board.
And they seem to have been pretty unhappy with things there too.
They asked for a cease fire and a chance to make things better.

I know a snow job when I see one, and most of this meeting wasn’t a snow job.
We opened up a dialogue and started talking a LOT about many things.

Last week I went down to their facility to check things out for myself. We had heard from some volunteers that things had changed dramatically for the better and I wanted to write this blog if it were so. I reached out to Katrina and she took a lot of time out of her day to show me around and discuss the changes there and what her plans were to continue improving conditions.

photo 1First thing I noticed that all the animals had clean food and clean water. (Yeah, really – that wasn’t always so!).

Cat litterboxes and cages were clean. Cats were mostly one to a cage and not over crowded or on the floor in crates. They all had something to lie on – a towel, piece of carpet…something. Cleaning protocols and rules were in place. Signs and cage cards and notes were up and visible.

All the SICK cats were NO LONGER with the healthy cats in one room. All the sicks cats were in a separate room in the back medical ward. It also looked like they were all getting medical attention for their illnesses. Staff had a good grasp on what was wrong with each, and what medications or care they were receiving.

There is still no cat room where cats can wander free and have a place to socialize with each other. That is always sad to me in typical shelters, as our cat rooms are such happy places for our cats to hang out together on couches, or climb cat trees, or romp with toys, and it is a nice place for people to volunteer and visit with them and groom them. It is a happy place to visit a cat, and potentially to choose a cat to adopt.

(Note: the beautiful cat pictured below is available for adoption. She is declawed and has some litterbox issues but would be perfect for a person that perhaps had an outside catio! Can you help this gorgeous cat find a home?)

photo 5-1Seeing cats living full time in cages is just sad to me…but the hope is still there that they will find a place to create such a room in the future, and Katrina did seem to support the idea.

She did mention to me that vets they had spoken to didn’t like the idea of a cat room because then if a cat got sick how could you tell which one it was that was vomiting or had diarrhea? Well, on the surface that does seem to be a valid point, but in reality that doesn’t make that much sense. First, cats that are happy and socialized get sick LESS often…cutting down on your medical bills (cats in cages can often be stressed and this can cause them to have chronic upper respiratory issues). Also, if that is the belief than how do you validate adopting out a cat to anyone that already HAS a cat or two at home? How would THEY tell which of their OWN cats were sick?

The answer in all the catteries I have know of or have visited, ours, Best Friends, Karma Cats, Mid Hudson animal Aid – is that you KNOW your cats. You pay attention to things like who isn’t as active today or who is laying in a spot that is not their “normal” spot, and you spend extra time in that room watching for a cough, or a litter box visit. We will actually send volunteers into our cat rooms and say – “hey watch for a while and let us know”. The major organizations that have cat rooms don’t have an unnecessary issue with this at all. So it shouldn’t be a reason to stop any caged cat shelter from considering a cat room. We hope that PJHS will continue to consider an open cat room, and I do believe that they are leaning this way. But in the meantime the cats appeared to be well cared for and segregated properly.

I reiterate that there is no place for a cat volunteer to really spend time cuddling, grooming or playing with a cat though and if that was possible, it might also result in increased adoptions. One thing at a time though!

We then went to check out the dogs. The dog kennels are old and outdated, and unfortunately there is nothing any of us can do about this without spending a lot of money. At Pets Alive we lasted five years with absolutely deplorable kennels and we had dogs injured or fighting through them before we raised enough to redo them. It was horrible and every day we came in, in fear that dogs had broken through and killed one another. That didn’t happen, but still it was a fear and we hated our kennels. When we finally raised enough to redo them (thank you SideWalk Angel’s Foundation!) we could only afford to redo the INSIDE kennels – the outside are still horrible and need to be replaced. Again…one step at a time, for us too!

It is the same thing at the PJHS. The kennels are old and wearing down and need to be replaced for the safety of the dogs but that isn’t going to be something that can happen quickly or easily. In the meantime the dogs seemd to be in clean environments and all had clean water. Most seemed to be in good health but the stress of the kennels was also apparent for some for the dogs. Again, this is a tough situation with the old kennels and something we had issues with too (and STILL do in the outside part of the runs).

The answer? More volunteers to get these dogs OUT and walked and some time spent with them. They need more volunteers to help with the dog socialization and they especially need these volunteers DURING the week. If you can help and live nearby, consider giving some of your time to these dogs.

I was disappointed to see that only one dog in the kennel had anything to lay on. No bedding or blankets or Kuranda beds for them. Just the cement floor and in some cases they had smaller dogs in some LARGE kennels and some very large dogs in some narrow kennels. Not sure why that was. This week we did drop off a bunch of hospital pads that we had an excess of, so maybe they can lay something down for the dogs…or maybe people can donate items that work for the dogs to lay on. Laundry is a HUGE ordeal at our shelter and it is overwhelming. Katrina did mention that people donate HUGE comforters to them sometimes and they can NOT wash them in their smaller washing machine, hence they can not use them. So maybe that is why the dogs don’t have anything to lay on but the concrete floor. The massive amount of laundry it generates every day, and the fact that many items won’t fit in the washer. Kuranda beds would be the answer but admittedly they are costly.

They had a mama dog that had just given birth there. She was very comfy with lots of bedding for her and the pups to lay on, and had been moved to a quiet room away from the noise and bustle of the kennel. THAT alone was a great sign to me. I hate going into shelters and seeing puppies just born laying in kennels with their moms and all the other dogs barking and the daily work just going on around them. I was really thrilled to see that this dog had been moved to a bathroom inside a much quieter area at the shelter.

photo 1-1

The tour continued to seeing the drop off room where Animal Control officers leave animals overnight, and the medical room and medical ward for the sick cats. There is also a separate area for the court ordered dangerous dogs. They also have an outdoor farm animal area. While they do not currently have any farm animals they do have a few nice barns with decent enclosures for farm animals.

We discussed a lot of things. You’ve all read Dr. Roeder’s (their veterinarian’s) letter by now. Katrina had some things to say about that. I won’t address ALL of the charges that Dr. Roeder made, but I do feel that since I put her letter out there, that PJHS deserves equal time in regards to their side of it. Let me first say that Dr. Roeder is a very well respected veterinarian in this area. She was their vet on record for 30+ years….but according to Katrina, she didn’t go there to the shelter. Ever. That struck me as a little odd – if you are the veterinarian on record for 30+ years, why haven’t you regularly give a look-see to the facility and the care that is being given to the animals? Is that her job to come onsite? No. She isn’t their STAFF veterinarian, but in my world, it seems to make sense that she would come down to look things over now and again. As a vet, if she had been onsite regularly, could she have stopped the conditions and treatment that some of the animals were subjected to, much earlier?

photo 2The PJHS advised me that as to her comment that she had revoked Katrina’s license to perform euthanasia’s – they say she had no power to do that. Only the licensing board can revoke a license. She COULD and DID revoke her “recommendation” for Katrina, but she couldn’t take away the license itself, so Katrina did nothing wrong by continuing to do euthanasia’s after Dr. Roeder’s removal of her recommendation.

In regards to selling illegal drugs on their website and at the shelter, Katrina advised that this was flea and tick medication. She admitted that they DID do this, but when their drug rep advised they could not do so, they removed it.

In regards to using drugs they were not legally permitted to use without a veterinarian, they admit that they did do that on one occasion and the story they told me had me wondering if I wouldn’t do the exact same thing. Their version of that story is that a dog came in that was picked up by a police officer. The back of the officer’s car was saturated with blood and the dog was bouncing around like crazy. Repeatedly they tried to calm him enough to see where the blood was coming from so they could wrap it and get him to an emergency vet, but they say he was rapidly losing blood and was too hyper for them to get calmed down. So they sedated him with a drug they weren’t supposed to use, and they were able to staunch the blood flow, wrap the wound and get him to Dr. Roeder’s for exam and repair.

At this point, I am not saying what is true or what isn’t…but both sides tell a compelling tale and both sides are still battling it out. I’m going to move on from that but I felt since I posted Dr. Roeder’s letter, that it was only fair to also post their side of the issues discussed in that letter.

Some of the positive changes? We are working quite well together now. We held a seminar together on feeding bottle babies and trying to get some additional fosters to step up and help these orphaned or abandoned baby kittens who previously were killed. We have taken in an animal or two that they needed help with. We are sharing our donations with them if we have things they can use there, and we are communicating and working together on a regular basis.

We are even working together in regards to some pet shops in Port Jervis that sell dogs – and are developing a plan for a way to try to work with them to make sure these animals are cared for properly, or at least altered prior to “sale” (we are still working on that – more to come soon in regards to that incident), and we share texts and emails on a wide variety of things.

Other improvements in the past months?

  • Katrina advised they have a regular volunteer program now. Orientation is the first Sunday of every month from 12-1.
  • They offer a constant Adopt-One-Get-One free for all cats (ongoing special).
  • They are doing offsite adoption events every week.
  • They are developing their board again with responsible, animal-loving people.
  • Staff moral is much improved
  • The overall health of the animals has improved.
  • Relationships with volunteers have improved.
  • Dog training classes have started. Similar to our “Improving Adoptability” classes they recently held a seven week class with volunteers geared at helping shelter dogs.
  • Katrina is attending seminars in shelter enrichment programs.
  • They are working on building relationships with rescues to pull animals from them.
  • They recently signed up for the ASPCA M.A.P. program (which helps shelters connect with each other).
  • They created a catio for cats to spend some time in our of cages and with access to the fresh air.
  • Nursing moms and babies are NO LONGER euthanized – they are fostered out!
  • They are starting a TNR program for feral cats
  • They have not euthanized any dogs for space since Katrina has taken over.
  • They are trying to get the dogs more Kong toys
  • Trying to get donations of Feliway for cats
  • Working on a stereo/music system for the animals to decrease stressphoto 4-1
  • They are doing a T.A.R.A spay/neuter clinic for the public on August 1.

Goals for the future include not killing feral cats. Feral cats that come in are still being killed but they are developing programs to talk to the public and do TNR for these cats instead of killing them. They are encouraging the public to re-release them if they (PJHS) take care of the altering.

Some other positive things to mention – they will always take their animals back. Recently they drove all the way to Maryland to pick up a dog that had been adopted from them years before and picked up as a stray. They are committing to their dogs for life, even when this is inconvenient.

While I was there a litter of bottle baby kittens came in. The staff immediately sprang into action heating water bottles, getting bottles ready and reaching out to find a foster to bottle feed. If none could be found they were not going to kill them – instead a staff member would take them home for the night.

What they need now is mostly donations and volunteers. We beat them up when they were doing it wrong, now let’s get out there and support them for doing it right. They especially need dog walkers. They especially need volunteers during the week.

photo 5My final appeal is for you all to look at this cat, Morris, they have there. (I am sorry I took such a bad picture!) Morris is a beautiful guy that wanders free at the shelter. He is SUPER friendly and always wants to be wherever you are following you all over the place and trying to insinuate himself in whatever you are doing. He was returned to the shelter for being “too needy”.

I hope that someone who reads this blog will go and adopt Morris today. Tell them you read the blog, you support all the positive changes and you want to help give a needy cat as wonderful as this guy a home. You’ll be glad you did.

Filed in No-kill by kerry on Jun 26, 2013.  There are 10 Comments

10 Responses to “What’s happening now at the Port Jervis Humane Society?”

  1. Gabby T. Says:

    I’m blown away by the improvement! These are amazing steps for PJHS and I am so grateful to people like you Kerry for working with them to implement these much-needed changes.

    Just a little plug for super needy cats like Morris – I have one. He is incredibly codependent (while I have another that is not) and wants to be with me at all times when I am home. Follows me around, waits outside bathroom doors, sleeps on the bed, etc. Here’s the thing – needy cats are that way for a reason. Getting constant attention makes them feel better. The comfort you provide by adopting them is so incredibly rewarding. Please don’t let a cat’s neediness turn you off. They give so much love and are definitely worth it!

  2. Sandy Armor Says:

    Kerry, based on this great update, I just donated a Kuranda dog bed to the Port Jervis shelter. I’m really happy to hear how much life has improved for their animals.

  3. kerry Says:

    That is awesome Sandy.
    I’m not sure why they don’t have any so maybe should check with them first to make sure they are allowed to have them?

  4. kerry Says:

    Sandy – never mind. Just saw Katrina post on the blog. They can definitely use and want the kuranda beds!

  5. Steve Says:

    I’m very pleased to hear of all the changes taking place at PJHS. I would like to comment on the catio situation. If PJHS isn’t planning on turning the house next door into a spay/neuter clinic, they should convert a portion of it into a free-roaming catery/catio and adoption area. Would not be hard to do!

  6. Katrina Says:

    Thank you to all who are donating kuranda beds! They are so expensive that it’s hard to get the funding! I hope to get beds for all the dogs! In the mean time we love the hospital pads!

  7. Katrina Says:

    We are planning on starting our spay/neuters very soon! So that won’t work, however I have some room in the main building to maybe set up a “play” area where the cats can go to visit with volunteers and potential adopters.

  8. Kate Says:

    So happy to hear this!! I hope your transformation inspires other shelters to do the same. It’s not easy but now you’re proof that it’s possible! Congrats!

  9. Leslie Says:

    Wonderful news! Many thanks to Katrina and the board for their hard work and dedication to turning things around.

    In regards to Kongs, Kong has a program called “Kong Seconds” which sells their defects to animal welfare groups for very cheap: https://www.kongcompany.com/pet-partner-programs/order-kong-2nds/

    The shelter I volunteer at has a stress-management problem as well, but it’s much better since we started doing playgroups. We had Aimee Sadler out in April to teach us the technique and have since hired a person to run playgroups almost every day (although we still rely on volunteers to run dogs back and forth). The noise in the kennel has dropped considerably and the kennels stay much cleaner because all the dogs get the chance to get outside to do their business. It’s not the easiest program to implement, but I recommend considering it early because it’s so beneficial for the dogs!

    Again, congratulations and best of luck in the future!

  10. Punditor Says:

    Great post. Very informative. Thank you for sharing

Leave a Reply