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The Upper Valley Humane Society: The First Steps to Finding a Forever Home

Local non-profit rescue shelter and provides valuable service to the greater community

Is it better to get your pet from a breeder, or is it preferable to, as the saying goes, “adopt, don’t shop”?

Homeless pets have become an epidemic around the country and the globe. Even here in New Hampshire, there are many homeless pets waiting for a warm bed and loving home.

Mowgli, a 9 year old pitbull staying at the shelter

The staff of The Claw had the chance to visit the Upper Valley Humane Society, a local shelter located in Enfield, NH, and interact with some of the adoptable animals. Charlene Dandrea, the Volunteer and Youth Programs Coordinator for the UVHS, took the Claw staff on a tour of the facilities and answered questions about the UVHS, the animals, and the adoption process.

The UVHS was founded as a no-kill foster care network in 1959. The program served as a way to adopt animals back out to the community. But, as Ms. Dandrea pointed out, “The needs of the community outgrew the foster care network.” Therefore,  in 1972 the organization purchased a property in Plainfield. Eventually, the same thing happened where the needs of the community outgrew the services provided. In 1990, the current building was built and has been standing there to this day. In 2002, an additional building was built to provide more space for operations.

Spackle, a recently adopted lab mix, was excited to be able to run around and play with the Claw Staff

Most of the animals received at the shelter are animals that can no longer be taken care of. More often than not, these animals are “owner surrenders”, meaning the owner of the pet could no longer afford, handle, or provide appropriate care for their animal.

Along with this surrender service, the organization takes in strays. The shelter also accepts transports from other shelters in order to regulate the amount of animals in the shelter at one time: “We often do transports of cats from other shelters… if they have a ton of cats, and we have almost no cats, we’re going to help out a fellow shelter,” said Dandrea.

Vayta the tabby cat was quick to warm up to and snuggle with our writers

Besides cats, the Upper Valley Humane Society takes in rabbits, dogs, and small animals such as rats and ferrets. On occasion, the Human Society will also find homes for birds, and in the past have actually had pot bellied pigs. It does not, however, take in reptiles, as they need a specific environment which the center is not equipped to maintain. Usually, these reptiles are sent back out to specialist rescues.

A list of the animals adopted in September

Last year, in 2016, the shelter received 699 animals in search of homes. Pets are usually held at the shelter for an average of three to four weeks, so that they are healthy by the time they are available for adoption. But many pets stay at the shelter for several additional weeks while waiting to be adopted.

The longest staying animals are usually rabbits, averaging two months at the shelter before finally being adopted because, according to Dandrea, “Most people, when they think, ‘let’s go get a rabbit for the family,’ they go to the pet store. Not a lot of people think of an animal shelter, with, you know, smaller animals.”

Leo the long-haired rabbit was a crowd favorite, boasting luscious golden locks

This little guy was one of the largest but friendliest rabbits the staff had ever encountered

As a responsible rescue facility, the UVHS oftentimes has to heal sick or injured animals before putting them up for adoption. On some occasions however, they have to send pets to other service providers. Their staff only work part time, so when an individual or police officer calls in with an extremely injured animal, the rescue will direct them to a full time vet or emergency veterinary hospital.

The animals brought into the shelter that are not too sick are given different immunizations. This helps to create a clean and healthy environment, also cutting the costs for prospective owners. Most animals receive flea and tick treatments, as well as immunization shots, and are spayed or neutered. Dogs also receive de-worming medication, a microchip, and heartworm medication.  Cats are given a microchip, as well as Feline Leukemia (FIV) testing and immunization.These procedures add to the cost of adoption, but it is still much lower than one would expect to pay for a purebred puppy from a breeder.

Cats can be found in one of three rooms at the rescue, and visitors can spend ample time getting to know them before adopting.

Once the animals are ready for adoption, the process begins. The Upper Valley Humane Society operates on an “open adoption system,” in which the future owners meet with the animals and a coordinator. If all parties feel there is a good connection for the potential adoptable animal, then the adoption moves on to the next phase.

The shelter does not request any background checks or complete home inspections. “If we feel comfortable that you are going to give the animal a good home, then we will go through with the adoption,” said Dandrea.  After payment and paperwork, the animal is able to go home.

BooBoo the cat has free run of the cat room and its adjoining porch

If for any reason the match doesn’t work out — for example, if the animal turns out to be more active than expected — the shelter will take the animal back. For the first few months, the shelter will provide outside support through check-ins and meetings with the adopter and adoptee. Through this process, they are able to successfully complete around 700 adoptions per year.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the shelter is able to exist because of the work of the community. Volunteers, donations, and fundraising are all vital to their continuing operation. Although monetary donations are helpful, it is just as significant to receive laundry soap or paper towels. Supply donations like these allow the Society to spend their money on the animals, rather than having to devote it to daily supplies. As well as the mentioned methods above, the shelter receives financial support through fundraising year round, bequests, and grant writing.

A board keeps track of animals available for adoption and their release status.

They accept donations of any animal treat or toy, particularly KONGS and other durable chew toys. Food donations are also accepted, but it is processed differently. The non-profit actually receives food from Science Diet, a structured diet fed to all of the animals, for free.The food that is donated is then distributed to members of the community who may not be able to afford feeding their pet(s) so “Ultimately that will help keep pets in their home, as opposed to coming to us and finding a new home because their owners couldn’t afford their pets.”

When asked how the staff doesn’t end up taking all of the animals home, Dandrea explained that in some cases they do, but for the most part they keep each other in check. She concluded with the thought, “I get to hang out with them at the shelter, but I aIso get to see them go home to someone who’s going to love them as much as I would.” 

Spackle warmed up quickly to our staff, pouncing on editor Emma McGonigle with kisses galore

Kimball Union students interested in helping the shelter can make donations or donate their time by helping walk the dogs and keep the shelter clean.

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