Photo by Alyse Horn
Harper is a 4-month-old male kitten that was found abandoned in a park. He is currently up for adoption.

By Alyse Horn

The Western PA Humane Society has come a long way since it was founded in 1874.

As the oldest animal charity in Pittsburgh, it is an open-door shelter meaning that every animal is accepted regardless of age, health, breed or personality.

Meeting the needs of all the animals brought into the shelter can be a challenge, but it has adapted and provides the best medical care and services that the organization can offer.

Kristen Lane, Humane Society director of marketing and public relations, said the shelter obtains dogs, cats and small animals in two ways – when an owner surrenders an animal or a stray is brought in.

Lane said when an animal is surrendered by an owner it can be an emotional time, because one of the most common reasons for surrendering is when an owner loses his or her job and cannot support the animal.

“Individuals who surrender [animals] are provided with a counselor who can give the owner different options, and sometimes people do not have to surrender their animal,” Lane said.

If an owner meets certain qualifications, the Humane Society can help the individual keep their pet by providing assistance “until that person gets back on their feet,” Lane said.

When an animal is taken in by the organization, the Humane Society’s first step is to give the animal a complete medical overview and insert a microchip. If it is a stray animal, Lane said it is held for 48 hours so the possible owner can find his or her pet and the pet is put on the Humane Society’s Lost and Found page on its website.

The animal is also scanned to see if a microchip has already been inserted. Lane said implanting a microchip into a pet is something that all owners should do, as it is the best possible way to be reunited with a pet if it is lost.

After 48 hours, the animal undergoes a 45 minute behavioral protocol to better understand the personality of the animal. Lane said dogs first undergo a leash test and then another dog and a cat are brought in to see how it reacts around other animals. Then there is a food test, where an artificial arm is used to see how the dog reacts when its food is taken away while eating.

After the Humane Society has completed and recorded the health and personality tests, the animal is then put on the adoption floor.

There is a store located on the adoption floor where people can pick up food and other necessities for their newly adopted animals.

“Our food and treats are super high quality,” Lane said. “There are no grains found in the food, and all of the products are made in the USA.”

There are classes that the Human Society offers for training a new pet, and the organization is also certified to train and license therapy dogs.

Lane said the Humane Society takes every precaution to ensure that the animals are in a healthy and comfortable environment.

The organization temporarily stopped dog adoptions and dog intake, effective June 7, due to the fact that a dog that recently received care at the shelter tested positive for a virus called canine distemper.

Lane said in a press release that “Canine distemper affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing and thick mucus coming from the eyes and nose, as well as fever, lethargy, sudden vomiting and diarrhea, depression and/or loss of appetite.”

As soon as the Humane Society determines that its shelter dogs have been cleared, it will resume dog adoptions and intake. Cat and small animal adoptions and intake, as well as the appointment-only Wellness clinic are functioning as normal.

“As Pittsburgh’s first animal welfare organization, we take our responsibility to protect animals very seriously,” David Janusek, executive director of the Humane Society, said. “Temporarily suspending dog adoptions and intake lets us focus resources on determining if any dogs at our shelter are at risk, and if so, take steps to quarantine them.”

During the quarantine, volunteers are still able to provide services for the organization. Currently there are 1,800 volunteers who come in to help walk dogs, cuddle with kittens and play with rabbits that are being held at the Humane Society. Lane said the organization is always accepting new volunteers to help enrich the animal’s lives.

For more information on volunteering, click here.