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SPCA provides services for seniors

By Staff | Jan 7, 2011

Dorothy Noll, Montoursville, is holding an 8 week old miniature Boston Terrier that was seized from an abusive investigation of a puppy mill in Montgomery. Next to her is Ruth Bieber from Muncy with John R. Hettinger, Director of Development at the SPCA. The puppy will grow to about 10 to 12 lbs.

MUNCY – Recently the George Meck Senior Center in Muncy Township held a program with guest speaker, John R. Hettinger, Director of Development with the Lycoming County SPCA to explain discount services for seniors.

Many seniors were unaware that the SPCA will offer voucher programs to help them care for their pets. Sometimes it gets down to the point where older individuals can no longer care for their pets. “They have to choose between paying for their medications or caring for their animals in this downsizing economy,” said Hettinger. Seniors can come to the shelter for voucher programs to receive veterinary care.

Starting January 1, 2011 if you are over the age of 55, the Purina Foundation has initiated a program offering low cost fees for adoptions and the first set of shots for cats and dogs.

The SPCA will also do requested euthanasia for a fee, another community service and will work with local veterinarians. All of the vets in Lycoming County accept the vouchers for the seniors, thanks to a grant from the county.

Hettinger went on to explain that the SPCA was fortunate to have received an endowment fund which has enabled them to build a larger shelter in the late 80’s in order to shelter more animals. “This has helped us to keep from doing unnecessary euthanasia on the animals. We can house them longer, even up to a year or so until they are adopted,” Hettinger said as he handed out the new 2011 annual “Pawtraits” pet calendar to all of the seniors.

“We accept and handle adoptions for strays and abused animals,” he added. “All cats who leave the shelter have their rabies shots,” another free service in the community for seniors, he said.

There were some tips and advisements he made to the senior community, namely not to feed any wild animals and strays. “It is difficult to turn a stray cat into a pet.” Feral cats can form colonies, and some cats are bred with bobcats. “These are the most dangerous and can be predatory. We are getting a lot of this in Old Lycoming Township near the Trout Run area,” Hettinger warned. Much of the gas drilling in the area is forcing out wildlife and creating new breeds. “This is a whole new issue and cats become prey for food,” he said. “Try to reduce the colonies. Get all animals neutered and spayed, and try not to feed them outdoors.”

Another service and challenge for the SPCA is rescuing animals from illegal puppy mills. He brought in one of 4 Boston Terrier puppies recently seized in the Montgomery area to show the seniors. The mother, one of 12 dogs captured, was pregnant. Hettinger said he takes the pregnant animals home with him to care for them, so they can have their litter in a safe and quiet environment.

The agency works in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, the governing entity that oversees the safety of animals through Dog Law officers. Hettinger also explained that 5 mills were shut down over the past 3 years in Lycoming County. “They often breed them in garages. The SPCA can go undercover to help find the puppy mills, then the Dog Law Officer, Scott Schuler, comes in and arrests them.” It is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania and a $100 fine. The third offense can lead to prison, and could build up to a felony if multiple offenses are committed.

Dogs are classified as property under the Dept. of Agriculture and considered to be livestock. “Dog breeding is part of the Dept. of Agriculture just like rabbits and chickens,” Hettinger said. There are no laws on the books for cats.

Several animals were on hold to be adopted during the holidays assured Hettinger. The SPCA in Lycoming County shelters an average of about 30 to 35 dogs a month and about 40 cats. Sometimes they are in excess housing 80 cats and 80 dogs.

“We have no exotics right now. We take horses, too, and snakes.” Local farmers in the area volunteer to house them. “We only take domesticated animals,” said Hettinger who encouraged everyone to adopt a shelter dog. “But if a pedigree is desired, go to a reputable breeder,” he said. Look for an AKC registration, not ACA (American Canine Association) which was created by puppy mills to register dogs.

Local retailer, Petco, works with the SPCA to do adoptions. The SPCA is there every other Saturday and they take some of their dogs with them. LAPS is also there with cats and sometimes the Greyhound Rescue Team will bring some of their dogs for adoption. “We go out of the county too to help other humane societies with their adoptions,” concluded Hettinger. Many of the other shelters are reaching full capacities with their strays and animals have to be moved to other shelters. The Lycoming County SPCA averages about 4,000 domestic animals a year and often make referrals to rescue groups.

The SPCA is currently seeking participants for their 2012 Pawtraits Pet Calendar. The official 2012 calendar contest begins on March 9, 2011. Donations can also be made to Lycoming County SPCA, 2805 Reach Rd., Williamsport, PA 17701.