Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Why is it..."

Last week Mystic and I were invited to talk to a group of Girl Scouts about HAWS. I started off giving my usual speech about what HAWS does for Waukesha County and why animals end up there when one of the girls raised her hand with a question.

She asked; "Why is it that pet stores sell their animals for more than animal shelters, but the cages aren't as clean as in a shelter."

I have to say I had a really good feeling when I heard this questions. First of all, HAWS kennel staff do an extremely good job ensuring that the animals are kept in very clean cages -- it's a on-going effort throughout the day. Secondly, it was a recognition by a kid that pet stores generally do charge more for their animals than what an animal shelter charges in adoption fees. And lastly - it was question that in all my 7 years on the job I'd never heard before. I like getting unique questions!

Honestly I can't speak to the cleanliness aspect of the question since I so very rarely frequent pet stores that sell animals. I have seen pet stores with very clean cages, but I've also heard stories from other people about pet stores with caging that was so filthy as to be inhumane.

As far as our adoption fees being lower I do have an explanation. Pet stores are in business to make money. They are a business and it would be bad business to sell something for less than you can get for it. This may also account for the fact that some pet stores can't keep up with the cleanliness of the caging -- they may not be able to afford to have enough staff on hand to constantly clean the cages throughout the day and still be able to make a profit.

HAWS is a non-profit organization with a mission to find good homes for our animals. We don't need to make a profit on our adoptions -- and actually we lose money on every animal we adopt out since we spend way more on veterinary care, medication, food, kennel staff to care for the animals and other supplies than we make on our adoption fees. And this is why we rely so greatly on the public to donate supplies and money so that we can continue to do the work we do.

And thanks to the Girl Scouts -- many of the troops donate both items from our wish list and money to help us with our mission.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Visiting Llamas

One of the benefits of having a camp at an animal shelter is being able to give the children experiences with animals that might be new to them. We do this with all the animals that end up in the shelter, but occasionally we are able to bring in animals that usually don't end up in shelters.

Mark and Kathy Harder own a llama farm out in the Watertown area and for many years have been kind enough to bring a llama or two to HAWS Kids 'N Critters Day camp to teach the kids about llama behavior, what kind of pets they make, and allow the children to get up close and personal with the animals. This is definately a first time experience for many of the kids attending camp.

I learn a little something about llamas every time the Harder's visit. Llamas really aren't expensive to keep - one llama cost no more than having a medium to large dog. They are very clean animals and most of the time prefer to eliminate in the same areas -- which means that the floor is clean after the llama leaves. In many places they use llamas as guardian animals with other livestock since llamas are very assertive and will attack predators.

The new piece of information I learned on this visit is that llamas like to sniff new people during their greeting. And Addy did exactly that on Monday when the kids were coming up to say "hi" and give her a little bit of attention. Apparently Addy felt that the kids were ok because she felt no urge to spit at them. And the kids really liked meeting her as well.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Tribute to an Education Snake

Sadly HAWS education snake, Severus, died over the weekend. It wasn't unexpected -- she was surrendered to us in 2007 and the previous owners told us she was 25 at the time; that would have made her almost 29 years old at the time of her death. With a California King Snake's life expectancy being between 20 and 30 years, it turns out she lived to a ripe old age.

We didn't know Severus was a "she" until last year when she was experiencing some gastrointestinal distress and we had her visit Dr. Kevin Ruch at Elmbrook Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Ruch is a specialist in reptile medicine and he did a great job caring for her, and identified her as a female.

Severus was the perfection education animal. She was content to be left alone, and happy to be brought out and handled as well. Because most kids haven't ever held a snake, she gave the kids in our education programs a new experience. And it was fun to see the kids start out repulsed and then come to think she was really cool.

Now that she's sunning herself on the snake rock in the sky Severus will be missed here at HAWS, and we are thankful for the almost 4 years of service she was able to contribute.