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Local Animal Shelters Face Shortages

by Emily Lohr

Photo via the Animal Friends of Westmoreland County website.

Times have been changing constantly in our day-to-day lives. This includes local animal shelters, which have recently faced some good and bad times. 

Kelli Brisbane, the executive director of The Animal Friends of Westmoreland in Youngwood, said that the organization has seen an increase in donations lately. 

“There was definitely a big surge after Betty White’s death. We received over 9,000 dollars. We never had something like that happen before. We would’ve been grateful for any amount, like 1,000 dollars,” Brisbane said. 

The “Betty White surge” was a donating phenomenon that started after her death on Dec. 31. White was known as an animal advocate. Her passing inspired people to donate to their local animal shelters.

The Youngwood shelter has also experienced some challenges due to the pandemic. The shelter lost some volunteers because of safety concerns. That made processes like the three-times-a-day, 15-minute dog walks much harder for the remaining volunteers, considering that they have 30 dogs.

“There’s also an issue with shortages. We’ve been having a hard time with booking vaccine and neuter appointments, because there’s a shortage of veterinarians. They’ve had a hard time recently from the lack of respect they receive from customers,” Brisbane said. 

According to a 2014 CDC report on more than 11,000 U.S. veterinarians, 9% had current serious psychological distress, 31% had experienced depressive episodes, and 17% had experienced suicidal ideation since leaving veterinary school. Veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.

“They’re overrun and overworked,” Brisbane said. “At the beginning of this month, we tried calling to book vaccination and neuter appointments. They weren’t available until April.” 

While these difficulties are challenging to the volunteers and staff, there are ways that the community can help. 

According to Brisbane, there are different lists posted in the organization’s weekly newsletter of items they will always take, items they don’t need now, an item surplus list, and items that they will never need. 

They will always take instant rice, canned kitten/cat food, Simple Green cleaning products, garbage bags, bleach, paper towels, and gift cards to Lowe’s and Home Depot. They also need Nutrish by Rachael Ray for one of their longer residents, Dudley. They never take open containers of food or foods with red dye.

Dudley and his favorite food. Photo courtesy of Animal Friends.

Other ways to help would be signing up to volunteer. According to Brisbane, the times that they need covered the most are Wednesday afternoons, Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Anyone interested in helping Animal Friends at their Youngwood location or their Latrobe Farm Sanctuary can contact their Facebook page, their website, or their Instagram.

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