Position statements

Learn about important animal welfare issues

The Brandywine Valley SPCA follows best practices in open admission, no-kill sheltering while also leading the way with progressive programs and services. These position statements summarize the organization’s stance on important issues in animal welfare.

The BVSPCA believes that in circumstances in which the luxury of available space in a shelter or foster home is not available, team members responsible for making such decisions must act to save the most lives possible with the resources available. Frequently, the decision will involve balancing the needs of living neonatal kittens and puppies already in the sheltering system on the one hand with the needs of fetal animals on the other. In these instances, the BVSPCA prioritizes the care of those already born and will spay pregnant animals.

Feral cats in our care, with unknown health histories and observably not social to humans, are fixed regardless of the status of a pregnancy. Because of their behavioral challenges, we cannot properly examine feral cats until after they’ve been anesthetized and understand that there exist too many risks for young kittens born in the wild.

The BVSPCA supports and promotes trap-neuter-return (TNR) in the management of free-roaming and community cat populations as part of a comprehensive population control strategy. TNR programs provide a humane and more effective alternative to euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats to manage community cat population. Community cats often have a food source and established life at a location it is familiar with, which resources can only support a given number of cats. Removing community cats simply opens space within a colony for a new cat to find for those resources.

Trapping to euthanize is simply a revolving door. Any cat removed from a colony and killed will likely be replaced by another. Such cats should be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped, and permanently identified as such with a tattoo and/or microchip prior to return to their original location so anyone encountering a cat or colony knows the cat is been part of a managed program.

TNR programs should be part of a larger management strategy that may include public education, the promotion of responsible cat ownership, as well as affordable and easily accessible spay-neuter, veterinary care, and adoption programs. The Boardwalk Cats Project in Atlantic City, NJ is just one example of the success that a multi-faceted TNR program can have, a project that saw a 75% reduction in the free-roaming cat population of managed colonies.

Across our nation it is estimated that, annually, nearly three-quarters of cats who enter animal shelters are euthanized. Most of these are free-roaming “community cats,” healthy and thriving in their environment but not socialized to humans. Of the cats arriving to shelters, only about 2 to 5 percent are reunited with their guardians. That’s why BVSPCA supports and has spearheaded robust return-to-field programs, which allow for healthy community cats entering shelters, lacking identification to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped and returned to where they were found.

These programs also allow owned cats to make their way back home, and has been demonstrated to reduce the number of community cats overall as the cats returned will not reproduce or contribute to free-roaming cat overpopulation.

Friendly cats and kittens that enter the shelter system should be placed into an adoption program if possible. If adoption is not an option, the BVSPCA believes that healthy community cats should be incorporated into a Return-to-Field program.

In alignment with the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the BVSPCA supports early-age (e.g., 6 to 18 weeks of age) sterilization of dogs and cats as part of a multi-faceted, humane approach to curb overpopulation.

The BVSPCA strongly supports the spaying/neutering of domestic pets prior to sexual maturity to also prevent the birth of unwanted litters, and ultimately keep pets out of shelters. Being sexually intact has also been identified as a top risk factor for pets to be turned in to animal shelters due to reproductive behaviors including wandering in search of a mate or spraying/marking behaviors. By sterilizing animals prior to adoption, the BVSPCA increases the odds of an animal placed into a new home being kept by their family, for life.

Pediatric spay/neuter offers many advantages including safe anesthetic and surgical techniques, shorter surgical and recovery times, and reduction of the inherent risks and costs associated with performing the same surgery while pregnant or in heat. Long-term benefits include a reduction in undesirable reproductive behaviors, risk of pyometra (an infection of the uterus) and mammary tumors, and the elimination of the risk of testicular and ovarian tumors.

For a community to be considered no-kill, no healthy or treatable animal is euthanized when the necessary resources are available. The community’s focus should be on saving as many lives as possible through positive outcomes (adoption, transfer to rescue groups, etc.)

The no-kill threshold for a community is considered to be a 90 percent live release rate or 90 percent of animals exiting alive. That means the shelter(s), private organizations, SPCAs and/or humane societies handling the animal control intake and surrenders in that community must be collectively saving 90 percent or more of the animals who come through their systems.

The BVSPCA’s no-kill work began in Chester and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania and has recently helped to lead Delaware to become the first No-Kill State in the nation, seeing the state-wide Live Release Rate (LRR) to 97% at the end of 2017, since beginning to provide state-wide care for stray animals in 2015; the state-wide LRR had previously peaked at 85%.

The BVSPCA practices and promotes an open adoption processes. This approach does away with rigid adoption policies and lengthy applications, and utilizes open ended conversations to help anyone walking into a BVSPCA shelter feel respected, become more educated about any pet’s needs and help determine which type of pet may be appropriate for their home.

Our trained staff engage potential pet parents at our shelters, via phone, online, and at off-site events to enhance the entire adoption experience and to better ensure an adopted pet’s future in with its new family. Through an open adoption process stronger bonds can be built between shelters and adopters with the shared goal of a long and happy relationship with their new pet. Children who are part of this positive process may, in the future, also look toward adoption as their first option.

The BVSPCA recognizes that reducing barriers in the adoption process will not result in individuals getting pets who otherwise would not have done so. Pets can be found through a variety of scenarios and circumstances. Our goal is to strive for more people to look to find a new pet from an animal shelter first before considering any other source. Animal shelters can place a pet into a home who has been sterilized and vaccinated and comes with care education and resources to support families through the life of their pet, potentially leading to future reduction in shelter intake.

Nation-wide, communities are faced with many problems when it comes to topics regarding domestic animals. Until recently, animal control, sheltering, and law enforcement would often provide pets with limited chances for adoption or getting back to their owners and offer pet parents more citations and fines than resources and education. However, the BVSPCA believes that by offering pets and their owners judgement-free resources, providing a support system for families in need, and inviting the community to be a part of the solutions to end wide-spread issues will influence more and positive long-term change.

As an alternative to continually penalizing pet owners for violating ordinances, organizations may be able to provide information and resources (free shots, food, housing, enrichment and S/N), thus giving community members an opportunity to make humane choices for their animals to better their quality of life.

Instead of picking up a loose dog and immediately taking him to the shelter, the BVSPCA encourages animal control officers to scan every pet for a microchip, research rabies or license tags, and to search locally, on foot on by vehicle, for his or her home. This Return-To-Owner in the field is not only more humane, it reduces intake. Additionally, if a pet’s owner is found, taking the time to explain why keeping their dog under their control is important or to discuss the value of S/N for outdoor cats can make a huge impact on community animal issues.

The BVSPCA believes that the safest place for an animal is in his or her home, which is why we’ve implemented safety net programs in the communities we serve. These programs provide pet parents with an alternative to surrendering their pets to an animal shelter should they encounter a difficult time when they simply need a bridge to help care for the pet they love.

Each BVSPCA campus offers safety net programs that can range from pet food banks to financial assistance for veterinary services. Our Safety Net can utilize just one or a combination of resources from the list below.

One-on-one counseling: When a pet parent arrives at an animal shelter to surrender his or her pet, a staff member will seek to determine whether or not providing common resources such as crates, dog houses, vaccines, or other services would help that pet parent keep his or her animal in their home.

  • Pet food banks are income qualifying and available one the first and third Saturday of each month at all BVSPCA campuses.

  • Community vaccination or microchip clinics, spay/neuter services, collars, tags and flea treatment.

  • Pet and behavior help lines (via phone or e-mail).

  • Assistance with housing issues, such as finding pet friendly housing or helping to pay a pet deposit fee.

  • Veterinary care and temporary sheltering for a pet when an individual or family is a victim of domestic violence.

The BVSPCA believes shelter enrichment programs can help reduce the stress and boredom of life in kennel. All shelter pets can benefit from daily enrichment programs, but they can be especially valuable for large breed dogs who can tend to deteriorate quickly in kennels or long term residents.

With shelter animals, behaviors such as hyper-arousal, anxiety or depression are not uncommon when enrichment is not present.
Canines of any age may display behaviors that hinder adoption because they simply are not given the opportunity to chew, be mentally engaged, or interact with other dogs. In general, overall daily enrichment at BVSPCA shelters can include:

  • Daily walks

  • Social interaction (i.e. play groups)

  • Food games (using toys such as KONG™)

  • Olfactory stimulation (scents like lavender or lemongrass)

  • Auditory stimulation (sound tracks like Through A Dog’s Ear ®)

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