Monday, 13 November 2017

Veterans Returning to the Workforce

By: Robert Fragasso, Animal Friends' Board of Directors
It is uplifting to see the gratitude that Americans exhibit toward the one percent of our population that serves in the all-volunteer military of our country, this rounded statistic according to the Department of Defense. These men and women have chosen to serve our country and will later return to productive civilian life. They are sorely needed as we are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers here in our area and nationally. There are several factors causing this.
  • Unemployment nationally and locally ranges between 4-5%. That is considered full employment.
  • Our educational system educates, but doesn’t typically teach marketable skills at the secondary and even post-secondary levels in many disciplines.
  • Employers are finding it difficult to locate potential employees with the right work attitude and people skills.
Military veterans, by nature of their service, present both job-specific skills and the right attitude toward work, customers and fellow workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics places unemployment among returning veterans the same as at the national levels, so most veterans come home prepared to enter the workforce. However that masks the challenges that a minority of returning veterans face in acclimating to civilian life.
Pew Research estimates that 10,000 Baby Boomers (born 1945 to 1964) will retire each day for the next 19 years. As Baby Boomers retire in increasing numbers, we will face an even tighter job pool from which to hire. This will result in higher pricing for goods and services and maybe even disruptions in the supply chain. Taking full advantage of the skills and life experience of returning veterans is mandated, as well as being the right thing to do for those who served our country.
The Department of Defense research studies put the ratio of returning vets with stress related issues at 10-18%. That doesn’t make them unemployable, but they may need adjustment assistance. My reading on the subject indicates that past wars and military campaigns were no different – they just weren’t as closely studied.

That’s where the Pets for Vets program at Animal Friends comes in to help. Emotional support dogs, trained to the unique needs of the veteran experiencing a physical or emotional challenge, are provided free, including complete starter equipment and ongoing consultative support. If a dog isn’t right for the veteran’s lifestyle, a companion cat or domesticated bunny serves very well in its place.
The monetary fund that supports Pets for Vets is named in memory of Major Ben E. Follansbee, a Green Beret and Army Ranger who succumbed to the stresses of his multiple combat deployments. Ben is one of the estimated 22 military veterans who take their own life every day. The Pets for Vets program at Animal Friends is meant to mitigate that statistic through the documented lifesaving power of companion animals.
You can help further the aims of this endeavor by:
  • Referring a veteran who may benefit to this program, which can be found described here.
  • Make a tax-deductible contribution. Checks should be made payable to Animal Friends and memo noted that it is for the Pets for Vets program. Send to Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237.
  • Refer a companion animal trainer to the program. The trainer’s compensation is covered by the Major Ben E. Follansbee Memorial Fund.
In this way, we can truly say “Thanks for Your Service” to the men and women who safeguarded our way of life in the war on terror and in past military conflicts.

    Friday, 10 November 2017

    Cold Weather Tips for Animal Caregivers

    To prepare for falling temperatures, Animal Friends urges anyone who owns or cares for outdoor animals – including feral cats – to take the time to ensure they will be safe and warm during the cold months ahead.

    While Animal Friends encourages pet owners to make pets part of the family and keep them inside the home, we recognize that in reality many animals live outside. So, we want to educate those caretakers about how to ensure that outdoor animals have access to proper food and warm, dry shelters.

    Blankets, towels and pillows can retain moisture and freeze, which is why straw is the best insulation against the cold and wet weather conditions.

    In addition to keeping outdoor animals’ living spaces insulated, there are other best practices pet owners should abide by, including:

    • Using a car mat or rug as a flap over a doghouse door to keep the inside free of wind, snow and rain.
    • Examining shelters carefully – and often – to ensure that there are no cracks or holes that will prevent the structure from keeping the animal safe.
    • Taking extra care to provide adequate amounts of drinkable water and food at all times during freezing temperatures.
    • Inspecting your pet's paws, ears and tail frequently for signs of frostbite – a very common occurrence. If you suspect frostbite, your pet will need to see a veterinarian immediately.
    • Monitoring your dog's tether to ensure it is not frozen to the ground or tangled. A tangled chain that is too short can cost your pet his or her life in bad weather.

    Animal Friends is hosting its annual Straw Drop, during which free bags of straw are offered to anyone who owns or cares for outdoor animals – including feral cats.

    Free bags of straw can be picked up at Animal Friends seven days a week.

    Together, we can make certain that once the cold winter weather arrives, the animals in our region will have a safe, warm and cozy place to go!

    Thursday, 9 November 2017

    Meet Rascal!

    A 2-year-old Mini Lop rabbit joyfully hops around the Outreach Center of Animal Friends during one of our BunRuns (resident rabbit recess!). He quickly races through a tunnel before finding a cardboard tube that he tosses into the air. He pauses just for second then is off and exploring once more. This silly, little guy is Rascal.

    Rascal came to Animal Friends this past spring when his former family noticed he wasn’t the same after they brought a dog home. The family thought Rascal would adjust and return to his spirited self. But they soon realized they couldn’t give him the help he needed and turned to Animal Friends.

    Once he was in our care, we were determined to bring back his true personality. From spending one-on-one time and taking him to BunRuns to giving him puzzles and lots of love, our staff and volunteers worked tirelessly with Rascal to get him out of his shell.

    After weeks of care and patience, we slowly but surely noticed his progress. Now, Rascal likes to make toys out of everything he can find! And, if you’re willing he’ll let you brush and pet him for as long as you can stand it.

    At Animal Friends, we’re committed to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming thousands of pets each year. But without your support, this cannot continue. With your support, medical, behavioral and holistic care will be provided to the animals in our care. With your support, thousands of pets will be given another chance at a life. With your support, more animals will find the loving homes they so deserve.

    But, there are still other pets – just like Rascal – who still need your help. So please, even making a simple Sarris candy purchase can help to ensure this lifesaving work continues.

    To Purchase Candy

    Tell your friends, neighbors and co-workers about Animal Friends and ask for their support through the purchase of these sweet treats. Direct them to and simply ask them to use the Group ID# 10-0375 and designate Animal Friends as the organization they choose when placing their order. Orders can be placed online through Thursday, Dec. 14.

    Christmas orders are due by Friday, Nov. 17 at 5 p.m.
    Orders ready for pickup starting Friday, Dec. 15 during regular hours
    (M-F 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and S-S 10 a.m.-6 p.m.).

    Monday, 6 November 2017

    Why You Should Adopt a Senior Pet

    November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month. And, to spread the word about the benefits of adding an older four-legged member to your family, here are five reasons why you should adopt a senior pet ...

    You can teach an old dog new tricks …

    The old expression simply isn’t true – not just for dogs, but for cats and rabbits, too! Unlike their youthful counterparts, senior pets can be much more focused on learning the rules of their new home. A puppy, kitten or baby bunny will often be distracted by the new sights, sounds and smells of a new environment. With an older animal companion who has been around the block a time or two, you’ll be the newest and most exciting thing in their world, so you’re sure to be the center of attention!

    What you see is what you get …

    When it comes to personality, behavior or medical needs, senior pets usually wear it all on their sleeve. Youngers animals are growing so fast, that they’re almost certain to undergo personality changes as they continue to develop. Plus, whether they’ve learned it in a previous home or during their time at a shelter, older pets can come with a head start on some obedience training!

    Golden Age Retrievers …

    Animal Friends recognizes the special benefits of matching senior pets with senior owners! Many of our older neighbors find the calm and loyal demeanor of a senior pet to be just what they’re looking for in a companion. The animal and human benefit from the bond they develop – and they’re both likely to become more active during some light play time or a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. And, Animal Friends’ unique Golden Age Retrievers adoption program even offers special discounts to senior citizens who are interested in adopting pets older than a certain age.

    They’re wise …

    Of course they’re adorable, but young pets can be a lot of work. Whether it’s a puppy who hasn’t grasped the finer points of house training, a cat who needs to learn the difference between the couch and the scratching post or a rabbit who stills sees those computer wires as tasty chew toys, you could have some serious training time on your hands. While nobody is perfect, many senior pets have picked up on some of these common household rules over the years. And, less time spent training means more time to get to know each other!

    Ready to love …

    The sad truth is that senior pets typically spend a much longer time in shelters, waiting to find loving homes. At Animals Friends, these pets receive plenty of love and affection each day from compassionate staff and volunteers, but nothing compares to having a home to call their very own. Just think how much love you could be missing out on by not giving the gift of a home to a sweet senior pet!

    Ready to learn more about a senior pet who is eager to find a loving home? Visit to find out who might be waiting to meet you!

    Friday, 3 November 2017

    Oats: Home to Home Adoption Program

    EDIT: We're happy to report that Oats has found a loving new home!
    Oats is a 5-year-old Terrier mix who joined his family about 3 years ago. He was originally adopted from a shelter in Texas after being found as a stray. Although he is very shy, Oats has never shown any signs of aggression toward humans or other animals. He's a sweet and gentle dog, but is fearful of new situations and loud noises like fireworks.
    This lovable boy is housebroken and loves going for long walks outside. He does well around small dogs and cats, but isn't a big fan of larger, energetic dogs. He would probably thrive in a family with another small dog to help him explore his new home. While he is very shy, Oats is great in the car and is very brave at a groomer or vet's office.
    Since adopting Oats, his family has welcomed two new members who are currently 2 years and 4 months old. Although he hasn't shown any signs of aggression toward them, the loud noises and chaos that come with young children are very scary to him. His family is heartbroken because they've watched his confidence slowly decrease as he's spent more and more time hiding. He has started losing weight, which is likely because of the increased stress he's been experiencing, especially because recent blood work indicated no medical issues that may have caused the weight loss. That's why his family has made the difficult decision that it's time to find a better life for Oats ... even if that means finding a new family for him.
    While it saddens his current family, they've debated rehoming him for quite some time. But in Oats' best interest, they've finally decided that he deserves a family that is a better fit for his timid personality. Although he's had a difficult time living with a baby and a toddler, Oats has frequently interacted with children elementary school age and older, and he does great! Oats just needs a calm and understanding family that can be patient with him as he overcomes his fear and slowly gains trust.


    Thursday, 2 November 2017

    Build a Feral Cat House

    Building a feral cat house is a great way to keep community cats safe from the elements during the cold winter months ahead. To get started with your feral cat house, you'll need to gather a few materials first.

    Materials needed:
    • Large Styrofoam cooler (or sheets of 1-inch thick hard Styrofoam)
    • Large cardboard box or plastic storage bin
    • Box cutter or utility knife
    • Black plastic sheeting
    • Gorilla tape
    • Straw

    To build your feral cat shelter, follow these steps:

    Place the Styrofoam cooler in a box that is about the same size and tape it closed or line the box with sheets of Styrofoam cut to fit.

    Cut a round doorway about six inches in diameter in one of the long sides of the box, cutting through both the box and Styrofoam. Do not cut the hole in the center – the wind will blow straight in.

    Be sure to cut the circle toward the side and high enough so the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground.

    Cut a piece of the plastic sheeting to completely cover the box.

    Wrap the box as tightly as possible and secure all loose ends with Gorilla tape.

    Be sure to cover all openings with tape to make the house as waterproof as possible.

    Cut the plastic sheeting that is covering the opening as if you're cutting a pie.

    Use small pieces of tape to secure the plastic and make a nice smooth opening.

    Stuff straw into the bottom of the box.

    When placing the shelter, be sure the opening faces the opposite direction of where the wind will be coming from. Keep in mind that the shelter is lightweight and may need to be anchored.

    Catnip can be sprinkled inside to attract cats.