Pets Hope to Find Furever Homes

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

A young couple bought a German Shepherd puppy from a local pet store for more than $1,000. They named him and invited him to become a part of their family. What they didn’t realize was how much work goes into taking care of a puppy, and they soon realized this new addition to their family was too much to handle.

They ended up taking the shepherd to Blue Chip Farms Animal Rescue in Dallas.

Blue Chip Farms workers said the pup often bared his teeth to volunteers and other animals because he was frightened. They said he was acting out in an effort to defend himself. So volunteers dedicated time to working with him. They exposed him to other dogs and people. Like any other animal at the shelter, the pup was neutered by a veterinarian and received the vaccinations he needed.

Had this dog ended up in another shelter, he may have been euthanized at only nine months old.

Blue Chip farms is a no-kill animal shelter where workers and volunteers strive to save as many dogs and cats from euthanasia as possible.

Marge Bart, owner and founder, has been saving animals for over a decade.

“I don’t believe there are any bad dogs. Animals don’t start out bad just like people don’t start out bad. So what happens is that people don’t socialize them or they don’t train them so the dogs become scared, frightened and they show fear with their teeth,” Bart said.

While there are over 60 no-kill shelters in Pennsylvania, Bart says more are needed, especially in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area.

“We need for the SPCA to be no-kill, but it takes money, funds and people are too quick to give up their animals. I mean, one little problem and they are bringing them back to a shelter instead of saying, ‘You know, I’m going to work with him.’”

Bart urges pet owners to become educated about no-kill shelters. While both Blue Chip and the SPCA are nonprofit, Blue Chip is a no-kill shelter and the SPCA is an opendoor shelter, accepting any animal that is dropped off.

“When we take in a stray dog, we don’t get any money for it,” Bart said. “But if the SPCA takes in a stray dog, the county gives them so much money. If they get overcrowded they have to kill dogs because they have to take in more. So they kill the ones that aren’t adoptable.

We now have 13 of what I call ‘permanent residents.’ They are old dogs that have health issues. Those dogs would not survive at the SPCA.”

Bart said unadopted animals become residents of the shelter. No animal at Blue Chip Farms is euthanized unless it is best for the animal’s health or it is necessary to relieve suffering.

Occasionally, Bart said, animals are adopted and later returned. She said that roughly 10 percent of all adoptions fail.

“I mean, you wouldn’t bring your kids back if they spilled milk. We recommend trainers, and we even offer to pay for the training, but people say they just can’t deal with it.”

Bart said she wants people to understand that the shelter is a rescue, not a pet store, which she says is often a point of confusion.

“We have a lot of people who come in and they want a young dog. But people call here and say, ‘I want a golden retriever puppy.’

It’s like, come on. This isn’t a mail order. This is a rescue. We have so many nice dogs but people have to work with them,” Bart said.

In 2012 about 400 dogs and about 200 cats at the rescue were adopted by loving owners. Bart said dogs are easier to match with owners than cats are because people who love cats already have two or three, and people who don’t aren’t interested.

Blue Chip charges $150 per dog adoption and $40 per cat, but the fee does not cover the cost of the animals’ care. Blue Chip spends more than $250 per animal for spaying or neutering, vaccinations, microchips, and initial grooming.

Blue Chip spends $8,000 each month on veterinary bills alone. It also pays for liter, food, grooming and laundry. While Bart and the other volunteers don’t want to think about money, she said they have to survive.

“I wouldn’t change it at all. If I had to do it all over again I would do it. You want to help more animals.”

The shelter has 10 dedicated volunteers and 15 more that come on a fairly regular basis.

Bart said that number must double to cover the amount of help required.

“It’s a lot of work. We need an enormous amount of volunteers. It stresses the volunteers out because it is an endless battle.”

The shelter’s growing regional notoriety has been a blessing and a curse to the shelter, said Bart.

“We’ve become better known and that’s good and bad because we are getting more volunteers, we are getting more donations but also we get a high amount of traffic of people coming, and a lot of times they just want to walk through like it’s a petting zoo. So that takes our time away from working with all the animals. If the phone’s not ringing off the hook there are people dropping animals off. It’s frustrating be- cause you want to help them all.”

Maryann Cleary, has volun- teered at the rescue for four years, and credits Bart as to one of the reasons she works so hard.

“Marge is amazing. She’s the reason why I keep coming back.” Cleary is a regular dog walker

and gives tours to the new volun- teers. She started volunteering after her son Michael was killed in Iraq.

“It’s my therapy, and I stick with it because Marge is just incredible and such an inspiration.”

Workers say an average day on the farm is non-stop toil.

At 6:30 a.m. Bart and volunteers get the small dogs out for a quick walk. After each dog has had a chance to go outside, workers begin feeding more than 200 cats, about 50 dogs and three rabbits. A few hours later it’s back to taking all the dogs outside and for a walk. In addition, there is cleaning and stocking that needs to be done, and workers maintain social media.

“Social media helps a great deal. When we have animals that are found we take pictures of them and put them out there so right away we can hopefully find their owners,” Bart said.

Bart encourages prospective pet owners to prepare by becoming educated about responsible animal ownership. She says it is very important to get pets spayed or neutered right away and understand how to keep them healthy – the right food they should eat and how often they should be walked or exercised.

Bart and other volunteers attend schools and organizations to help spread the word about pet ownership.

Eventually the rescue hopes to expand by using part of the 20 acres of land it owns across the street for a kennel to house older dogs and permanent residents.

Bart also plans to grow the number of volunteers and the rescue’s parking area, which becomes crowded on weekends when the shelter sees its most volunteers and visitors.

To volunteer or donate to the shelter call 570-333-5265.

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