A community-funded, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Pope Memorial Humane Society (PMHS), is dedicated to promoting the humane treatment of animals in Strafford County, NH and Southern Maine. They provide a safe, temporary home for more than 1,000 surrendered, lost, abused, neglected, or unwanted animals each year. The PMHS works with partners throughout the country to rescue animals that would otherwise be euthanized, working hard to find each and every one of them a forever home with a loving family.
Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the Week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.
Pope Memorial Humane Society is a community-funded, non-profit organization. They are committed to promoting the humane treatment of animals in Strafford County, New Hampshire, and Southern Maine. Pope Memorial Humane Society houses over 1,000 surrendered, neglected and abused animals each year in a 100-year-old piggery that was once a part of the county work farm.
Kelly: Hi, Debbie. Welcome to the show.
Debbie: Hi, Kelly. Thank you for having me.
K: So, Debbie, you are the development director at Pope Memorial Humane Society in New Hampshire. Why don’t you get us started and just tell us a little bit about your organization?
D: We were founded in 1984 in Dover, New Hampshire, and we were founded as Cocheco Valley Humane Society and we recently went through a capital campaign. So we got a million-dollar gift in 2018 and Mr. Pope requested that we would change the name to Pope Memorial Humane Society. And then we put Cocheco Valley below it so that people recognize that we were the Cocheco Valley Humane Society before. But yeah, it’s a small organization. We service about a thousand animals a year, primarily dogs, cats, small animals, birds.
K: And how did you get started at the organization?
D: Well, I started out first as a board member when I moved here 14 or 15 years ago, and then it turned out that they needed someone to come in and do fundraising. And it just happened that I was looking to try to do something different. And here I am.
K: Yeah, that sounds like there’s a great transition for you, then.
K: So can you tell me a little bit about the community that you’re in? And if there’s any particular challenges that the community presents for animals.
D: I think the biggest challenge is we’re semi-rural and there are a lot of people that can’t afford to keep their animals, especially if they get a challenging medical issue or even if they have a behavior issue that they can’t deal with. And that’s one of the things that we are really proud of because we feel that we take a lot of the animals that other humane societies and rescues won’t take because they just don’t know how to deal with them.
K: So do you do a lot of veterinarian services then as well?
D: We do. We have a better record who is also a professor at the University of New Hampshire. She brings a lot of her vet students over here, which is great for them because they get the opportunity to work in a shelter environment and really understand what that is versus private practice, which is just so different. You know, where people will spend every dollar they have on helping your animals, whereas a shelter we can’t do that, we do a lot, but we can’t go on and on and on. We just don’t have the resources.
D: And then we have another vet that comes in on Thursdays, so we definitely have good vet care, and we have vets that are on every other day of the year and of course, as an animal shelter, they would be here a few days a year. So there’s someone here all the time to make sure the medical needs of the animals are taking care of.
K: That’s great! Yeah, that veterinarian program sounds really good. Let’s go into some other programs that you guys offer. I took a look at your website and it looks like you have quite a few. Why don’t we start with whichever one you’re most proud of?
D: Sure, one of our excellent programs is called Chris’ Pets for Vets, and we work with them to help returning vets from the different wars get animals. When we find the right match, because they still have to go through our process and, you know, apply and make sure that they are qualified, that there are other animals have been vetted and neutered and et cetera, and if they do qualify, then Chris’ Pets for Vets people will pay for the adoption of that animal. And then we have another program which we don’t advertise too much, but the social people in the area and the hospitals and the police know about this Safe Pet program. So if someone’s in either medical issue or a domestic violence relationship, we will take the animal and take care of it until they get to a better place or until their medical issue is dealt with.
K: So let’s talk a little bit more about Chris’ Pets for Vets. So how do vets become involved in this program? Do they apply online or do you find them? Or how does that work?
D: Because we don’t necessarily want to promote that animals are free, what we do is people come in and apply, and if they’re a veteran, we talk to them about the program, and sometimes they accept it, and sometimes they don’t. But most of the time they do accept the adoption fee being covered by Chris’ Pets for Vets. It really happens after they replied.
K: And then the Safe Pets program is that kind of work the same way where someone will come in and apply and you talk to them about it or I mean…
D: They’ll give us a call and we’ll explain, you know, sometimes it’s an elderly person that doesn’t have anybody living in the area – no family, no friend that can take care of their animals. We get called and we will take the animal, cat dog, whatever and, you know, keep it safe.
K: Let’s talk about some of the other programs that you guys have. It looks like you also have a Lost & Found program.
D: Well, yeah, that’s where people have lost their animals and hopefully their microchip. We always pray that that’s the case, but sometimes it’s not. And we just hold the animals and, you know, definitely let all of the other rescues in the area know so that if someone calls, we can get a hold of that. When they do have a chip, then we can get a hold of the owners and get the animal back to their owner safely. If not, then we hold the dog or cat for seven days, and then we vet it, make sure it’s in good health and support, and then we can adopt it out.
K: Yes, I know you mentioned microchipping. Can you explain to people who may not understand the importance of it or what it is? Just gonna talk about what Microchipping is
D: Microchipping is where a chip is implanted into the animal, and you can do cats and dogs, both. Not many people do their cats, but people are starting to do that more and more in our area. But really, it’s a way to make sure that if your animal is lost, that you can be found whenever an animal that comes into any facility, it is checked immediately for a microchip. And that way we could find the owners.
K: Yeah, I think microchips are so important, especially if you have animals that go outside just in case, you know, you never know what can happen.
K: And then what other programs do you guys offer?
D: A low-cost Spay or Neuter program for the community so that people can get their animals spayed and neutered, which, of course, is great for everyone so that we don’t get any more unwanted animals. And also we do run low-cost microchip and rabies clinics so that people can get that done. It’s, you know, so expensive for some people to do a vet visit, much less get, you know, any of the Rabies or other vaccinations done, and so this offers them a way to do that.
K: Oh, cool. So is this something that people who are adopting can participate in? Or can other people from the community also take advantage of these services?
D: Definitely people from the community, people adopting from us. The dogs are all microchipped. I’m not 100% positive if the cats are, that I need to check on. The dogs definitely are. And all of the animals, including our rabbits and any pigs and rats and so forth are all spayed and neutered.
K: Yeah, I think that’s something unique that you, guys, offer. You know, allowing people in the community to take advantage of those services as well because, like you said, that bills and going to the veterinarian can be extremely costly. So that’s really important that you guys do that.
D: Thank you. We do, too.
K: Do you guys do anything with education? I think I saw something about Humane Education on your website.
D: Yes, we do. We have a humane educator on our staff. And she meets with a variety of different types of people: Girl Scout troops, Boy Scout troops, classrooms, high school, middle school grade school, kindergarten, also senior living areas, and just talks about animals, taking care of the animals and how to read a food label so that, you know, if you’re giving your animal of the right kind of food, you know, how to handle a rabbit, how to handle a guinea pig. Most people don’t realize how the back of a rabbit can break so easily, and people don’t understand that. So we try to train them how to pick up rabbits and hold them so that they don’t jump out and hurt themselves. So it’s that kind of stuff that she does and just help people understand that animals show love, they can be hurt and that they need to have proper care and shelter and so forth. And what we’re going to try to do now that we’re in the new building, is start ramping up in doing more community education programs here on-site and inviting people in and having birthday parties and also camps where, at during school vacations and summer vacation, kids can come for a week-long sessions to learn more about animals.
K: Oh, that sounds really cool.
D: We’re excited about that.
K: Yeah. And back to that point you made about the rabbits, that’s something that I didn’t even know. So that just goes to show you’re right there, how important education is and explaining to people how to care for animals and certain types of animals, like the rabbits as smaller pets. Are you already in the new building?
D: We are. We got in at the end of July.
K: Okay, great. So you think this potential like week-long camps and stuff that’s something to come in the future?
D: Yeah. We hope to be able to start offering the birthday parties maybe early spring of next year and probably start with our first summer camp next summer.
K: Okay, great. So let’s talk a little bit about your Pet Food Assistance Program as well.
D: That is a program that we started to make sure… We get so many donations of food and we don’t want it to go to waste. And we also realize that people fall on hard times. That may not last that long, but they might have to get rid of or surrender their animal because they just can’t afford to buy the food for it. So we offer them assistance for as long as they need it, and they just have to prove to us that they are financially strapped and they can come and get food for the animals as long as they need to.
K: So can anyone donate to the Pet Food Assistance Program? Or is this just extra food that you guys have leftover? How does gonna work?
D: Everybody can donate to it. And that’s the thing we get. You know, we are so lucky that we have a community that donates so many things to us called in-kind donations. And these donations keep us from having to use the funds that we raise, the monetary funds, on food and things like that. You know, normal food. And we ask… We have a wish list that we publicize, and we ask for specific kinds of food and so forth to make sure the animals are consistently fed the same kind of food so that their stomachs don’t get upset. There are animals that need special food because of allergies and digestive issues, so that gives us the opportunity to purchase that with the funds that we raise. And fundraising is critical for us because we don’t receive any federal stayed or in municipal funding. So everything that we raised is from the community businesses, grants and events, the community people, individuals that give us money and in-kind donations and volunteer their time to help us clean, walk dogs, socialized the cats, you know, so many different things that they come in and help us do.
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K: It sounds like the community has a really big part of helping you guys, and that’s great that you have such a supportive community working together with you.
D: Oh, absolutely. We couldn’t do it without them.
K: So let’s talk a little bit more about that fundraising since it is such an important part of your community. So do you put on any fundraising events throughout the year?
D: Yeah, we do. What we’ve done in the past five years or so, really since I’ve come is we started planning out what exactly we want to do all 12 months of the year to try to keep money consistently coming in. So we grant right all year long. We have a dog walk in the spring, and then we have a wine tasting and silent live auction in November. We also do a golf ball raffle where we have a helicopter that takes up the 500 golf balls that we sell and drops it on the whole of a local country club. The golf ball goes in or it’s very close and someone can win 20% of the proceeds, and the rest goes to the Dover food pantry and to our organization. And there’s so many organizations and people in our community that do fundraisers for us that we just show up at or we don’t even attend, and they surprise us. You know, kids choose to have donations brought to their birthday parties instead of presents and things like that. It’s really unique, and we also have a really cool fundraising program that is done by people in the community. It’s called Haunted Overload, and it runs the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays of the last three weekends in October. And it’s this unbelievable, haunted experience that you walk through that’s outside and all of the things that have been built or just incredible, and we get 10% of those proceeds, and that is anywhere from in the early stages, $20,000 to $42,000 this year. So a huge supporter.
K: But so is that like a haunted house?
D: It’s more than that. He’s got probably 20 different attractions, and it’s on this big apple farm out in the outskirts of Dover and it’s just fantastic. From a couple of years, maybe five years ago, they won ABC’s Fright Night Fight. They were given $50,000 and they donated it to our Capital Campaign to name our cat playroom, which is just an awesome room. The cats love it.
K: That is really cool. So you guys didn’t ask for them to donate or anything. They just kind of did it on their own.
D: Years ago they picked us, and we just had this wonderful experience. And the one thing that we do have to do is we have to supply volunteers to welcome people, take their tickets, thank them for coming to the event park because there are thousands of people that each night this event, it’s incredible.
K: That sounds really cool. So you talked about the cat room that they wanted to name and everything. Can you talk a little bit about what that cat room looks like? It sounds like it’s pretty unique.
D: It’s really cool. It’s mostly glass, so it’s in the front of the building where you enter into the lobby, sort of beyond your left-hand side. And when you come in, you can see the cats in the room playing. There are all kinds of cat trees and the same people that do a haunted overload took a 100-year-old tree that had fallen down and carved all these really unique different things for the cats to climb on, to crawl in, to crawl under. And there’s just so many things for them to do. And you know, it’s a great place for a cat that’s socially okay with other cats but kind of timid to be in with the other cats and be able to just learn, you know, how to interact with other animals. And we put the kittens in there when they get old enough. Oh my God. And they’re just so much fun to watch running around and chasing up, jumping up and down. It’s all glass so you can see every part of it. And people can go in and play with the cats and, you know, really get to spend time with them and get to know the cat.
K: Yeah, I like how they did a special tree carving and everything. That sounds like a pretty cool cat room.
D: They, the people, just love the animals, so they put their heart and soul into which was really special.
K: So let’s talk a little bit about the volunteers and how people can get involved volunteering at your organization.
D: Sure. We have a volunteer coordinator, Melanie Burger, who is just phenomenal. She’s done a great job with really making our program really stand out, and they do a couple of orientations a month. We take October off because of haunted overload, but a couple of orientations a month and people come in and learn generally about the organization. And then they do dog walking, training, and they start out as green walkers, then yellow walkers and then red walkers to take the more challenging dogs. And then they also learned how to do cleaning of the small animals and how to handle the small animals and also cleaning of the cat cages and things like that so they can understand and know exactly where everything is so they can grab what they need to clean, or they know where the leashes and harnesses are to take the dogs for walks. They also know where the walking trails are so that they don’t get lost in. But if we didn’t have the volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to take care of all these animals.
K: Definitely. So do you have walking shells like right near your facility?
D: We do. We had a donor that actually donated her landscaper. We’re actually in the middle of six acres… It’s an all field. There are no trees around our facility right now, so we’ll be planting them as we put out all of the gardening things and all of the donations, like people donated benches and memory of people and of animals. So we’ll start putting those out next summer, next spring and will start planting trees around that. But what she did was she had her landscaper come out and cut a path through the fields that goes to the woods. And there are trails all back in there and also snowmobile trails that we can get our walkers on. And some of these people, you know, walk some of these dogs two or three miles every day, and the dogs get walked a minimum of two times a day. But a lot of times three times a day.
K: Wow, that’s great. And I love hearing the generosity of other people, like someone to donate their landscape birds so that you guys can have an amazing trail for people to take the dogs on. That’s really incredible.
D; Exactly. Like, I mean, you know, that was a $9000 bill.
K: So can volunteers also foster?
D: Yes, we absolutely love our foster people. We have a phenomenal cat foster program, and we’re growing our dog buster program, and we have had recently some mother dogs, even mother and father dog surrendered to us with puppies. And so we’ve had to isolate them away from a shelter. It’s not a good place for puppies to be. We don’t want them to get sick. So we had people fostering them until they can get old enough to be spayed and neutered and then put up for adoption. And then the parents are spayed, neutered and put up for adoption, or returned back. If the reason that they lost custody of the animal was because they were kicked out of their apartment or rental house, because all of a sudden we had not one dog, but seven.
K: In order to become a foster to someone, just go on to your website and fill out an application. What is that process look like?
D: Yes, what they would do is fill out an application, and then they would meet with our foster program coordinator and just learn about a program and what the responsibilities are, and then a house check would be done. And as the animals are being fostered, they’re brought in frequently, depending on what the issue is, why are the animals being fostered? Are these puppies? Obviously, there won’t be brought in until you know their seven or eight weeks same with kittens, and then they’re just, you know, vetted here at the shelter. Everything that needs to be done is done for the animal, the medicine. If it’s medical, foster has gotten here at the shelter, and they’ll bring the animal in at the frequency that the vet wants for the vet to examine the animal, to see if maybe different medicine or something like that. So that’s kind of how the foster program works.
K: So when someone brings the animal in for veterinarian care and then once that’s taken care of. Do they go back with the foster until that animal is adopted?
D: That depends like some of the animals are in foster because they just can’t deal with being in the shelter. And it is, you know, driving them crazy. And they would become a behavior nightmare so those dogs or cats would stay in foster until they’re available for adoption and would move immediately from the foster to adopted family. If it’s a medical and the animal is fine in the shelter, then the foster would return the animal when it’s healthy and ready to be adopted and would probably foster another.
K: Yeah, that makes sense. And then you also mentioned that you guys do house checks, and for those who don’t know what that is, what are some of the things that you look for in a house? Check for someone who wants to be a potential foster.
D: Well, you just need to make sure that there’s a place where the animal that’s being fostered is, you know, safe from other animals that might be on site if, for example, of the dog is gonna be fostered because it is being treated for heartworm. They need to be really quiet, so there can’t be puppies or young other animals in the house that would want to play with it all the time. It would need quiet may be in its create most of the time, taken for long, not long, but short, slow, low energy walks things like that just to make sure it’s safe for the animal, depending on what the reason for the fostering is.
K: So what would you say are some of the biggest challenges that you have in your organization today?
D: Fundraising. Getting enough money. It’s a million-dollar organization, and all of it has to come from fundraising. It’s probably 3/4 fundraising, 1/4 shelter revenue, which is why we’re excited about starting the camps and the birthday parties and other outside things. But really, it’s just, you know, constantly ‘What can we do?’, ‘How many grants can we write?’, ‘Are we eligible?’, ‘How many years do we have to wait in between getting a grant?’, ‘How are our appeals doing?’ We do three appeals a year. Luckily, we’ve been able to get our holiday appeal matched where they give that $10,000 challenge so they challenge us to raise $10,000. We do then we get that 10,000 so that jumps it into $20,000. But things like that, you know, and then our events and all the outside events that air done for us. But you know, even if it doesn’t raise a lot of money, it’s awareness and letting people know about us and what we are and who we are and where we are and what kind of animals we have. Social media has helped a lot. We have really good person that’s been doing social media more has grown our social media presence in the past two years astronomically, and that really helps us to get animals adopted quickly and also helps us to work with other organizations. And we do across the country whether it’s for a behaviorist, that we will send a dog out for them to get special training or boarding just to get it away from the shelter because it’s declining because it doesn’t do well in the shelter environment, but for whatever reason. But social media has been a big, big plus for us.
K: Yeah, definitely. Social media helped spread awareness and to show what you guys were doing, and it can help in so many different capacities. So that’s great that you have someone…
D: We even use it for fundraising quiches. Interestingly, we have a fund called the Champions Fund. That is for special medical needs of animals above and beyond doing the regular vaccinations, the spay-neuters, the dental work that might need to be done. You say they need orthopedic work or very challenging dental work or a cancerous tumor. You know, even special medicine. The Champions Fund is a fund that we tapped to care for those animals and people are generous to give to that fund to make sure that we have extra funds for the animals. But every once in awhile, we have a special one, and look, go into social media and Facebook and Instagram and ask for help. Say that we need $5000 you know, anything you can give towards that and people have been phenomenal.
K: So do you just post like a picture of the animal?
D: And their story, yes.
K: Yeah, I like that story is such a key piece because it kind of tells people why they should help, why they should want to be involved. And that’s cool that you guys can use social media for that as well.
D: Definitely. That and our website.
K: So, speaking of that, how can people get in touch with your organization? Can you just say what your website is? your phone number? The best way to get in touch with you guys?
D: Sure. Our website is www.popememorialcvhs.org, and we’re located at 221 County Farm Road in Dover, New Hampshire. So we’re out on the Strafford County complex where the jail is and the courthouse are old facilities used to be in the shadow of the jail, and they used to bang on the walls and the windows as volunteers were walking the dog. So now they have beautiful fields and trails to walk on. Instead of having to deal with all of that. Our general phone number is 333 7495322.
K: Perfect, and either one of those methods is the best way to get in touch.
D: And then there’s always email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
K: So do you have a memorable story that you would like to share? It could be about a staff member, a volunteer, an animal. Just anything that you’d like to share with us.
D: Sure, I think there are two volunteers that are just incredible with what they… I mean, there’s more than that, but there’s two that really stand out. One is a woman that comes every morning at eight, and she’s a cat and a dog lover, and she’ll come and clean out a lot of the cat cages. And then she’s here, sometimes until noon, walking the dogs. And she’s one of our red walkers so she can walk any of the dogs that we have, as long as they like her. You know, there are animals that don’t like some of us and they primarily like her and show us all day long. I mean, it’s amazing how long the walks are that these dogs get. And then there’s another gentleman that comes every afternoon to do the same thing and walk the dogs. He actually runs a lot of them, you know. They just love these guys and they do everything they can to get these animals out. You know, Cam will take some of the dogs out to get doggy Sundays. Just I learned to ride in a car to go to the beach and learn what water is, go swimming. Those are the kinds of things that, you know, just help us to get an animal into a home because they’re not afraid of things and new experiences.
K: Yeah, I think that’s so important. Like you said, to get animals out of that shelter setting so you can see their true personality and get them familiar with things like car rides and water like you said, and other people. Glad that you have those volunteers in those people supporting the shelter and what you guys do, so that’s great. So what does the future look like for your organization? I know you kind of talked about some new programs that you have. Is there anything else that people should know about coming up?
D: No. I think that we’re in a really good place now. You know, we’ve grown a lot in the last year or so people-wise and program-wise, and I think that there’s so much for us to be able to do what we’re really excited about offering a lot of different behavior classes so that people can start with puppies and then, you know, move up to intermediate dog walking and then move up to the point of dog that is a very aggressive dog on a leash. What do you need to do to train that dog to be able to walk and not be aggressive towards other dogs while you’re out on a walk? So we’re really excited about being able to offer those kinds of things and help people keep their animals when challenges arise that they didn’t expect.
K: Well, is there anything else that you would like to share before we wrap things up today?
D: No, I think that we’ve covered everything, and I think that anyway, that people can get involved if they wanna volunteer to help with the animals as well as donate in-kind and monetary donations, that would be wonderful.
K: Okay. Well, thank you so much, Debbie, for joining me today. I’ve learned so much about your organization, and I really appreciate it. Thank you for having us.
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