A little serious, a little satire, and all opinion on animal welfare.
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Since I know someone’s going to ask me about this today, I thought I’d just get it out of the way.  So, how about that one hundred million dollar deal for Mike Vick?

Let me first give my football opinion (because that’s why you read an animal welfare blog, right?).  Vick’s just not that good a quarterback.  Consider that his first year closing games in Philadelphia his QB rating was only .9 better than Donovan McNabb who was then traded.  Consider that prior to coming to Philly, Vick’s best QB rating year (81.6 in 2002/3) was only better than McNabb’s second worst year ever, excluding their rookie years.  That’s right, in ten years as a starter with the Eagles, Donovan had eight years with better ratings than Vick’s career high

As a quarterback Vick is over rated, past the age at which they should be referring to him as the franchise future, and is definitely overpaid.  And I still can’t watch the Eagles because I just don’t like the slightly elated feeling I get when our own guy gets sacked.  After all, I’m in supposed to be humane.

As far as the whole ex-con, dog torturing thing goes, I still stick by my belief that the NFL should have a self-imposed ban on hiring violent felons in order to maintain some level of moral authority.  But they made their decision to be a corporate entity placing money above morality long before Vick’s re-hiring, so what’s one more bad decision?

Vick has been living up to his agreement with the Humane Society of the United States (no relation to the Humane Society of Berks County), such as it is.  He has given his talks and mostly been saying the right, if occasionally moronic things.  As a human being, I don’t begrudge his being offered a chance to atone and even forgiveness from those inclined to give it.  Heck, I’ve made my share of mistakes and received many second chances.  Of course, I never drowned dogs for fun and money.  Besides, I don’t think anyone really expected some Siddhartha like transformation from him.  The dude’s just a football player, after all, not Buddha.

The most important thing I think Vick and HSUS have done was promote a Federal bill criminalizing involving minors in dog fighting.  If he is nothing else, Vick is the poster child for the results of bringing kids to dog fights.  I hope the photo opp on the Capitol steps gave pause to every humane organization near his childhood neighborhood in Virginia who weren’t there to save Vick as a boy from being turned into the “man” he is today- or at least was a few years ago.  After all, we don’t just have a responsibility to the animals, we have a responsibility to children who their lives ruined and their souls ripped up into little Voldemort sized morsels by being exposed to blood sports.

But the final thing that springs to mind are the meetings I and others had with Joe Banner, Eagles President, after the signing of Vick on 2009.  He said they had made a decision that Vick was reformed, they recognized that the signing brought a lot of baggage, and that they were committed to make a very real and substantial investment in animal welfare.  They did that through their TAWK grant program.

vetmobileThe grant program has funded numerous animal welfare programs in the region and was accepted by many organizations, even the most boastfully strident among us.  The $50,000 grant received by the HSBC funded the VetMobile, a mobile veterinary unit which has been used to provide low and no cost care to the pets of the poor, serve as a mobile Ani-Meals On Wheels distribution site, functions as a mobile adoption location, been used to help stem the annual and devastating parvo outbreaks in Reading, and has been deployed to assist in major cruelty cases.  None of these things could have been done without that Eagles TAWK grant.

I say again, Joe Banner kept his word.  I still think signing Vick was both a bad football decision given his less than stellar talent and a bad corporate decision for the NFL.  But vastly more concrete good has come out of the TAWK grant program than would have if the Eagles had hired, oh, I don’t know, a rapist or something.  For some reason that’s one duck no one wants to seem to call a duck.  Or call Pittsburgh Pennsylvania’s second largest city.

Of course, I do think that if the Eagles created a $500,000 grant program for a signing deal in the couple millions for Vick in 2009, now that they have made a deal of one hundred million maybe it’s time to shake that tree again a see how much more good I can get the Eagles to do for animals.

So I’m going to ask for another TAWK grant and I hope they come through with a big one.  We have a really great project coming up that will help a lot of animals and people and we could use their help.

Hmmmm….You don’t think the Eagles actually read this blog do you?  Uh, oh.  I hope they give me a second chance, despite my big mouth.

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 The staff and volunteers of the Humane Society of Berks County rock.  Some area animal shelters seemed to have a disaster plan best summed up has, “let’s hope it’s not too bad” or a response to the need for emergency shelters of, “um, yeah, I’m not sure we can do that, did you call Berks Humane yet?” 

The staff and volunteers of the Humane Society of Berks County, as well as the Berks County Animal Response Team (Berks CART) and the State Animal Response Team, were on the ball, prepared and effective.  They spent 48 straight hours preparing for the storm, responding to the needs on the ground, and then transitioning out to the sunny, blue skies we have today. 

HSBC even responded to a last minute appeal from Chester County EMA to set up an emergency animal shelter there since there is no longer a functioning Chester CART and no local Chester County animal organization was prepared to step up to help.  Our folks just took it in stride and made it work. 

Since we usually end up moving on to the next thing before we have a chance to properly thank those who deserve it, I want to extend special thanks to all the HSBC and CART staff and volunteers who gave up their personal and professional time to help those in need.  I’d especially like to thank Damon March, HSBC Operations Director and Berks CART Coordinator for ensuring that not only Berks was covered but Chester County, too.  Karen Critchfield of SART did a fantastic job of coordinating the statewide efforts of all the CARTs (I’m also very proudly the Chair of the PA SART board of directors).  PEMA and local EMA officials deserve enormous credit for working so smoothly with local CARTs and making do with their limited funding to respond to the hurricane. 

Speaking of funding, this response cost the Humane Society of Berks County thousands of dollars in direct expenses and many more in indirect costs.  Those expenses are not covered by anyone but our donors.  While local EMAs may be getting squeezed by politicians running a government which is in default only of its obligation to provide proper animal control services and animal related emergency support to Pennsylvania’s citizens (it’s good to remember that Pennsylvania has a fiscal surplus right now so all the budget cutting is purely a political exercise), animal rescue groups like the HSBC and the CARTs are non-profit charities. 

That being said, please consider helping us make back some of the expenses we had to put out by making a generous donation now (click here).  Don’t worry, you and everyone else in the Commonwealth- except the Marsellus Shale drillers- will get a chance to pay back the government come Tax Day.  But enough about those silly politicians. 

I hope you’ll forgive a bit of bald faced bragging but our folks  a quite simply as good as they come and the only thing that keeps them from not being better is the limited resources they have to work with.  Even so, that doesn’t stop them from leading the way.  We also have exceptional suporters and donors, who make all this work possible.  Thank you for the support you have given the HSBC and Berks CART which allowed us to respond to Irene.  We’ll make sure we continue to be prepared for the next crisis and keep doing our great day to day work, too!

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Right now the Humane Society of Berks County is preparing to address the evacuation and sheltering needs of companion animals and their caretakers in both Berks and Chester Counties.  We do this as part of our own mission directive and as the lead agency for the Berks County Animal Response Team (Berks CART).  We’ve served in this role with Berks CART, in fact we established Berks CART under the direction of the State Animal Response Team (PASART), before Hurricane Katrina.

You remember that one right?  The one no one saw coming?  Well, actually, HSBC, PASART and Berks CART did see it coming.  Even when the government did not or chose not to.

Unfortunately, in the current frenzy to gut “big government”, the only ones around with the experience, skill and imperative to provide this companion sheltering and rescue service for the local EMA’s who need it are largely private, non-profit organizations like ours.  We’ve always known, even before we saw corpses in New Orleans, that people wouldn’t just leave their pets behind.  We knew that there needed to be resources in place to make sure people weren’t put into that dangerous position.

But the prideful way Pennsylvania says that no tax dollars go to dog control because it’s funded by licenses only (which I think could be called a dog tax) means that there is no government run organization to handle animal control on good days, let alone emergency sheltering during a hurricane.

It falls on charities like ours.  That means it falls to you.

In Pennsylvania we have a new Governor whose one public campaign since taking office was, ironically or coincidentally, a commercial about “emergency preparedness”.  An honest distillation of that commercial would be, “Hey, old dude with the walker…a disaster’s coming.  You better get prepared because the Commonwealth isn’t going to be here to help you.”

At least the Governor was honest.  Because disaster is coming and the HSBC, a private, local, charitably funded organization has to help local Emergency Management Agencies which don’t have the resources to open shelters on their own.

When we were asked to help in Chester County, there was a need for two shelters for companion animals.  Unfortunately, only one is being opened as I type because we were stretched thin enough and couldn’t staff two.  So the citizens had a need and our crash dieting government couldn’t help.

We need to remember that spending money on emergency response isn’t “bloated government”.  It’s spending money on people.  It’s spending money on our neighbors and fellow citizens.  It’s always easy to say government is spending too much when we’re between disasters but we don’t know we’re spending too little until it’s too late.

When New Jersey’s Governor told everyone to “get their asses of the beach”, I thought it was funny, too.  When I heard he was going to ship his poor people to Pennsylvania to be sheltered at Harrisburg’s Farm Show Complex, where we house farm animals, I thought something else.  I thought, “Hey, get off your ass and properly fund your own government so you don’t have to keep people in cattle stalls and call on animal charities to cover for the shortcomings of your political economic agenda.”

Someone else springs to mind who had to sleep with cattle because the inn was full.  I wonder what he’d think of all this?  Maybe I shouldn’t say things like that about powerful politicians.  They might cut the Humane Society of Berks County’s funding.  Oh, wait- right now we are funding them.  Our donors are funding them.  But take heart, boys, I’m sure your government is still plenty big enough to pull a few strings and revoke our kennel license or get me a nice tax audit if I’ve annoyed you too much.

If I have to choose between “big government” and this, I’ll take the big government.

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