Friday, June 29, 2012

Pack Up Your Paws, Pt 1: Planning Your Trip

Vacations are always much more fun with your best friend. Just because your best friend has four legs, doesn’t mean s/he should be left at home. It is becoming more and more popular for pets to tag along on vacations. With just a bit of research and planning ahead, you and your pet can share the vacation memories together.

Before you travel anywhere, stop in the veterinarian’s office for a general check-up and to obtain a health certificate dated within 10 days of departure. Make sure you bring along vaccination records, your pet’s medical history, and any medication they will need. On your pet’s collar you should include an ID tag with your name and contact information, as well as your vacation destination. Microchipping your pet would also be very wise. You can read our post on microchipping here.

Traveling can be stressful enough for your pet, so crate train before you leave home. Most likely, at some point during your vacation you’ll need to keep your pet in a crate of some sort, whether that is during travel or once you reach your destination. Pet-friendly hotels may require your pet to be crated at night or anytime left alone in the room. Make it comfortable with blankets or towels on the bottom, and some familiarities of home, such as a favorite toy.

Think about your budget. Traveling with a pet will often save you money by foregoing expensive pet boarding and kennel fees, but don’t think it will be cheap. Airlines and hotels won’t accommodate your pet for free; there’s always a pet fee of some sort.

When planning your vacation, make sure all of your activities include your pet as well. What is the point in bringing them along if they’re just going to be left behind anyway? If you find yourself wanting to spend a pet-free day, find a local pet spa/day care, pet hotel/kennel, or some way to keep your pet safe and entertained during the day. If you’re staying at a pet-friendly location they should have information on local pet-friendly activities.

The planning process is when you should also take some time to consider if your pet will benefit from traveling with you. Many pets love heading out on the road, while others can be very stressed from the change (cats in particular). Know your pet and their limits - and if you are confident that everyone will have a good time, go have some fun!

If you're traveling this weekend or next week for the 4th of July, remember that more pets are lost on the 4th than any other day during the year. Make plans for your pets to be safely and securely contained during the firework displays in particular.

This is the first of our two-part post on traveling with your pets. You can read Part 2 here.

For more information about pet-friendly travel tips and destinations check out these links:

Pet Hotels of America (

Bring Fido (

Dog Friendly (

Pet Vacation Homes (   

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Blue was illegally dumped at the HSEC in late May. His injuries may be from a car accident and include a broken humerus and tail. He desperately needs a sponsor or sponsors to defray the cost of his medical care, which HSEC cannot afford. Every little bit helps - please consider donating towards Blue's care. A full recovery and long life will be the best revenge against the cruel people who left Blue to suffer.

You can donate via the yellow DONATE button on the top right of this page. Please help us spread the word!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Spay and Neuter - Myth vs Fact

As a society, we love our pets and treat them like children. But around 70,000 puppies and kittens are born every day in this country, and sadly, there isn’t enough love to go around. And so something else happens each and every day. Around 10,000 animals are euthanized. Not for health reasons, not for behavioral problems, but simply because they are homeless and unwanted.

There’s a simple and easy solution to this massive problem: spay and neuter. But only one in ten animals that arrive in shelters are spayed or neutered. You’ve probably heard a lot about this procedure, some of it myth, some of it fact. Let’s take a look at common misconceptions and misapprehensions about spaying and neutering.


Myth: my pet’s behavior and personality will change dramatically, and they won’t be good protectors.

You will see some behavioral changes after sterilization, but not the ones you might have heard.

  •  Male cats spray to mark their territories. But with neutering, spraying will generally stop (and trust us, you want that!). If the procedure is done when the male is young enough, they will never learn to spray in the first place.
  • Intact males (dogs and cats) may wander in search of fertile females, or they may be more prone to fighting. Neutering reduces wandering and aggressive behavior, which leads to a longer, happier, healthier life for your pet.
  • Intact females go into heat, a period which involves behavioral change and messy discharge or bleeding from the genital area in dogs. Getting squicked out just reading about this? Good news! A spayed female does not go into heat.
Though spaying and neutering may diminish aggression, this will not affect how your dog feels toward your family. If he was a good watchdog before surgery, he will be a good watchdog afterward. Environment and genetics have more of an impact on personality than sex hormones. You may notice that your pet is slightly calmer, but there will not be a dramatic personality change.

Myth: females should have a litter first

There is no physiological reason for females to have a litter before they are spayed, and in fact, females spayed before their first heat tend to be healthier. Cats and dogs can be spayed or neutered as young as eight weeks - check with your vet.

Myth: males don’t need to be sterilized, they’re not the ones having litters

A female dog can have thirty puppies in a lifetime, while a female cat may have slightly more. A male dog or cat can sire hundreds of offspring - maybe thousands if he’s really motivated. It takes two to tango, folks. If anything, it’s more important for males to be neutered. Both male and female pets need to be sterilized to control overpopulation.

Myth: sterilized pets get fat and lazy

Animals who are neutered or spayed after sexual maturity may experience an increase in appetite, which can be controlled with proper serving size and exercise. But if your baby is fixed while they’re still a baby, you don’t have to worry about this potential side effect. You may see some decrease in your animal’s energy level, but nothing severe. A spayed or neutered pet is still playful and vibrant.

Bottom line: diet and exercise is more important to a pet’s health than the state of their gonads.

Myth: the operation is painful

Ok, it’s not exactly a day at the dog park. But the operation is performed under general anesthesia, and discomfort following the procedure should be mild. Talk to your vet about your concerns. The vet will prescribe pain medication to be given after the surgery that should get your pet over the rough patch. In a few days, they’ll be feeling so good that you’ll worry about them tearing their stitches. It's certainly not pain-free, but a few days is worth it compared to the lifetime of benefits.


Myth: my dog will feel like less of a “man” or “woman”

We all identify with our pets, and sometimes we over-identify with them. Dogs and cats have no concept of gender identity. They won’t mourn over the missed opportunity for offspring or feel embarrassed around their intact buddies at the park. This is purely a human response to the idea of sterilization. For your pet, sterilization represents just one less urge to satisfy - an urge they won’t miss.

Myth: the procedure is too expensive

This is a fundamental reason why people avoid spaying and neutering, and happily, it’s false. Many, many programs exist to help defray the costs of the procedure. In Greenville, you can contact Spay Today, our local low-cost program that HSEC is proud to partner with. Some vets also provide low-cost alternatives, so ask!

Don’t let cost be a factor. Even a full price operation is cheaper than raising one litter of puppies or kittens - much less one or two a year for the duration of your pet’s life.

No ifs, ands, or buts...

Those are the facts. But there are a few more commonly raised objections, so let’s take a look at these as well.

But I want my kids to see the miracle of birth

It’s true that birth is an incredible event. But think the reality of the thousands and thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens who are euthanized just because someone wanted their kids to see the miracle of birth. Teach your kids instead to value the lives of animals.

But my pet is purebred! And they’re so special, I want another one just like them.

25% of animals entering shelters are purebreds, and there are many reputable breeders working to continue purebred lineages. And while the desire for a carbon-copy of your critter is certainly understandable, that’s just not the way genetics works. Even a clone doesn’t behave exactly the same as the original.

There are literally thousands of wonderful, special, unique pets - purebred or mutt - already waiting for you in animal welfare operations across the country.

But I’ll find good homes for them!

You might find homes for your pet’s litters. But you can’t control what those people do with your pet’s offspring, or great-offspring. Some may wind up in shelters. And goodness knows, the supply of pets has already exceeded demand. If your friends want puppies or kittens, you can steer them to HSEC, Pitt County Animal Shelter, or any reputable animal welfare group.

But I am a responsible pet owner. My pet will never become pregnant or impregnate another pet without my permission.

This may be true. But there is no reason for your pet to remain intact - no health reason, no behavior reason, no personality reason, no reason at all. In fact, spaying and neutering has a positive effect on health and behavior. And if your dog gets away from you for just five minutes at the dog park, or your cat slips out the window for a single night of fun, that’s another litter of unwanted puppies or kittens that you are responsible for.

Spaying or neutering is the responsible thing to do.

During the five minutes it took to read this post, almost fifty dogs and cats were euthanized in the US - one every six seconds.

Every picture in this post is of a current or former resident at the HSEC facility. If the majority of pets were spayed or neutered, most of the pets on this page wouldn’t have needed our help. We’re happy to work ourselves out of business, looking forward to a day when there are no more unwanted pets.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Pet People are Healthy People

Over the years there have been countless experiments and studies on the positive psychological effects of having a furry friend. Wither you prefer them big or small, with paws or claws, their companionship has been shown to increase your happiness.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pets offer the same emotional benefits as human friendship. The study used questionnaires, surveys, and focus groups to determine that the overwhelming majority of participants that own a pet measured higher in self-esteem and lower in loneliness. The study also states; "We repeatedly observed evidence that people who enjoyed greater benefits from their pets also were closer to other important people in their lives and received more support from them, not less."

This statement shows the benefits that being an enthusiastic pet owner will have on our social lives and how we benefit in our everyday routine. Wether it be waving to the neighbors while they go on a family walk with their dog, a Facebook post update of a friend’s cat in a cute costume, or a wedding speech that includes the bride and groom’s shared love for the dog they consider their “spoiled child”, our lives have become socially intertwined with the lives of our furry family members.

Pets’ ability to increase self-esteem has led them into roles for many varying rehabilitation services. Some pets have entered into the workforce as full-time morale boosters in hospitals, retirement homes, and even prisons! North Carolina, along with many other states, has implemented a state sponsored program that allows prisoners to train shelter dogs.  “A New Leash on Life is a program that allows minimum and medium custody state prisons to partner with local animal shelters, animal welfare agencies, and/or private non-profit agencies to train dogs in preparation for their adoption.”

An inmate works with a dog in the New Leash on Life program
Programs like New Leash on Life are the ultimate example of the benefits that come from a human/pet relationship. Whatever the setting and whatever the pet type, there is an obvious correlation between the love that is put in and the benefits that can be gained as pet people.

We've added a new feature to the blog: your reaction! At the bottom of every post you should see phrases next to a little box: made my day, more like this, heard it all before. If one of the phrases describes your reaction to the post, click the box beside it. Your feedback will help us create blog posts that you want to read. Thanks for your input!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fluff & Puff Dog Wash

Who needs a bath? 

On Saturday June 16th, the Best Buy parking lot was hopping with dogs and their owners, ready for the HSEC volunteers to take their mangy pets and return a fine example of a spotless, well-manicured canine (with ears cleaned and anal glands expressed too!)

Dogs and their owners first wait in the tented area for their turn, making new friends.

Britt's Back Porch was there with unique hats for dogs and people! 

When it was time to go, depending on which services their owners had selected, dogs had a quick stop at the nail clipping station...

They were brushed to remove excess hair...

 Then onto the main event, popped into the tub with the help of our accomplished doggie beauticians.

I'm going to my happy place.
A quick towel dry...

Or a shake, as the case may be...

And we have a whole new dog!

All that doggy suffering wasn't in vain - the wash was a success, with 87 animals washed and over $2000 raised for HSEC!

And now that your fresh clean dogs have promptly rolled around in the dirt, mark your calendars for the other three washes this summer. We have one every month. See you there!
  • July 21st at Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church, 510 South Washington St in Greenville, 10-2 
  • August 18th at Texas Roadhouse, 720 Greenville Blvd in Greenville, 10-2
  • September (date and place TBA)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Just the Facts - May Stats

As always, May was a busy month at HSEC. We're gearing up for our summer events like the Fluff and Puff Dog Wash...

(The first one is TOMORROW, Saturday June 16th, in the Best Buy parking lot, 3140 Evans St Greenville NC from 10-2. Hope to see you there!)

...and as always for this time of year, we have a lot of fuzzy little babies running around. But along with kitten and puppy season, we've seen another seasonal trend - a decrease in adoptions for the month of May. We need your help to get the word out about HSEC so we can avoid these fluctuations as much as possible. Litters of kittens and puppies often need extra attention and care, and your support is crucial during this time.

The good news is that we're already on track in June to exceed those lower May numbers. So let's focus on the positive and take a look at the critters who found their forever homes in May.

This month we took in 20 cats: 3 returns, 6 surrenders, and 11 transfers. We also took in 22 dogs: 2 abandoned (which is ILLEGAL), 4 returns, 9 surrenders, and 7 transfers.

We often take transfers from the Pitt County Animal Shelter. We're so lucky to work in partnership with them! In fact, just yesterday (June 14th) we were able to participate in an amazing rescue effort with PCAS, Pitt Friends, and individual rescuer Jenny Lee. PCAS was unexpectedly inundated with surrendered animals until there was no more room in the shelter. But between the different animal welfare groups, all of the surrendered animals were saved!

We had 18 adoptions in total during May: 5 adult cats, 6 kittens, 5 adult dogs, and 2 puppies. 7 of these were off-site adoptions. As you can see from our discrepancies between intake and adoption, we're pretty full right now! As much as we love to be surrounded by those adorable little faces, we can't wait to see those numbers drop as pets find their forever homes.

 Here are some of the lucky guys who found their homes in May!





Wiggles (!!) Blog Dog in December 2011

Thanks for everything you do for the animals!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Feral Cats - Wild Animals, Not Stray Pets

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are around 50 million feral cats in America. In this post, we'll take a look at feral cats and the controversy surrounding their treatment and care.

Probably a few feral cats live in your neighborhood. You may even have a sizable colony in your area and not know about it. If an outside cat does not appear to be friendly, there's a good chance that it is a feral - not a stray. A stray is a pet that has become lost, while a feral cat has never been a pet and is not friendly towards people (to put it mildly). These are cats that have little to no experience with humans. They are elusive, fearful, and do not trust people.

Feral cat on ECU campus, via Saving Graces
Feral cats live in colonies, clustered around an area where they can find food. The colony will defend its territory from other cats, though lone cats may also be accepted into the group. The life of a feral cat can be quite difficult, though the difficulty is mitigated to some extent with a reliable source of food and shelter. Many people choose to feed colonies of feral cats, and here is where the controversy begins.

Feeding operations quickly attract large numbers of ferals and strays
Feral colonies can be a nuisance, with lots of kittens, fights between males, and predation of the local bird and small mammal populations. In response, many communities routinely trap and euthanize ferals. However, this is not an effective solution as the ongoing trapping and euthanasia costs money and does not decrease the number of ferals in an area. Female cats can begin having kittens as early as five months, and they will continue to produce as many as five litters per YEAR. That's a lot of cats. Simply removing a colony means that a new one will just come in to take its place. The cycle is endless and frustrating.

Unless the cycle is stopped, this feral mama will continue to have multiple litters a year - and so will each of her female offspring.
Most animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, suggest Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) as the most effective and humane way to combat the problem of ferals in a community. Under this program, the person who is feeding the colony systematically traps each member of the colony, has the animal spayed or neutered, and then returns them to the group. The cat also gets vaccinations as part of the deal, and their ear is tipped so the feeder knows which cats have already been fixed.

With TNR, the cats are allowed to live, but they are not allowed to produce more feral cats. The colonies stabilize in number, and without the added drama of breeding, males fight less, and females are much healthier. With a steady source of food, the cats hunt less, and the colony overall is much safer, happier, and more palatable to the humans that live around them.
Greenville feral with tipped ear, via Saving Graces

Ferals are either the offspring of other feral cats, or of lost or abandoned pets. In order for a cat to be comfortable with people, they must be properly socialized during a critical phase of their young lives. Kittens under 8 weeks are relatively easy to socialize, while kittens of 8 weeks to 6 months take much more time and energy. Cats that reach six months without human contact will be extremely fearful of humans and usually too wild to socialize.

This is why HSEC does not accept feral cats. There are many well-socialized pets that need our help, and feral cats are not adoptable. They really would rather not live in your home. The shelter environment is even more stressful for ferals than for strays, and it is difficult for the staff to feed, medicate, and handle these wild animals.

There are organizations which provide help and care either specifically to ferals, or to ferals and stray cats. In Greenville, Saving Graces 4 Felines provides support for colony feeders who practice TNR. HSEC has also transported a small number of cats to Pigs, a sanctuary in West Virginia that specializes in rescuing pot-bellied pigs, and additionally serves as a home of last resort for less adoptable dogs, cats, and other farm animals.

Ghost, an HSEC alum now at Pigs Sanctuary

For more information, take a look at Saving Grace's feral information website and the Humane Society of America's feral cats FAQ, both of which have a lot of great details.

It may be strange to see a cat as a wild animal, but with the right management and support, these creatures can be just another part of the landscape.

Edited to add: the HSEC blog reserves the right to remove abusive comments. Opposing opinions are welcome provided they are composed in a respectful and appropriate manner.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Let's Be Friends

Let’s face it: we all want to be liked! It’s easy to fall in love with the sweet faces of our homeless cats and dogs, and we hope you’ll take one home to be your new best friend.

But we really, really want you to LIKE us!

Facebook is one of the best tools for us to get the word out about the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina.  Since we operate on a shoestring budget, devoting our resources to our animals, it helps us to reach our region and beyond with news about adoptable animals, upcoming events, interesting stories and ways everyone can support our lifesaving work.

Right now, over 1,800 Facebookers like us, but we’d love to double that – and we need your help!   Please share this post with your friends, and invite them to join you in keeping in touch with us by hitting the LIKE button.

And if you want to become even BETTER friends, why not become a HSEC blog follower? If you have a Google account, you can follow us by clicking the blue 'Join this site' button over on the right hand side. We also have a Twitter account, @HSEC and a Pinterest account, humanesocietyec. Don't miss a single moment of animal news, info, and pictures!

We love to hear from you. Write on our Facebook wall, or leave a comment on a blog post. Send us a picture of you and your pet!

As we head into summer, your help and support is even more important. During the summer our adoption numbers tend to dip and our donations temporarily decrease. This is typical for all animal welfare groups - it's just a slow time of year. But it's also the time when we have increased numbers of puppies and kittens to take care of. We love those soft little puppy kisses and kitten purrs, but these babies often need more medical care. Every cent counts, especially now.

We promise you’ll LIKE the warm feeling you’ll get from helping us spread the love for Eastern Carolina’s adorable animals!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blog Dog of the Month - Freddy!

We're kicking off June in style with our newest Blog Dog - Freddy! This sweet little guy has quite a story, but luckily for him, it has a happy ending at HSEC.

Freddy on arrival - an itchy, sad little elephant
Early in April, during one of the last frosts, someone dumped a hairless puppy on HSEC's doorstep. Abandoning animals in this fashion is reprehensibly cruel - not to mention illegal. When Freddy was found in the morning, shivering and miserable in his crate, he was immediately rushed to the vet. The diagnosis: demodicosis, AKA demodetic mange.

Demodex canis
Demodicosis is caused by the mite Demodex canis, which most dogs have in small numbers on their skin all the time. When the animal is stressed, malnourished, or has a depressed immune system, the mites can get out of control. Some animals may also have increased sensitivity to the mite. Because all dogs have the mite, demodicosis is not contagious. Usually flare ups are mild and do not cause much difficulty for the dog. Freddy's case was severe, causing almost total hair loss and painful, itching scabs over his body.
Throughout his treatment, Freddy remained affectionate and good natured.
 Luckily for this little dog, treatment for demodicosis is simple and effective. Freddy received baths and medication designed to get rid of the mites and soothe the infections on his skin. His hair seemed to grow back almost overnight. And to everyone's surprise, it came in black with cute little white spots on his chest. The scarring is very minimal, with little indication that he was ever afflicted.

On the road to recovery
Want to see Freddy today? Scroll down!

Today - recovered and ready for the next stage of his life.

The amazing thing about Freddy is not how he came to HSEC, nor his illness, nor his recovery. It is his personality, which remains undimmed by his ordeal. Everyone who meets Freddy describes him in the same way: happy! He's a completely normal puppy, enthusiastic about new friends and playmates and treats. He loves people, including children, and also loves other dogs.

The many faces of Freddy
Freddy is about 7-8 months old, and he's a pit bull mix. Mixed with what is anyone's guess. There's maybe some lab in there, and something else too, because he is quite small for a pit or a lab. It can be difficult to predict exactly how big a puppy will get, but Freddy's expected to reach only about 30 pounds when full grown.

Freddy and Katie Benson
 "I'm floored by what a happy puppy he is and how much he loves people", says Katie Benson, Director of Outreach for HSEC. As they say, to err is human - to forgive, canine. We think it's time for this sweetie to find his forever home. Are you the family that Freddy's been looking for?

Feeling much better and waiting for you!
Freddy has been fully vaccinated, is on flea and tick prevention and has been spayed and dewormed.  He has also tested negative for heartworms and is on heartworm prevention.  His adoption fee includes a bag of Science Diet dog food and one month of free pet insurance!

Thanks to blog photographer Amelia Muse and Magnolia Design Photography for the gorgeous pictures of Freddy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Protect Your Pet's Pearly Whites

We’ve all heard that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s, but that doesn’t mean your dog’s mouth is clean. Around 80% of domestic dogs are affected by gum infections. And even with this statistic, this is one of the problems most overlooked by pet parents. Here are 5 tips and tricks for doggie and kitty dental care.

1. Take a whiff.
Smell your pet’s breath. It won’t smell like a field of flowers, but just make sure it’s not especially offensive. If bad breath is accompanied by loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking/urinating, set up an appointment if your vet.

2. Pucker up.
Well, not really, but it is important to check your pet’s gums once a week. To do this have your pet face you and lift his/her lips. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should also show no signs of swelling.

3. Chew. Chew. Chew.
Chew toys are not only great entertainment for your pet and fulfilling their natural desire to hunt/chomp; they also make their teeth strong. Most toys will help massage gums and help keep teeth clean by scraping away some soft tartar. For dogs, toxin-free rawhides, nylon and rubber chew toys are great choices. Cats will enjoy any feline chew toy or anything resembling a string (which will also help floss your cat’s teeth).

What you feed your pets affects their teeth as well. Dry food, for both dogs and cats, can slow down the formation of plaque and tartar. Treats specific to teeth cleaning are also available.

4. Brush those pearly whites.
You brush your teeth every day; you should do the same for your dog or cat. Get in a habit of brushing their teeth after you brush your own. It only takes 60 seconds out of your day. At first, it may be a bit crazy, but the more you do it, the more your pet will get used to it.

When starting out with a brushing routine, follow these steps:
Get your pet used to having your fingers in his/her mouth. Massage their lips in a circular motion for 30-60 seconds once or twice a day. Continue this for a few weeks, then move on to the teeth and gums.

Once they seem comfortable with this, put a little bit of dog or cat specific toothpaste on your finger for them to lick off. NEVER use human toothpaste or basking soda. These can make your pet sick.
You’ll need a pet designed toothbrush. These are much smaller and softer than human toothbrushes. You may want to start with a piece of clean gauze or a finger brush. Angle your finger or the brush at a 45-degree angle and rub gently in a circular motion. Take note that the side of the teeth that touches the cheek usually gains the most tartar; it is best to end on a downward motion. Pet toothpaste works differently than our toothpaste. It contains enzymes that will continue to work after you’ve done your part.

5. Know your enemy.
Become familiar with the possible mouth problems that your pet could encounter. Bacteria and plaque-forming foods build up on your pet’s teeth and can harden into tartar/calculus within 24 to 48 hours. Without proper care this can lead to many disorders, such as: periodontal disease, gingivitis, swollen gums, mouth tumors and cysts. Without treatment your pet could also suffer from heart, lung, liver and/or kidney diseases from the infection getting into their bloodstream. Be sure to check with your veterinarian if you notice any of the following:
  • offensive bad breath
  • excessive drooling
  • red/white colored and swollen gums
  • any ulcers, tumors, or cysts
  • loose teeth
  • difficulty chewing
  • continuous pawing at the mouth

The most important thing to do is address dental disease as soon as you detect signs. No matter how minor. Your vet should conduct an oral exam during the normal check up visit. Save yourself from high bills for professional tooth cleaning, and remember to care for your pet’s teeth everyday.