As an open door shelter, the Western PA Humane Society never turns down any of the 14,000 animals that come to us in need of help. This, of course, can lead to us housing some rather interesting characters, especially during the busy summer months.
While our North shore shelter is equipped to house dogs, cats, and rabbits on a regular basis, staff members like Jamie Wilson have seen plenty of other animals come through the shelter’s doors, including turtles, various reptiles, a variety of large birds and small exotic animals.
This year the shelter also housed over thirty chickens and roosters, in addition to pot-bellied pigs and a goat, which Wilson says are “common oddballs.” Officer Bob Gosser has also handled complaints about abandoned alligators and a variety of small animals such as hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs.
While these animals clearly aren’t meant to live in the city, many somehow find themselves living in unfit environments in Pittsburgh neighborhoods, often because of a lack of education on the owner’s part. People often purchase exotic or farm animals when they’re small, and as they grow, people don’t know how to properly care for them. They become noisier, messier, and more expensive to handle, and soon people simply don’t want to deal with them anymore.
In recent years, the numbers of rescued farm animals in particular has begun to climb. One possible reason for the increasing number of chickens in the city is that harvesting fresh eggs has become a trend, according to Dr. Todd Blauvelt. Both urban chicken farming and bee keeping are increasing, and both are regulated in the city of Pittsburgh by the Bureau of Building Inspection. Sadly, many pet owners somehow escape the eyes of the Bureau and do not properly care for their animals.
When animals are seized or surrendered, the Western PA Humane Society does its best to make room for these oddballs, despite the challenges they present.
Farm animals can be temporarily housed in the dog runs. This, however, often leads to problems when the hay and feed begins to clog the drains in the room. Plus, because farm animals can carry contagious disease and parasites, shelter staff must always monitor the other animals for signs of trouble when housing farm animals.
The shelter also normally only buys food for cats, dogs and rabbits; fortunately, staff will run out and find food for “oddball” arrivals when needed. Sometimes, they also find themselves purchasing additional equipment to make the handling of these potentially temperamental animals a little easier.
While staff are willing to go out of their way to accommodate these creatures, the number one goal is to move them out as soon as possible and to relocate them to an area or facility that can better care for them.
For many rescued farm or exotic animals, adoption will never be an option, and special rescue groups are called in to help. One staff member, Dr. Phillips, actually owns a small farm for rescue animals. To date, three pigs, three ducks, two adult chickens and six chicks have gone to this farm. Other animals have been sent to various local organizations willing to care for them. We couldn’t help these animals as often as we do without our allies and friends.
BY Larissa Gula