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Out & About: Humane society turns to social services

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/8/2021 9:53:54 PM
Modified: 8/8/2021 9:53:56 PM

ENFIELD — When people think of animal shelters, the first thing that comes to mind might be adoption.

But that’s often only a fraction of the work area humane societies take on. An increasing part of their work focuses on social services, which is something the Upper Valley Humane Society is keeping at the forefront as staff and board members begin work on a strategic plan after receiving a $5,000 grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“We’re trying to keep animals out of the shelter and in the homes we’re they’re already loved,” said Nikki Grimes, executive director at UVHS. “I’m not speaking out of term to say that social services will absolutely be part of the strategic direction. What exactly that looks like I can’t speak to, but social services are absolutely a major priority.”

For UVHS, that’s meant hosting a pet food pantry for people who need help feeding their animals.

Its commitment to social services also includes increasing its low-cost spay/neuter clinics, including a spay-the-mom program. which allows owners to bring their cat and its kittens to UVHS where all will be spayed. Then, shelter staff find homes for the kittens.

The organization also updated its emergency boarding housing to make it less stressful for pets who stay there. When people need in-patient treatment for drug or alcohol misuse or need to stay in the hospital for an extended stay, UVHS staff can look after their pets.

“There are options for people to keep the animals they love, the animals love them, despite the very real things they go through in their lifetime,” Grimes said. “Adoption is important. Our community wants animals absolutely, but it is really true that a lot of our work is additional services for the community.”

Another task UVHS staff have focused on with the help of volunteers is trap-neuter-return programs where they capture feral cats and have spayed/neutered and vaccinated before releasing them back to their colony. They recently did a TNR project involving 30 cats in Hartford.

“That is going to make that neighborhood healthier,” Grimes said.

Last Tuesday, there were 75 animals at UVHS. In 2016, animals stayed “well over 100 days, almost 125 days,” Grimes said. Last year, that went down to 26 days. The no-kill standard for shelters to maintain their no-kill status is 90% and UVHS’ is close to 97%.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Grimes said, UVHS expected to be taking in animals from people who died of COVID-19. While that didn’t turn out to be the case in the Upper Valley, the pandemic did draw more attention to the ways pets can be impacted by the upheaval in their owners’ lives.

“We’re going to need to think about what this pandemic has taught us about social safety,” Grimes said. “The overall housing crisis in the Upper Valley, the market being as high as it is with the lower inventory, that will definitely impact animals in the Upper Valley.”

Everything is interconnected, Grimes said. It always was, but now more people are understanding that and being moved to do something about it. One of the projects UVHS is focusing on is how to bring pet care to people who are experiencing homelessness. They’re also working with people who are open to adopting animals who might have medical or behavioral issues.

“We do have many animals who have behavioral or medical needs and we would really benefit from some folks who have behavior training or interest in animal behavior to come forward for some special needs adoptions,” Grimes said.

Volunteers are needed to help with UVHS’ TNR program, to walk dogs and help with cleaning. Later, people will be needed to help paint UVHS for the first time in 20 years.

“If I can get any message out it would be today animal welfare is about social services … that help animals stay in their homes where they’re already loved. We all go through times that are difficult for various reasons,” Grimes said. “That’s how we take care of the animals in our community.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at

Valley News

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West Lebanon, NH 03784


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