Over the past two years, our news feeds have been bombarded with cute photos of quarantine puppies and kittens. These pets, however, have often fallen behind on basic vaccinations and routine care as the pandemic has increased challenges for owners and veterinarians alike.
Now, Second Chance Animal Services—with locations in Southbridge, Springfield, Worcester, and North Brookfield—is hoping to help a record-breaking 45,000 pets this year through adoption, spay and neuter services, veterinary care, community outreach, educational programs, training, and its pet food pantry program.
“We usually have a full schedule of towns to visit each spring, vaccinating hundreds of pets at a time,” said Sheryl Blancato, Second Chance’s CEO. “We were able to hold a few last year, but many pets are falling behind on critical vaccines that protect them from rabies or parvo.”
The organization typically supports 40,000 animals each year, so the goal of 45,000 is “not out of the realm of what we think we can accomplish,” according to Second Chance’s Development Director Lindsay Doray.
“We want to be there and make sure that everyone has access to care,” Ms. Doray says. “That’s what we do because we know that’s how we can keep pets in their homes and out of shelters to begin with.”
Ms. Doray said that a lot of times animals are being surrendered to shelters because unexpected medical expenses come up and people do not have the funds to take care of them. She mentioned that the pandemic increased the risk for these unanticipated animal needs due to unforeseen circumstances like the passing of a caretaker, loss of a job, or even just the risk of going out in public.
“By providing access to care, that is how people are able to maintain the medical care for their pets through different programs that we have to do,” Ms. Doray said. “We need to be proactive in addressing the root cause of those issues. In doing that we’re making sure that those animals don’t need to be in the shelter or in the adoption process.”
Second Chance hosts weekly vaccine clinics at its hospitals, and the organization is currently working to set up a schedule of town vaccine clinics. The dates and locations will be announced soon.
With four hospitals and an adoption center, Second Chance hosts numerous programs within the community including Homebound to the Rescue, where they send a mobile clinic to low-income senior housing and offer free wellness examinations.
According to Ms. Doray, “About 1,800 or so come in through adoption. The rest is through our hospitals, through our vaccine clinics, through our low-cost spay and neuter surgeries […] What’s unique to us is that our hospitals are full service.”
When it comes to surgeries, Second Chance takes care of them before the animals are adopted out. It not only helps the animals, but also the people whose homes they are joining.
The organization continues to support homeless pets in Massachusetts and from overcrowded shelters in the south. Many southern shelters are reaching full capacity and rely on places like Second Chance to help at-risk pets to find their forever home.
“We’re taking those animals from areas where they’re overwhelmed and over capacity and do still have needs,” Ms. Doray said. “By taking them out of there, we’re alleviating some of that pressure and some of those issues.”
In other words, these animals in other shelters need support and care, but in many cases wouldn’t receive it if it weren’t for Second Chance Animal Services.
The nonprofit animal welfare organization is also looking to its newest Community Veterinary Hospital in Southbridge as a key tool in helping them achieve their goal. Second Chance’s Southbridge Community Veterinary Hospital and Bay Path Veterinary Educational Center opened last November at 700 Worcester St.
“Like all businesses, we’ve faced staffing shortages,” Ms. Blancato said, “but we are excited to welcome some new recruits.”
The building, which formerly held a Jehovah’s Witness center, has been renovated partially by students at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton, and the facility continues to serve as an educational hospital through Second Chance’s partnership with Bay Path.
About 20 students are selected to study in the program, in which they learn veterinary and animal science. The opportunity allows the students to be “first-day ready” for employment after graduation.
“They do the course work but they also get hands-on experience working alongside our vet techs,” Ms. Doray said. “Some of them may choose to go straight into the workforce after high school, and they have some hands-on experience that would be very important for them getting into the field. Or, they can use it as a stepping stone and become a certified vet tech, or take it further and become a veterinarian, but to have this is great for the community because it’s a community in need.”
Ms. Blancato said that despite the rising costs of pet care, their nonprofit hospital subsidizes veterinary expenses for clients who qualify. Ms. Doray added that Second Chance is piloting that program, and it ensures that people can get the services they need for their pets.
As an engagement center, Second Chance also uses the space for educational outreach and training programs. The animal services organization has made clear they’re committed to doing what they can to expand capacity in 2022 and support pets in need.
“We know there are many more pets who need help,” Ms. Blancato said. “We can’t let these pets down, but we can’t do it alone.”
Those wishing to help can make a gift at secondchanceanimals.org/donate/ or checks can be mailed to Second Chance Animal Services, P.O. Box 136, East Brookfield, MA, 01515.
Monica Sager is a correspondent for the Worcester Chamber.
This story was originally published in the May 2022 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.