Built in 2011 at a cost of roughly $3.5 million, the 11,000-sq.-ft. Upper Bucks SPCA occupies part of a 24-acre campus which includes an 1,800-sq.-ft. barn for livestock, and can house about 30 dogs and 60 cats at a time.
The Upper Bucks SPCA in Quakertown isn’t your typical animal shelter.
Far from the usual fray of loud barking dogs and less-than-fresh-smelling cages and kennels, visitors to the Reservoir Road facility are greeted by an expansive, welcoming interior, soothing music and immaculately clean provisions.
It’s all a part of Shelter Manager Melissa Frank’s mission to put the shelter’s best foot forward in serving both the animals and the people of Bucks County and beyond.
“We are warm, welcoming and we try to work with everyone,” she said of the 100 percent donation-based organization. “People don’t know we are here to help.”
Frank, a gregarious pet industry veteran, including several years at the Holiday House Pet Resort in Doylestown, said the shelter operates on a simple premise – that every pet deserves to find a permanent, loving home.
The branch of the Bucks County SPCA, rapidly approaching its first anniversary in February, is home to the usual cast of characters including all breeds of dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards and birds. But where they call home temporarily are quarters made to allow them to feel as comfortable as possible.
In the cat adoption room, cats can be found with both the necessities, like food, water and litter, but also in baskets with fresh blankets or towels, or curled up inside a large climbing toy. Two separate colony rooms allow them to roam and play freely. Frank said the space is essential for some felines, who require socialization with other cats.
When it comes to the dogs, there are three separate adoption kennel areas, one for new arrivals which gives them time to acclimate to life at the shelter, one for small dogs and one for their larger peers. The kennels, with comfortable beds and heated floors, feature skylights which flow throughout the facility to allow as much natural light in as possible.
The dogs have a spacious outdoor exercise area, fenced in on a portion of the shelter’s 20-plus acres, to run and play with each other. The SPCA’s behaviorists also use the space to interact with the dogs.
“We try to engage the dogs at all times,” Frank said, noting staff give the dogs toys and play with the animals. She also referenced some non-traditional methods they have utilized, including homeopathic remedies, Reiki and acupuncture. “We try whatever we can to help the animals.”
Music in the facility, specifically used to induce “kennel quiet,” plays for 17 hours daily and ranges from New Age to Celtic. Selections also include “Through a Dog’s Ear,” music specially proven to lower stress in canines, Frank said.
The shelter features two full surgery rooms, which it uses to spay or neuter and microchip each cat or dog, which are also fully vaccinated, before they leave the shelter. The surgery suites are rented out on weekends to No Nonsense Neutering. The non-profit provides high-quality, low-cost sterilization for both pet and feral cats as well as dogs.
The facility has a grooming salon, nursery for moms and new puppies, where Frank personally practices “midwoofery,” a training room where the SPCA continually holds classes for the public, an evaluation room for behavior assessments and education quarters where the shelter hosts rescue groups and non-profits like boy and girl scouts.
And, vital to local law enforcement agencies, the shelter also has a 24-hour police holding facility for stray/lost dogs.
While the SPCA's services are varied, including investigating more than 500 cruelty complaints in 2012 according to Bucks County SPCA Executive Director Anne Irwin, the Upper Bucks campus focuses on community outreach and education. They offer a free behavior helpline, variety of humane education classes and obedience/training sessions.
They also have end-of-life services, offering euthanasia by donation, and reach out to help pet owners wherever possible.
“If we can give someone a few bags of food and help keep their pet in their home, where they’re comfortable, we do,” Frank noted.
She said while surrendered animals are taken only from Bucks County residents, residents from Montgomery and other areas are welcomed to adopt animals by visiting the shelter or searching the Petfinder link on the society’s website, bcspca.org. Dog owners are encouraged, after filling out an application, to bring their dog to the facility for a meet-and-greet with any potential adoptee.
Above all the amenities and offerings, Frank said the staff’s and volunteers’ enthusiasm and love for the animals make the shelter a thriving place, which took in more than 2,000 animals its first year.
“The range of emotions we can go through on a daily basis is all over the spectrum,” she said. “But the enthusiasm from the staff gets me excited…When we adopt out an animal that everybody loved and has been here a while, we give a hug, a high five. Everybody goes out to meet the person who adopted them. It’s pretty neat.”
For more information on the Bucks County SPCA’s Upper Bucks shelter, visit their website or call (267)347-4674.