As I sat in the parking lot of the MSPCA-Angell gathering my camera, notebook, and pen; I could not help wondering how they could need such a big building. I had been offered a tour of the facility and an opportunity to meet some of the people who make the MSPCA-Angell happen. For the life of me, I could not imagine what was behind the doors to this old seminary. I share below what I learned about an incredible organization of people with the desire to help others, animals being the forefront of their efforts.
Gaining a Better Understanding of MSPCA-Angell
I met with Laura Hoag (Development Officer, Major Gifts), Kara Holmquist (Director of Advocacy) and Brian Adams (Senior Manager, Media and Community Relations) to discuss the various programs that the MSPCA-Angell has developed to better serve animals and pet owners. Most people would recognize the MSPCA-Angell as an animal shelter/adoption center and veterinary/animal hospital – both of which are accurate, though after chatting in the lobby for 30 minutes, I began to recognize the MSPCA-Angell has many more programs and is much more involved in our community than you would imagine. In fact, everything I saw during my visit was much different than I had imagined as I gathered my things out of the car before my 4.5 hour tour of the MSPCA-Angell.
Entering The Angell Animal Care Center
When you enter Angell Animal Medical Center, the lobby is simply impressive, huge in fact. This may lead you to believe that behind the closed doors where the staff disappears that the space is also so generously used, this is not necessarily the case. The lobby allows space between sickanimals and the different species which come to the animal hospital for care. In 2009, Angell Animal Medical Center staff saw more than 50,000 patients, not all of them dogs, but plenty of cats, birds, exotic animals, etc. When you understand the demand of animal care which is met here, the well designed lobby makes perfect sense. In the back rooms where all the exam rooms, labs and offices are located it is a different story.
Behind Closed Doors of the Angell Animal Care Center
On the other side of the doors exists the inner workings of the animal hospital where normally only the staff ventures. Every square foot of space is utilized by one department or another. Nothing is fancy or wasteful. Vets, vet techs and volunteers utilize what every nook they can find as they work on helping their current patients. Efficiency seems to override ascetics; which department is located to the next seems paramount as there are many more animal patients coming through the doors each day. But it is in part the myriad of departments which makes Angell Animal Medical Center so special.
Back in the lobby hung a large sign which listed the various departments of animal medicine and the associated doctors. The list is long and comprehensive as you might find in the lobby of MGH, not a veterinary office. If among everything else I write here today I can impress upon others, Angell Animal Medical Center has invested incredible resources in medical equipment and intellect not likely to be found elsewhere. When the answers to what ails our animal companions are hidden deep, this animal hospital contains a rare collection of specialized medical equipment as well as knowledge.
Much like a regular hospital, the Neurology service has an MRI, which allows doctors and technicians to check for nervous system disorders. The Oncology service has a Linear Accelerator for targeted care such as removing a cancerous tumor from an animal’s nose without killing the taste-buds on the tongue. In Cardiology, an ultrasound was being used to diagnose a leaky heart valve which could be cured by a daily dose of medicine. Often times instead of explorative surgery, specialized testing may be done to find the answer. Another example of finding answers versus guessing is the onsite blood lab. Instead of sending out blood work, medical technologists process tests in-house allowing for faster diagnoses and treatment options.
Where I was really impressed was how well all the various departments communicate. As you walk through the different departments and labs you see people everywhere entering data into computers. Every detail is logged for each patient and accessible by the other veterinarians enabling new findings to be shared between departments. The high level of communication allows for multiple departments to work together as one.
How these resources are possible
It was when I started to wonder how the MSPCA-Angell had acquired all of this equipment that I recognized the names you see attached toeverything. Some names are on small plaques thanking someone for a donation to make a certain piece of equipment possible, while other names belong to those who have made entire wings or programs at Angell Animal Medical Center or the Animal Care and Adoption Center possible. I will gander a guess that you are more apt to notice these names if you just realized your animal companion might not be alive if it were not for the generosity of the person whose name you are reading on that plaque.
The Boston Adoption Center
Directly connected to Angell is the MSPCA’s Animal Care and Adoption Center. I think most of us associate animal adoption centers or animal shelters with thoughts of sad, dreary places. The MSPCA adoption center is far from sad or dreary, but a place of hope, smiles and helpful advice as well as future furry companions. The MSPCA-Angell has gone out of the way to provide a comfortable place for families to meet pets looking for a good home. In fact in 2008, the MSPCA’s statewide adoption centers placed over 14,000 animals in new homes.
The Boston adoption center is well designed, clean and well lit. You have a chance to meet dogs and read their stories about how they arrived at the adoption center as well as an honest assessment of their personalities and things they might need to work on. The volunteers at the adoption center are fantastic and very helpful in placing the right animal with the right family. Many people come here more than once looking for the right pet. The adoption center makes it easy by offering a great environment, helpful staff and extended hours. There is no pressure – when you find the right animal you will know.
Behind the scenes at the adoption center, animals that are surrendered receive a check up from the adoption center staff, as well as any needed medical treatment – this service is also something made possible by the MSPCA-Angell’s generous donors. The staff spends time playing and working with the animals, getting to know them better in order to place them in the right home. For some, training begins immediately. When visiting the adoption center, you even see instructions on their profile cards about telling a dog to sit for a treat. As I toured through the adoption center, there was Lyric, a cool looking dog who happened to be deaf, learning hand signals from staff and visitors.
Training Classes for Dogs and Their Owners
Sometimes it is not just the dogs who need training, but the owners as well. The Dog Training and Behavior Center at the MSPCA-Angell offers training classes from puppy socialization, beginning obedience, good manners classes, to agility and the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program. Dog training classes will help build a stronger relationship between you and your dog. For people living in Boston, these classes are right in your backyard and make a huge difference in apartment living and good behavior at the dog park. Dog training classes like these are equally important for both the dog and the person as often times the problem is the result of something the owner is doing, not the dog.
MSPCA-Angell and the Community
The MSPCA-Angell is much more than a network of animal hospitals and adoption centers. The organization is directly involved with our community on a multitude of levels. I met Kara Holmquist who as the Director of Advocacy heads the MSPCA Animal Action Team, involved in providing a voice for animals in government legislation. Results of their past efforts can be seen in the pet friendly policies of the MBTA, the ban on Greyhound racing, stiffer penalties for spectators of dog fights and the renting of pets in Massachusetts. The MSPCA Animal Action Team also works with landlords and building managers in an effort to forge more pet friendly apartments in the Boston area. The inability to find pet friendly apartments is one of the main reasons people surrender their pets to the adoption center. This is just a sample of the incredible work done by the MSPCA’s Advocacy team. You can learn more through their newsletter and website.
Offices and resources are also provided for the MSPCA’s Law Enforcement department commissioned to enforce animal cruelty laws solely for the non-profit across the Commonwealth. With the goal of educating pet owners in many cases instead of charging them, the animal law enforcement officers have a huge task before them. In fact during 2008:
- they investigated 2,904 complaints about alleged abuse or neglect,
- inspected over 50,000 animals
- performed 3,515 case re-checks
- accepted the voluntary surrender of 1,063 animals
- inspected 896 pet shops and other related facilities
- appeared is court 72 times
Final Thoughts About MSPCA-Angell, Angell Animal Medical Center and Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center
When you are in the back halls of the administrative areas, there are many photographs of past veterinary staff and volunteers who have cared for past animals and helped build what the MSPCA-Angell is today. This effort started in 1868 and I am amazed by what an incredible resource the MSPCA-Angell organization has become for Boston, Massachusetts and beyond. When you sit down and look at the shear number of lives this organization has touched without any government assistance, it is truly remarkable.
Impressions I took away with me:
- I was amazed how many people work or volunteer at MSPCA-Angell, more impressed by how busy everyone is and shocked at how many animals they help every year.
- I never would have imagined the resources in both medical equipment and staff at Angell Animal Medical Center; the dimly flickering light of hope burns bright here.
- Whether it is keeping certain section close to save time or using technology to communicate there is much attention paid to efficiency.
- The Adoption Center is not a sad place but in fact a very comfortable place to look for your new companion.
- If it were not for the generosity of others, MSPCA-Angell would not exist.
- They do not receive government subsidies or discounts on heating oil and electric.
- I can not imagine the condition of animals in Massachusetts if MSPCA-Angell did not exist
If you find yourself in a position where you need help with your dog, cat, or pet, the MSPCA-Angell is a fantastic place to go; especially, if you are unsure where to start. If you want to contribute in some way to make the lives of animals better; consider the MSPCA-Angell. If you are looking for a new pet to join your family, there are always fantastic animals looking for a new home. Regardless, the MSPCA-Angell makes a positive impact in the lives of animals and their owners. I am glad I had the opportunity to learn more about an incredible organization of people. You can be sure to find more articles about some of the lesser known programs for Boston dog owners.