February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month

National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month

February is not just a month of love between humans, but also for your animals! One way you can share love to your animals is through spay/neutering. February is National Spay/Neuter Awareness month and we are here to tell you some of the many reasons why spaying/neutering your pets is an act of love for your furry friends.

National Spay/Neuter Awareness month is an opportunity for us to promote the importance of spaying and neutering your pet to make a positive impact on not only your pet’s life, but also the countless lives of other animals. Join us in advocating in learning more about responsible pet care and learning more on the importance of spaying/neutering your pet!

What Can Happen When You Don’t Spay/Neuter Your Pet?

One of the overwhelming challenges that can occur when you don’t spay/neuter your pet is accidental/unwanted pregnancies. Currently, shelters are full with homeless animals due to the overpopulation of pets. Each year, millions of animals find themselves without a home or family to call their own. Many (also millions) of these animals are sadly euthanized as there is no space for them in shelters, and not everyone is choosing to adopt- still. The good news is, with proactive measures such as spaying/neutering your pet, you can help combat this issue!

Another harsh reality of not spaying/neutering your pet is the higher risks of life threatening conditions such as uterine or ovarian cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

It is also more common for animals to have a desire to roam and fight, increasing chances of being lost or hurt. Choosing to spay/neuter your pet increases the likelihood of them living longer, healthier lives – which is a win for the both of you!

The Benefits of Spaying/Neutering

Spaying/Neutering your pet is a surgical procedure that prevents animals from reproducing. Spaying (female) is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. Neutering (male) is the surgical removal of the testicals. The benefits of these surgical procedures go beyond just population control; contributing to the overall health and well-being of your pet, and more!

  1. Population Control: One of the largest benefits of spaying/neutering your pet is controlling the population of unwanted animals. Preventing unplanned litters helps to elevate the already overcrowded shelters, which allows more animals the opportunity to be adopted and chance to save even more animals’ lives!
  2. Improved Behavior: Many pet owners notice an improvement in undesired behaviors once they spay/neuter their pets. These behaviors include decreased aggression, less likely to roam and decreasing the urge to mark their territory. In return, this can create a better relationship between the pet and the pet owners!
  3. Preventative Healthcare: Spaying/neutering your pet can greatly decrease the likelihood of many health risks in animals such as ovarian or uterine cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Without these life threatening illnesses, your pet is more likely to live a longer, happier and healthier life!

How We Can Raise Awareness

As a community of animal lovers, we can work together to raise awareness about the importance of spaying/neutering your pet! Here are a few ways that you can spread awareness during Spay/Neuter Awareness Month:

  • Support Local Shelters: Many shelters and other animal welfare organizations offer discounted spay/neuter surgeries throughout the year. Spread the word and encourage pet owners to take advantage of these opportunities to support their local shelter and be a part of the solution.
  • Educate the Community: One easy, free way to spread awareness about the importance of spaying/neutering your pet is to educate your community and your circle of people in your life! Sharing blog posts or social media graphics is one free, quick and easy way you can educate others on the importance of these procedures.
  • Share Your Story: If you are a pet owner yourself, share your story and experience with the successes and benefits of spaying/neutering your own pet! Personal testimonies like these go a long way in impacting others and inspiring them to make the responsible choice for their pet.

This February, let’s celebrate love not only by showering our pets with affection but also by taking responsibility for their health and well-being. National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month is a reminder that together, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of countless animals, creating a world where animals have the opportunity to live a happy, healthy life with a loving family. Join us in spreading the message of love, responsibility, and compassion this month and beyond.

Let’s Talk Enrichment!

Kit Napping

April is Heartworm Awareness Month! Protect your pets.

They’re baaaaaaaack! I think we can all agree as Michiganders that our state insect, the mosquito, is not well loved to say the least. (Before the fact checkers call me out, our official state insect is actually the monarch butterfly, not the mosquito – you can add that fact to your next trivia night!)

We have known for a long time that mosquitoes can transmit illness and parasites to humans, wildlife and companion animals, and have developed ways to try to control their populations and treat or prevent those illnesses and parasites. The parasite we are going to talk about today is heartworms. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats, and ferrets but the parasites have also been found in other mammals such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and rarely, humans.

What is it?

These parasites (heartworms) are spread by our friend, the mosquito. When a mosquito bites an animal with infected with heartworm disease, as they suck up a blood meal they also ingest “baby” heartworms, or larvae. Those “baby” heartworms grow up a bit more inside the mosquito, then when the mosquito bites another animal, those “babies” are given to the new host and the heartworm life cycle begins again.


So, what can a pet owner do? PREVENT PREVENT PREVENT! There are several types of heartworm prevention on the market for our dog, cat, and ferret family members. They can range from a chewable treat that you give once a month, a topical medication given monthly, or even an injection that can be given every 6-12 months! Prevention is the safest, most effective, and reliable way to protect your pet. All forms of prevention are prescription medications and will require you to see a veterinarian for an exam and to purchase the medication, or get a prescription through a pharmacy. Owners can increase their dog’s protection with the addition of an over-the-counter topical mosquito repellent such as Advantix II or Vectra3D. Vectra3D is available for purchase at Harbor Humane without a prescription. Know your dog’s weight and we can get you the right dosage!

Treatment is available for dogs with heartworm disease, but along with costing up to thousands of dollars, treatment can be painful and has the potential to cause life threatening complications. Our cat and ferret friends are not so lucky as there is no approved treatment for them. The only thing we can do is use monthly prevention and minimize their exposure to mosquito bites by keeping them inside and minimizing any standing water near your house. It’s up to pet owners to take all steps to keep their pets protected from this disease!

For more information about heartworms, prevention, or treatment please contact your veterinarian with questions or visit the American Heartworm Society at www.heartwormsociety.org 

 – Sara Y, Medical Director


RETURN TO HOME: Keeping your pets safe and helping strays get home.

Losing your pet is a scary experience. Finding a lost pet can be an emotional and maybe worrisome experience, but may also leave you wondering about next steps. Harbor Humane Society not

only manages the Lost and Found Animals of Ottawa County, but is the best means to helping pets get home safely and quickly. Making sure our community is set up for success with best practices for pet owners and those who find lost pets is priority. Here are a few tips!

I found a stray – now what?

If you have found a stray cat or dog, there are a number of things you can do to help get the lost pet home and keep both you and the animal safe. Safety First. Please be sure to approach all animals with care. A strange, frightened, and possibly sick or injured animal can behave unpredictably. Move slowly, and remain in your car or at a safe distance if you feel unsafe (in this case, calli


ng local Police or Animal Control is the best option). If you are able to get the animal on a leash or into your car, try to keep the animal secured (in a back seat or on leash) until you can get the animal to safety.

Stray cats – they can be tricky! A stray cat who is healthy and friendly likely belongs to someone in your neigh

borhood. Cats have a far better chance of reuniting with their owner when they’re left in the area in which they’re found. Less than five percent of stray cats that are brought into shelters are reclaimed by their owners. For this reason, we encourage you to leave healthy and friendly cats where you discovered th

em. If you do not believe the cat is owned, please call the shelter and you will be walked through steps.

Important Next Steps:

  • Look for a tag. If there’s an ID tag, contact the owner immediately. If there is no ID tag, bring the animal to the humane society, a local vet or call animal control to scan for a microchip.
  • If no tag or chip – bring the animal to HHS or call Animal Control. Found animals have the best chance at getting back home if they are brought to Harbor (we are the temporary home for all stray animals in Ottawa County), and can be entered into the system. We will post to local lost animal pages and work with our resources to hopefully get in touch with the owner.
  • If the owner is not found, the animal will become available for adoption after their stray hold is up.


Harbor Humane + Animal Control = true partnership

Some may not be aware of just how closely Harbor Humane and Ottawa County Animal Control (and PD) work together, on a daily basis. We rely on this teamwork to help us help our community best, and keep our community pets safe and at home.

“With only 2 officers covering the entirety of Ottawa county, the partnership between Animal Control and Harbor Humane is crucial. Animal Control officers and Harbor are equally concerned with animal rights and safety. Over the years, more defined lines have developed, so that we can focus on locating owners while in the field (and immediately) and proper and thorough investigations if and when needed. Harbor is the safe place to land for these animals, until they are returned home or adopted.” – Luke Wiersma, Ottawa County Animal Control Officer.

We also understand the fears and hesitations some may still have over bringing a found animal to the shelter, or even calling Animal Control. But the truth is, both are truly the best and safest place to ensure animals are returned to their homes. We want our community to trust in us, and understand that these animals are safe and loved with us.

Luke also shared, “Animal control and animal sheltering isn’t what it was 50-60 years ago. It’s not the dreaded “pound,” and our hope is that our community understands it is the absolute best place, and process, for finding your pet when lost.”

Did you know that Harbor works, literally, side by side of Ottawa Animal Control to care for lost and found pets? The official “Lost and Found Pets of Ottawa County” is managed by Harbor, and every stray that is found by Animal Control Officers is brought to Harbor. This truly is the very best way for us all to ensure that pets are returned home – through the working partnership of Animal Control and HHS.


What can I do to ensure my pet gets home safely if it’s lost?

  • To stay a step ahead in case your animal gets lost, get your pet microchipped at your local vet or Harbor Humane and register their chip to your household! Microchipped animals are over 50% more likely to be reunited with their owners.
  • Contact your local animal shelter immediately to file a lost report. Even better, go in person and file the report and look at the lost animals in person.
  • Look for your pet as soon as possible! Cats are especially good at hiding and may be as close as your backyard. Check under bushes, cars, decks and porches, garages, in sheds, garages, wood piles, etc. Sometimes putting familiar smells or food outside can be helpful in getting them to come back to their safe place.
  • Spread the word! Talk with your neighbors. Post flyers with pictures! Use social media and local lost and found pages/sites to share (Ottawa County Lost and Found if you are local).


Just so you know…our holding policy for stray animals

All animals who are brought in as strays are held for a certain length of time. Animals with no identification are held for 4 days which does not include the day the animal arrived at HHS. Animals who have a collar or other form of identification are held for 7 days, not including the day the animal arrived at HHS. Reclaiming a Lost AnimalIf you believe your animal is at Harbor, please contact HHS. You must show proof of ownership which could include a combination of the following: ID tag, rabies tags, or license tags, vet records, photos, registration proof, detailed description of your pet. Please see Harbor’s website for reclaim hours. To release a stray animal back to its owner, animals must have a rabies vaccination and a dog license if living in Ottawa County.


What about wildlife?

Unfortunately, Harbor does not have the resources or extensive knowledge to care for wild animals. If you are to find a hurt or helpless wild animal in need, we encourage you to contact local animal control.


Important Contact Information:

Ottawa County Animal Control: 616-738-4033

Harbor Humane Society: 616-399-2119, https://harborhumane.org/lost-pets







A shelter dog’s impact. The story of how a dog like Milwaukee affects the lives of so many.

A shelter dog’s impact. The story of how a dog like Milwaukee affects the lives of so many.

“Where to begin? I started working at Harbor Humane towards the end of the summer and I remember meeting Milwaukee for the first time. To be completely honest, I was very hesitant and cautious around her during the first couple of interactions we had together because I’ve never really been around pits before. As unfortunate as it is, the negative stereotypes around pits got in the way of me developing a bond with her sooner than I wished to. But when I got through the training process and was able to interact more with the animals on my own, I truly got to see the amazing dog that Milwaukee is. I always noticed her to be so incredibly patient every time I’d let her out after she got done eating. Every day she would go into her assigned kennel outside and would pee or poop in the same exact spot and then afterwards she would just sit there patiently waiting for us to bring her back in. She didn’t pay much attention to the other animals and was so incredibly loving towards me. Every time I’d come into work, I looked forward to seeing her and would pass by her kennel just to tell her that I’d take her out for a walk after I got done with working. So, then it began. Maybe 2-3 times a week, I would try to find the time aside from school and my other job to take her to a park nearby because it broke my heart seeing her stuck in her kennel all day. Seeing how happy she was to be able to go on these walks filled me with an indescribable amount of joy. We built a bond together that I will forever cherish. I had hoped to adopt her because I got to build this incredible bond with her, and I wanted to be the person that could provide her the wonderful life that she so deserved. Before working at Harbor, my parents told me that I could work here only if I didn’t bring home any animals. So, it was incredibly difficult trying to convince my parents to adopt Milwaukee. But they knew how much I loved her, so they gave it a chance. On some of the walks that we had, I would have my mom or dad meet us there, and then eventually I had my parents bring my dog Shelby to meet her as well. Unfortunately, as soon as they met, my dog didn’t react well. It was incredibly important that they’d get along but unfortunately it didn’t work out and I was completely devastated. So, after that, I continued to set time aside to spend with Milwaukee. I talked about her to as many people as I could and posted about her on my social media. It just simply didn’t make sense to me at all why she wasn’t adopted yet because I knew that the Milwaukee I got to know, and love would bring so much love into another household.
After several weeks passed, I got the news that she was adopted. I was filled with excitement and selfishly, with sadness at the same time. I was overjoyed with the fact that her adopters were good people but a part of me wished that I was able to share that story with her. I found out who her adopters were and sent them a message just to express how thankful I am that they found her and were willing to give her a chance. I still keep in contact with them and they even allowed me to meet her sometime soon! I am forever thankful that I got to spend the time that I did with her before going to her forever home.” – Len, Harbor employee and BFF to Milwaukee.


So… where is she now and how is she doing? Her new family fills us in!

“Milwaukee is doing absolutely amazing and is the love of our lives! After we lost our last dog at 15, who was deaf and blind, we decided to foster senior and disabled dogs instead of adopting (though we did a great job of getting family members to adopt our fosters, so we didn’t actually have to say goodbye). When we moved back to Grand Rapids after living in Scotland, UK we knew it was time to add to our forever pack. When we said we wanted the most perfect imperfect dog, they immediately suggested Milwaukee, and we are so glad they did! She loves fetch, belly rubs and being little spoon on the couch for naps. She is perfect with my fiancé, Thomas, and I and we have started teaching her commands like down, place, and shake and she loves learning. Her little piggy noises crack us up and her snores can be heard from the other room. Her only issue is a little bit of stranger danger, but we are working on it as we continue to train. She also had an infection in her eyes that we are treating, and she is so good at letting me put eye drops in, even though she hates it. Her eyes are barely pink anymore and look so much better.

Milli has become the main face of my bandana business, KokoBean Pet Accessories, which is perfect because she absolutely loves her collar. If I take it off, she cries and wants me to put it back on. If I set it down, she brings it to me at sets it at my feet. We love her so much; words can’t even describe it. ” – Milli’s new family.


It doesn’t stop there! Some words from our volunteers and staff who were impacted by Milwaukee.

“I love it when adopters send updates on progress. I think we all knew Milwaukee (Milli) had it in her. She is a sweet girl and we believed in her and she needed a family to see that and believe in her. She looks amazing, she is smiling. She knows exactly what it is like to win the lottery!! She won BIG! Thank you for the update and give her a hug and belly rub from all of us at Harbor!”

“I knew when I met them, that the three would be a perfect pair  she can live her best, happiest life now. I love the update and all the love everyone has for her!”

“I’m not crying, you are! This is wonderful.”

“I’m so glad that sweet Milli (I called her that also) got her forever home. It makes me so happy to see the amazing transformation that happens after they go home. Sad Milli is gone but happy Milli is there to stay!”

“So happy for Milli. I called her that sometimes! She was one of my favorites. Her eyes look so much better. Thank you for rescuing her.”


As you can see, Milwaukee affected so many. These shelter animals’ second (or maybe third or fourth) chances at life start with us here at Harbor – but most often, they don’t stop there. Our connection to these animals is strong and withstands time and distance. Whether staff who works with them daily, or volunteers who give of their time and energy to make the small differences that count. To finally, adoptive families and of course – adopted pets. The impact, and the feelings involved, are HUGE.  Thank you to all who play a part in saving lives like Milli’s, and for continuing to help us move our mission forward for more.

You can keep up with Milwaukee on Facebook and Instagram at @kokobeanpetacceasories!

“Animal Jail”

“Director Of All Things NOT Glamorous”, The Tale of an Operations Director

“If I won the lottery, I’d open an animal shelter.” That was a thought I used to have, before I actually worked in one. It seemed like such a simple thing: I’d save animals, spend my whole day around them, and help them find new homes. It didn’t seem that complicated. Well, spoiler alert – as I quickly learned, it’s not that easy.

My title at Harbor is Operations Director, but it could be “Director of all things not glamorous”. I handle all of the finances, Human Resources, and manage a lot of the facility operations, all things I certainly would have never considered in my younger self’s fantasy of opening an animal shelter. In the simplest terms, my job is to account for every single dollar that Harbor receives or spends, handle the administrative side of staffing, and oversee the general operations of the building. I won’t bore you with the accounting side of things (for some reason no one was excited at the idea of a non-profit accounting blog post!) but the facility and the people who run it are a huge part of what makes Harbor, and any animal shelter, work.

Harbor has a 10,000 square foot facility, which has to be heated or cooled (except for those three magical days in May and October when the temperature is a perfect 68 degrees) and have running water and electricity to function. Those basic utilities: electricity, gas, and water cost on average over $40,000 a year. To put that in perspective, that is about how much money we raise at our annual Ales for Tails fundraiser- our largest event of the year.

And those are just the basics, when you add in other necessities like trash service, telephone and internet, building repairs, staffing, and insurance… well I think you get the picture that it adds up pretty fast. And that’s before you even add directly caring for the animals into the equation! I know this isn’t an exciting topic. I know that when folks donate, they aren’t thinking, “Hey my donation will fund the animal shelter’s trash service for a week!” But the general operations of our facility are so important. They allow us to do all the of things that excite us about being in animal welfare like adoptions, re-uniting pets with their owners and providing community services like humane education, or our low-cost veterinary clinic.

However, one of the most important basic ingredients to Harbor’s recipe for success is the people that work here. We have over forty-five employees between the shelter and our offsite resale store, and they are what truly makes our shelter succeed. You may not realize this, but animal welfare is its own niche in the non-profit world, with its own experts, philosophies and culture. Much like a realtor may go to a national conference to network and find the best strategies to sell a home, our staff go to conferences to learn the best ways to run our shelter and to network with animal welfare professionals all over the country. We collaborate, problem solve, and are constantly working on new programs and ways to reach pets and people. I think a common assumption in for a lot of non-profits, and animal shelters especially, is that anyone can do it. And yes, in theory anyone can start a non-profit. But to do it well, it truly takes a village of dedicated professionals. We aren’t just a bunch of folks who love animals (although of course we do), we are a team that is trained to care for the needs of the animals and community that we serve.

This is just a small peak behind the curtain of what it takes to run a shelter with the size and scope of Harbor. When people think of shelters, they automatically think of the animals- and rightfully so, that’s why we are all here, after all! But to run all our animal related programs, it takes a solid foundation. And like any good foundation, you may not see it, you may not think about it, but at the end of the day, it’s holding everything upright.

Allison Deters, Operations Director