Linda Reider was studying horticulture at a Texas college when she was asked to donate some old sheets and towels to the local dog pound.
The animals she saw there captured her heart and the next thing she knew she was volunteering.
“It was a sad place,” she said, “and I wanted to help.” She’s still helping but the shelters she’s directing are far from sad. Tail-wagging dogs and lively cats, their gazes inscrutable, are awaiting new homes.
Reider’s caring instincts awakened at that pound, have led her to a four-decade career in animal welfare, including 10 years with the Michigan Humane Society where she directed statewide initiatives.
She has been executive director of the Bucks County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) for the past eight years, having taken the helm from Anne Irwin, who led the nonprofit for 44 years.
As Reider led a brief tour of the SPCA shelter — sun-filled and squeaky clean in Lahaska — she outlined some of the organization’s many services.
She was careful to credit Irwin.
“She laid a strong foundation; I’ve built on that with the help of donations from generous citizens who care about animals,” Reider said.
Renovations at the Lahaska shelter on Street Road are almost complete and an old farmhouse on the property is now being updated with the help of a very generous donor, she said.
The BCSPCA, which also has a Quakertown shelter, was, in fact, founded by a group of local animal lovers in 1912, Reider said. At the time, concerns about cruelty were directed at farm animals.
It has a staff of 40, about evenly divided between the two shelters, and 200 volunteers, who spend thousands of hours every year helping to care for the animals.
During the tour of the shelter, it was obvious Reider is the heart and soul of the agency, chatting with staff and volunteers and visiting the animals.
“While most people think of the BCSPCA as a pet adoption agency, it is much more than that. I think of us more as a public social services agency even though we’re privately funded,” Reider explained.
The shelters share a full-time veterinarian who works in a fully equipped surgery center and has access to a complete laboratory.
The organization’s achievements are impressive.
Last year, people adopted 1,130 cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs as well as farm animals from the two shelters. The shelters also offered foster care for more than 600 animals until they were ready for adoption. For pets with behavioral problems the shelters man a helpline. Reider, who lives with her husband on a small farm in Nockamixon, divides her time between shelters, as does the veterinarian.
The BCSPCA gave more than 11,000 pounds of dog food to local food pantries. About 130 residents received pet assistance funds. Reider said all the animals released to the public are healthy.
“We also microchip all the animals,” she added, “and if, for some reason, the family and animal are a bad match we’ll take the pet back within 60 days of the adoption.”
She said most rescued animals spend only a few days at the shelter. Also, there is no time limit on the pet’s stay at the shelter.
“They can stay until they’re adopted,” she said.
The only pets ever euthanized are those whose injuries or illnesses have been judged beyond repair.
The organization’s original concern was cruelty to animals. Last year, about 400 possible cruelty cases were investigated and 237 victims were rescued.
Reider said the shelters employ three trained humane law enforcement officers. If they remove mistreated pets from a home, they can drop them off at the shelter day or night through a special entrance. They also follow each legal case until it is resolved.
The enforcement officers also have other duties. If a driver involved in a vehicle accident, for example, has to be hospitalized, and no one is present to care for their pet, the officer will take the dog to the shelter until it can be retrieved.
Dog training classes, either for individuals or groups, are also available. The local organization receives no financial assistance from the American SPCA.
So, said Reider, the ultimate fundraiser, “If you want to help dogs in Bucks County, give to the Bucks County SPCA.
Kathryn Finegan Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Durham Township. She can be reached at email@example.com.