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Tips to Keep Pets Safe as Temperatures Take a Dramatic Drop

With area temperatures taking a significant drop over the next few days, pets living outside are facing deadly weather conditions. Especially when forecasted temperatures consistently drop far below freezing at night.

 “A good rule of thumb is that if it is too cold for you outside or cold enough to be uncomfortable without a winter coat, then it is too cold for your pet – even outdoor pets,” shares Darci VanderSlik, Heritage Humane Society Communications Manager. “This weather is different than if we lived in a place where it gradually became cold and pets had a chance to acclimate and build up winter coats. With a dramatic temperature drop, the change is a shock to pets as well.”

Here are the most important priorities for getting pets through the next 72+ hours:

  • Bring all pets indoors, even outdoor pets, with only short trips outside to relieve themselves.
  • If bringing a pet inside is not an option, add straw to their shelter to provide warmth and insulation. It is required by law that pets have a shelter regardless of the weather.
  • Since this will be a brief cold spell, adding wool or synthetic blankets to the shelter is a decent option if straw is not available. Do not use cotton as it retains moisture instead of wicking it away which can make the pet colder.
  • By law, if the pet remains outside, it must have access to drinkable water at all times. The water will freeze and it will freeze frequently. So make sure that their water is replenished every few hours. Licking iced-over water is not going to keep a pet properly hydrated.
  • By law, the shelter must be at least 6″ off the ground, have 3 sides, a roof and a flap to protect the pet from the elements
  • If the pet remains outside, a diet with extra protein is recommended.

Tug-of-War How to Play Safely

Pirate LOVES Tug

Tug-of-war sometimes gets a bad rap.  If done wrong, it can cause more problems than it solves.  But it can also be a great thing.  An opportunity for bonding, exercise, and impulse control.  It is one of my favorite games to play with my pit-mix, Dobby.  I love when I’m sitting in my desk chair and she brings me a rope toy.  She’ll give her trademark wiggle, then challenge me with a muffled “grrrrawwrrr”.  Then, I’m being dragged around the room on the wheels of my chair while I try and pull the toy from her and she tries to pull me over.  Both of us happily making “grrrrawwrr” noises.

The first thing that any dog owner should establish is the value of a “trade”.  Teaching your dog to gladly relinquish things is priceless.  Try offering something of higher value in exchange for something your dog has.  For example, when your dog is chewing on a bone offer a handful of treats.  If they accept the trade, then take the bone and then immediately give the bone back to them.  The goal is that when we say, “can I have that”, then their response is “absolutely! Why not?”

It is relationship suicide to always insist on being “the alpha”.  Tug-of-war is not immune to this truth.  I have heard that, when playing with your dog, you should always be sure to win.  Or at least, that you should always end by taking possession of the toy.  These statements are ridiculous.  Healthy play includes a consistent back and forth.  The strong, in-charge, confident leader has no problem letting their puppy win.  This goes for wolves, dogs, and humans.  Every time I give up and say, “you win!”, the pup always tries to push the toy back into my hands.  A well-balanced dog doesn’t want to “win”, they want to play.  A well-balanced owner feels the same way.

On a similar note; DO NOT let it become a game of chase.  Being willing to let the dog win (and who really wants a smelly dog toy anyway?) we can eliminate the chance of a chase game developing.  But this is so important that I wanted to put it plainly, DO NOT let your dog play keep away.  If doggo says “you can’t catch me”, then say “I don’t want to”.  If pupper says “you can’t have it”, then say “I don’t want it.”  Games of chase end with a dog who won’t come when called, which can end with a dog who runs away (or worse).  Don’t play these games.

Lastly, be aware of how stimulated your pup is becoming and be prepared to change the subject.  If your dog is becoming more excited than you would like, then create a new distraction.  Ringing the doorbell, grabbing the leash, or heading to the kitchen is a great way to get most dogs to forget about the game.  Simply giving up the game and speaking in soft, calm tones is often enough to snap doggo out of it.  Dogs, like humans, sometimes get a little too competitive.  And, also like humans, being scolded and told “calm down!” is the wrong way to handle over-excited dogs.  Change the subject.  Give them something else to do.

Tug-of-war is a great game if done right.  And it really boils down to a few simple rules.  Teach them how to trade.  Don’t be a jerk.  Don’t indulge “you-can’t-catch-me”.  And don’t let it get out of hand.

Adam Claar – Colonial Williamsburg’s Senior Dog Trainer

Holiday Pet Sponsorships

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Give the unique and memorable gift of saving the life of a homeless pet

This is a gift that will leave a lasting impression for the recipient long after the holidays. Your sponsorship of an animal will make a vital difference to a homeless pet. In addition to saving a life, you will receive a photo and story of a pet recently rescued by Heritage Humane Society.

Your support of local homeless pets matters now more than ever. Make your gift life-changing this holiday season. (Plus each gift is tax-deductible!)

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Holiday Sponsorship Card Levels:

• Donation Holiday Card $20
• Senior Dog Sponsorship $35
• Senior Cat Sponsorship $35
• Orphaned Bunny Sponsorship $35
• Orphaned Puppy Sponsorship $50
• Orphaned Kitten Sponsorship $50
• Dog Family Sponsorship $100
• Cat Family Sponsorship $100
• Honor & Memorial Brick $200

Each Sponsorship Package Includes:

• A Heritage Humane Society Holiday Donation Card (left blank for you to personalize)
• 5”x 7” Sponsorship Certificate with two photos of a pet recently rescued and their story
• A paw print stamped envelope (left blank for you to address or hand to the recipient)
The cards will be mailed to your address packaged with a blank envelope. They will be left blank inside for you to personalize and mail to the recipient, or to hand deliver in person this holiday season.

If you have special requests or would like us to send out all your holiday donations cards in balk, we can do that (and personalize them from you)!
Please email 

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Myth BUSTER – Black Cats & Dogs

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Myth BUSTER – Black Cats & Dogs

For the days leading up to Halloween on the 31st, the Heritage Humane Society is highlighting black cats and dogs and going above and beyond to find homes for their shelter mates!

“The myths surrounding black cats reach a fever pitch in the days leading up to Halloween,” says Darci VanderSlik, HHS Marketing Manager. “These unfounded black cat myths prevent many wonderful pets from finding loving homes.”

To counter the myths surrounding black cats, the Heritage Humane Society uses the days before Halloween to celebrate black cats and debunk those myths. As part of the celebration of black cats and dogs, HHS is reducing the adoption fees by $31. 

In the spirit of the Halloween, HHS will honor the adoption fee reduction for cats and dogs with any black spots on their coats (tabbies, calicos, torties and tuxedo marked cats, and dogs with any black spots or patterns).

Don’t worry we are HUGE cat fans here at HHS. We’ve done our research, and will be sure these sweet cats will find loving homes! Still not sure about this idea? Check out the studies and research below: 

Black cats are often surrounded by myths of being associated with witches, being evil, and always up to mischief. 

At this time of year, people fear, too many people adopt black cats merely to serve as costume accessories or, worse, as the victims of Halloween pranks or ritual sacrifices.

Every year as Halloween approaches, Katie Lisnik, director of cat protection and policy for The HSUS, sees some shelters and rescues across the country issue proclamations that they will not adopt out any black cats during October. At that time of year, they declare, too many people adopt black cats merely to serve as costume accessories or, worse, as the victims of Halloween pranks or ritual sacrifices.

Katherine Shenar, chief of staff at San Diego Humane Society, shared those fears when she first started working in sheltering 21 years ago. For the first seven years of her career, she pulled black cats from the floor two weeks before Halloween and two weeks after, worried that people who adopted them at that time were doing so for nefarious purposes.

“What we had done was protect the animals to death,” Shenar says. “We had the very best of intentions but the very worst of outcomes. Animals died in the shelters because of rules and policies that were based on anecdotal experiences and no real scientific data.”

While horrible things like animal sacrifice can happen, such incidents are rare, and it’s extremely unlikely that anyone is traveling to a shelter and taking the time to go through the adoption process with that motive in mind, says Lisnik. Moreover, when shelters hide their black cats, they’re inadvertently “perpetuating the myth that black cats need to be treated separately. We’re keeping [these stigmas] in the public eye because we’re the ones talking about it.”

In truth, black cats are just as cuddly and even just as likely to be adopted as any other cat. The claim that black cats are not adopted as often as other cats—that’s another myth (credit, www.animalsheltering.org/big-black-cats).

To view a summary of the 2013 ASPCA study, go to aspcapro.org/blog/2016/10/19/black-still-new-white.


Affordable Adoption Fees

Clear the Shelters FINAL FEE-WAIVED
How 172 pets from Heritage Humane Society found loving homes during the 4-week national Clear the Shelters event.

Did you know, getting a pet ready for adoption can cost Heritage Humane Society between $350-$800
(sometimes even more)?

Upon intake, each adoptable pet is given a thorough wellness exam, basic feline/canine vaccines, micro-chip, flea/tick prevention, and is spayed or neutered (and more). Unfortunately, some pets are surrendered to the shelter because their families cannot afford costly medical treatments (such as heartworm treatment, which can range from $1,200 to $1,800 for large dogs, according to estimates from the American Heartworm Society).

We know the cost of this care may not be affordable to some new pet owners. To make pet adoption as attainable as possible, adoption fees at HHS range from $50-$200.

How is this possible? HHS relies on generous support from the community to underwrite the costs associated with affordable adoption fees. Your gift makes miracles happen. Your financial gifts allow us to treat the dogs that arrive at our door suffering from deadly heartworm disease, and keep their adoption fees affordable to new pet owners. Your gift underwrites the quality of care promised to every pet we take in, no matter their condition, and allows us to find new homes as quickly
as possible.

The record-breaking Clear the Shelters event saved 172 lives during the 4-week promotion. These pets are now cuddling with their owners on the couch, sleeping at the foot of a bed, and will never worry about where their next meal will come from, again. We try to keep this momentum up every day, and we realize none of these adoptions would have been possible without you. As we approach the end of the year, we hope to break more adoption records.

Please help us continue to make adoption fees affordable, visit heritagehumanesociety/donate to make a gift today. Thank you!

MEGA Yard Sale – Oct. 28

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Join our team for a Yard Sale to benefit the homeless pets in our community. We will have items for pets and people, household items and so much more.

Interested in donating to the yard sale? 

Are you interested in donating items to help raise funds for the homeless animals in need in our community? Acceptable Items New or Gently Used:

  • Bikes
  • Books / DVD’s / Games / Puzzles
  • Carpets / Welcome mats-no larger than 8’ x 10’
  • Clothing Accessories (scarves, hats, ties)
  • Cookware in good condition, pots pans, bakeware
  • Electronics (no more than four years old)
  • Fireplace sets
  • Flat screen TV stands
  • Gardening Tools & Small Equipment
  • Garden flags & wind spinners
  • Grills (small – no propane)
  • Jewelry
  • Lamps that work
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Pet Supplies
  • Small Kitchen Appliances – Coffee makers, blenders, mixers, microwaves
  • Sporting goods in good condition
  • Spring/Summer items like sunglasses, outside games
  • Tools
  • Toys – clean and with all parts
  • Unopened cosmetics and toiletries

Do you have items you’d like to donate?

Items will be accepted starting October 9th! Also, we are looking for tents and tables to use for the day. Is your item not listed? Please call 757-221-0150 and ask for Diana Krell, Operations Manager or email YardSale@heritagehumanesociety.org with a description and photo.

Host A Scarf Party

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The Heritage Humane Society Auxiliary is now offering private sales of gently used ladies scarves. We’ll come to you and your friends! A member of the group will illustrate the use of the scarves to enhance and extend one’s wardrobe. Are you part of a social club? Host a scarf party event, and ll proceeds go directly to the homeless pets at Heritage Humane Society. It’s a fun, easy and beneficial way to make a difference.

The display and sale of the scarves includes every fabric, size, shape, and color. Prices range from $5 to $40.

Interested in Hosting a Scarf Party?

Start by filling out this form:

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Hurricane Irma Survivors

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These dogs have come so far, but they are not out of the woods yet. They need your help as they strive to overcome these last few physical and emotional hurdles. With your help, these dogs will not just survive, they will thrive. Please give a gift today.

Late Saturday night, dozens of rescuers worked together to save Hurricane Irma dogs in route from Florida to Williamsburg, Virginia. Late at night armfuls of dogs were unloaded from the transport vehicle to open arms of volunteers, fosters, and Heritage Humane Society staff.

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Heritage Humane Society is proud to have worked together with Williamsburg-based, Homes for Hounds Rescue to relieve the pressure of the abundance of misplaced pets in Florida shelters due to Hurricane Irma.

Immediately upon their arrival at Heritage Humane, soft beds were prepared. Full bowls of food and water were set down, and a new chew toy was provided for their comfort. As soon as they ate and had their photos taken, they fell asleep. We can only imagine what they have been through.

It is devastating to think that innocent lives like these were tied to trees and posts, outside during one of the worst storms to hit the country. Left to fend for themselves, unable to run and hide.

At this time the Hurricane Irma survivors are sleeping soundly in their clean, dry kennels at Heritage Humane Society. We do not know the extent of the medical, and behavioral intervention will be needed before they find their new families. But we can’t do it alone. We need your help to provide the necessary medical, and behavioral attention.


Tonight we made a promise to these tiny survivors.  We promised we would do everything in our power to help them heal, both physically and emotionally. We promise to go above and beyond to make sure these dogs will never fear for their lives again.


Interested in Adopting?

Thank you for your interest in adopting a Hurricane Irma pet. Right now we are taking names/numbers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please know we have had A LOT of interest in rescuing these little survivors, we appreciate your patience. If you are interested in adopting one of the dogs, please email your information to adopt@heritagehumanesociety.org (be sure to note that you’re interested in one of the Hurricane Irma dogs) and we will be in touch. At this time, we are not sure of the exact date the Hurricane Irma dogs will be ready to go home, based on medical and behavioral needs. 

Please know we have dozens of dogs that are available right now that also need loving homes. To view all adoptable pets, please visit heritagehumanesociety.org/adopt and keep updated with HHS Rescues at www.facebook.com/hhswilliamsburg