Co-founder and Shelter Manager of Pets Comes First (PCF), Deb Warner, is an avid animal lover. Ever since Deb was a small girl, she has been enamored with animals. As a child, she had several pets from dogs to horses (her favorite). Not much has changed since then, except that now she is the one who pays for the food; and these days, there is a lot of food for twenty horses, eight dogs, two llamas, a lot of barn cats, and one donkey. Deb’s family and friends have always supported her in anything she wanted to do, even if it meant that sometimes she would be bringing home another ‘roommate.’ Deb has a tender heart and deep love for animals; her life as an animal advocate and rescuer was predictable. The passion for animals is what drives her.
Since the beginning, PCF has been partnering with other local programs and rescues to coordinate monetary and volunteer resources in the region. In early 2005, she began working with other like-minded advocates to reduce the 87% euthanasia rate at Centre Hall SPCA. As a result of their efforts, the facility has been a no-kill shelter since 2008!
On January 1, 2012 PCF signed a lease to take over the Centre Hall SPCA facility, and in April 2014 the property and facility were formally turned over to Pets Come First! This is an organization that is much needed in our community to care for local homeless, abused and stray animals. This is a great opportunity to educate the community on the importance of spaying and neutering animals and to ensure that every adoptable pet is given a fair chance to find a new home. In 2015, PCF partnered with the Animal Welfare Council and Hundred Cat Foundation to open a low cost spay and neuter clinic in the old Managers house on the property. PCF uses the clinic to have the shelter animals spayed or neutered, updated on vaccinations, tested, microchipped, and receive their initial wellness exam. The clinic is also open to the public as well as other rescues in the area. PCF also sells lower cost vouchers for the clinic.
Running an animal adoption center is not an easy task. It takes more than good intentions. Management experience and marketing skills are always a plus, but what Deb has found most crucial is a passion for what she does. Work can stretch long into the night, sometimes around the clock. Some days are very discouraging; others are fantastically rewarding, but “if you don’t have passion, you won’t stick it out on the low days.” All of Deb’s time is spent dealing with people – vacations and free time are a thing of the past. However, it is very rewarding when adoptive families send their “happy tails” stories, pictures, and updates. The PCF team lives vicariously through the animals they help. For the average person, it’s hard to comprehend why anyone would go to such lengths to save animals, but a typical response from those who realize her fierce commitment is that it is truly rewarding.
PCF has come a long way, and each month Deb looks back in amazement as to how much this organization has grown. The care and health of the animals continues to improve, and adoptions increase every year. This growth would not be possible without the fantastic staff, countless volunteers, and relationships that PCF has formed with other rescues, businesses, and people in the community.
Karleen “Cookie” Crissman