To some people, the relationship between pet and owner is one of subservience. To others, a pet can be loved and cared for just as much as a human family member. For groups like the Humane Society of Greater Rochester, Lollypop Farm is the premiere spot for coalescing that relationship. Backed by a determined staff of around 100 people, as well as more than 600 passionate volunteers, Lollypop Farm offers a variety of programs for the betterment of animals and people alike.
Originally formed as an animal cruelty prevention group during the building of the Eerie Canal, Lollypop Farm’s pioneering goal has not only been carried on, but expanded since its inception in 1873, when it wasn’t yet called Lollypop Farm. Thanks to a generous donation of farmland in 1964, Lollypop Farm currently sits on 134 acres in the town of Perinton.
Lollypop Farm Community Outreach Manager Esca Stumpf says one of her main goals is to do whatever she can to keep pets happily in their homes. Thankfully, Lollypop Farm has a handful of programs and agendas to aid pet owners based on the individual's needs. If an owner is experiencing financial problems, the farm will try to provide necessities such as pet food to alleviate some of that burden. Stumpf points out that what they are able to provide is based on the generosity of donors. Pet food donations are used to help the animals on the farm, with the excess redistributed to community members in need.
“What we can give out is based on what we get in,” Stumpf says.
On top of that, the farm offers a low-cost spay/neuter program called Snip, and a free behavior help line. End-of-life services for euthanizing animals are also available, and include a private cremation service.
Of course, keeping pets in their homes isn’t always a viable option, and Lollypop Farm has answers for this. When a pet is admitted for adoption, it's thoroughly evaluated and then kept on the "adoption floor," as Stumpf puts it, for as long as it takes to find the animal a home. If an animal cannot be admitted for adoption, the farm is also connected to a network of rescue organizations that can provide further assistance.
While Lollypop Farm does so much to maintain and increase the well-being of its animals, its pet-assisted therapy program offers people a chance at healing with the help of furry companions. Stumpf became head of the pet-assisted therapy program in October and has already seen the amount of dedication that goes into it.
“I oversee it, but it’s the volunteers that are the heart and soul of the program,” Stumpf says.
Though not necessarily professionals, therapy pets are trained, and their owners are people who want to be part of the program. Stumpf mentions that one volunteer was herself assisted by a therapy pet, which spurred her to pass that on. The program visits nursing homes, rehab facilities and colleges, bringing comfort to people of all ages and backgrounds.
For Stumpf, hearing the stories made possible by the program is rewarding. She believes animals can help trigger memories in people; that there’s not only a common bond between animal and human, but bonds to be made between people with the help of an animal.
“There is something about that bond that we have with animals,” Stumpf says. “The way animals can cheer us up, I think, is more than regular therapy can do.”
Stumpf and the people at Lollypop Farm have so much to offer animal lovers that it’s easy to forget that they are not funded in any way by taxes or the government.
“We are almost completely supported by the community,” Stumpf says. “The amount of gratitude we have for everyone that helps us out day-to-day and helps these animals out is immense.”