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New humane society policies boost pet placement
Success at the Animal Humane Society can be measured in empty cages.
Since the organization began requiring an appointment to surrender a pet at the beginning of the year, placement rates for animals have improved from 67 percent to 81 percent.
Additionally, the society has reduced the rate of euthanasia by 41 percent.
Animal Humane Society CEO Janelle Dixon said interviewing people who are seeking to surrender a pet provides information about the animal that helps it get adopted more quickly.
“We now know who is coming and why they’re coming, and that helps us prepare,” Dixon said. “Sometimes animals get placed the very same day, which is great.”
Knowing such simple things as a pet’s age, any health or behavior problems and why the owner is surrendering the pet was not a given eight months ago. Owners could simply drop off the animals – even after hours – and they were placed in cages to await a visit with the vet.
When pet owners call to surrender an animal, they speak with a counselor who can help them find resources or make an appointment for the surrender. Animal trainers are available to speak with callers, and many behaviors are relatively easy to fix, Dixon said.
So when the owners enter the exam room with their pets, a vet examines the animal and interviews the owner. Staff members can provide resources to keep the animals from being surrendered in the first place.
The surrender-by-appointment policy is part of a $3.1 million
initiative called Bound for Home, the aim of which is to increase the number of animals placed with a new family and reduce the length of stay for surrendered or stray pets.The independent, local nonprofit has raised about two-thirds of the cost of the initiative, major gifts officer Deanna Kramer said. All the money has come from individual donors and foundations as gifts, she said.
A behavior helpline is staffed seven days a week as part of the initiative. It includes a decrease in the adoption fee for cats older than a year to $50 and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic for the pets of low-income people.
Dixon said the organization, which has locations in five cities in the metro area, hired 28 new employees to help meet their goals.
On Tuesday, as volunteers walked dogs and prepared for the adoption floor to open, many cages were empty, awaiting arrivals from a downstairs holding area. Strays that used to wait in the holding area for a required five-day period to expire are often placed on the adoption floor, where customers can claim an animal before it’s even available to take home.
“It’s really encouraging for everyone here to see the animals going home faster,” Kramer said.
Last year, the shelter’s Golden Valley location still had pet “drop boxes” where pet owners could shut an animal in a cage in the shelter’s entryway 24 hours a day. Once the door was shut, it locked. Cages contained food, water and litter for cats.
The practice was discontinued as part of the new policies, Kramer said, and has contributed to a decrease in the number of “stray” animals the shelter takes in. State law dictates that strays have to be held for five days – in case an owner comes to reclaim them – before being spayed, neutered or adopted.
“The community has responded to and understands what we are doing,” Kramer said. “We all want what’s best for the animals in the end.”
The biggest improvements in statistics have been with cats. A year ago, cats stayed at the humane society an average of 32 days. Now, the average stay is down to eight days.
Dixon and Kramer both said they were surprised by how quickly the new policies paid off.
“I think none of us expected it to happen in six months,” Dixon said. “I think we expected it in a year, year and a half. Needless to say, we’re thrilled.”
Jessica Fleming can be reached at 651-228-5435.
Book Review Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss, by Sid Korpi
by Therese Kopiwoda on July 7, 2011
Losing a pet is the toughest part about loving a pet, and something we just can’t get around. The fact that they aren’t human doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. So, for many of us, me included, it can be an extremely depressing and difficult time.
Personally one of the best ways I’ve found to deal with the grief is to distance myself from people who don’t understand. And, when I need it, surround myself with those people who do get it. There have been several instances when I was told “get another one” after losing one of my pets. I tend to distance myself from those people very quickly. Fortunately though, I have people in my life who I can turn to because they totally understand the grief. (That includes many of you reading this post, who were there when I lost my cat, Tequila.)
In her book, Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss: Personal and Professional Insights on the Animal Lover’s Unique Grieving Process, Sid Korpi writes about this, and a lot of other ways to work through our grief. She shows us how to:
- Emotionally prepare for a pet’s euthanasia and understand when it’s time
- View death not as an ending, but (as animals see it) a natural transition
- Cope with being around insensitive people
- Memorialize and celebrate the pet’s life
- Move on after loss and love again
Good Grief isn’t like other pet loss books I’ve read. Rather than the clinical, “here are the 5 stages of death” and “seek professional help if needed” Sid writes about different ways to deal with the grief and doesn’t judge anyone because of their needs or beliefs. She totally gets that we all grieve differently and need to deal with it in the way that makes most sense for us, as individuals. She takes a very gentle, understanding approach to pet loss and grief, and urges us to be kind to ourselves and find what works best.
It’s been a year and a half since I lost Tequila but there are times when I miss her terribly. So, even though it’s been a while, I felt comforted as I read Good Grief.
I’ve tried a great many of these yoga poses, but, trust me, I never look this cute in my attempts. Add some of these to your own exercise/meditation regimen today!—Sid
P.S. The proofreader in me has to say the first instruction should read “lying” rather than “laying.” I’m just sayin’. 🙂
I was discussing the importance of the human-animal bond today with my PetPAC colleague, pet photographer Patrick Nau. We noted the current expansion plans for the business Chuck & Don’s Pet Food Outlet, where Nau’s beautiful pet portraits are on display and for whom he does newsletter and advertising photography.
I wondered what might allow Chuck & Don’s to achieve success like this in the midst of the Great Recession, then I answered my own question. Studies have shown that pet-related businesses are one of the few recession-resistant ventures. Many people, myself included, will sacrifice their own comforts to provide for their animal companions. Why is this, when so many of us are losing sleep at night over our climbing levels of debt and dwindling incomes? It’s certainly not “rational.”
What I decided must be a motivating factor is the fact that our companion animals are our “anchors to sanity.” (Patrick really liked that phrase.) With them we find a relationship wherein we get out of it much more than we give, no matter how much we give. What work or interpersonal relationship can consistently boast that? Being around our animals lowers our blood pressure, reduces our stress, makes us feel unconditionally loved and accepted, gives us a sense of being necessary to another living being, etc. Is it any wonder we place such a high value on this relationship?
When the rest of our lives may appear to be spinning out of our control, we know we can still go for a walk with or play fetch with our dog, sit quietly in a rocking chair with our cat, talk to our birds, and so on. We are reminded by our animal companions of the simple pleasures, of the joy to be found in living in the moment. We may not be able just now to shell out money for expensive trips to Cancun, all the latest in techno-gadgetry, or visits to a high-priced psychiatrist to diminish our stress, but as long as we have our dearest four-legged (two-winged, etc.) friends with us, we just may not have as great a need for any of those things. —Sid
My brother, Dave, and sister-in-law, Diana, have some unusual pets these days. There are the African underwater frogs in the aquarium, the two Russian tortoises who hibernate/live in their San Diego garden, and, most recently, Sammy the rat who resides in a Habitrail when not enjoying the company of humans. In these photos, Diana demonstrates the chubby rodent’s ingenuity as she steals ice from Diana’s beverage. Beloved companion animals come in more shapes and sizes than simply dogs and cats. Why can’t I get that Michael Jackson song, “Ben,” out of my head just now…?—Sid
Great news! These kitties found their new forever home!—Sid
Dear Pet PAC,
I usually do not send out group emails. I need your help.
My friend’s brother died suddenly and tragically, and she is trying to find a home for his cats.
They are both males (siblings) named Maximus and Marcus, they are 4 years old. Short-hair breeds, very handsome and sweet and very loving. I attached their picture.
Please feel free to pass on this information. Interested parties can contact me at 612-237-9580.
Thanks for your help!
Healing Touch for Animals® Practitioner
Latest news from the cats’ caregiver:
I have good news… the boys, Maximus and Marcus, are in a new home. A nice man named Paul came to meet them tonight with his daughter and his grandson and decided to become their new daddy. 🙂
He lost his wife only 6 weeks ago and his cat died shortly thereafter– he needs the boys and they need him so I think it was meant to be.
I want to thank you for your efforts in trying to help me find them a home… I am so grateful.
Making end-of-life decisions for pets
As pet owners, we’ve all been faced with, or will eventually face, the agony of making end-of-life decisions for our pets. Sometimes it’s because of an illness, other times it may be due to the natural aging process, but whatever it is, it never makes the decision any easier to make.
While euthanasia for humans is still forbidden in Singapore, our pets’ lives are not bound by the same rules. So how do we decide what is better for our beloved pet?
Many pets suffer with chronic diseases, such as cancer, that can often be managed in such a way that life is prolonged, although the quality of life is greatly diminished. For most pet owners this issue greatly influences the decision concerning euthanasia. Certainly, quality of life is a personal judgment; you know your animal companion better than anyone else. And while your veterinarian can guide you with objective information about diseases, and even provide a personal perspective of a condition, the final decision about euthanasia rests with you.
What Ailing Pets Should Be Able To Do
If you are considering euthanasia, here are some guidelines to help you decide whether your pet would benefit. Pets with chronic or incurable diseases that are given proper medication and care should be able to:
- Eat, drink and sleep comfortably without shortness of breath
- Act interested in what’s going on around them
- Do mild exercise
- Have control of their urine and bowel movements, unless the disease affects one of these organ systems
- Appear comfortable and free of moderate to severe pain
Of course, whenever there is a chronic condition, some days will be better than others and one should learn to expect the natural “ups and downs” that attend most chronic disease conditions. You must determine what balance is acceptable for your own situation. Speak with your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns regarding the diagnosis or treatment of your pet’s disease.
The Effects of Medication
If your pet is taking medication for a disease condition, ask your veterinarian if side effects of the medicine could be involved with any adverse symptoms such as lack of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea (but DON’T stop giving prescribed medication until you speak with your veterinarian). Sometimes it is the medicine, not the disease, that makes a pet appear more ill and adjusting the dose or changing the medicine can have a very positive effect.
The High Cost of Care
Of course, some diseases are very difficult, expensive or time-consuming to treat. The medical bills that may accumulate can influence your decision regarding euthanasia. These are practical decisions that must be made relative to your own financial and family situations. Though a lack of financial or personal resources for medical care may be a source of guilt to you, it is better to discuss the overall situation with your veterinarian rather than allow your pet to suffer without proper veterinary medical care.
The Hardest Decision
Euthanasia – often referred to as “putting a pet to sleep” or “putting an animal down” – literally means an “easy and painless death.” It is the deliberate act of ending life, and pet owners that must make this decision often feel anxiety or even guilt.
Before the procedure is done, the pet owner will be asked to sign a paper that is an “authorization for euthanasia” or similar document. Euthanasia usually is performed by a veterinarian and is a humane and virtually painless procedure.
Most pet owners are given the following options for witnessing the procedure. They may be present with the pet during the euthanasia. They may wish to see their pet after euthanasia. Or they may want to say goodbye to their pet before the euthanasia and not see their pet after the procedure.
Will It Hurt?
Note: The following is a description of a typical euthanasia. If you do not wish to read about this procedure, please close this document.
Euthanasia is very humane and virtually painless. First, you will be asked to sign a paper – an “authorization for euthanasia” (or similar document). Once you have decided upon your involvement n the euthanasia process, you will need to decide what you would like to have done with the remains. You can discuss your options with your veterinarian before the euthanasia procedure.
Euthanasia is usually performed by a veterinarian. The most typical procedure involves an intravenous injection of a barbiturate anesthetic given at a high concentration (overdose). In general, the euthanasia is rapid, usually within seconds, and very peaceful. Your pet will just go to sleep. On rare occasions there may be a brief vocalization or cry as consciousness is lost; this is not pain although you may misinterpreted it as such.
Within seconds of starting the injection the anesthetic overdose will cause the heart to slow and then stop, and any circulation in the body will cease. As the heart stops and the blood pressure decreases, the unconscious animal will stop breathing, circulation to the brain will cease and your pet will die peacefully.
Once your pet has died, you might observe involuntary muscle contractions or respiratory gasps about one or two minutes after the loss of consciousness and circulation. Again this is not evidence of pain or consciousness, but instead, it represents a physiologic response that occurs whenever the brain is deprived of circulation. The unconscious animal may also lose bladder or bowel control. Veterinarians often cover the pet immediately after injecting the euthanasia solution to partially shield the pet owner from these physiologic responses, which may still be disturbing.
After the Goodbye
Before the euthanasia, discuss what you want done with the body with your veterinarian. Again, this is a matter of personal taste and preference.
Burial at home. Many people who own their homes chose to bury their pet in their yards. Great care must be given to bury your pet deep enough – at least three feet – to deter predators. It is recommended to wrap your pet in plastic and place several large rocks on top of their remains before covering with earth. Many cities have ordinances against home burial so check with your local officials before laying your pet to rest.
Cemeteries. Similar to human burial, a casket and headstone are selected. Services are available with or without viewing of the remains. Ask your veterinarian or check your local telephone directory to find a nearby pet cemetery.
Cremation. Typically, cremation is available in most large cities. Some crematories will privately cremate your pet so you can save the ashes for scattering, burial or storing in an urn. Check with your veterinarian about contacting an animal crematory center.
Other options. There are a few nontraditional choices available regarding the handling of pet remains. Some people choose to consult a taxidermist and others may be interested in cryogenics, which involves freezing the remains. Research and many telephone calls may be necessary to find sources for these options.
Carolyn Sharp’s beloved greyhound Starr was 4 years old when she was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer. Sharp decided the two of them would stay together as long as Starr was not suffering too much. The greyhound received radiation treatments and pain patches for several months until the veterinarian told Sharp it was time to end it.
“When we went in for the last time, I held her in my arms for the comfort of both of us until she had left,” said Sharp, who lives in Overland Park, Kan. “I have still not really made peace with losing her so young.” Eight years later she still doesn’t understand the “why.” But she is certain she’ll hold Starr again – in an afterlife. “I believe I’ll have three cats and a whole bunch of dogs waiting for me,” Sharp said. Is there an afterlife for animals? Or as a popular question puts it, “Do all dogs go to heaven?”
Jack Vinyardi of Kansas City, Mo., an ordained interfaith chaplain of pets, said he is asked that question all the time as he comforts people about to lose or who have lost a pet. He tells them there is no faith that claims to know unquestionably what happens to animals when they die.
“It is my job to comfort,” he said. “I believe we each can find answers to divine questions if we look deeply in our own hearts and ask for guidance there. Although our answers may differ from the answers others have found, they are our own, and they will comfort us. “And there is only one religious truth I can confidently assert, that our relationships with our companion animals are both emotional and spiritual, so they never really end, wherever our bodies and souls go after death.”
One writer, mourning the loss of his dog, said recently that there are no souls or a heaven and that the departed, including his dog, exist only in people’s memories of them.
Sharp did not agree.
“If God knows the fate of a sparrow, what makes you think he wouldn’t be concerned about our pets?” asked Patricia Cox of Prairie Village, Kan. “To some people they are our children. Who are you to say they do not have souls or a heaven to go to?” We asked people of various religions how their faith answers the question of whether there is an afterlife for animals:
PROTESTANT Thor Madsen, academic dean at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, acknowledged the desire of Christians to see their pets again. But, he concluded, “We really have no biblical grounds for an assurance that our pets will be resurrected along with us.” Some Christians think heaven would be lacking something essential to their happiness if their pets are not there with them, Madsen said. “But the Scriptures imply that heaven’s overwhelming treasure for us is the fellowship that we, the followers of Christ, will have with our Creator and Savior,” he said. “… Nothing will seem to be absent at that point.”
CATHOLIC Children, and even some adults, have asked the Rev. John Schmeidler of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lawrence, Kan., whether their pet had gone to heaven. God’s plans for animals regarding an afterlife are not fully known, he said. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about animals having a soul, but it wasn’t similar to that of humans, and St. Francis of Assisi saw animals as God’s creatures to be honored and respected, said Schmeidler, a Capuchin Franciscan. The Catholic Church traditionally teaches that animals do not go to heaven, he said. “But a lot of people have a hard time with that, and I do, too, when I see a grieving pet owner. I know God wants us to be totally happy in heaven, and if our dog will help make us fully happy, and if God can resurrect us, I’m sure he could resurrect a dog, too.”
MUSLIM The Qur’an contains no direct references to an afterlife for animals, said Muslim scholar Abdalla Idris Ali of Kansas City. But there are indirect references. One says that in paradise people will be given everything they have asked for, he said, “so indirectly, if they want their pets, they can have them with them.” Islam also teaches that God will be judge of people and animals, Ali said. “For example, he will charge an animal that has horns who took advantage of one that didn’t have horns, and that horned animal will be turned to dust after taking him to account for what the horned animal did,” he said.
JEWISH Rabbi Scott White of Congregation Ohev Sholom in Prairie Village once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Lord, please help me to become as great a person as my dog thinks I am.” “Judaism teaches that God reserves a blessed existence in the world to come for the truly virtuous,” White said. “It’s only fitting that such an existence includes the pet that inspired the greatness. “For myself, paradise with my own mutt (Rescue the Wonder Dog) is a perfect inducement to pursue virtue.”
AMERICAN INDIAN American Indians believe all creatures are interconnected, said Gary Langston of Kansas City, a Northern Cherokee. “All living things are children of the Earth,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we have feet or wings or roots. “So, yes, there is an afterlife for animals. We all are going home, back to the Creator. And, yes, people will see their pets again. The dog I had as a kid, his spirit never left me; he just moved into a different dimension.” Langston said he believes that when he dies he will move into the dimension where his dog is, and they will be in the spirit form together. The companionship, friendship and love that humans and their pets share in this life will continue to be shared in the afterlife, he said.
HINDU/VEDANTA There is a story in the Hindu epic “Mahabharata” about Yudhisthira, the eldest and noblest of five Pandava brothers. When he made his final journey to heaven, his faithful dog Dhruba followed him there, said Anand Bhattacharyya, a member of the Kansas City area Hindu community. “Yudhisthira was allowed to go to heaven, but not his dog,” he said. “But he didn’t want to enter heaven without his dog. On Yudhisthira’s insistence both were allowed to enter heaven in eternal peace.”
Still the general Hindu belief is that animals have souls but no access to eternal life, Bhattacharyya said. “Because of the soul’s inherent urge to be united with its source (God), souls in animals will ultimately evolve to the human plane. Once the soul is in a human body, it is capable of union with God in eternal bliss. But it may take many more reincarnations in human form to liberate the soul from the death-rebirth cycle.”
A similar view comes from Linda Prugh of the Vedanta Society, an organization based on a Hindu philosophy. She said animals have souls, but unlike humans they do not have the ability to reason and discriminate between right and wrong. Animals go from birth to death to birth again and slowly evolve into higher forms, eventually reaching the human plane, she said. The goal of life is to realize one’s true divine nature, which is one with Brahman (all-pervading Godhead), and to see that divinity in every being and every thing, Prugh said. “So our pets, whom we love and take care of, should be treated as manifestations of the divine,” she said.
BUDDHIST From the Buddhist perspective, “I don’t know” about an afterlife for humans or animals, said Marnie Hammer of Mid America Dharma. “The Buddha talked about being present now rather than spending a lot of time worrying about what’s out there,” she said. Buddhism teaches that the animal realm is a lower realm of existence, Hammer said. “I’ve had three cats that I’ve shared my life with and have made my life richer, but I don’t know if I’ll see them again,” she said. “That’s not the question.” The question, she said, is whether one is making life “more peaceful and generous for everyone.”
A strong case can be made for keeping the elderly united with their pets. I had a dear (now deceased) friend who was forced to move into an assisted living facility and be parted from her beloved Pekingese Zeke. Clearly bereaved from losing not only her home but her pet, my friend’s emotional and physical health deteriorated swiftly, so much so that she was forced to move to an advanced care nursing home. The only good thing was this new nursing home allowed her to keep Zeke. He, in fact, became the “house dog” and enjoyed the run of the whole facility, frequently visiting other residents and beloved by all. My friend Mavis was able to die in her own room with Zeke by her side.
As I wrote in a story in my book “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,” Zeke was so protective of/worried about leaving his human mama, he would growl (very uncharacteristically for this sweet dog) whenever we tried to get him off the bed to feed him or take him outside. He wouldn’t eat or drink for nearly two days. For Mavis’ part, though in hospice care at the time, she felt she couldn’t “let go” until all the details were taken care of regarding who would adopt Zeke when she died. She made arrangements with her foster daughter to take her dog, and you could feel the weight that had been lifted from Mavis’ shoulders.
Shortly thereafter, when Mavis did finally pass, Zeke immediately became chipper again and willingly leaped down from her bed, eager to eat, drink, and go for walks again. It was as though, once she was freed of her body, Mavis’ spirit was able to reassure Zeke that all was again well and he could stop watching over her.
This, to me, illustrates the depth of the human-animal bond and our ability to communicate with one another even after we’ve left this physical life. Imagine Mavis’ ongoing suffering, and Zeke’s as well, if they’d been forced to be apart at this crucial time of transition.
I hope someday all senior living centers will accept the benefits of pet ownership vastly outweigh any inconveniences and will allow their residents to remain united with their animal companions. The following article from K9 magazine illustrates my point still further.
Pressure Mounts For Older People To Keep Pets
A survey of more than 4,000 members of the public by PFMA, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, reveals 90% of people think that separation from a pet is traumatic for older people entering residential care or sheltered accommodation.
The TNS research also found 83% agree pets make their owners happier and 54% think pet owners should be able to make the choice about entering care facilities after seeing the accommodation policy.
Pets provide significant benefits to elderly people; those who keep pets when entering care homes enjoy a smoother transition into residential care, as well as significant health benefits, such as a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Other proven health benefits for older people with pets include: reduced blood pressure and cholesterol; improved recovery from heart attacks and strokes; better social interactions in people with dementia; and fewer GP visits.
Conducted in March 2010, the research helped shape the PFMA’s goal to ensure all leading UK housing providers implement responsible pet policies that enable older people to make an informed choice about their future. This commitment is part of the organisation’s 2020 vision to make a better world with pets, launched to mark its 40th anniversary.
The PFMA is working closely with SCAS (Society for Companion Animal Studies) and MPs taking the issue forward – including Ian Cawsey, Nick Palmer and Nigel Waterson – to strive for fairer treatment of the older pet-owning public.
Ian Cawsey, MP for Brigg and Goole, said: ‘Today we have more than 11 million elderly adults living in Britain, of whom approximately 25% are pet-owners. This figure is estimated to rise to 14 million by 2026 and the majority of these people will eventually require some form of residential care. Unfortunately growing older often involves inevitable heartache and loss but being separated from a pet when entering care facilities should not be part of it. This is why I welcome the PFMA’s 2020 goal to ensure care facilities implement responsible pet policies over the next decade.”
PFMA, Chief Executive, Michael Bellingham, explains: “Having analysed the research and consulted SCAS we are delighted to announce our 2020 ambition to ensure fairer treatment of the older pet-owning public. The importance of pets to people in care facilities cannot be under-estimated. Over the next ten years we want to make a big difference to the lives of older pet owners.”
This latest call to action follows the successful passing of shadow minister for older people, Nigel Waterson’s bill – Care Homes and Sheltered Accommodation (Domestic Pets) Bill -which aims for a more “enlightened and responsible” policy for allowing pet owners in residences to keep their beloved animals.
CASE STUDY: A SUCCESSFUL PET-FRIENDLY HOUSING SCHEME
Wandsworth Borough Council operates a positive pet policy and has been permitting pets in sheltered schemes since 2001. Wandsworth’s executive member for housing Martin D Johnson said: “Pet ownership is an enriching part of many elderly people’s lives. As well as offering companionship, they keep their owners active and are a link to social activities that prevent isolation. We’ve had pets in our sheltered schemes for nine years without a single significant problem. Our experience proves this type of housing can easily accommodate animals and there is no need to deny elderly people the pleasures and benefits of pet ownership. We want other housing providers to rethink their attitudes to animals and realise the huge benefits they represent.”
OTHER SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PROMOTING BENEFITS OF PETS TO OLDER PEOPLE:
Older people who are forced to part with a pet when moving into residential care can suffer feelings of bereavement that are similar to the loss of a family member. Severe reactions can lead to depression, disturbed sleep or eating patterns, and even physical illness (source: McNicholas, J. & Collis, G.M. (1995), ‘The end of a relationship: coping with pet loss.’).
· Pet ownership in older people is also associated with better coping with major life stresses, such as bereavement, which is more common in older people. Pet owners adjust to spousal bereavement better than non-owners (source: McNicholas et al 2005, BMJ).
To find out more, please visit: www.pfma.org.uk