The time has come for a complete makeover! After more than a century of hard work, the time has come to iron out the wrinkles and put on a fresh face. Back in the late 1800s, when our organization was first conjured up, we were just a small group of caring individuals who touted themselves as the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children & Animals. Lacking protective agencies for the well-being of kids or pets, some of our community’s founding members took it upon themselves to help make the world a little better for those most vulnerable in our society.
Over the years, we grew into a much larger society of like-minded people. Government agencies had begun providing services for needy and homeless children, but the animals still needed our protection. In 1915, we were granted a formal charter from the state of New Jersey to enforce animal cruelty laws and thus became the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. No government funding was provided; we relied completely on the generosity of our donors and volunteers to meet the challenges of investigating reports of cruelty and neglect.
In 1947, we were incorporated by the state of New Jersey as a nonprofit corporation, and a very dedicated member named Laura Sabin donated her house to be utilized as a small shelter. A handful of kennels were attached to the back of the little house, and it was revamped to offer refuge to approximately 20 dogs and 50 cats. Spaying and neutering animals was virtually unheard of, and pet overpopulation was rampant. For 50 years, that little shelter, which had tacked on a few more kennels and a few more cat rooms, was handling as many as 8,000 animals a year! Space and resources were severely lacking, and many pets were put down simply because there were way too many.
Big changes, both culturally and legally, have occurred in our society over the past several years. Spaying and neutering have become increasingly successful deterrents to pet overpopulation. Extraordinary efforts are being made at every level of society to save the lives of homeless animals. It’s an exhaustive effort requiring tremendous resources in providing care, medical attention and behavioral training; but it is happening. Most pet lovers today embrace the adoption and rescue of homeless pets and actively support these efforts. On a national level, millions of pets that would have been doomed to an early death in prior decades are being saved as we march toward the goal of finding placement for ALL adoptable animals.
The biggest change in the history of our organization has come this year. In January, New Jersey finally recognized that acts of animal cruelty and neglect are serious issues that should be investigated and prosecuted just like all other crimes. Legislation was passed to have these duties handed over to police departments and county prosecutor’s offices rather than by nonprofit, nonsubsidized volunteer groups. It will take time for this transition to smooth out, but the change was way overdue and highly necessary.
As of May 1 of this year, our organization no longer handles cases of animal cruelty and neglect. Having turned in our badges, we can now concentrate totally on caring for our shelter animals, achieving the goal of finding placement for all our adoptable animals and realizing the goal of never having to euthanize an animal unless it is a threat to public safety or is suffering irredeemable health issues.
The dissolution of our law enforcement duties has refined our mission, and with this huge transition comes a change in our name. The Cumberland County SPCA has been officially changed to the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. It’s a new day, it’s a different world; we hope you will continue to share in our mission of reducing pet overpopulation and helping our all homeless pets find a new beginning.