We’re going to bounce around a little bit in this column so that we can give you a couple of reminders and updates. First, as the warm weather has FINALLY graced us with its presence, it has brought the ticks with it. The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter staff is seeing more and more of these pests on dogs coming into the shelter. With the uptick (no pun intended!) in tick-borne diseases, it is imperative for the health of your dog that you have him or her on a good external parasite preventative. Most external parasite treatments handle both fleas as well as ticks, and the fleas won’t be far behind. You can purchase the preventative treatments at the shelter, pet supply stores, vet offices and online. We always suggest that you consult with your veterinarian before starting treatment.
If you’ve been outdoors enjoying this nice weather, you also may have noticed all of the insects seem to have emerged overnight. I saw mosquitoes in my garden last week, which means your dog may be at risk of contracting heartworm disease if not on the preventative medication. Heartworm disease is fatal if not treated, but it’s easily preventable. You must take your dog to a veterinarian to get this medication, as it is not available over the counter.
Our foster homes are still filled with kittens who are not old enough to be placed in their permanent homes yet, and we are receiving more every day. We are always looking to recruit new foster homes and hope that you will consider learning about the impact you can have in saving the lives of pets in need by providing temporary care. Fostering can involve dogs or cats – whichever you are comfortable with – and may include an individual animal or a litter, according to your abilities. To learn about fostering, email our foster coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.Finally, the shelter’s low-cost vaccine clinics begin on May 19 and will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of every month from now through October. Dogs and cats are welcome at the clinics. Dogs must be on short leashes with secure collars or harnesses. Cats MUST be in secure carriers. Rabies, distemper and Bordetella vaccines are available. If you want a three-year rabies vaccine, you must bring proof of the prior vaccine. Flea and tick preventatives are available at the clinics. We carry Provecta for dogs, which contains four monthly doses for $30; and Catego for cats, which contains three monthly doses for $35. Cash or credit cards are accepted. Our low-cost spay/neuter clinic is available every week; appointments can be made at the shelter or online. You can find us online at southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.
While everybody else in the world was celebrating the beautiful burst of warm weather, at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter we were bracing ourselves. Warm weather means kittens – and all the stress and urgency that come along with them. For weeks, we have looked at our empty cages and enjoyed every moment, knowing that the end was close. The sunshine and high temperatures brought on exactly what we expected, and in the past week we were introduced to over 35 homeless kittens who entered our shelter or were born there.
I feel like I must have written about kitten season dozens of times, but today I’m going to broach a topic that is one of the most difficult and thought-provoking of all issues brought up by kitten season. However, before you continue reading, you must understand what kitten season looks like in an open-intake shelter. You must picture every cage filled with cats and kittens, and animal control arriving with yet another cage filled that need a place to stay.
So one must understand that kitten season is about making the best of your situation, properly caring for your animals, and working hard to save as many lives as possible. And while we have increased our lifesaving rates by thousands, and euthanasia is at its lowest rate ever, we are still constantly faced with difficult situations.
What is the correct thing to do when a cat arrives pregnant? While my sentimental side shouts that every life is precious, the logical side of me knows that allowing a pregnant cat to deliver only causes more problems. We struggle already to find placement for mom cats with infant kittens. And when we do find placement, that home will be tied up for at least eight weeks caring for mom and kittens while they grow and wean. This puts kittens who have already been born at risk. If mom is spayed, not only can we focus our resources and efforts toward kittens who are already alive, but mom will be ready to be adopted in just a few short days, rather than weeks. The bottom line is that the reason kitten season is so devastating is because of the sheer volume of cats and kittens. While spaying pregnant cats can be difficult to accept, we have to take the responsible path by exercising population control, which ultimately allows us to save more lives.
We encourage everyone at this time to be proactive and do your part by getting cats spayed and neutered.
Now is the time – just last week, four cats on stray holds (we can’t spay them during their legal stray hold) have given birth at the shelter. We couldn’t even tell that one was pregnant! There’s no reason for pet cats not to be spayed or neutered, and we encourage citizens to help by making sure neighborhood cats are also spayed and neutered. There are many resources for getting community cats fixed; prices are often discounted and traps can be loaned. Appointments can be made at our clinic by stopping at shelter or visit our website. Aside from our clinic, there are other excellent, low-cost options at the People for Animals clinic in Gloucester County, Camden County Animal Shelter or Animal Welfare Association in Camden County, or the Atlantic County SPCA. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
As one can imagine, with the sudden arrival of so many kittens, we are in urgent need of supplies. We desperately need KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) and also need Snuggle Safes (microwaveable heat pads). We also seek new families to help us save lives by fostering. Fill out our online foster application and contact Fosters@cumberlandcountyspca.org for more information.
Over the past several years, pet insurance has become more and more popular. There are now a dozen insurance companies in the U.S. that offer policies for cats, dogs and even some exotic pets. Like all insurances, I’d rather stick hot needles in my eyes than try to understand how and when they kick in, and how much should be invested in them. Unless you choose a purebred pet, such as an English Bulldog, that is almost guaranteed to need lifelong extensive veterinary care, it’s a gamble as to whether it will be worth it in the animal’s lifespan.
I mention English Bulldogs because they can be one of the most expensive breeds to own – a factor that should be seriously considered when choosing a pet. Bulldogs are bred to be brachycephalic, or extremely short-snouted, which can result in respiratory problems and skin issues in the folds around their mouth. Their common problems also include severe skin allergies, eczema, degenerative spine disease, cherry eye and hip dysplasia, just to name a few. People love their sad, pushed-in faces, their broad shoulders and short stubby legs, but these are the things that set them up for big problems.
His misfortune in being picked up by the dog catcher and ending up in the “pokey,” so to speak, turned out to be a stroke of luck for him. We’re working on finding the resources and advocates needed to get his medical issues addressed and to make sure that he’s monitored regularly. Whether that happens through his owner or through rescue has yet to be determined, but either way, he will receive the care that he needs.
English Bulldogs are one of the breeds whose medical challenges are extreme, but any time you are considering a specific breed it’s imperative that you understand as much as possible about the health issues that may be common to them. Being ill-prepared for such considerations often leaves pets suffering poor health, and gets owners in over their heads financially. For breeds who are predisposed to medical issues, pet insurance is a no-brainer and could be the difference between putting down a pet and being able to afford expensive veterinary services.
Plans generally cost anywhere from $10 to $40 per month, according to what coverage you choose, but can be more expensive for some pure breed pets. There are plans covering only accidents/injuries, which are on the cheaper end; plans that cover illness and disease in the mid-range; and those that cover all conditions at the high end. Premiums also may be affected by gender and the cost of living in your area. Whether you choose to insure your pet or not, it’s always a good idea to set aside money for both regular veterinary care and the unexpected. Annual costs including office visits, vaccines and parasite treatments can run a few hundred dollars in and of themselves. There are good resources for comparing plans on the internet, and your vet’s office may be able to offer some advice as well.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report states approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs, and an additional 400,000 by cats, annually in the United States. These are only the cases that are reported; undoubtedly, there are many other bites that either did not require medical care or were omitted from the records that the CDC uses to compile its data. These statistics do not include bites from other species or serious scratches that require medical care.Whether a bite or scratch from an animal seems serious or not, it should always be cleaned immediately and thoroughly. Aside from the outside risk of being infected with rabies, of those 4.5 million dog bites, 900,000 of those victims end up with infections from their wounds. Cat scratch fever results in about 100,000 hospital visits each year. These statistics alone should be enough to convince you to take animal-related injuries seriously. But I also want to make you aware of a recent change in Trenton that makes it more important than ever that you report any encounters resulting in open wounds from animals, especially those from animals that may not be vaccinated against rabies.
Let’s start with the general process. When a person suffers an open wound from an animal, it should be reported to the local health department; doctor’s offices and hospitals are actually required to do so. At that point, in the case of a domestic animal that is in the hands of its owner or has been impounded at a shelter, the health department puts a 10-day quarantine hold on the cat or dog. The animal is observed during that period for any signs of illness that might indicate rabies. If the offending animal is a wild animal that can be captured, or a domestic animal that is showing signs of illness, the health department may determine it should be tested for rabies. In New Jersey, from Jan. 1 through June 30 of this year, 78 animals tested positive for the disease: Raccoons were first, with 48 infections; skunks, second with 12; and cats, third with 11.More: How to plan a pet-friendly vacationMore: Menantico Road in Vineland reopensHere’s where the change comes into play. In the past, samples from the infected animals were sent to labs in Trenton and the results would typically be back in two days. Due to some change in the preparedness of our state lab, samples are now sent from Trenton to an out-of-state lab and the results are not available for about five days. This is significant because if you suffer a scratch or bite that breaks skin by an animal that may have rabies, you must start treatment by having a series of rabies vaccines within three days of the bite.
A couple of weeks ago, one of our staff members at the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was scratched on a Thursday by a kitten that came had come in with some neurological symptoms. The local health department responded accordingly, and this was the first we learned of the delay in receiving test results. The kitten tested negative, but it was the following Wednesday before word came back from the state, and our technician already had to start the human vaccine series.
Please keep your own animals current on their rabies vaccines and be quick to address any open wounds from animals that you or your family might suffer.
Source: Dog bites: What should I do?
Soft and cuddly and purr-fectly sweet – the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has kittens of all shapes and sizes for you to meet! We are reaching the middle of another very busy kitten season and are proud that through our foster, transfer and adoption programs we have saved more little lives than ever before. This is the time of year when it gets tough, so we are reaching out to YOU to help us continue our upward trend.
We are excited to announce the grand opening of our brand new Kitten Nursery right at the shelter. Join us on Saturday, Aug. 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as we cut the ribbon on the special section of our adoption room that will feature many of our adoptable kittens during kitten season. We also will be kicking off our Kitten Shower to help us collect many of the supplies that are necessary to care for the hundreds of little lives that depend on us. We have a lot planned for this special day. Our volunteers will be providing delicious refreshments for all our visitors. Our adoptable kittens are ready to do their best to win your heart. We have kittens in a range of ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. It’s almost a guarantee that, if you are looking to add a furry family member to your home, one of the residents of our Kitten Nursery will be exactly what you are looking for.
There’s never been a better time to bring a kitten home for good. We will be introducing on Adopt One, Get One Free promotion for all of our kittens (and cats too, if you are so inclined). Kittens are notoriously energetic, curious and sometimes even mischievous. Having an automatic companion of the same age can make a big difference as they settle into their new home. Adopting littermates is great, but you also can pick your favorites from different litters or match up two kittens who are flying solo.If you are not quite sure about adding a permanent member of the family, why not consider fostering? While the residents of the Kitten Nursery are looking for permanent homes, we have many other tinier kittens in the holding areas of the shelter that need some TLC from a foster family before they are ready to find a forever home. If you have a little safe space (maybe an extra bathroom or bedroom) and don’t mind temporarily keeping the little fluffs clean and well-fed, you may be able to help us save lives. The shelter provides supplies that you may need, as well as all medical care for the kittens. We are still seeking new foster families to care for the dozens of kittens that come through our doors each week. We will have information about fostering on hand in our Kitten Nursery.
Our Kitten Shower will kick off at the opening of the nursery. We will collect donations for our kittens through Aug. 12. Donations that we need most urgently include Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR), A/D Diet canned food (this special canned food is especially palatable and has nutrients needed for infants; it can be obtained at a veterinarian’s office), pate canned kitten food, dry kitten chow (any brand with no dyes, as they upset the tender bellies of our kittens), Snuggle Safe microwaveable heat pads, cat litter, and cat toys of all shapes and sizes. Financial donations are also welcome – caring for hundreds of kittens, all of whom require vaccines and most of whom require medication, is extremely expensive. If you are stopping by to visit the nursery, we would be so appreciative if you would help us fill our kitten cradle with donations. The grand opening of the Kitten Nursery offers a way for everyone to get involved and help us save lives. Whether you are adopting, fostering, or showering our babies with donations, support from the community is what enables us to continue to move upward in our mission to give every kitten that enters the shelter an opportunity to find a happy, loving home.
I know that not everyone is animal savvy, but it seems to me that it would be common sense that infant mammals need to be with their mamas until they’re weaned. Taking into consideration that puppies and kittens are typically going into the care of humans once they are old enough and not scavenging for food on their own, it still seems only logical that they would remain in their mother’s care until they are 6 to 8 weeks old at the very least. Even free-roaming kittens stay with their mother while she teaches them to hunt and fend for themselves; at that point, they still tend to live in colonies.I have been amazed this year at the number of infant puppies and kittens that I have seen given away, sold, or somehow finding their way to the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter.
A young human family from Bridgeton came into the shelter last week with a puppy that couldn’t have been more than 3 weeks old. He was tiny; I’m sure he didn’t even weigh 1 pound. His teeth were just breaking the surface of his gums. The people already had the pup for more than a week and had taken it from a guy who was giving away the whole litter. Fortunately, these folks had done their homework; they were bottle feeding him and knew that they needed to get de-wormers and vaccines for him.
A couple of weeks ago, we dealt with a cruelty case involving several dogs, many of which showed signs of having been repeatedly bred. There was one infant pup on the property, probably about 4 weeks old. The other pups already had been sold. The little one that we were able to get custody of weighed 2.1 pounds; she was crawling with fleas to the point where her gums were white with anemia. She would not have lived much longer with the fleas literally sucking the life out of her. I have nightmares about the rest of the litter; I can only hope that the new owners sought care for them right away.At every one of our monthly vaccine clinics, we’ve had people come with puppies that were way too young to be away from their mothers. At the shelter, we have received hundreds of kittens that should have still been nursing. The kittens tend to suffer in even greater numbers than puppies, as they are more likely to be separated from their mothers too soon. In general, they receive less human care as they are more apt to be born outdoors and without good shelter and regular monitoring.
I was happy to see that the young family who took in the infant pup had the sense of responsibility to research the necessary care. They had gone out and bought puppy formula. They came to the shelter seeking advice and medical care. Although we couldn’t help with the veterinary stuff, I think they left with a good education on the daily needs of the pup as well as an idea of what medical treatments would be needed, when they should be scheduled and how much it might cost.Separating young puppies and kittens from their mothers too soon is a form of cruelty. It can compromise the health of the babies as well as put the mother in danger of getting mastitis. If you know of anyone trying to sell or give away kittens or pups that are younger than 6 weeks, please contact us immediately.
Their mom was killed by a dog.Mom was hit by a car.Their mom is not taking care of them.We found these kittens with no mother.Bottle babies are orphaned kittens who arrive at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter without a mother to nurture or feed them. When the worst happens and they lose their mother, it’s up to Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter staff, volunteers, and fosters to intervene in order to save their lives.We are desperately seeking foster families to bottle-feed our most vulnerable infant kittens this year. Right now, we don’t have enough help to save all the kittens we anticipate arriving.Kittens are born quite helpless and depend on their mothers to survive. Until they are about 4 to 5 weeks old, they have no teeth and are unable to eat food and regulate their body temperature. They are also unable to go to the bathroom on their own – another important job for mom.
It is most ideal that mother stays with the kittens for at approximately 6 to 8 weeks. If you find infant kittens, do not move them! Clean kittens that are sleeping soundly are likely not abandoned. Mom can leave her nest for up to several hours to find food. As long as the kittens are safe and warm, their best chance for survival is with their mother (as is true for ALL wildlife). If you are unable to observe, try scattering some flour around the nest, then check for mom’s paw prints in a few hours.If kittens truly have been abandoned or their mother was killed, then intervention becomes imperative. If you don’t plan on bottle-feeding yourself, get them to the shelter as quickly as possible. Once kittens arrive at the shelter, the clock starts ticking. We have to find a foster or a rescue for them before we close; the kittens cannot be left alone overnight, as they would starve.
Your family can help SPCA with kitten onslaught. Bottle-feeding kittens is a beautiful experience. The opportunity to see a little life blossom from a totally helpless infant into a growing kitten with its own personality is like no other. When kittens are 1 to 2 weeks old, they require around-the-clock bottle feeding every two to three hours. They also need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom (sounds pretty awful, but it’s really not a big deal).
At this point, your major responsibility is keeping them warm and fed. A simple carrier with blankets and a safe heat pad will suffice for their living environment. As they grow older, they are able to eat more and require less frequent feedings. You will see their eyes open and they will begin to change. They will want to begin exploring their environment a bit more and will need some more room to move around. By 3 to 4 weeks, the kittens, while still reliant on formula, will be ready to start attempting to eat mush (canned kitten food mixed with kitten formula). They will begin to be ready to use a litterbox as well. While messy, this is also a joyful time as this is when they begin their first attempts at playing.By 5 weeks, they will be eating mostly on their own, and be fully able to amuse you with their adorable antics and playful nature. The most important part of your job now is to socialize the kittens – this is the fun part! This is lots of play and snuggles, teaching kittens that humans are fun and safe.By 8 weeks old, they are ready to be adopted!We most desperately are in need of foster families to bottle-feed. It’s hard to find people whose schedule allow them to bottle feed every few hours. But without families to help them, our tiniest kittens are at serious risk. While it can be intimidating to have such a little life in your hands, especially since they are so vulnerable, the feeling of giving them a chance to live and often having the opportunity to watch them grow is rewarding beyond words. Our staff offers lots of education and around-the-clock support.If you are willing to give bottle-feeding a try, please contact our foster coordinator at Fosters@cumberlandcountyspca.org. We also need supplies for these youngest kittens: kitten milk replacer formula (never feed regular milk!), snuggle-safe heat pads, canned pate kitten food, and A/D prescription canned food. We already have had the first litters of bottle-babies arriving at the shelter in need of help.Shelter needsThe South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter in Vineland seeks donations of puppy chow, cat chow (no dyes, please), large dog bones, large Nylabones and Kongs, catnip, dryer sheets, lint rollers, isopropyl alcohol, white copy paper and colored dry erase markers.
At this very moment, I need you to take out your calendar and mark down “Foster Orientation at the Cumberland County SPCA” on Wednesday, March 29, at 6 p.m. We need you to be there to learn about our Foster Program, which is responsible for saving hundreds and hundreds of lives in 2016. Attending is not a commitment – this is an opportunity for you to see if fostering can work for your family. We need to grow the foster program in order to make 2017 even better for the animals, and to do that, we need YOUR support and participation.Spring is a critical time for us to bring new foster families onboard. We currently are experiencing the calm before the storm – the kitten season storm. We had a short respite that really only lasted from December to February, and kittens have begun trickling in. Last week alone, we took in six nursing mothers or pregnant cats who quickly delivered kittens. Since we haven’t even reached the official end of winter, this is concerning!
For nursing moms or kittens that arrive at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and are too young to be adopted, a foster home is their only chance. Even if we had space to hold them all (which we certainly do not!), kittens who grow up in cages do not thrive in the way that kittens in foster care do. Kittens that are fostered have a family to care for all their needs, keep them clean, closely monitor their feeding and health, and, most importantly, socialize them. Kittens that are handled and played with regularly always end up being more adoptable than those who are not as used to human companions. Kittens are great for almost any family to foster – we will go over the specifics at the orientation, but they really only need a small space (a spare room or bathroom works just fine) and some TLC to thrive. There is nothing quite like having kittens sleeping on your lap, watching them grow from infant mice-like creatures to perfect bouncing bundles of fluff, or teaching your kids compassion by caring for the little ones.
We’re also seeking some very special families to care for bottle babies. These are the infant kittens who arrive at the shelter without a mother. These kittens range from days old to 3 to 4 weeks old. They haven’t learned how to eat on their own yet and need a surrogate mom (you?) to bottle feed them. In their first weeks, they must be fed around the clock, every two or three hours, to make sure they don’t starve. For this reason, they cannot spend even a single night in the shelter, and it’s also difficult to find a family with that type of availability to feed. If this is something you would even like more information about, please join us at orientation. We need you!While kittens are certainly the most populous, they are not the only babies in need of foster care. We have seen an influx of nursing mother dogs arriving with puppies. We currently only have one or two foster families equipped to handle a nursing dog and her puppies. We have one foster family who has had back-to-back mothers and puppies for close to a year! That’s a lot of fostering, and we need new foster families to give her a hand with this delightful job.Some puppies arrive at the shelter without a mother, and these little ones also need foster homes. Early socialization is very important to ensure that puppies grow up with proper bite inhibition and a good temperament. Can you imagine the joy of watching one, two or more puppies joyfully romping and playing the day away with you? The sound of puppy snores and the sweet smell of puppy breath? And imagine, you’re saving their lives while you are at it! These little pleasures can be all yours.
We also seek foster placement for elderly animals that typically need the comfort of a home instead of a cage. From personal experience, I can tell you that nothing feels as good as seeing an elderly animal rest their weary bones in a home. You can see the relaxation spread through their bodies like a wave and it’s amazing to be able to provide that for an animal. Fostering an elderly animal is also usually pretty simple; they are typically low-key, housebroken, trained, and just grateful for a loving home to be in. If any of this sounds remotely appealing to you, if you are concerned about the problem of homeless pets in a shelter, or if you are looking for a stay-at-home way to make a big difference, join us at Foster Orientation at 6 p.m. March 29 at the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter.
Saved by SPCA, Henry the cat now brings ‘miracles’
Oh Henry … this poor, sweet, handsome cat. We estimate his age to be about 8 years old, and he’s a gorgeous white cat with gray patches and a tabby tail. Henry seems to have had little comfort in his recent years – his teeth are broken (he only has 1½, 2 incisors and a few molars). He also has a terrible wound or abscess on his cheeks and a crumpled ear. But we are providing him with comfort care and falling in love with him! He has a very tolerant and friendly personality, even if he’s a bit nervous about his new situation. We would love to see Henry have a chance for a comfortable and loved life.
Reading that biography, would you believe that this is a cat that has gone on to change lives? Miracles often happen where we least expect them – and looking at Henry for the first time, the only miracle I was hoping for was that he would make it out of the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. Senior pets, like Henry, often have a more difficult time finding a home. However, they often are the most in need of a home and a chance to be loved and pampered.
Henry’s story shows that the rewards of adopting a senior pet go far beyond giving an old pet a good home.Our shelter partner the Providence Animal Center saw his pictures, and his potential, and offered to take him in and provide him with the medical care he needs. Henry tested positive for FIV, but we all knew this shouldn’t affect his life once he recovered and was cared for properly. His wounds were tended to and he was given dental treatment. After that, Henry was left with only two teeth! There was nothing that could be done for his crushed ear, but that remains part of what makes him so cute.His shining personality continued to amaze the Providence staff. We have no idea what his previous eight years of life held, but we know that the past few months had been rough and that his condition had deteriorated. Henry certainly didn’t hold a grudge against the world, though; he just carried on reveling in the joys that each new day brought him.
So when Rich, a staff member with Xenia Hospice and Palliative Care in Pennsylvania, reached out to Providence looking for a therapy cat, Henry was a clear choice thanks to his friendly and outgoing personality and tolerant nature. But would his history affect his ability to make a difference as a therapy cat?Henry was evaluated by a veterinarian, a behaviorist, hospice team members, hospice families and their insurance carrier, and ultimately was adopted by Rich. He provided additional medical care at the recommendation of a holistic vet, and Henry became more and more healthy each day. Henry was ready to get to work.
Henry quickly became the most popular member of the hospice team. He did so well that this month he is featured in the Journal of Holistic Nursing Practice, in an article titled “The Miracle of Henry the Hospice Cat” by Richard J. Fache. Fache writes: “Henry was first assigned to a patient with end-stage dementia. Upon release from his pet porter, Henry dazzled all of us! He was friendly, inquisitive, social and vocal. He jumped up and made first contact with the hospice patient in a very affectionate way. He also won the hearts of the family members who were present. Other visits were scheduled and before we knew it, Henry was the most popular member of our hospice team!
Patients and family members reported feeling optimistic, positive and elated after spending quality time with Henry. One family member remarked that Henry provided comfort to his mother and that he actually felt some hope from it. Henry seemed to decrease a lot of their stress and take their mind off of their troubles — a furry, friendly diversion from despair. Henry has been a little miracle to the families that he visits.”
Henry has become quite a celebrity. He’s also Mr. November in Providence Animal Center’s calendar. It warms my heart to know that the injured, homely old cat who arrived at our shelter now has made a full recovery and not only has a loving home of his own, but pays it forward every day by providing comfort and companionship to senior people and their families.November is National Hospice Month and National Adopt A Senior Pet Month. The timing couldn’t be better to stop in at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter in Vineland and visit the many pets available for adoption. Adding a pet, or a senior pet, to your household may hold benefits you never imagined.
Need to give up a pet? Need to spare your aged and failing furry companion any more suffering? Thanks to our illustrious leaders in the state of New Jersey, we and other shelters throughout the state find ourselves unable to provide some of the services that were available to pet owners in the past.
The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter in Vineland has always been proud to call ourselves an "open access shelter," which simply means that we accept companion animals whether they are strays or pets that must be surrendered by their owners. This is, after all, the reason humane societies were formed: to provide a place for animals to go when they are homeless, lost, abused or neglected.
We do not pretend that we can always find homes for them, as some animals are not viable for adoption due to health or temperament. The process has always been that stray animals are held for seven days to give owners a chance to reclaim them, and then are evaluated and either put up for adoption, rescued or, worst case scenario, humanely euthanized. Pets that were released by their owners were immediately evaluated and considered for the same options.There has never been a time limit on how long we would hold adoptable animals. As long as we had space and they remained healthy, they could be with us for many months, a year even, until an adopter or rescue was found.
The revision to the law now forces us to offer ALL released animals for adoption for a minimum seven-day period. The lawmakers left no exceptions for health or temperament. This means that if John Doe has to release his dog that has a history of biting, the shelter would have to offer it for adoption for seven days in spite of the fact that he is a threat to human safety. Apparently no consideration was given to the threat to the public or to the shelter staff that has to handle aggressive animals for the week. If an unadoptable animal such as this has to be held for a week, space issues might also dictate that an adoptable animal would have to be euthanized in order to make room for the aggressive one. This also means that if Jane Doe brings her cat in that was hit by a car and suffered a broken pelvis, we would not be able to offer her low-cost euthanasia because, again, it would have to be offered for adoption for seven days. Having a pet put to sleep at a veterinarian’s office can be very expensive, and some will not provide the service for nonclients. My fear is that those who can’t afford it will be forced to let their pet linger, therefore prolonging its suffering.I’m sure that this revision to the law started out with a noble purpose; after all, no one wants to see homeless animals put to sleep without getting a second chance at finding a good home. Had people in the shelter industry been consulted on the proposal, it could have been written in a way that allowed responsible and humane decisions to be made without compromising human safety or perpetuating the suffering of sick or injured animals.
This law has put us in a terrible position, one that contradicts our most basic mission. To be forced to turn away animals for any reason is difficult, but to be in this position because of poorly thought-out legislation is unbearable. The bottom line is that we no longer will be able to provide humane euthanasia for pets belonging to the general public. Although we will still accept adoptable animals for surrender, it will require a waiting period according to available space.As far as unadoptable animals go, I hope you’ll call the offices of Sens. Stephen Sweeney and Jeff Van Drew’ and ask them what you’re to do.