Choices. We make them every day, all day long. From the simple things, such as where to go for lunch to the life-altering decisions such as whom we will choose as our partner, where we will live or what job path we will pursue. These choices, although certainly influenced by outside forces, are primarily ours to make. This is not the case for our companion animals; their fate lies in our hands.
They do not get to choose with whom they live. They do not get to choose where they live. They do not get to choose whether they live inside or outside, nor when to eat, what to eat, when to go for a walk or when to go to bed. Our pets are completely at our mercy for every single aspect of their existence.
This is why our decisions about bringing animals into our lives are the single most important things in their lives. Choosing a pet on impulse or without educating ourselves on their needs can set an animal up for a calamitous future … or no future at all.
Last week, an Old English Sheepdog pup was released to the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter by his owners. This is one of my favorite breeds; having had two of them myself, I was immediately drawn to him and his story. At 10 months old, this boy had come to us as a pet shop purchase failure. His former owners were not bad people. They did, however, make a very bad choice when they saw that fuzzy, little, 8-week-old puppy in the pet shop window.
He is undoubtedly the product of a puppy mill who was then purchased by a retailer that cared nothing about what his needs might be and only about selling him for as much as possible and as quickly as possible. “Benny” is a casualty of the income-driven marketers who produce animals in quantity vs. quality conditions and sell them in quick-turnover, high-profit outlets.
He is a working breed dog that requires plentiful exercise and mental stimulation, but he ended up in a home that was unable to provide either. Benny spent his nights in a crate as well as the hours during the day when his family was at work or in school. This is a recipe for disaster in a dog with high energy levels, quick wit, and the drive to use those gifts herding and protecting his flock. Old English Sheepdogs also have a very long, dense coat that needs constant maintenance. Benny was clean, cute and fluffy on the outside, but matted from head to tail underneath.
His family had gotten in way over their heads. They had certainly loved him, as is obvious by his sweet, loving demeanor and his happiness when greeting everyone that he meets. They had taken him to obedience school when his behavior problems started to surface. Professional grooming for a dog of his size and coat type generally runs in excess of $150 a session, so they may have been unable to afford the cost of such services. Grooming them at home requires an almost daily commitment to brushing and regular trimming and shaving – something they also were unable to provide him.
In spite of all this, Benny is lucky because his first family realized that they could not meet his needs before his behavioral problems became serious. They did not put him on a chain in the yard, as so often happens. They chose to bring him to a shelter that could find an appropriate home for him. He is being helped along the way in a foster home that understands his issues and is helping to overcome them. He is gaining confidence and settling into a positive routine, and soon will become a treasure to some lucky family that can provide him the structure a working dog requires. We are partnering with New England Old English Sheepdog Rescue to ensure that the choices we make for Benny’s future will be the right ones.
Last night when I went in my daughter’s bedroom to kiss her goodnight before I went to sleep myself, I saw something moving under the covers. It was the Chihuahua who was cuddled up with her and very, very comfortable. This is remarkable, because since she was very young, I tried to find a pet for her to bond with. Since we had four pets at the time of her birth and cared for a few dozen other during her four years of growing, it shouldn’t have been difficult. But nothing clicked until the Chihuahua came home.
What makes the nighttime cuddling remarkable is the Chihuahua himself, a 4-pound white terror with the face of an angel and the temperament of Tasmanian devil. I adore senior dogs, and about this time last year our adopted Boxer Rosie passed away – breaking my heart and leaving me with only one dog, something that makes me twitchy. However, we wound up fostering a cat who had given birth outside in the cold and made a commitment to her and the babies until adoption. Once they had all found their forever homes (except mom, who is still here), the house seemed quiet – as quiet as can be with a dog, a 3-year-old and three cats.
So, on my birthday, I gave myself the gift of a senior foster dog. Stuart was tiny and old, emaciated and shivering. Huddled in the back of his kennel, he certainly needed some TLC. I knew it would be easy to find him a home once he felt better. We are a big dog family; we loved our Boxer and our pit bulls, and that’s obviously what our next dog to “keep” would be, so being able to find a good home for Stuart was important. Also, since her experience was with big and friendly dogs, I had to explain to my daughter, who was eagerly awaiting our new arrival, the potentially sensitive nature of Chihuahuas. She would need to give him space so he wasn’t scared, he may not like children and, even when she could touch him, she would need to be very gentle.
When he bit me as I was trying to get him into my car, I should have known … but he was given a free pass and brought home, set up comfortably and introduced to the family. After that bite, I warned my daughter to be extra careful. She sat on the floor a distance away and called him to see if he would come. He launched himself across the room and flew into her lap, frantically wiggling and wagging his tail, and kissing her all over. And that’s it … that’s pretty much how the past several months have gone.
My husband, myself and any other adults are fair game for a snap and a bite if we request something with which he doesn’t agree. Growling is frequent, and I swear this dog knows how to give dirty looks when he is forced to go potty outside and the weather isn’t acceptable. But my child can carry him around; he cuddles with her, plays outside with her and generally just adores her. And it is a mutual sentiment. When describing her pets, you will always hear about “my little buddy Stuart – but he’s a Chihuahua so you gotta watch out!”
While she understands that fostering is a way for us to help animals to their forever homes, it’s hard to ignore the bond that has developed between the two. And for that reason, Stuart has remained here. How could I send
away the dog who wakes out of a dead sleep in his bed to follow me into her room to check on her late at night? While he’s certainly not the big dog we wanted, he’s currently filling a big spot in our family by being my girl’s little buddy.
The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter has reached out many, many times this summer in need of help with our adoptable dogs. Our shelter has been consistently full, with more dogs arriving in need of our help than we have been able to find homes and rescues for. This has been extremely challenging, and we have wound up with several dogs staying at the shelter for months while we exhaust all of our options to find them homes. Our saving grace during this difficult time has been two things: our amazing volunteers, and dog playgroups!
Dog playgroups are when multiple dogs are brought together into a playgroup for socialization and exercise. It is not a new concept for us, but it has always been a challenge to incorporate it into our regular routines. Last summer, at the Best Friends National Conference, we attended a workshop by Dogs Playing for Life, an organization that teaches shelters how to incorporate playgroups safely and demonstrates the benefits of such a program. This summer, our friends at Camden County Animal Shelter invited us to a workshop led by Dogs Playing for Life expert staff, who walked us through all the ins and outs of playgroups. We held our first official playgroup two days later.
To explain the benefits of playgroups, I will share the words of Aimee Sadler, the founder of Dogs Playing for Life: “Our programs stress the consideration of the whole animal, physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. We treat all animals as individuals. None of our behavior programs discriminate due to breed or category. … There is no doubt that offering a more natural environmental and comprehensive approach helps shelters to better assess behavior, maintain healthy behavior and support better adoption matches.”
Playgroups have now been implemented at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter multiple times a week. It is still a challenge to find time to have staff available for playgroups, while making sure the many, many responsibilities inside the shelter continue to be addressed. But we believe in the validity of the program, so we are working on balancing all of our responsibilities to the animals. We are learning so much more about the dogs we care for. Not only do we get a better idea of how they will respond to other dogs, we are learning about their personalities and seeing different sides of them than we see inside the shelter. We have seen terrified dogs who huddle in the backs of their kennels transform into happy, running, playing dogs – like they are supposed to be. We have seen dogs surprise us with their joy and tolerance for other dogs, while we have learned that some dogs are more particular in their playmates. All of this information helps us make better adoptive matches.
In addition, our volunteers have been spending lots of time with our dogs, ensuring that their time at the shelter is filled not only with play, but structured walks and regular social interactions with people. Volunteers have given us valuable insight into the dogs’ personalities and energy levels, making sure the dogs know how much they are loved while they are with us. Our staff loves the animals, and there are things we do throughout each day to ensure they are comfortable, but we rely on volunteers to get them out to events where they can show off and to give them all those extra moments of love and care that mean so much.
In addition, we have volunteers have taken new and fantastic photos of our adoptable dogs (and cats) that truly capture their personalities and what make them so special. You can find great information about our dogs and cats, as well as beautiful professional photos, on their Petfinder profile and also on our Facebook pages (the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter page and the Second Chances – South Jersey Animals in Need page).
While we are working hard to make the shelter as positive as possible for our animals, the best way to improve their quality of life is to find them homes – and for that we need you! Come to our shelter anytime during business hours to meet our hundreds of pets looking for homes. You also can view most adoptable animals on our website. Tell us about your family and your home, and see which animal will fit in best. Give a chance to the ones who don’t look like you thought they would, who have special needs, who are older than you thought. You may be surprised to find out who steals your heart!
VINELAND – Lines of those coming and going seem never-ending at the filled-to-capacity South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, inundated with pits and kits.
“The overcrowding has been all summer,” Bev Greco, the shelter’s executive director told The Daily Journal on Tuesday. “Every time we turn around, we have kittens coming in the door.”
On Monday, the shelter took in 28 kittens pushing its occupancy up to 427 cats and 93 dogs, many of them pit bulls.
The shelter relies on a network of foster homes and rescue partners from Massachusetts to Delaware to help settle pets into homes. This poses the challenge of longer stays while pets wait for space to become available in other shelters where demand is higher and odds of adoption increase, she said.
Petco awarded the shelter a $40,000 grant to ready pets for transfers. Kittens, for example, must be healthy, weigh at least two pounds and had two rounds of vaccines before they are eligible, Greco said.
Hurricane Florence will likely impact adoptions as area shelters take in animals displaced from hard-hit areas.
“Our transfer partners will be filled up and unable to help us for a while until those animals move through,” Greco said.
How you can help:
Adopt: If you can make a long-term commitment, give a pet a home. There’s a special appeal for a bull dog aptly named Picasso due to his unique facial features. The 2-year-old’s been a guest of the shelter for 104 days.
Spay-neuter: “This makes all the difference in the world,” Greco said. “It’s the one thing our community needs to embrace more.” The shelter offers low-cost clinics and supports trap, neuter and release as way to cut down on litters and ensure cats are vaccinated. The shelter is also encouraging a crackdown on illegal pit bull breeding.
Foster: Providing a temporary home for an animal frees space for the shelter to take in another. As of Tuesday, 38 dogs and 173 cats were in foster care.
Volunteer: The shelter takes cats and dogs to PetSmart and other adoption events where they might catch the attention of potential adopters and needs help to do so. Saturdays are a prime time when extra help is needed.
Donate: Due to demand, the shelter needs dry cat and kitten food. Donations are also needed to cover medical expenses for rescue pets. Send checks made out to the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, 1244 N. Delsea Drive, Vineland, 08360. You may also donate online at www.southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.
Deborah M. Marko; 856-563-5256; email@example.com; Twitter: @dmarko_dj
One of the big headlines last week was the tragic death of a woman in Delaware who had contracted rabies. This is very rare occurrence in the United States; records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show just 23 cases in the past decade. At least eight of the people who succumbed to the virus were infected outside of the U.S.
The fatal cases listed in the CDC records were caused by exposures to rabid bats, dogs, one fox and one unknown source. Only eight of the 23 cases were from confirmed bites, and the rest are listed as “contact” or “unknown.” I bring up this particular point because it is extremely important to know that rabies can be spread by the saliva of a rabid animal entering through a scratch or open wound; it does not have to be an actual bite.
The point of exposure for the Delaware woman has yet to be determined. Reports in the media state she had a cat that was current on its rabies vaccine that will be kept under observation for a time. Chances are slim to none that it would have been her pet, as the animal that infected her would certainly have perished by now. The reports indicated there also were feral cats around her property; at this point however, the investigation continues and there is no conclusion as to what type of animal may have transmitted the virus.
Just last month, you may also remember reading about a woman from Salem County who was attacked by a rabid fox. This is an extremely rare occurrence, as there is normally very little contact between humans and foxes. Bats would typically be the more common wild animals to which humans might be exposed.
The bottom line: Rabies is preventable. All dogs and cats should receive regular vaccines for their protection and yours. Free-roaming cats are especially susceptible because they have more opportunities to come in contact with wildlife, so it is very important to have them vaccinated. From January through March, you can get free shots for your animals through municipal clinics. The rest of the year, you can find affordable vaccines at monthly vaccine clinics held here at South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and at retailers such as Tractor Supply Co. and Petco.
70 birthday candles for an elephant who has defied all expectations, beaten all the odds, and survived more than one elephant should. Animalkind, USA TODAY
It’s rarely necessary, but humans can be treated successfully for the virus. It is simply a matter of receiving care immediately after the exposure. Horror stories used to circulate about the archaic treatment of inserting needles into the abdomen; this is no longer the practice. Most commonly, bites or bad scratches require a thorough cleaning, a tetanus shot if needed, and stitches when indicated.
Wounds from animals should always be taken seriously and handled by medical professionals. Also, remember also that any close encounters with wildlife should be reported to your local animal control officer or police department.
2018 is the first year that the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter participated in NBC10/Telemundo’s national Clear the Shelters event. Across the nation, hundreds of shelters participate in hopes of finding homes for the many pets that fill our shelters. The event is scheduled for the time of year when intake is especially high, providing the home many sheltered animals have been waiting for and opening up more space for incoming animals that need care. Since 2015, over 200,000 animals have been adopted through Clear the Shelters days.
Shelters are able to participate in a variety of ways. For our shelter, we determined that discounting adoption fees was the best way. We believe a modest adoption fee encourages some thought about not only the adoption itself, but the future care that the animal will require. In addition, adoption applications were still processed as usual – we just had all hands on deck to speed up the process to enable animals to go home the same day. While we wanted to clear our shelter, we also wanted to make sure animals were going to great homes!
For South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, the event was a nice success. Fifteen dogs were adopted, as well as 22 cats and kittens. There was an air of excitement around the shelter before and during the event; volunteers and staff were energized and excited to be part of something that could potentially benefit so many of our animals. And it felt really great to know that, at the end of the day, 37 animals were sleeping in homes rather than cages. And we now have a lot of interest of in other animals remaining in the shelter, who will hopefully be going home soon!
The event, however, is not without controversy. Many animal advocates are rightfully concerned about free adoptions. They worry that it devalues animals and they will end up the victims of cruelty. Recently, this fire was fueled by a story about a dog that was adopted at a “free adoptions” event and tragically died shortly thereafter. Initially, stories were reported that the dog had been terribly abused and killed; new reports have emerged that debunk that story. What really happened has yet to be determined. This story was used as an example as why free adoptions are bad. While this is a horrific example of something that went wrong, we have to be careful not to use a single story to represent an entire effort. In a world where there are millions of homeless animals who need homes, we have to keep our minds open and try to move forward with positive attitudes. If we choose to focus on the negative, we risk more than just this one particular event; we run the risk of turning down good adoptions based on fear.
For years now, the animal sheltering community has changed its stance on many formerly taboo topics (free adoptions, adoptions at Christmas, black cat adoptions at Halloween), and most of these reversals are based on research. If you have been a supporter of our shelter, you have seen our processes change to make our shelter more community-oriented. We believe that removing restrictions for adoptions makes the shelter more community friendly – and we need our community!
Clear the Shelters is over for this year, but we still hope that our community will rise and help make the rest of the year a success. Dozens of animals remain at the shelter in need of adoptive homes, our foster and volunteer programs are always seeking new participants, we continue to work with rescue partners near and far, and we have even more exciting developments coming up. We welcome you to be part of the solution to the homeless animal problem in our community.
Summer is slipping away and September will be upon us before you know it. Hopefully that should bring more moderate temperatures and the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the late summer and early fall evenings. It’s a great time to get out with the dogs and take a nice walk; maybe get back into the routine that may have gotten spoiled by the heat and humidity we’ve been suffering.
I have a suggestion that might give you a little incentive to get out of the house: How about a doggy date night?
We are very lucky to live in an area that has easy access to the beach, and Cape May offers a lot in terms of dog-friendly activities. As the crowds diminish and the thermometer and dew points get a little lower, the shore is a great place to spend an evening. Although pets are not permitted on the boardwalk (which is not actually boards in Cape May) or on the mall, there are still nice places to walk dogs.
If you prefer not to get sand in your shoes, the streets of downtown Cape May make for a great walking tour, especially if you appreciate the beauty of well-preserved Victorian homes. I have walked my dogs there since they were puppies, using the experience as a training tool in both walking and social skills. The setup is perfect for teaching them to heel, sit and stay at intersections, and handle dog interactions as other pets go by. As is true in any vacation spot, tourists tend to make a fuss over dogs, which is a useful tool in that you can walk 50 feet and meet 10 different people who want to say hello to your furry companion. Flooded with a rapid succession new people to meet, dogs tend to settle into the routine and become more comfortable and able to control their excitement. Repeating the process of having them sit and stay to greet each new person is the perfect training routine.
If you are going to do all that walking, you also may need something to eat. There are several restaurants right in the heart of town with outdoor patios that allow your dogs to dine with you. You can have anything from a fine dining experience, like the Blue Pig Tavern or Tisha’s, to pizza at Mario’s and then ice cream at Kohr Brothers. Google “Bring Fido” for a more complete list of dog-friendly eateries, hotels, parks and other activities open to your pets.
Dogs need both physical exercise and mental stimulation; these are essential to having a healthy, well-balanced pet. Getting them out to new places is very beneficial in allowing them to utilize all of their senses while honing their social skills. Cape May is a really nice place to have an enjoyable evening with your best buddy and great place for him or her (or them) to get out and have some fun!
We really need to talk about dogs getting along with other dogs.
One of the biggest challenges in animal sheltering is finding placement for dogs who need to be the only dog in the household. It doesn’t mean they are unadoptable and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them, but for some reason it makes it almost impossible to find them a home.
First, let’s talk about how we determine if a dog would do well in a home with other dogs. The first thing we do is look at the animal’s history, if we have access to it. Did they live or interact with other dogs? What sex and size were those dogs? How comfortable were they together?
There are a couple pieces of information we are looking for with the dog meet. First, we want to know how the dog reacts to seeing the other dog. If it’s immediately aggressive, that is concerning and we typically have to stop the meet for their safety. These dogs typically are not considered adoptable due to safety concerns.
But there are some dogs who just don’t do well with other dogs. It may be outright aggression, it may be defensiveness after surviving an attack, it may be resource guarding or it may be just a simple preference to not be messed with by another dog. Whatever the reason is, once they are labeled “only-dog,” their chances of finding a home decrease dramatically.
It doesn’t need to be that way. There are many, many homes out there that do not desire to have multiple dogs. It would be amazing if these families would consider some of our wonderful pups and see how much they have to offer. Having one dog allows you to really focus on the needs of that dog, and likely do more together. It’s also fewer vet bills to worry about.
Adopters should keep in mind that just because they need to live as an only-pet now, that doesn’t mean that once they relax out of the shelter and become more settled, that they won’t feel differently. Or that they can’t be around other dogs at social events. It all depends on your particular dog.
If you are looking for a special dog to be your one and only, consider Diamond, a beautiful pittie who lived with another dog for years and now prefers not to share the spotlight. She sure does have a lot of love to share. Take her out and she’ll give you her paw as a promise to be best friends. You also could check out Rusty, a little guy with a lot of potential. The shelter is stressful for Rusty, so it’s hard for him to be around other dogs at this time. But he’s otherwise a fun, young pup with a lot of love to share. Either of these dogs is sure to fill your heart.
The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter in Vineland has dogs of all shapes and sizes — dogs who aren’t going to ever judge you.
It was a heroic week in the world of dogs! Two really cool stories about dogs rescuing their owners came through last week. It’s wonderful to see some positive press about dogs, especially because one of these dogs is a bully breed, which is typically featured in a negative light in the media. The other dog is a special-needs senior.
The special-needs senior, a cattle dog named Max, became a hero when his 3-year-old girl became lost in the Australian bush. Clearly, this is an extremely dangerous situation. The little girl was fortunate that Max followed her and stayed with her through the night. The next day, Max was able to find the girl’s grandmother and lead her back to the child to rescue her. Amazingly, Max is 17 years old, deaf and partially blind. None of his disabilities stopped him when his girl needed help. The local police department responded by making Max an honorary police officer.
Sasha is an 8-month-old pit bull who saved her entire family from a fire in California. Her family claims they don’t typically keep Sasha outside, but that night she happened to be outside and was the first one alerted to the presence of the quick-moving fire. Sasha created a fuss, banging on the door and barking until her owner woke up. As soon as the owner opened the door to see what was going on, Sasha bolted past her, up the stairs and into the room of the 7-month-old baby. Before the owner even realized what was happening, Sasha had grabbed the baby by the diaper and was removing him from the danger. Thanks to Sasha’s alertness, although their apartment was destroyed, the entire family remained safe.
Doing a quick internet search will reveal many, many instances in which dogs heroically rescued people. Police and military dogs take on rescue missions every single day; heroism is part of their job description. There are other dogs who are more quietly heroic – therapy dogs who improve people’s quality of life, service dogs who guide the blind and sense impending medical emergencies. There are dogs who comfort victims of trauma and dogs who help kids learn to read.
Even “regular” dogs can be heroes. Working at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, I have the pleasure of being able to talk to many families about their experiences with pets. Many times, I have heard, “This dog saved my life.” It may not be a rescue from a fire, but sometimes a pet can provide the type of support that allows people at their lowest to keep going. A pet reminds them that they are needed and valuable; their pet needs them to take care of them. A pet provides comfort at any time during the day or night. There is just nothing quite like a pet.
Where do these hero dogs come from? Well, they can come from anywhere. But the best place to find your own personal hero is the shelter. The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter in Vineland has dogs of all shapes and sizes; dogs who aren’t going to ever judge you, and just want to be your family and be there for you. If you find yourself feeling lost or in need of companionship, the animal shelter is the place you need to go.
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.