Before going to Arizona for spring training, Millville-born superstar Mike Trout came home for a photo shoot with a pit bull named Gemma.
It's part of a new campaign to raise awareness about spaying and neutering the pit bull population and alerting Cumberland County residents that they can get their pit bulls fixed for free while funds are available. NJ Aid for Animals and the Cumberland County SPCA are paying for the spaying and neutering.
"We want to give people a call to action and that's what a billboard does," said Kathy McGuire, president and founder of NJ Aid for Animals.
Her organization did Operation Knock Out in 2011, where billboards featuring boxer Bernard Hopkins went up in Camden -- letting people know that their pit bulls can be spayed and neutered for free.
The campaign led to a 68 percent increase in spaying and neutering in the city, according to the organization's website.
"We think people want to do the right thing," McGuire said. "They just need a little nudge."
She hopes to repeat that success in Cumberland County.
For both the Camden and Cumberland County campaigns, NJ Aid for Animals worked with the Gerald B. Shreiber Foundation. Shreiber is the founder of J&J Snack Foods Corp., which has Trout as a sponsor for Superpretzel.
The Cumberland County SPCA and NJ Aid for Animals are splitting the cost of the spaying and neutering of pit bulls. The procedure will be done at the Cumberland County SPCA facility.
"Because of the fact that there are so many pit bulls and they can be so hard to place, many of them end up being put down," Greco said. "It's really important in order to curtail the need for euthanasia that these animals be spayed and neutered."
There is a large population of pit bulls in the county and -- without a way to control the pet population -- it will continue to grow.
"Everybody hates the fact that animals have to be put to sleep but they wouldn't have to be put to sleep if people spayed and neutered them so we don't have this population," Greco said.
The billboards will be on display in Cumberland County throughout April. Even without the billboards, McGuire said, she's already had 20 people call in the last three days about having their pit bulls fixed for free.
Gemma, the pit bull photographed with Trout, is also up for adoption, McGuire added.
Trout graduated from Millville Senior High School in 2009 and was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and started playing with the team in 2011.
Over his three full seasons with the Angels, Trout has racked up numerous awards and accolades, including being named to three All-Star teams, the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year and the 2014 AL MVP.