Help for Homeless Pets: The ins and outs of animal shelters and rescues

Help for Homeless Pets: The ins and outs of animal shelters and rescues

Editor’s Note: For the next four weeks, The Sun looks into the state of homeless pets in South Jersey and what is being done to find homes — and futures — for thousands of animals. This article is one of three stories featured in the first week of this series.


The Sun

No two shelters or rescues are the same. In South Jersey alone, there are a variety of shelters and rescues that bring dogs and cats in on a regular basis.

One of the most common places for people to adopt pets today is at a shelter. There are more than 100 licensed shelters in New Jersey.

“Shelters are places where dogs are taken in,” animal activist Janice Fisher said. “They’re housed there, and they are placed up for adoption.”

Shelters take in animals that were relinquished by a previous owner, stray animals brought in from animal control or an individual and animals collected during a raid.

Some shelters, such as the Camden County Animal Shelter and Burlington County Animal Shelter, are taxpayer-funded facilities.

The CCAS gets about two-thirds of its operating budget from municipalities it serves. It also houses a public clinic on site, providing low-cost spay and neuter and low-cost vaccines, and the shelter relies on that revenue.

“There’s no magic formula,” said Vicki Rowland, executive director of the Camden County Animal Shelter. “The cost per animal … It costs me about $100 to $250 to care for each animal that comes into my facility — times more than 4,000 animals a year, on average.”

The BCAS operating budget is a county budget, but Burlington County public information officer Eric Arpert said there is also a tremendous fundraising effort on behalf of the shelter. Much of this goes through the Friends of the Burlington County Animal Shelter, an all-volunteer nonprofit whose mission is to “enhance the lives of shelter animals and help them find homes.”

There are a number of private shelters that operate similar to the county ones. These privately-funded shelters rely more heavily on donations and fundraising. For example, the Voorhees Animal Orphanage gets two-thirds of its operating budget annually from fundraising and donations, with the remaining one-third coming from contracted municipalities.

Some shelters are also known as no-kill shelters. The policy for a no-kill shelter is it will not euthanize an animal because of a lack of space. Other shelters that do euthanize animals will begin to put them down if the shelter reaches capacity and the animal has been housed there for a lengthy time.

“There are few shelters that (go no-kill), and we’re proud to be one of them,” Arpert said, crediting the BCAS’ recent transition to a no-kill facility with helping the shelter’s increasing adoption rates. Rescues operate a bit differently than shelters.

Rescues are organizations committed to bringing in stray, unwanted and abused animals and giving them a place to stay until they are adopted.

Cherry Hill resident Alan Braslow fosters for a pit bull-specific rescue based in Sewell named Don’t Bully Us. He described the operation as a community effort, with dozens of families taking dogs into their homes.

“We have foster families all over the place,” he said.

The rescue fosters dogs from many locations, including some of the local shelters.

“We pull dogs many times from the shelters because of their capacity,” Braslow said. “We take in the ones that are going to be put down.”

Braslow said the benefit of having animals stay with foster families is it helps with training some of the dogs as well as providing socialization.

Don’t Bully Us and other rescues are funded almost entirely through fundraising and donations.

“It’s all donations and all out-of-pocket,” Braslow said. “There are a number of other rescues that do that same thing.”

Even though there are differences in the way shelters and rescues operate, Rowland said the organizations have similar goals.

“We all have the same mission. There’s no difference between what we do,” Rowland said.