How to to help Burlington County gain ‘no-kill status’

Friends of Burlington County Animal Shelter raising funds for October event.

The Friends of Burlington County Animal Shelter (BCAS) has lost out on their summer events but has been working hard for their annual Paw Prints 5K Pet Fest, scheduled for Oct. 4 at Smithville Park in Easthampton. The event will include a 5K Run and 1-mile Fun Trail, the Big Dog 50/50 Drawing, a pet costume contest and more. (Photo provided)

According to Karen Isky, one of seven members of the board of directors at the Friends of Burlington County Animal Shelter, only three counties in New Jersey have no-kill status, meaning at least 95 percent of cats and dogs who enter their county’s shelters avoid euthanization and live to get a new home.

Last year, Burlington County’s dog save rate was 93 percent. Its cats weren’t as fortunate.

“We’re only at the 72 percent mark for cats,” Isky said. “So that means for every four cats that come into the shelter, one isn’t going to make it. And when you look at that in larger numbers, because every year there are 4,000 to 5,000 cats alone that come into the shelter, if you’re looking at 4,000 cats, that means 1,000 aren’t coming out.”

It’s tragic and also a reason organizations like Friends of Burlington County Animal Shelter (Friends of BCAS) exist. The nonprofit, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall, stresses the importance of spaying and neutering (they offer such services as a discount rate), and educating the public on animal welfare.

The Friends of Burlington County’s mission statement is to “save the lives of homeless animals and promote their adoption by working with the county shelter and community to reach our no-kill vision by 2025.”

With five years to go, the goal seems attainable, at least with help from others in the county, too. The good news: You can help out immediately (and take a chance on winning as much as $20,000) by hopping onto the organization’s website — http://www.friendsofbcas.org — as soon as you finish reading this story.

Starting on July 1, Friends of BCAS began selling raffle tickets for the big Dog 50/50, one of the highlight events of its annual Paw Prints 5K Run & PetFest, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 4 at Smithville Park in Eastampton.

Since the usual spring and summer events, Raining Cats and Dogs and Tips & Sips, were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paw Prints 5K Run & PetFest will serve as a combination event this year, bringing back the same staples from years past while also including activities normally held during the other events.

The 50/50, for example, was held last year during Raining Cats and Dogs. This year, anyone who wants to contribute to the Friends of BCAS’ fundraising efforts will have three full months to buy a 50/50 ticket.

“Last year, the pot was $42,000, just from the 50/50, and the winner received half of that,” Isky said. “So that was a very happy person.”

Carol Erickson, the host of the CBS3’s Pet Project on Eyewitness News, was the Guest of Honor at the Friends of Burlington County Animal Shelter’s Paw Prints 5K Pet Fest. She’s pictured here with overall 5K winner Mark Loomis and Friends of BCAS President Ryan Morgan. (Photo provided)

In addition to the 50/50, with the winner being picked on the day of the event, the Paw Prints 5K Run & PetFest will include a 5K run and 1-mile fun trail, a pet costume contest, a raffle tent, food, games, music and more. You can visit the Friends of BCAS website for all ticket options, but the cost is $30 for participants running in the 5K, $20 for the 1-mile trail and $10 for virtual participants, with that component added in the wake of COVID-19.

“As with any nonprofit, everyone’s health and safety is the most important factor in holding an in-person event,” Isky said. “But we’re hopeful and confident; although we are going to monitor the situation, the event will be taking place on Oct. 4. For right now, we’re moving forward and we want this to be an opportunity for everyone to share time with their pets and others that are like-minded and want to see our county become no-kill by 2025.”

Friends of BCAS hopes for a healthy turnout, even if it means people donate virtually. Last year, the event brought more than 500 runners for the 5K and raised more than $36,000, with all proceeds supplementing medical care, foster care, and low-cost spaying and neutering.

Despite a trying spring, Friends of BCAS has already done its part to help the community during the pandemic. Back in March, the organization partnered with four local food banks and pantries to include cat and dog food, with the food distributed to families in need. Isky estimated that Friends of BCAS has helped deliver wet and dry cat and dog food to more than 500 families each week since the mission began.

“If someone cannot feed themselves, they’re certainly not thinking of their pets,” Iksy said. “With the shelter being closed and adoption rates already in jeopardy, people, if they don’t have the means to feed the pet, they’re dropping them off at the shelter, surrendering. And if someone is already dealing with the stress of not being able to pay their bills, having to give up their pet just creates more stress. So we wanted to answer that.”

The public responded, too.

“We thought it would take at least two weeks to raise $5,000 for us to be able to purchase the pet food, (but) within 24 hours we had already exceeded our goal,” Isky said. “It was crazy. But people right now, especially with New Jersey as one of the top three states in the country with coronavirus, people are wanting to help local community organizations  because everyone has been so much affected by what’s been going on.”

You can continue to help by buying a 50/50 ticket and making plans for Oct. 4. Friends of BCAS is seeking volunteers, too, if you’re interested in joining forces to help the county reach its no-kill goal before 2025.