By Karen Zautyk
Tucked beneath some green awnings at 221- 223 Stuyvesant Ave. is a storefront that some might mistake for a pet shop. And, indeed, it does sell pet supplies.
But, when you walk through the door, you are entering a special world filled with the kind of unconditional love that pet owners know that cats and dogs can offer to their human caretakers.
It’s also a little world filled with the kind of joy frisky pups and purring kitties provide.
This is the local headquarters for the Humane Society of Bergen County. It is not, its literature notes, an animal shelter. But there you will find animals for adoption, primarily cats and dogs, but on occasion other critters. Parrots, turtles, iguanas, snakes and sugar gliders (“a small, omnivorous, arboreal gliding possum belonging to the marsupial infraclass,” according to Wikipedia) have called the place home until they were adopted. (We would have loved to have seen a sugar glider, since we had never even heard of it before.)
When we visited recently, cats ruled. “We have kittens,” read a sign in the window. And there they were, along with adult cats, in their own special room, which was immaculate. There were about 30 felines in residence, Kathy Johnson, executive director of the facility, told us.
The cats/kits are housed in 6-foot-long cages, each sparkly clean. But the felines basically have the run of the room.
They’re chasing each other around the floor, playing with toys, perched on cat towers or curled up on top of a cabinet surveying the activity below.
In the course of a year, Johnson said, the Society takes in 100 to 200 dogs and more than 400 cats. The goal is a “forever home” for all of them, sinc this is a no kill facility.
Last week there were just six dogs: three up for adoption and three, in temporary care, belonging to a woman who lost her home to Hurricane Sandy, Johnson told us. The dog population may have increased since our visit, since the Society will take dogs brought in by Animal Control.
The Society’s newsletter told the story of 10 such pups that were adopted last year after they were abandoned in two cat carriers left in a park in northern Bergen County. There were five small Yorkies and five Toy/Miniature poodles. Suspicion is they were discarded by a breeder, since the females had evidently had “many litters of puppies,” the newslwtter notes.
Tyco Animal Control sought help from the Society, which got the dogs the health care they needed, got them used to humans (they were frightened of people) and eventually found homes for all 11. (Yes, originally there were 10, but one of the poodles turned out to be pregnant and gave birth in Lyndhurst.)
It is people like those at the Humane Society of Bergen County/Lost Pet Inc. (its official moniker) who counterbalance and compensate for the sort who abandon helpless animals in parks, or on the streets, or whereever is most convenient to dispose of an “inconvenient” animal.
Johnson told us about one such abandoned creature that was left literally at the Society’s front door. Arriving one morning, staffers found “a huge cage, nailed shut with boards on top.” What could possibly be inside? It was a 9-foot king snake, which someone must have tired of. And, yes, it found a home.
Unlike some other animalrescue groups, this one gestipends, Johnson noted. “We survive totally on donations.”
Which makes the work the Lyndhurst facility does even more impressive. Along with its pet adoption service, it: maintains an animal help and info line; offers pet spay/neuter assistance for owners in financial distress; lists and matches lost-found pets; provides help with wildlife rescue, and promotes public education, among other things. After Hurricane Sandy, for instance, the Lyndhurst Humane sent supplies to shelters down the Shore that had been damaged or destroyed.
All of this is thanks to donations, including annual memberships in the registered nonprofit charity, and money raised from adoption fees (which help cover the costs of vet care for the adoptables).
All the cats, Johnson said, are at least 10 weeks old and have been spayed or neutered, tested for diseases and been given all their shots. Vet care for the dogs depends on the “age, breed and what needs to be done,” she said.
The Society is careful about who is permitted to adopt. Applications are required. And in the case of dogs, so is a home visit, to ensure that the canine is going to a clean, safe environment.
The Lyndhurst facility is also dependent on volunteers, who clean the cages, feed the animals, walk the dogs, “and go to ShopRite when pet food is on sale,” Johnson said with a smile.
The vols stock the shelves in the Kindness Korner (the on-site pet supply store) featuring food, toys, anti-flea meds, collars, and everything to keep a pet content. It even has the “Thundershirt,” a doggy “wrap” that can calm a canine that is frightened of thunder, fireworks and other loud noises.
The Humane Society also offers “dog food, canned and dry, available to anyone who, due to unemployment, disability or any other financial dificulty, cannot afford to feed their dog.” It was that little notice, appearing regularly in The Observer’s Around Town column that led us to visit the Stuyvesant Ave. site to learn more about such a caring organization.
The free food is funded by donations, too, which come from animal hospitals and, a prime donor, the Bergen County Association of Realtors, which collects contributed pet food in front of supermarkets. (It also collects human food, for food pantries.) Good Realtors!
Anyone who would like to donate pet food or other items can pick up a list of sought supplies (which range from litter to tissues to bottled water) at the Stuyvesant Ave. headquarters.
If you’d like more information on the group’s services, or if you’d like to volunteer or otherwise contibute to the Society’s good works, you are welcome to call 201-896-9300. Or stop in for a visit. The hours are Mondays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.