Humane Society expanding services

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Low-cost clinic and animal control services now available

OCEAN CITY – Folks have been busy at the Ocean City Humane Society, but for 3-year old Parker and the rest of the animals housed at the facility, it’s all about food and shelter.

The brown pomeranian - a loveable, friendly pooch who easily warms up to a visitor - is one of nine dogs and nearly 100 cats who call the no-kill shelter home. The humans caring for them have helped take the award-winning facility to the next level by offering boundless love and compassion and top-notch care to their furry, four-pawed charges.

The facility is expanding at an unprecedented rate. On Jan. 1, the HSOC formally assumed animal control duties for the city of Ocean City, which includes and assisting with animal cruelty claims.

Assuming animal control from the city is a big and welcome step for the HSOC, assistant manager Kevin Fischer said. The relationship, he said, is mutually beneficial.

Many of the calls received on a daily basis concern animal control issues. In the past, shelter employees could only refer concerned citizens to the proper resources and hope that animals were not falling through the cracks in the process.

The new agreement means that specially certified employees, including Bill Hollingsworth, the shelter’s executive director and George Muller, the shelter’s animal control officer, will respond to animal control calls.

“We’re really hoping that we will see a decline in the feral cat population,” Fischer said. “We’ve always taken in strays, now we will respond to the actual calls and hopefully this translates into more control of our cat population; hopefully we can get more animals spayed and neutered. Everything will be contained in one place; they call and we go get it.”

A low-cost veterinary care clinic is another expansion of services.

“We expanded our outreach, so we’re able to help a lot more animals,” Fischer said. “It’s working out really well. We’re seeing a lot of dogs and cats, and a lot of them have not been seen by a veterinarian before, or maybe not for a long time. Some of the animals have gone without care. Their owners are now able to take better care of them.”

The non-profit shelter is able to provide low-cost care because they are able to keep expenses low. However, Fischer said that the HSOC, like most non-profits, has taken a hit with a declining economy.

“Everyone is hurting, so our donations have been off the past four years,” he said. “Donations have been sliding, but fortunately some of our donors have really stuck by us. We’re not where we used to be, so we could really use some help. Costs, of food and supplies and everything else, have gone up, so we’re hurting.

“We always need donations,” Fischer said, adding that it doesn’t have to be monetary. “We could use trash bags and cleaning supplies. We go through a lot of bleach and detergent. We need cat and dog food, leashes, blankets, towels. We can use jars of meat-flavored baby food. Every donation helps because that’s something that we don’t have to purchase.”

The clinic, he said, helps with revenue.

“We rely totally on donations,” he said. “The clinic offers us a new revenue stream. It’s giving us a product we can sell. We have an income stream from the veterinary care; it helps the community and the animals. A lot of the animals that come in here are older; it can get very expensive to offer prescriptions, food and veterinary care. The amount it costs us to care for an animal has risen quite a bit.”

Once expenses are paid, the money raised through the veterinary clinic goes directly to the shelter. Fischer said those who want to volunteer their time are also welcome.

“We need people to help us, we need people who would like to walk the dogs,” he said.

Volunteers must be 18 or over and be willing to go through a training session where they learn about shelter protocol. The rewards, Fischer said, are many.

“The dogs really love to go for a walk, they love to get out and enjoy the outdoors and the interaction, the human touch,” he said.

The HSOC mission, Fischer noted is to provide a compassionate and healthy environment for homeless animals until they can be placed into permanent homes or become permanent residents of the shelter.

Most animals are adopted within two to five months, but others, particularly those with “issues,” take much longer.

“We never rush an adoption,” he said. “It’s a matter of placing a pet. We try to place every pet in the home that it needs, we never allow a semi-OK fit. It takes time, we know the needs of the animals. We strive to put every pet in a good, loving home.”

The HSOC tries to promote responsible pet ownership and reduce the suffering caused by pet overpopulation and animal cruelty by offering low cost spay/neuter solutions, wellness and humane education programs to the community.

“We started in 1964,” said Fischer. “It was very small and as it started to grow, they looked for a bigger facility.”

A shelter was built by the bay near Tennessee Avenue. When the Ocean Reef development was built in the 1980s, the building was moved slightly to the east, closer to the golf course. In 2002, a new building was constructed and a spay/neuter clinic opened.

“Three years ago, we started to offer wellness services,” Fischer said. “We saw the need for this service; minimal services like routine vaccines and physical exams.”

The addition of new premium diagnostic equipment, a digital x-ray machine and a fully stocked pharmacy took the clinic to the next level.

“Last year, we started to offer full veterinary care and it was very well received,” Fischer said. “We started one day a week and when that wasn’t enough, we did two days. By last year, it was five days a week and we fill every appointment slot. Appointments book as fast as they open.

“It’s been word of mouth, mostly,” he said of the instant demand. “Once we went full time, word spread like wildfire. They do a very good job, people are very happy with the services we are providing. We’ve had very good feedback.”

The clinic, he said, has state-of-the-art equipment and is staffed by a licensed veterinarian and professional assistants.

“Everyone is welcome,” Fischer said. “We have everything you need. We can be the veterinarian of record for your pet. We have top of the line, state-of-the-art equipment. We offer x-ray, ultrasound and we perform surgeries. You can get everything done right here, just like a regular veterinarian’s office.”

Veterinarians are Dr. Julie Moberg and Dr. Jane Cappiello.

“Dr. Moberg was in private practice, she most recently worked for Red Bank Veterinary Clinic in emergency services,” he said. “Dr. Cappiello has spent her career in the non-profit arena.”

The HSOC is open seven days a week 11 a.m.-3 p.m. To make an appointment for the veterinary clinic, call 399-9109. For more information, call 399-2018 or see www.hsocnj.org.


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