Have you heard about the shop local campaign? The reason behind is that buying “locally generates lasting impact on the prosperity of local organizations and residents”. As per our Fair Rescue Project*, we encourage potential adopters to adopt local for similar reasons. Saving local is key in lowering the animal euthanasia rates in shelters in New Jersey***. Euthanasia? Yes, most pet owners still believe that shelters and local pounds are a safe place for pets but the data says otherwise**. For us, people involved in the rescue world this are old news, but for the regular pet owner, this is hard to believe.

As a response to this problem, several organizations across the country have started working towards a no-kill future (make sure you understand what no-kill means before judging the expression.) In New Jersey, there are several new initiatives like ours, with NJ STRAYS, and many others that come from committed animal advocates. (Click here to see details of NJ Resolution 237)

This is the situation in New Jersey:

When you think about no-kill shelters, there are not too many options, not at least, in northern New Jersey. Sadly, most of our shelters are high kill; some others, state not to be kill shelters, but their animals remain years in their kennels making them less adoptable in very small confined spaces (is like killing their souls); a few, are private shelters that do not euthanize animals but also won’t take surrenders, which is one of the services a shelter offers to the community.

It is difficult to believe that New Jersey is still very behind in their animal welfare, but it only takes one trip to your local shelter to see it with your own eyes. Some shelters are full of dogs and cats, some others empty. Why?

The good ones and the bad ones

Killing animals make all shelters bad shelters. While we fight for a no-kill future and for a New Jersey shelter reform, it is necessary to point out some of the services a good shelter provides to the community, but also to expose some of the not-too-good aspects in some of our local shelters.

A good shelter usually tries everything for their animals and work with the needs of the public as many of them do across the country. It uses all necessary channels to locate a found pet’s owner including the use of social media; it promotes local adoption and hold adoptions on a regular basis; it runs fundraising/donation events and volunteer openings; it collaborates with outside organizations and other shelters to save more lives including the support of TNR and RTF programs. Both, directors and animal control officers are committed to the animals, they are a positive support to the public and always open to help in any situation.

In opposition, signs of a bad shelter are for example; shelters that do not allow visitors or have ANY volunteers. That is a red flag! Poor management from directors or animal control officers will show through bad customer service and not being responsive to people’s needs. No social media interaction nowadays is not a bad thing but a necessity for any shelter. Choosing to save dogs over cats or vice versa instead of protecting all animals, is a sign of bad sheltering. No cooperation or to reject help from other organizations or individuals are signals of a hidden truth. (For detailed information about local shelters please subscribe to NJ ANIMAL OBSERVER blog, you will find incredible articles regarding the current issues with our broken shelter system.)

Adopting a shelter dog

There are many benefits of adopting from a public shelter, but the most rewarding one is that you’re saving a life. The pets you will find are mostly surrendered by their owners, elderly dogs, and strays that were never reclaimed; low adoption fees and vaccinations included. Some shelters will sponsor spaying, neutering and microchipping.

Although, saving a life is what motivates you to adopt, remember you will be adding a member to your family; a proper evaluation of a shelter pet should be executed. Some shelters lack an experienced behaviorist to evaluate their pets, but if you are not sure, you can contact a private trainer to help you or contact our organization. However, a good shelter will have some basic knowledge about the behavior of their pets and will be able to identify if your lifestyle is a good fit for the pet you want to adopt.


Have you seen the news about the horrible things that happen to the animals in the southern part of the country? Horrible cases of animal cruelty and unstoppable puppy mills. Sadly, those cases took over the attention of several of our local rescues leaving behind our own issues: WE ARE STILL KILLING OUR PETS AND ANIMALS IN NEW JERSEY. The transport of an animal to the state has created a negative impact on the number of lives we can save at local shelters. Our elderly surrenders and strays have to compete with young pups that can melt everyone’s heart. Rescues do a wonderful job savings lives, but concentrating in saving FROM OUT OF STATE ONLY is not helping the local, conversely, is contributing to local killing.

We are not against transport, but we do believe saving local should be the priority; collaborating and fighting for a better shelter system should be the first thing on the list. WE CAN ACCOMMODATE AND SAVE MORE LIVES in a near future if we all work together in fixing our own problems first. In the end, pulling out dogs from other states is not resolving the problem, it is just a revolving circle.

A good rescue

Local rescues are heroes! Several organizations concentrate on pulling ONLY from local shelters. THIS IS A BIG CHALLENGE that most rescues do not want. These heroes give a huge opportunity to shelter pets and we need more of those.

Reputable rescues are registered with the state and or have a non-profit organization tax exception. This is a costly process, but a good rescue is not afraid to share their numbers and to show their achievements. As a donor, you need to make sure your contribution is going to the right cause.

A good rescue will take care of their animals and take the time (not a lot of time) to find a potential adopter considering the lifestyle of the adopter and the needs of the pet. Adoption fees are not standard but should be reasonable. With this type of rescues, you will see a lot adoption events, education and involvement in the community. It is all about the animals for them! It is not the money, it is not the name or reputation.

Not very good ones

BEWARE OF THE SCAMMERS! We have a lot in the rescue world! Make sure your donations are going to the animals and not to pay someone’s Christmas shopping list. Whether they are registered or not, ask the proper questions before donating. A big name does not mean a good rescue!

Rescues that only save from out-of-state are not bad, they are savings lives! However, if a rescue does concentrate in transporting and does not have any support towards the local community and their pets that is just morally wrong. These rescues are funded by local donations, the money comes from local people, giving back should be in their best interest.

On the other hand, stay away from rescues that do not take their dogs back! Sometimes families encounter a situation where the new addition is not a good fit, any good and reputable rescue will take their dog back because is about the well being of that pet. If a rescue does not do this, it is a rescue for the money, report it!

Another big issue, is when you see a lot of puppies for adoption. WHO DOES NOT LIKE PUPPIES?? Puppies are the perfect catch for adopters. Always ask about their mother, some of these rescues just take the puppies and leave the mothers behind, some others will concentrate only in puppies which is very sad because as we mentioned before, there are several senior dogs and cats in need. Frequently, puppy mills that are disguised as rescue organizations, will have a lot of puppies for adoption, especially breed specific ones, not too many mixed breeds or pitbulls for example. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

Also, not a very usual situation, but that is worth to be mentioned is the transportation of cats. WE HAVE A LOT! Do not bring more! We kill way more cats at local shelters than dogs and that is why TNR groups and community cat organizations are working very hard in spaying and neutering and to educate the public in how to live and resolve the overpopulation issue. Do you want a cat? There are many wonderful cat rescues in need of adopters, so is your local shelter.

In the end, the adoption of a pet is a personal decision and a big responsibility with the pet you adopt. Make sure you ask all the right questions about possible behavior problems and be honest about your lifestyle. If you need help, contact our organization and we will help. If you decide to go with a rescue, please make sure you are supporting local but again, it is your choice, if you adopt, volunteer or foster for a rescue that transport dogs, make sure is a legitimated rescue organization. Just like people that purchase dogs from the pet store are supporting puppy mills, you might be supporting an unreputable rescue.

What can I do to improve things?


We are in need of a big shelter reform that protects our pets instead of killing them as well as more regulation for our rescues. Nothing will happen if the community does not get involved. Remember, public shelters and animal control services are funded by you!!! As a tax payer, you have the right to fight for a better shelter system and better animal control services. ANY PROBLEMS WITH YOUR LOCAL SERVICE? Report it, contact us, and join the fight! Talk to your representatives, write letters, get involved.

Can you foster a shelter pet? We can save lives, one at the time, with a foster system in place.

Report suspicious rescues, donate to local ones and make sure the donations go to the animals and not to high corporate salaries. Do research, ask questions and find out the sad reality by yourself. With the help of the community we can improve things, only working together we can fix the mess we created in the first place.


* Promotion of local adoption. For our other projects please visit

** Annual reports from public shelters.

***We are referring to killing, not euthanasia to end the suffering of an animal.

#NoKill #petadoption

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