In January, the Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation handled one of the biggest cases of animal hoarding they’ve seen since the non-profit organization was formed in 2012. About 50 Labrador Retrievers and 14 cats were found in a man’s home in North Bergen. The police received complaints of noise and offensive odors coming from the North Bergen man’s backyard, which appeared overcrowded with dogs. The animals were found malnourished and neglected.

It was then that Bergen County Humane Enforcement, the flagship company that services Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation’s Animal Control, was called to the scene. They were one of the three shelters that took responsibility for housing the dogs and cats until they were adopted. BCP&R took in four adult dogs and 23 puppies. At the time of this writing, the owner’s whereabouts were still unknown but thanks to stricter New Jersey laws, he faces serious penalties for animal cruelty.

“Animals aren’t considered property anymore. They have their own rights. This borders animal cruelty,” says Loryn Lipari, a representative from the managing staff at the Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation.

The foundation, located in Cliffside Park, originated out of the need to house unclaimed, stray dogs that the Bergen County Humane Enforcement acquired from its contracted towns throughout eastern Bergen County. Health and police departments in various towns were unable to care for them on their own and, although Animal Control could handle the animals by itself, it had no means to house and care for them on a daily basis, thus, the birth of Bergen County Protect & Rescue Foundation. Though the amount they are able to house depends on the size of the dog, in general they are able to maintain an average of 15 to 20 dogs at one time.

Since the story was published in the media, the foundation received 350,000 hits to its website on the first day, lines out the door of its facility and had to literally push its phones to voicemail so staffers and volunteers could actually focus on the dogs.

“The response was overwhelming. We are not that big of a facility to handle the response,” notes Lipari, adding that she received more than 600 applications for the 23 puppies.

The comprehensive adoption process involves requests for personal references, as well as a four-page application that asks things such as applicants’ previous/present pet history, whether they own or rent their home, and whether they have a fenced-in yard. After the application is submitted, a trained adoption team reviews it then meets with the prospective owners to see how the dog responds to them. From there, they do follow-up phone calls and conduct house visits, if needed. From start to finish, the adoption process may take from as little as a week to as much as two months.

“There really is science to it. The physical components of the home and family are key considerations, but it’s very much dependent on how the dogs interact with the people, as well.” Lipari explains. “We are especially strict with puppies. Experience is key in those instances. We do our best to avoid a return because multiple transitions are detrimental for the animal.”

Since the Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation’s founding, it has saved, nursed and found homes for an average of 400 dogs and nearly that number of cats per year. Foundation members and volunteers make every effort to ensure that sick animals become healthy and have the opportunity to be placed with a family. A 5013c, BCP&R operates by donations only.

“The Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation is a true no-kill shelter,” Lipari emphasizes.

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“Bergen County residents are amazing,” Lipari continues. “We have such a good community. They are so receptive and overall supportive. Not only do they adopt, but they also stay in touch with us, donate and volunteer. Most people in rescue are great with animals, but not people. But we have both. We are truly a family.”

Lipari notes the foundation’s group of volunteers is as diverse as it is loyal. According to her, “We have volunteers that range from an 89-year-old woman to a 9-year-old boy, both of whom keep coming back like clockwork.” In addition, the organization has worked with Girl Scout troops, schools such as Dwight Englewood, and knitting club members who have crocheted blankets for the animals.

Not only does the Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation come to the aid in cases like animal hoarding or unclaimed animals, but they are also first responders during emergencies such as Hurricane Sandy, the Avalon fire in Edgewater and other types of disasters that might arise. A majority of the organization’s volunteers are certified members of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), as well as a part of the County Animal Response Team (CART).

While the Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation’s primary objective is to focus on housing displaced pets with loving, caring owners, the organization is also active in and committed to the Bergen County community. And, according to Lipari, the organization is determined to become even more community focused. Given the tremendous support and response that they’ve already received, it’s likely that they will achieve the goals they set for themselves. At the present time, they are actively looking for a bigger space so that they can save more animals.

If you’re interested in adopting or getting involved with the Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation, you can find more information at bcrescues.org. 

Natalie Zisa is a freelancer who writes on lifestyle topics.

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