By Donald Wittkowski
Little Max, a friendly, mixed-breed dog, has been working on his behavior with the Humane Society of Ocean City’s kennel director George Muller in hopes of impressing someone to adopt him.
Statistically, Little Max has a very good chance of finding a new home. In 2016, the Humane Society had a 95 percent adoption rate.
The no-kill shelter, an Ocean City institution since the 1960s, hopes to build on its success with a $200,000 renovation plan over the next 13 months to accommodate the growing demand for its services.
Half of the cost is being funded by a $100,000 contribution from an anonymous donor. Michelle Chalmers, the Humane Society’s development director, said the shelter will hold a series of fundraisers and continue to rely on the generosity of the community to complete the rest of the financing.
Chalmers noted that 93 cents out of every dollar donated to the shelter goes directly toward helping the animals.
“We want to make sure that the animals are first and foremost,” she said.
As a no-kill shelter, the Humane Society keeps the animals until they are adopted or simply allows them to stay permanently. There is no time limit on how long it takes to find the right home, the organization stresses.
The renovation plan will help sustain the shelter’s mission. It is a multifaceted project that will improve the shelter’s veterinary services, create better facilities for the animals and provide an upgrade to the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
A centerpiece of the shelter’s makeover is an expanded veterinary center. The veterinary center sees more than 2,000 clients per year, providing services ranging from routine wellness checks to surgery, including low-cost spaying and neutering.
Bill Hollingsworth, the Humane Society’s executive director, said the shelter will expand the veterinary center’s exam rooms and plans to hire another veterinarian to work with Dr. Julie Moberg, the head vet.
“We know that this area has been economically challenged since Hurricane Sandy. We want to ensure this community has affordable vet care without having to wait a long time for an appointment,” Hollingsworth said in a statement.
Chalmers explained that the veterinary center is not limited to pet owners who live in Ocean City or Cape May County. It is open to residents and pets from all areas, she said. Although most of the clients are from Ocean City and the surrounding communities, some of them come from as far away as Philadelphia and Ocean County.
Any proceeds from the veterinary center will help offset the cost of the shelter’s adoption facility, Hollingsworth said.
Currently, the shelter has 10 dogs and 115 cats. Some of the cats were feral and remain unadoptable, so they are permanent residents. The renovation plan includes buying 64 new stainless-steel cages for the cattery.
The shelter is also planning to buy new dog kennels that are equipped with wheels, making them portable in the event the animals must be evacuated during a storm, Chalmers said.
Plans for the shelter’s upgraded heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system include new duct work that will reduce the chances of disease spreading throughout the complex, Chalmers stated.
The last part of the renovation project involves upgrades to the shelter’s “enrichment center,” a meet-and-greet area where people are introduced to the animals they are thinking about adopting.
The enrichment center is also used for training and behavior modification. For instance, Little Max, a young, energetic, black-and-white dog, was learning some new tricks at the enrichment center under kennel director George Muller’s supervision while waiting for someone to adopt him.
“He’s a great dog,” Muller said. “He should have no problem finding a new home.”
The Humane Society, located on Shelter Road, off Tennessee Avenue, was founded in 1964 and has been at its current spot near the city’s airport since the 1980s. In the past 10 years, the shelter has grown significantly, underscoring the need for the renovation project.
“This is an expensive but necessary project for the HSOC,” Chalmers said. “But our animals’ health and well-being is our first and foremost priority. We are asking the public to consider sponsoring dog kennels and cat cages to help offset the cost.”
For more information on how to make a donation, visit www.hsocnj.org or call (609) 398-9500, ext. 4.