By MADDY VITALE
Tucked away off Tennessee Avenue in Ocean City is a place where bonds are formed, animals are saved, and forever homes are right around the corner.
And if they are not adopted, rest assured the cats and dogs that are housed at the Humane Society of Ocean City will receive the best of care, training, love, nurturing and patience. The animal shelter’s staff will also be prepared if that right person or family comes walking through the door looking to adopt, Bill Hollingsworth, executive director of the HSOC, explained in an interview Wednesday.
New staff, specials on adoption fees, and a host of activities geared to help fund shelter animals are ways that the HSOC sets itself apart from the rest of the other shelters, Hollingsworth said.
“What makes us different from other shelters is we are very community-oriented,” he said. “We have competitive pricing for adoptions with the rest of the markets and we provide veterinary care at a discount for the life of a pet.”
The HSOC leases its space at 1 Shelter Road off Tennessee Avenue from the city. As part of the lease, it also handles animal control for the city, adding another dimension to the facility.
“Animal control doesn’t only help people, but it helps wildlife. It also helps the tourism industry,” Hollingsworth said. “People are not just coming here for the beaches and the Boardwalk. They are here to see nature, too. The HSOC is vital to protecting people’s property and wildlife.”
During the summer the HSOC fields up to 10 calls a day for rescues of wildlife, such as birds wrapped in fishing lines. It also works to keep the fox population under control, Hollingsworth noted.
The shelter also keeps space available should a disaster strike. The HSOC will house people’s pets in case of flooding and other emergencies.
Currently, there are about 60 cats and nine dogs at the no-kill shelter, but the number fluctuates. The adoption fees are $100 for dogs and $60 for cats.
Phil Bellucci, operations manager, detailed some of the positive changes at the shelter that have occurred over the last two years.
At one point, there were 120 cats in the cat room. The shelter staff decided to lower the price for adoptions to give felines that may not have gotten the opportunity for a home a better chance.
Both Bellucci and Hollingsworth said the emphasis was on giving some longtime cat residents a better opportunity for adoption. Without losing focus on finding a suitable home, they loosened some of the adoption requirements.
“We lowered the population in the cat room for two reasons. It was overcrowded and it was hard to focus on getting a cat a home,” Bellucci said.
All of the animals adopted are micro-chipped, spayed or neutered, and receive their vaccinations.
“We are committed to the animals, not just until they are adopted, but for life,” Bellucci said.
Bellucci is in charge of fundraisers and special events for the shelter as a way to further the cause.
“We want people to come out and be a part of our organization,” Bellucci said. “That way, they will maybe donate or volunteer.”
There are 12 dog runs, but the shelter sets aside three of them as often as possible for animal control for the city. With about nine dogs available for adoption, Jennifer Knipe, a dog trainer and assistant shelter manager, can really use her talents to focus on the animals, she noted.
Both she and longtime dog trainer at the HSOC, George Mueller, have been working with the dogs on specific skills. For example, Murphy is a hound up for adoption. He is very scent-oriented.
On Wednesday, Knipe took Murphy out to the dog exercise area behind the shelter. With artificial grass, obstacles, toys and a lot for the shelter animals to see, smell and hear, it becomes an exciting and adventurous way to get them relaxed, content and tired out, she said.
“We try to make their lives as good as possible – especially since they are in kennels. They need to use their minds,” Knipe said as she hid a scented toy for Murphy to find.
Knipe, who joined the shelter in October of 2018, has also focused her energy on more enrichment programs and positive reinforcement for the dogs.
“We are not just doing obedience training. We are getting the dogs ready to go into a home,” Knipe said.
Courtney Venzie, the shelter manager, said the positive changes at the shelter have been beneficial to the animals and 20 employees and volunteers.
“We figured if we could change it up and not make it so stringent to adopt, everyone would be better off. A cat who was here for 10 years was adopted out,” Venzie said. “Before, that just wouldn’t have happened.”
Here are a few events coming up this year from HSOC:
Hearts & Paws $5 Valentines at the shelter now until Feb. 14. Purchase a Valentine for your furry friend and proudly hang it at the HSOC
Pins Fur Paws – March 10 at Kingpin Lanes in Egg Harbor Township
Grateful Pets V with Dead Reckoning – April 11 at Josie Kelly’s Public House in Somers Point
HSOC Campout with the Pups in “pup tents” date to be determined
Skato with Kato V with live music – June 19 at Ocean City Skate Park
PaddlePAWlooza II – June 28 at OC Paddle Company
For information on animals for adoption, events and veterinary services, visit www.hsocnj.org. To volunteer or for other questions call the shelter at 609-398-9500. People may email the shelter at email@example.com.