Animal advocacy group leaves Edison shelter to open facility

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

EDISON — After a run with the Edison Animal Shelter that saw a surge in pit bull adoptions, a volunteer-operated animal rescue group has moved on.

Sammy’s Hope will soon open its own shelter, the Sammy’s Hope Animal Welfare and Adoption Center, in Sayreville.

Representatives of the organization said the new shelter will look after dogs and cats with the care they deserve; meet the animals’ physical and emotional needs in a temporary home; and prepare them for adoption and work to find them loving homes.

The shelter is scheduled to open to the public in January.

Sammy’s Hope began working with the Edison Animal Shelter in 2010. The organization initially focused primarily on pit bulls, which made up 80 to 90 percent of the shelter’s large dog population at that time, according to Darren Young, executive director of Sammy’s Hope.

Sammy’s Hope worked to dispel the idea that pit bull mixes are vicious dogs, inviting the public to visit the shelter and interact with the animals, Young said.

According to Young, euthanasia rates dropped from 28 percent of dogs and 86 percent of cats in 2009, before Sammy’s Hope started working with the shelter, to 2.9 percent of dogs and 23 percent of cats in 2013.

Starting in September 2010, Sammy’s Hope helped the municipal shelter adopt out many of the larger-breed dogs through a successful matchmaking process, he said. Shortly after that initial success, Young said Sammy’s Hope helped add programs for all breeds and sizes of dogs, as well as cats. The organization also developed and helped fund a spay/neuter program for all pets adopted from the shelter, he said.

The shelter, located in the township’s municipal complex, serves Edison, Metuchen, Piscataway and South Plainfield.

In December 2013, the program leadership shifted at the Edison shelter to place a greater focus on animal welfare, and the board at Sammy’s Hope decided to transition the programs they created to the control of the township, while continuing to offer services to Edison, Young said.

Jay Elliott, who runs the Edison Animal Shelter in his capacity as township director of health and human services, did not respond to a request for comment.

Since leaving Edison, Sammy’s Hope has assisted organizations including the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison and Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City, while working toward opening its own facility, Young said.

Sammy’s Hope is inviting the public to play a role in the soon-to-open facility by becoming shelter volunteers or donating to the organization.

Training for volunteers will be held 7:30- 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and 6-7:30 p.m. Saturdays beginning Nov. 25. No previous experience is required. Volunteers must be at least 18, capable of meeting the physical demands of working in a kennel environment, and willing to commit to a minimum of two hours per week.

If interested, email volunteers@sammyshope.org with a preferred training date. Sammy’s Hope Animal Welfare and Adoption Center has a wish list on Amazon.com for those who would like to donate to the center. All purchases are delivered directly to the shelter.

To make a monetary donation, visit www.sammyshope.org and click the “donate” button or mail checks to Sammy’s Hope, P.O. Box 7281, North Brunswick, NJ 08902.