THE YEAR is 1906. Postage stamps are 2 cents. Teddy Roosevelt becomes the first president to ever travel outside the U.S while in office. Scientists discover that vitamins are crucial to human health.
And a group of caring citizen volunteers forms the Associated Humane Societies. Their mission: to give animal orphans of the streets refuge at a time when little thought or concern was given to such animals.
Flash forward, 2006. It costs 39 cents to send a letter. Our nation’s leaders travel worldwide on a moment’s notice and scientists continue to make discoveries and develop new advances that further enhance our health and quality of life. Gasoline is almost $3 a gallon; hospitalization for employees costs the Society almost $1/2 million a year.
But, the mission of Associated Humane Societies remains the same and has expanded to meet the needs of today's society – to care for and protect all creatures, great and small, and to try and improve their quality of life, as they so often unwittingly do for us.
`We first opened our doors nearly 100 years ago when there were no programs to care for abandoned and abused animals. A handful of dedicated people believing in the sanctity of all life labored tirelessly to save the sick and dying animals of New Jersey,' said Roseann Trezza, AHS/ Popcorn Park Zoo Executive Director. `They risked their own safety and health in the process, with little or no thanks, and not much has changed since then. Today, the people who do this hard work remain devoted to the idea that animals are sentient beings that deserve decent treatment.'
Celebrating its centennial, Associated Humane Societies is the largest sheltering system in New Jersey, with four animal shelters and the Popcorn Park Zoo taking in more than 15,000 animals a year. The not-for-profit organization exists solely on donations. Society staffers, dedicated to protecting all animals, serve at each of the facilities every day.
Through their creativity and interest, AHS has expanded its services and programs over the century to provide in a host of different ways. Here is just some of what AHS provides:
- Animal Shelters: AHS operates four shelters – Forked River, Tinton Falls, Newark and Union. Our shelter staff works hard to give these animals – many purebred dogs and cats – a new lease on life and a new loving home.
- Animal Haven and Kitty City: AHS believes non-adoptable cats and dogs still deserve to live out their lives in a safe, comfortable environment. Animal Haven and Kitty City at our Forked River shelter are sort of co-ops for these animals.
- Share-A-Pet: A program in which individuals can “sponsor” dogs and cats who are not available for adoption and will make their home at AHS’s Kitty City or Animal Haven Farm for the remainder of their lives.
- Emergency Service: AHS operates radio-dispatched ambulances around the clock to provide animal control to neighboring towns, and to take care of emergencies and injured animals. AHS has two complete Medical Departments to care for those in need.
- Popcorn Park Zoo: Established in 1977, its sole purpose is to provide a refuge for wildlife, exotic and domestic animals that are sick, elderly, abandoned, abused, or injured. The only federally licensed zoo in the nation, it houses more than 200 of these animals and birds in spacious surroundings on seven acres in the heart of the scenic Pine Barrens.
- Popcorn Park Wildlife Club and Zoological Society: These two programs enable individuals to provide financial support to the Popcorn Park Zoo. They can even “adopt” the zoo residents of their choice.
- ResQ: This fund provides emergency, surgical or other intensive medical care to animals that have suffered excessively cruel or neglectful treatment.
- Vested Interest: Over 950 police dogs in New Jersey and another 150 around the nation have received protection through the AHS Vested Interest program. The program began in 1998, after the fatal shooting of a Monmouth County Sheriff Department’s K-9, named Solo. The ultimate goal of Vested Interest is to provide a vest for every police dog that graduates the academy. A majority of the support for the program comes from school groups, civic groups and private citizens. Oftentimes, local K-9 Unit handlers will give demonstrations at meetings or school assemblies in partnership with Vested Interest fundraising activities.
- Retirement Home for Pets - This service is available to those pet owners who wish to make arrangements for the future care of their pets in the event of their demise or incapacitation.
Just as the AHS has made a difference and quietly changed the lives of millions of animals in New Jersey in the past 100 years, the organization is celebrating its centennial quietly as well, Ms. Trezza said. No parties, gold watches or back slapping, just the quiet satisfaction of knowing there are caring people willing to make the difference in the lives of animals.
`Can we continue on for another century? As long as there are animals in need and people who want to help, we will be there, but we can only exist through the kindness and generosity of others.' she said.
To learn more about how you can donate your time, treasures and talents to the Associated Humane Societies, please contact us.