JACKSON – Calling all cats…your sanctuary is safe and sound.
Sara Cameron, the president of the non-profit organization, Calling All Cats, said she was greatly relieved when she left a recent Board of Adjustment meeting where the board voted unanimously to approve a use variance for the organization’s cat sanctuary on her property.
Elena Gable, a professional planner from Red Bank, joined attorney Ken W. Biedznski in representing Cameron during the meeting. The property is in a residential zone.
Cameron, a certified animal control officer and animal cruelty officer, offered testimony to what the operation involves. The sanctuary began operating in January 2015 but after some public exposure from a newspaper article, the township took a closer look at the facility and determined a use variance was warranted.
During the meeting, Cameron said she is also employed at a veterinary clinic in Toms River. She founded Calling All Cats eight years ago which shelters a sanctuary for both feral and unadoptable cats on property near her single-family residence that she shares with her daughter.
Some of the 44 non-feral cats are in hospice care, according to Cameron, who said that she receives some of them from local shelters who would otherwise be forced to euthanize them. “I take pride in the treatment we provide,” Cameron said.
“I can tell you all their names. All the cats are spayed, neutered, vaccinated and micro chipped,” Cameron said during the meeting. The area is fenced in to prevent any stray animals coming onto the property who might harm the feral cats and other animals.
Cameron said a number of the feral cats who have found shelter there came from Seaside Heights. The borough assisted with the transfer when the cats who were living under the boardwalk were displaced when renovation in the resort town began.
The shelter houses around 104 cats total at any given time. Three pot belly pigs, seven goats, five sheep, three rabbits and five dogs call the 10-acre property home.
“There are no issues of the (feral cats) wandering off the property. They are warm, fed and loved here,” Cameron said. An old chicken coop on the property is utilized for the sanctuary. There will be no more (non-cats). We are limited to that.”
The organization also works with fostering the cats and has 40 foster homes. The non-feral cats are not adopted.
“The cats live here until the end,” Cameron said. The sheep, goats and pigs came from farms and petting zoos in the area.
“They each have their own story, said Lisa Vivino of Toms River. She is one of the organization’s 50 volunteers. She visits the facility twice a week to feed the cats and cleanup the sanctuary.
Romeo, a black haired feline, is among Vivino’s favorites in the garage-like shelter that houses the non-feral cats.
“We got him five months ago and he had a lot of scabs on his neck but he’s doing much better now. He had a pretty drastic diagnosis but we don’t think about that. We just love them all. Sara is amazing,” Vivino said of the group’s president.
Cameron said that Romeo came to the sanctuary after a township resident’s home fire on Bennett Mills Road where the owner evacuated their dogs but had to leave their cats.
“We were able to treat him for the skin condition he developed at the shelter he was in after the fire. He was found to have allergies and we administered medicine with a syringe each day. We found out, though, that he has feline AIDS,” Cameron said.
Michele Rutkowski of Beachwood serves as the operating director of the organization. “We have a great program here.”
Rutkowski said the group is grateful for the donations of food and other items that has come forward from the public, as well as financial donations. She also noted that the organization has legal and professional fees that it must pay to the township due to the use variance issue. Some of the funds that would have gone into the sanctuary had to be diverted to deal with this latest challenge.
Cameron told the members of the Board of Adjustment that her desire is that should, for any reason, she no longer be able to oversee the cat sanctuary, it would be operated by her daughter Naomi Edivk, who is following in her footsteps. “She is 14 now but she grew up in this environment and is amazing. She just soaks up all the knowledge about animals and knows now the kinds of things I didn’t know until I was in my 20s.”
The organization has a Facebook page which serves as its primary communication tool while its website is under construction.