TOMS RIVER – Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, adoptions of animals have remained steady at the county’s two animal facilities and that trend is expected to continue.
Many families will be looking during the holiday season to adopt a special cat or dog to add to their family and the Ocean County Animal Facilities encourages people to adopt from one of their shelters.
“We want them to make sure they are serious about the lifelong commitment and to do their homework,” Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer said.
He added, “some individuals act on impulse because they may believe a cute animal will make a special gift for someone during the holidays – but that’s something we highly discouraging people from doing.”
“During the pandemic many people were home from work and had more time to spend acclimating or training a new pet,” Brian Lippai, OCHD Public Information Director said.
“That has turned out great for most individuals and families, but for some it didn’t work out the way they had hoped. We had a few cases where people eventually returned to work and there was no longer a need for the companionship. That’s why you really need to think about the future and how much you’ll need to commit,” Lippai said.
The OCHD is urging residents to consider your family, lifestyle and holiday plans and have provided several tips for adopting during the holidays to make the transition as smooth as possible.
• Make sure that your holiday plans include plenty of time at home. You want to have ample time to get to know your pet and provide the necessary behavioral training.
• Try to minimize foot traffic in and out of your home. The hustle and bustle of friends and family might be overwhelming for a new pet. Keep the animal’s surroundings as calm and peaceful as possible.
• Instead of surprising a family member with a pet, you can give them a card saying you are getting a new dog or cat. This way the whole family can go look for a new animal together. When you go to the shelter, all members of the family can visit with each pet and cast a vote over which animal they think is best.
• Make the right match! Don’t adopt a large dog if you live in a small apartment. If you’re interested in a high-energy dog make sure you can give it plenty of exercise. Toddlers and some pets may not be a good match. Be upfront with shelter staff so they can assist in finding you the best pet for your lifestyle. Remember all pets will need some type of veterinary care during their lifetime; food; exercise; supplies (such as leashes, bowls, etc.) and some grooming may be necessary.
• Think of who visits you frequently and if they are comfortable around animals or are allergic.
If you do adopt – or already have a cat or dog – the Ocean County Health Department wants you also to consider the potential health hazards that come with decorations, food, road trips, parties or having relatives and friends staying at your home during this festive time of year.
Prevent a holiday disaster and trip to the veterinarian by following these tips:
• Keep people food out of the reach of your pet, and ask your guests to do the same.
• Make sure your pet doesn’t have any access to treats, especially those containing chocolate, xylitol, grapes/raisins, onions or other toxic foods.
• Don’t leave your pet alone in the room with lit candles, a decorated tree or potpourri.
• Keep holiday plants (especially holly, mistletoe and lilies) out of reach of pets.
• Consider leaving the tinsel off your tree if you have a cat or kitten.
• Secure your Christmas or Holiday tree to keep it from falling over if your dog bumps it or your cat climbs it. Hanging lemon-scented car air fresheners in the tree may deter your cat from climbing it.
• Pack for your pet as well as yourself if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, this includes bringing copies of their medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items (Road trips ARE NOT recommended for new pets).
• Pets in vehicles should always be safely restrained and should never be left alone in the car in any weather. Proper restraint means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.
• Provide a safe place for your pet to escape the excitement (such as a kennel, crate, perching place, scratching post shelf or hiding place) if you’re entertaining guests. If your pet is excitable or scared, consider putting your pet in another room with some toys and a comfortable bed (if you just adopted a pet consider doing the visiting rather than having guests over and don’t leave the pet alone for long periods of time).
• Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.
• Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information – particularly a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you.
• Keep pets away from other animals or people diagnosed with COVID-19.
• Your veterinarian’s phone number or closest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic.
• ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435.
“Many of these things you may not think twice about until it’s too late. Pets really are creatures of habit, so a change of routine or environment can be stressful. Do the right thing by following these simple tips and you and your pets will have a safe and happy holiday,” Regenye advised.
The locations and contact information for the two Ocean County Animal Facilities are Northern Ocean County Animal Facility, 615 Fremont Avenue, Jackson, 732-657-8086; Southern Ocean County Animal Facility, 360 Haywood Drive, Manahawkin, 609-978-0127.
Pet adoptions are by appointment only. All OCAF pets are spayed/neutered, microchipped and receive age-appropriate vaccines.
For additional information regarding the pet and adoption process, visit the Ocean County Health Department website at ochd.org