Dogs and Cats and Bunnies — Oh My!

The Somerset County Regional Animal Shelter Places Over 1000 Animals Per Year in Their “Forever Homes”

The term “shelter in place” has a very special meaning for many residents of Somerset County who took the opportunity to adopt a new pet from the Somerset County Regional Animal Shelter during the pandemic. 

"This is a great time to adopt since people have can bring the animals to their home and bond while everyone is staying inside,” says Brian Bradshaw, the shelter’s manager. “And since the shelter has rotating schedules and limited staffing, it gives the animals much-needed attention.” 

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the shelter, at 100 Commons Way in Bridgewater, has offered meet-and-greets and adoptions by appointment. People who are interested can log onto the shelter’s site, its profile on Petfinder, or search available animals on its Facebook site. Those looking to adopt a dog can make an appointment at the shelter where a masked staff member will bring the dog outside on a leash for the prospective owners to walk or play with. The shelter allows prospective cat owners to foster the animal in their homes for a few weeks to determine compatibility before committing to the adoption. 

“If someone loses an animal in the surrounding area they should contact us immediately with a photo and physical description,” Brian says. “When animals come in, we scan them for the owner’s contact information. That’s why it’s important to update your information if you move or change your number.” 

People who wish to help the animals but cannot adopt can visit the website to order items on the shelter's wish list or make a monetary donation. In the summer, it is typical for the shelter to have an abundance of kittens.

“We can always use canned kitten and cat food and cat litter,” Brian says. “If someone wants to foster a cat, we provide the supplies.”

Brian has always been an animal lover. At age nine he started training seeing-eye dogs for the 4-H Club.

“I would go into shelters to see the dogs and before I knew it, I was working there,” he says.

He spent his career at shelters around the state before arriving at Somerset County Regional Animal Shelter six years ago. Today, he owns seven dogs and three cats, two of which are from Somerset.

“The animal-person bond is a great bond: not only does the pet do well but people do well by adopting an animal." Brian explains, "It’s a win-win situation.”

Staple of the Community

The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter has been serving the community since the mid-1970s, performing animal control, picking up strays or unwanted domestic animals and helping injured wildlife get to a proper rehabilitation facility for healing and ultimate return to the wild. They also perform the essential task of trap-neuter-return for feral cats.

“Residents will let us know if there is a feral cat on their property and we will work with them to trap the cat, have it spayed or neutered and vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease and then return it to the community,” Brian says.

The shelter accepts over 1,300 animals a year and adopts over 1,000 annually. The other animals might be transferred to other shelters or, if wild, to wildlife rehabilitation.

“We work hard to get these animals into the right homes,” says Brian. “Look at how we have grown in the community: In 2014 we only had 250 adoptions. People come from as far away as out of state to adopt.” 

This activity keeps the staff and volunteers busy cleaning the shelter, walking the dogs, socializing the cats, and assisting in fundraising and offsite adoption event.

“The shelter is such a gem. The staff works hard and loves every animal that comes in the door until they find their forever homes,” says Donna Parolie, who has been a volunteer since 2016 and manages the annual Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Golf Outing fundraiser.

She notes the junior volunteer program gives older children an opportunity to serve. 

Animal retention is an important part of the shelter’s mission.

“During the pandemic, we are helping people who are struggling with illness or unemployment by providing food for pets or assisting owners with solving minor behavioral issues,” says Brian. “This helps to keep the pets out of shelters.”

In addition to the animals that come in, the shelter can accept about 350 dogs and cats annually from shelters that become overcrowded.

“I love that I’m able to take the stress off of other shelters and save animals’ lives but putting them in people’s homes,” he says. “People should understand that they do not need to go to the pet stores to buy. This area has a lot of animals in the shelter that need homes.”

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