By: Evan Wechman
Wayne Township maintains the Alan Purcell Animal Shelter which was named for the late councilman back in 2013. Purcell was a tremendous advocate for the humane treatment of all animals and assisted in rescuing those that were abused or neglected. He volunteered frequently at the shelter and was beloved by both animals and the public. He spread lots of love to the animals, and the message of showing love and compassion to them. This belief continues today under the direction of the shelter manager, Sally Herman.
The shelter is located at 201 Pompton Plains Crossroads in Wayne, where even birds or turtles can be found. However, cats and dogs comprise the majority of pets here, and are available for adoption throughout the week.
The dedicated staff gets to know these animals very well and grows strong bonds with them through their nurturing behavior. Whether it is just spending one on one time with the animals, feeding them, or taking them for walks, Herman is appreciative of all the love the staff shows to the animals. However, as much as they love spending time with these dogs or cats, their goal is to get them “from homeless to home.”
The shelter manager adds that she loves what she does as a career and that “it’s the best job in the world,” She indeed “loves finding the animals a new home.” Herman has been the shelter manager overseeing a few other paid staff members and all volunteers for the last 11 years.
The shelter which is under the auspices of the town is “wonderful to the animals,” according to Herman, and contends that she “knows how blessed she is for their (Wayne Township) help.” Herman is satisfied that all the major decisions regarding the care and welfare of these loved animals is made in collaboration with the town. They are on the same page in their mission to find appropriate homes which gives these tremendous animals a chance to have a family.
Though their goal of finding all animals a home may seem like an uphill battle to many others, Herman’s confidence is unwavering. “It’s never not happened,” reports the shelter manager when asked if they are ever unable to find caring homes for their many cats and dogs. Herman is quick to credit the contribution of her “wonderful staff and volunteers” that aid in this mission. “It might take us a while but in my 11 years, it has never happened,” she proudly states.
She acknowledges that some animals due to age and other factors stay at the shelter longer than others. The animals are always cared for by her and the staff and become like family. Herman, herself an animal lover, with pets at her own home, adds that they “love the animals very much,” but genuinely want them to add to a family’s quality of life and happiness.
However, during this stressful transition period, the animals who may go from a home to an unknown shelter, are often undergoing a lot of anxiety. The staff is very mindful of this fact, which can be easily lost on the general public. Herman consults with the staff daily on how to help the animals alleviate their anxiety and become more adjusted to their new environment.
Stress is not just a human condition, but one that is all too familiar for many of these kittens and puppies, many of whom have been neglected or abandoned by their prior owners. Herman acknowledges that most of the residents in the areas they cover (Wayne, Woodland Park, Verona, and Cedar Grove) are terrific people who unfortunately, due to changes in family circumstances, have to part ways with their beloved pet. For example, many owners are forced to move to homes that don’t allow pets or have had new family additions which requires valuable time and expenses. Unfortunately, however, there are a minority of citizens who abandon their pets or are forced by the authorities to give up their pets due to acts of cruelty.
Though Herman, in her 11 years has seen almost everything, she and her staff do all they can to alleviate the anxiety that these animals may be enduring. This includes not only spending time with them, but having a veterinarian prescribed diet which consists of high-quality foods.
Herman also mentions that cats in particular, are falling prey to overpopulation in the Wayne area. This is a result of cats being left outside often and therefore reproducing more quickly than dogs. However, shortly after both kinds of pets are brought to the shelter, the animals are spayed and neutered.
Herman also wants the public to know that her and the staff are always there for the area residents to help select a perfect pet for them. They try to get to know the habits and daily schedules of the potential applicants who want to adopt so they can match them with the right animal. However, if after the adoption is complete, if any problems arise, the staff wants to know about it as quickly as possible. Besides being able to offer tips or suggestions, the shelter has professional animal trainers volunteer their time at the shelter. This way if a newly adopted animal or puppy for example is a little bit aggressive in their new home, the trainer can utilize the very best behavioral techniques and nip this issue in the bud.
Herman also wants the families that the shelter serves to know that it does take a lot of time and dedication for the animals to adjust to their new homes and all the different surroundings that may come with it. If the family finds after some time, that the process of caring for an animal is too much or not what they expected, the shelter will always welcome the cat or dog back with open, loving arms. One of the unique details that Herman shared was that she genuinely believes most of the animals are “happy at the shelter.” However, the goal of finding them an appropriate family to take them home is still of the utmost importance.
She also acknowledges that the majority of the dogs of the shelter are of a pitbull mix. She states that the major reason for this is that the owners did not expect the amount of training that raising this breed takes. These dogs are very strong and can be large as well. Though there are a lot of stories circulating in the media about the dangers pitbull’s pose, Herman loves these dogs as well. She chalks it up by saying pitbulls “are not bad dogs,” but that sometimes they are the product of inadequate owners who lack the necessary skills to take care of these wonderful creatures.
She realizes that these terrific dogs would be a good fit for the right family, particularly one which does not have newborns and those who have ample time to train this breed. However, she makes sure she goes through a thorough matching process when a pitbull is being considered for adoption.
Lastly, the devoted shelter manager wants the public to “know that the shelter is here for them and they can always use good volunteers.” She contends that it is a great environment for all the animals, and she is grateful for anyone who wants to give their precious time devoting it to the love of animals.
One amazing fact that Herman mentions is that they can always use donations from the public for medical bills for ailing cats and dogs. However, though animal costs can be high even for affluent families, in particular a shelter, they have never had to put one down due to a lack of money. They have always found a way to care for the animals and Herman mentions that the town and shelter always do what is “best for the animal.”