By Rachel Riccuci
We all know how much pets keep us company and are a constant source of love and affection. These days and during the pandemic, more people have been calling and contemplating animal adoption, according to Officer Jose Munoz, Manager of the Trenton Animal Shelter.
“It’s always a guessing game with animal shelters,” said Officer Munoz, regarding the day-to-day operations the Trenton Animal Shelter deals with, but “we’re stepping up to help the animals.” Officer Munoz got into this profession as a stepping stone to the police department, but ended up developing a passion for animals. “It’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Munoz. He has been at it for 22 years and is still going strong.
Officer Munoz sees many Pitbull mixed breeds in his shelter and said that it’s a popular and common breed in the city. He elaborated that other breeds may be hard to come by in the shelter, but they do get them from time to time. Officer Munoz works exclusively with Trenton Animals Rock (TAR), a non-profit organization that provides funding for medical care, training and boarding for injured, abandoned and abused dogs and with Trenton Cats Rescue (TCR) who does the same work for cats. TCR and TAR manage all the foster, adoption and rescue placements for all of the animals in the shelter.
Officer Munoz said that the two groups have been very successful, placing hundreds of animals in homes over the past two years.
Officer Munoz told the Trenton Journal that, because of the work of TCR and TAR, the Mayor has proclaimed the shelter a “No Kill” shelter a few months back since adoptions went up dramatically and euthanasia went down from 50% to less than 7%. “This is extraordinary for a municipal shelter,” he said.
Munoz’s team also goes a step further to investigate animal cruelty for animals that have been neglected and abused. Some come from very dysfunctional homes. Once the animals are safe, TAR and TCR work to get the animals rehabilitated while the officers locate and properly charge the owners. “It’s done on a case-by-case basis,” Officer Munoz said.
TAR is responsible for temperament testing all the dogs, which can help get the animals into the correct homes and make the right decisions as far as rehoming. In the past, the Trenton Animal Shelter has also worked with the ASPCA who has been instrumental in assisting with cases that can go outside of the state, where the shelter may be limited. Officer Munoz said they have been very helpful.
The actual adoption process is “an awesome” process according to Officer Munoz, that keeps the interest of the animal at heart at all times. The teams at TCR and TAR make sure that the prospective pet parents know about the pasts of the animals which could have been traumatizing. “It’s not like a pet shop,” he said.
The two groups also research your background to ensure that a pet is compatible with a new pet parent. They check to see if your lifestyle allows for pets and they contact your current or prior veterinarians to ensure you’ve made vet visits and have a good record of taking care of animals.
If you’re interested in adopting, visit trentoncats.org or tarnj.org for an application and to see a list of available pets. Once your application has been assigned to a team member, a meet-and-greet with the animal will be scheduled. If there’s a good fit, an agreement is signed, the adoption fee is paid, and the pet becomes a member of your family forever.
In addition to managing the foster and adoption programs, TAR and TCR also assist with covering the cost of spaying and neutering fees prior to adoption. The adoption fees for dogs range from about $300-$500 based on of size, age and type of breed and $100 for cats (regardless of size or breed).
Down the line, Officer Munoz feels that the shelter will help animals and the community greatly on a long term basis by educating and providing the public with more resources about animal cruelty. “We try to educate, educate, educate,” he said.
Some new developments are in the works and there have been “talks” about expanding, Officer Munoz said. Mayor Reed Gusciora has been talking about creating a brand-new state-of-the-art animal shelter that has a section for grooming and veterinary technicians that will provide many opportunities for today’s youth. He commented that this will be a model for the rest of the state as a leading example of what proper animal care should look like. “We feel we can tackle a lot of issues with this plan. This will really help if it comes to fruition. It will take a few years.”
Officer Munoz expressed that this is very good news and a much needed change for animal shelters as we know it.