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The West Milford Animal Shelter Society, Inc. (WMASS) is a 100% volunteer organization and IRS recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It was formed in 1976 out of a desperate need to establish an adoption program at the West Milford Animal Shelter, a municipal facility.
From 1976 through 1993, the WMASS worked alongside the township-employed animal control officers (ACOs) and assisted with the operation of the shelter. The primary goal of the ACOs appeared to be to collect a paycheck. On the contrary, the primary goal of the WMASS volunteers was to promote spay/neuter programs, educate the public about animal welfare issues, maintain a healthy & happy population, and increase adoptions, all of which were virtually non-existent at the time. The WMASS volunteer base grew larger and more professional as each year passed, as did the friction between the volunteers and paid staff.
Knowing they could do so much more on their own, the WMASS leadership set out to gain more authority in 1993. In 1994, after a year of a major mass media campaign and attending every council meeting with charts, graphs, statistics and heartfelt pleas, the WMASS entered into a contract with the township for complete & full authority to operate the animal shelter facility on a strictly volunteer basis, provided State and local laws and guidelines are followed.
Within a few short years, the WMASS quickly became renown as a top-quality and very unique animal shelter. Indeed, in 1997, the WMASS was the topic of a feature article in a national magazine, the ASPCAs Animal Watch Magazine, as a spotlight on animal shelters. Since the year 2000, the WMASS has been honored with the distinction of being listed as a "Must-See Shelter" in an ASPCA nationally distributed animal shelter handbook. The WMASS is one of only two shelters in New Jersey to receive that distinction from the ASPCA. The ASPCA visits over 150 animal shelters annually nationwide.
The WMASS received that honor for a variety of reasons. First, the WMASS is unique as a municipal shelter operated solely by volunteers. Furthermore, the volunteers always provide a high level of care, outstanding veterinary care, and plenty of attention to the animals at the facility. Also, the facility is thoroughly cleaned daily, including the kennels, cages, litter pans, food bowls, and floors. As a municipal facility, the WMASS accepts all animals from its jurisdiction and is unable to pick or choose the age, health, or temperament of its occupants, nor can they refuse entry of the terminally ill or aggressive animals. Yet despite this fact, the WMASS consistently boosts a high adoption rate of 80%, unlike most municipal facilities with under 40% adoption rates. Each and every volunteer at the WMASS is a dedicated individual, generously and selflessly giving of their precious time to staff the shelter 365 days each year.
About 500 cats and 200 dogs arrive annually, seeking shelter, love, attention, and veterinary care from the WMASS. The WMASS also shelters other domestic animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, chinchillas, and birds, as well as injured or orphaned, young wildlife. At any point in time, the shelter houses between 50-100 cats/kittens and about 12 dogs.
Due to the consistently high cat population, the WMASS expanded the principal building in 1997 by nearly doubling the section of the building primarily used to house cats. Separate rooms were needed and added for new arrivals, sick cats, nursing mother cats with kittens, and cats that were ready for adoption. In addition to these rooms, the shelter had a detached ‘cattery’ where cats could live in a cage-free environment.
In the fall of 2004, the WMASS began its long-awaited kennel renovation project. This project was in the planning and fund-raising stages for over 5 years. Over $37,000 had been raised through grants awarded to the WMASS. The balance of the project was funded through the generosity of donations received from supporters and fund-raising events. This project strictly focused on the dog section of the building. The kennels were over 30 years old and were constructed of chain link fencing and welded steel panels. Over the years, these kennels became unstable and at times, caused injury to the dogs. Although the volunteers took extra care in minimizing the defects of these outdated kennels, nothing could change the fact that they were unsightly, unsafe, and unsanitary. The kennel project expanded the facility so that all dogs now have a larger, more private safe haven to call their temporary home. Constructed of anodized aluminum bars and laminate panels, the kennels offer a larger space, increased privacy, and complete safety for the dogs while providing a facility which prevents any possible cross-contamination of excrements and is easier for the volunteers to thoroughly clean on a daily basis. The kennels are now a state-of-the-art facility. The project also included the addition of two rooms. One room is utilized for storage of cleaning materials, bedding, and other supplies needed on a daily basis. The other room is a ‘real-life’ room/adoption room, a separate room complete with futons. In this room, persons interested in adopting a dog can get acquainted, and volunteers can spend quality time with a dog one-on-one, away from the distractions of other animals or inclement weather.
But the volunteers of the WMASS were not willing to stop there. In 2012, a 1,300 square foot addition was constructed by a local contractor who did an amazing job and paid special attention to construction details, to accommodating the volunteers during work hours, and to minimizing the stress of the animals in our care.
The expansion project provided us with a newer & larger adoption room for cats. Every cat has their own “suite” and a window to enjoy the view and catch some sunlight. Three free-roaming, cage-free catteries are now incorporated as part of the building, making all adoptable cats available for viewing in one centralized location. Two of the catteries are indoor/outdoor with plenty of fresh air and sunlight. The third cattery is a smaller, quieter indoor only cattery affectionately referred to as our “library” for the more timid cats. A true isolation room with independent heat and ventilation to minimize the spread of contagions was also added for our sick arrivals. Adoption rates of adult cats have already increased as a result of these warmer and friendlier areas where the true personalities of our cats are readily evident.
Our future plans include the demolition of our original, detached cattery, two old sheds and outdoor dog pens, all of which are old, dilapidated and an eyesore. This back area will include new, covered outdoor exercise runs for the dogs, a second play area where dogs can enjoy running on grass and enjoying the great outdoors in nice weather, and a new storage facility. The plans are currently with the architect and donations are now being accepted for this final capital improvements campaign.
Remember, as an all-volunteer facility, the WMASS relies on your generosity to operate the shelter and improve the lives of the animals in our care. We have zero personnel costs and all funds raised directly benefit our animal population!
Volunteers are always needed! Just a few hours a week can make a huge difference in the lives of these homeless animals. Volunteers donate a lot of time and effort. It’s hard work...but the rewards of getting a lot of bright eyes, love and happy endings makes it all worthwhile. The shelter is open Monday - Friday 10:00 am - 1:00 pm, Wednesday evening 7:30 - 9:00 pm and Saturday/Sunday 10:00 am - 3:00 pm. They can be reached at 973-728-2859. Happy Tails!
* Monday - Friday: 10 am to 1 pm
* Wednesday Evenings: 7:30 pm to 9 pm
* Saturdays and Sundays: 10 am to 3 pm
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