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Frenchie flirting with vet tech Robyn Hendrix

The staff at Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge puts a lot of tender love and care into its family of animals.


hether you’re looking for a furry friend to join your family or you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to surrender a pet, Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge Inc. (RBARI) can help. The no-kill animal shelter’s history can be traced back more than 30 years. With a long history of caring for pets, the Oakland-based animal facility keeps in step with the latest technology, and has even established a humane education program. A full-time dog trainer is also on staff to assist animals who are in need of extra care. Providing a sanctuary and finding permanent loving homes for puppies, kittens, dogs and cats is RBARI’s mission. In addition to scouting out homes for healthy animals, RBARI finds loving families for animals that are handicapped, elderly and formerly


BC The Magazine // January/February 2012

abused. Receiving a safe haven, medical care, food and training, the animals are also lavished with love and attention from staff and volunteers. “All of our supporters are deeply appreciated and while I thank them every chance I get, I know it’s the love they have for the animals and seeing them find homes that motivates them,” says Steven Mark, executive director of RBARI, which receives no government funding and relies solely on community generosity. Promoting humane education and volunteerism is a core objective of RBARI. “We work with many schools, churches, synagogues and scout groups on community service projects and humane education programs. We’re also proud to offer the Paws in Hand program, which takes shelter dogs and trained volunteers into targeted schools to work with special needs

children and other children who have had direct or indirect experience with animal abuse and dog fighting. The hands-on learning and bond created between the children and the animals catalyze change that can be passed on to family and friends,” says Mark. HOUSE HUNTING RBARI certainly goes to great lengths to ensure that its animals are adopted, but a top priority is ensuring that these pets are brought into loving homes that are well matched with their personalities. “That process leads to a high success rate,” Mark explains. On average, RBARI adopts approximately 700 animals per year. Among the non-profit’s goals is to raise that to 1,000. At any given time, RBARI has approximately 80 animals in house with another 50 to 70 placed in foster care. Some animals will remain in the shelter for a number of days while others remain in RBARI’s care for weeks. In very rare cases, some will reside at the facility for years. “We never give up on them and when those long-time residents


get adopted there’s an indescribable happiness that all the volunteers and staff share together,” reveals Mark. Within the first few moments of visiting RBARI, pet lovers will recognize that the shelter utilizes every inch and corner to help as many animals as possible. “You’ll find a dog in the front office, and you’ll notice that three out of our four bathrooms are now makeshift kennels,” notes Mark, who shares his office with Ben, a senior cat. The building has several other spaces that employees and volunteers have sacrificed to benefit the animals. “Our staff and volunteers are passionate and dedicated. You’ll never find a cleaner facility and you’ll always find volunteers walking the dogs, taking them into our dog runs or playing with the cats.” COMPLETE CARE Beyond providing all of the necessary medical care, RBARI takes in animals that others are not willing to due to the high costs of medical expenses. All of the an-


imals are spayed or neutered and vaccinated on schedule. Any animal requiring additional or more extensive medical care will be granted that special treatment along with sufficient time needed for recovery. “We are lucky to work with several local veterinary hospitals that are generous with their services, but even with that, the medical care we provide is certainly expensive. To ensure that we never have to deny an animal the medical care it needs, we recently established the Betty Lou O’Donnell Memorial Fund, which is named in honor and memory of a founder and long-time RBARI member. One hundred percent of all monies donated go toward funding medical treatments, specifically emergency surgeries and special treatments and medications,” reveals Mark. Before joining the RBARI facility, all animals are given a temperament test and a specific training regiment is especially created for them. To assist in the rehabilitation process and increase the chances of adoption, staff and volunteers folContinued on pg. XX


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Continued from pg. XX

low instructions that are very specific to each animal. Volunteers must go through various levels of training to be able to work with all types of dogs or perform other skilled tasks within the shelter. “All of this is in an effort to give the animals the best chance they have at finding a loving ‘forever’ home,” says Mark.

VOLUNTEEROPPORTUNITIES To continue serving its community, RBARI heavily relies on the community and its stellar volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering, whatever your passion or skill-set, RBARI has a place for you. Volunteers assist with all types of tasks from fundraising to filing, cleaning, walking dogs, socializing cats, adoptions and beyond. If interested, visit and click on the “volunteer” tab.


BC The Magazine // January/February 2012

Mark reports that RBARI takes in a lot of puppies and pure breeds. “People are often surprised that we get all breeds and ages,” he says. Adoption fees vary based on the animal being adopted and all necessary vaccinations and spaying or neutering is included. Generally, the prices range from $100 to $250. “We’re often asked why someone adopting an animal—and in many ways saving its life—should pay an adoption fee. Adoption fees make up a small yet very significant part of our budget and allow us to continue helping other animals in need,” reveals Mark. Although RBARI hopes to avoid keeping an animal in the shelter for more time than is truly necessary, it also seeks to locate a stable home for its animals. “To go back and forth from a new home to the shelter can negatively affect an animal’s behavior. Adopting an animal is a commitment and we believe requiring a fee lends itself to ensuring that commitment is there.” When finding oneself in the unfortunate situation of considering surrendering a pet, Mark and his staff will first aim to pinpoint the issue to determine wheth-

er there’s another solution. If a person or family provides a good home, the staff will work with them in whatever ways possible to ensure that they can keep their beloved pet. “We’ll provide whatever advice, referrals and resources available rather than having the animal surrendered,” Mark emphasizes. In cases where the animal must be surrendered, a specific process needs to be followed. Mark advises those who are faced with this situation to call in advance and review the details of the situation with the appropriate staff person or volunteer. “We would love nothing more than to be able to help every animal, but we often find ourselves at capacity. In this case, we’ll work with the family and the many other organizations we communicate with to find the best option. “As someone who has lived in Bergen County my entire life and has always been an animal lover, there is no other place I would rather be involved with not just because it’s a leading no-kill animal shelter in the county, but because of the amazing work being done at RBARI,” concludes Mark. “I consider myself very lucky to be able to combine my passion with my career. It doesn’t prevent me from having bad days, but nothing relieves stress quite like enjoying the company and playing with one of RBARI’s many dogs or cats.”

Regina Molaro is a freelance writer who covers art and design, beauty, and fashion. BC The Magazine // January/February 2012



BC January 2012

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