Dogs and cats in North Bergen just got their very own resolution. On April 30, the Board of Commissioners adopted a new resolution authorizing municipal support for “responsible pet ownership programs” in the community.
The official document states that the Township of North Bergen intends to “do our utmost, within the bounds of our jurisdiction, to ensure that companion animals are treated humanely, respectfully, and responsibly through public education and through exercise of powers vested within New Jersey municipalities.”
Janet Castro is director of the Department of Health and Social Services in North Bergen. She is one of two people charged with making responsible pet ownership happen.
“The goal is to work together with the community so that we can come up with services and create programs,” she said.
The Health Department has provided free rabies clinics for years, at which vaccinations are provided at no cost for residents of North Bergen and neighboring towns. The next clinic will take place on Wednesday, May 21 from 7 to 8 p.m. at the EMS Building at 1812 43rd St. and Tonnelle Ave.
At the clinic and elsewhere, licenses will be available for dogs and cats. The cost is $8 for spayed or neutered animals and $11 otherwise. Cash, check, and money orders will be accepted for pet licenses.
“The goal is to work together with the community so that we can come up with services and create programs.” –Janet Castro
Also included in the resolution are directives to improve enforcement of animal cruelty statutes and education for the community, including school children, about their responsibilities toward their pets.
Another program that falls under responsible pet ownership is a pet census.
“We used to do a dog census years and years ago and it would tell you how many dogs we had,” said Tom Stampe, who partners with Castro to run the programs. “Right now we don’t really know.”
A new census is tentatively scheduled for the fall. “It helps us to compare the numbers that we get from the census to our licensing rates,” said Castro. “It’s been a dog census in the past. We’ve never done it with cats. We’re going to start that now.”
“Responsible pet ownership” is in large part an umbrella term for all the things the Health Department has been doing already and will be doing more visibly in the future, with increased publicity and marketing.
It also qualifies as one aspect under an even larger umbrella, that of Sustainable Jersey.
Sustainable Jersey is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, voluntary certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green and save money.
Stampe, who serves as recycling program aide with the Municipal Utilities Authority and will soon take over as recycling coordinator, discovered Sustainable Jersey in the course of his regular job.
“A lot of communities in the area are starting to do it,” he said. “It offers incentives. If you do this program and that program, then you’re eligible for grants. Everything is point-based, and in order to be certified with Sustainable Jersey you have to have X amount of points. So that’s really our goal this year: to get North Bergen certified as a Sustainable Jersey town.”
“Although Tom is the one who is spearheading it because he’s the one that found the Sustainable Jersey grant and has done all the research on it,” said Castro, “it involves a lot of public health aspects, which is why I’ve been brought on. The reality is we can’t work individually. I didn’t come up with this but I’ve got the resources.”
Responsible pet ownership is one of the programs that will bring North Bergen closer to a Sustainable Jersey certification.
To promote the different initiatives available in North Bergen under Sustainable Jersey, the town is holding its first health and environmental fair on June 21.
“This fair’s going to have lead paint training, blood pressure screening, diabetes,” said Stampe. “One of the many booths we’re having is going to be animal management care. To make sure that you have your cat or your dog neutered or spayed, licensed, your rabies shots, have your dog or cat’s shots up to date. Basically taking care of your animal.”
“Our animal control officer will be there promoting his animal services,” added Castro. “We have a contract with him and he also has a shelter so he’ll be informing the community about what he does and his role within North Bergen. It’s basically taking a more proactive approach.”
“We’re kind of bringing everything to the people instead of the people coming to us,” agreed Stampe. “We’re trying to educate people into the many different aspects of North Bergen offers to the community.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.