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Organization strives for welfare of stray animals

Stray cats are a growing population in New Brunswick that not many are aware of. An organization at Rutgers aims to raise awareness for stray animals and calls on animal lovers to contribute to their cause by doing the same.

Sammy’s Hope at Rutgers is a branch of the larger nonprofit organization Edison Animal Shelter in Edison, New Jersey. Sammy’s Hope is named after a pit bull-boxer mix at the shelter, Samson, who exhibited all of the qualities of “misunderstood dogs,” according to their website.

The initial goal was to bring hope to Sammy’s future, which was soon extended to include other homeless animals.

Gina Sesta, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, volunteered at the Edison shelter a few years ago and thought to bring Sammy’s Hope to campus.

“Everyone misses their pets back home, so I knew it would be something people would be interested in,” she said. “And all of these animals at the shelter really need care — they’re helpless. The goal is to combine those two things and make people aware that they can help.”

Lindsay Goldblatt, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, lived across the hall from Sesta when the pair realized they shared a passion for animal welfare.

“There was so much organization and planning last semester, but with our events and volunteering, it is starting to kick up now,” Goldblatt said.

The group has two missions: fundraising for the shelter and focusing on “Trap-Neuter-Release,” she said.

TNR is a process in which the organization aims to trap feral cats, send them to a veterinarian to be neutered or spayed, receive vaccinations and other necessary treatments, Goldblatt said. After being treated, the cats are released. The TNR process controls the stray cat population and keeps them from spreading disease to one another.

Depending on the problems the cat comes with, treatment would average between $30 and $50 before the cats could be vaccinated or medicated, Goldblatt said.

Kelly Skovron, a member of the executive board of Sammy’s Hope, said the stray cat population is out of control.

Sesta, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said TNR is the most humane way to control the population without having to put any cat down.

Skovron stumbled upon the club last semester when she was looking for an organization to get involved with. Having a dog of her own helped her choose an organization that promoted animal welfare, she said.

The goal is to fundraise and host events, and Sammy’s Hope is currently having a donation drive in the Livingston Student Center. Skovron said people can donate items to the shelter like blankets, food and paper towels.

To get hands-on experience, the members of Sammy’s Hope organize carpools on a weekly basis so club members can volunteer at the Edison shelter, she said.

“I know a lot of people have a soft spot for animals, so I hope [Sammy’s Hope] will become one of the bigger animal organizations on campus,” Sesta said. “Hopefully it can bring bigger events and charity walks and maybe we can bring some animals here because everyone would love that.”

Through social media, the organization was able to get 110 people on board with their mission to help fundraise and work toward animal welfare.

The club does not make its members commit to a certain amount of time, Sesta said. If a member can volunteer one week and is unavailable for the next two, it is not a problem.

Sammy’s Hope has held two bake sales, a Valentine’s Day candy sale and plans to collaborate with 16 Handles for a fundraiser in May, Skovron said.

The organization has been able to fundraise close to $900 so far with $500 accumulated from the website gofundme.com, Goldblatt said.

“Personally, even if I can help one cat this year, it still makes a difference,” Goldblatt said.


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