Voorhees animal shelter pairs struggling pet owners with temporary guardians

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VOORHEES TOWNSHIP, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — For those facing housing or financial insecurity due to the pandemic, it is no doubt a difficult time. That stress can be even more heightened as a pet owner. An animal shelter in Voorhees Township, Camden County hopes to ease some stress with a plan called "Neighbors Helping Neighbors."

The Animal Welfare Association's free online program links pet owners with foster parents, said executive director Maya Richmond.

"(For) pet owners facing crisis, whether it's military deployment or losing their job and now being evicted," she explained, "the opportunity to match and select a good samaritan in the community that wants to help a pet temporarily, that person becomes the pet's guardian temporarily."

Richmond said the plan began taking shape a few months ago, after her organization realized the pandemic might cause some long-term issues for struggling pet owners.

"Most of the the time people think, 'I can't keep my pet, I have to give it up to the shelter,'" she said. "The ultimate goal is to keep pets with their family."

Describing the procedure, Richmond said by "simply filling out an online profile, the pet owner never has to take their pet to the shelter. People are matched with temporary foster volunteers, everything is done online."

Richmond has seen the guilt many pet owners face when making a decision to place their pets into a shelter, but added this plan is quite different since it is temporary. 

"The pet returns to the owner once they get back on their feet," she stressed. "There is no judgement. This is a horrible, crazy time for so many and we're here just to help you and I would say thank you to the people who want to help their neighbors."

For more information go to the Animal Welfare Association's website.