In 1998, a small group of animal lovers formed Animal Outreach of Cape May County, Inc.. The initial purpose of the organization was to take over and operate the existing shelter that was located in Lower Township. The facility was run down and presented a huge challenge, but the group was dedicated to improving the lot of the homeless animals it housed. Many volunteers joined--cleaning, walking dogs, painting, washing dishes, training, and generally working together to improve the place.
A few years later the property was sold to a developer, and Animal Outreach was itself rendered homeless. Animal Outreach was approached by the Cape May Animal Control Officer, who was operating a small makeshift shelter in a trailer at the town’s Public Works facility. The ACO was running one of the country’s most famous TNR programs there, but was feeling overwhelmed trying to perform all phases of the program alone. So an alliance was born.
Animal Outreach took over the existing trailer and added another as an Adoption Facility for those cats that were deemed adoptable, intent on finding homes for abandoned pets that would otherwise be destroyed. Starting with just a pair of trailers and all volunteer staff, the shelter stayed true to its mission as it grew, despite an ever-increasing number of animals in need. Soon a staff was hired and adoptions once again became a regular part of our work.
Sadly, on May 18, 2007, a tragic fire claimed the trailers and all 37 inhabitants. It was devastating for the staff, board members and volunteers who had cared for the cats on a daily basis. The board met and decided that Animal Outreach would continue the mission out of respect for those lost in the fire as much as for the ongoing great need in the community. We held a memorial service on June 9th and once again began to carry out our mission as a homeless group.
The board voted to purchase a piece of land on which to eventually build a shelter. We acquired 3.45 acres at 3000 Bayshore Road in Lower Township and began making plans for a facility. There were many setbacks, most notably the economic crisis that slowed donations across the country.
Unfortunately, bids for the building came in far above our estimation, and the building can not be realized at this time. In order to continue our work, we opened a small storefront location in West Cape May, where were are presently housing feline residents awaiting their forever homes. Dogs are housed through the generous cooperation of a foster network.