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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more
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    Dogs and cat throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    If you're interested in helping homeless animals but aren't able to adopt one, there are a number of other ways you can be of assistance.

    Realistically, not everyone can adopt. People who live in apartments or developments that have no-pets policies fall into that category, as do people with allergies or disabilities that will not allow them to care for pets of their own. Adoptapet.com offers these suggestions for ways people who want to help can participate in caring for homeless animals.

    * Help out at a local shelter. It's not glamorous work by any means, but it's vital and will be very much appreciated. You can do anything from help walk dogs to bottle feed kittens, help clean kennels or cats' cages or even help with bathing and grooming. Contact your local shelter to find out their policies regarding volunteers.

    * If you're handy, you can lend a hand in many ways. Shelters usually need repairs of many kinds, so fixer-uppers can help out like that. If you sew, quilt or crochet, you can make blankets for your local shelter.

    * Help out at an adoption event. Many shelters and rescue groups participate in local events by hosting a table with pets available for adoption. They also hold these program at malls, pet supply stores and banks, and can always use a helping hand.

    * For galleries like this one and for online adoptions sites, often a shelter or rescue group doesn't have the time or equipment to shoot good photos of their adoptable pets. Something as simple as making yourself available to shoot and provide digital files of pet photos can be a big help.

    * Donate. It doesn't have to be money; shelters need cleaning supplies, pet food, toys for the animals and often even things we don't think twice about getting rid of like old towels and newspapers. Every little bit helps.

    If you don't know where your local animal shelter or rescue group is, a quick online search will reveal a number of results. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to get involved but it provides immeasurable assistance.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Even the Little Engine That Could can estimate when it thinks it can, it thinks it can.

    The first rule of communications club is, communicate. The second rule of  communications club is ... .

    So, if NJ Transit, by fiat of Gov. Phil Murphy and some fresh leadership, is under strict orders to improve how it communicates with passengers, why did the word "unclear" appear so frequently last week in headlines about the restart date of its Atlantic City rail line?

    Somehow, news organizations discovered that NJT had completed efforts to equip the Atlantic City line's rail cars and track with positive train control (PTC), an emergency stopping system the federal government now demands. NJT was so far behind in getting PTC installed across its network that it finally stopped seeking federal deadline extensions and got to work. 

    The alterations demanded rail schedule disruptions statewide, but the A.C. line was the only one that ceased running entirely, 24/7, since September. Based on NJT's announced schedule, the service was likely to return in January.

    As of last week, all of the PTC work on the ACRL had been completed, NJT said. As a bonus, the agency during the shutdown was able to refurbish 7.5 miles of track along the line. 

    Congratulations. But why is "mum" still the word about when the trains will start running again?

    Regular users of the Philadelphia-Atlantic City line had already been spooked into fearing that it might never return, based on low ridership statistics. So, when NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder last week told Philly.com, "We don't have a determined date in regards to the [Atlantic City Rail Line] restoration," it started  negative speculation all over again -- even though Snyder added, "We are going to restore service on the ACRL as quickly as possible."

    A different spokesperson said exactly the same thing when the Press of Atlantic City asked for a restart date.

    The PTC installation is subject to tests to satisfy the Federal Railway Administration, but that alone shouldn't be enough for NJT to back off its pre-shutdown estimate of service restoration. 

    It didn't make sense for NJT to make the upgrades if it never intended to restore  Atlantic City service, so fears of permanent mothballs may be completely unfounded. But mealy-mouthed answers to "when?" do no good for NJT's passenger relations score, and won't calm politicians' real and/or fake ire at the agency's past incompetence. Most embarrassing, super-secret plans make a  mockery of the "communications initiative" and "customer experience upgrades" that Murphy and the NJT brain trust announced just a couple of weeks ago.

    For the 2,000 or so people who had used the A.C. line daily, most of them for casino jobs, the best "customer experience upgrade" would be to give then a date certain as to when they can stop taking slow replacement buses to work, or skip the hassle of driving their own cars.

    If NJT's goal is to justify the line with more ridership, it should consider more frequent trains. Even better is an idea floated by Cherry Hill and Camden County officials recently to boost the line's seldom-seen, seldom-used station behind Route 70. It could become a convenient one-ride commuter line to the University City section of Philadelphia, a booming employment destination. The line terminates a stone's throw away at Philly's 30th Street Station.

    Now, that's forward thinking. It would mean added rush-hour service, but that could be limited to a few express trains between 30th Street and Cherry Hill only. First things first, though. Say when the line will be back in service.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com


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    Rachel Mathews of PETA offers praise for New Jersey's first-in-the-nation law that bans traveling shows with elephants and other wild animals.

    It's official: "Nosey's Law" is on the books! New Jersey is the first state to enact a ban on traveling wild animal acts, and it won't be the last.

    This precedent was sparked when Nosey, a lonely, stressed and painfully arthritic elephant in a small circus, was forced to plod in circles day after day at a state fair in Alabama. Appalled, Raymond J. Lesniak, then a New Jersey state senator, introduced Nosey's Law to ban traveling elephant acts in the Garden State.

    Lesniak's bill, later expanded to ban other wild and exotic animals from these shows, garnered massive support when it passed the Legislature in January. But former Gov. Chris Christie "pocket vetoed" it when his term ended later that month. With Lesniak retired, State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-Camden, and Assembly members Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson; Andrew Zwicker, D-Monmouth; and Jamel Holley, D-Union; gave the bill new life in the 2018-2019 session. It passed both houses in October, and Gov. Phil Murphy signed it Dec. 14.

    Last year, Nosey was seized by Alabama authorities after she was found chained and swaying in her own waste, suffering from urinary tract and skin infections, intestinal parasites, painful osteoarthritis, dehydration and malnutrition. She is now thriving at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

    The efforts of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, alongside those of animal advocates in New Jersey, have inspired one of the most progressive bans on wild animal acts to date. The public is demanding better for animals and they are getting it.

    Rachel Mathews, Associate Director, PETA Foundation, Washington, D.C.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com


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    Millville is home to the nation's largest holly orchard.

    By now, holiday music has been playing on the radio and in stores for weeks. Some people can't get enough; others can't wait until it's over.

    xmas1962vineland2.jpgLisa Hatala ready to rock out on her brand new Schroeder piano in 1964. 

    There was a time when it was almost an obligation for a top-selling artist to release a Christmas-themed single or album.

    Sometimes, it didn't represent the artist's best work. Esquire magazine ran an article in 2016 that included one writer's list of the worst Christmas songs of all time (by well-known artists, that is). The list includes "Wonderful Christmas Time" (Paul McCartney and Wings), "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" (Bruce Springsteen) and "Oh Holy Night" (Christina Aguilera).

    How about the best? We'd have to base that on sales, and music sales have become a lot less simple to count.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    There was a time when sales simply meant the number of records purchased; now, with the internet, things have had to change. There are downloads instead of straight purchases and then there's streaming - according to new parameters set by the Recording Industry Association of America, for example, 150 streams of a song equals one paid download.

    So with that in mind, here are the top 10 Christmas songs of all time through 2017, according to Billboard:

    10.  "Last Christmas" (Wham!) 1984

    9.  "White Christmas" (Bing Crosby) 1943

    8.  "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) 1996

    7.  "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (Andy Williams) 1963

    6.  "A Holly Jolly Christmas" (Burl Ives) 1964

    5.  "Feliz Navidad" (Jose Feliciano) 1970

    4.  "Jingle Bell Rock" (Bobby Helms) 1956

    3.  "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)" (Nat King Cole) 1953

    2.  "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (Brenda Lee) 1964

    1.  "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (Mariah Carey) 1994

    Here's a gallery of New Jerseyans celebrating Christmas through the years. And here are links to more Christmas galleries you might enjoy.

    Vintage N.J. Christmas photos

    Vintage photos of celebrating Christmas in N.J.

    More vintage photos of celebrating Christmas in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    New Jersey is getting twice as many medical marijuana dispensaries as it currently has, and that's good for users and non-users alike.

    Vineland will soon be getting what 60 percent of its voters said they want -- someplace within their borders where marijuana can be purchased legally.

    The New Jersey Health Department last week approved the Cumberland County city as one of six additional medical marijuana dispensary sites. As the marijuana talk in Trenton shifts mostly to how soon a recreational bill will be approved, New Jerseyans should be reminded of just how much former Gov. Chris Christie hobbled a medical marijuana program that will soon celebrate its 10th anniversary.

    When Vineland and the other five new sites open, it will DOUBLE to 12 the number of spots where medical cannabis can be obtained by qualified patients. What if there were only a six traditional pharmacies in New Jersey. If you think the lines to pick up prescriptions at CVS or Walgreens are too long, consider what they'd be like with fewer than one drugstore for every three counties.

    Medical marijuana users can thank Gov. Phil Murphy's administration for breaking the logjam, even if the rollout of new facilities is slower than they'd hoped. Before its "Pick 6" decision last week, the health department received 146 applications for the six additional dispensary slots. According to some news accounts, the dearth of locations has worsened a shortage of medical marijuana.

    It's sensible, in Vineland's case, that regulators went with a town where a clear majority of voters have no problem with legal sales. There was community opposition in dozens of other municipalities that growers/sellers had pitched to the health department, including Clayton in Gloucester County.

    Vineland was one of only three New Jersey municipalities that a put non-binding marijuana question on the ballot this year. But the results varied greatly. Bridgeton, Vineland's Cumberland County neighbor, asked voters a three-part question. They said "no" to retail pot shops and "no" to grower/distributor sites. Curiously, the voters approved limiting marijuana businesses to industrial sites, under the apparent assumption that the city council will ignore the result of the first two questions. 

    One key distinction is that Vineland's referendum addressed specifically "medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary alternative treatment centers," while all three Bridgeton questions addressed "recreational marijuana."

    If such disparate results apply statewide, would-be recreational weed entrepreneurs may overestimated the public's image and acceptance of their business, compared with providers who only dispense cannabis to control the suffering of cancer-treatment or epilepsy patients. Polls show a majority of residents want legalization, but this could be a not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) situation. Governing bodies in more than 40 towns have banned legal marijuana sites, most without the broad voter input that Vineland and Bridgeton sought.

    Meanwhile, the medical marijuana program, thankfully, continues to move beyond Christie's medieval version. It's a pleasant oddity that once the added dispensaries open, South Jersey patients will have access to more choices and can travel shorter distances for their weed than in most parts of the state. In addition to the Columbia Care facility that's been OK'd for Vineland, MPX New Jersey was chosen to operate a cultivation center in Galloway Township with a dispensary in Atlantic City. Sites already operating in Bellmawr and in Egg Harbor Township were among the initial six locations statewide.

    Whatever happens on the recreational side, filling a legitimate medical marijuana order shouldn't be much more difficult than filling a standard prescription at a counter in Walmart or Target. Twelve dispensaries are still insufficient, but a heck of a lot better than where New Jersey was a year ago.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook

    Want to learn more about the cannabis industry? Subscribe to NJ Cannabis Insider


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    Pets throughout New Jersey await adoption at shelters and rescues.

    Better Homes and Gardens (bhg.com) has some sound advice if you've ever felt the impulse to by a pet for the holidays.

    "Adding a pet to the family is a long-term commitment. It's a decision that needs input from everyone who would care for the animal. That's why pets should not be given as holiday gifts.

    The scene has been replayed so often in popular culture that it has come to symbolize the holidays as much as tinsel and candy canes: A shopper, with freshly wrapped packages bulging out of two different bags, casually walks by a pet store window as the snow falls gently around her. The puppies behind the glass, all floppy ears and paws, madly scramble over each other trying to capture the shopper's attention. The temptation is too great. The shopper whisks into the store and impulsively purchases an animal for her beloved.

    This season, many shoppers will buy a dog or cat to give to a friend or loved one. Their motivations can be as varied as the snowflake: Some will buy an animal on impulse, some because they're caught up in the spirit of the season, and some just because the doggie looks so darn cute in the pet shop window.

    None of them is the right reason to add a new pet to the family.

    Adding a pet to the family is a serious, long-term commitment. It's a decision that needs input from everyone who would be involved in caring for the animal. What type of animal would have a personality most compatible with a person or family? Who would be the primary caregiver of the pet? How much will it cost to feed and provide veterinary care? Who would look after the animal during trips? Could someone be allergic to the pet?

    Instead of buying a puppy or kitten as a gift, consider waiting to adopt a pet after the holidays. You could give a loved one a "gift certificate" from a local shelter, or a snapshot of a shelter pet, or even a stuffed animal representing a shelter pet-all which can be used as "passports" to adopt an animal later. This not only promotes responsible adoption, but provides a little fun, too.

    After the holidays, if your loved ones decide they are indeed willing and able to adopt a pet, you can bring them down to the local shelter where they can use their 'passport' to adopt their new friend.

    The alternative to this scenario can be sadder than the Island of Misfit Toys."

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." -- Ansel Adams

    I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in giving a mental thumbs up to the TV screen when watching one of the installments in Rocket Mortgage's "Lingo" commercial series.

    In the installment, a couple is in an art gallery near a man who offers his interpretation of a painting of a gray dot. "And here we see the artist making an attempt to bare his soul," he says with emotion ... after which Keegan-Michael Key pops in behind the couple and translates for them: "It's just a gray dot."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    So, as the cliche says, art is in the eye of the beholder. And, it occurs to me -- someone who has combed through thousands and thousands of photographs shot by folks who do not consider themselves artists -- it's sad to think of all of the gallery-worthy art that will never be pondered. In the genre of photography, I can't possibly be the first person to think that if you took the work of everyday people -- those not considered artists -- and hung their pictures in galleries, art would be on display.

    We see photos taken by everyday people that, intentionally or not, mirror many of the things that we've been told make for great art. Here, we're providing a gallery of beautiful photos taken in New Jersey that are more than just gray dots.

    And here are some other vintage photo galleries you might enjoy.

    The vintage N.J. photos that touched us in 2017

    More vintage N.J. photos that are works of art

    Even more vintage photos from N.J. that are works of art

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Howard Margolis writes that the abandonment of our fighting partners in Syria is the most recent manifestation.

    As Vladimir Putin's tool, President Donald Trump has destroyed our allies' trust in America. After Trump's wavering commitment to defend NATO, both French President Emannuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel started advocating for independent European defense forces.

    Recently, Trump suddenly gave Putin, Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, al-Qaida and the Taliban huge gifts that jarred our allies, as well as our own defense and diplomatic leaders.He ordered a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and ordered dramatic troop cuts in Afghanistan.  

    Quickly, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigned. He understood that Trump's impulsive and uninformed decision bushwacked our allies. Throughout Europe, this created fear. It isolated Israel, strengthened Iran and set the stage for Syria and Turkey to slaughter thousands of Kurds. As for Syrian refugees? Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin's headline screamed death: "Trump is leaving 50,000 Syrian civilians to die." 

    As Trump will clearly do almost anything to distract from his numerous political and judicial defeats and investigations, the stock market collapse, and his border crisis, our allies would be foolish to trust him. How can they trust a president who has threatened to cancel our nuclear arms treaty with Russia, begun withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change and implicitly supported Saudi Arabia's murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi? 

    Trump has taught tyrants that he's "for sale," that he's unthinking, easily manipulated and full of bluster, not substance. No wonder Kim Jon Un announced that for North Korea to start denuclearizing, the U.S. must first eliminate its nuclear threat to his country.

    By isolating the United States, showing the world he can't be trusted and readily jumping through Putin's hoops -- to ultimately have his name on a Moscow Trump Tower, perhaps? -- he's increased the likelihood of war, perhaps nuclear war.

    The situation is dire. Only powerful, persistent and focused public pressure on Congress can improve the situation.

    Howard Margolis, Voorhees Township

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com


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    Consider a new pet in the new year from a shelter or rescue.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    If you're considering a new pet in 2019, think about adopting from one of these or the scores of other shelters and rescues throughout the state.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey. If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on nj.com, please contact Greg Hatala at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    "Get your motor runnin', head out on the highway."

    Asphalt is a naturally occurring building material found in both asphalt lakes and in rock asphalt (a mixture of sand, limestone, and asphalt).

    According to the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the first recorded use of asphalt as a road building material was in Babylon around 615 BC, in the reign of King Nabopolassar. Its first appearance as a historical marvel in popular literature might be in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" when she wrote about arriving in Topeka, Kansas:

    "In the very midst of the city, the ground was covered by some dark stuff that silenced all the wheels and muffled the sound of hoofs. It was like tar, but Papa was sure it was not tar, and it was something like rubber, but it could not be rubber because rubber cost too much. We saw ladies all in silks and carrying ruffled parasols, walking with their escorts across the street. Their heels dented the street, and while we watched, these dents slowly filled up and smoothed themselves out. It was as if that stuff were alive. It was like magic."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    New Jersey, first in so many things when it comes to things we sometimes take for granted, was also part of a first for asphalt. In 1870, Belgian chemist Edmund DeSmedt laid the first true asphalt pavement in the Unites States in front of the City Hall in Newark.

    NAPA notes that today asphalt covers more than 94 percent of the paved roads in the United States.

    Here's a look at street scenes from throughout New Jersey, many on roads paved in asphalt. And here are links to other galleries you might enjoy.

    More vintage photos of N.J. street scenes

    More vintage photos of streets and roads in N.J.

    More vintage photos of street scenes in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    The year 2018 is over, but the drive to 'Clear the Shelters' goes on.

    'Clear the Shelters' is an annual pet adoption drive sponsored by NBC- and Telemundo-owned television stations across the country. More than 91,900 pets were adopted since the 2018 event was launched in July, over 26,000 on August 18 alone. By year's end, a total of 102,686 pets found homes as part of the drive.

    The program began in North Texas in 2014 as a partnership among the NBC and Telemundo stations in Dallas-Fort Worth and dozens of North Texas animal shelters. More than 2,200 homeless animals were adopted that first year, the most in a single day in North Texas.

    The need remains great to find homes for the millions of homeless animals in the United States. The number of animals entering shelters each year is about 6.5 million, 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Though the number has declined from about 7.2 million in 2011, with the biggest drop in the number of dogs, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals end up being euthanized each year.

    On the happier side, about 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted annually and another 710,000 are returned to their owners.

    Clear the Shelters began in North Texas in 2014 as a partnership among the NBC and Telemundo stations in Dallas-Fort Worth and dozens of North Texas animal shelters. More than 2,200 homeless animals were adopted that first year, the most in a single day in North Texas.

    For more information, go to cleartheshelters.com.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    A look at the players who reached the 2,000-point mark in S.J. hoops

    2011 NJSIAA Non-Public A boys basketball final between St. Augustine and Seton Hall PrepSt. Augustine's Isaiah Morton (#11), the game's MVP, reacts as time expires and St. Augustine beats Seton Hall Prep, 71-60, in the NJSIAA Non-Public A boys basketball final at Poland Spring Arena at Toms River High School North. TOMS RIVER, NJ (3/12/2011) Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger TO PURCHASE THIS PHOTO, PLEASE CALL THE STAR-LEDGER PHOTO LIBRARY at (973) 392-1530 or E-MAIL photolibrary@starledger.com 

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    When you least expect it ....

    What's a "candid" photo? Pretty much anything that hasn't been staged. By "staged," I can mean anything from a publicity photo to a group shot of family all standing in the same pose.

    candid-2016003-capemay.JPG 

    Why do we like candid photos so much? A friend of mine explained it, and I can't possibly do any better:

    "There is something compelling about pictures where the subjects don't know they are being photographed. A sort of invitation into a moment in time unfettered by vanity or awareness that just captures a split second of life."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    And even when the subjects are aware of the camera, simply going about living and enjoying life make these photos priceless.

    Always one of our most popular galleries, here are split seconds of life from New Jersey's past, with a few classic photobombs thrown in for good measure.

    And here are link to other similar galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage candid photos from N.J.

    Vintage N.J. candid photos

    Vintage candid photos in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Consider a shelter dog or cat for your next pet.

    Petfinder -- an online, searchable database of adoptable animals -- compiled a list of common misconceptions about pet adoption in the hopes that if myths are debunked, more people will adopt dogs and cats from shelters and rescues.

    "I don't know what I'm getting."

    There is likely more information available on adoptable animals than pets for purchase in pet stores. Many of the pets from rescue groups are in foster care, living with their fosterer 24/7; information on their personality and habits is typically vast. Even shelters have a very good idea about how the dogs and cats in their care behave with people and other animals.

    "I can't find what I want at a shelter."

    Not only are their breed-specific rescue groups, but some rescues and shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds. There are even means on Petfinder.com to be notified when certain breeds are posted for adoption.

    "I can get a pet for free from a friend or acquaintance; why pay an adoption fee?"

    The "free pet" from a source other than a shelter or rescue group isn't necessarily free. Adoption fees usually cover a number of services and treatments including spay/neuter and veterinary checkups. Covering these costs on your own would call for spending the following estimated amounts:

    * Spay/neuter: $150-$300
    * Distemper vaccination: $20-$30, twice
    * Rabies vaccination: $15-$25
    * Heartworm test: $15-$35
    * Flea/tick treatment: $50-$200
    * Microchip: $25-$50

    "Pets are in shelters because they don't make good pets."

    Here are the main reasons animals end up in shelters or with rescue groups:

    * Owners have to move, pets not allowed
    * Allergies
    * Owner having personal problems
    * Too many, no room for littermates
    * Owner can no longer afford a pet
    * Owner's health does not allow for pet care

    While no one can say that every pet adopted from a shelter or rescue will work out perfectly, it's important to remember that misinformation about these homeless animals often keeps them from finding loving homes.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    The president of the Food Bank of South Jersey outlines steps being taking to aid food stamp recipients and unpaid government workers.

    On Dec. 21, the federal government partially shut down, potentially impacting an estimated 40 million people facing food insecurity in America. In South Jersey alone, more than 200,000 residents have limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Of these vulnerable citizens, 57,000 are children who need healthy food to thrive physically, mentally, socially and academically.

    The U.S Department of Agriculture announced on Jan. 8 that all federal nutrition programs will be funded through February, despite the shutdown. While this announcement is positive and critical for individuals facing food insecurity, it is essential for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), among other vital supplemental nutrition programs to continue operatig beyond February.

    Commodities provided by the USDA, in addition to generous donations by individuals and corporations, enable the Food Bank of South Jersey to provide food to South Jersey's most vulnerable populations. When government operations are interrupted, vulnerable populations like children and seniors are usually among the first impacted.

    Sadly, 70 percent of South Jersey residents who depend on our hunger relief programs live at or below the poverty line. The food bank is the urgent solution these residents turn to when they are hungry and can't afford to buy food.

    As a leading regional hunger relief organization, the Food Bank of South Jersey is taking steps to mitigate the effects of this shutdown on families who find themselves in difficult circumstances. The food bank and its network of over 150 agencies stands ready to meet the challenges and provide food to populations affected, including federal workers who may need assistance.

    Fred C. Wasiak, President/CEO, Food Bank of South Jersey, Pennsauken

    Note: More information about the food bank, including its services and how to volunteer or donate, is available online at foodbanksj.org, or by calling (856)-662-4884

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com