One Step Closer Animal Rescue needs you

Helen is a friendly and well-mannered female dog.
Helen is a friendly and well-mannered female dog.

Out Pets

Cassie Kowalchuk opened One Step Closer Animal Rescue (OSCAR) in 2010 with the help of two other volunteers in 2010. Kill shelters are the reason behind the volunteer’s motivation to save animals.

Oftentimes, animals are put down in kill shelters to make space. This is, for many who love animals, a brutal reality.

“A lot of times, they’re just literally given no more time just because they’re so full. It’s not the fact that there’s a bite history. There’s nothing wrong with the animals. Unfortunately, they have no more time,” Kowalchuk said.

This inspired her to take action.

The rescue, based out of Sparta, was originally foster based until they opened a shelter six years ago. This has allowed Kowalchuk and the rest of the volunteer base to make sure the rescues stay for as long as they need.

“It’s funny,” said Kowalchuk, “one of the dogs was there for four years, her name is Matilda. I actually ended up adopting her as soon as my two dogs passed,” Kowalchuk shared. “Matilda wasn’t great with other dogs. She had a few little quirks, which made her not as desirable, and she just sat for a while. She was a pit mix too, and sometimes that deters people.”

However, rescuing animals is nothing new for Kowalchuk. She’s been doing this work for about 20 years. And when she isn’t rescuing, she works a full-time job.

She emphasizes that rescue work is born out of the love volunteers have for the animals. Volunteers make up most of OSCAR’s impact-driven workforce. Anyone can volunteer their time at OSCAR regardless of ability. Kowalchuk said she and her team have a variety of needs from paperwork to animal care.

The volunteer president often meets prospective volunteers after discussions at public schools on animal rescue and safety. Although, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Kowalchuk adapted to virtual public speaking. Pre-pandemic, she’d usually go to schools and other public spaces to talk in person about what rescues do along with animal safety and care.

Education is an important part of Kowalchuk’s animal rescue discussions.

After her talks, she brings in the rescues to meet the audience, often youth with their teachers and families.

“They’d be able to come up and meet the animals. And we’d tell them about the animals’ specific stories so that they felt a connection,” Kowalchuk said. “Afterwards we always get families reaching out either about adopting or about volunteering and that their child was touched by that. You never know the impact you have on a kid or a family or an animal. So you just have to, like, keep trying every avenue to try to make that impact happen.”

The ultimate mission of OSCAR is to make sure that their rescue animals are one step closer to their forever home with loving people. To volunteer, donate, or learn about adoption applications:

River is a sweet friendly dog
River is a sweet friendly dog


River is a sweet friendly boy. He gets along with people and some dogs. It’s unknown what he thinks of cats. River just wants to walk, to run in the yard, and to be petted. Once he gets his zoomies out he just wants pets. River has become a favorite of one of OSCAR’s dog walkers. When he goes home we know to be both happy and sad. A home with older children is preferred due to his size. River is about 7 years old and 77 pounds. Please help River find the loving home he deserves.

From River’s dog walker to OSCAR: “My main man, River. He has been at the shelter since July 2020. Honestly, he is basically a cat. He does his own thing and will let you know when he wants attention. If you, or anyone you know, are looking for an extra adorable heartbeat in the house, he is your man. He loves the ladies. I mean a real ladies’ man. I could talk about him for days. Come meet him and I can tell you more!”

Helen is a friendly and well-mannered female dog.
Helen is a friendly and well-mannered female dog.


Helen is a friendly and well-mannered girl. She loves to play and knows some basic commands. She is also housebroken. Helen loves people and kids, but she is not a fan of cats and is picky about what dogs she will befriend. Helen is about 52 pounds and 3 years old.

Lana Leonard
Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.