The holiday season is the perfect time of the year for many of us to give a little extra help to the homeless pets in our communities. And fortunately, there are many ways to give, including handing down your pets gently used items (like toys, bowls, etc.), donating food and litter to local shelters, and contributing money or time to rescue groups. However, some people don’t wait for the holidays to come around; instead, they work 24/7 to make sure as many animals as possible get a second chance at the happy lives they deserve.
Danielle Giano is one such person. She is a co-founder of Community Pet Care, which is the animal rescue/adoption division of Animal Welfare Society of New Jersey. CPC and AWSNJ work hand in hand to help animals in New Jersey and surrounding areas. They specialize in smaller dogs and cats that have manageable medical and behavioral needs. They rehabilitate these special pets and place them in adoptive homes. I recently had the opportunity to interview Danielle.
Have you always been a huge animal lover?
Danielle Giano: Yes, forever. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have a pet because I suffered from terrible allergies. Finally, at age 12, my parents relented, getting me my very first cat, Leo.
Do you have one early memory that stands out that led you to become an animal rescuer?
DG: I really became involved when I started working at the Pennsylvania SPCA and got an inside view of how devastating it is for these poor animals that have been neglected, abused, or simply unloved. I was moved to take action in whatever way I could.
How many pets have you placed with forever families?
DG: Since we started Community Pet Care in 2015, we have successfully placed close to 200 animals in loving forever homes.
What has been your favorite rescue or adoption story so far?
DG: They are all favorites! Anytime one of our animals gets a chance at a new life, we feel great joy. There are those that come to us in terrible condition with need for many months of medical care and treatment, so when they are finally healthy and get to go to a loving forever home, it is a very special kind of happiness.
Rescuing must take an emotional toll on you — how and why do you keep doing it?
DG: How can we not do it? Knowing what we know and being a part of the rescue community … it is almost impossible to not stay involved. The emotional toll is high and we learn as we go how to manage the stress and when to step back for a moment, if necessary.
What is awesome about adopting an older dog instead of a puppy?
DG: Older dogs are the best! They have character and are so grateful for everything. They are usually mellower, very good listeners, and there is a good chance they may already be housetrained. I truly believe that fostering or adopting an older animal is one of the kindest things someone can do. It is also very rewarding; older animals are often overlooked, which is so sad. Your new, older dog will be the most loyal companion you could ever ask for. Puppies are sweet and cute, but they are a lot of work and messy, and they grow up very fast.
What traits do you look for in potential pet adopters?
DG: I love when a potential adopter tells me their pets are family members … just like their children. The traits I look for are compassion, loyalty, and a love of animals. Adopters must realize that life can change very quickly and the animal they are adopting will be part of their lives for the lifespan of the animal. That includes the hard times: loss of jobs, a move, a divorce. Nothing upsets me more than seeing an older dog, sitting in a shelter, surrendered by owner because of “a change in lifestyle.” It’s heartbreaking. A pet is for life: the good times and the bad.
What are the top mistakes people make when adopting a dog?
DG: I don’t think people always consider that they are making a long term, lifetime commitment and they need to consider that this animal will be with them for many years. Adopters also should consider the expense of owning an animal. There will be veterinary costs, flea and tick preventatives, annual vaccines, and more. Potential adopters need to budget for a new pet and make sure they can afford to properly care for the animal. Also, people should really research breeds before they adopt to make sure the breed is the right fit for them and their lifestyle.
What can our readers do to help?
DG: We are always desperate for donations. Every $100 we receive helps us save another animal. We are also grateful for supplies like food, blankets, litter, and toys from people who cannot afford to make financial donations.