Shelter Saves Sweethearts

By Theresa King, Managing Editor

Barks, food bowls, scraping concrete and squeaky toys – the bittersweet sounds of animal rescue.

At the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, a no-kill shelter in Oakland, these noises are all too familiar.

In 1978, Ramapo Animal Refuge merged with Bergen Animal Refuge, which was originally based in Teaneck.

“Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc. was largely made up of business people from surrounding towns who, individually, rescued animals and tried to find them permanent homes,” the group’s websites states. “BARI had the needed funds, RARI, the necessary manpower and the relationship with the town of Oakland and its residents. Together, their dream and hard work became a reality, now called the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc. (RBARI).”

The shelter now takes in animals who would otherwise be put down or left on the streets, giving them a place to receive care while awaiting someone to adopt them.

“RBARI believes that all animals have a natural right to humane treatment including proper care, respect, and safe shelter,” says the group’s mission statement. “Our primary mission is to provide sanctuary while finding permanent, loving homes for the many animals that come to us (including feral, elderly, handicapped, and formerly abused animals).”

According to one volunteer, the animals are “evaluated to see whether or not they get along with other dogs or cats and small children.”

An afternoon visit to the shelter reveals dogs being taken out for some fresh air and volunteers giving them attention.

“The dogs come mainly from puppy mills, high-kill shelters and from owners who decide to give them up,” the volunteer said.

One dog, Mugsy, sat on a blanket, unfazed by his barking neighbors.

“Mugsy is a great dog who just wants to spend the rest of his life relaxing by a fireplace,” the volunteer said as she threw a treat his way. “He’s one of my favorites.”

In 2012, CBS New York ranked the group one of “Northern N.J.’s 5 Best Animal Shelters,” saying, “This no-kill animal shelter provides each and every animal they rescue with the love and support they need until adoption. The Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge is more than just a safe haven for cats and dogs of all ages: it actively participates in its surrounding communities by offering Humane Education courses in local schools, pet clubs and a calendar of events in which all proceeds go towards the well-being of their animals.”

The shelter also has a 4.1 star rating on Google and a 3.9 star rating on Yelp.

“I adopted my mini-daschund from RBARI 4 1/2 years ago,” Google user Lyn Ofrane said. “She was a puppy mill mama survivor, very traumatized and ill with heartworm. RBARI saved her and brought her back to health and now she is not only a spunky little girl, but she is also a therapy dog!  The people there care so much – they want each cat or dog to go to the correct home, and will always be there to support you if you have any questions.”

Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge is located at 2 Shelter Lane in Oakland and is open Tuesday through Sunday.