HO-HO-KUS, N.J. -- Christine Devereaux, along with a group of friends, has turned her love of animals into a 5013c organization that helps families and their pets.
The Ho-Ho-Kus resident, who grew up in Maywood with a menagerie of animals including, at one point a goat, a horse, raccoons, hamsters, turtles, birds, as well as dogs and cats, said she's always had a love for two and four-legged friends and a strong belief that every pet deserves food, shelter, and love.
It's why she and ten others helped form Companion Animal Advocates (CAA) in 2008. The Hillsdale-based group is dedicated to the welfare of companion animals within the community through programs designed to keep pets in their homes and reduce pet overpopulation.
CAA is also dedicated to educating the public on the compassionate and responsible care of domesticated animal and providing assistance in times of emergency to pet owners and their pets.
Among its biggest initiatives: delivering pet food to the Center for Food Action food pantries in Mahwah and Saddle Brook as well as Ridgewood Social Services and Vicinity, Inc. so that those who come to collect food for themselves also have the appropriate food to feed their pets. Operation Feed-A-Pet has donated more than 852,693 bowls of pet food since the group's inception.
Another big push: to offer low cost spay and neutering to family cats and dogs. More than 320 pets have been spayed or neutered since 2010.
What's been getting the most news buzz of late, said Devereaux, is the organization's Pet Oxygen Mask Initiative which works with area first responders to make sure they're equipped with pet oxygen masks. So far, CAA has done more than 137 donations throughout Bergen and Passaic Counties. Most recently, on June 28, they donated l5 sets to the Passaic County Sheriff's Department Canine Unit.
"Half of these first responders didn’t even know pet oxygen masks existed," said Devereaux. "It's been an educational experience for everyone. But nothing is more gratifying than hearing someone tell us, 'We saved a cat or a dog this weekend because of your efforts.' Most rewarding for me is knowing we’re helping the entire community."
CAA, she added, continues to evolve and grow and is always looking for volunteers as well as more funds. Said Devereaux who now has one dog, two cats, a fish and a tortoise at home: "We're just trying to continue the work so we can to continue to help families and pets in our community."
Go to www.companionanimaladvocates.org/ for more information.