November 16, 2022

Dog and Cat Adoptions and Fostering Programs Are Available at EASEL Animal Rescue League

COMPASSIONATE CARE: “I want to emphasize the role of volunteers as part of our overall mission. EASEL relies on volunteers for some of our crucial operations. Adoptions, intake, training, off-site events, follow-up calls, and fostering are all primarily run by volunteers. The relationship between our staff and volunteers has been instrumental in the success of EASEL.” Mark Phillips, EASEL Animal Rescue League’s director of animal services, is shown with Pinky, a longtime shelter dog with some medical issues, and, from left, Director of Operations Lori Cima and Assistant Manager Andrea Dunks.

By Jean Stratton

EASEL — Ewing Animal Shelter Extension League — has a mission. It is to help stray, abandoned, transferred, and surrendered dogs and cats to find a happy home, and in the interim, to provide them with a caring, healthy, and safe environment.

Founded in 2008, and established in its current location at 4 Jake Garzio Drive in Ewing in 2013, it is a no-kill shelter. As a nonprofit volunteer animal welfare organization, it is dedicated to ending the euthanasia of unwanted animals in Mercer County through collaborative coalitions and community alliances.

“We are the only shelter in Ewing,” points out Mark Phillips, director of animal services. “We are both a place to take animals and a place to get animals. Currently, we have 40 cats and 13 dogs in the shelter. We also have 20 cats (mostly kittens) in foster care.”

The animals are brought to the shelter by animal control officers. They may have been found abandoned, or people have reported seeing a stray. They can also be transferred from other shelters. At times, owners may be forced to surrender a pet for a variety of reasons, reports Phillips.

Health Issues

“Sometimes, it can be for financial reasons,” says Phillips. “Sadly, people may have lost their home or have other financial difficulties, and have to bring in their dog or cat.”

When an animal arrives at the shelter, it is examined by a veterinarian for health issues, and assessed for behavior. In the case of a dog, how does it interact with other dogs, with humans? Is it aggressive? Calm? Is it ultimately adoptable?

Dogs are kept in large cages with an opening to an even roomier space, and are also walked mornings and afternoons. In addition, there is a large outdoor play area, where they can have more exercise and socialization.

On Saturdays, a “pack walk” is held with many dogs joining together for a lengthy walkabout, adds Phillips.

Cats are housed in large cages, which include a litter box, a soft bed, and assorted toys of different sizes. Opportunities for cats to roam outside their cages are also available.

The fostering program enables kittens to live temporarily with a family in a home environment, explains Phillips. “Infant and very young kittens stay with the family typically for six weeks, after which they return to EASEL to await adoption.”

Short-term Stays

This is helpful for a number of reasons, including when the volume of cats at the shelter is high, and also in cases when temporary homes are needed to care for sick, infant, or under-socialized animals.

“We also have short-term stays,” adds Phillips. “Dogs and cats can go to a family for a weekend or a week. The people will provide a report on the animal’s behavior, and its likes and dislikes. It is a chance to try out the dog or cat in a home environment.”

Those wanting to adopt an animal may fill out an application available online at EASEL’s website. It includes questions about the family’s or individual’s lifestyle. Are there children in the household? Other pets? What kind of life will the animal have? Will it live in a house or apartment? Is this the first time the applicant will have had a pet?

What type of dog or cat are they interested in? Specific breed? High energy or calm? Young or older?

The next step is to come to the shelter for a meeting with a staff member and see the animals.

Not all adopters want kittens or puppies, notes Phillips. “Some people want an older animal, who is calmer and does not have to be trained. Also, others will take end-of-life animals, which is very kind.”

Companion and Playmate

In the case of kittens, Phillips adds that if there are no other cats in the household, EASEL does not allow a kitten to be adopted singly. The reasoning is that it is better for it to have companionship, a playmate for socialization. Also, as he explains, “Kittens need to learn proper play from other cats. We want to avoid having kittens learn that biting and scratching hands are acceptable forms of play.”

Costs for adoption are: adult dogs $250; small breed dogs $300; and puppies $400. Adult cats are $100; seniors $75; and kittens $135. The cost is $200 for two kittens.

The fees help to support the shelter’s work, and also include spay/neuter services, injections, microchip, and heartworm prevention medicine for the animal.

The adoption level remains steady, says Phillips, who adds that EASEL was very busy during COVID-19, when many people wanted to adopt an animal. There were 1,300 cats and 350 dogs adopted in 2020.

Also, he points out, “If people are interested in adopting, it’s a great idea for them to come in and volunteer. They can see the animals and learn about our program. Of course, also, the more adoptions we have, the more people learn about us.”

Adopters are from all over Mercer County, as well as Pennsylvania, he adds. They are all ages, single, couples, and families.

Special Events

Another way prospective adopters can see the animals is through the special event programs held by EASEL.

“I started an adoption event at pet shops,” reports Phillips. “People get to see the dogs and cats out of the shelter. We do this at stores in the area, including Concord Pets in Princeton, Bag of Bones Barkery in Hamilton, and Rosedale Mills in Hopewell, which are all once-a-month venues. We also have cats in cages at PetSmart in the Nassau Park Boulevard shopping center all week long, so it is like an off-site adoption center for us.”

Phillips, who grew up with animals, knows he is in the right place. After adopting a dog from the Trenton Animal Shelter, he later volunteered with the former Ewing Shelter, and found that he loved working with animals. He is closely involved with them in his role as director of animal services at EASEL, and he admits to becoming attached to many of the shelter’s four-legged inhabitants.

“I certainly will miss some of them, but seeing the animal get a good home is most important, and my biggest satisfaction is the adoption,” he says.

Phillips is very proud of the EASEL staff and the volunteers, whose dedication, enthusiasm, and effort are the foundation of the shelter’s work. “Many of the volunteers have been with us for a long time,” he says. “Also, the move to this location has been very positive. We have more volunteers and more adoptions. We currently have more than 50 active volunteers and 12 part-time employees.”

Looking ahead,  Phillips hopes eventually to establish a Mercer County-wide shelter. “Our goal is to build a larger facility to save more animals in need while they await adoption,” he says. “When people surrender their pet, or lost animals are brought to the shelter, we need more space to accommodate that need. A new and larger shelter will continue our core values of compassion, commitment, integrity, and generosity to help local animals and their human caregivers.”

EASEL is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 12 to 3 p.m., with additional Thursday hours 5 to 7 p.m.

Those wishing to adopt, volunteer, or foster may call (609) 883-0540 or visit Monetary donations are especially helpful, but there is also a wish list of needed items at