Local Hero – A “Woof” Over Your Dog’s Head
Camden City Doghouse Project provides shelter to dogs
By Landon Cassman
After four years and a complete restructuring of the animal control unit in Camden, Kathy McGuire, president of New Jersey Aid For Animals (NJAFA), thought it was time to reboot a program focused on providing adequate shelter for dogs.
“There were a lot of changes in animal control in Camden,” McGuire explains. “This year, new [staff] came in as independent contractors after city layoffs last March. I started working with them and together we decided to get the doghouse project going again.” NJAFA created the Camden City Doghouse Project in 2007 to address the issue of people leaving their dogs outside to battle the elements without any shelter. At that time, NJAFA partnered with Whole Foods Market and the Burger Fence Company to raise money to provide doghouses to these dogs in need.
Previously, the group placed 50 doghouses. This year, their goal is 60.
Despite the comfort and safety they offer to the animals of Camden, the project has received its fair share of criticism. “We get told a lot that what we’re doing encourages people to keep their dogs outside,” McGuire says. “We don’t encourage people to leave their animals outside, but it’s not against the law for them to if they have shelter.” She wants to make it clear the NJAFA does not want people to leave their dogs outside, but understands that some people do. Her goal is to protect those animals by giving them shelter from the elements.
The city of Camden legally requires pet guardians to provide shelter for their pet if left outside. The ordinance states: “A soundly constructed, adequately sized, and properly positioned and maintained dwelling (i.e., dog house) must be made available for the animal within the pen or enclosure. The top of the pen or enclosure shall be covered with materials to provide the animal with shade and protection from the elements.” If a dog is found to be living outside with no roof over his head, the dog may be taken to a shelter until such protection is provided. “I’d much rather be a dog living outside and getting food, than one living in a shelter.” McGuire says. “It’s the lesser of two evils.”
The Burger Fence Company builds the doghouses from recycled wood fencing and provides them to the Camden City Dog House Project at a discounted rate of 85 dollars. The doghouses resemble mini log cabins with a plastic flaps on the door to keep the wind out, and the inside is cushioned with hay to keep the dogs warm. “You could not buy a doghouse like this for 85 dollars anywhere else,” McGuire says. “It’s very well constructed.” McGuire ensures the doghouses are put to good use. The doghouses are officially the property of NJAFA, so if anything happens to the dog (i.e. he dies or is taken away because of neglect) the house will be collected and given to another animal in need.
Much of the project’s funding comes from Whole Foods’ “Nickels for Non-Profits” program, which allows people to donate the 5-cent reusable bag credit they receive to the non-profit of their choice. McGuire hopes people donate to the Camden City Dog House Project despite the controversy. “[The Camden City Doghouse Project] is an innovative idea,” says McGuire. “Love it or hate it—it is what it is.”
For more information about the Camden City Doghouse Project, please visit NJAFA.org .