It's been nearly two months since Hurricane Sandy reached New Jersey, and although many have returned to normalcy, thousands in some of the state's hardest-hit areas still struggle each day. But while the human victims are widely supported, less has been done for their four-legged companions.
Recognizing this, Egg Harbor Township-based Newkirk Family Veterinarians held a pet supply drive this holiday season, collecting hundreds of pounds of food and other pet supplies to be distributed to Sandy victims.
"Well there's a lot of families out there displaced by Hurricane Sandy, including many of our clients that have come in here," said owner Dr. Mark Newkirk, VMD. "What we started to realize is, well, there's a lot of help for the human, but the humans have pets, and the pets need food."
In addition to providing the usual vaccinations and surgeries, Newkirk's practice specializes in alternative and holistic medicine for pets. As one of the few animal hospitals that uses these therapies, Newkirk's office brings in clients from across New Jersey.
While many of Newkirk's clients in the immediate vicinity of his office no longer suffer ill effects of the storm, he noticed that many pets of non-local clients were still shaken up.
"We have a lot of people that come from North Jersey and Long Beach Island, and some of them just lost everything, and slowly we came to realize, asking, 'Where are you living and what are you doing about your dog?' (That) dogs are stressed out." Newkirk said.
The veterinary office began its drive in early December and had collected about 500 pounds of food as well as numerous toys, collars and other supplies by Dec. 18. The collection drive ended Dec. 22.
The supplies were dropped off at the food bank in Pleasantville and to a relief agency in Long Beach Island, Newkirk said.
Newkirk got the word out about the drive through a radio show he does on a local station, through an email blast to his clients and advertising the drive on the sign in front of his English Creek avenue office.
Veterinary technician Lisa Dunn said the response to the drive has been strong.
"We've been getting people every time we turn around," Dunn said. "Someone just came today with a truckload full, entire back of the pickup truck they had, so they unloaded that. Anything from a couple items to a truckload, it doesn't matter. We'll take anything."
Dunn, who lived in Cardiff, saw little damage from the storm. As a pet lover with 14 pets, though, she puts herself in the shoes of those suffering, wondering how she would make it out if she weren't so fortunate.
The idea of struggling during the holidays is a tough one, Dunn said, and one she hopes the drive helps to mitigate for some.
"I just hope that this makes someone's holiday better, because obviously this is an important time," Dunn said.
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