Helping abandoned animals get off on the right paw


By Muneeza Iqbal

Past the throngs of tourists in nearby Soho, you may suddenly find yourself, depending on the time of day, weaving in and out of excited dogs in orange “Adopt Me” jackets being restrained by their walkers. Animal Haven, at 251 Centre St. at Broome St., would be the cause of this furry ambush.

A shelter for cats and canines, Animal Haven was founded in 1967 and moved to Soho three years ago. Passersby gazing into fancy boutique windows are surprised when suddenly one contains a pair of puppy eyes or a napping kitten.

With the help of 10 permanent staff members and almost 1,000 volunteers, Animal Haven houses 25 to 30 cats and 30 to 35 dogs at any given time. The critters are taken in from the city’s Animal Care and Control or from other shelters in the tri-state area. Stray animals are also taken in from the streets, and owners can give up their pets for adoption here.

The shelter’s volunteers are all ages, from college students, to employed adults volunteering after work, to recently retired seniors, and on any given day there can be up to 200 volunteers coming and going. The shelter’s Caring Kids program gives children under age 18 a chance to get animal-care lessons from staff members and gain hands-on experience by helping out with the cats and dogs.

Dishing out love to abandoned critters at Animal Haven.

There is also an internship program. Unlike the volunteers, who only need to commit to two hours a week, the interns come in every weekday and for longer hours. Mantat Wong, who is in charge of the interns, said that twice as many animals have been adopted since the internship program was initiated.

Maria Zapata, a Hunter College student, has been volunteering at Animal Haven since April and has found her experience very rewarding.

“I just love animals, and everyone here cares so much for them!” she said while trying to keep a 9-week-old puppy, Kitchen, from chewing on a visitor’s clothes. She loves helping out at the shelter and plans on volunteering as long as she can.

Animal Haven offers cats starting at $150, kittens for $175 (or $250 per pair), dogs for $250 and puppies under age 1 for $350. For more information or to volunteer, call 212-274-8511.