New Animal Welfare Organization Debuts in Maplewood, South Orange

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A new animal welfare organization has formed in Maplewood and South Orange, but the group does not plan on answering a request for proposals to be issued by South Orange for the use of the former Jersey Animal Coalition shelter at 298 Walton Street.

The all-volunteer group, SOMA for Animals, was founded just last month and seeks to focus on education around neutering and adoption and supporting pet owners and the two towns in animal control efforts in order to help avoid animal euthanasia.

Founders of SOMA for Animals include Barbara Velazquez, who is a local psychologist and Vice Chair of the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition; Allison Claire Roberts, a longtime Maplewood resident; and Erika Divivo, who is a Registered Nurse and Board Member and Health Coordinator at Prospect Co-op Pre-School. Velazquez said that SOMA for Animals has “about two dozen founding members, and a growing membership beyond that.”

Velazquez explained that the group’s mission is:

1) to assist local rescue groups by donating, adopting, assisting at adoptions and fostering. For example, SOMA for Animals will be holding two separate pet food collection drives in February and March.

2)  to work on educating the community on various issues concerning animal welfare, including:

-the importance of spaying or neutering pets

-helping spread the word in Maplewood that St. Hubert’s is handling Maplewood’s animal control issues

-helping people understand how important it is to seriously consider adoption, instead of buying a pet

-helping pet owners retain their pets by linking them to people who can help them work through issues such as behavior problems

3) to join forces at the municipal level to work on the issues surrounding homeless pets.

Velazquez said the group does not have the expertise to answer the South Orange RFP for 298 Walton.

To find out more about SOMA for Animals, email or read the group’s press release below:

Animal Welfare Organization Founded in SOMA

SOMA for Animals is a newly formed animal welfare organization. It consists of a group of talented and dedicated animal lovers who are volunteering their time and their expertise to make a positive difference for the animals of our community. Across the nation, grass-roots organizations have sprung up to address the problem of adoptable pets being euthanized for lack of space. By working with their local officials and employing innovative methods, many of these groups have achieved live-release rates once thought impossible. The mass-killing of adoptable pets can be ended soon if animal advocates and animal lovers join forces at the municipal level to work on the issues surrounding homeless pets.

Recognizing that it takes a strong volunteer effort to make this happen, especially as our two towns work out a long-term animal control solution, SOMA for Animals is working on plans:

  • to assist our local non-profit rescue groups in their mission to rescue adoptable pets and find new and loving homes for them

to help educate the public on taking good care of pets, such as the importance of spaying or neutering your pet; and how to overcome obstacles to keeping your pet in your home

  • to help people who want a new pet understand the great benefits of adopting a rescued pet
  • to offer information resources to pet owners and animal lovers, such as information on what to do if you lose your pet, and how to report a suspected case of animal cruelty
  • to help develop a spirit of kindness and stewardship towards animals consistent with SOMA’s progressive stance on race, lifestyle and the environment.

Together, we are working to make South Orange and Maplewood an animal friendly community. It’s a wonderful thing to say: I helped save a life today!

To join, or for more information, please email



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