On May 9, a driver discovered a a dying dog in a dumpster behind the ShopRite in Newark. Not long after, Susan Janett of the animal welfare non-profit Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch learned that a Verona resident working at the ShopRite of Brookdale in Bloomfield was trying to reach her to help the Yorkie. Janett quickly organized the dog’s transportation to the Veterinary Emergency Group in Clifton.
The veterinarians determined that the Yorkie had broken ribs, a shattered pelvis, and clear signs that he had been abused, beaten, and kicked. They recommended he be sent to a specialty animal hospital in Red Bank, so Janett asked one of her volunteers to take him there. The surgery would be expensive: a plate on the dog’s pelvis, and possibly the amputation of his shattered leg. Still, the surgeons believed that the dog could be saved.
“I sat for a few moments,” says Janett. “I thought ‘I could do a lot of things with 10, 15 thousand dollars. I can save so many animals with that money’.” She was forced into a familiar decision: deciding the fate of an animal’s life, right now, no time for hesitation. Yes or no. Without knowing where the money would come from, Janett authorized the surgery.
Within 24 hours, Janett raised $10,000. Through Facebook fundraising, Paypal, Venmo, personal checks, anything anyone was willing to donate. In only four days of fundraising, she was able to raise $16,000, covering all of the medical expenses of the Yorkie, who was renamed Brookdale.
What is likely responsible for Brookdale’s life is that Rosmarie’s Rescue Ranch is a family-owned, independent, rescue organization. Because of this, Janett is able to act on her own, and there is no bureaucracy to traverse when an animal is in danger. “The reason we’re successful is because I didn’t go the route of the business page, the ‘professional cute-posts’,” says Janett, who graduated Verona High School with the class of 1977. “I spoke to the people.”
Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch didn’t start with Janett, though. It began with a woman named Rosemarie Cafiero and a chance encounter in another moment of tragedy.
In 2009, after the fatal shooting of Daniel Pritchard at the Claridge Sunoco gas station in Verona, Janett stopped into the nearby Petco on a whim. Cafiero, then the president of a rescue non-profit in West Caldwell, was there, running a dog adoption event. Only intending to play with the dogs at first, Janett left with a newly adopted dog and a new friend, Cafiero.
Over time, they became inseparable, and Cafiero began to mentor Janett in animal rescue. When Cafiero was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, she left the West Caldwell rescue and founded Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch with Janett. They intended their rescue operation to be small, approachable, and direct. “Her wish for the end of her life was to foster animals from kill shelters,” Janett says. “And to continue fostering until the end of her time.” When Cafiero passed in 2017, Janett was left with a fully realized, non-profit organization, and nowhere to home it. But Cafiero was not finished helping Janett. Her death affected many in the community, and eventually Janett received an outpouring of offers from locals to volunteer, transport, foster, and support the organization.
Today, Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch saves over 400 animals a year, and still maintains Cafiero’s original intent. In accordance with one of Cafiero’s dreams before she passed, Janett was able to open the Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch Resale Shop on Bloomfield Avenue across from Verona Park, where thrift items are sold, and after the rent is paid, 100% of the profits go to the animals.
Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch is a long ladder of volunteers and tough decisions that hopefully allow an animal to escape death and find a home. First, there are people volunteering at animal kill-shelters, mostly in the south, who look for animals that seem friendly and peaceful. Not every animal can be saved, so their job is to find those that are family-friendly and adoptable. Then, other volunteers remove the animal from the shelter and take it to a veterinarian where it is given shots, examined, and tested for behavioral issues. While this is happening, a family near the shelter agrees to foster the animal for two weeks until it can get a health certificate that will let it be transported across state lines. An animal transportation company brings the animal to Janett’s house in New Jersey. There, animals play in her backyard until a family, which has already agreed to foster an animal, picks them up.
Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch gives the local foster family food, supplies, toys, and two weeks to decide if they want to keep the animal. Janett wants the animals to find the best home possible, and because she is able to handle each case personally, she can assure that everyone, including the animal, is happy. If the animal does not fit with the family, Janett is committed to finding it another home.
Animal rescue doesn’t just mean saving animals from danger, but also preventing it. Janett recently gathered evidence of alleged animal abuse by Ehren Seth Yablon, a Newark veterinarian. It’s alleged that the vet took money for surgery procedures he did not perform, and by not cleaning his practice, he also allowed parvovirus to spread there, killing the dogs under his care. Janett’s work enabled the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office to charge Yablon with animal cruelty. On May 11, Yablon’s license to practice was temporarily suspended, and he is currently awaiting trial.
Being the leader of an independent and personal organization is great, but it also means much more pressure and dependence is on Janett individually. She relies on a group of trusted friends to lead her many ventures when she needs a break, but Janett never lets them make the decision if a dog will be saved or not. She says that decision is for her, because she knows how painful it can be to decide if an animal lives or dies. She says, “I don’t think anyone should have to play God, so I try to separate myself from the emotion.” Janett consults with vets and professionals, trying to keep her decisions as objective as possible.
Throughout her interview Janett repeats: “I can’t save the world.” To cope with being in a position to save lives, and yet seeing the many lives that you cannot save, must be immense. But Janett is strong. She recalls visiting Cafiero towards the end of her battle with cancer. “She said ‘Susan, no matter what you do, no matter how hard it is, don’t stop. Promise me you will never stop. If you need to save just one life, that’s fine… but never stop, because the animals need you,’” Janett says, “and I knew at that moment, when I hugged her, I knew that she had picked me to carry on her legacy.”