It was a hot Friday afternoon in Barnegat. Earlier in the day it had rained and the temperature had reached 90 degrees.
A Popcorn Park Animal Refuge animal control officer was driving on Old Main Shore Road when she realized there was a cage in the middle of the street.
She got out of the car to see what it was and that’s when she found out that Curly the Gerbil was sitting inside the dirty and wet cage.
“It was very disgusting,” said Sandy Hickman, media coordinator for the Lacey Township Wildlife Sanctuary, where the gerbil is currently being cared for. “There was old droppings in there, hay that had turned into a big wet lump, old food and lots of bugs flying around.”
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Popcorn Park staff are certain someone has given up on Curly on purpose and are offering a $ 500 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
“The cage was right in the middle of the road,” Hickman said. “It’s very strange. Someone has definitely abandoned him.
Hickman estimates that the gerbil was dropped off several hours before the officer found it.
“He was there for at least a few hours,” she said. He was very hot when he entered. It had rained earlier in the day and his cage was very wet.
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Curly was checked by a vet after arriving at the animal sanctuary and is in good health.
“He’s basically very healthy – he’s very happy, active and very friendly,” Hickman said. “He’s in a nice, new, clean cage. Our office staff pull it out, hold it and let it run, which they love.
Curly will be available for adoption after a waiting period of seven days which is mandatory for animals considered to be stray. The cost of adopting a gerbil from the sanctuary is $ 35.
“We’re doing very well here at getting small animals, like pigs and rabbits, for adoption,” Hickman said. “I don’t foresee any problem finding him a home.”
Popcorn Park has seen abandoned animals enter on numerous occasions. Hickman likes to believe that owners who can no longer care for their pets will abandon them, hoping someone finds them and wants to take care of them.
“I think people get the impression that if they bring an animal to an animal shelter, that number one – they’re going to be tried – and number two – there’s going to be outrageous fees involved in handing over the animal. ‘an animal, and it isn’t,’ she said.
The shrine believes that offering a reward will generate tips from the community. Last summer, they offered a reward for a case involving an abandoned cat and were able to identify the person responsible.
“It’s totally worth it,” Hickman said. “He’s no different from other animals, so hopefully someone will speak up for him.”
Nicolas Fernandes is the late morning journalist. A lifelong New Jersey resident, he previously worked as a news editor and sports reporter. Contact him at 732-540-4401 or [email protected]