Sixteen puppies—believed to be a record litter for the state of New Jersey—were delivered by a border collie/black-coated retriever mix at a Hopatcong-based animal rescue organization last month. P.U.P.S. (“Protecting Unborn Puppies”) is a dog-rescue group, started by Danelle Ruotolo three years ago, that specializes in saving pregnant dogs that are due to die in high-kill shelters. The foster-based group includes 15 members from around the area, and Ruotolo herself was fostering Tesa when she gave birth to the record-setting litter. “We couldn’t believe it,” Ruotolo said. “After eight [puppies] it still looked like she hadn’t had any yet. We thought, ‘oh, no, we’re in for it.’” Ruotolo said she searched online after the puppies were born three weeks ago, and hasn’t found a larger litter where all of the dogs survived reported anywhere in the state. The last few weeks have been busy for Ruotolo, who volunteers her time for the effort. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Tesa was sick from the stress and had to go to the vet for 10 hours one day and 8 hours the next, so there’s been a lot of bottle feeding.” Material about the organization provided by Ruotolo says: “P.U.P.S. is made up of dedicated individuals who believe that innocent pregnant moms and babies deserve love, to be safe and find a place to live. No helpless mom or their babies deserve to die simply because she does not have a home. “We rescue Pregnant Moms from shelters that are “High Kill,” meaning they are so overburdened with unwanted dogs, they do not have the time or resources to find these wonderful, loving animals new homes. Most shelter dogs in this type of shelter are given seven days, sometimes less, to be re-homed. If the animal was surrendered by the owner, they have less time, as they know the dog is merely unwanted and not lost and waiting for her dear caretaker to retrieve her. “Even worse, when the dog is pregnant and shows up in one of these shelters, their situation becomes URGENT as the shelter can't and won't be able to care and provide for a mom and a litter of pups. “P.U.P.S. comes to the rescue of these hopeless moms-to-be. We transport them into our foster network, where they receive the veterinarian care, the love they so desperately need and a safe environment to deliver their pups and regain their health, before being adopted into their forever homes. “EVERYDAY we have to refuse pregnant canines scheduled to die in shelters because we just don't have enough space and help for them! We are striving to end ignorance, neglect and apathy by promoting spay/neuter to help reduce the number of unwanted litters.” To see photos of the litter or to make a donation, visit www.pups.petfinder.org.