New CARE Center in Camden, NJ aims to help pet owners of color

Hakeem Ruiz became a pet parent as a teenager, taking care of a stray dog.

“I was a 19-year-old dog owner who knew nothing. I didn’t know where to go to get vaccines at the right prices, where to get answers to the right questions, who was going to respect me and who wasn’t,” said the resident of Philadelphia.

Ruiz, now 32, owned Gucci for about 13 years until he recently passed away.

As a new pet owner, Ruiz looked for answers and advice wherever he could find it. But he was also exposed to the low points of the animal care system, often feeling taken advantage of for trying to properly care for his dog.

“I feel like every time I was offered help, it was always with something that would benefit another person even more, or that would make me feel too vulnerable, make me feel uncomfortable,” Ruiz said.