New York ACC and PetSmart Charities Think Killing is “The Future of Animal Welfare”

A few weeks ago, I came across an invitation from the New York ACC to attend a presentation by Dr. Roger Haston from PetSmart Charities. After seeing Dr. Haston’s impressive educational background, a PhD in Geophysics and an MBA, an apparently successful professional career, and his analytical approach, I was eager to attend. In fact, I was so interested in the topics I watched two of his presentations from elsewhere. Subsequently, I went to his speech in New York City. Based on the New York ACC hosting this event and also having Dr. Haston separately teach the organization’s staff, its safe to assume the New York ACC holds similar views to Dr. Haston.

Does Dr. Haston have the right vision for “the future of animal welfare”?

Overview of Animal Welfare History

Dr. Haston’s presentation was nearly identical to ones he’s given across the country. You can view one he recently gave here. In person, Dr. Haston was articulate and presented his material in a clear and concise manner.

First, Dr. Haston provided a short history of animal welfare in the United States. As others, such as Nathan Winograd, have stated, Henry Bergh launched the humane movement with his focus on animal cruelty in New York City in the 1800’s. Dr. Haston then talked about how poor treatment of livestock in the United Kingdom in the 1960s led to the creation of the “Five Freedoms” as a humane standard for treating these creatures.

Dr. Haston then discussed the growth of the humane movement starting around 1970. These things included the creation of high volume spay/neuter clinics, eliminating cruel euthanasia methods, increased veterinarian involvement with shelters and more adoptions. He then talked about developments in the 1990s, such as the no kill movement starting, large well funded shelters, reduced intake from high volume/low cost spay/neuter efforts and increased public interest in adopting. Finally, he talked about the Asilomar Accords, which is a method of tabulating animal shelter statistics and computing live release rates that have been criticized by many animal advocates as a way to excuse shelter killing, and the growth of rescues and transports after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Dr. Haston also made some other good points. He talked about the growth of transports and how the financial incentives can lead to fake rescues selling animals. Dr. Haston also talked about the failure of the animal welfare community to reach pet owners in need in poor areas. In particular, he provided a nice example of why “free” spay/neuter is often costly to people in these areas and explains why many people don’t take advantage of these services. Finally, he made a point, which I have also long made, that we need more animal welfare organizations to merge to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

If this is all Dr. Haston discussed, I would have had a very positive review. Unfortunately, much of the rest of his presentation was repackaged excuses for shelter killing. Dr. Haston stated “conflicts and confusion” developed in the 2010s and called out no kill groups, such as Nathan Winograd’s No Kill Advocacy Center, for being divisive. Unfortunately, this set the tone for Dr. Haston’s views.

Myths of Pet Overpopulation, No Kill Shelters Severely Limiting Intake and No Kill Advocates Instigating Threats of Violence

As I’ve discussed in the past, the live release rate cannot be the only way we view shelters. Specifically, we must also ensure shelters have relatively short average lengths of stay and use large percentages of their appropriate animal enclosures to maximize life saving. In addition, we must also evaluate if and how effectively shelters implement the eleven no kill equation programs, which include humane care.

Dr. Haston provided a graph with absurd data to make the point that we shouldn’t focus on live release rates at animal control shelters. On the graph, he showed how transported dogs were generally easy to adopt. However, on the other side of the graph, Dr. Haston showed about 25% of local community intake at animal control shelters in his data set from the Pacific Northwest were “unhealthy/untreatable.” Based on the many no kill animal control shelters across the nation taking in predominantly local dogs, we know no where near 25% of dogs are hopelessly suffering or a serious threat to people without the possibility of rehabilitation. Thus, Dr. Haston seemed to just accept seemingly bad shelters words that they had all these unadoptable animals despite numerous no kill animal control shelters proving the opposite with their very high live release rates.

In another presentation he gave several years ago, Dr. Haston implied no kill leads to selective admission and shelters turning their backs on animals in need. Furthermore, Dr. Haston’s past presentation argued limited admission shelters in communities lead to the animal control shelters filling up with unadoptable animals. How do we know this is not always true? We have plenty of examples of animal control shelters achieving dog live release rates of around 95% to 99%, taking large numbers of challenging dogs and having selective admission shelters in their communities.

If that was not bad enough, Dr. Haston’s seemed to imply we should kill less adoptable dogs and transport in easier to adopt ones. He used data from an undisclosed sample of shelters, most of which I would bet are not elite no kill animal control shelters, showing intakes of certain types of dogs, such as pit bulls and Chihuahuas, exceeding their positive outcomes to insinuate we can’t save these types of dogs. In fact, he said “we can’t adopt our way out of” the so-called pit bull problem. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve posted extensive data of high volume animal control shelters saving over 90% and up to 99% of pit bulls. You can view these blogs here, here and here. In fact when asked about saving pit bulls in shelters, Dr. Haston could only provide a nebulous and incoherent answer about solving a community problem. In other words, Dr. Haston implied until society somehow magically transforms, we would have to keep on killing pit bulls despite numerous animal control shelters proving we can save these dogs.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Dr. Haston later talked about a person who was “brutally killed by a pack of stray pit bulls.” As far as I can tell, he was simply quoting a news article that stated four pit bulls killed the victim. However, a later article stated only two of the dogs were pit bulls with the other two dogs being a boxer mix and a Queensland heeler mix. In fact, DNA tests from two forensic labs found no evidence that these dogs even killed the victim. Given many dogs are mislabeled as pit bulls, it is irresponsible for any animal welfare leader to assert “a pack of stray pit bulls” killed someone without DNA evidence supporting that claim. Even if the dogs truly were pit bulls, Dr. Haston shouldn’t be using “pit bulls” to single out these types of dogs given many breeds of dogs can and have killed people. Sadly, it seems Dr. Haston has an anti-pit bull bias.

Dr. Haston also stated shelters were underfunded and seemed to suggest we couldn’t expect great shelters without that funding. In particular, Dr. Haston had a graph showing per capita funding of shelters in various cities with New York City near the low end. In reality, the New York ACC takes very few animals in and is in fact well-funded on a per animal basis, which is the appropriate funding metric. The New York ACC received $647 per dog and cat from the City of New York based on recent data compared to Kansas City’s no kill animal control shelter receiving just $136 per dog and cat from its city contract. Even if we doubled the Kansas City shelter’s funding to account for animal control services it doesn’t currently provide, Kansas City’s no kill animal control shelter still would just receive $272 per dog and cat impounded or just 42% of the New York ACC’s government funding per dog and cat. How do these shelters succeed with such little government funding? They limit costs by moving animals quickly out to live outcomes and gain donations and volunteer support due to the public supporting their great work. Thus, Dr. Haston’s implication that we must wait until the day when money falls from trees to get shelters we deserve is patently false.

Dr. Haston also implied that the focus on live release rates and no kill led to threats against shelter personnel. In reality, no kill leaders, such as Nathan Winograd and Ryan Clinton, also tell advocates to act professionally and avoid personal attacks. To imply no kill advocates are responsible for the bad behavior of others is a cheap shot designed to discredit a movement.

Perhaps, most misleading, Dr. Haston talked about Italy’s no kill law leading to overcrowded shelters and the mafia running those facilities. While I have no idea whether the mafia runs all Italian shelters, no serious people advocate for Italy’s ban on all shelter killing. Instead, advocates argue for the Companion Animal Protection Act which requires shelters to take common sense steps to get animals out of shelters alive, responsibly reduce intake and provide elite care to animals in those facilities.

Finally, Dr. Haston points to Calgary as a solution to the “pit bull problem” and increasing public safety, but this is simply a mirage. Under the Calgary model, high dog licensing rates and severe penalties are credited with increasing live release rates (via increased numbers of dogs returned to owners) and reducing dog bites. However, as I wrote about several years ago, Calgary’s high licensing rate is due to the city’s relatively wealthy and educated population and not the so-called Calgary model. Many wealthy and educated communities also achieve high dog licensing rates and 90% plus dog live release rates.

Backwards Looking Future

Dr. Haston’s concludes his presentation by going anti-no kill. On a slide about successful messages “starting to get in our way”, Dr. Haston cites “No kill”, “Save them all” (which Best Friends has used as a call to action), “Animals should only be adopted” and “People want to kill adoptable pets” among other things. If you read between the lines, Dr. Haston seems to say “stop with no kill and saving lives” and focus on other things.

In fact, Dr. Haston states we’ve begun to reach the “limit” of lifesaving, “the anti-euthanasia movement has become unhitched from animal welfare as defined by the Five Freedoms” and “animals are starting to suffer because of it.” The Five Freedoms are as follows:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

Most notably, the Five Freedoms do not include to most important freedom, the freedom to live. If you don’t have the freedom to live, you can’t have any of the other freedoms since you won’t be alive to experience those freedoms.

Frankly, it is impossible for shelters to give animals the “Freedom from fear and distress” if those facilities kill animals, particularly those that routinely do so. Animals sense death and to claim a kill shelter can prevent animals from fearing the ultimate abuse, which is a very real possibility, is completely “unhinged” from reality.

Sadly, Dr. Haston is just repackaging the long disproven claim that no kill equals hoarding and poor care. Numerous no kill animal control shelters, such as Williamson County Animal Shelter in Texas, Kansas City’s KC Pet Project and Virginia’s Lynchburg Humane Society, achieve average lengths of stay for dogs of just one to three weeks. Clearly, these shelters are not warehousing animals. Will these shelters sometimes during an emergency, due to say a hoarding case, double up kennels or even place a dog in a temporary enclosure for a very short period of time? Yes. Apparently, according to people like Dr. Haston, we should just immediately kill a dog instead of doubling him or her up in a kennel or putting the animal in a temporary enclosure for a day or two. This is akin to saying we should kill children in refugee camps since they aren’t experiencing all their “Five Freedoms.” If no one in their right mind would assert that for people, why would a so called animal lover demand animals be killed when obvious lifesaving alternatives exist?

In reality, shelters fully and comprehensively implementing the No Kill Equation not only provide these freedoms, which frankly are the bare minimum, but provide elite care and the most innovative programs to keep animals happy and healthy. For example, the full version of the Companion Animal Protection Act requires shelters provide high levels of veterinary care, socialization to animals, rigorous cleaning protocols and the most humane ways of euthanizing animals. In fact, traditional shelters, the ones Dr. Haston likes to lionize, are the very organizations opposing the Companion Animal Protection Act and its high standards of humane care.

Dr Haston provides nebulous goals that mirror what poorly performing kill shelters have stated for years. Specifically, Dr. Haston says we should have the following goals:

  • Preserving and building the relationship between all pets and people
  • Eliminating, cruelty, suffering and abuse
  • Maintaining public trust and safety

The goal of “Preserving and building the relationship between all pets and people” is vague and conflicts with shelter killing. What exactly does Dr. Haston mean? How does he measure this? What are the metrics he uses to show success? In the presentation, he provided none rendering this goal meaningless. In contrast, when shelters needlessly kill healthy and treatable animals they destroy the relationship between pets and people by directly killing their pets (i.e. when shelters kill animals before an owner reclaims the pet or kill animals families had to surrender). Furthermore, kill shelters send the message to people that their pet lives do not have value. If the “professionals” kill a pet for cost or convenience, why shouldn’t a regular pet owner who is having some problem?

The goal of eliminating cruelty, suffering and abuse is laudable, but the greatest amount of companion animal cruelty, abuse and suffering occurs in regressive shelters. Virtually everyone supports ending animal cruelty. In fact, this is why I spent a large amount of time and money helping pass a new law to professionalize animal cruelty law enforcement in New Jersey. However, routine, systemic and institutional abuse occurs in many of the nation’s kill shelters. After all, if you ultimately will kill an animal, what difference does it make if the animal is in discomfort shortly before you take its life? Sadly, time and time again, we see high kill shelters abuse animals before committing the ultimate abuse, killing. Remarkably, Dr. Haston not only fails to demand shelters to stop killing, he seems to want us to increase that killing by telling us to not criticize shelters needlessly killing animals.

The “Maintaining the public trust and safety” goal is also a hidden attack on no kill. This goal, when you view it in context with the entire presentation, implies shelters must kill a good number of pets to protect the public from animals. The No Kill Movement has long supported shelters euthanizing dogs that truly are a serious threat to people with no reasonable hope of improving when reputable sanctuary options don’t exist. In fact, No Kill Learning talked about this recently. However, successful animal control shelters’ data show at most, a few percent, or as little as 0.2% at Austin Animal Center, of all dogs coming into such shelters are truly dangerous to people and can’t be fixed. In fact a University of Denver study found that severe dog bites did not increase in Austin during the time its dog live release rate skyrocketed to a very high number. Thus, the implication that proper implementation of no kill and public safety are not compatible is simply not true.

While Dr. Haston clearly is an intelligent, successful and articulate person, I think his own involvement with traditional animal welfare organizations has clouded his thinking. Dr. Haston served on the board, and ultimately was the chairman, of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Over the years, this organization opposed no kill just as Dr. Haston apparently does. Ultimately, he started a full time career as the Executive Director of the Animal Assistance Foundation before moving onto PetSmart Charities. The Animal Assistance Foundation muzzles organizations which use “divisive language” by making them ineligible for grants. So if an organization calls out a high kill shelter for needlessly killing animals, the Animal Assistance Foundation will apparently not give them grant money. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Animal Assistance Foundation Statement of Position on Community Responsibility provides many excuses for killing animals yet does not demand those organizations not kill animals. Thus, Dr. Haston clearly has his own biases and we should take that into consideration.

At the end of the day, Dr. Haston mars his valid points with his support for shelter killing. How can one credibly talk about preserving the bond between pets and people when this very same person condones shelter killing? How can a person talk with authenticity about ending animal cruelty when that same individual enables the ultimate abuse, which is killing? Simply put, you cannot talk coherently about helping animals if you support needlessly killing those same creatures.

Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill message is dangerous for animals due to his influence. Given he speaks around the country, has an impressive background, is articulate and represents a large animal welfare organization, many people could be swayed by his pro-killing message. Furthermore, PetSmart Charities holds the purse strings on large amounts of animal welfare grants. If PetSmart Charities incorporates Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill views into awarding grants, this could disadvantage no kill organizations and enable pro-killing groups in the future. Thus, its imperative that no kill advocates challenge Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill message.

Given the New York ACC’s continued failure to end the killing at its shelters, is it any wonder why they brought Dr. Haston in to “educate” the public and teach its own staff? Despite what the New York ACC hoped to achieve, the public will see through an impressive resume and a slick presentation to see the New York ACC for the poorly perfoming and high kill sheltering organization that it is.

Passaic Animal Shelter Has Another Poor Year in 2017

Last year, I wrote about Passaic Animal Shelter’s pitiful performance in 2016. Specifically, I wrote about the shelter’s high kill rate, the many healthy and treatable animals the facility killed and the various policies that resulted in these outcomes.

Did Passaic Animal Shelter improve in 2017? Did the shelter continue to kill many healthy and treatable animals?

Passaic Runs a High Kill Shelter

Passaic Animal Shelter killed many dogs at its shelter in 2017. You can view the actual records here. Overall, 19% of all dogs who were impounded in 2017 lost their lives at the Passaic Animal Shelter. If we just count the dogs not reclaimed by owners (i.e. dogs the shelter had to find new homes for), 32% of all the dogs Passaic Animal Shelter took in during 2017 were killed or died. In other words, around one out of three dogs Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for lost their lives.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed large numbers of pit bulls. Of the 58 pit bulls arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2017, 19 or 34% of these animals lost their lives. If we just count pit bulls Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for, 48% of these dogs lost their lives. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed around one third of all pit bulls and nearly one half of nonreclaimed pit bulls.

Passaic Animal Shelter also killed too many other medium to large size dogs impounded during 2017. The shelter killed 21% of all other medium to large size dogs and 75% of nonreclaimed other medium to large size dogs. Since the shelter only had four nonreclaimed other medium to large size dogs, the 75% death rate might not be representative of the shelter’s overall performance.

As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only reported 1% of all dogs, 1% of pit bulls, 2% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size dogs losing their lives. Similarly, only 2% of all nonreclaimed dogs and all three types of nonreclaimeds dog lost their lives. In other words, Passaic Animal Shelter’s dog death rates and nonreclaimed dog death rates for all dogs and pit bulls were 19 to 34 times greater and 16 to 24 times higher than Austin Animal Center’s dog death rates and nonreclaimed dog death rates for all dogs and pit bulls.

Passaic Animal Shelter adopted out hardly any dogs. Of the 125 dogs arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2017, the facility adopted out just 14 dogs or 11% of the dogs it took in. To put it another way, the shelter adopted out just 1 dog every month. Frankly, a single person could foster and adopt out more dogs than the Passaic Animal Shelter did last year. Given this tiny number of dog adoptions, is it any wonder why the shelter kills so many dogs?

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Dog Statistics.jpg

austin-animal-center-2017-dog-statistics1

Passaic Animal Shelter also killed large numbers of cats. You can read the actual records here. Overall, 26% of the 274 cats who were impounded during 2017 lost their lives. 17% of neonatal kittens (under 6 weeks old), 17% of older kittens (6 weeks to under 1 year) and 48% of adult cats (1 year and older) failed to leave the shelter alive. Simply put, Passaic Animal Shelter performed terribly for all types of cats.

Austin Animal Center in Texas proves Passaic Animal Shelter can save all of its healthy and treatable cats. Only 5% of all cats, 7% of cats 1 year and older, 2% of kittens aged 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 9% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives or went missing at Austin Animal Center in 2017. In other words, the death rate at Passaic Animal Shelter was two to eight times greater for cats of various ages. Therefore, despite Passaic Animal Shelter impounding far fewer cats than Austin Animal Center in total and on a per capita basis, Passaic Animal Shelter killed a much higher percentage of these animals.

Passaic Animal Shelter also hardly adopted out any cats. Of the 274 cats entering the shelter in 2017, only 24 cats or 9% were adopted out. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter only adopted out one cat every two weeks. To put it bluntly, the shelter seemed to make little to no effort to adopt out its cats.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Cat Statistics.jpg

austin-2017-cat-statistics

Passaic Animal Shelter’s length of stay data reveals it quickly killed dogs. On average, Passaic Animal Shelter killed all dogs after 14 days, pit bulls after 14 days, small dogs after 11 days and other medium to large size dogs after 14 days.

To make matters worse, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs with empty kennels. The Passaic Department of Health’s August 25, 2017 inspection report (11 dogs at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (10 dogs and 8 dogs at facility on 1/1/17 and 12/31/17) indicate the shelter was not overflowing with dogs during the year since the 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report states the facility has a capacity of 12 dogs.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Dog Length of Stay

Passaic Animal Shelter quickly killed cats. On average, the shelter killed all cats after 9 days, neonatal kittens after 9 days, older kittens after 12 days and adult cats after just 8 days.

The shelter also killed cats when empty cages existed. The Passaic Department of Health’s August 25, 2017 inspection report (13 cats at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (17 cats and 13 cats at facility on 1/1/17 and 12/31/17) indicate the shelter used less than half of its 35 cat capacity during the year.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Cat Length of Stay

Passaic Animal Shelter Fails to Provide Good Reasons for Killing

Passaic Animal Shelter killed most of its dogs for no logical reason in 2017. Overall, Passaic Animal Shelter listed no documented reason in the records provided to me for 43% of the dogs it killed. In other words, the shelter could not even explain why it took these animals’ lives. The shelter listed “aggressive”, “behavior” or “unpredictable” as reasons for killing 39% of the dogs it killed. Of the remaining reasons for killing dogs, Passaic Animal Shelter reported 9% were for bite cases, 4% were for injuries and 4% were for being sick.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many dogs for aggression related problems. While Passaic Animal Shelter killed 9% of dogs for being or being aggressive or part of a bite case, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.2% of its dogs for aggression related issues in 2017. Instead of falsely labeling dogs as aggressive and just deciding to kill dogs with behavioral issues, Austin Animal Center properly judges dog behavior and rehabilitates dogs with genuine aggression issues. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression at 45 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelters Reasons for Killing Dogs

Dog ID# D1 was a stray adult pit bull like dog that entered the Passaic Animal Shelter on January 3, 2017. The shelter labeled the dog “food aggressive” and killed him 24 days later despite having no bite history. Given that multiple studies have found food aggression tests unreliable and even the creator of one of the major food aggression tests has come out against using these evaluations, its amazing Passaic Animal Shelter would kill this dog for being food aggressive. Instead of killing these dogs, the creator of one of the major shelter evaluation methods recommends providing all adopters information on how to manage food aggression.

D1 Passaic 1.jpg

D1 Passaic 2

Dog ID# D65 was a stray adult pit bull that was brought to the Passaic Animal Shelter on June 17, 2017. Passaic Animal Shelter killed Dog ID# 65 just 13 days later on June 30, 2017 citing a failed temperament test even though the dog had no bite history. Scientific studies on shelter temperament testing prove these exams are completely unreliable. Even the ASPCA, which is not supportive of no kill policies created one of the major temperament tests, says “euthanasia decisions should not be based solely on a dog’s behavior during an assessment or in any other single situation unless the aggression is egregious” and “when the behavior has been reported by multiple sources.” Based on the shelter’s documents below, Dog ID# D65 did not display “egregious” aggression or have aggression “reported by multiple sources” and was not provided any form of behavioral rehabilitation. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Dog ID# 65 for convenience.

D65 Passaic 1

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Dog ID# 53 was a stray American bulldog that was brought to Passaic Animal Shelter on May 23, 2017. Despite having no documented bite history, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her 21 days later on June 13, 2017 citing aggression. Once again, Passaic Animal Shelter provided no details as to what the aggression was and documented no effort to rehabilitate this animal.

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D53 Passaic 2

Passaic Animal Shelter Kills Cats for No Reasons and Preventable Conditions

Passaic Animal Shelter killed cats using the reasons in the table below. Overall, the shelter most commonly killed cats for no documented rationale. Additionally, the facility often killed cats for exhibiting illnesses, such as Feline Panleukopenia that it could significantly reduce by vaccinating cats upon intake to the facility, using volunteers to provide enrichment (improves immune response to disease), cleaning the shelter properly, and reducing the animals’ length of stay in a good way. Also, the shelter killed a number of other cats with treatable medical conditions. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed numerous cats for no reasons and preventable causes.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many cats for medical reasons. Based on the data below, Passaic Animal Shelter killed 11% of the cats it took in for various medical reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 4% of the cats it took in during 2017 for various medical reasons. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed cats for medical reasons at three times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Cats Killed Reasons

Samantha was a 3 year old cat released by her owner to the Passaic Animal shelter on March 27, 2017. Despite the cat being young and weighing a healthy 10 pounds, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Samantha just 10 days later citing no reason.

C29 Surrender Form

 

C29 Cage Card

C29 Euthanasia Form

If Killing Samantha wasn’t bad enough, Passaic Animal Shelter killed another cat from the same home on the same day. Coco was a 1 year old cat who also weighed 10 pounds and was surrendered on March 27, 2017. Like Samantha, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her 10 days later on April 6, 2017.

C30 Surrender Form.jpg

C30 Cage Card.jpg

C30 Euthanasia Form

Fancy was a five year old cat surrendered by her owner to the Passaic Animal Shelter on May 3, 2017. After just 13 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Fancy for no documented reason.

C79 Surrender Form

C79 Cage Card

C79 Euthanasia Record

Veterinarian Contracts Support Killing

Passaic Animal Shelter contracts with Rutherford Animal Hospital to provide veterinary care. On the surface, Rutherford Animal Hospital looks like an excellent choice given it is a large and modern veterinary facility. However, when one looks at the specifics in the contracts, major concerns arise.

Passaic Animal Shelter rarely vaccinates animals upon intake. While Rutherford Animal Hospital vaccinates the shelter’s animals, it visits the shelter as little as twice a week. Since Rutherford Animal Hospital, and not anyone who works at the shelter, vaccinates animals, many dogs and cats, including ones carrying highly contagious diseases, will sit in the facility spreading disease until the outside veterinarian comes to the shelter. The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program clearly explains why shelters must immediately vaccinate animals to control diseases in their facilities:

When should the vaccine be given?

Immediately upon intake, if not sooner! In almost all cases, shelter animals should be vaccinated immediately upon intake. A delay of even a day or two will significantly compromise the vaccine’s ability to provide protection. In a cost saving effort, some shelters delay vaccination until the animal is made available for adoption, or even until it is adopted. While this does provide a service to adopters, the protective effect of the vaccine within the shelter is greatly reduced or eliminated. (In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.) When possible, vaccination prior to intake is ideal (e.g. for owner surrendered animals or those returning from foster care).

Therefore, Passaic Animal Shelter’s vaccination program is ineffective and this may partially explain why the facility killed so many cats for illnesses and had so many other cats die.

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract provides details on the veterinary funding it provides. In the City of Passaic’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital, Passaic only pays $1,516 per month for veterinary services and $70.82 per month to test the cats it adopts out for FIV testing. Based on the details of the arrangement outlined in Rutherford Animal Hospital’s response to Passaic’s request for proposal, the city will only pay $850 per year for the FIV testing. Therefore, Passaic could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital a maximum of $19,150 per year ($20,000 total fee cap – $850 FIV fee) to provide veterinary care (excluding FIV testing and spay/neuter which adopters pay for) or $47.99 per dog and cat the shelter impounded in 2017.

The City of Passaic’s veterinary funding is inadequate. After we back out the cost of vaccines of approximately $15.53 per animal (based on $21.25 per adult dog, $27.25 per puppy, $9.25 per adult cat and $13.25 per kitten according the Maddie’s Fund’s Financial Management Tool) from the average $47.99 veterinary care fee per animal, Passaic Animal Shelter would have just $32.46 to treat each animal for all other illnesses and injuries. Clearly, that is not nearly enough to treat sick or injured animals. Given this fee also must cover the cost of killing, the city and Rutherford Animal Hospital have strong incentives to kill any animal where veterinary treatment may be costly or might not work. Thus, the contract’s financial terms encourage killing.

Passaic Animal Shelter Veterinary Care Funding.jpg

Rutherford Animal Hospital plays a major role in Passaic Animal Shelter’s high kill operation. Specifically, Rutherford Animal Hospital “makes the final determination of status of animal for adoption, fostering or euthanasia.” In other words, Rutherford Animal Hospital approves all the absurd reasons for killing animals documented in this blog. Sadly, Rutherford Animal Hospital apparently chooses to kill for financial reasons rather than treat the shelter animals like valued clients from its private practice.

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital seems to indirectly cap adoptions at a low number. According to the City of Passaic’s contract for spay/neuter services with Rutherford Animal Hospital, it only pays a maximum of $6,000 per year with $80, $55 and $130 fees to spay/neuter each female cat, male cat and dog of either sex. Assuming the shelter used its spay/neuter fees based on the proportions of dogs and cats it took in (i.e. 31% dogs, 69% cats) and altered equal numbers of each sex, it could only spay/neuter 14 dogs and 61 cats. Based on the shelter’s policy and procedure manual indicating all adopted animals must be altered, this suggests the shelter could only adopt out 14 dogs and 61 cats for the entire year unless Rutherford Animal Hospital accepts additional payments from adopters. However, Passaic Animal Shelter would need to have adopted out 32 dogs and 74 cats last year to achieve 95% dog and 92% cat live release rates. Even if adopters could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital these spay/neuter fees, it would significantly increase the adoption fee and likely discourage adoptions. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter cannot come close to achieving no kill status based on its contract.

Shelter Makes Little to No Effort to Adopt Out Animals

Passaic Animal Shelter has little presence on the internet. At the time I’m writing this blog, Passaic Animal Shelter has just two cats and no dogs up for adoption on Petfinder and no animals listed for adoption on its Adopt a Pet web site. In fact, neither web site provides any information on how one can even adopt a pet from this facility. The shelter’s actual web site also does not list any animals up for adoptions and provides no details on how one can adopt a pet.

Passaic Animal Shelter also is virtually never open to adopters. The shelter’s adoption hours are as follows:

Monday: 8:30 am to 9:30 am; 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm; 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Tuesday to Friday: 8:30 am to 9:30 am; 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Saturday: 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Sunday: Closed

In other words, the shelter is just open four hours a week when working people could come in to adopt. Remarkably, the shelter is open just two hours for the entire weekend and is closed on Sundays. Does this look like a shelter that is working hard to save its animals?

Passaic Must Take a New Path

Clearly, Passaic Animal Shelter makes little to no effort to saving lives. After banning volunteers over a decade ago, the shelter no longer had anyone to make sure they tried to save lives. Instead, the shelter used its unilateral control to take the easy way out and kill animals needlessly. Why? The shelter’s leadership, within the facility, the Passaic Health Department, and its elected officials, simply found it easier to save a few animals and kill the rest. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter’s “Animal Control Policy and Procedure Manual” explicitly states it will not run a no kill shelter.

Passaic Animal Shelter has more than enough resources to run a no kill facility where it only euthanizes hopelessly suffering animals. In 2017, Passaic Animal Shelter received $564 of city funding per each of the 399 dogs and cats it impounded. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter only received $242 of funding per dog and cat and saved 99% of the 311 dogs and 99% the 490 cats who had outcomes in 2017. Furthermore, Chippewa County Animal Shelter impounded more than twice as many animals in total as Passaic Animal Shelter (804 dogs and cats at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 399 dogs and cats at Passaic Animal Shelter) and about four times more on a per capita basis (21.3 dogs and cats per person at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 5.6 dogs and cats per resident at Passaic Animal Shelter). Unlike Passaic Animal Shelter, Chippewa County Animal Shelter welcomes volunteers and operates its facility using no kill methods. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter has no excuse for running a high kill shelter.

Passaic residents must call Mayor Hector Lora at 973-365-5510 and make sure the mayor keeps the following promise he made:

This was about leaving a legacy for our children and (setting) an example for all.

Clearly, Passaic must set an example that taking the easy way out and killing homeless animals for convenience is unacceptable. Mayor Lora can leave a legacy for Passaic’s children by turning his shelter around and allowing his constituents and others to help him do so. Teaching children the value of life and hard work is priceless. Let’s help Mayor Lora understand this.

2017 Cat Report Cards for New Jersey Animal Shelters

Cats are losing their lives at an alarming rate in New Jersey animal shelters. New Jersey animal shelters killed nearly 9,000 cats or 22% of those cats having known outcomes in 2017. Additionally, a number of other cats died or went missing. This blog explores the reasons why this tragedy is occurring and whether we can end the massacre. Additionally, I’ll try and answer the question whether shelters need to resort to neutering and releasing healthy friendly cats or not impounding these cats at all to avoid killing cats in shelters.

Model Assesses New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Life Saving Performance

In order to assess how good of a job New Jersey animal shelters are doing, I’ve developed an analysis I call the “Life Saving Model.” While shelter performance is dependent on many variables, such as finances, facility design, local laws, etc., the most critical factor impacting potential life saving is physical space. As a result, my analysis focuses on making the best use of space to save the maximum number of New Jersey and nearby areas cats.

The Life Saving Model measures the number of local animals a shelter should adopt out, rescue from other facilities, send to rescues or other shelters and euthanize to achieve no kill level live release rates. The targeted outcomes take into account each facility’s physical capacity and the number of cats the organization receives from its community (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, cruelty cases). I assume a target euthanasia rate, take the number of cats actually returned to owners and then estimate how many community cats a shelter should adopt out. To the extent space runs out, I then calculate how many cats must be sent to rescue. If the shelter has excess space after properly serving its local community, the facility uses that room to rescue and adopt out cats from nearby areas. The targeted results calculated from this model are compared to the actual results from each shelter below.

The Life Saving Model requires a more complex analysis for cats than dogs in New Jersey. Generally speaking, New Jersey animal shelters receive few litters of young puppies who are vulnerable to disease. On the other hand, local shelters receive lots of young kittens, particularly during the April to October kitten season. These young kittens are highly vulnerable to disease and those without mothers require bottle feeding every 1-2 hours. Therefore, animal welfare organizations should not hold these kittens in a traditional shelter setting and instead should send these animals to foster homes or a kitten nursery at or outside of the facility. During the months outside of kitten season (i.e. November-March), my model assumes shelters with enough physical space will be able to place young kittens into their volunteers’ foster homes and/or in a kitten nursery run by the animal shelter. In kitten season with many young animals coming in, I assume a certain percentage of the cat intake will need to go to rescues or other shelters. For shelters who rescue cats, I assume a small percentage of the cats are young kittens who are hopelessly suffering and will require humane euthanasia. Thus, my Life Saving Model is a bit more complicated than the analysis I did for dogs.

To read specific details and assumptions used in the model, please see the Appendix at the end of this blog.

My analysis puts a cap on the targeted numbers of cats rescued from other shelters and adoptions. While my unmodified targeted numbers of rescued and adopted animals are quite achievable, I wanted to provide very conservative goals for New Jersey animal shelters. For example, the unmodified model resulted in a statewide per capita cat adoption rate that is less than those found at some of the best animal control shelters.

My modified analysis capped cat adoptions at 8 cats per 1,000 people within each New Jersey county. In other words, the targeted numbers of cats rescued from other shelters and adopted below are the lesser of

  1. Number predicted by model
  2. Number determined by capping adoptions at 8 cats per 1,000 people in the county

In simple terms, a shelter is expected to achieve this per capita adoption rate unless the facility lacks enough space. If a shelter does not have sufficient room, it won’t have the time to reach all the potential adopters and requires assistance from rescues and/or other facilities.

Another complexity in this analysis are feral cats. In an ideal world, shelters would practice trap-neuter-return (TNR) or shelter-neuter-return (SNR) for feral cats only. In TNR, the public or a third party typically does the work and the shelter doesn’t take in feral cats. In the variant of SNR I support, the shelter would take in feral cats, neuter them and release them back to where they were found. Unfortunately, many municipalities prohibit these programs and shelters in these places generally catch and kill feral cats.

Ideally, I would perform two analyses as follows:

  1. Modeling a large scale and targeted TNR program by reducing cat intake at shelters needing to implement TNR or improve their existing TNR programs
  2. Estimating the number of truly feral cats taken in and counting these cats as killed

The first analysis assumes TNR could be implemented and would result in fewer New Jersey cats for shelters to place. In a blog I wrote several years ago, I estimated the impact of a high volume targeted spay/neuter program. Generally speaking, this analysis required many animal control shelters to adopt out more cats, send fewer cats to rescue, and rescue more cats from other shelters due to the extra shelter space resulting from lower local cat intake. In other words, this analysis would require shelters to achieve higher performance targets.

The second analysis assumes local laws cannot be changed and shelters are stuck receiving unadoptable feral cats. Unfortunately, I do not have the data to calculate the percentage of truly feral cats received at each New Jersey animal shelter. Based on an analysis of Michigan animal shelter data, Nathan Winograd estimated at least 6% of cat intake at Michigan animal shelters are truly feral cats. Similarly, Wisconsin’s Clark County Humane Society 2014 cat statistics show feral cats who were trapped, vaccinated and returned to the community made up 7% of cat outcomes. Based on these numbers and the success of barn cat programs in places such as the Maryville, Tennessee area, barn cat programs should be able to save most feral cats in similar communities. On the other hand, California’s Orange County Animal Care reported approximately 16% of the cats it took in during 2017 were returned to field. However, I suspect at least some of these cats were friendly or fearful rather than truly feral and could have been socialized and eventually adopted out. In fact, a recent study documented 18% of impounded cats were feral/aggressive, but all these cats became safe enough to adopt out after people gently touched the cats and spoke to them softly for 6 days. Thus, the number of truly feral cats may be much lower than the amount of cats most shelters label as aggressive.

My model assumes shelters are doing the proper thing and practicing TNR and placing the reasonable number of feral cats received as barn cats. Obviously, many shelters do take in a good number of feral cats due to poor laws or misguided policies. As a result, the number of New Jersey cats killed may be higher than my model predicts for some shelters. However, my model’s results using total cat intake rather than assuming a larger percentage of feral cats will not be too much different for the targeted adoption and euthanasia rate metrics as explained in my blog from several years ago. The following analysis assumes shelters receive a reasonable number of truly feral cats. As a result, shelters can adopt out these cats through a barn cat program. While I realize some shelters do receive greater numbers of truly feral cats, the purpose of this analysis is to examine whether New Jersey animal shelters can handle the number of cats received.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Contain Enough Space to Save Most of New Jersey’s Healthy and Treatable Cats and Many More from Other States

New Jersey’s animal shelter system has enough space to save most of the state’s healthy and treatable cats. The table below details the targeted numbers of cat outcomes the New Jersey animal shelter system should achieve. Out of the 43,225 New Jersey cats coming into the state’s animal shelters in 2017, 27,957 and 7,578 cats should have been adopted out and sent to other shelters/rescues by the facilities originally taking the cats in. However, other New Jersey animal shelters had enough capacity to rescue 25,747 cats or more than three times the number of cats needing rescue from space constrained facilities. Unfortunately, some of the cats needing rescue, such as very young kittens, should not go to a shelter and still must go to either kitten nurseries or foster homes. That being said, many adult cats are in fact killed in New Jersey animal shelters and many facilities with excess space could save these cats.

New Jersey animal shelters have enough excess space to save many cats from out of state as well. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters had enough physical capacity to rescue 18,169 cats from out of state shelters or New Jersey’s streets after achieving a 92% live release rate for cats coming into the state’s animal shelters. In reality, the New Jersey shelter system could rescue more than 18,169 cats from out of state shelters or from New Jersey’s streets given the 18,169 figure assumes all cats needing rescue from space constrained New Jersey shelters are sent to other New Jersey shelters as opposed to rescue groups. As explained above, some of the cats needing rescue from New Jersey shelters with a shortage of space are young kittens which should not go to most animal shelters. To put this number into perspective, New Jersey animal shelters contain enough space to make both New York City and Philadelphia no kill cities for cats and increase those cities’ cat live release rates to 92% as follows (per 2017 data):

  • New York City – 482 additional cats need saving
  • Philadelphia – 1,451 additional cats need saving

Certainly, some New Jersey animal shelters do pull some cats from New York City and Philadelphia animal control shelters. Even if I assumed all of the out of state cats rescued by New Jersey animal shelters came from New York City and Philadelphia, that number is only 3% of the number that New Jersey shelters could rescue from New York City and Philadelphia animal control shelters. While some of these cats from New York City and Philadelphia animal control shelters are young kittens which should not go to a normal animal shelter, many other cats could go to New Jersey animal shelters and be adopted out. As a result, the additional number of cats New Jersey animal shelters could save from New York City and Philadelphia is not much lower than the figures above. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters could make New Jersey a no kill state for cats and help other states reach that goal as well.

These adoption goals are quite achievable when comparing the performance of well-run animal control shelters across the country. New Jersey animal shelters would only need to adopt out 5.8 cats per 1,000 people in the state (3.9 cats per 1,000 people if no cats were rescued from out of state and all cats sent to rescue were rescued by other New Jersey animal shelters and adopted out). As a comparison, recent per capita cat adoption numbers from several high performing no kill open admission shelters are as follows:

  • Lynchburg Humane Society (Lynchburg, Virginia) – 13.6 cats per 1,000 people
  • Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (Charlottesville, Virginia area) – 11.8 cats per 1,000 people
  • Nevada Humane Society (Reno, Nevada and Carson City, Nevada areas) – 9.8 cats per 1,000 people
  • Williamson County Animal Shelter (Williamson County, Texas) – 7.4 cats per 1,000 people

Thus, many communities are already adopting out significantly more cats than the number I target for New Jersey animal shelters.

Additionally, the adoption target, 5.8 cats per 1,000 people, I set for New Jersey animal shelters is not much higher than Colorado animal shelters’ per capita cat adoption rate of 4.6 cats per 1,000 people. In addition, New Jersey animal shelters would just need to achieve a per capita adoption of 3.9 cats per 1,000 people, which is nearly 20% lower than Colorado animal shelters are already achieving, to end the killing of healthy and treatable cats. You can find Colorado’s 2017 animal shelter and rescue statistics here and No Kill Colorado’s summary of the state’s animal shelter data here. Given Colorado still has some regressive animal shelters, Colorado’s per capita cat adoption rate can increase. Thus, the cat adoption targets I laid out for New Jersey animal shelters are quite achievable.

2017 Cat Model Targets

Cat Deaths Vary Widely at New Jersey Animal Shelters

The goal of any properly managed animal shelter is to save all of its healthy and treatable animals. In some cases, such as selective admission rescue oriented shelters, it is pretty easy to not kill animals. In addition, other animal shelters with easy to service animal control contracts (i.e. few animals impounded) can avoid unnecessary killing due to having lots of extra space. As a result, some shelters may have an easier time than others in preventing killing at their shelters.

The tables below detail the cat kill rates at each New Jersey animal shelter. These figures do not include cats who died or went missing. Shelters having cat kill rates equal to or less than 8% and greater than 8% are highlighted in green and red in the tables below.

The overall results show too many cats are unnecessarily losing their lives at New Jersey animal shelters. New Jersey animal shelters needlessly killed 5,540 cats in 2017. Furthermore, additional cats died or went missing from many of these facilities. Obviously, some of the cats shelters killed were truly feral and required TNR or placement as barn/warehouse cats, but surely many others could have been adopted out. Thus, New Jersey’s shelter system is failing its cats.

Several animal shelters in South Jersey and elsewhere account for a large percentage of the savable cats unnecessarily losing their lives. Specifically, Gloucester County Animal Shelter, Cumberland County SPCA, Burlington County Animal Shelter and Atlantic County Animal Shelter account for 2,974 or 54% of the 5,540 cats needlessly killed. Northern Ocean County Animal Facility and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility had 938 cats lose their lives needlessly in 2017. Associated Humane Societies three shelters had 612 cats unnecessarily lose their lives in 2017. Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Tyco Animal Control, which have three of the highest cat kill rates in the state, needlessly killed 392 cats. Collectively, these 12 shelters are 13% of the state’s shelters and account for 4,916 or 89% of the 5,540 cats needlessly losing their lives.

Rescue oriented shelters generally had fewer cats lose their lives than targeted. While saving large numbers of cats is what we all want, some of these shelters may have achieved this result by taking in easier cats. Austin Pets Alive, which is a rescue oriented shelter in Texas, has developed some of the most innovative cat programs and only had a cat live release rate of 90% in 2017. This was due to Austin Pets Alive taking in many cats requiring significant treatment, such as neonatal kittens, from the city animal control shelter. As a result, some of the rescue oriented shelters with significantly fewer cats euthanized than targeted may have avoided taking in many of the more difficult cases.

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Space Constrained Facilities Not Receiving Enough Support from Rescues and Other Animal Shelters

Some animal shelters will require more support from rescues and animal shelters with excess space than others. If a shelter has relatively high intake and very limited space, it will need more help than other shelters. While sending animals to rescues is a good thing, we do want shelters most needing rescue support to receive that help given rescues have limited resources. The tables below compare the number of cats a shelter should transfer to other organizations per the model and the number of cats actually sent to other animal welfare groups. Shelters marked in green are receiving less than the expected rescue support while facilities marked in red are receiving too much rescue help.

Overall, New Jersey shelters are not receiving enough help from other animal welfare organizations. While New Jersey animal shelters sent more cats to rescues than my model targeted, the actual number was 59% since many cats were rescued from facilities which did not require so much rescue assistance. Only 34 out of the 71 facilities needing rescue assistance received the required support. In other words, only 48% of the animal shelters needing rescue help received the amount these facilities require.

We truly need to understand the reasons for this rescue shortfall. While poor data collection (i.e. shelters classifying rescues as adoptions) may explain part of this rescue deficit, the large size of this number points to other causes as well. For example, New Jersey shelters as a whole significantly exceeded their dog rescue needs and a much smaller number of shelters failed to receive enough rescue support, but just 48% of shelters needing cat rescue assistance received the needed support. Certainly, some of these cats are feral and not candidates for most rescues. However, many other cats surely are home-able. Many high kill facilities may not reach out to rescues for cats, such as during kitten season, as much as they do for dogs. This data supports the need for New Jersey to pass shelter reform bill S725 which requires shelters to contact rescues and other facilities at least two business days before killing animals. On the other hand, shelters with excess capacity may not be doing their part to save cats from space constrained facilities.

Several shelters received too much rescue help. Rescues may want to help these organizations due to rescue friendly policies. Alternatively, these shelters may be relying too heavily on rescues to save their animals. Shelters (excluding St. Hubert’s which transfers cats as part of national rescue campaigns) receiving the most extra rescue support were as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies-Newark – 441 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Paterson Animal Control – 259 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Camden County Animal Shelter – 202 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Monmouth SPCA – 169 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Passaic Animal Shelter – 153 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Associated Humane Societies – Tinton Falls – 135 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Trenton Animal Shelter – 123 more cats transferred than necessary

Associated Humane Societies-Newark, Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls, Paterson Animal Control, Trenton Animal Shelter and Passaic Animal Shelter are terrible facilities. Associated Humane Societies-Newark has a history of problemskills animals for ridiculous reasons and its Executive Director had animal cruelty charges filed against her. Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls made headlines for the wrong reasons after it temporarily banned volunteers from its facility several years ago. Paterson Animal Control has no volunteer program, no social media page or even a website with animals for adoption and violated state law left and right. Trenton Animal Shelter violated state law in 2017 per a New Jersey Department of Health limited scope inspection report. Passaic Animal Shelter operates a high kill shelter and makes little effort to save lives. Thus, many shelters receiving greater than expected rescue support seem to do little more than allow rescues to save the day.

On the other hand, many space constrained shelters received far less rescue help than needed. Facilities receiving the lowest amount of rescue support in relation to their needs were as follows:

  • Burlington County Animal Shelter – 787 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Vorhees Animal Orphanage – 293 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Cape May County Animal Shelter – 282 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Bergen County Animal Shelter – 254 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Northern Ocean County Animal Facility – 124 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Southern Ocean County Animal Facility – 101 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Hamilton Township Animal Shelter – 82 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter – 56 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • St. Hubert’s – North Branch – 56 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Franklin Township Animal Shelter – 53 fewer cats transferred than necessary

The million dollar question is why do these shelters receive very little rescue help? Some, such as Northern Ocean County Animal Facility and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility, reported no cats sent to rescues and may incorrectly count these animals as adopted. Bergen County Animal Shelter counted cats it took in for TNR in its intake and outcome numbers. Therefore, the shelter released many cats through its TNR program rather than adopting out these cats or sending these animals to rescues. As you will see below, Vorhees Animal Orphanage adopted out many cats and is doing a good job. On the other hand, Gloucester County Animal Shelter routinely illegally killed animals during the 7 day hold period, allowed disease to spread like wildfire and does not adopt out animals at the shelter on Sundays and Mondays. As a result, shelters receiving too little rescue help may or may not be doing their part to get that assistance.

Rescue groups and shelters with extra space should pull cats from kill shelters with the highest rescue “target” numbers and deficits in the tables below. If shelters not needing rescue support get that extra help, these shelters will not take the steps necessary to properly run their facilities. As a result of enabling poorly performing shelters and not pulling cats from truly space constrained facilities, rescuing cats from shelters with enough space leads to less lifesaving.

Shelters receiving less than needed rescue support should also examine their own policies and performance. Are the shelter’s operating processes allowing too many animals to get sick and therefore discouraging organizations to rescue their animals due to subsequent medical costs? Does the shelter actively reach out to rescues/other shelters and treat them with respect? Does the shelter make it convenient for other organizations to pull their animals?

Given killing animals for space is intolerable, the space-constrained shelters need to expand their effective cat capacity. These facilities could use extra space in their buildings to house cats on a short-term basis. These shelters can enter into arrangements with local veterinarians and local pet stores to house and adopt out some cats. Furthermore, shelters can create or expand foster programs to increase the number of cats cared for. Additionally, creating a pet owner surrender prevention program and an appointment system for owners willing to delay surrendering their cats could free up space in these shelters. Finally, space-constrained shelters with multiple animal control contracts should terminate some of these arrangements to bring their capacity for care in line with the number of cats they take in. Similarly, many shelters can use their bargaining power to require municipalities to allow TNR. As a result, space constrained shelters still need to take active steps to reduce killing rather than simply solely relying on rescue support.

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Most New Jersey Animal Shelters Fail to Come Close to Reaching Their Cat Adoption Potential

We can assess each shelter’s contribution to making New Jersey and nearby areas no kill. While a shelter may be able to avoid killing healthy and treatable animals, it still may not live up to its potential for adopting out cats. On the other hand, a space constrained shelter may kill healthy and treatable cats, but still do a good job adopting animals out.

The tables below compare the number of cats from New Jersey and nearby states each animal shelter should adopt out with the number of cats actually adopted out.

Rescue oriented organizations may look better than they actually are. Many rescue oriented shelters likely pull much easier to adopt cats than the bulk of cats needing to get rescued from local facilities.

Few organizations reached or exceeded their adoption targets. Specifically, only 8 out of 91 shelters met the cat adoption goals computed by the Life Saving Model. Thus, the overwhelming number of New Jersey animal shelters need to step up their adoption efforts.

Several rescue oriented shelters exceeded their adoption targets. Animal Welfare Association exceeded its adoption target by the most of any shelter in terms of total adoptions. Animal Welfare Association runs reduced and no adoption fee promotions as well. Animal Welfare Association also waives fees for certain cats who may take longer to adopt out, such as cats who are older or have behavioral or health issues. Furthermore, the shelter’s “Best Friends” program allows people who adopt a cat to pay just $25 for a second cat who is 1 year or older. Animal Welfare Association also waives cat adoption fees for active military personnel and veterans in its Pets for Vets program. The shelter also waives adoption fees for senior citizens adopting certain senior pets. Additionally, Animal Welfare Association uses an open adoption process focused on properly matching animals and people rather than an overly judgmental procedure based on black and white rules. To aid its open adoptions process, Animal Welfare Association uses the ASPCA’s Feline-ality program. Animal Welfare Association’s adoption rate increased by 20% and its cat length of stay decreased by 23 days after the shelter implemented the Feline-ality program. Finally, Animal Welfare Association installed perches in their cat enclosures to provide cats more vertical space which keeps the cats happier and more adoptable. Beacon Animal Rescue also exceeded its adoption target and charges a reasonable $75 fee for adult cats and offers military personnel and veterans discounted adoption fees. Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter also exceeded its adoption target by a significant amount. From what I can tell, this shelter is customer friendly and also has a strong cat foster program. Thus, several rescue oriented shelters exceeded their cat adoption targets and Animal Welfare Association used a variety of innovative strategies to adopt out many cats.

Several animal control shelters also exceeded their adoption targets. EASEL Animal Rescue League, which operates the Ewing Animal Shelter, also exceeded its adoption target. This organization strives to make Mercer County no kill and it is no surprise this organization does a good job adopting out its cats. St. Hubert’s-Madison also exceeded its adoption target. This shelter is open seven days a week, including all holidays except Thanksgiving and Christmas, and has a very customer friendly adoption process. Vorhees Animal Orphanage also exceeded its adoption goal. The shelter also is open 7 days a week, including weekday evenings and weekends (except one Wednesday a month and certain holidays), which makes it convenient for working people to adopt animals. Additionally, Vorhees Animal Orphanage adopts cats out at one PetSmart store and three PetValu locations. Cape May County Animal Shelter, which also exceeded its adoption target, has reasonable adoption fees of $70 for kittens, $35 for 1 to 3 year old cats and $20 for cats 4 years and older. Despite not being open many hours, West Milford Animal Shelter almost met its adoption goal. This shelter charges a very reasonable $35 fee for all cats and runs a creative Facebook page called “The Real Cats at West Milford Animal Shelter.” Thus, several animal control shelters exceeded or came close to achieving their cat adoption goals and therefore prove these adoption targets are achievable.

Rescues should focus on pulling animals from Vorhees Animal Orphanage. This shelter’s cat kill rate is too high and its need for rescues greatly exceeds the amount of animals actually pulled from this organization. While some of these cats may be feral and therefore not adoptable, many other cats surely could be rescued from this shelter. Given this shelter is adopting cats out at a good rate, rescues and other other shelters should help this facility out by pulling more cats from Vorhees Animal Orphanage.

Some municipal animal control shelters may be doing a better job with cats than the numbers below indicate. In some cases, municipalities may frown on government run shelters using taxpayer funds to rescue cats from elsewhere (i.e. leaving empty cat cages). My suggestion to these shelters is to find ways to use more of your facility’s capacity to expand your lifesaving work to other areas. For example, these shelters should consider taking in animals from other shelters for a fee or even contracting with other municipalities.

Associated Humane Societies performance is particularly disappointing. Specifically, Associated Humane Societies has the physical capacity to significantly reduce the killing of healthy and treatable cats. Associated Humane Societies adoption shortfall of 5,536 nearly equaled the 5,540 cats who unnecessarily lost their lives in New Jersey animal shelters in 2017. Associated Humane Societies has the funding to reach these adoption targets as the organization took in $7.6 million of revenue for the year ending 6/30/17. This works out to $598 of revenue per dog and cat I project the shelter should take in per my Life Saving Model. Given many no kill animal control shelters take in significantly less revenue per dog and cat impounded, Associated Humane Societies could achieve these adoption targets and effectively end the killing of healthy and treatable cats in its facilities and in all the state’s shelters. Activists wanting to increase life saving in New Jersey should focus on changing Associated Humane Societies’ policies given the lifesaving potential of this organization and its recent dismal performance.

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Shelters Fail to Use Excess Space to Save Cats

To further examine New Jersey animal shelters’ performance in saving homeless cats, I compared the targeted number of cats each shelter should pull from nearby shelters to the number actually rescued from local facilities. I assume all cats rescued from out of state came from nearby areas, such as Philadelphia and New York City. While some of the out of state rescued cats may have comes from far away areas, I believe this is a small number and does not significantly impact the results.

Virtually all New Jersey animal shelters are failing to rescue the number of cats they should. 85 of the 91 shelters should rescue some cats from other local shelters. In fact, 41 of the 85 shelters with targeted excess capacity failed to rescue even a single cat from other animal shelters. Only 6 shelters with significant amounts of space to rescue cats from nearby shelters met or exceeded their cat rescue targets. Thus, nearly all New Jersey animal shelters with targeted excess capacity are failing to do their share in ending the killing of healthy and treatable cats.

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TNR Is Essential, But Should Not Be An Excuse to Do Nothing

TNR must be instituted to end the killing of healthy and treatable cats. While many shelters may potentially come close to or reach a 90% live release rate, feral cats may still be killed. Simply put, New Jersey cannot become a no kill state without TNR becoming the law of the land. The Companion Animal Protection Act (“CAPA”) prevents shelters and municipalities from taking actions to hinder TNR, such as banning feral cat colony caretakers from feeding cats and lending traps out to the public for catching and killing feral cats. Even without an explicit law allowing TNR, the New Jersey Department of Health should encourage municipalities to implement TNR by changing its neutral stance on TNR to an endorsement of the practice. Furthermore, shelters, especially private facilities with animal control contracts, should refuse to take feral cats from places where TNR is prohibited and the shelters cannot place these feral cats as barn cats or send these animals to reputable sanctuaries per recommendations of many national animal welfare groups.

Shelters should not use anti-feral cat laws as an excuse for failing to institute innovative programs. Too many times shelters blame anti-feral cat ordinances for their outrageously high cat kill rates. However, my analysis proves cats are not dying in New Jersey’s shelter system due to too many cats coming into the state’s shelter system. While TNR certainly would reduce cat intake and make saving lives easier, our state’s shelter system has more than enough space to handle the number of cats that come in. Shelters need to implement key programs, such as foster care, high volume adoptions, and vaccination upon intake. Additionally, shelters need to stay open weeknights and weekends when working people can adopt. Similarly, shelters should use innovative marketing, customer friendly open adoption processes, multiple off-site adoption locations, and frequent discounted adoption promotions to quickly move cats into good homes. Furthermore, implementing a program where fearful and aggressive cats are touched gently and spoken to softly likely will significantly reduce the number of cats labeled as “feral” and increase adoptions. Thus, anti-TNR ordinances do not prevent shelters from implementing other life saving policies.

Shelters Do Not Need to Leave Friendly Cats on the Street

Shelters do not need to neuter and release friendly cats or refuse to take these cats in given enough capacity exists within the New Jersey shelter system. In 2013, a group of animal welfare leaders, which included the Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”) and the ASPCA, prepared a white paper stating a shelter should not impound cats if those cats or other cats in the shelter would subsequently be killed. The evidence supporting this policy, such as cats being more likely to find homes on the street than in traditional shelters, is quite strong. Subsequently, many shelters across the nation implemented these policies. However, my analysis shows the entire New Jersey shelter system does have enough space to handle friendly cats. While certain shelters are space constrained and could benefit from refusing to admit healthy and friendly cats, other shelters in the state have more than enough capacity to step in and find these cats homes. Thus, New Jersey shelters do not need to resort to refusing to take in friendly cats or neutering and releasing friendly cats to avoid killing cats provided these shelters work together and follow best practices.

Kitten Nurseries and Ringworm Wards Key to Saving Vulnerable Cats

Orphaned kittens are typically automatically killed in traditional animal shelters due to the time commitment required to care for these animals. Unweaned kittens require bottle feeding as frequently as every 1-2 hours. As a result, kittens not placed into foster care are typically killed in most animal shelters.

Kitten nurseries or bottle baby wards radically increase the save rate for orphaned kittens still requiring milk. While foster care and rescue programs can save unweaned kittens, kitten nurseries are more efficient and make the job easier. Austin Animal Services, which is the animal control shelter in Austin, Texas, killed 1,200 plus kittens a year before Austin Pets Alive created a bottle baby program. Volunteers work in two hour shifts to feed and care for the kittens. Additionally, nursing mothers are pulled from the city shelter and used to help nurse highly vulnerable young kittens who are orphaned. Kittens are put on antibiotics and treated for fleas and worms immediately to help prevent complications from transitioning from breast milk to formula. Austin Pets Alive has pulled as many as 1,600 kittens a year from the city shelter and saved nearly 90% of these kittens in recent years through this bottle baby program. Best Friends created a kitten nursery in South Salt Lake City, Utah and saved more than 1,400 kittens from Salt Lake City area shelters in 2016. Thus, kitten nursery programs can save young and vulnerable kittens.

Ringworm ward programs easily save cats with this skin fungus. In traditional animal shelters, cats with ringworm are killed due to the risk that other animals and humans will catch this skin fungus. Austin Pets Alive created a specific “Ringworm Ward” program to treat and adopt out these cats. These cats are treated both topically and orally in an isolated area. After the cats are no longer contagious, the cats are sent to foster homes to complete their treatment and regrow their hair. Austin Pets Alive uses steeply discounted adoption fees of only $15 along with catchy slogans like “Adopt a Fun Guy (Fungi)”, “Lord of the Ringworm”, and “Hairy(less) Potter” to quickly place these cats and open up space for additional cats with ringworm. 100% of cats entering this program are saved. Thus, shelters can save cats with ringworm.

Regional kitten nurseries and ringworm wards are the practical solution to saving these vulnerable cats. Given the New Jersey shelter system has significant excess capacity to care for cats, certain shelters should convert some of that excess space for use as kitten nurseries and ringworm wards. Creating regional centers to care for unweaned kittens and cats with ringworm would allow the programs to run at a large enough scale to work efficiently. Shelters, such as Associated Humane Societies-Popcorn Park, Monmouth SPCA, and St. Hubert’s-Madison appear to have the space and financial resources to implement these programs. Furthermore, the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey (“AWFNJ”) should take the steps needed to create kitten nurseries and ringworm wards in regional centers throughout the state. Surely, the AWFNJ has the connections to convince key decision makers to implement these programs and obtain any necessary funding. Thus, New Jersey shelter leaders must immediately take the steps needed to save the large numbers of treatable kittens and cats with ringworm in our state’s shelters.

Results Require New Jersey Animal Shelters to Take Action

The findings from this analysis mandate New Jersey animal shelters change their ways. While TNR remains a significant issue, most shelters are clearly not taking steps to save large numbers of healthy and treatable cats. Many shelters are not vaccinating upon intake, charging excessive adoption fees, making it too difficult to adopt, not being open when working people can go to shelters, leaving cat enclosures empty, not trying to rehabilitate fearful and aggressive cats and not using barn cat, foster care, kitten nursery and ringworm ward programs. Simply put, too many shelters are not doing what it takes to save lives. With New Jersey’s shelters killing more than one in four cats, our state’s shelters are failing these animals.

New Jersey shelters have a cat crisis and it is time for the killing to stop. We have the information and even the blueprints from numerous communities which stopped killing and started saving their cats. It is time the excuses end and action begins. The public is fed up with the killing and demands shelters save their animals. Our state’s animal welfare organizations need to get on board the lifesaving wagon or risk getting run over by it. Which will they choose?

Appendix Life Saving Model Assumptions

The Life Saving Model utilizes the following basic animal shelter population equations to calculate the targeted cat outcomes for each facility:

Daily capacity or population = Daily animal intake x average length of stay

Average length of stay = Daily capacity or population/daily intake

Each shelter’s community cat intake (i.e. owner surrenders, strays, cruelty cases), number of cats returned to owners, and maximum cat capacity were taken from its 2017 “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health. You can see the full data set I compiled from these reports here.

  • Community cat intake and cats returned to owners were initially estimated for each month by dividing the annual figures by 12. In order to take into account the extra space in low intake months and reduced space in high intake months, we multiply that number by each month’s percentage of the average month. For example, assume 240 cats were taken in during the year and the average month equals 20 cats (240/12). In July, the cat intake is 120% higher than the average month and we therefore multiply 20 cats by 1.2 to equal 24 cats. If 120 cats were returned to owners during the year, the estimated number of cats returned to owners in July would equal 12 cats (120/12 = 10; 10*1.2). The monthly intake percentages were based off the average of the 2017 cat intake data on New York Animal Care & Control’s and ACCT Philly’s web sites.
  • The estimated number of community cats returned to owners each month are then assumed to stay 5 days on average at shelters based on data from other shelters across the country.
  • The number of community cats euthanized (including animals who died or are missing) is set to equal 8% of intake. 8% is a reasonable standard euthanasia rate to use given other open admission animal shelters, such as Austin Animal Services, equal or exceed this target and New Jersey’s much lower per capita cat intake makes it easier to save lives. The average length of stay for euthanized cats is assumed to equal 8 days. I assume these cats have severe and untreatable health issues and are euthanized immediately after their required 7 day hold period.
  • The average length of stay used for adopted community cats was 42 days. This estimate was roughly halfway between the average cat length of stay figures for a number of no kill animal control shelters. For example, the average length of stay for cats in recent years was 13 days at Texas’s Williamson County Animal Shelter, less than two weeks at Nevada Humane Society 16 days at Montana’s Flathead County Animal Shelter, 23 days at Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society, 42 days at Lynchburg Humane Society and 61 days for adopted cats only at New York’s Tompkins County SPCA. While the average length of stay of adopted cats at these shelters other than Tompkins County SPCA may have been slightly higher since this data is for all cats and not just those adopted, the difference is not likely significant given adoptions represent most of the outcomes at these shelters. Unfortunately, I was not able to break down the adoption length of stay figures by age or breed for New Jersey’s shelters like I did in my analysis on dogs due to a lack of detailed cat intake data at New Jersey animal shelters. Upon reviewing cats up for adoption at several New Jersey animal control shelters and a few of the high performing facilities above, I did not see any significant differences in types of cats taken in. In the future, I hope to refine this analysis further.
  • The average length of stay used for community cats adopted out from rescue oriented shelters was 30 days. Rescue oriented animal shelters typically carefully select animals taken into their shelters. Based on the San Francisco’s SPCA’s 22 day and Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s 23 day average length of stay figures reported a number of years ago, I used a shorter length of stay for community cats adopted from New Jersey animal shelters without animal control contracts. I chose 30 days as a conservative estimate.
  • Cats transferred to rescue or other facilities are assumed to stay at shelters 8 days on average based on the assumption strays can’t be released until the 7 day hold period elapses.
  • Community cats not returned to owners or euthanized are initially assumed as adopted for each month outside of kitten season (i.e. November-March). However, if the calculated length of stay exceeds the shelter’s required length of stay, cats are moved from adoption (i.e. with a longer length of stay) to rescue (i.e. shorter length of stay) until the calculated length of stay each month approximately equals the required length of stay.
  • During kitten season (April-October), animal control shelters are assumed to send a certain percentage of cats to rescues even if they have excess space. Due to the large numbers of kittens coming into shelters during these months, I assume shelters will not be able to place all of them into foster homes or a kitten nursery at this time. As a result, I assume animal control shelters will send 10% of their annual community cat intake to rescues based on the shelters’ estimated relative cat intake each month. For example, if a shelter took 100 cats in during the year and August made up 50% of the total cat intake from April to November, 5 cats would go to rescue in August (i.e. 100*10% = 10 cats; 10*50% = 5 cats). I used 10% based off the rescue percentage of cat intake in 2014 at Kansas City’s KC Pet Project. KC Pet Project is a no kill open admission shelter with an inadequate facility and is a good comparison for some of our state’s run down shelters. Shelters requiring rescue support due to space constraints are assumed to send these additional cats to rescues during kitten season.
  • Shelters are not expected to use the excess space created by fosters taking kittens to rescue and adopt out additional cats. This is based on the assumption that the kittens will return to shelters once old enough to safely stay at the facilities.
  • Required length of stay = Shelter’s reported capacity/adjusted daily intake for the month. Adjusted daily intake for month = Adjusted monthly intake per first bullet above/the number of days in the month.
  • Shelters with excess capacity are assumed to use the extra space to rescue and adopt out cats from other New Jersey animal shelters. Given some of these cats will be young and highly vulnerable kittens, I assume 5% of these rescues will be euthanized for humane reasons. I used 5% based off Austin Pets Alive’s and Austin Humane Society’s weighted average cat euthanasia rate in 2014. These two shelters pull many cats from Austin Animal Services, which is the city’s animal control shelter, and their cat euthanasia rate is a reasonable proxy for the percentage of hopelessly suffering cats rescued from animal control shelters. To the extent all healthy and treatable New Jersey animal shelter cats are saved, I assume additional cats are pulled from nearby states. The average length of stay for rescued and adopted cats is the same as the cats taken in by animal control shelters (i.e. 42 days). Similarly, I used 8 days as the average length of stay for rescued and euthanized cats from other shelters.
  • Each month’s targeted outcomes are added to determine how many cats New Jersey animal shelters should adopt out, send to rescue and rescue from other nearby animal shelters.
  • Space constrained shelters were assumed to adopt out their easiest to adopt animals first until they run out of space. To estimate the average adoption length of stay, I used cat adoption length of stay data from Perth Amboy Animal Shelter from 2014 and the first half of 2015. I broke the adoption length of stay data into 5 groups that each made up 20% of the data. The average adoption length of stay for each of these 5 groups was calculated. The average adoption length of stay of each group was divided by the average length of stay for all of the adopted cats in the Perth Amboy Animal Shelter data set. Those percentages were then multiplied by the average cat adoption length of stay determined in the model above and used to determine the adoption lengths of stay used for space-constrained shelters.
  • The targeted number of cats adopted were capped at 8 cats per 1,000 people in each county. If the model yielded a higher result than this cap, the targeted numbers of cats adopted were equal to this cap. For shelters in these counties (except Passaic County), I calculated the cap at the county level and then reduced the number of cats adopted for the county to equal the cap. I excluded West Milford from Passaic County due the town’s large distance from the population centers in the rest of the county. Each shelter’s percentage of total targeted adoptions in the county from the unmodified model were applied to the the total reduction in the number of cats adopted in the county to yield the targeted numbers of cats adopted in the modified model. Rescued and euthanized cats for these shelters were reduced based on the modified model’s assumption that shelters adopted out and euthanized 95% and 5% of rescued cats.

Bergen County Animal Shelter Has Another Bad Year in 2017

In 2016, I wrote a series of blogs on the regressive Bergen County Animal Shelter. Part 1 highlighted the shelter’s high kill rate in 2015 despite the facility claiming it was “no kill.” Part 2 examined the absurd reasons Bergen County Animal Shelter used to justify this killing. Part 3 discussed the shelter’s poor policies and how it could change them to improve.

Last year, I wrote two blogs on the Bergen County Animal Shelter. The first blog detailed Bergen County Animal Shelter’s 2016 statistics for dogs and cats coming in from the town of Kearny. Sadly, the shelter’s Kearny statistics revealed the facility killed many dogs. Additionally, despite having a successful TNR program, Bergen County Animal Shelter still killed healthy and treatable cats. Later in the year, I found these trends also applied to all the municipalities Bergen County Animal Shelter serviced in 2016.

Was Bergen County Animal Shelter still a high kill facility in 2017? What kinds of animals lose their lives at this shelter? Does the shelter comply with state law?

Shelter Kills Dogs at a High Rate

Bergen County Animal Shelter continued to kill many dogs in 2017. You can view all the shelter’s dog and cat intake and disposition records here and here. Overall, 13% of all dogs, 31% of pit bulls, 5% of small dogs and 14% of other medium to large sized breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter during the year. As a comparison, only 1% of all dogs, 1% of pit bulls, 2% of small dogs and 2% of other breeds lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2017 despite that shelter taking in many more dogs in total and on a per capita basis. If we just count dogs who Bergen County Animal Shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding dogs reclaimed by their owners), 23% of all dogs, 50% of pit bulls, 10% of small dogs and 21% of other medium to large sized breeds were killed or died at the shelter. To put it another way, around 1 in 4 nonreclaimed dogs, half of nonreclaimed pit bulls and more than 1 in 5 nonreclaimed other medium to large size breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter. Thus, all types of medium to larger size dogs entering the Bergen County Animal Shelter had a significant chance of losing their life.

Bergen County Animal Shelter hardly adopted out any dogs. Despite being a well-known county shelter in a high traffic area, the facility only adopted out 196 dogs during the year or around one dog every two days. Furthermore, 98 of those adoptions were small dogs, which shelters have to do little work to adopt out. Bergen County Animal Shelter only adopted out 98 medium to large size dogs, which included just 34 pit bulls and 64 other medium to large size breeds. This works out to less than three pit bull adoptions and around five other medium to large size breed adoptions a month.

The shelter also sent very few medium to large size dogs to rescues. While my recent dog report card blog on the state’s shelters showed Bergen County Animal Shelter had plenty of space to adopt out all of its nonreclaimed dogs, one would think the facility would at least try to send dogs it was going to kill to rescues instead. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter only sent 40 out of 326 medium-large size dogs to rescues in 2017. Even worse, Bergen County Animal Shelter only transferred 4 out of 127 pit bulls to rescues during the year. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed 10 times more pit bulls than it sent to rescues. As a comparison, Elizabeth Animal Shelter sent 29 pit bulls to rescues in 2017 or seven times as many as Bergen County Animal Shelter. Despite the shelter’s policy of contacting rescues prior to killing, I’ve personally never seen Bergen County Animal Shelter ever make a public plea to rescues to save dogs the shelter was going to kill. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter would rather kill medium to large size dogs than actually ask for help to save these animals.

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The following table illustrates how few dogs the shelter sent to rescues. As you can see, almost all the rescues pulled less than ten dogs for the entire year. Furthermore, the rescues pulling the most dogs did not save any pit bulls. Even worse, every single one of the pit bulls rescued on this list went to other shelters. This suggests Bergen County Animal Shelter made little effort to reach out to rescues to save these types of dogs.

2017 Bergen County Animal Shelters Rescues Pulling Dogs

Dogs Stay Too Long at Shelter

Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to adopt out dogs. Overall, the average length of stay was 25 days for all dogs, 27 days for pit bulls, 21 days for small dogs and 30 days for other medium to large size breeds. Despite killing many dogs, sending few dogs to rescues and hardly adopting out dogs (i.e. the dogs the facility adopted out were likely the cream of the crop), the shelter took on average a very long 47 days to adopt out its dogs. Similarly, Bergen County Animal Shelter took 60 days, 39 days and 52 days to adopt out its pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds. As a comparison, other successful shelters adopt out dogs, pit bulls in particular, at a much quicker rate despite having to place animals with more issues due to these facilities’ high live release rates. Oregon’s Greenhill Humane Society adopted out its pit bulls about 50% more quickly than Bergen County Animal Shelter. Similarly, Austin Animal Center, which took in a similar percentage of pit bulls and a much smaller percentage of small dogs, adopted out its dogs in around 10 days in 2016. In other words, Bergen County Animal Shelter took nearly five times longer to adopt out its dogs than Austin Animal Center. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter adopted out few dogs and took too long to do so.

The shelter also took too much time to send dogs to rescues. Specifically, Bergen County Animal Shelter took on average 42 days to send each dog to a rescue. While the shelter did not take long to send pit bulls to rescues on average, the facility sent too few of these dogs to rescue to make this a meaningful number. The shelter took on average 43 days and 45 days to send each small dog and other medium to large size breed to rescues. As a comparison, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter took on average 14 days, 6 days and 15 days to adopt out/send to rescues (almost all were sent to rescues rather than adopted out) its dogs, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds. In other words, Bergen County Animal Shelter took approximately three to seven times longer to send its dogs to rescues than the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. Therefore, even though Bergen County Animal Shelter sent few dogs to rescues, it still took way too much time to do so.

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s inability to safely place dogs quickly increases the chance animals develop behavioral problems, medical issues, and ultimately raises the cost to operate the facility. In fact, shelter medicine experts consider length of stay a “critical factor” for shelters and decreasing it is essential for reducing disease, behavioral problems, and costs. Ultimately, if a shelter wants to achieve a high live release rate it must quickly place its animals safely.

2017 Bergen County Animal Shelter Dogs Length of Stay

Too Many Cats Lose Their Lives

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat statistics in 2017 were also not good. Overall, 16% of cats lost their lives or went missing. If we just count cats the shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding owner reclaims and cats “released” through TNR and other programs), 20% of these cats lost their lives or went missing. Thus, cats were not safe at Bergen County Animal Shelter.

While I tabulated the cat statistics by age, I could not include them due to inaccuracies I noted. Specifically, the shelter had a very large number of cats with an age of zero days in their intake and disposition records report. However, when I obtained underlying records for a sample of these cats, I found a lot of these animals were different ages. Therefore, I could not conduct this analysis by age as I typically do.

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat statistics were also much worse than Austin Animal Center. While 16% of cats and 20% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Bergen County Animal Shelter in 2017, only 5% of cats and 6% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2017. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cats were three times more likely to lose their lives than cats at Austin Animal Center.

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Shelter Fails to Safely Place Cats Quickly

Cats typically do not take life in traditional shelter environments well. While shelters can modify housing and create enrichment programs to make cats happier, reducing length of stay in a good way is critical. Ultimately, shelters are unnatural and scary environments for cats and facilities must quickly place these animals to achieve high live release rates.

Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to adopt out its cats. Overall, the shelter’s average length of stay was 45 days for cats. As a comparison, Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society’s average length of stay for cats over 4 months of age and 4 months and younger in 2016 were 23 days and 27 days (most cats were adopted out). Furthermore, Longmont Humane Society moved its cats quickly out of its shelter through adoption and achieved a 92% cat live release rate (92% for older cats and 91% for 4 months and younger cats). Similarly, Williamson County Animal Shelter in Texas saved 90% of its cats and had an average cat length of stay of just 13 days in its fiscal year 2017. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to adopt out its cats.

Bergen County Animal Shelter also took too much time to send cats to rescues. Despite transferring only 9% of its cats to rescues, the shelter took 51 days to send those cats to rescues. As a comparison, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter sent significantly more cats to rescues in 2017 and only took 8 days on average to send those cats to rescues/adopters (almost all went to rescues). Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to transfer cats to rescues.

2017 Bergen County Animal Shelter Cats Length of Stay

Illegal Killing of Animals Before Seven Days

Ammo was two year old Australian Cattle Dog originally surrendered to Bergen County Animal Shelter on April 18, 2017 and adopted out on May 17, 2017. Ammo’s original evaluation noted he was a friendly dog, but had minor food guarding issues. On August 3, 2017, Ammo’s adopter returned him to the shelter for allegedly biting a family member. On that day, the owner filled out an owner requested euthanasia form and the shelter killed Ammo on that very same day. Unfortunately, the shelter provided no documentation of the severity of the bite or the circumstances. For example, was the dog provoked or did it involve an avoidable situation (e.g. being close to the dog while it had a bone)?

New Jersey animal shelter law clearly states shelters must not kill animals, whether they are strays or owner surrenders, for at least 7 days. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health recently issued guidance summarizing the law’s requirements:

Pursuant to State law (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 a. through l.) all municipalities must have a licensed animal impoundment facility (pound) designated where stray and potentially vicious animals can be safely impounded. Impounded stray animals shall be held at the pound for at least seven days (i.e., 168 hours) from the time impounded before the animal is offered for adoption or euthanized, relocated or sterilized, regardless of the animal’s temperament or medical condition.

Animals that are voluntarily surrendered by their owners to licensed pounds or shelters shall be offered for adoption for at least seven days prior to euthanasia or shelter/pound management may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such a transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal.

In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during the 7 day hold period if both of the following conditions are met as discussed in this section of the New Jersey Department of Health’s July 30, 2009 inspection report on Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the humane rationale in the animal’s medical record

Regardless of the severity of the bite, Bergen County Animal Shelter illegally killed an owner surrendered animal before seven days. Simply put, a shelter cannot kill an animal for aggression before seven days unless it is declared vicious by a New Jersey court and such court orders the killing of the dog.

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Dopg ID 1093 pt 2

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Dog ID 1093 pt 4

Cat ID# 400 was a stray young cat brought to Bergen County Animal Shelter on January 12, 2017. Four days later the shelter gave the cat a medical exam, During the exam, the cat weighed 6.22 pounds, which is a weight that is not unusually low for a stray and young cat (i.e. the cat was not completely emaciated), and gave him an FIV/FELV test. After the cat tested positive for FELV and the shelter labeled him “Feral”, the shelter killed him on the very same day. The shelter provided no documentation that this animal was hopelessly suffering.

Frankly, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s actions are outrageous. While FELV is a serious disease, many cats can live happily quite a long time with this disease. That is why shelters, such as Austin Pets Alive, adopt out FeLV positive cats successfully. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter illegally killed Cat ID# 400 only four days after he arrived at the shelter.

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Cat ID# 781 was a four year old male cat initially brought to the shelter for TNR. According to the shelter, the cat had a 4-5 cm wound, but otherwise was generally pretty healthy. For example, the cat weighed 11 pounds. However, this cat had a positive result on an FIV snap test on the day the animal arrived at the shelter. Despite many shelters successfully adopting out FIV positive cats, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed Cat ID# 781 on the day he arrived at Bergen County Animal Shelter stating the person bringing the cat to the shelter couldn’t keep the pet segregated and as an inside pet. Clearly, Bergen County Animal Shelter illegally killed a cat who was not hopelessly suffering before seven days.

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Cat ID# 781 pt 2

Shelter Kills Animals for Absurd Reasons

Beast or Dog ID# 3343 was a seven month old pit bull surrendered to Bergen County Animal Shelter on November 7, 2017. Two days later the shelter noted the owner requested they be notified if Beast failed his behavior evaluation. The owner contacted the shelter three days later stating she found someone interested in giving Beast a home. However, Bergen County Animal Shelter performed one of its infamous “evaluations” 15 days later on November 27, 2017 and stated Beast had an “unhealthy obsessive personality and high arousal, coupled with his resource guarding will eventually leave any handler injured”

How did the geniuses at Bergen County Animal Shelter determine a seven month old puppy would maul “any handler?” Despite having no bite history and taking “corrections well”, he was “very rough, rambunctious and ill-mannered.” In other words, Beast was a big puppy. The crackpot staff at Bergen County Animal Shelter also claimed he guarded a rawhide. Given that multiple studies have found shelter dog evaluations, including food/resource aggression tests, unreliable and even the creator of one of the major food/resource aggression tests has come out against using these evaluations, its amazing Bergen County Animal Shelter would use this to condemn this puppy to death. As the shelter continued to antagonize Beast during during a stranger-test, he “lunged” (but did not attack) at one of the shelter workers. In other words, the dog communicated to the staff he didn’t like what they were doing and did so without harming them. However, Beast acted “more loose” with another employee and “was willing to investigate.”

Given we know behavior evaluations in shelters are completely inaccurate, the shelter’s decision to kill this dog for acting like a big puppy, guarding a rawhide and showing non-violent protective behavior during a stressful evaluation is absurd. Even worse, the shelter refused to even attempt to modify these so-called behavior problems. In other words, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed Beast for no good reasons.

Dog ID 3343

 

Dog ID 3343 1

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Dog ID #3343 Killed

Lana was three year old Labrador retriever surrendered to the Bergen County Animal Shelter by a rescue called Pitter Patter on January 24, 2018. Apparently, the rescue’s full name is Pitter Patter Puppy House. Initially, the rescue surrendered the dog to the shelter in November and then reclaimed the animal. In January 2018, Pitter Patter surrendered the animal for good. According to the shelter, Pitter Patter surrendered Lana because of “unprovoked aggression to other dogs.” However, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s own evaluation found Lana had no issues with people, veterinarians and groomers. Despite being fine with people, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed Lana three days on February 10, 2018 after her so-called evaluation. How any “rescue” can surrender a dog, let alone for dog aggression, to a high kill shelter is beyond reprehensible.

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Lana 3

Onyx or Dog ID# 889 was an 11 month old dog surrendered to the Bergen County Animal Shelter on March 23, 2017 due to the owner having housing issues and not having the money to afford a boarding facility. According to Onyx’s owner, Onyx lived with the family since he was three months old. The owner stated they spent time everyday training Onxy, playing with him and walking him. In addition, Onyx’s owner stated the dog had no moderate or severe behavior issues. Additionally, the owner stated Onyx was crate trained, friendly with strangers, good with kids and dogs, trained and walked well on a leash.

Despite the owner clearly indicating Onyx was a wonderful dog, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s staff viewed Onyx as a terrible dog. According to Onyx’s evaluation on March 28, 2017, he “PULLED EXTREMELY HARD” when taken out of the kennel, exhibited various jumpy/mouthy behaviors, and was “obsessed” with his toy. In other words, Onyx was a big puppy, which the shelter even admitted in its evaluation. Despite Onyx being an overgrown puppy, Bergen County Animal Shelter decided to kill him on May 17, 2017 due to these so-called problems not improving. Miraculously, the shelter claimed Onyx was not a “safe adoption candidate” due to his strength and energy even though he was great with his prior family. To make matters worse, the shelter claimed they had no rescues to place their pit bulls even though the facility does not seem to make public pleas to such organizations. Bergen County Animal Shelter killed Onyx the day after the shelter’s evaluator condemned him to death.

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Dog ID 889 pt 4

Heaven was a two year old female cat surrendered to Bergen County Animal Shelter on January 25, 2017 due to her owner having cancer. According to the owner, Heaven was litter box trained, liked to be petted, enjoyed scratching posts and was an indoor cat. Given the owner was going through a crisis in their life and this cat seemed like a nice pet, you would think Bergen County Animal Shelter would make every effort to save this animal.

Bergen County Animal Shelter used its absurd cat temperament tests to kill Heaven. Like dog behavioral evaluations, these tests, which deliberately stress out cats to provoke a bad response, are discredited due to their inaccuracy. Heaven passed a behavioral evaluation given to her four days after she arrived at the shelter. She received a score of 9 points on a scale where under 10 points results in placement anywhere on the adoption floor. Apparently, Bergen County Animal Shelter wasn’t happy with saving a cancer patient’s cat since the shelter tested Heaven again on February 24, 2017. Despite this test finding Heaven approaching the evaluator in a friendly manner and not bothered by petting, the tester complained Heaven hissed, swatted and bit when she was picked up. As many cat owners know, some cats just don’t like being picked up, particularly when they are stressed. Heaven scored 16 points on this test and was placed in a middle grade of the test’s scoring scale, 11-16 points, which resulted in the shelter placing her in Cat Room 2. Bergen County Animal Shelter then tested Heaven again on March 9, 2017, putting her though the abusive provoking exercises once more, and failed her this time. Why? Apparently, after being harassed in several tests, Heaven was afraid/hiding when the people torturing this poor cat sat next to her. Bergen County Animal Shelter killed Heaven four days later.

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Heaven 1

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Heaven 5 (6)

 

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Heaven 5 (2)

Bergen County Health Department’s Bogus Inspections of Itself

The Bergen County Health Department runs the Bergen County Animal Shelter and inspects itself. As expected, the Bergen County Health Department gave itself a “Satisfactory” grade in 2017. The inspection report, which contained illegible handwriting, looked like someone spent two minutes preparing it. Most noteworthy, the inspector completely missed the animals Bergen County Animal Shelter illegally killed before seven days.

Bergen County Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for more than five months in 2017 and at least four months and counting in 2018. Under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8(b), a shelter’s license expires on June 30th each year. N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 requires a shelter to comply with state law and receive a Certificate of Inspection for the current licensing year. In other words, a shelter must be inspected and found to comply with state law by June 30th of each year to have a license to operate. Furthermore, Teterboro’s municipal clerk told me in the email below that the county health department has not inspected Bergen County Animal Shelter as of November 6, 2018 and may not inspect the shelter until next year. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for more than five months in 2017 and should not have a license to operate the shelter as of November 6, 2018.

Bergen County Health Department No Inspection of Bergen County Animal Shelter November 2018

Bergen County Residents Must Demand Much More

Sadly, Bergen County Animal Shelter continues to fail the animals entrusted in its care. Despite its $2,117,725 budget or $850 per dog and cat impounded, Bergen County Animal Shelter continues to kill large numbers of its animals. As you see in the table below, Bergen County Animal Shelter receives more government funding per impounded animal than Austin Animal Center and kills dogs at rates ranging from 5-25 times more than Austin Animal Center. Similarly, Bergen County Animal Shelter kills cats at over three times the rate as Austin Animal Center. Thus, Bergen County taxpayers are getting ripped off by this failing animal shelter.

2017 Bergen County Animal Shelter and Austin Animal Center Comparison

Clearly, Bergen County continues to operate a regressive animal shelter. As I discussed previously, Bergen County residents should be outraged that their tax dollars support a high kill shelter that conducts illegal activities and their elected leaders tried to deceive their constituents into believing it was “no kill.” If you live in Bergen County, please contact the following elected representatives and tell them you expect Bergen County to hire a top notch shelter director who will adopt the 11 step No Kill Equation and achieve live release rates well over 90% like Austin, Texas and hundreds of other communities have.

  • James Tedesco III, Bergen County Executive: 201-336-730; countyexecutive@co.bergen.nj.us
  •  Tracy Silna Zur, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-628; Tracyzur@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Thomas J. Sullivan, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6277; tsullivan@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Joan M. Voss, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6279; jvoss@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Mary J. Amoroso, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6275; mamoroso@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • David L. Ganz, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6280; DavidLGanz@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Germaine M. Ortiz, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6276; gortiz@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Steven A. Tanelli, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6278; STanelli@co.bergen.nj.us 

2017 Dog Report Cards for New Jersey Animal Shelters

In a blog from earlier this year, I disclosed New Jersey’s depressing animal shelter statistics. This blog explains why so many dogs are losing their lives in the state’s animal shelters and whether these facilities can end the killing.

Successful organizations set measurable goals and regularly monitor their performance. Examples include financial budgets, customer and employee satisfaction surveys, and product reliability metrics. Unfortunately, many animal shelters for far too long have failed to set lifesaving goals and standards. Municipalities, donors and volunteers need to know where their resources will be best utilized. Time and money are scarce resources and people should allocate these assets to organizations who will best utilize them. As a result, animal shelters need to set goals and hold their leadership and staff accountable for achieving these objectives.

Model Assesses New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Life Saving Performance

In order to assess how good of a job New Jersey animal shelters are doing, I’ve developed an analysis I call the “Life Saving Model.” While shelter performance is dependent on many variables, such as finances, facility design, local laws, etc., the most critical factor impacting potential life saving is physical space. Without having enough physical space, a shelter might not have enough time to find loving homes for its animals. Shelters can overcome financial limitations through creative fundraising or recruiting more volunteers. Similarly, organizations can save their dogs despite having run down facilities if these groups enthusiastically implement policies to get animals into loving homes quickly. As a result, my analysis focuses on making the best use of space to save the maximum number of New Jersey and nearby states dogs.

The Life Saving Model measures the number of local animals a shelter should adopt out, rescue from other facilities, send to rescues or other shelters, and euthanize. The targeted outcomes take into account each facility’s physical capacity and the number and types of dogs the organization receives from its community (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, cruelty/bite cases). I assume a target euthanasia rate, take the number of dogs actually returned to owners and then estimate how many community dogs a shelter should adopt out. To the extent space runs out, I then calculate how many dogs the shelter must send to rescues. If the shelter has excess space after properly serving its local community, the facility uses that room to rescue and adopt out dogs from nearby areas. The targeted results calculated from this model are compared to the actual or estimated actual results from each shelter below.

For shelters with animal control contracts, I place 10% of all dogs that are not reclaimed by owners into the targeted sent to rescue category. Austin Pets Alive used data from Austin Animal Center, which is the local municipal shelter, to determine large dogs with behavioral challenges are part of the last 10% of animals losing their lives. While shelters can save most of these dogs through behavioral rehabilitation and/or foster programs, I decided to put an estimate of these dogs into the sent to rescue category since that is another good outcome for these dogs.

My analysis puts a cap on the targeted numbers of dogs rescued from other shelters and adoptions. While my unmodified targeted numbers of rescued and adopted animals are quite achievable, I want to provide very conservative goals for New Jersey animals shelters. For example, the unmodified model resulted in a statewide per capita dog adoption rate of around 30% to 70% of the level found at some of the nation’s best animal control shelters. Similarly, the unmodified model yielded a statewide pit bull per capita adoption rate (2.0 pit bulls per 1,000 people) that is less than the pit bull per capita adoption rate at one of the best animal control shelters in the country. In my opinion, New Jersey shelters could more easily achieve that per capita pit bull adoption rate given my model includes far fewer dogs from competing breeds than those in this role model animal control shelter.

My modified analysis capped pit bull adoptions at 2 pit bulls per 1,000 people within each New Jersey county. In other words, the targeted numbers of dogs rescued from other shelters and adopted below are the lesser of

  1. Number predicted by model
  2. Number determined by capping pit bull adoptions at 2 pit bulls per 1,000 people in the county

In simple terms, a shelter is expected to achieve this per capita adoption rate unless the facility lacks enough space. If a shelter does not have sufficient room, it won’t have the time to reach all the potential adopters and requires assistance from rescues and/or other facilities. Given my model assumes 80% of rescued dogs are pit bull like dogs, my targeted numbers of dogs rescued and adopted are quite low as detailed in the section below. For example, shelters in counties where dog adoptions are capped have extra space that they do not use to adopt out other dog breeds.

To read specific details and assumptions used in the model, please see the Appendix at the end of this blog.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Contain Enough Space to Save All of New Jersey’s Dogs and Many More from Other States

New Jersey’s animal shelter system has enough space to save all of the state’s healthy and treatable dogs. The table below details the targeted numbers of dog outcomes the New Jersey animal shelter system should achieve. Out of the 22,391 New Jersey dogs coming into the state’s animal shelters in 2017, 10,928 and 1,590 dogs should have been adopted out and sent to other shelters/rescues by the facilities originally taking the dogs in. However, other New Jersey animal shelters had more than enough capacity to rescue the 1,590 dogs from space constrained facilities. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters should be able to able to adopt out every single healthy and treatable dog taken in from the state and not require any support from rescue organizations without physical facilities from a space perspective.

New Jersey animal shelters have enough excess space to save many dogs from out of state as well. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters had enough physical capacity to rescue and adopt out 10,070 dogs from out of state after achieving a 95% live release rate for New Jersey dogs. To put this number into perspective, New Jersey animal shelters could make both New York City and Philadelphia no kill cities for dogs and increase those cities’ dog live release rates to 95% in 2017 as follows:

  • New York City – 1,304 additional dogs need saving
  • Philadelphia – 935 additional dogs need saving

Additionally, New Jersey animal shelters could save another 7,831 dogs from other locations outside of the state. Of course, some New Jersey animal shelters do pull some dogs from New York City and Philadelphia animal control shelters. However, most of these dogs are likely easy to adopt and therefore have short lengths of stay. As a result, the additional number of dogs New Jersey animal shelters could save from New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere is probably not much lower than the figures above. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters could make New Jersey a no kill state for dogs as well as many other places.

These adoption goals are quite achievable when comparing the performance of well-run animal control shelters across the country. New Jersey animal shelters would only need to adopt out 2.5 dogs per 1,000 people in the state (1.4 dogs if no dogs rescued from out of state). As a comparison, recent per capita dog adoption numbers from several high performing no kill open admission shelters are as follows:

  • Lynchburg Humane Society (Lynchburg, Virginia) – 10.7 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Longmont Humane Society (Longmont, Colorado area) – 10.5 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Nevada Humane Society (Reno, Nevada and Carson City, Nevada areas) – 8.5 dogs per 1,000 people
  • KC Pet Project (Kansas City, Missouri) – 6.5 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Humane Society of Fremont County (Fremont County, Colorado) – 5.8 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Williamson County Animal Shelter (Williamson County, Texas) – 5.5 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Lake County Animal Shelter (Lake County, Florida) – 4.6 dogs per 1,000 people

Thus, many communities are already adopting out around two to four times as many dogs as the goal set for New Jersey animal shelters.

Some naysayers may claim New Jersey would have a more difficult time due to the state’s shelters taking in many pit bulls. However, this is a myth. My model estimates New Jersey animal shelters would need to adopt out roughly 0.5 pit bulls per 1,000 people to save 95% of New Jersey’s dogs. Our shelters would only need to adopt out around 1.4 pit bulls per 1,000 people if New Jersey shelters also rescued and adopted out the targeted number of pit bulls from other states. As a comparison, I estimate Longmont Humane Society adopts out 2.2 pit bulls per 1,000 people based on the number of pit bulls impounded in 2014 as a percentage of total dogs impounded in 2014 and multiplying that number by the 10.5 dogs per 1,000 people adoption rate in 2017. Furthermore, the pit bull adoption targets are even more reasonable given the model assumes there are roughly 1/8 of the number of dogs from other breeds to compete with in the New Jersey adoption market compared to the Longmont, Colorado area.

2017 New Jersey Dog Targeted Outcomes

Animal Deaths Vary Widely at New Jersey Animal Shelters

The goal of any properly managed animal shelter is to save all of its healthy and treatable animals. In some cases, such as selective admission rescue oriented shelters, it is pretty easy to not kill animals. In addition, other animal shelters with easy to service animal control contracts (i.e. few animals impounded, most strays quickly returned to owners) can avoid unnecessary killing due to having lots of extra space. As a result, some shelters may have an easier time than others in preventing killing at their shelters.

The tables below detail the estimated dog death rates. All dogs missing are assumed “dead” based on the assumption they died or went to a very bad place. As discussed in a prior blog, the estimated death rate includes “Other” outcomes as animals who died or went missing along with dogs reported as killed. Based on my review of a number of shelters’ underlying documents, virtually all of the dogs in the “Other” outcome category died or went missing. Shelters having estimated dog death rates equal to or less than and greater than 5% are highlighted in green and red in the table below.

The Humane Society of Atlantic County and St. Hubert’s-Noah’s Ark had unusually high estimated dog death rates of 11% and 8% (St. Hubert’s estimated death rates reflect an adjustment for the organization’s Sister Shelter Waystation program discussed in this blog). These facilities’ estimated death rates are very high for rescue oriented shelters with no animal control contracts and raise serious questions about how life and death decisions are made by these organizations. The estimated death rates at other rescue oriented shelters, such as Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge and Animal Welfare Association (both had estimated dog death rates of 1%) are much lower than the Humane Society of Atlantic County and St. Hubert’s-Noah’s Ark. Thus, the Humane Society of Atlantic County’s and St. Hubert’s-Noah’s Ark’s estimated dog deaths rate are extremely high for rescue oriented shelters.

Certain shelters may kill a larger percentage of local animals. Since a number of both rescue oriented and shelters with animal control contracts transport large numbers of highly adoptable dogs from out of state, its helpful to look at their estimated death rates for just local animals. Unfortunately, shelters do not provide data to precisely compute this local dog death rate. If we assume these shelters only killed the generally less adoptable local dogs, we can estimate the local dog death rate as follows:

Total Dogs Killed and in Other Outcomes (died, missing)/(Total Dogs Impounded-Total Dogs Transported In from Other States)

When we calculate this estimated local death rate, a number of shelters stand out. The Humane Society of Atlantic County’s estimated dog death rate rises from 11% to 21% under this calculation. Additionally, St. Hubert’s-Madison’s estimated dog death rate increases from 10% to 48% under this calculation. While these facilities may not be only killing local dogs and therefore may have lower local dog death rates, I think its very possible these shelters’ local dog death rates are significantly higher than their total estimated dog death rates in the tables below.

The largest number of dogs unnecessarily dying occurred at a relatively small number of shelters. Specifically, 12 out of 93 or 13% of the shelters accounted for 80% of the estimated 1,507 dogs unnecessarily losing their lives under the model’s assumptions. In fact, Associated Humane Societies-Newark, which broke state shelter law left and right in 2017 per New Jersey Department of Health inspection reports, and Trenton Animal Shelter, which also violated state shelter law last year per a state health department inspection report, accounted for 31% of the dogs needlessly losing their lives at New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the greatest number of unnecessary dog deaths (assuming all dogs killed were local animals) are as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies – Newark (338)
  • St. Hubert’s – Madison (138)
  • Trenton Animal Shelter (134)
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter (128)
  • Camden County Animal Shelter (83)
  • Hamilton Township Animal Shelter (76)
  • Associated Humane Societies – Tinton Falls (66)

Thus, the bulk of the dogs unnecessarily dying at New Jersey animals shelters occurs at a small number of facilities.

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Most New Jersey Animal Shelters Require Little Rescue Assistance

Some animal shelters will require more support from rescues and animal shelters with excess space than others. If a shelter has relatively high intake, very limited space, and few stray dogs returned to owners, it will need more help than other shelters. In an ideal world, rescues would take all shelter animals. However, due to limited numbers of foster homes, lesser ability to find foster homes due to many rescue organizations’ small sizes, and most rescues’ restrictive adoption policies, all shelters cannot heavily rely on rescues. The tables below compare the number of dogs a shelter should transfer to other organizations per the model and the number of dogs actually sent to other animal welfare groups. Shelters marked in green are receiving less than the expected rescue support while facilities marked in red are receiving too much rescue help.

Overall, most New Jersey animal shelters require little rescue support if space-constrained facilities fast-track their most highly adoptable dogs. Shelter medicine experts advocate prioritizing the processing of highly adoptable animals to make the best use of space and reduce disease. For example, making sure these animals are the first to get spayed/neutered and vaccinated and receive microchips to ensure they can leave as soon as the shelter finds a good home.

54 shelters received too much help, 17 facilities received just enough assistance and 22 shelters received too little help from other animal welfare organizations. However, the excess dogs rescued (1,743 dogs) at shelters receiving too much assistance was far higher than the rescue deficits at other shelters (232 dogs) resulting in the state’s shelters sending 1,511 more dogs than needed to rescues and other animal welfare organizations. Northern Ocean Animal Facility and Southern Ocean Animal Facility received less rescue support than needed. However, neither of the shelters reported rescues taking any animals, which raises questions as to whether these shelters correctly reported their data (i.e. counting animals sent to rescues as adoptions). Nonetheless, the New Jersey shelter system as a whole is receiving enough rescue assistance, but some shelters are hurt by rescues pulling animals from less needy facilities.

Rescue groups and shelters with extra space should pull dogs from kill shelters with the highest rescue “target” numbers and deficits in the tables below. If shelters not needing rescue support get that extra help, these shelters will not take the steps necessary to properly run their facilities. As a result of enabling poorly performing shelters and not pulling dogs from truly space constrained facilities, rescuing dogs from shelters with enough space leads to less lifesaving.

Shelters receiving less than needed rescue support should also examine their own policies and performance. Are the shelter’s operating processes allowing too many animals to get sick and therefore discouraging organizations to rescue their animals due to subsequent medical costs? Does the shelter actively reach out to rescues/other shelters and treat them with respect? Does the shelter make it convenient for other organizations to pull their animals?

Given killing animals for space is intolerable, the space-constrained shelters need to expand their effective dog capacity. These facilities could use extra space in their buildings to house dogs on a short-term basis. These shelters can enter into arrangements with local veterinarians to house and adopt out some dogs. Furthermore, shelters can create or expand foster programs to increase the number of dogs cared for. Additionally, creating a pet owner surrender prevention program, implementing a proper managed intake policy (i.e. where animals are impounded when in danger and waiting periods for owner surrenders are relatively short) and making serious efforts to return lost dogs to owners could free up space in these shelters. Finally, space-constrained shelters with multiple animal control contracts should terminate some of these arrangements to bring their capacity for care in line with the number of dogs they take in. As a result, space constrained shelters still need to take active steps to reduce killing rather than simply solely relying on rescue support.

In certain circumstances, it may make sense for shelters with excess space to send dogs to rescues. For example, a unique breed or a dog needing very specialized behavioral or medical rehabilitation. However, these cases are accounted for in my targeted sent to rescue figures for animal control shelters.

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Most New Jersey Animal Shelters Fail to Come Close to Reaching Their Local Dog Adoption Potential

We can assess each shelter’s contribution to making New Jersey and nearby areas no kill. While a shelter may be able to avoid killing healthy and treatable animals, it still may not live up to its potential for adopting out local dogs. On the other hand, a space constrained shelter may kill healthy and treatable dogs, but still do a good job adopting animals out.

The tables below compare the number of dogs from New Jersey and nearby states each animal shelter should adopt out with the estimated number of local dogs actually adopted out.

Many rescue oriented shelters likely pull much easier to adopt dogs than the bulk of dogs needing to get rescued from local facilities. Thus, the results from rescue oriented shelters may look better than they actually are.

Few organizations reached or exceeded their adoption targets. Specifically, only 10 out of 93 shelters met the adoptions goals computed by the Life Saving Model. Thus, the overwhelming number of New Jersey animal shelters need to step up their adoption efforts.

A number of other rescue oriented shelters exceeded their adoption targets, but this may at least partially be due to the types of dogs they impounded.  Common Sense for Animals operates more like a rescue oriented than an animal control shelter. While this organization exceeded its adoption targets, the shelter’s figures were off by 128 dogs using the methodology outlined in another blog. This makes me wonder if their adoption numbers were accurate. Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, which also operates more like a rescue oriented shelter than an animal control facility, exceeded its adoption target. However, this shelter appears to mostly rescue easier to adopt dogs from New Jersey animal shelters. Other rescue oriented shelters, such as Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter and Animal Welfare Association also exceeded their adoption targets, but this is likely due to these organizations rescuing easier to adopt dogs from New Jersey shelters. Thus, I believe most of these rescue oriented shelters’ high local dog adoption numbers were due to these organizations selecting easier to adopt dogs.

Pequannock Animal Shelter’s higher than targeted local dog adoption result is a bit misleading. This facility benefited from the method I used to cap adoptions in the county and reduce the adoption targets for these two shelters. For example, the shelter only reached 61% of its adoption target using my unadjusted model only taking the shelter’s physical space into account. Since Morris County has many shelters that collectively have a very large capacity (i.e. very high adoption potential), my model reduces all Morris County animal shelters’ target adoptions to my county adoption cap. Therefore, Pequannock Animal Shelter has a relatively low dog adoption target. Thus, this shelter really didn’t do an excellent job adopting out dogs.

Three animal control shelters deserve mentioning. Camden County Animal Shelter exceeded its adoption target by 40 dogs. As a large county shelter that includes a poor urban area, this is an impressive result. Similarly, Burlington County Animal Shelter, which also takes in many dogs, exceeded its dog adoption target by 82 dogs. Ewing Animal Shelter, which is operated by EASEL Animal Rescue League, adopted out 19 more dogs than its adoption target. Unsurprisingly, all three shelters had dog live release rates exceeding 90% in 2017 (Camden County Animal Shelter: 92%, Burlington County Animal Shelter: 96%, EASEL Animal Rescue League: 98%) and all three facilities provide either condensed or full statistics on their web sites.

Shelters adopting out the fewest animals in total relative to their targets were as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies-Newark – 1,412 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Monmouth SPCA – 629 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Associated Humane Societies-Popcorn Park – 593 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Plainfield Area Humane Society – 486 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Bergen County Animal Shelter – 458 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Tyco Animal Control – Paramus – 388 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Trenton Animal Shelter – 383 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • St. Hubert’s – Madison – 338 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Shake a Paw-Union – 334 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Paterson Animal Shelter – 313 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Jersey Shore Animal Center – 310 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Cumberland County SPCA – 302 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls – 300 fewer dogs adopted than targeted

Unsurprisingly, Associated Humane Societies has archaic adoption policies that make it more difficult to adopt than the procedures recommended from national animal welfare organizations. Furthermore, Associated Humane Societies-Newark, Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls, Trenton Animal Shelter, Paterson Animal Shelter, Monmouth SPCA, Paterson Animal Shelter and Bergen County Animal Shelter had troublesome stories involving the shelters and/or prominent people affiliated with these organizations over the last several years. Shake a Paw-Union’s low local adoption numbers are not surprising since it also operates a for profit pet store and transports almost all of its dogs it rescues from out of state. Finally, Plainfield Area Humane Society’s local dog adoption deficit is quite disturbing since this organization could easily take on Plainfield’s dogs who currently go to the horrific and high kill Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

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Shelters Fail to Use Excess Space to Save Local Dogs

To further examine New Jersey animal shelters’ performance in saving the state’s homeless dogs, I compared the targeted number of dogs each shelter should pull from nearby shelters and compared it to the number actually rescued from local facilities. I assume all reported out of state rescued dogs came from southern or other far away states (except for Animal Alliance due to the shelter stating it primarily pulls out of state dogs from Pennsylvania). While some of the out of state rescued dogs may have comes from nearby areas, I believe this is a small number and does not significantly impact the results.

Virtually all New Jersey animal shelters are failing to rescue the number of local dogs they should. 90 of the 93 shelters should rescue some dogs from other local shelters. In fact, 41 of the 90 shelters with targeted excess capacity failed to rescue even a single dog from a New Jersey animal shelter. Of the 90 shelters that should have rescued dogs, the following shelters were the only facilities that met or exceeded their local dog rescue targets:

  1. Animal Adoption Center – 179 more dogs rescued than targeted
  2. Animal Welfare Association – 77 more dogs rescued than targeted
  3. Burlington County Animal Shelter – 76 more dogs rescued than targeted
  4. Somerset Regional Animal Shelter – 73 more dogs rescued than targeted
  5. Humane Society of Atlantic County – 32 more dogs rescued than targeted
  6. Ewing Animal Shelter (EASEL) – 21 more dogs rescued than targeted
  7. Beacon Animal Rescue – 19 more dogs rescued than targeted
  8. Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter – 12 more dogs rescued than targeted
  9. Harmony Animal Hospital – 10 more dogs rescued than targeted
  10. Gloucester County Animal Shelter – 5 more dogs rescued than targeted
  11. Trenton Animal Shelter – 4 more dogs rescued than targeted

As mentioned above, many of these shelters local rescue numbers are inflated due to these organizations cherry picking highly adoptable animals to rescue. Thus, nearly all New Jersey animal shelters with targeted excess capacity are failing to do their share in ending the killing of local healthy and treatable dogs.

Camden County Animal Shelter also deserves mentioning. This facility rescued 380 dogs from other New Jersey shelters last year. While this is an obviously good thing, this may have artificially decreased this shelter’s estimated local death rate by as much as 2% if it only pulled highly adoptable dogs.

Shelters can overcome challenges in rescuing dogs from outside their service area. In some cases, municipalities may frown on government run shelters using taxpayer funds to rescue dogs from elsewhere. However, shelter directors at these facilities can encourage individuals to form a non-profit or raise money on their own to pay for these rescued dogs. Additionally, shelters with limited capacity or even some of the well-off private shelters could contribute funding for each dog rescued. For example, Maddie’s Fund paid an approximate $160 subsidy to rescues pulling dogs from New York Animal Care & Control. Similarly, private shelters with excess space, but limited financial resources, could expand their fundraising efforts to save more local dogs. Thus, perceived obstacles to rescuing local dogs can and should be overcome.

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New Jersey Animal Shelters Need to Form Life-Saving Coalitions

The improper allocation of space within the state’s animal shelter system requires organizations to form coalitions. While putting a competent and compassionate director in every shelter would likely be even more effective, that will likely take time to do. No kill coalitions between animal control facilities and selective admission shelters have been used in places, such as Portland, Oregon, Reno, Nevada, Jacksonville, Florida and Austin, Texas to radically increase life saving. Maddie’s Fund, which has supported using coalitions for over a decade, has many resources for organizations seeking to collaborate with each other. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters need to formally work together, develop quantifiable and measurable goals (such as the targeted outcomes in this blog), and hold each organization accountable for meeting these benchmarks.

Sobering Results Require Shelter Leaders to Critically Examine Themselves

Shelters should examine the reasons why their adoption numbers fall far short of these benchmarks. In some cases, shelters need to expand the hours they are open for adoptions. Many shelters should switch from an overly judgmental adoption process based on black and white rules to a conversational one focused on educating the adopter. Organizations will need to radically increase their off-site events and do same day adoptions. Similarly, many shelters must reduce adoption fees and run frequent promotions. Executive Directors should monitor the latest life-saving programs on Maddie’s Fund’s, ASPCA Pro’s, American Pets Alive Conference’s, and the Best Friends National Conference’s web sites and put some of these policies into place. Shelter management teams will need to ensure their facilities are clean and customers are treated with respect (this can be measured by encouraging the public to complete surveys). Thus, poorly performing shelters need to stop making excuses and do what it takes to reach their adoption potential.

We can turn New Jersey, New York City and Philadelphia into no kill communities. It is time we give our money and volunteer efforts to organizations who raise their performance to help us reach that goal. To do otherwise, would betray all the animals whose lives are on the line.

Appendix – Life Saving Model Assumptions

The Life Saving Model utilizes the following basic animal shelter population equations to calculate the targeted dog outcomes for each facility:

Daily capacity or population = Daily animal intake x average length of stay

Average length of stay = Daily capacity or population/daily intake

Each shelter’s community dog intake (i.e. owner surrenders, strays, cruelty bite cases), number of dogs returned to owners, and maximum dog capacity were taken from its 2017 “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health.

This data was then used as follows:

  • Community dog intake and dogs returned to owners were initially estimated for each month by dividing the annual figures by 12. In order to take into account the extra space in low intake months and reduced space in high intake months, we multiply that number by each month’s percentage of the average month. For example, assume 240 dogs were taken in during the year and the average month equals 20 dogs (240/12). In July, the dog intake is 120% higher than the average month and we therefore multiply 20 dogs by 1.2 to equal 24 dogs. If 120 dogs were returned to owners during the year, the estimated number of dogs returned to owners in July would equal 12 dogs (120/12 = 10; 10*1.2). The monthly intake percentages were based off the average of the 2017 dog intake data on New York Animal Care & Control’s and ACCT Philly’s web sites.
  • The estimated number of community dogs returned to owners each month are then assumed to stay 5 days on average at shelters based on data from other shelters across the country. If anything, this estimate is conservative (i.e. average length of stay for dogs returned to owners may be less than 5 days and therefore frees up more shelter space for adoptions) based on some shelters returning the bulk of their dogs to owners within 3 days.
  • The number of community dogs euthanized (including animals who died or are missing) is set to equal 5% of intake. 5% is a reasonable standard euthanasia rate for shelters in New Jersey to meet given few vulnerable stray puppies (i.e. who could die or require euthanasia) arrive in the state’s animal shelters. The average length of stay for euthanized dogs is assumed to equal 14.5 days. Half of dogs are assumed euthanized for untreatable aggression towards people and 21 days is the time estimated to make that determination. The other half of dogs are assumed euthanized for severe and untreatable health issues and I estimate these dogs are euthanized after 8 days (subsequent to the end of the stray hold and owner surrender protection periods).
  • Adopted dogs are assumed to stay at shelters for varying lengths of time. Adoption length of stay was based on data from a study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare and the figures used (except for space-constrained shelters) are located in a prior blog on pit bull adoption. The data primarily comes from Tompkins County SPCA during a time it saved over 90% of its dogs. This was a fairly conservative data set to use as other no kill open admission shelters’ average length of stay are substantially shorter. Specifically, the following assumptions were made:
    1. 80% and 20% of each communities dogs (including pit bulls) were adults 1 year and older and under 1 year.
    2. Pit bulls were assumed to comprise 50%, 35% and 25% of community dog intake at poor, middle/upper middle class, and wealthy area animal control shelters. While some shelters may have pit bulls comprising more than 50% of their shelter dog population at a given time, this is due to pit bulls longer average length of stay. For example, a shelter with pit bulls making up 50% of their dog intake and pit bulls having an average length of stay three times longer than other dogs will have pit bulls constituting 75% of the dog population. Shelters without animal control contracts were assumed to only have pit bulls make up 10% of their community dogs (i.e. strays and owner surrenders) based on most of these shelters’ highly selective admission practices.
    3. Pit bull adoption length of stay was taken directly from the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare study. The average adoption lengths of stay for other breeds from this study were averaged and used for dogs other than pit bulls in the analysis
  • Space constrained shelters were assumed to adopt out their easiest to adopt animals first until they ran out of space. To estimate the average adoption length of stay, I used pit bull adoption length of stay data from Greenhill Humane Society from March 2013 through May 2015. I broke the adoption length of stay data into 5 groups that each made up 20% of the data. The average adoption length of stay for each of these 5 groups was calculated. The average adoption length of stay of each group was divided by the average length of stay for all of the adopted pit bulls in the Greenhill Humane Society data set. Those percentages were then multiplied by the average dog adoption length of stay determined in the previous bullet and used to determine the adoption lengths of stay used for space-constrained shelters.
  • Dogs transferred to rescue or other facilities are assumed to stay at shelters 8 days on average based on the assumption strays can’t be released until the 7 day hold period elapses.
  • Community dogs not returned to owners or euthanized are initially assumed as adopted for each month. However, if the calculated length of stay exceeds the shelter’s required length of stay, dogs are moved from adoption (i.e. longer length of stay) to rescue (i.e. shorter length of stay) until the calculated length of stay each month approximately equals the required length of stay.
  • Animal control shelters have a minimum of 10% of unclaimed dogs go to rescues. To the extent shelters transfer 10% of unclaimed dogs to rescues despite having space (i.e. reclassifying dogs from adoptions with a longer length of stay to rescues with a shorter length of stay), I do not require these facilities to use that space to rescue additional dogs.
  • Required length of stay = Shelter’s reported capacity/adjusted daily intake for the month. Adjusted daily intake for month = Adjusted monthly intake per first bullet above/the number of days in the month.
  • Shelters with excess capacity are assumed to use the extra space to rescue and adopt out dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. To the extent all healthy and treatable New Jersey animal shelter dogs are saved, I assume additional dogs are pulled from nearby states with similar types of dogs. I assume all rescued dogs will not be killed since the transferring and receiving shelters should evaluate these dogs’ behavior. Based on pit bull type dogs having longer lengths of stay at shelters, I assume 80% of dogs rescued from local animal shelters are pit bulls and 20% are non-pit bulls. 80% and 20% of pit bull and non-pit bull type dogs are considered 1 year and older and under 1 year. The average length of stay for rescued pit bulls and other dogs are the same as the adoption length of stay figures above.
  • Each month’s targeted outcomes are added to determine how many local dogs New Jersey animal shelters should adopt out, send to rescue, rescue from other nearby animal shelters and euthanize.
  • The targeted number of dogs rescued and adopted were capped at 2 pit bulls per 1,000 people in each county. If the model yielded a higher result than this cap, the targeted numbers of dogs adopted were set to equal to this cap using the pit bull percentage assumptions above. For shelters in these counties (except Passaic County), I calculated the cap at the county level and then reduced the number of cats adopted for the county to equal the cap. I excluded West Milford from Passaic County due the town’s large distance from the population centers in the rest of the county. Each shelter’s percentage of total targeted adoptions in the county from the unmodified model were applied to the the total reduction in the number of adoptions in the county to yield the targeted numbers of dogs adopted in the modified model. If the shelter also rescued animals from other shelters, the rescued numbers were also reduced since I assume rescued animals are adopted.

Clifton Animal Shelter Can’t Comply with State Law

In my last blog, I discussed Clifton Animal Shelter’s senseless killing of healthy and treatable animals. That blog detailed Clifton Animal Shelter routinely breaking state law when it killed animals during the state’s seven day protection period. Did Clifton Animal Shelter break other laws during 2017?

Inhumane and Illegal Killing Methods

Clifton Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not specify how the shelter killed or euthanized animals as required by state law. Specifically, the records do not state whether the shelter euthanized/killed each animal by an intravenous (preferred method), intraperitoneal or intracardiac (i.e. heart sticking) injection. Per New Jersey law, shelters can only use intraperitoneal injections on comatose animals and neonatal kittens. Under this method, animals are injected in the abdominal cavity and can take up to 30 minutes to die. Heart sticking, as the name implies, involves stabbing an animal in the heart with Fatal Plus poison and New Jersey shelters can only use this method on heavily sedated, anesthetized or comatose animals. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not indicate whether animals are in fact humanely euthanized.

To make matters worse, Clifton Animal Shelter’s records indicated the facility did not even weigh animals prior to killing them. In other words, the shelter could have not provided enough sedatives to calm the animals and not enough euthanasia drugs to kill them. Therefore, animals could have experienced stress and pain during the procedure and then may have been dumped or put into an incinerator while still alive.

Clifton Animal Shelter also used excessive doses of Ketamine. The shelter administered 1.0 to 2.0 milliliters of Ketamine to virtually every adult cat it killed. The product label states 1 milliliter of the Ketamine drug contains 100 milligrams of the active Ketamine ingredient. In addition, the product label states cats requiring restraint should receive a dose of 5 milligrams/pound of cat. The product label also states veterinary personnel should use a dose of 10-15 milligrams/pound of cat to produce anesthesia. Based on most cats weighing 8 pounds, that means the cats should have only received 40-120 milligrams or 0.4-1.2 milliliters of the Ketamine drug. In other words, Clifton Animal Shelter provided doses of up to five times greater than the label indicates. Given large doses can “produce convulsions and seizures”, this indicates many animals could have experienced agony prior to their killing.

Clifton Animal Shelter Sedative Log Example

Clifton Animal Shelter Fatal Plug Log

To make matters worse, Clifton Animal Shelter had no records showing how it used another sedative, Xylazine, despite the facility purchasing significant quantities of this drug. While the shelter is not required to keep controlled dangerous substance logs of Xylazine under existing law, the facility must detail how much of this substance it gave to animals it killed under N.J.A.C 8.23A-1-11(f)(4).  Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter either broke state law by not recording its use of Xylazine, violated the Open Public Records Act by not providing the records I requested or spent $456 on drugs it didn’t use.

Clifton Animal Shelter's 2017 Purchases of Sedatives

If this was not bad enough, Clifton Animal Shelter violated New Jersey’s controlled dangerous substance law by having Ketamine at the shelter. As you can see here, Ketamine is a Schedule III Controlled Substance. Per the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs, animal shelters cannot have Ketamine at their shelters unless the controlled substance is the property of the veterinarian. As the invoice above shows, Parkview Animal Hospital sold Ketamine to Clifton Animal Shelter. Furthermore, Clifton Animal Shelter does not have an in-house veterinarian. Therefore, the shelter illegally kept Ketamine in the facility.

Animal Shelters Holding of Controlled Dangerous Substances

Local Health Department Inspection Report Reveals Big Problems

The Clifton Health Department inspected Clifton Animal Shelter on July 25, 2017 and found serious issues. You can read the full inspection report here. The shelter’s dog kennel area had rodent droppings and the dogs likely had the rodents enter their enclosures. How did the rodents likely get into this area? The shelter had holes in the floors and open containers of dog food. Therefore, the shelter effectively lured rodents into the facility with open containers of food and gave the rodents a clear path inside by leaving holes in the floors unfixed.

Clifton Animal Shelter did not have a legally required isolation area. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(g)N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(h) and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(i), a shelter must have a separate isolation area. What did the shelter use instead? A bathroom that the animal control officer claimed had a separate ventilation system. Call me crazy, but I’m highly skeptical that a facility which can’t fix holes in the floor and leaves food containers open would build a separate ventilation system for its bathroom. Regardless of the ventilation system, a bathroom is too small to serve as isolation room and presents other challenges if people also use the bathroom. For example, people coming in and then spreading disease to the rest of the facility. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter lacked one of the key required features of an animal shelter.

The shelter did not have a scale to weigh animals. This finding confirms my suspicion, which was based on the shelter not listing weights of the animals it killed and euthanized, that the facility did not weigh animals prior to killing animals. Therefore, Clifton Animal Shelter could have easily provided excessive doses of Ketamine, which can “produce convulsions and seizures”, and/or not provided enough Fatal Plus to ensure animals were actually dead. As a result, Clifton Animal Shelter could have easily dumped animals in a landfill or placed pets into an incinerator who were still alive.

Clifton Animal Shelter also was not open the required hours according to the signs on its doors at the time. Under N.J.AC. 8.23A-1.10(b)(1), a shelter must be open at least two hours each weekday and two hours on Saturday or Sunday. However, the shelter’s signs said it was only open one and a half hours each weekday. While the signs on the shelter’s door now indicate Clifton Animal Shelter is open long enough to meet state law requirements, the facility is hardly ever open to adopters. Specifically, the shelter is only open from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Monday to Friday and Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm. In other words, the shelter is only open on average two hours each day. Furthermore, the facility is closed on Saturdays (except for appointments) despite people adopting many animals on this day at other shelters.

The shelter also lacked a disease control program that was certified by its supervising veterinarian. Given having a disease control program certified by a licensed veterinarian is extremely important and required by state law, this is a serious problem. While the shelter did have a veterinarian certify its disease control program in 2018, the actual program did not provide adequate detail, particularly regarding different types and ages of animals as well as addressing the mental health and “stress” of animals as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-19(d)(2).

Despite all these significant problems plus the shelter illegally killing animals before seven days, the Clifton Health Department remarkably gave Clifton Animal Shelter a “Satisfactory” rating. As regular readers know, local health departments typically are incapable of conducting proper inspections of animal shelters due to incompetence and conflicts of interest. Therefore, a state health department inspection would likely find many more significant problems.

Clifton Animal Shelter Inspection Report Notes Part 1

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Clifton Animal Shelter Hours

The Montclair Health Department inspected Clifton Animal Shelter on July 6, 2018 and also found some problems. During the obviously too short one hour and twenty minute inspection, the Montclair Health Department noted Clifton Animal Shelter had no written euthanasia instructions posted in the facility and its euthanasia records still did not list body weights as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(f). Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter may have continued to kill animals inhumanely in 2018.

Given Montclair Health Department’s history of missing obvious violations of state law at its town shelter in the past and having no records of legally required annual inspections in 2010 and 2012, one should assume this was a poor quality inspection.

Montclair Health Department Finds Euthanasia Violations at Clifton Animal Shelter

Clifton Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for 25 days in 2017 and six days in 2018. Under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8(b), a shelter’s license expires on June 30th each year. N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 requires a shelter to comply with state law and receive a Certificate of Inspection for the current licensing year. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate during 25 days in 2017 and six days in 2018.

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Finally, both inspection reports confirmed the conclusion from my last blog that Clifton Animal Shelter killed animals with empty kennels. Despite both inspections taking place during a time of the year when shelters are crowded due to high intake, Clifton Animal Shelter only housed 5 dogs and 28 cats during the July 25, 2017 inspection and 6 dogs and 26 cats during the July 6, 2018 inspection. As a comparison, Clifton Animal Shelter reported having a capacity of 16 dogs and 52 cats in its 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed animals around the times it only used about one third of its dog capacity and one half of its cat capacity.

Friends of the Shelter Take Adoption Fees from Animal Shelter

As I discussed in my last blog, Friends of the Shelter is an organization that controls the volunteer program at the shelter and also has the option to save animals Clifton Animal Shelter plans to kill. According to the shelter’s intake and disposition records, a number of these animals remain at the shelter.

As you can see from the emails below, the adoption fees for all the cats and dogs adopted from the shelter during the month of June in 2017 went to Friends of the Shelter and not Clifton Animal Shelter. While the agreement between Friends of the Shelter and Clifton Animal Shelter, which you can find here and here, does require Friends of the Shelter to pay any subsequent costs after the transfer of an animal takes place, I am skeptical that Friends of the Shelter is assuming 100% of the costs given the animals are housed in the city’s shelter.

Friends of Animal Shelter Adoption Fees

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Most importantly, I’m struck between the performance of Friends of the Shelter and EASEL Animal Rescue League. Prior to 2015, when EASEL Animal Rescue League took over managing Ewing Animal Shelter, it also had a similar arrangement to Friends of the Shelter in many respects. However, EASEL Animal Rescue League is a proud no kill organization. We see this difference when we look at the 2014 kill rates of Ewing Animal Shelter and Clifton Animal Shelter. In 2014, Ewing Animal Shelter only euthanized 3% of its dogs and 1% of its cats while Clifton Animal Shelter killed 13% of its dogs and 39% of its cats. Thus, Friends of the Shelter is not performing at the level it should be.

While Friends of the Shelter obviously does some good work, their leadership seems behind the times. For example, I could not find an active Facebook page from this group or the animal shelter itself. While a Clifton Animal Shelter Facebook page exists, its “unofficial” and just has information about the facility and reviews (i.e. animals up for adoption are not posted). In 2018, its shocking that any animal shelter or rescue group would not have a Facebook page.

Clifton Residents Must Demand Better

The saying “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” perfectly applies to the Clifton Animal Shelter. What do visitors see when they enter the door to the shelter? A sign showing the facility is virtually never open and a threat of imprisonment if the person leaves an animal outside the building. Obviously, this is not welcoming to adopters who walk in the door.

Clifton Animal Shelter Hours

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Clifton Animal Shelter is not serving the city’s homeless animals and residents well. In 2017, Clifton Animal Shelter impounded just 4.9 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and received $300 per dog and cat impounded from the city. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter took in 21.1 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and received just $228 from the government per dog and cat impounded. Clifton Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed animal death rates of 29% for dogs and 19% of cats in 2017 while Chippewa County Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed death rates of 1% for dogs and 2% for cats. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter’s nonreclaimed dogs and cats lost their lives at 29 times and 10 times the rate as an animal control shelter receiving far more animals on a per capita basis (and in total too) and having significantly less funding from its government.

Clifton taxpayers are also spending more money per animal than Ewing’s taxpayers on its animal shelter and killing more animals. According to a recent news article, Ewing pays EASEL Animal Rescue League $150,000 per year to run the shelter. When we add this amount to the town’s $104,750 animal control department budget, Ewing pays $254,750 per year for animal control and its animal shelter. Based on EASEL Animal Rescue League taking in 896 dogs and cats in 2017, Ewing pays $284 per dog and cat. As a comparison, Clifton allocated $176,900 in its 2017 budget to its animal control and sheltering operation. Based on Clifton Animal Shelter taking in 589 dogs and cats in 2017, the town had $300 of funding per dog and cat. In 2017, EASEL Animal Rescue League reported only 2% of noneclaimed dogs and 7% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives. As a comparison, Clifton Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed death rates of 29% for dogs and 19% for cats. Thus, Clifton taxpayers spent more money than Ewing taxpayers on its animal shelter and its nonreclaimed dogs were 15 times and its nonreclaimed cats were three times as likely to lose their lives.

To add insult to injury, Clifton Animal Shelter blatantly violated the following laws:

  1. Frequently killed animals during the seven day protection period
  2. Euthanasia records did not indicate method of killing to determine if it was a humane way
  3. Euthanasia records did not list animals’ weights to determine if they received the proper doses of sedative and killing agents
  4. Euthanasia records did not indicate how the shelter used the sedative Xylazine
  5. Held Ketamine at the facility in violation of the state’s controlled dangerous substance laws
  6. Shelter did not have a scale and therefore could not have weighed animals to ensure they received the proper doses of sedative and killing agents
  7. Shelter did not have an adequate disease control program meeting state law requirements
  8. Shelter was not inspected as required by June 30th in both 2017 and 2018 and should not have had licenses to operate for parts of 2017 and 2018

Clifton residents and people who shop in the city should contact the elected officials below and demand the following:

  1. The shelter stop illegally killing animals during the seven day protection period
  2. The shelter follow all state laws
  3. The shelter fully and comprehensively implement the No Kill Equation
  4. The city pass the Companion Animal Protection Act and require the shelter to save at least 90% of its animals
  5. The city replace the ACO in charge with an effective and compassionate shelter manager
  6. Eliminate Friends of the Shelter’s monopoly over the volunteer program and allow the effective and compassionate leader to build such a program based on best practices across the country

The contact information for these officials is as follows:

Mayor James Anzaldi: (973) 470-5757; janzaldi@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Peter C. Eagler: peagler@cliftonnj.org

Councilman William Gibson: wgibson@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Raymond Grabowski: rgrabowski@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Steven Hatala, Jr.: shatala@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Joseph C. Kolodziej: jkolodziej@cliftonnj.org

Councilwoman Lauren E. Murphy: lmurphy@cliftonnj.org

Given the relatively small numbers of animals this shelter takes in, it should achieve great things. With your advocacy and persistence, we can make this change happen.

Clifton’s Crummy Animal Shelter

Last year, Clifton Animal Control Officer, Robert Boyle, made headlines when he told a cop to shoot and kill a dog named Wildfire that was lying down in the woods. Mr. Boyle was also listed as the “Shelter Manager” on Clifton Animal Shelter’s 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Additionally, Robert Boyle was the Chief of the Passaic County SPCA and a board member of the NJ SPCA.

Does Clifton Animal Shelter also kill healthy and treatable animals when lifesaving alternatives exist? Is the shelter complying with state law?

Deadly Dog Data

In order to get a better understanding of the job Clifton Animal Shelter did in 2017, I obtained the intake and disposition records for each individual dog and cat the shelter took in during the year. You can find those records here. In addition, I obtained all supporting records for each dog and cat the shelter killed. You can find those records here.

Clifton Animal Shelter killed too many dogs in 2017. While the overall dog kill rate of 12% was not extremely high, it was still much greater than kill rates at elite municipal shelters. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its dogs in 2017. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs at 12 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Pit bulls fared far worse at the Clifton Animal Shelter in 2017. The shelter killed 19% of pit bulls. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its pit bulls in 2017. As a result, Clifton Animal Shelter killed pit bulls at 19 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Clifton Animal Shelter also killed too many small dogs and other medium to large size breeds in 2017. Overall, the shelter killed 10% of both small dogs and other medium to large size dogs. Frankly, shelters should be able to save nearly all small dogs due to the fact such animals cannot seriously injure dog savvy adult owners. Even the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive facility, only euthanized 1% of small dogs in 2017. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size breeds last year. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed both small dogs and other medium to large size dogs at 10 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

While Clifton Animal Shelter’s overall dog kill rates were bad, the shelter’s kill rates for dogs not reclaimed by their owners were far worse. Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners. When we just look at dogs not reclaimed by owners, Clifton Animal Shelter killed 29% of all dogs, 50% of pit bulls, 21% of small dogs and 31% of other medium to large size breeds. In other words, Clifton Animal Shelter killed around 1 out of 3 dogs, 1 out of 2 pit bulls, 1 out of 5 small dogs and 1 out of 3 other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners. As a comparison, only 2% of all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs not reclaimed by their owners at Austin Animal Center lost their lives in 2017. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners at 15 times, 25 times, 11 times and 16 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Dog Statistics

Too Many Cats Lose Their Lives

Clifton Animal Shelter’s statistics reveal the shelter killed too many cats. Overall, 19% of cats lost their lives at Clifton Animal Shelter in 2017 or about four times the percentage at Austin Animal Center last year. Both adult cats and neonatal kittens lost their lives at higher rates, 25% and 32%. As a comparison, only 7% and 9% of adult cats and neonatal kittens lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2017. Therefore, adult cats and neonatal kittens were four times more likely to lose their lives at Clifton Animal Shelter than at Austin Animal Center in 2017.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Cat Statistics

Other Domestic Animals and Wildlife Killed in Droves

Clifton Animal Shelter’s other domestic animals’ kill rate was too high. Overall, the shelter killed 13% of all domestic animals and 14% of nonreclaimed other domestic animals in 2017.

The shelter killed wildlife at an astronomical rate during 2017. Clifton Animal Shelter killed 109 of 145 wild animals or 75% of those it took in. If we add the 5 wild animals that died, the shelter had a 78% death rate for wild animals. In other words, 4 out of 5 wild animals lost their lives after encountering Clifton’s animal control officers in 2017.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Other Domestic Animals and Wildlife Statistics.jpg

Clifton Animal Shelter Quickly Kills Animals

Clifton Animal Shelter’s dog length of stay data revealed the shelter quickly killed dogs. Specifically, the shelter killed all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds after 13 days, 21 days, 10 days and 10 days on average in 2017. Clearly, this is not nearly enough time to determine if the shelter can save these animals. Based on the shelter taking in 228 dogs during 2017, its 8 day average length of stay for dogs and shelter capacity calculations, we can estimate the shelter only held around five dogs on average at the shelter in 2017 compared to its reported capacity of 16 dogs. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs throughout the year while it only on average used less than one third of the shelter’s dog capacity.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Dogs Length of Stay

Clifton Animal Shelter also quickly killed cats. Amazingly, Clifton Animal Shelter killed all cats on average after just a single day. The shelter killed adult cats, older kittens, neonatal kittens and cats with no age listed after one day, two days, one day and zero days on average in 2017. In fact, the shelter killed 47 of the 59 cats it killed before seven days went by. Given shelters cannot kill either stray or owner surrendered cats until seven days pass (except for cats a veterinarian documents as hopelessly suffering and the veterinarian euthanizes the animals), this could indicate the shelter illegally killed these animals (see below for more details).

Based on the shelter taking in 361 cats during 2017, its 41 day average length of stay for cats and shelter capacity calculations, we can estimate the shelter only held around 41 cats on average at the shelter in 2017 compared to its reported capacity of 52 cats. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed cats throughout the year despite only using 79% of its cat capacity on average during the year.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Cats Length of Stay.jpg

Clifton Animal Shelter also quickly killed other domestic animals and wildlife in 2017. The shelter killed the other domestic animals after just six days on average. Two of these three animals were killed immediately for being “injured”, but the records I received never specified what those injuries were. More disturbing, Clifton Animal Shelter killed wild animals after zero days on average. Of the 109 wild animals the shelter killed in 2017, 107 were killed immediately and two were killed after one day. Given the shelter’s astronomical wildlife kill rate and the fact it killed virtually all these animals immediately, one must conclude the shelter has the same lack of respect towards wildlife as Robert Boyle did for the dog Wildfire.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Other Domestic Animals and Wildlife Length of Stay.jpg

Dogs Killed for Absurd Reasons

Clifton Animal Shelter killed most of its dogs for alleged aggression and behavior problems. The table below shows 65% of the dogs the shelter killed were for aggression and behavior problems, 8% for being “old”, 8% for no documented reason and most of the rest for health related reasons. When we look at all dogs, Clifton Animal Shelter killed 7% of all dogs for aggression related reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.2% of the dogs it took in during 2017 for aggression and behavior related reasons. In other words, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression and behavior related reasons at 35 times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter erroneously labeled dogs aggressive in its shelter just as its ACO, Robert Boyle, did when he told a police officer to shoot the dog Wildfire.

The shelter also killed too many dogs for medical reasons. During 2017, Clifton Animal Shelter killed 3% of all dogs for medical reasons. However, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.8% of all dogs for medical reasons. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs for medical reasons at four times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Reasons for Killing Dogs

Lokie or D-022 was a stray adult husky impounded by Clifton Animal Shelter on February 9, 2017. Upon intake, the shelter noted Lokie was not aggressive. After eight days passed, Clifton Animal Shelter offered Lokie to the Friends of the Shelter. What did this “Friends” group do? Friends of the Shelter refused to accept Lokie into their adoption program due to food aggression/resource guarding. Given that multiple studies have found food aggression tests unreliable and even the creator of one of the major food aggression tests has come out against using these evaluations, it is shocking the Friends of the Shelter would not accept this dog. Even more perplexing, huskies are in high demand and many people would adopt one with or without food aggression. On the day after Friends of the Shelter refused to save Lokie, Clifton Animal Shelter killed him.

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Jack was an adult Labrador-pit bull mix that was surrendered to the Clifton Animal Shelter on April 23, 2017 and adopted on the very same day. On May 18, 2017, Jack was returned to the Clifton Animal Shelter. The shelter stated Jack had “anxiety issues” and offered him to Friends of the Shelter as a “courtesy.” Friends of the Shelter “rejected” Jack on May 25, 2017 and the shelter killed him on the very same day. Why did Friends of the Shelter reject Jack? They claimed he had “severe separation anxiety.” Both the shelter and their partners in crime, Friends of the Shelter, refused to treat Jack and the shelter killed him.

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Cliff was an adult stray poodle that the Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on December 18, 2017. The shelter noted the dog had a matted coat and was dirty. Therefore, this dog was likely on the streets for a period of time and likely had difficulty finding food. Despite poodles being highly sought after by adopters, Friends of the Shelter “rejected” Cliff on December 30, 2017 for having “food aggression.” On that very day, Clifton Animal Shelter killed Cliff. Even though most adopters do not care about food aggression and the behavior frequently disappears in a home, both the shelter and Friends of the Shelter thought Cliff was not worth saving.

D-222

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Pops was a stray senior Papillion that Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on May 30, 2017. According to the shelter, the dog was sleeping a lot, not eating and had “nasty and loose” teeth. Given the condition of the dog’s teeth, one could easily see why the dog was not eating and was acting lethargic. While the Clifton Animal Shelter stated Pops was “seen by vet”, the shelter provided me no documents proving the dog saw a veterinarian and any orders for ensuring the dog received proper nourishment. In reality, even toothless dogs can eat if given the proper soft food. On June 6, 2017, Friends of the Shelter “rejected” Pops claiming he was in “very poor health” and “10-12+” years old.

Instead of reaching out to the community for help, Clifton Animal Shelter apparently just gave its henchman, Friends of the Shelter, the chance to save Pops. However, when it comes to Friends of the Shelter, having a medical condition and being old means your not worth saving.

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Cats Killed for Having Treatable Medical Conditions

Clifton Animal Shelter killed cats for many treatable conditions. As you can see in the table below, the shelter killed many cats for testing positive for FeLV or FIV, being feral, having no mother, having ringworm (which is very treatable), testing for rabies (requires killing the cat and the results frequently reveal cats do not have the disease) and no documented reasons.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV is a disease similar to HIV that weakens a cat’s immune system. Generally speaking, FIV is difficult to spread as it is only passed to other cats through deep bite wounds. While the disease can compromise a cat’s immune system, some cats can live many years pretty much like a normal cat. Practically speaking, FIV cats should be altered and live either alone or with other cats that are compatible with them. While these cats may need extra care, progressive shelters save these animals and adopt them out.

Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV is a retrovirus that only affects cats. Healthy cats with normal immune systems quickly fight off the disease. However, the disease can infect cats with impaired immune systems. The disease suppresses a cat’s immune system and most cats live 2-3 years with the disease, but some animals live for a much longer period of time. In a shelter environment, FeLV positive cats won’t spread the disease as long as the animals are housed in separate areas and shelters adhere to proper cleaning and disease control protocols. Progressive no kill shelters, such as Austin Pets Alive, adopt out FeLV positive cats successfully. Furthermore, shelters can use foster programs to effectively house these animals outside a shelter environment.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Reasons for Killing Cats

Pumpkin was 5-7 year old neutered cat the Clifton Animal Shelter took to its veterinarian after he was hit by a car. While Pumpkin did have two broken canines and had a short post-trauma seizure after he was brought to the veterinarian, Pumpkin’s medical records stated he “ate well”, was “alert, purring” and was “very friendly.” However, Clifton Animal Shelter told the veterinarian to kill Pumpkin after he tested positive for FeLV on the day after the shelter impounded him.

New Jersey animal shelter law clearly states shelters must not kill animals, whether they are strays or owner surrenders, for at least 7 days. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health recently issued guidance summarizing the law’s requirements:

Pursuant to State law (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 a. through l.) all municipalities must have a licensed animal impoundment facility (pound) designated where stray and potentially vicious animals can be safely impounded. Impounded stray animals shall be held at the pound for at least seven days (i.e., 168 hours) from the time impounded before the animal is offered for adoption or euthanized, relocated or sterilized, regardless of the animal’s temperament or medical condition.

Animals that are voluntarily surrendered by their owners to licensed pounds or shelters shall be offered for adoption for at least seven days prior to euthanasia or shelter/pound management may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such a transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal.

In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during the 7 day hold period if both of the following conditions are met as discussed in this section of the New Jersey Department of Health’s July 30, 2009 inspection report on Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the humane rationale in the animal’s medical record

Clearly, Pumpkin was not hopelessly suffering since he was eating well, acting friendly and most vital signs were normal. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter illegally killed Pumpkin before seven days passed.

Given Pumpkin was neutered and very friendly, he likely had an owner. Clifton Animal Shelter ensured Pumpkin would never get the chance to go back to his family.

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Cat ID#s 025, 026, 027, 028 and 029 were a litter of newborn kittens the Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on March 31, 2017. After the shelter could not find the mother, it decided to kill every single one of the kittens stating they were “not viable.”

As with Robert Boyle’s order to kill Wildfire, the shelter’s lack of respect for life is apparent. Instead of killing these kittens right away, the shelter could have sent them to a foster home or had volunteers set up a nursery to bottle feed the animals. Instead, the shelter illegally killed the kittens immediately without making any effort to save them.

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Midnite was a two month old stray cat the Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on June 4, 2017. After two days, Clifton Animal Shelter’s veterinarian, Dr. Barbara Barrow, wrote a letter authorizing the killing of Midnite. According to the veterinarian, she would have to amputate the kitten’s tail and he was too feral to be handled by staff while he recovered.

While the veterinarian can write this letter, this animal was not hopelessly suffering and the shelter and veterinarian illegally killed Midnite in my view. First, no person can determine if a cat is truly feral after just two days. Second, even if the cat was feral, the animal was not hopelessly suffering. Third, shelter workers get paid to handle all types of animals, including feral ones. Thus, the veterinarian’s claim the animal was difficult to handle does not allow the shelter or the veterinarian to kill an animal during the stray/hold period.

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Marina was an “older” stray cat the Clifton Animal Shelter took in on October 16, 2017. According to the shelter, their outside veterinarian, Dr. Aziz, approved killing Marina for “severe ringworm.” According to the veterinarian’s record, Marina “most likely” had ringworm “all over the face”, but the record never mentioned killing Marina. The shelter then killed Marina on the very day it took her in.

Frankly, ringworm is a highly treatable condition and never should be a reason to kill an animal. Even more egregious, Clifton Animal Shelter killed this stray cat immediately and blatantly violated the state’s stray hold period. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter illegally killed Marina.

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Clearly, Clifton Animal Shelter, like its former ACO, Robert Boyle, frequently chooses to kill animals since its easier. Even more egregious, the shelter often violates the state’s seven protection period when it kills animals. While this all goes on, the Friends of the Shelter group, like its name suggests, acts more like a friend to the shelter than the animals that reside in it. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter and Friends of the Shelter have a dysfunctional relationship that is not helping the animals as much as it should.

In my next blog, I’ll examine whether Clifton Animal Shelter humanely euthanizes animals and violates other aspects of state law.