Santini’s Shady Animal Control Contract

Late last year, Garfield animal activists erupted in anger when the city replaced its existing animal control and sheltering provider with New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue. Geoff Santini runs New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue and also created a nonprofit, New Jersey Humane Society, that houses the animals this animal control company picks up. At the time, local animal advocates felt “blindsided” and had many concerns about Mr. Santini’s past history in Hudson County. Specifically, the Garfield animal advocates cited how many times Mr. Santini changed the names of his companies, his relationship with his brother-in-law, Vincent Ascolese, who is a disgraced animal control officer, and the capacity of Mr. Santini’s animal shelter.

The local animal rescue community was happy with All Humane Animal Control, which serviced the city for a number of years. While I had some concerns with All Humane Animal Control not submitting annual animal shelter statistics to the New Jersey Department of Health, I generally heard the person running it was an animal lover and had a big heart. In addition, when I previously lived in one of the communities serviced by All Humane Animal Control, I witnessed the company pick up a neighbor’s owner surrendered dog at their front door. Thus, it seemed All Humane Animal Control provided good service.

In December, the Garfield City Council decided to suspend its contract with Geoff Santini’s company. During this City Council meeting, the former Garfield mayor, and Garfield Animal Rescue Foundation President, Tana Raymond, argued Santini couldn’t properly service Garfield since Mr. Santini serves as an ACO in several Hudson County towns and his private animal control company also handles other municipalities in that county. Furthermore, Ms. Raymond stated she might sue Garfield if the city did not terminate its contract with Mr. Santini. Geoff Santini stated his shelter could initially hold over 20 dogs and 40 cats and house an additional 50 dogs and 60 cats after he finished expanding the facility around the end of 2017. Mr. Santini also claimed it is a no kill facility.

In January 2018, Garfield decided to keep on contracting with Mr. Santini saying the contract “is a valid binding agreement and can’t be rescinded.”

Should Garfield animal advocates have concerns about Geoff Santini’s company? Is Garfield’s contract with Mr. Santini’s company a good deal for taxpayers? Could Garfield terminate the agreement with Mr. Santini’s company?

Geoff Santini’s Connection to the Horrific Hudson County SPCA

The Hudson County SPCA may have been the worst shelter in New Jersey history. In 2000, New Jersey Commission of Investigation’s report on the state and county SPCAs documented alleged neglect, deplorable conditions, animal cruelty, fraudulent activities, and inaccurate record keeping. In fact, one employee bludgeoned a dog with a shovel and another worker sold shelter dogs on the side to a guard dog business. The report also stated Hudson County SPCA only had a legally mandated veterinarian of record “on paper” and animals were provided little to no veterinary care. Subsequently, Hudson County SPCA asserted it implemented a “no kill” policy, but the organization clearly did not properly implement no kill given the huge number of complaints from Hudson County animal activistsHudson County Superior Court shut down Hudson County SPCA in April 2008 after a series of failed inspections. Two months later, 15 carcasses, including a goat, were found rotting in the shelter’s unplugged freezer. In 2010, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri dissolved the Hudson County SPCA and had strong words for the organization:

The “HCSPCA has repeatedly conducted it’s business in an unlawful manner,” Hudson County Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri said in today’s order dissolving the organization which was based on Johnston Avenue in Jersey City.

The judge also stated as reasons for the dissolution that “The HCSPCA has suspended its ordinary activities for lack of funds,” “is conducting its activities at a great loss and with great prejudice to the interests of it’s creditors” and “in a manner that is prejudicial to the public.”

While Mr. Santini has portrayed his involvement with the Hudson County SPCA as an attempt to fix a failing organization, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office viewed him as part of the Hudson County SPCA after he joined the board at the end of 2006 (Geoff Santini’s resume states he became a Member of the Hudson County SPCA in 2003). In a letter to the judge in the Hudson County Superior Court, the Office of the Attorney General argued the Hudson County SPCA should not receive the net proceeds it would obtain from selling its former animal shelter.

The Office of the Attorney General argued Mr. Santini was involved in the activities that were grounds for dissolving the Hudson County SPCA.

In fact, Mr. Santini, the Chairman of the Alleged Board, was a member of the Board that governed HCSPCA when it was engaging in activities that are grounds for dissolution, the Alleged Board has made no effort to cure the grounds for dissolution

Most importantly, the Office of the Attorney General cited several Hudson County SPCA violations of animal shelter laws while Mr. Santini was a board member of the organization.

On December 27, 2006, Mr. Santini became a member of HCSPCA’s Board and the Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. On the same day, the board also passed a motion to allow Mr. Galioto to lead the Law Enforcement Division. (ERR, Exh. C, HCSPCA-GARB-00012.) Despite these references to HCSPCA’s Law Enforcement Division, HCSPCA continued to rely on NJSPCA to provide law enforcement services in Hudson County. (ERR, Exh. A, 120-133.) The ERR shows that during the period from December 27, 2006, when Mr. Santini became a member of HCSPCA’s Board, and April 11, 2008, when Hudson County Animal Advocates commenced this action, HCSPCA engaged in many of the activities that are grounds for dissolution. These activities include : (a) HCSPCA misrepresented that Jason Bibber was an animal control officer in its contract with Union City (ERR at 7); (b) HCSPCA failed to comply with the record keeping requirements set forth in N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.13 (ERR at 11-12); (c) HCSPCA failed to comply with the regulations governing sanitary conditions at an animal shelter (ERR at 15-17) (d) HCSPCA failed to have a health care program under the supervision of a veterinarian in violation of N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.9 (ERR at 21-23) ; (e) HCSPCA failed to provide medical care to shelter animals in violation of N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.9(d) (ERR at 25-26) (f) HCSPCA failed to establish and maintain a disease control program in violation of N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.9 (a) – (c) (ERR at 27-29) ; (g) HCSPCA failed to maintain the animal shelter in compliance with regulations (ERR at 31) (h) HCSPCA failed to file federal tax returns ( ERR at 3 5) and ( I ) HCSPCA was insolvent ( ERR at 4 6 – 4 8 )

Furthermore, the Office of the Attorney General argued Geoff Santini failed to act properly after he became the the President of the Hudson County SPCA and Chairman of its board in 2008.

On June 25, 2008, Mr. Santini became the President of HCSPCA and the Chairman of the Board. Since Mr. Santini became the Chairman of the Board, HCSPCA has failed to take any actions to cure its insolvency, to repay its debts or comply with the filing requirements that apply to not-for-profit corporations. HCSPCA’s delay in filing its answer to the Attorney General’ s complaint, its failure to cooperate with the Equitable Receiver’s investigation and its attempt to sell HCSPCA’s property in violation of the Order, provide further evidence that Mr. Santini, and the Alleged Board, have no interest in turning HCSPCA into a good corporate citizen.

Finally, the Office of the Attorney General argued Mr. Santini participated in activities that were grounds for dissolving the Hudson County SPCA and that was one of the reasons the Hudson County SPCA should not gain control of its assets.

Mr. Santini’s participation in the activities that are grounds for dissolving HCSPCA, the Alleged Board’s failure to turn HCSPCA into a good corporate citizen, and the Alleged Board’ s contempt for the Order, are reasons why the Alleged Board is unsuited to gain control of HCSPCA’s assets.

Santini’s Union City Debacle

In 2011, the New Jersey Department of Health found Mr. Santini’s contracted animal shelter violating state animal shelter laws. Geoff Santini’s company at the time, Hudson County Animal Enforcement, contracted with a veterinary office, Summit Animal Clinic, in Union City. The inspection report found Summit Animal Clinic did not keep adequate records, failed to isolate sick animals, and didn’t have a disease control program. Furthermore, Summit Animal Clinic’s 2012 animal shelter statistics revealed it killed 35% of its dogs and 56% of its cats who had outcomes.

Union City Feral Cat Committee Calls Out Santini’s Practices

The Union City Feral Cat Committee issued a scathing report on Mr. Santini’s operation in 2014. This group asserted the following about Mr. Santini’s company:

  1. Did not have specific and measurable goals to ensure the ending of killing healthy and treatable animals
  2. As a for profit company, it did not have access to grant money
  3. Did not perform TNR
  4. Did not support low income residents to keep their pets
  5. Did not have a shelter in any of the contracted municipalities
  6. Did not use volunteers
  7. Did not provide records so residents and government officials could determine the company’s performance

Battle in Bayonne

In late 2015, Bayonne animal advocates protested the replacing of Liberty Humane Society with Mr. Santini’s company. Prior to a Bayonne City Council meeting, the advocates staged a protest making many of the same allegations Garfield advocates have made. At the time, Bayonne elected officials decided to replace Liberty Humane Society with claims Liberty Humane Society did not respond appropriately to “nuisance wildlife.” In reality, Bayonne wanted to trap wildlife which almost always means killing such animals since relocation is typically not possible. While Mr. Santini’s spokesman, who also does this job for several Hudson County towns, said Mr. Santini planned to bring such animals to wildlife rehabilitation facilities whose objective is to release such animals into the wild, it defies logic that such facilities could do so without killing at least some of these creatures. The Department of Environmental Protection prohibits releasing adult animals from “rabies vector” species, such as raccoons and skunks, in areas outside the town they came from.

Subsequent to this time, a Facebook page has continued to criticize the city’s use of Mr. Santini’s company. However, Geoff Santini recently sued the Facebook page admin for defamation. However, the Facebook page admin asserted the lawsuit was a SLAPP or strategic lawsuit against public participation designed to silence criticism by burdening the person with legal costs.

Hudson County No Show Job

Last week, NBC New York’s I-Team aired a devastating story detailing Geoff Santini virtually never showing up to an $81,386 a year security job at the North Bergen Housing Authority. The expose tracked Mr. Santini for a week and only found him at his job for three hours during the reported 35 hour work week. Instead, they frequently found Geoff Santini at his animal shelter. In fact, they even found the vehicle, a Chevy Tahoe, he is supposed to use for North Bergen Housing Authority work at the shelter that collects around $350,000 from taxpayers. If that was not bad enough, the story stated Geoff Santini occasionally drives North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco around in this same work related vehicle. Mayor Sacco sits on the North Bergen Board of Commissioners which appoints the North Bergen Housing Board’s commissioners.

The story also documented Mr. Santini having additional Hudson County jobs. Specifically, he is also a constable in Hudson County and an administrative aide to County Freeholder Anthony Vanieri. Apparently, Geoff Santini’s multiple government job/contractor gig is shared with his friend, Mayor Sacco. Mayor Sacco is also a state Senator and also was the Director of Elementary and Secondary Eduction, a $260,000 a year job, until last year. Does anyone believe either of these individuals could adequately perform all these jobs simultaneously? Clearly, Geoff Santini and Nicholas Sacco are taking advantage of taxpayers to enrich themselves.

Garfield Can Terminate its Contract with Geoff Santini

Based on the agreement Garfield sent me, the city can terminate the contract as long as it documents the reason for doing so:

NJAC Garfield Contract Termination Provision

Furthermore, Garfield did not sign the copy of the agreement the city provided to me. When I asked the City Clerk, she stated Garfield does not have an executed agreement.

Thus, the City of Garfield’s claim that it was stuck with the contract does not appear to hold water.

Garfield Taxpayers Paying Much More 

Garfield paid All Humane Animal Control either $16,667 (annual amount listed) or $25,000 (sum of monthly amounts listed) per year according to the contract provided to me by the city. The contract did require the owners of stray animals to pay or the city (if the owners couldn’t do so) to pay for emergency veterinary care in addition to this amount.

Under Garfield’s new contract with New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue, Garfield pays $46,000 a year. As with the prior All Humane Animal Control contract, owners would bear the costs of their stray animals’ emergency veterinary care and the city would pick up the tab if the owners can’t pay. However, this contract also provides Mr. Santini’s company a whopping $35 per day for up to 3 months when Garfield requests the shelter to hold an animal in a court case. For example, if New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue shelter held four dogs for 90 days each due to litigation, Garfield would have to pay Mr. Santini’s company an additional $12,600. Garfield taxpayers have to pay New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue $175 if they want to remove an animal within their home. Furthermore, the agreement seems to indicate Garfield taxpayers must pay New Jersey Animal Control a fee of $175 to trap a stray domestic animal and wildlife with the fee for a second trap being $75.

Clearly, Garfield’s new animal control and sheltering contract costs far more than the previous arrangement. Thus, it is unclear what benefits the city is obtaining for this extra cost.

No Kill Shelter Claims Are Hard to Believe

The size of Geoff Santini’s shelter is important in determining if his organization can handle the many municipalities it serves. According to this article, a nonprofit entity called New Jersey Humane Society was created to run the shelter. If we take Mr. Santini’s word that the facility initially could hold 20 dogs and 40 cats, the capacity would be very tight. Specifically, if New Jersey Humane Society had the same per capita dog and cat intake as nearby Liberty Humane Society, New Jersey Humane Society would only have 16 days to move each dog and cat out of the facility before it runs out of room. However, the shelter would have a much more reasonable 56 days and 40 days to get each dog and cat out using these same per capita animal intake figures and assuming the claimed capacity from the expansion project exists. On the other hand, an article from 2016 stated the shelter would only house 45 dogs and 40 cats after its “Phase 2” project. Using these capacity figures and the aforementioned assumptions, the shelter would have 36 days and 16 days to move each dog and cat out before it runs out of space.

Geoff Santini’s animal shelter, New Jersey Humane Society, does not look very large from photos of the property. That being said, looks can be deceiving. On the other hand, Mr. Santini’s brother-in law’s shelter, Bergen Protect and Rescue Foundation in Cliffside Park, claims it can hold 78 dogs and 210 cats. However, when I visited the Cliffside Park facility, the building was so small that I found it implausible it could hold anywhere near that many animals. I’d suggest Mr. Santini have an independent party provide specific details on the number of dog and cat enclosures and the size of each one. Doing so, could make the public more comfortable with his operation.

New Jersey Humane Society

New Jersey Humane Society2

New Jersey Humane Society has little to no information I can find about its programs to save animals. While the shelter’s Facebook page has a link to the New Jersey Humane Society’s web site, that link did not work when I clicked on it. Similarly, I could not find a web site for Mr. Santini’s New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue company. Additionally, I could not find an adoption web site, such as Petfinder, for New Jersey Humane Society. In the New Jersey Humane Society’s “About” section of its Facebook page, it currently lists a general description of its organization’s mission.

New Jersey Humane Society dedicates it’s service to “Protect and Rescue” stray and domesticated animals across Hudson County.

That being said, the New Jersey Humane Society Facebook page does show the shelter doing some good things. The shelter lists a number of lost animals and mentions some pets that went to foster homes and rescue organizations. In the past, St. Hubert’s has rescued many dogs from hoarding situations Mr. Santini’s organization handled. However, New Jersey Humane Society’s Facebook page showed few adoptions it did itself.

Frankly, I find it difficult to believe Mr. Santini’s organization is attaining a live release rate of 90% or higher and impounding all animals needing assistance without seeing more details on its live release programs. Furthermore, despite claiming his shelter would open in 2016, Mr. Santini’s shelter did not submit statistics to the New Jersey Department of Health for that year. As we’ve seen in urban shelters, such as in Elizabeth and Paterson, facilities typically cannot achieve no kill status by relying almost entirely on rescues. Thus, Geoff Santini must provide more transparency into his organizations’ operations.

At the end of the day, I would truly like to believe Mr. Santini runs a real no kill animal control shelter that comprehensively implements the 11 No Kill Equation programs. Certainly, northern Hudson County needs a no kill animal control facility. However, Mr. Santini’s history concerns me and many other animal advocates. As such, he must prove to us that his way of doing things has improved dramatically. Simply put, don’t just call yourself “no kill”, prove to us that you are.

Until Mr. Santini can clearly demonstrate he is running a real no kill animal control facility that helps all animals in need, I cannot support Garfield’s or Bayonne’s decisions to contract with his company. Furthermore, I cannot understand why Garfield would pay significantly more money to Mr. Santini’s company than the city’s prior contractor. As such, Garfield and Bayonne should terminate their agreements with Geoff Santini’s company and contract with their previous providers (Garfield: All Humane Animal Control; Jersey City: Liberty Humane Society).

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Austin Animal Center’s Awesome Year

Austin, Texas has become synonymous with no kill success. While Austin Animal Center exceeded the 90% live release rate many consider as being no kill in 2012, the shelter’s live release rate increased sharply in 2016. The shelter’s success in 2016 was spearheaded by Director of Animal Services, Tawny Hammond, and Deputy Chief Animal Services Officer, Kristen Auerbach, both of whom came over from Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Virginia.

Hound Manor performed a fantastic analysis of Austin Animal Center’s 2016 results. This analysis utilized various computer programming techniques to extract incredibly useful data from Austin’s open public data on its web site. While I don’t have the skills to replicate such an analysis, I was able to obtain some key data I frequently use in my New Jersey animal shelter analyses.

Tammy Hammond left Austin Animal Center in May 2017 to join Best Friends and Kristen Auerbach resigned in July 2017 to take over Pima Animal Care Center in Tuscon, Arizona. How did Austin Animal Center perform in 2017? Did the shelter continue its success without two of its key leaders?

Incredible Live Release Rates

Austin Animal Center saved virtually every dog that arrived in 2017. Overall, only 1.3% of all dogs, 1.1% of pit bull like dogs, 1.5% of small dogs and 1.2% of other medium to large size dogs lost their lives or went missing at the shelter. Even if we only look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, only 1.8% of all dogs, 1.7% of pit bulls, 2.1% of small dogs and 1.6% of medium to large size breeds lost their lives or went missing. Thus, Austin Animal Center saved almost every dog it took in last year.

Austin Animal Center’s pit bull numbers are especially noteworthy. Despite taking in over 1,900 pit bull like dogs in 2017, Austin Animal Center saved 99% of these dogs. On a per capita basis, Austin Animal Center impounded 1.9 pit bulls per 1,000 people compared to my estimate of just 0.9 pit bulls per 1,000 people taken in by New Jersey animal shelters as a whole. In other words, Austin Animal Center saved 99% of its pit bull like dogs even though it took in twice as many of these dogs on a per capita basis as New Jersey animal shelters. Similarly, Austin Animal Center adopted out 0.8 pit bulls per 1,000 people compared to the 0.5 pit bulls per 1,000 people New Jersey animal shelters would need to adopt out to achieve a 95% dog live release rate. As a result, Austin Animal Center’s results prove New Jersey animal shelters can do a far better job with their pit bull like dogs.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Dog Statistics

Austin Animal Center also had amazing cat numbers. Overall, only 5.3% of all cats, 7.2% of adult cats, 1.9% of kittens 6 weeks to just under one year and 8.5% of kittens 6 weeks and under lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2017. Even if we exclude cats who were reclaimed by owners and placed through the shelter-neuter return program, only 6.4% of all cats, 11.1% of adult cats, 2.2% of kittens 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 8.6% of kittens under 6 weeks old lost their lives. Thus, Austin Animal Center saved almost all their cats of all ages.

Austin 2017 Cat Statistics

Austin Animal Center Only Euthanizes Dogs for Legitimate Reasons

The table below lists the reasons Austin Animal Center used to euthanize dogs in 2017. As you can see, 75% of the euthanized dogs were due to severe medical reasons (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian).

Austin Animal Center limits behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs. Hound Manor’s blog on Austin Animal Center’s 2016 data found the shelter euthanized a similar percentage of dogs for behavioral reasons in the final quarter of fiscal year 2016 as the No Kill Advocacy Center targets (i.e. under 1%). As you can see below, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.15% of all dogs for behavioral related reasons (i.e. aggression, behavior, court/investigation). Even if we add rabies risk and none, Austin Animal Center would have only euthanized 0.22% of all dogs for behavioral reasons. Thus, Austin Animal Center limited behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs.

Austin Animal Center also reduced the number and percentage of dogs euthanized for rabies risk. As Hound Manor mentioned in its blog, few dogs killed for rabies testing end up having the disease. In fact, the New Jersey Department of Health’s guidelines state shelters should not euthanize dogs for rabies unless they have clinical signs of the disease. Austin Animal Center euthanized 5 dogs (0.05% of all dogs) in 2017 compared to the 14 dogs (0.14% of all dogs) reported by Hound Manor in fiscal year 2016.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Euthanized Dogs Reasons

The shelter also limited behavioral euthanasia for pit bull like dogs to truly aggressive animals. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.26% of all pit bulls for aggression and behavior. In fact, this number was nearly identical to the percentage of all dogs euthanized for behavioral related reasons. The other 0.58% of all pit bulls euthanized were suffering. When you couple this data with the results of a recent study showing severe dog bites did not increase after Austin implemented its no kill plan, it proves shelters can in fact safely adopt out large numbers of pit bull like dogs.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Pit Bulls Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center’s reasons for euthanizing small dogs followed this same pattern. The shelter only euthanized one dog for aggression and other behavioral reasons (0.03% of all small dogs). This is quite close to my standard that shelters should never euthanize a small dog for aggression. Almost all the other small dogs were euthanized for severe medical issues (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian).

Austin Animal Center 2017 Small Dogs Euthanized Reasons.jpg

The shelter also only euthanized other medium to large size dogs for legitimate reasons. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.18% of other medium to large size dogs for behavioral related reasons (i.e. aggression, behavior, court/investigation). Even if we add rabies risk and none, Austin Animal Center would have only euthanized 0.30% of all dogs for behavioral reasons. Virtually all the rest of the other medium to large size dogs were euthanized for severe medical problems.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Other Dogs Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center Limits Cat Euthanasia Primarily to Severe Medical Issues

The table below lists the reasons Austin Animal Center used to euthanize cats in 2017. As you can see, around 90% of the euthanized cats were due to severe medical reasons (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian). While 5% of the euthanized cats and 0.2% of all cats who had outcomes cited “medical”, its possible these were severe medical issues that warranted humane euthanasia. Similarly, Austin Animal Center’s very low numbers of cats euthanized for no documented reason or for being underage (6 cats, 2.41% of euthanized cats and 0.10% of all cats who had outcomes) may indicate clerical errors rather than the shelter killing cats for no good reason. Most impressively, Austin Animal Center did not kill a single cat for behavior or aggression.

Austin Animal Center also reduced the number and percentage of cats euthanized for rabies risk. As Hound Manor mentioned in its blog, few animals killed for rabies testing end up having the disease. Austin Animal Center euthanized 7 cats (0.11% of all cats who had outcomes) in 2017 compared to the 23 cats (0.34% of all cats who had outcomes) reported by Hound Manor in fiscal year 2016.

These statistics indicate Austin Animal Center pretty much only euthanizes hopelessly suffering cats. Given shelters should never kill cats for aggression or behavioral reasons, this is an incredible achievement since Austin Animal Center had 6,569 cats who had outcomes during the year.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Cats Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center’s Partner Helps the Shelter

Austin Pets Alive has been a major reason the community achieved no kill status. Historically, this organization pulled animals directly from the kill list at Austin Animal Center. In other words, instead of cherry-picking easy to adopt animals like many rescues do, Austin Pets Alive takes on the most difficult animals. As a result of taking on these tough cases and the organization’s strong desire to make Austin no kill, Austin Pets Alive developed and implemented a host of cutting edge programs. Examples, such as dog playgroups, a Canine Good Citizen training and certification program and large scale fostering help save the lives of large dogs that are most likely to lose their lives in shelters. Other programs, such as parvo and ringworm treatment and barn cat placements save vulnerable animals. In addition, Austin Pets Alive’s owner surrender prevention program helps owners keep animals and avoid giving them to Austin Animal Center. Thus, Austin Pets Alive has historically focused on its community to help Austin Animal Center achieve no kill status.

Austin Animal Center is relying less on Austin Pets Alive than in the past. In 2012, when Austin Animal Center first exceeded a 90% live release rate, it sent 29% of its dogs and 51% of its cats to Austin Pets Alive and other shelters and rescues. Last year, it only sent 22% of its dogs and 28% of its cats to Austin Pets Alive and other organizations. As a result, Austin Pets Alive has been able to assist other Texas shelters since its local animal control shelter truly achieved no kill.

Austin Animal Center Sets a New Bar for Lifesaving

Austin Animal Center has continued to improve over the years. While Austin Animal Center benefited from having an amazing rescue oriented shelter, Austin Pets Alive, help, Austin Animal Center has really stepped up its game. You can see some of the innovative programs, such as progressive animal control, breed neutral adoption policies, a large scale foster network, innovative social media use and a huge and effective use of volunteers in this story. As a result of these efforts, Austin Animal Center has effectively limited euthanasia to hopelessly suffering animals and dogs that are truly dangerous.

While Austin Animal Center’s success is hard to match, the animal control shelter serving the area just to the north, Williamson County Animal Shelter, also is extremely successful. Despite having a significantly smaller budget per animal than Austin Animal Center (approximately 40% less after adding an estimated $200 per animal to Williamson County Animal Shelter’s budget for animal sheltering only) and receiving less rescue support for both dogs (Austin Animal Center: 22% of outcomes; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 10% of outcomes) and cats (Austin Animal Center: 28% of outcomes; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 11% of outcomes), Williamson County Animal Shelter came close to reaching Austin Animal Center’s live release rates for dogs (Austin Animal Center: 98.7%; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 98.0%) and cats (Austin Animal Center: 94.7%; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 90.2%).

Williamson County Animal Shelter also had very impressive adoption numbers. While Austin Animal Center’s per capita adoption rates of 4.6 dogs and 3.2 cats per 1,000 people are excellent, Williamson County Animal Shelter’s per capita adoption rates of 5.0 dogs and 6.7 cats per 1,000 people are even higher. Similarly, Williamson County Animal Shelter scored much better using my dog adoption model taking into account shelter capacity and owner reclaims (Austin Animal Center: 118% of target dog adoptions; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 251% of target dog adoptions). Williamson County Animal Shelter’s high score was primarily due to it quickly adopting out animals. This is reflected in the shelter’s short average length of stay figures (dogs: 8.0 days, cats: 13.4 days).

The key point is that Austin Animal Center is not unique. Since an animal shelter taking in over 7,300 dogs and cats in 2017 (i.e. higher intake than the largest New Jersey animal shelter) next door to Austin can achieve similar success, this proves Austin Animal Center was not taking homes away from animals in nearby areas. If anything, Austin Animal Center and Williamson County Animal Shelter likely spurred innovation at both facilities through raising standards and learning from each other.

New Jersey animal control shelters can achieve similar success. In 2016, Associated Humane Societies, New Jersey’s largest animal sheltering organization, took in $1,354 of revenue per dog and cat impounded. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center had a budget of $715 per dog and cat and Williamson County Animal Shelter only had a budget of $416 per dog and cat and total revenue of $493 per dog and cat after adding $200 per dog and cat for animal control services (shelter does not pick up animals). Thus, New Jersey’s largest animal welfare organization takes in far more money per dog and cat yet its Newark facility is high kill and had horrific state health department inspection reports.

Clearly, shelters like Austin Animal Center and Williamson County Animal Shelter prove most animal control shelters can achieve high live release rates and attain real no kill status (i.e. only euthanize hopelessly suffering and truly dangerous dogs). The time for excuses has stopped and its now time for action.

Gloucester County’s Grotesque Pet Killing Factory

In 2015, Gloucester County Animal Shelter made headlines for all the wrong reasons. First, the shelter illegally killed an owner’s cat after being at the shelter for just one day. Subsequent to this incident, the New Jersey Department of Health inspected Gloucester County Animal Shelter and reported the following:

  1. Shelter illegally killed 384 animals during the seven day protection period
  2. Facility allowed disease to spread like wildfire due to the lack of proper policies
  3. Shelter did not have a legally required disease control program under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian
  4. Facility illegally used intraperitoneal injections of Fatal Plus as its primary method to kill cats despite this procedure potentially taking up to 30 minutes
  5. Shelter did not weigh animals it killed
  6. Facility did not confirm animals were dead after killing

As a result of these events, the owner of the illegally killed cat and Stu Goldman, who is the former President and Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer for the Monmouth County SPCA and former Chief Training Officer for the NJ SPCA, filed a lawsuit against the shelter for animal cruelty.

Did Gloucester County Animal Shelter fix all of its problems? Is the Gloucester County Animal Shelter still high kill?

Statistics Reveal a High Kill Shelter

Gloucester County Animal Shelter operated a cat slaughterhouse last year. You can view the actual records here. Overall, 68% of the cats the shelter took in during 2016 were killed, died or went missing. Typically, reclaimed animals have licenses and/or microchips and a shelter has to do little work to save these pets. If we just count cats the shelter had to find new homes for, 72% of cats were killed, died or went missing. Thus, nearly 3 out of 4 cats requiring a new home never made it out of this so-called shelter alive.

To make matters worse, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed huge numbers of cats. During the year, the shelter killed 1,635 cats. Another 191 cats died and 9 additional cats went missing. Thus, around 5 cats on average lost their lives each day of the year at this pet killing factory.

Gloucester County Animal Shelter also killed huge numbers of dogs last year. You can view the actual records here. Overall, 17% of dogs lost their lives. If we just count dogs the shelter had to find new homes for, 36% of dogs were killed or died. In other words, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed more than 1 out of 3 dogs requiring new homes. Thus, Gloucester County Animal Shelter was far from a safe place for dogs.

GCAS 2016 Dog and Cat Statistics.jpg

The shelter killed massive numbers of pit bull like dogs. Overall, 28% of pit bulls lost their lives. If we just look at pit bulls Gloucester County Animal Shelter had to find new homes for, 50% of these dogs lost their lives. To put it another way, pit bulls requiring a new home only had a 50-50 chance of making it out of the shelter alive. Thus, Gloucester County Animal Shelter was a death trap for pit bull like dogs.

Gloucester County Animal Shelter also killed too many small dogs. While the small dog death rate of 6% and nonreclaimed death rate of 14% were significantly lower than the corresponding figures for other types of dogs, they were still too high. For example, small dogs never pose a significant risk to adult people and no shelter should kill these animals for aggression. For example, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 2% of its adult Chihuahuas last year. Similarly, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter only euthanized 3% of all of its small dogs and only 6% of its nonreclaimed small dogs. As a result, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed its small dogs at around two to three times the rate of other shelters doing a good job with these types of animals.

The shelter also killed many other medium to large size breeds of dogs. Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed 18% of all and 43% of nonreclaimed other medium to large size breeds of dog. In other words, the shelter killed nearly 1 out of 2 other medium to large size breeds of dogs requiring new homes. Thus, Gloucester County Animal Shelter was not a safe place for any medium to large size dog.

GCAS 2016 Dog Statistics

Gloucester County Animal Shelter’s length of stay data reveals it quickly killed dogs and cats. On average, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed cats, all dogs, pit bull like dogs and small dogs after 18 days and other dog breeds after 19 days.

Also, the shelter took 77 days on average to adopt each cat out. Given Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed so many cats (i.e. the remaining cats likely were highly adoptable animals), the shelter should have adopted out these cats much more quickly.

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2016 GCAS Dog Breeds LOS.jpg

To make matters worse, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed dogs with empty kennels. Based on an equation for determining a shelter’s population, we can estimate the Gloucester County Animal Shelter’s average dog population during the year. Using the 989 annual dog intake figure and the 12 day average length of stay for all dogs, we can estimate Gloucester County Animal Shelter had on average 33 dogs in its shelter during 2016. The New Jersey Department of Health’s October 21, 2015 inspection report on Gloucester County Animal Shelter (29 dogs at facility) indicates this estimate was reasonable. 33 dogs only represents roughly 60% of the shelter’s 54 dog capacity per its 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Thus, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed dogs while other kennels remained empty during the year.

Gloucester County Animal Shelter’s Absurd Reason for Killing Cats

Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed huge numbers of cats for alleged behavior problems. The shelter killed 985 cats or 37% of the cats it took in for being feral (27%) and for alleged behavior problems (10%). Frankly, any shelter classifying 27% of their cats as feral does not have a clue about cat behavior. In fact, a recent study documented 18% of impounded cats were initially classified as feral/aggressive, but all these cats became safe enough to adopt out after people gently touched the cats (using a stick for very aggressive cats) and spoke to them softly for 6 days. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center in Texas only killed 1 cat or 0% of all cats for temperament related reasons in 2016. Thus, Gloucester County Animal Shelter simply wrote huge numbers of cats off as feral or having behavioral problems and killed these animals.

Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed an unusually large percentage of animals for medical reasons. Overall, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed 536 cats or 20% of their cats for medical reasons and another 63 cats or 2% due to a veterinary order (presumably the animals were hopelessly suffering). As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only killed 3% of their cats for all medical reasons. In other words, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed cats for medical reasons at over seven times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

GCAS Cats Killed 2016

Austin Animal Center 2016 Cats Euthanized Reasons

To make matters worse, Gloucester County Animal Shelter quickly killed cats for alleged behavior problems and health issues. The shelter killed cats for supposedly being feral as well as cats with other behavior issues after 16 days and cats with health problems after 22 days. Simply put, Gloucester County Animal Shelter hardly even gave these cats a chance.

GCAS Killed Cats LOS

Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed cats it classified as “feral” and did little else. Cat ID# 239994, who was just 2 years old, was trapped and picked up by a Gloucester County Animal Shelter ACO on May 26, 2016. Other than making some basic notes about the sex of the animal, noting the cat was possibly pregnant, and stating the cat had no microchip, the shelter did nothing, but kill this cat eight days later. In fact, the records below indicate the cat received no veterinary care and there is no documentation of the shelter providing socialization.

GCAS Cat 23994 Intake and Disposition Record

GCAS 239994 Medical Record

Cat ID# 238919 was a 4 month old cat who was trapped and taken by an ACO to the Gloucester County Animal Shelter on February 8, 2016. Other than scanning the animal for a microchip, Gloucester County Animal Shelter did nothing for this kitten. After 8 days, the shelter killed this kitten for being “feral.”

GCAS 238919 Part 1

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Cat ID# 243787, who was just 2 years old, was trapped and brought by an ACO to the Gloucester County Animal Shelter on December 13, 2016. Gloucester County Animal Shelter vaccinated the animal on her second day at the shelter and scanned her for a microchip. After 8 days of apparently doing nothing else, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed this young cat for being “feral.”

GCAS 243787.jpg

GCAS 243787 pt 2

Gloucester County Animal Shelter also killed cats for absurd behavioral reasons. Molly was a spayed 3 year old cat who was surrendered to the Gloucester County Animal Shelter on May 16, 2016. According to the owner, Molly was an indoor cat, did not cause damage in the home, used a litter box, liked school age kids and adults, was playful, friendly, affectionate, shy and nice. Unfortunately, Molly fought with another cat in the household, but the owner acknowledged Molly was not used to other animals. Instead of adopting out this wonderful cat to a home without cats or to a family that would socialize her with their own cats, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed Molly 18 days later.

GCAS 239853

GCAS 239853 Pt 2

GCAS 239853 Pt 2 (2)

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Gloucester County Animal Shelter also killed cats for ridiculous “health” reasons. Slinkie was a one year old cat surrendered by her owner on December 12, 2016 due to the owner losing their home. According to her owner, Slinkie was sociable, used a litter box, did not cause damage, liked adults, school age children and other cats and was playful, friendly and affectionate. In addition, the owner spayed Slinkie at the People for Animals clinic earlier in the year. Despite this cat being a wonderful pet, Gloucester County killed Slinkie 8 days later for having easily treatable ringworm.

GCAS 243349

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Gloucester County Animal Shelter’s Poor Reasons for Killing Dogs

Gloucester County Animal Shelter used the reasons below to kill dogs. Most striking, was that the shelter killed 13% of all impounded dogs for behavior/aggression related reasons. As a comparison, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed a significantly larger percentage of dogs for aggression/behavior issues than Austin Animal Center (0.5% of all dogs killed for aggression related reasons in the last quarter of of fiscal year 2016). The shelter also killed 4% of all dogs for medical reasons compared to just 1% of dogs at Austin Animal Center in 2016. Thus, the data strongly suggests Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed too many dogs for aggression and medical related reasons.

GCAS Dogs Killed Reasons

Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed far too many pit bulls for aggression related issues. Astonishingly, the shelter killed 20% of all impounded pit bulls for “behavior” and “bite cases.” As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only killed 2% of all its pit bulls in 2016 for behavioral and similar reasons. However, Austin Animal Center likely killed a lower percentage of pit bulls in the final quarter of 2016 since the percentage of all dogs killed for behavior dropped in half. Therefore, Austin Animal Center may have killed only 1% of pit bull dogs for behavior related reasons during this time. In other words, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed pit bulls for aggression related reasons at 10-20 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

Similarly, Gloucester County Animal Shelter also appeared to kill too many pit bull like dogs for medical related reasons. While Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed 6% of all pit bulls for medical related reasons, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its pit bulls for these reasons.

GCAS Pit Bulls Killed Reasons.jpg

Gloucester County Animal Shelter also appeared to kill too many small dogs for aggression related problems. Specifically, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed 3% of small dogs for these reasons while Austin Animal Center killed 0% of small dogs for these reasons. Frankly, shelters should never kill small dogs for aggression related problems given their inability to inflict serious harm on an adult person (i.e. such dogs can be placed in adult only homes).

GCAS Small Dogs Killed

Gloucester County Animal Shelter also killed an abnormally large percentage of other medium to large size dogs for aggression and medical related problems. The shelter killed 14% of other medium to large size breeds of dogs for “behavior” and “bite case” reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only killed 2% of its other medium to large size breeds for these reasons. Similarly, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed 4% of other medium to large size dogs for medical reasons while Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of these types of dogs.

GCAS Other Dogs Killed Reasons.jpg

Gloucester County Animal Shelter quickly killed dogs for behavior reasons. The shelter killed dogs for “behavior” after just 18 days on average. In other words, these dogs did not even get three weeks to decompress at the shelter.

GCAS Dogs Killed LOS

While this data was not materially different for pit bulls and other medium to large size breeds, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed small dogs even faster for behavior related reasons. Specifically, the shelter killed small dogs for “behavior” after just 11 days on average.

GCAS Small Dogs Killed LOS.jpg

Dog ID# 238996 was a 3 year old pit bull like dog who was picked up as a stray on March 20, 2016. On the dog’s “Impoundment Exam”, the dog was noted as being “extremely stressed” in her kennel, “skinny” and had “possible ear infections.” None of the records I reviewed indicated any effort to reduce stress as required by state law and the New Jersey Department of Health’s related guidance. Instead, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed her 11 days later for “behavior.”

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238996 pt 2 (3)

Dog ID# 241788 was a 2 year old Labrador retriever that was turned in by a person who found him on July 9, 2016. The dog’s Impoundment Exam stated he had a healing puncture in his ear and an abrasion over his eye. Remarkably, the shelter stated “he was trying to eat neighboring dog through cage” (i.e. barrier reactivity). As Dogs Playing for Life states, barrier reactivity is “not an accurate indicator of a dog’s social skills.” Volunteers at most animal shelters will tell you how different dog behavior is inside a cage at a stressful shelter and outside in real world situations. Adding to the normal stress this dog would feel after being thrown into a chaotic shelter environment, Dog ID# 241788 would have also had to deal injuries to his ear and the area above his eye. Despite barrier reactivity or kennel stress being easy to fix, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed this dog a mere 13 days after he arrived at the shelter for “behavior.”

241788 pt 1

241788 pt 2

Bentley (ID# 243866) was 2 year old Lhasa Aspo-poodle mix who was brought in for a rabies quarantine after the dog bit his owner on their thumb. However, the bite was so minor that the person was able to treat it without the help of a physician. Despite many people wanting to adopt small dogs like this, even those that bite/nip, Gloucester County Animal Shelter refused to evaluate the dog’s behavior due to the “bite case.” After just 20 days, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed this dog for being a “bite case.”

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Gizmo (ID# 241545) was an 8 year old pit bull like dog surrendered by his owner to the Gloucester County Animal Shelter on August 29, 2016. Apparently, the owner’s spouse left them and they had to move to a place that would not accept Gizmo. The dog’s Impoundment Exam stated he had “missing patches of fur in patches”, “dandruff” and a “possible skin infection.” According to the owner, Gizmo, who was neutered, was an inside dog, and liked all kinds of people, including seniors, kids and babies. The owner noted Gizmo was friendly, playful and tolerant. Additionally, he tolerated bathing, nail clippings and ear cleaning. While the owner did say Gizmo was destructive, the dog was left alone in a basement for 8-10 hours a day where such behaviors could understandably develop. Despite Gizmo being great with people and not having any serious medical issues, Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed him after just 8 days for “health” reasons.

GCAS 241545 pt 1

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GCAS 241545 Dog Profile

Gloucester County Animal Shelter Uses Improper Method to Kill Thousands of Cats

Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11, animal shelters can only use intraperitoneal and intracardiac (i.e. heart stick) injections to kill/euthanize animals in specific situations. Specifically, when an animal is very small or a comatose animal with a depressed vascular function. For heart sticking, an animal must also be heavily sedated or in a comatose state.

The primary recommended method is an intravenous injection of a barbiturate; however, an intraperitoneal or intracardiac injection may be made where intravenous injection is impractical, as in the very small animal, or in the comatose animal with depressed vascular function. Intracardiac injection is acceptable only when performed on heavily sedated, anesthetized or comatose animals.

Intraperitoneal and intracardiac methods of euthanasia are restricted for good reason. Under the intraperitoneal 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 is obviously barbaric. Thus, animal shelters should limit these methods or not use them altogether for both legal and humane reasons.

The New Jersey Department of Health’s October 21, 2015 inspection report clearly stated Gloucester County Animal Shelter was violating state law by using intraperitoneal injections as the “primary method” of euthanizing “all cats and kittens.”

1.11 (c) The acceptable methods of euthanasia include the following: 1. The primary recommended method is an intravenous injection of a barbiturate; however, an intraperitoneal or intracardiac injection may be made where intravenous injection is impractical, as in the very small animal, or in the comatose animal with depressed vascular function.

Cats and kittens were not euthanized by intravenous injection as required. Documents indicated and the inspector was told at the time of this inspection that the primary method of euthanasia for cats at the facility was an intraperitoneal injection of sodium pentobarbital. All cats and kittens were euthanized by this method, including healthy adult cats and larger kittens over 4 weeks of age rather than cats that were comatose and had depressed vascular function or very small neonate kittens where intravenous injection may be impractical. Intraperitoneal and intracardiac injections are not to be used as the primary method of euthanasia for animals at the facility and these methods of euthanasia are only acceptable with documented justification.

Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed almost every cat using intraperitoneal injections in 2016 and the first 11 or so months of 2017. You can view the 2016 and 2017 euthanasia logs showing this here and here. The shelter used intraperitoneal injections to kill not just small kittens, who might be difficult to euthanize using intravenous injections, but older kittens and adults cats as well. In 2016, the shelter failed to even justify using intraperitoneal injection for almost every cat. While Gloucester County Animal Shelter did explain why it used intraperitoneal injections in 2017, it often used inadequate reasons such as “Staffing” and “Other Medical.” In addition, I noticed a number of cats were euthanized using both intraperitoneal and heart stick injections without any confirmation the animal was in comatose state. Thus, Gloucester County Animal Shelter continued to violate state law on a grand scale even after being called out on it in a 2015 inspection report.

Frankly, the New Jersey Department of Health should pursue the maximum penalty for each animal Gloucester County Animal Shelter improperly killed. While the fines under existing law of $5-$50 per offense are way too small, these fines could add up to a significant amount. For example, if Gloucester County Animal Shelter improperly euthanized 3,000 animals in 2016 and 2017 and the New Jersey Department of Health or the Gloucester County Health Department pursued the maximum fine of $50, Gloucester County Animal Shelter could face a $150,000 penalty.

Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health should reinspect the shelter every month and assess new fines for each shelter law violation not corrected. Gloucester County officials must face a steep monetary penalty for allowing these blatant law-breaking activities to go on.

Gloucester County Must Clean House at its Animal Shelter

Gloucester County Animal Shelter must fire Shelter Director, Bill Lombardi. Personally, I thought the county should have terminated Mr. Lombardi and brought animal cruelty charges against him after the horrific 2015 New Jersey Department of Health inspection. For Gloucester County to pay this man around $90,000 to run a high kill shelter and to regularly kill cats using a method the 2015 New Jersey Department of Health inspection report indicated was inappropriate is unforgivable. Simply put, Gloucester County must part ways with Bill Lombardi.

Gloucester County Animal Shelter is failing its residents. Last year, Gloucester County Animal Shelter only took in 13 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and 36% of nonreclaimed dogs and 72% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives. As a comparsion, the corresponding figures at Kansas City’s animal control shelter were 8% for dogs and around 10% for cats despite that facility taking in 20 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and approximately three times as many dogs and cats in total.

Gloucester County Animal Shelter should bring in a no kill consultant to revamp the shelter’s policies and evaluate all its personnel. Clearly, Gloucester County Animal Shelter is doing almost everything wrong and requires wholesale change. If Gloucester County can bring in a top notch no kill consultant, such as No Kill Learning, the county can turn its shelter around and ultimately save money by doing things right the first time. Furthermore, creating a no kill community can benefit all county residents as a 2017 University of Denver study showed the Austin, Texas no kill initiative resulted in a $157 million net economic benefit to the region.

Gloucester County should pressure its municipalities to enact TNR. While the county passed a resolution last summer supporting municipalities that allow TNR, the county shelter should refuse to impound feral cats from those communities that continue to ban TNR. If Gloucester County Animal Shelter were to do this, you would quickly see the municipalities passing TNR ordinances. As a result, taxpayers would save money and the shelter would stop killing many cats.

Gloucester County residents must call and write key elected officials and demand they turn the county shelter into a no kill facility. Currently, Gloucester County taxpayers give the shelter $1.9 million a year or $505 per dog and cat. This level of funding is equal to or greater than many no kill animal control shelters. Gloucester County residents should contact Freeholder Director, Robert Damminger, at (856) 853-3395 and rdamminger@co.gloucester.nj.us as well as Freeholder, Daniel Christy, at (856) 853-3383 and dchristy@co.gloucester.nj.us, and demand the following:

  • Fire Shelter Director Bill Lombardi
  • Hire a No Kill Consultant to help turn the shelter into a no kill facility
  • Refuse to impound feral cats from municipalities that ban TNR
  • Enact the Companion Animal Protection Act to ensure the shelter makes a minimal effort to save lives and treat animals humanely

Gloucester County’s elected officials have the opportunity to give this horror story a happy conclusion. Let’s make sure they do so.

Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s Poor Treatment of Plainfield’s Homeless Animals

Associated Humane Societies-Newark has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The shelter received three terrible inspection reports over the last few months. In addition, NJ.com, PIX 11 News and News 12’s Kane in Your Corner all published/aired news stories exposing this “house of horrors.” As a result of these inspections and news reports, the NJ SPCA charged AHS Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, with eight criminal and eight civil counts of animal cruelty. This story made both national and international news and was published in well-known news outlets, such as the New York Times. Subsequently, the Star Ledger issued a scathing editorial demanding the state remove Roseann Trezza and put the Newark shelter into receivership (i.e. run by other competent people on a temporary basis until they find a permanent solution). Despite all this, AHS defended Roseann Trezza and appears unwilling to institute substantive change.

AHS-Newark has consistently killed large percentages of the animals it takes in per annual statistics the organization reported to the New Jersey Department of Health. In 2014, AHS-Newark killed 29% of its dogs and 42% of its cats. AHS-Newark killed 25% of its dogs and 43% of its cats in 2015. In 2016, AHS-Newark killed 25% of its dogs and 44% of its cats. Thus, AHS-Newark’s annual statistics consistently revealed the facility was high kill.

AHS-Newark’s statistics were far worse according to underlying records I obtained. Based on individual animal records for Newark dogs and cats primarily coming to the facility from animal control in 2014, 70% of dogs, 81% of pit bull like dogs and 93% of cats with known outcomes lost their lives in this data set. Similarly, 60% of dogs, 74% of pit bull like dogs and 83% of cats with known outcomes from the City of Irvington lost their lives at AHS-Newark during the first nine or so months of 2015 based on individual animal records provided to me. Thus, AHS-Newark’s underlying records revealed a much higher percentage of animals losing their lives from these two cities.

Subsequently, AHS-Newark refused to provide these records from other contracting municipalities. The shelter stated they changed their software system. Additionally, the organization claimed it did not have to submit records, even if requested by the contracting municipality, under OPRA. In fact, AHS-Newark even added similar language to agreements with contracting municipalities I saw.

Luckily, another animal advocate was able to obtain AHS-Newark’s intake and disposition records for stray animals from the City of Plainfield. These records related to all of 2016 and the first nine or so months of 2017. Unfortunately, AHS-Newark only provided a report that provided little information on each animal and no disposition dates. Therefore, AHS-Newark provided less transparent records than it previously gave to me.

Plainfield has a local group that aggressively tries to save the city’s animals. Plainfield Residents’ Association for Animal Rescue (“PRAAR”) helps local residents find alternatives to surrendering owned and stray animals to AHS-Newark (i.e. reducing animal intake at the shelter) and reclaim stray animals impounded by AHS-Newark. As a result of these efforts, AHS-Newark should be able to achieve high live release rates for Plainfield’s homeless animals.

What kind of job did AHS-Newark do in handling Plainfield’s homeless animals? Are Planfield’s elected officials making good use of the city’s taxpayer dollars by contracting with AHS-Newark?

Many Plainfield Dogs Lose Their Lives at AHS-Newark

AHS-Newark killed a large percentage of the stray dogs it took in from Plainfield in 2016. Overall, AHS-Newark’s kill rate for Plainfield’s stray dogs in 2016 was around the same as AHS-Newark’s total dog statistics in its “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” However, AHS-Newark’s 2016 “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” had errors I previously described and is not particularly reliable. While AHS-Newark’s dog kill rate was lower than the 2014 Newark and 2015 Irvington kill rates I calculated, AHS-Newark still killed 24% of dogs or roughly 1 out of 4 dogs. Even worse, AHS-Newark killed 37% of pit bull like dogs or more than 1 out of 3 pit bull like dogs from Plainfield.

Since many dogs reclaimed by owners have licenses and microchips, it is easy for AHS-Newark to quickly send these animals back home to their families. Additionally, PRAAR helps owners reclaim their dogs from the shelter. As a result of these efforts and lower poverty rates in Plainfield, AHS-Newark’s dog reclaim rate was around two to three times higher than the reclaim rates I computed for 2014 Newark dogs and 2015 Irvington dogs.

AHS-Newark did a poor job in finding new homes for Plainfield’s stray dogs. The shelter killed 34% of all non-reclaimed dogs, 52% of non-reclaimed pit bulls, 11% of non-reclaimed small dogs and 23% of other non-reclaimed dogs. In other words, AHS-Newark killed approximately 1 out of 3 non-reclaimed dogs, 1 out of 2 non-reclaimed pit bulls and 1 out of 4 non-reclaimed other medium to large size dogs.

To make matters worse, AHS-Newark’s dog and non-reclaimed dog kill rates may have been higher. To the extent transferred dogs went to other AHS facilities, which are kill shelters, and those facilities killed these animals, the kill rates would increase.

AHS-Newark adopted out hardly any dogs. The shelter only adopted out 16 dogs in total, 4 pit bull like dogs, 8 small dogs and 4 dogs from other breeds. In fact, AHS-Newark only adopted out 17% of all these dogs, 8% of pit bull like dogs, 27% of small dogs and 24% of dogs from other breeds.

2016 AHS-Newark Plainfield Dog Statistics

The shelter’s statistics for the first nine or so months of 2017 were actually worse in some respects. Overall, 21% of all dogs, 41% of pit bull like dogs, 4% of small dogs and 7% of dogs from other breeds lost their lives. However, the non-reclaimed dog death rates were higher for all dogs and pit bull like dogs during the first nine or so months of 2017. Specifically, 38% of all non-reclaimed dogs and 62% of non-reclaimed pit bull like dogs lost their lives at this so-called shelter. In other words, more than 1 out of 3 non-reclaimed dogs and nearly 2 out of 3 non-reclaimed pit bulls lost their lives at AHS-Newark.

Once again, AHS-Newark adopted out hardly any dogs. Most notably, AHS-Newark only adopted out 16% of all dogs and just 10% of pit bull like dogs during the first nine or so months of 2017.

2017 AHS-Newark Plainfield Dog Statistics.jpg

Plainfield Cats Die in Droves at AHS-Newark

Large percentages of stray cats and kittens from Plainfield lost their lives at AHS-Newark in 2016. AHS-Newark killed 24% of all cats, 39% of adult cats and 17% of kittens. However, many additional kittens died at the shelter. Once we factor in the kittens dying at AHS-Newark, the death rates for all cats and kittens were 42% and 44% in 2016. If we back out the 4 cats that were “released”, which I assume were either reclaimed by their owner or were trapped, neutered and released, the non-released cat death rate was 45% for all cats, 50% for adult cats and 44% for kittens. In other words, nearly 1 out of 2 stray cats and kittens from Plainfield requiring a new home lost their lives at AHS-Newark in 2016.

Shockingly, AHS-Newark hardly adopted out any cats. The shelter adopted out just 6 of 61 or 10% of all cats, 2 of 18 or 11% of adult cats and 4 of 43 or 9% of kittens. While the shelter sent 24 cats and kittens to rescues and/or other shelters, its unclear whether these were all no kill organizations. If AHS-Newark transferred some of these cats to AHS-Tinton Falls or AHS-Popcorn Park, its possible the kill rates could be higher since AHS-Tinton Falls killed 51% and AHS-Popcorn Park killed 26% of cats with known outcomes in 2016.

2016 AHS-Newark Plainfield Cat Statistics

Plainfield’s stray cats continued to lose their lives at AHS-Newark during the first nine or so months of 2017. Overall 30% of all cats, 28% of adult cats and 32% of kittens lost their lives at AHS-Newark. Amazingly, AHS-Newark adopted out just 2 out of 55 cats or just 4% of these animals. The shelter did not adopt out a single one of the stray 33 kittens it took in from Plainfield. Frankly, a single person could adopt out many more cats than AHS-Newark did.

2017 AHS-Newark Plainfield Cat Statistics.jpg

AHS-Newark’s atrocious performance handling cats is clear when we break out the statistics by age. As you can see in the tables below, AHS-Newark reported only taking 1 neonatal kitten (i.e. less than 6 weeks old) in during 2016 and the first nine or so months of 2017. Since these are often the most vulnerable animals (highly susceptible to disease, those without mothers require around the clock bottle feeding), this makes AHS-Newark’s high death rates more disturbing.

AHS-Newark performed far worse than Austin Animal Center. In 2016 and 2017, AHS-Newark had higher death rates for all age groups. However, AHS-Newark’s death rates for older kittens (6 weeks to just under 1 year) were 15-25 times higher than Austin Animal Center’s despite the Texas shelter taking in nearly 1,800 of these animals. Even though older kittens are the most highly adoptable age group, AHS-Newark failed to adopt out a single stray older kitten taken in from Plainfield in 2016 and the first nine or so months of 2017. Is it any wonder why 75% and 45% of older kittens from Plainfield lost their lives during 2016 and the first nine months of 2017?

2016 AHS-Newark Cats Plainfield By Age

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Austin Animal Center 2016 Cat Statistics

Plainfield Taxpayers Ripped Off

Plainfield pays AHS-Newark exorbitant amounts for the “service” it receives. According to the city’s prior contract with AHS-Newark, which Plainfield is continuing to use on a month to month basis, it pays AHS-Newark $121,890 a year. This works out to $781 per each of the 156 stray dogs and cats the shelter impounded from Plainfield in 2016. In fact, Plainfield taxpayers paid AHS-Newark $5,540 per adoption based on the $121,890 contract fee and the paltry 22 dog and cat adoptions the shelter did in 2016. If these fees were not high enough, Plainfield taxpayers must pay AHS-Newark $18 per day to board an animal involved in a court case proceeding. Since such cases can take a long time to resolve, this potentially puts Plainfield taxpayers on the hook to pay AHS-Newark much more. Plainfield taxpayers must also pay AHS-Newark additional costs, which could be substantial, if the shelter takes in feral cats from abandoned colonies. Thus, Plainfield taxpayers are paying exorbitant fees to AHS-Newark for terrible service.

AHS-Newark also charges Painfield residents additional high fees. Plainfield residents must pay AHS-Newark $95 to reclaim a lost animal during normal operating hours on weekdays. However, the shelter charges $125 if the person reclaims the animal after 5 pm on weekdays and on weekends. Furthermore, AHS-Newark makes Plainfield residents pay an additional $4.24 per day during the first 7 days and $12.84 per day after day 7 to reclaim their animal. Also, residents must pay AHS-Newark $95 per hour on weekdays until 5 pm and $125 per hour on weekdays after 5 pm and weekends to remove wildlife from inside their homes unless the animal poses a threat to the resident’s well-being. In addition, AHS-Newark charges feral cat colony caretakers or the City of Plainfield an additional $65 per animal fee to spay/neuter, vaccinate, ear tip and microchip these cats. Thus, Plainfield taxpayers must pay additional exorbitant fees to use AHS-Newark’s services.

AHS-Newark also rips off Plainfield taxpayers in other ways. Under the arrangement, AHS-Newark, and not the town, decides if an injured or sick animal gets to receive emergency veterinary treatment outside AHS-Newark’s normal operating hours (i.e. when no AHS-Newark veterinarian is present). Furthermore, AHS-Newark asserts it “owns” an animal after day 7 despite the New Jersey Commission of Investigation questioning this notion. Practically speaking, Plainfield residents have no say in what happens to stray animals after day 7 despite paying AHS-Newark nearly $800 per dog and cat plus additional fees. Also, the contract only requires AHS-Newark to respond to calls within one hour during normal business hours. During weeknights and weekends, AHS-Newark has no time limit to respond to calls. If a dog or cat is hit by a car and needs quick veterinary treatment, the animal is out of luck. To make matters worse, Plainfield residents cannot even call AHS-Newark directly when animals need assistance. Instead, they must first call the police or health department who would subsequently call AHS-Newark. Frankly, this is absurd when seconds could make the difference between life and death for an injured animal.

Plainfield Must Aggressively Seek a New Animal Control and Sheltering Provider

While Plainfield recently issued a Request for Proposal for animal control and sheltering services, this is not strong enough action. First, the RFP provides no requirements for a third party to save lives. Given animal control shelters in hundreds of communities across the nation save over 90% of their animals, Plainfield should require any provider to save at least 90% of Plainfield’s animals. Second, the RFP calls for impounding feral cats which shelters should not do except if such animals are sick, injured, in serious danger or if the animals will be altered, vaccinated and released to where they were found. Third, the City of Plainfield must be proactive and reach out to alternative providers and persuade them to bid on the contract. Simply put, AHS-Newark is not an acceptable alternative and the city must act as if it has no provider.

Local Shelters Must Bid on Plainfield Contract

Plainfield Area Humane Society must aggressively pursue the Plainfield animal control and sheltering contract. Based on 2016 analyses I did on the shelter’s cats and dogs, Plainfield Area Humane Society could have taken in 477 more dogs and 1,212 more cats in 2016. Clearly, this vastly exceeds the 95 stray dogs and 61 stray cats AHS-Newark impounded from Plainfield last year. Frankly, Plainfield Area Humane Society should be appalled at how AHS-Newark is treating its hometown animals. Thus, Plainfield Area Humane Society should jump at the opportunity to save the homeless animals in its own community.

St. Hubert’s should also aggressively bid on the Plainfield contract. St. Hubert’s-North Branch is less than 20 miles away and could easily take on Plainfield’s contract. The organization routinely transfers in dogs from the south and rescues many cats from other New Jersey animal shelters. According to St. Hubert’s Strategic Directories and Priorities for 2015-2018, the organization seeks to continue being a “model shelter” and wants to “seek contracts with targeted municipalities.” Clearly, Plainfield needs a new sheltering provider and St. Hubert’s should try to obtain the contract.

Edison Animal Shelter could also bid on the Plainfield contract. Based on 2016 analyses I did on the shelter’s cats and dogs, Edison Animal Shelter could take in 100 more dogs and 374 more cats.

Additionally, other shelters could pledge to rescue animals from facilities contracting with Plainfield. For example, Woodbridge Animal Shelter could take in 84 more dogs (nearly as many dogs AHS-Newark impounded from Plainfield in 2016) and 306 more cats (many more cats than AHS-Newark impounded from Plainfield in 2016) based on my 2016 analyses I did on the shelter’s cats and dogs.

While Plainfield’s feral cat policy would be problematic for many, if not all, of these organizations, these shelters could pressure the city to change its stance. In other words, if Plainfield wants to contract with an organization to provide animal control and/or sheltering services, the city must allow TNR.

People Must Demand Plainfield Replace AHS-Newark Unless the Entire AHS Leadership Resigns

Plainfield’s elected officials will continue to shortchange the city’s animals unless residents and other people pressure these politicians to change. In other words, people must write to the City Council and Mayor and demand they dump AHS-Newark unless AHS removes Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, all other long-time executives and the entire AHS Board of Director.

To make this task easier, people can send the following letter using the emails below:

adrian.mapp@plainfieldnj.gov

rebecca.williams@plainfieldnj.gov

Diane.Toliver@plainfieldnj.gov

cory.storch@plainfieldnj.gov

bridget.rivers@plainfieldnj.gov

barry.goode@plainfieldnj.gov

Joylette.mills@plainfieldnj.gov

Charles.Mcrae@plainfieldnj.gov

Dear Honorable Mayor Rapp, Council President Williams, Councilwoman Toliver, Councilman Storch, Councilwoman Rivers, Councilman Goode, Councilwoman Mills-Ransome and Councilman McRae,

Recently, Rahway announced they will terminate their contract with Associated Humane Societies-Newark after the shelter’s dismal performance in three New Jersey Department of Health inspections and the NJ SPCA charging Associated Humane Societies Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, with eight counts of criminal and civil animal cruelty charges.

So, the questions that remain are: What is Plainfield waiting for? What is Plainfield doing to address the AHS-Newark crisis?

Unless Roseann Trezza, other long-time executives and the entire Board of Directors of AHS immediately resign, there is absolutely no plausible excuse for Plainfield to continue to use AHS-Newark. Find us another animal control and sheltering provider, even if on a temporary basis.

We’ve had enough unnecessary killing.

Here is the latest from the editorial board of the Star Ledger:

http://www.nj.com/…/newark_animal_shelter_must_clean…

Below is the PIX 11 News expose on AHS-Newark:

http://pix11.com/…/executive-director-of-newark-animal…/

News 12’s Kane in Your Corner’s report on AHS-Newark is linked below:

http://newjersey.news12.com/story/36855182/kiyc-animal-cruelty-charges-filed-against-ahs-director

Roseann Trezza, all long-time AHS executives and the entire AHS board must go.

We anticipate that a response from our elected representatives will be forthcoming in the near future.

Thank you

Additionally, everyone should attend the next Plainfield City Council meeting:

Date: December 11, 2017

Time: 8:00 pm

Location: 325 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060

During that meeting people should demand the following:

  1. Plainfield terminate its contract with AHS-Newark unless Roseann Trezza, other long-time executives and the entire Board of Directors of AHS immediately resign
  2. Aggressively pursue another organization that will seek to achieve a greater than 90% live release rate
  3. Plainfield enact a TNR ordinance to save lives and reduce costs to taxpayers

Plainfield’s use of the high kill and lawless AHS-Newark shelter is no longer tolerable. The city must do the right thing and contract with an organization that will serve both the animals and people of Plainfield well.

2016 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 more than 12,000 cats or 29% of those cats having known outcomes in 2016. 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 less than half the level 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 Pflugerville, Texas and 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 24% of the cats it took in during 2012, which was before it practiced TNR, were feral and euthanized. However, I suspect at least some of these cats were 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 44,748 New Jersey cats coming into the state’s animal shelters in 2016, 29,059 and 8,871 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 27,238 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 and adopt out at least 18,367 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 18,367 cats from out of state shelters or from New Jersey’s streets given the 18,367 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 2016 data):

  • New York City – 1,416 additional cats need saving
  • Philadelphia – 1,958 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 4% 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 6.2 cats per 1,000 people in the state (4.3 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) – 22.7 cats per 1,000 people
  • Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (Charlottesville, Virginia area) – 10.1 cats per 1,000 people
  • Tompkins County SPCA (Tompkins County, New York) – 9.9 cats per 1,000 people
  • Nevada Humane Society (Reno, Nevada and Carson City, Nevada areas) – 9.8 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, 6.2 cats per 1,000 people, I set for New Jersey animal shelters is lower than the state of Colorado’s per capita cat adoption rate for both shelters and rescues of 7.3 cats per 1,000 people. 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.

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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 9,138 cats in 2016. 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, Atlantic County Animal Shelter and Camden County Animal Shelter account for 4,232 or 46% of the 9,138 cats needlessly killed. Associated Humane Societies three shelters had 1,876 cats unnecessarily lose their lives in 2016. Northern Ocean County Animal Facility and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility had 1,002 cats lose their lives needlessly in 2016. Franklin Township Animal Shelter, T. Blumig Kennels and Ron’s Animal Shelter, which had three of the highest cat kill rates in the state, needlessly killed 626 cats. Collectively, these 13 shelters are 13% of the state’s shelters and account for 7,736 or 85% of the 9,138 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 92% in 2016. 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 the overall number of cats rescued was 95% of the amount needed for the state as a whole, the actual number was 41% since many cats were rescued from facilities which did not require so much rescue assistance. Only 31 out of the 74 facilities needing rescue assistance received the required support. In other words, only 42% 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 significantly exceeded their dog rescue needs, but just 42% 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 S3019, 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 – 1,021 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Paterson Animal Control – 199 more cats transferred than necessary (estimated due to the shelter’s incorrect reporting of rescues as adoptions)
  • Byram Township Animal Shelter- 170 more cats transferred than necessary (may have been due to hoarding cases not accounted for in my model that could have overwhelmed this small shelter)
  • Trenton Animal Shelter – 163 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Animal Hospital of Roxbury – 149 more cats transferred than necessary

Associated Humane Societies-Newark, Paterson Animal Control and Trenton 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. 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 per a New Jersey Department of Health limited scope inspection report. 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:

  • Northern Ocean County Animal Facility – 758 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Burlington County Animal Shelter – 484 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Vorhees Animal Orphanage – 437 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Southern Ocean County Animal Facility – 314 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Bergen County Animal Shelter – 274 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Montclair Township Animal Shelter – 247 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter – 226 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Cape May County Animal Shelter – 152 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. As you will see below, Vorhees Animal Orphanage and Montclair Township Animal Shelter adopt out many cats and are doing a good job. Similarly, Cape May County Animal Shelter came very close to reaching its adoption target and achieved its euthanasia rate target. 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 weekends. Similarly, Bergen County Animal Shelter is a high kill facility and refuses to even give information to rescues over the phone. 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. 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 98 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 has reasonable normal adoption fees of $95 for kittens and $65 for adult cats, but 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 all cats. 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. Despite not being open many hours, West Milford Animal Shelter exceeded 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.” 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.  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. Thus, several animal control shelters exceeded or came close to achieving their cat adoption goals and therefore prove these adoption targets are achievable.

Montclair Animal Shelter also significantly exceeded its cat adoption target. In April 2016, a fire destroyed much of this facility. The shelter utilized many foster homes to save its animals. Since I assumed the shelter had no capacity from April through December of 2016, the shelter’s adoption target was very low. Nonetheless, Montclair Animal Shelter deserves credit for aggressively placing its cats into foster homes.

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 7,196 cats is 79% of the 9,138 cats unnecessarily losing their lives in New Jersey animal shelters. Associated Humane Societies has the funding to reach these adoption targets as the organization took in $9.4 million of revenue last year. This works out to $642 of revenue per dog and cat I project the shelter should take in per my Life Saving Model. As a comparison, KC Pet Project, which runs the Kansas City, Missouri animal control shelter, only took in $340 per dog and cat and saved over 90% of these animals in 2016. Even if we add the amount Kansas City pays its own animal control department (i.e. this agency picks up stray animals and sends them to KC Pet Project), this only raises the revenue per dog and cat to approximately $540 per dog and cat (i.e. around $100 less revenue per dog and cat that my model projects AHS would have). 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 current horrific state.

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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. 89 of the 98 shelters should rescue some cats from other local shelters. In fact, 47 of the 89 shelters with targeted excess capacity failed to rescue even a single cat from other animal shelters. Only 4 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 2016 “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 2016 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 15 days at Montana’s Flathead County Animal Shelter, 16 days at Texas’s Williamson County Animal Shelter, less than 18 days at Nevada Humane Society, 24 days (23 days for cats and 27 days for kittens) 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.

2016 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.

This year I made one change to the Life Saving Model. 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.

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 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 one half to one quarter the level found at some of the best animal control shelters. Similarly, the unmodified model yielded a statewide pit bull per capita adoption rate (2.4 pit bulls per 1,000 people) that is close to 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.

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 22,846 New Jersey dogs coming into the state’s animal shelters in 2016, 10,765 and 2,070 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 2,070 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 9,738 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 2016 as follows:

  • New York City – 1,153 additional dogs need saving
  • Philadelphia – 1,453 additional dogs need saving

Additionally, New Jersey animal shelters could save another 7,132 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 2.6 dogs per 1,000 people in the state (1.2 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) – 18.0 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Longmont Humane Society (Longmont, Colorado area) – 10.1 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Nevada Humane Society (Reno, Nevada and Carson City, Nevada areas) – 7.6 dogs per 1,000 people
  • KC Pet Project (Kansas City, Missouri) – 6.9 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Humane Society of Fremont County (Fremont County, Colorado) – 6.8 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Huntsville Animal Services (Huntsville, Alabama area) – 5.6 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Williamson County Animal Shelter (Williamson County, Texas) – 5.5 dogs per 1,000 people

Thus, many communities are already adopting out around two to seven 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 1.5 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 2.1 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 10.1 dogs per 1,000 people adoption rate in 2016. Furthermore, the pit bull adoption targets are even more reasonable given the model assumes there are roughly 1/7 of the number of dogs from other breeds to compete with in the New Jersey adoption market compared to the Longmont, Colorado area.

2016 New Jersey Animal Shelter Targets

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 local dog death rates. Consistent with the Life Saving Model’s assumptions, the actual dogs euthanized/killed/died/missing assumes these dogs came from the local community. All dogs missing are assumed “dead” based on the assumption they died or went to a very bad place. As discussed in my prior blog, the estimated local 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 local dog death rates less than and greater than 5% are highlighted in green and red in the table below.

The Humane Society of Atlantic County had an unusually high estimated local dog death rate. While this number may be higher if some rescued dogs are euthanized/killed (i.e. targeted number assumes no rescued dogs are killed/euthanized) or many terminally ill dogs are surrendered for owner-requested euthanasia, this may possibly point to overly strict temperament testing at this shelter. This facility’s total kill rate of 9% is still very high for a rescue oriented shelter with no animal control contracts and raises serious questions about how life and death decisions are made by this organization. The total kill rate at other rescue oriented shelters, such as Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge and Animal Welfare Association (both had total dog kill rates of 1%) are much lower than the Humane Society of Atlantic County. Thus, I find it difficult to believe the Humane Society of Atlantic County’s larger than expected estimated local dog death rate is due to this organization rescuing a large percentage of their dogs from other shelters.

The largest number of dogs unnecessarily dying occurred at a relatively small number of shelters. Specifically, 12 out of 99 or 12% of the shelters accounted for 80% of the estimated 2,168 dogs unnecessarily losing their lives. In fact, Associated Humane Societies-Newark, which both broke state shelter law left and right this year per New Jersey Department of Health inspection reports, and Trenton Animal Shelter, which also violated state shelter law this year per a state health department inspection report, accounted for 35% of the dogs needlessly losing their lives at New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the greatest number of unnecessary dog deaths are as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies – Newark (519)
  • Trenton Animal Shelter (238)
  • Camden County Animal Shelter (171)
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter (145)
  • Cumberland County SPCA (124)

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

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, 16 facilities received just enough assistance and 28 shelters received too little help from other animal welfare organizations. However, the excess dogs rescued (3,472 dogs) at shelters receiving too much assistance was far higher than the rescue deficits at other shelters (487 dogs) resulting in the state’s shelters sending 2,985 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.

Associated Humane Societies-Newark hogged up the most rescue support. While St. Hubert’s-Madison sent the most dogs to rescues, many of these were dogs it recently transported in. Therefore, this shelter acted more like a middle man than a shelter impounding dogs and sending them to rescues. Rescues and other shelters pulled 433 more dogs than needed from AHS-Newark. Even worse, AHS-Tinton Falls also sent too many dogs to rescues as well as other shelters and this facility and AHS-Popcorn Park rescued far fewer dogs from other shelters than they should have. As a result of this poor performance, AHS diverted much needed rescue assistance from more needy shelters in the region.

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 99 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.

Several rescue oriented shelters exceeded their adoption targets. Beacon Animal Rescue and Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge adopted out more animals than I targeted. While these organizations are both rescue-oriented shelters that appear to pull fewer pit bulls than I target, Beacon Animal Rescue and Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge do at least have a reasonable number of pit bull like dogs up for adoption currently. Additionally, these shelters rescue animals primarily from other New Jersey animal shelters rather than transport large numbers of dogs from the south.

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. While St. Hubert’s-North Branch has animal control contracts, most of its animals up for adoption are rescued from other shelters. St. Hubert’s uses progressive adoption policies, such as open or conversational based adoptions, adopting animals out as gifts, and adopting out animals almost every day of the year. On the other hand, St. Hubert’s appears to rescue far more adoptable animals than my model assumes (i.e. 80% of rescued dogs are pit bulls) and that likely also explains the organization’s strong performance. 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. Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter also exceeded its adoption targets, but this is likely due to this organization rescuing easier to adopt dogs from New Jersey shelters.

Montclair Animal Shelter significantly exceeded its local dog adoption target. In April 2016, a fire destroyed much of this facility. The shelter utilized many foster homes to save its animals. Since I assumed the shelter had no capacity from April through December of 2016, the shelter’s adoption target was very low. Nonetheless, Montclair Animal Shelter deserves credit for aggressively placing its dogs into foster homes and more than doubling its estimated local dog adoptions from the prior year.

Five other animal control shelters exceeded their adoption targets, but this was likely due to factors unrelated to performance. As discussed above, both Northern Ocean Animal Facility and Southern Ocean Animal Facility reported no animals sent to rescues. Personally, I doubt this is the case and it is likely rescues saved a significant number of dogs reported as adopted. Additionally, these two shelters may have benefited from the method I used to cap adoptions in the county and reduce the adoption targets for these two shelters. For example, Northern Ocean Animal Facility and Southern Ocean Animal Facility only reached 94% and 66% of their adoption targets using my unadjusted model only taking the shelter’s physical space into account. Similarly, while Toms River Animal Facility exceeded its dog adoption target, it only reached 45% of my unadjusted model adoption target. Since Associated Humane Societies-Popcorn Park reports a very large capacity (i.e. very high adoption potential), my model reduces all Ocean County animal shelters’ target adoptions to my county adoption cap. Therefore, Northern Ocean Animal Facility, Southern Ocean Animal Facility and Toms River Animal Facility have relatively low dog adoption targets. Thus, none of these shelters may have really done a great job adopting out dogs.

Two animal control shelters deserve mentioning. Camden County Animal Shelter was only three dogs shy of meeting its adoption target (it rounded to 100% on a percentage basis). As a large county shelter that includes a poor urban area, this is an impressive result. Similarly, Ewing Animal Shelter, which is operated by EASEL Animal Rescue League, came very close to meeting its adoption target.

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

  • Associated Humane Societies-Newark – 1,499 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Associated Humane Societies-Popcorn Park – 1,095 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Monmouth SPCA – 586 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Plainfield Area Humane Society – 468 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Bergen Protect and Rescue Foundation – 449 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Bergen County Animal Shelter – 449 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Shake a Paw-Union – 363 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Paterson Animal Shelter – 323 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls – 282 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Humane Society of Atlantic County – 241 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, Paterson Animal Shelter, Monmouth SPCA, Bergen Protect and Rescue Foundation and Bergen County Animal Shelter had troublesome stories involving the shelters and/or prominent people affiliated with these organizations over the last few years. Humane Society of Atlantic County’s low local adoption figures are not surprising given the large number of out of state transported dogs it brings in and its relatively high estimated local death rate. 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. 92 of the 99 shelters should rescue some dogs from other local shelters. In fact, 48 of the 92 shelters with targeted excess capacity failed to rescue even a single dog from a New Jersey animal shelter. Of the 92 shelters with the space to rescue dogs from nearby shelters, only the following shelters met or exceeded their local dog rescue targets:

  1. Somerset Regional Animal Shelter – 122 more dogs rescued than targeted
  2. St. Hubert’s-North Branch – 93 more dogs rescued than targeted
  3. Montclair Township Animal Shelter – 83 more dogs rescued than targeted
  4. St. Hubert’s-Madison – 65 more dogs rescued than targeted
  5. Beacon Animal Rescue – 62 more dogs rescued than targeted
  6. Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge – 24 more dogs rescued than targeted
  7. Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter – 21 more dogs rescued than targeted
  8. Montville Animal Shelter – 8 more dogs rescued than targeted
  9. Common Sense for Animals – 6 more dogs rescued than targeted
  10. Randolph Township Pound – 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 320 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, the 2015 and 2016 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 2016 “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 2016 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.

New Inspection Report Reveals More Horrific Problems at Associated Humane Societies-Newark

Over the last several months, New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspectors documented terrible violations of state law at Associated Humane Societies-Newark. AHS-Newark’s problems were so serious and extensive that authorities did not issue the shelter a normal operating license. You can read about the August 22, 2017 inspection here and the September 26, 2017 inspection here. On October 4, 2017, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected AHS-Newark alone and reported some improvements, but the City of Newark has a history of failing to properly inspect this shelter. You can read about that inspection here.

Subsequent to the August 22, 2017 inspection, AHS-Newark made various excuses and claimed it made “significant progress” in resolving these issues. Did AHS-Newark fix all of its problems after two months passed? What does a new October 20, 2017 New Jersey Department of Health inspection report and related photos say about the quality of the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness’ inspections?

Latest AHS-Newark Inspection Report Even Worse Than Prior Ones

While AHS-Newark did fix some violations from prior inspections, the inspectors gave AHS-Newark a lower grade on the October 20, 2017 inspection report. Specifically, AHS-Newark received a “Conditional B grade” on the August 22, 2017 inspection report and an “Unsatisfactory” rating on the new October 20, 2017 inspection report. To make matters worse, the state health department found some serious new violations during the October 20, 2017 inspection. As a result, authorities once again refused to grant AHS-Newark a normal operating license due to the shelter’s massive violations of state law.

AHS-Newark Had No Supervising Veterinarian

Despite running the largest animal shelter in New Jersey, AHS-Newark failed to have a supervising veterinarian responsible for a disease control and health care management program at the time of the inspection. More troubling, the previous veterinarian left the facility. While AHS-Newark did find a veterinarian to provide some services, that person would only do so for two days a week and would not take on the responsibility of being the supervising veterinarian. If AHS-Newark has trouble retaining and attracting supervising veterinarians, what does that say about AHS-Newark’s management and the conditions of the facility?

10/20/17: Not corrected: The facility did not have a supervising veterinarian responsible for a disease control and health care program at the facility. The previous supervising veterinarian left the facility on 10/17/17. A veterinarian has offered her services two days per week to assist where she can, but this veterinarian stated that she is unable to provide the services required of a supervising veterinarian for this facility.

AHS-Newark falsely communicated to potential adopters that it had a supervising veterinarian.

1.9 (b) Deficiency found on 10/20/17: The form signed by the previous veterinarian indicating that there was a disease control and health care program in effect under the supervision of that veterinarian, was posted in public view at the facility.

Furthermore, AHS-Newark failed to notify the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness that its supervising veterinarian left the organization.

1.9 (c) Deficiency found on 10/20/17: The supervising veterinarian did not notify the local health department that she was no longer employed at the facility. The Assistant Director or any other responsible party did not notify the local health department that the supervising veterinarian was no longer employed at the facility.

AHS-Newark Fails to Properly Clean and Disinfect Its Facility

AHS-Newark did not properly clean and disinfect food and water bowls. Shockingly, the shelter cleaned food bowls with clay cat litter still inside. Furthermore, the AHS-Newark employee just threw water in a bowl with unknown amounts of disinfectant instead of using the correct disinfectant to water ratio to create an effective cleaning solution.

10/20/17 Not corrected. The food and water receptacles in the small dog and cat room were not being thoroughly cleaned with the detergent provided to animal caretakers and were not being disinfected as required. Clay cat litter was seen in the food bowls that were found partially emerged in a cloudy solution in an orange 5-gallon bucket. The animal caretaker stated that this bucket contained disinfectant and when he saw that the bowls were not fully emerged, he filled the bucket with additional water from the faucet. The disinfectant contained in this bucket was contaminated with dirt and debris and water was indiscriminately added to the bucket without measuring the amount of water and without adding additional disinfectant. Cleaning and disinfecting solutions are required to be changed when visibly dirty and the amount of disinfectant and the amount of water are both required to be measured to maintain the dilution ratio as stated in the manufacturer’s instructions for proper disinfection of precleaned surfaces.

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To make matters worse, the shelter did not use enough disinfectant in its cleaning solutions and did not leave such substances long enough on the animal enclosures’ surfaces. Specifically, AHS-Newark used three ounces of a disinfectant in nine to eleven gallon buckets of water (under the assumption they were full) when it should have used more than twenty times as much disinfectant to clean and disinfect floors through the facility. In addition, AHS-Newark wiped dry disinfectant solution in cat cages before the required time. Thus, AHS-Newark failed to use enough disinfectant and leave such cleaning solution on surfaces long enough to prevent the spread of disease.

10/20/17: Not corrected. The disinfectant was not being mixed at the correct dilution and was not maintained on surfaces for the required contact time for disinfection in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions at the time of this inspection.

The bucket that was said to have contained disinfectant in the small dog and cat room as described in 1.7 was contaminated with debris and additional water was added to this contaminated disinfection solution without changing the solution and without measuring the water and adding the appropriate amount of measured disinfectant.

The inspector watched the cleaning process for one of the cat cages in the front lobby. The disinfectant was sprayed on the surfaces of the enclosure, but was not permitted to set for the required time as indicated in the manufacturer’s instructions before being wiped dry with a paper towel. Spray bottles that contain ResCue brand disinfectant were marked with the word Accel (previous manufacturer’s name for this product) but these bottles were not marked with the dilution ratio for the mixed-use solution contained in these bottles.

The inspector was told that 3 ounces of disinfectant was used in the 35 to 44 Qt. commercial size mop buckets to clean and disinfect the floors throughout the facility. The manufacturer’s instructions state to dilute 8 ounces of product per gallon of water for treatment of animal housing facilities

Even if AHS-Newark used proper procedures, it could not effectively clean and disinfect the surfaces of its outdoor dog enclosures since these were apparently not impervious to moisture. AHS-Newark stated it sealed these surfaces, but the facility’s maintenance person could not provide documentation of the product used or even remember the product’s name. Frankly, I find it hard to believe AHS-Newark sealed these surfaces if it did not even know what product it used.

10/20/17: The surfaces of the outdoor enclosures that were said to have been sealed did not appear to effectively prevent moisture from being absorbed into the concrete surfaces. Product information for the sealant was requested by inspectors at the time of this inspection, but the documents were not provided and the building maintenance person could not remember the name of the product used.

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Similarly, AHS-Newark also did poor work in fixing its main dog enclosures and other parts of its shelter. While AHS-Newark repaired some of the damaged concrete in the main dog cages, it did not remove “accumulated layers of deteriorated and peeling paint” from blocks and concrete surfaces. Furthermore, AHS-Newark did not properly resurface the walls and floors in the animal enclosures and the rest of the facility to create a smooth and uniform surface before applying new paint. Therefore, the paint was peeling and staff could not properly clean and disinfect these areas.

10/20/17: Partially corrected: Some areas of damaged concrete had been repaired and the facility was in the process of being painted, but the new paint that was applied and said to have been cured was peeling in several areas. The blocks and concrete surfaces were said to have been scraped to remove the accumulated layers of deteriorated and peeling paint, but the old paint was not removed from these surfaces. The walls and floors throughout the facility and in the animal enclosures had not been resurfaced and properly prepared to create a smooth and uniform surface before the new paint was applied. The repairs to the interior surfaces of the facility had not been completed.

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When AHS-Newark removed animals from their cages during cleaning, they placed these animals into filthy enclosures and carriers. While the shelter did place cage numbers on some of the cat carriers to avoid multiple animals going into the same areas, staff still indiscriminately placed cats into these carriers. Even worse, the shelter had too few cat carriers (17) compared to the number of cats housed in this room (41). Therefore, even if the staff wanted to follow this procedure it could not work. The inspector noted every single one of the cat carriers “contained an accumulation of caked on dirt and debris and had not been cleaned and disinfected before the cats were placed in these enclosures.” Thus, AHS-Newark created the perfect recipe for disease to spread when it was trying to do the opposite.

1.6 (d) Deficiencies found on 10/20/17: Animals were being placed in enclosures and carriers previously inhabited by other animals without these enclosures and carriers first being cleaned and disinfected. Cats and kittens in the cat adoption room, the cat overflow room, and the small dog and cat room were being placed in carriers that had not been cleaned and disinfected. Some carriers were marked with the corresponding cage number to avoid cross contamination between animals, but these carriers were not being used as intended and cats from various enclosures were being placed indiscriminately in these carriers during the cleaning process. The inspector saw cats in carriers that contained an accumulation of dirt and debris and had not been cleaned and disinfected before the cats were placed in them. The numbers on these carriers did not match the cage numbers that the cats were placed in after the primary enclosures had been cleaned. In addition, there were not enough carriers in each room to match the number of cats housed the rooms. There were 17 carriers being used to hold cats in the small dog and cat room, but there were 41 cats housed in this room. Each of the 17 carriers in this room contained an accumulation of caked on dirt and debris and had not been cleaned and disinfected before the cats were placed in these enclosures.

Apparently, the inspector caught the Assistant Executive Director in a lie about these filthy cat carriers. Specifically, the Assistant Executive Director stated the shelter cleaned and disinfected carriers in the overflow cat room the day before, but the inspector reported the carriers had “an accumulation of feces and caked on dirt and debris and had a strong urine odor and had not been cleaned or disinfected.” Frankly, the idea that this build up of feces and filth occurred over just a single day is absurd in my opinion. This same Assistant Executive Director told us in September AHS-Newark was fixing all these issues and retraining staff. Clearly, AHS-Newark and its Assistant Executive Director have no credibility.

10/20/17: Not corrected. Animal caretakers were not following procedures to control the dissemination of disease throughout the facility. Cats exhibiting signs of communicable disease described in 1.9 (d)1. and (f) above were housed in carriers that had not been cleaned and disinfected between inhabitants. The inspector was told by the Assistant Director that the carriers found in the overflow cat room used to house animals during the cleaning process had been cleaned and disinfected the day before, but these carriers contained an accumulation of feces and caked on dirt and debris and had a strong urine odor and had not been cleaned or disinfected.

Furthermore, AHS-Newark had “an excessive amount of medical waste.” Given such medical waste potentially carries infectious diseases, this is deeply concerning.

1.9 (a) Deficiency found on 10/20/17: The facility was found to be in possession of an excessive amount of medical waste that was being stored at the facility and had not been properly disposed of.

AHS-Newark Fails to Provide Proper Veterinary Care

The shelter did not provide even basic veterinary care to two cats in the “feral cat room.” One cat had a build-up of “crusted material on its nose” and blood smeared in its cage. Another cat in this room could not fully open its right eye, was listless and lying face down. What happened to the new wonderful AHS-Newark medical protocol? Clearly, these animals did not benefit from it.

10/20/17: Not corrected. Animals displaying signs of communicable disease or illness were not provided with basic veterinary care. A red tabby cat located in the feral cat room had an accumulation of crusted material on its nose and there appeared to be small amounts of blood smeared on the cardboard carrier in its cage. A brown tabby cat in the feral cat room was unable to open its right eye fully and the nictitating membrane was covering the eye. This cat appeared listless and was lying with its head face down on top of its hiding box.

AHS-Newark also failed to provide veterinary care to several cats in the adoption room. Two young kittens were housed with a sick male cat in a temporary carrier. This male cat had thick mucous coming out of his two nostrils and both eyes. Unsurprisingly, the two young kittens also had crusted nasal and eye discharge. Another kitten, who was nursing from its mom in a temporary carrier, had “severe” mucous discharge coming from its nose and eyes.

A red patched white male cat housed with two young kittens in a temporary carrier in the cat adoption room (a deficiency of 1.6 (c) 2.) had thick mucopurulent nasal discharge in both nostrils and thick mucopurulent discharge in both eyes. The kittens in this carrier also had a crusted nasal and eye discharge. A young nursing kitten had severe mucopurulent nasal and eye discharge; this kitten was housed in a temporary carrier with its mother located in the cat adoption room.

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AHS-Newark also did not provide veterinary treatment to numerous animals in its overflow cat room. Adult cats, nursing mothers with kittens and weaned kittens were sick. These poor animals were sneezing and had nasal and eye discharge. What kind of people do not provide veterinary care to animals in these conditions?

The overflow cat room contained numerous adult cats, nursing mothers with kittens, as well as weaned kittens that were exhibiting signs of a communicable disease, including nasal and eye discharge accompanied by sneezing. These included, but were not limited to, cats and kittens in cage numbers 1 (grey tabby kitten), 2 (two red tabby kittens), 5 (several grey and brown tabby kittens), 7 (black kitten), and 12 (various kittens).

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The shelter also failed to treat two small dogs with obvious medical conditions. One Maltese had “numerous sores”, “was missing hair”, and was “aggressively chewing its back” in apparent distress due to the severe itching. How on earth did AHS-Newark personnel not immediately provide this poor dog veterinary treatment? Another poodle like dog had “hot spots”, which typically are severe skin irritations caused by bacterial infections, on its side and rear. Once again, AHS-Newark did not provide medical treatment to an animal who obviously needed it.

A white Maltese, ID number 25862, had numerous sores and was missing hair on its back. This dog was seen aggressively chewing its back and appeared to be in distress with uncontrolled itching. This dog also had eye discharge in both eyes. A white poodle type dog in the small dog and cat room without an identification number had hot spots on its side and rear. These animals listed above had not been provided with veterinary medical care.

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Why did AHS-Newark fail to treat sick animals? The shelter did not observe animals daily for signs of contagious diseases. This is animal sheltering 101.

10/20/17: Not corrected. Cats classified as feral were housed in cages in a different room, but animals throughout the facility were not being observed daily for clinical signs of communicable disease or stress. (See 1.9 (d)1. for details.)

AHS-Newark failed again to isolate sick animals from healthy ones. The shelter housed the aforementioned sick cats not receiving veterinary care with healthy cats. Additionally, a black pit bull like dog resided in the main kennel and had green mucous coming out of both eyes. AHS-Newark kept cats and kittens with highly contagious ringworm in the medical exam room rather than in an isolation area. According to the inspection report, this room contained supplies and medical equipment that are used throughout the facility. Furthermore, the room itself is used to examine animals without ringworm. Thus, AHS-Newark created conditions for a huge ringworm outbreak in its shelter.

10/20/17: Not corrected. Animals with signs of a communicable disease were not separated from other healthy animals and placed in an isolation room in order to minimize dissemination of such disease. The cats described in 1.9 (d)1. above were housed with the general population in the feral cat room, the cat adoption room, and the cat overflow room. The red tabby cat with crusted nasal discharge described in 1.9 (d)1. above was housed in an enclosure with another cat in the feral cat room. A black pit bull type dog, ID number 25070 that was housed in the main kennel with the general population had a green mucopurulent discharge in both eyes. Cats and kittens that were said to have ringworm were being housed in the medical exam room and were not housed in a separate isolation room to prevent the dissemination of disease. This medical exam room contained supplies and medical equipment that is used for animals throughout the facility and this room is also used as the examination room for animals brought into the facility.

Shelter Continues to House Animals in Inhumane Conditions

Shockingly, AHS-Newark did not even provide water to large numbers of animals. 20 cats in the lobby had no water for three hours. Since numerous AHS-Newark personnel pass these cats, this is simply unforgivable. Only after the inspector notified the Assistant Executive Director did the shelter provide these poor cats water. The cats in the feral cat room had water bowls that were too small and some even tipped over or were covered by the cardboard carriers used as hiding boxes. According to the inspector, 10 of 15 cats in this room had no access to water. Once again, the shelter only gave the animals water after the inspector told the Assistant Executive Director. Several animals in the small dog and cat room, including the poor poodle with untreated hot spots discussed above, did not have water. Eventually, these animals got water, but it is unclear if the inspector notified the shelter first. Finally, many dogs in the main kennel area tipped their water bowls over when they were in the outside part of their kennels despite the shelter having clips to prevent this. Why did these water bowls tip over? AHS-Newark failed to use these clips.

If AHS-Newark cannot even provide animals water, how on earth can this organization run the largest shelter in New Jersey?

1.7 (h) Deficiencies found on 10/20/17: Numerous animals throughout the facility were not provided with water at all times as required. Twenty cats located in the front lobby did not have water when inspectors arrived at the facility, and these cats still had not been provided with water when inspectors returned to the lobby at approximately 1:00 in the afternoon. When this was brought to the attention of the Assistant Director, the cats were then provided with food, but inspectors left the lobby before these cats were provided with water. This deficiency was corrected before inspectors left the facility. The cats housed in the feral cat room were not provided with sufficiently sized receptacles to provide water at all times and some of these receptacles were tipped over in the enclosures or covered with the cardboard carriers used as hiding boxes. Ten out of the 15 cats housed in the feral cat room (9 out of 14 cages) did not have access to water at the time of this inspection. When this was brought to the attention of Assistant Director, the bowls in these cages were replaced with larger bowls and filled with water at the time of this inspection. There were several animals in the small dog and cat room that were without water at the time of this inspection, including but not limited to, a white poodle type dog that had hot spots on its side and rear that did not have an ID card on its cage, and a small black and brown dog located in cage 18 without an ID card. This was corrected before the inspectors left the facility. Many of the dogs housed in the main kennels had tipped over their water buckets at the time of this inspection. These buckets have clips to avoid tipping, but these clips were not being used in the outside kennels while dogs were housed outdoors during the indoor cleaning process.

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AHS-Newark continued to not provide proper ventilation to many of its animals. Dogs residing in the dungeon-like basement had insufficient ventilation to remove humidity and moisture condensation to ensure the animals were healthy and comfortable. Similarly, the disease ridden overflow cat room described above did not have a working ventilation system. What was the AHS-Newark Assistant Executive Director’s solution? Leave the door open and let diseases spread more easily.

10/20/17: Not corrected. Dogs were being housed in the main kennel area of the basement. The ventilation in the basement is insufficient to remove humidity and moisture condensation and is not adequately ventilated to provide for the health and comfort of the animals at all times. See 1.6 (h) for additional deficiencies regarding dogs housed in the basement. The ventilation was not working in the overflow cat room where numerous cats and kittens were found with signs of a communicable disease. The Assistant Director stated that the door to this room is left open.

AHS-Newark continued to illegally house so-called aggressive dogs in the basement. Since AHS-Newark did not provide legally required exercise to these animals, the shelter cannot keep these dogs in the small kennels in the basement.

10/20/17: Not corrected. Aggressive dogs, bite hold dogs, and court hold dogs that are unable to be safely walked on a leash for 20 minutes each day were housed in the basement and not provided with double sided enclosures to provide double the minimum cage space as required for the size of the dogs housed in these enclosures. Some of the dogs housed in the small dog and cat room were being walked outdoors on a leash, but the length of time was unable to be documented.

Furthermore, AHS-Newark did not document that it even walked dogs in the small dog room. So much for the wonderful “dog walking log sheet” the AHS Assistant Executive Director bragged about last September.

“I came up with a dog-walking log sheet so we make sure every animal is getting walked the proper amount,” Van Tuyl said. “We’re keeping a paper trail of it.”

Some dog enclosures in the main kennel area continued to have broken concrete and holes. In fact, one dog enclosure had a urine filled hole just like it did back in the August 22, 2017 inspection report.

10/20/17 Partially corrected: The automatic feeders and waterers have been removed from enclosures. Some of the cracks and holes in the concrete had been filled in with concrete patch, but areas of broken concrete and holes remained in several areas, including the hole in front of the outside dog enclosure shown filled with urine in one of the pictures taken on 8/22/17. This hole was again filled with urine at the time of this inspection. The concrete repairs had not been completed at the time of this inspection.

Concerns About Inhumane Euthanasia

AHS-Newark claimed its veterinary technician was certified by the supervising veterinarian in techniques to euthanize animals properly. However, the shelter could not produce this document. Even worse, the AHS Assistant Executive Director stated she would email this document to the inspector, but did not do so for at least five days. Once again, the AHS Assistant Executive Director, who promised us great things, proves she and her organization are not credible.

1.11 (e) Deficiency found on 10/20/17: The veterinary technician at the facility said she had been certified by the supervising veterinarian in the acceptable euthanasia techniques used at the facility, but the certification document was unable to be produced at the time of this inspection. The Assistant Director stated that she would email the document when it was located, but the NJDOH has not received a copy of this document as of 10/25/17. According to euthanasia documents viewed at the time of this inspection, euthanasia was being performed by the supervising veterinarian, but this veterinarian is no longer employed at the facility.

AHS-Newark’s Fails to Keep Proper Animal Records

The shelter failed to have proper or any identification on many animals. AHS-Newark had the wrong ID cards for cats in the feral cat room. The inspector could not determine if the ID cards for cats in the adoption room matched the cats. Several cats in the front lobby and numerous dogs had no ID card at all. Additionally, a number of dogs in the small dog room had no ID card or had the wrong ID card. While the shelter put the correct ID cards on the kennels in the small dog and cat room eventually, it is unclear if the inspector instructed the shelter do so. Regardless, AHS-Newark’s inability to identify animals raises major concerns as to whether its counting all the animals in its records.

1.13 (a) Deficiency found on 10/20/17: Many animals housed at the facility did not have any form of identification. There were 5 identification cards posted in the feral cat room, but these cards did not match the cats housed in this room. There were some ID cards found on the window sill in the adoptable cat room, but it was undetermined if the ID cards were for any of the cats that were currently housed in that room. (Identification collars were seen on some of the cats in the adoptable cat room.) Cage number 168 located in the basement contained a light brown pit bull type dog with a red spike collar. This dog did not have any type of identification. A grey pit bull type mix and a black pit mix housed in cage number’s 187 and 188 respectively, did not have any type of identification. These two dogs were said to have come in the previous day and inspectors were told that they were still being processed. Animals are required to be provided with identification immediately upon intake into the facility to avoid animals being misidentified. A small blue Shar-Pei housed in cage number 162 in the basement did not have any form of identification. Another Shar-Pei, identical in appearance to the dog in the basement, was housed upstairs in the main kennel in cage number 148. This Shar-Pei had an identification number, 25991, and was not the same dog that was housed in the basement. Other dogs that were housed in the basement were said to have been moved to different cages during the cleaning process without moving the ID cards with them, but there were more dogs housed in the basement than there were ID cards on cages. Dogs in the main kennel without identification included cage number 160, a black pit mix with white chest; cage number 129, a white dog with black patches; and cage number 132, a small cream spaniel mix; cage number 99, a grey pit mix with hair missing on its back that appeared to be a dog that was seen in the isolation room on 9/26/17; and cage number 102, a grey pit bull type dog. Numerous dogs housed in the small dog and cat room were missing ID cards or had the wrong ID card on the enclosure. Examples included, but were not limited to an ID card for a white Maltese on an enclosure that contained a brown Puggle type dog; a cage that contained a blue-eyed Shih Tzu or Havanese type dog with no ID card or other form of identification; cage number 9 contained a small black and tan dog with no identification; and cage number 18 contained another small black and tan dog with no identification. The identification cards for the small dog and cat room were corrected before the inspectors left the facility. There were also cats in the front lobby that did not have identification cards on their enclosures or other forms of identification, including a grey cat located in cage number 14 that did not have a cage card or identification collar.

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AHS-Newark also failed to keep proper intake and disposition records. Despite AHS taking in over $9 million of revenue last year, the Newark facility could not produce a list of animals the shelter impounded since the September 26, 2017 inspection. AHS-Newark claimed it could only look an animal up by ID number. When the inspector requested the record of a dog arriving at the shelter on September 23, the record said AHS-Newark transferred a dog of a similar breed on September 7! Obviously, that record was not correct. Additionally, AHS-Newark could not produce records of animals leaving the facility except for those the shelter killed.

Clearly, the lack of proper record keeping raises concerns that AHS-Newark’s statistics are far worse than it reported. Given AHS-Newark’s 2016 statistics do not properly add up and the much higher kill rates I calculated using records I reviewed for animals coming from the City of Newark in 2014 and the City of Irvington for the first nine or so months of 2015, I can’t say this surprises me.

10/20/17: Not corrected. The inspector requested to view intake and disposition records for animals brought into the facility since the previous site visit in September, but records were unable to be viewed by date of intake to determine the disposition of animals adopted, transferred, or reclaimed and to confirm compliance with N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16. A list or report of animals brought into the facility during a specified time period was unable to be produced. Records were only accessible by the animal’s identification number assigned on intake. The inspector then requested to view the disposition record for a dog that had been at the facility on 9/26/17 and was said to have arrived at the facility on 9/23/17, but the record produced was for a similar type of breed that was transferred from the facility on 9/7/17. The specific record requested and all other disposition records for animals that had not been euthanized were unable to be viewed by inspectors at the time of this inspection. Inspectors reviewed a large stack of paper euthanasia records at the time of this inspection. Paper euthanasia records were sorted in a folder by date of euthanasia with the intake record stapled to the back, therefore euthanasia records were also not readily assessable by date of intake.

Inspection Report Proves AHS Management Cannot Run Shelter Properly

Over the last two months, AHS management insisted it was taking care of its problems. On September 12, AHS-Newark’s Facebook page posted that it was working with the New Jersey and Newark health departments to “ensure we are operating at the highest level we can so we may provide the best service possible to both the animals and the public.” Additionally, the Facebook post stated AHS-Newark was going to “look at this as an opportunity to review and improve our processes and to retrain established and new staff.”

After two months, we now learn what AHS-Newark believes is “operating at the highest level”, providing “the best services to both the animals and the people” and retraining staff means. Apparently, failing to provide water to numerous animals, not cleaning properly, not observing animals for sickness, not treating animals when they get sick, throwing animals into filthy disease ridden places, and not exercising dogs imprisoned in tiny cages is “operating at the highest level” and providing “the best services to both the animals and the people.” Since AHS-Newark had more than two months to fix its problems from the August 22, 2017 inspection, one can only conclude the AHS-Newark training program either allows these things or the organization is incapable of training its staff.

As I previously wrote, AHS-Newark will never run its facility properly as long as Roseann Trezza, the other AHS executives, and the incompetent AHS Board of Directors remain. At no point during this ordeal have I seen AHS-Newark offer to do the following:

  1. Terminate arrangements to reduce the number of animals it takes in to a level it can properly care for
  2. Implement managed intake to reduce animal intake
  3. Demand contracting municipalities implement TNR to reduce cat intake
  4. Aggressively recruit and work to retain volunteers to provide care to its animals
  5. Announce a coherent plan to reduce length of stay in a good way
  6. Produce a detailed plan to improve the medical and emotional health of the animals under its care

Instead, AHS management continues to try and dupe the public. Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, refuses to even comment on the crisis at her shelter. AHS Assistant Executive Director, Jill Van Tuyl, now says “We’re on top of this” and “the vets, they make their rounds in the mornings.” Really, Jill, just like you told us you had this all covered months ago? Afterwards, we find out your shelter does not even do the most basic things like giving animals water, treating sick animals, and properly cleaning animal enclosures that even a child would know to do? Should we really believe you when this very inspection report appeared to paint you in a very negative light?

To make matters worse, the AHS Assistant Executive Director cried about the shelter not being able retain staff in a recent news article. Here is hint Jill, sane people will not want to work in a shelter with incompetent management who pay them peanuts. Additionally, normal people would never want to work in a facility that treats animals like literal garbage and kills these creatures left and right. Simply put, this problem lies with the AHS leadership.

Furthermore, the AHS Assistant Executive Director complained about not having enough money. Despite being the largest sheltering organization in the state, AHS took in $1,354 per dog and cat based on its $9,391,746 of revenue per its most recent Form 990 and the 6,935 dogs and cats it reported taking in last year at its three shelters. As a comparison, Salt Lake County Animal Services only had a budget of $801 per dog and cat in 2016 and saved over 90% of these animals (including pit bull like dogs). Similarly, KC Pet Project, which runs the Kansas City, Missouri animal control shelter, only took in $345 per dog and cat and saved over 90% of these animals in 2016. Even if we add the amount Kansas City pays its own animal control department (i.e. this agency picks up stray animals and sends them to KC Pet Project), this only raises the revenue per dog and cat to $546 per dog and cat (i.e. less than half the amount AHS receives). Many other shelters receive far less funding per animal than AHS-Newark and still save over 90% of their animals. Thus, AHS-Newark’s crying about money is a joke.

Corrupt City of Newark Continues to Give AHS-Newark A Free Pass

Despite the massive problems found in this latest state inspection report, the Newark Department of Community Health and Wellness seemed to do AHS-Newark’s bidding when it made the following statement:

“Corrective action for several deficiencies previously reported have been observed to date and implemented including the hiring of a full-time veterinarian and full-time staff member designated to ensure that animals are fed and provided water accordingly.”

As I wrote about in my last blog, the Newark Department of Community Health and Wellness has a history of finding no problems with AHS-Newark and has an admitted conflict of interest. This local health department gave AHS-Newark a “Satisfactory” grade one month before the devastating August 22, 2017 state inspection. Additionally, the Newark Department of Community Health and Wellness failed to find any of the many problems documented in this inspection report when it conducted its own inspection 16 days before. Thus, the City of Newark’s health department is corrupt, incompetent and cannot be trusted.

People Must Continue to Pressure Authorities to Act

Here are several things every person can do to improve this situation.

  1. Pressure the NJ SPCA to throw the book at Roseann Trezza and all her accomplisses
  2. Call Mayor Ras Baraka at (973) 733-6400 and demand he re-start former Mayor Booker’s project to build a new no kill shelter in the city
  3. Call the New Jersey Department of Health at (609) 826-4872 or (609) 826-5964 and tell them to 1) Shut AHS-Newark down unless Roseann Trezza, all other AHS executives and all AHS board members resign and 2) Inspect AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park

Additionally, people should contact the following mayors using the information below and demand they terminate their arrangements with AHS-Newark unless it gets rid of Roseann Trezza, its other executives and its entire Board of Directors:

Belleville: (973) 450-3345
Carteret: (732) 541-3801
Clark: (732) 388-3600
Fanwood: (908)-322-8236, ext. 124; mayor@fanwoodnj.org
Hillside:(973) 926-3000
Newark: (973) 733-6400; https://www.newarknj.gov/contact-us
Irvington: (973) 399-8111
Linden: (908) 474-8493; darmstead@linden-nj.org
Fairfield: (973) 882-2700; jgasparini@fairfieldnj.org
Orange: (973) 266-4005
Plainfield: (908) 753-3310; adrian.mapp@plainfieldnj.gov
Roselle: (908) 956-5557; cdansereau@boroughofroselle.com
Rahway: 732-827-2009; mayor@cityofrahway.com
Winfield Park: (908) 925-3850