Gloucester County Animal Shelter reports some of the highest kill rates and body counts every year. In 2014, 31% of dogs and and 76% of cats were killed, died, went missing or were unaccounted for. Furthermore, 52% of dogs not reclaimed by their owners lost their lives at Gloucester County Animal Shelter in 2014. In total, 366 dogs and 2,017 cats were killed, died, went missing or were unaccounted for at Gloucester County Animal Shelter last year. To put it another way, 7 dogs and cats lose their lives at Gloucester County Animal Shelter on average each day of the year at this so-called shelter. Thus, Gloucester County Animal Shelter operates more like a death camp than an animal shelter.
Regressive kill shelter defenders often claim these facilities only kill out of necessity and provide humane and loving care to the animals. For example, PETA wrote an article on how no kill shelters are cruel and kill shelters are humane. One key excerpt was as follows:
Not all animal shelters are the same. Fortunate homeless and unwanted animals end up in the hundreds of open-admission animal shelters that are staffed by professional, caring people.
At these facilities, frightened animals are reassured, sick and injured animals receive treatment or a peaceful end to their suffering, and the animals’ living quarters are kept clean and dry. Workers at these facilities never turn away needy animals and give careful consideration to each animal’s special emotional and physical needs.
Gloucester County Animal Shelter made headlines in October after illegally killing an owned cat. On September 30, 2015, Gloucester County Animal Shelter impounded a stray cat named Moe. According to news stories, the owner’s ex-fiance’s contact information was with the microchip company and he went went to the shelter the next day. Despite this person not owning the cat, the shelter ordered him to take the cat back, surrender the animal to the facility or face neglect charges. Ultimately, he surrendered Moe to the shelter thinking it would be easier for his ex-fiance to get her cat back. After Moe’s owner found out that Moe was at the shelter later that day, she was told she had to pay $85 to adopt her own cat back. However, the owner found out that Gloucester County Animal Shelter killed Moe earlier that day for aggression. Under New Jersey law, shelters cannot kill any stray or owner surrendered animal prior to a 7 day hold period. As a result of this travesty, a Justice for Moe movement started.
At the time, a Gloucester County spokeswoman stated Moe’s death was a “sensitive subject”, but did not admit the shelter broke the law. However, this spokeswoman stated the shelter would review its procedures.
The New Jersey Department of Health (“NJ DOH”) conducted a five hour inspection three weeks after Moe arrived at Gloucester County Animal Shelter. You can read the full inspection report at this link.
Was Gloucester County Animal Shelter’s illegal killing of Moe an aberration? Is Gloucester County Animal Shelter complying with all New Jersey animal shelter laws?
Does Gloucester County Animal Shelter provide humane care to animals and a “peaceful end” to their life as PETA argues kill shelters do?
Gloucester County Animal Shelter Allows Disease to Spread Like Wildfire
The NJ DOH inspector found the shelter placed cats “one after another” inside the same enclosure without disinfecting the cage while the permanent cat housing areas were cleaned. As a result, the shelter exposed each cat to serious diseases.
1.6 (d) Repeat Deficiency- Animals shall not be placed in empty primary enclosures previously inhabited by other animals unless the enclosure has first been cleaned and disinfected.
Cats at the facility were housed in various rooms. All the cats in these rooms, other than the cats housed in the “feral” cat room, were each placed inside the same enclosure, one after the other, during the daily cleaning process. This enclosure was not cleaned and disinfected between inhabitants as required and, therefore, each cat was potentially exposed to infectious agents of every other cat housed within that room. During the cleaning process in the cat isolation room, the inspector witnessed one of the cats being removed from a holding enclosure and carried back to its primary enclosure; another cat was removed from its primary enclosure, carried over to the same holding enclosure and placed inside. When questioned, the cleaning attended confirmed that the holding enclosure is not cleaned or disinfected at any time between animals during the cleaning process.
During this cleaning process, the shelter failed to apply disinfectant solutions long enough and in the proper concentration to prevent the spread of deadly diseases, such as rabies and the canine parvovirus.
1.8 (c) Cages, floors, and hard surfaced pens or runs shall be disinfected at least once per day by washing all soiled surfaces with a detergent solution followed by a safe and effective disinfectant.
Animal enclosures were not being sufficiently disinfected at least once daily as required. The disinfectant used at the facility was not being used as instructed on the manufacture’s product label and manufacturer’s website for animal contact surfaces and the disinfecting solution was not being applied to surfaces for the required contact time. Surfaces are required to be cleaned with a detergent and rinsed to remove excess contaminants, and then the disinfectant is required to be applied to surfaces and allowed to remain wet for a 10 minute contact time. When questioned, the cleaning attendant stated that the product is not applied to surfaces for the required 10 minute contact time because they are short staffed and they do not have time to allow for the full contact time.
All animal contact surfaces are required to be mechanically scrubbed to remove greasy residue and organic matter and wiped or rinsed, taking care to avoid redepositing of soil. The product is required to be used at 4 ounces per gallon of water and applied to pre-cleaned surfaces with a 10 minute contact time on hard, nonporous surfaces to be effective against canine parvovirus and rabies virus in accordance with the manufacturer’s website. The product was being used at one ounce per gallon at the time of this inspection, which would be effective against some bacteria and viruses after a 10 minute contact time, but is not effective against canine parvovirus and rabies virus.
The inspection report also noted feeding dishpans were not correctly disinfected and air from the isolation area with sick animals potentially mixed with air in locations with healthy animals.
When animals inevitably became ill, shelter staff failed to provide treatment and isolate the sick animals from healthy ones. Apparently, a “lethargic” animal suffering with “thick purulent nasal discharge” that is “lying with its face on the bottom of the enclosure” and is “reluctant to fully open its eyes” doesn’t warrant treatment at Gloucester County Animal Shelter.
1.6 (e) Animals showing signs of contagious illness shall be removed from rooms and enclosures containing healthy animals and housed in a separate isolation room, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.9 (b) through (f).
A kitten housed in the “feral” cat room and located in the same cage with another kitten, was showing signs of contagious illness, which included a thick purulent nasal discharge, lethargy, lying with its face on the bottom of the enclosure, and reluctance to fully open its eyes. This cat was not removed from its enclosure as required and housed in the isolation room at the time of this inspection.
To make matters worse, the NJ DOH inspector noted shelter staff had just cleaned this sick and suffering kitten’s enclosure and left the animal alongside a healthy kitten without contacting a veterinarian or vet tech.
1.9 (d) Repeat Deficiency- Each animal shall be observed daily by the animal caretaker in charge, or by someone under his or her direct supervision for clinical signs of communicable disease or stress. 1. Sick, diseased, injured or lame animals shall be provided with at least prompt, basic veterinary care.
The kitten described under section 1.6 was not provided with at least prompt, basic veterinary care at the time of this inspection. This kitten’s enclosure had been cleaned prior to the inspector entering this room. The person that cleaned the enclosure placed the kitten back into the same enclosure with the healthy kitten and there was no indication at the time of this inspection that the clinical signs this kitten was displaying were reported to or observed by the animal caretaker in charge, or by someone under his or her direct supervision.
The NJ DOH inspector also reported the supervising veterinarian did not establish a disease control and health care program as required by state law. In fact, the supervising veterinarian “had not visited the facility for quite some time.” Furthermore, the shelter appeared to provide prescription medicine to animals without a veterinarian observing animals and prescribing these drugs.
1.9 (a) Repeat Deficiency- Facilities shall establish and maintain a program of disease control and adequate health care (program) under the supervision and assistance of a doctor of veterinary medicine.
The facility had a VPH-20, Certification of Veterinary Supervision form posted at the facility, but there was no evidence provided at the time of this inspection that indicated that the supervising veterinarian had visited the facility and established a disease control and adequate health care program as required. The facility had a large stock of assorted medications and other pharmaceutical agents that were not licensed for over-the-counter use and that did not contain prescription labels or other written prescribed instructions established by and under the supervision of the supervising veterinarian.
The inspector was told at the time of this inspection that the veterinarian had not visited the facility for quite some time and the veterinarian had not established a written disease control and health care program. The inspector was told that animals in need of veterinary care were routinely transported to the supervising veterinarian’s office or to other veterinary establishments when the supervising veterinarian’s office was closed. The veterinarian was said to provide consultation over the phone at times, but some animals were administered prescription medications without an examination by a licensed veterinarian or a consultation and written instructions from the supervising veterinarian as required.
There were no written directives available from the supervising veterinarian including, but not limited to, proper cleaning and disinfection protocols; animal isolation procedures; procedures for the appropriate care of animals displaying signs of illness, injury, disease or stress; and protocols to prevent the transmission of disease throughout the facility, including disease transmission through fomite contamination by animal handlers and caretakers as observed at the time of this inspection. There were also no written and established feeding protocols for the animals at the facility established by the supervising veterinarian.
Gloucester County Animal Shelter Illegally Slaughters Animals Like a Serial Killer
The NJ DOH inspector confirmed that Gloucester County Animal Shelter illegally killed Moe via an intraperitoneal injection. Furthermore, the inspector found Gloucester County Animal Shelter illegally killed 384 animals prior to the 7 day hold period during the first 9 or so months of 2015. Thus, Moe’s illegal killing was not an aberration, it was normal operating procedure.
1.10 (a)1. Impounded animals must be kept alive for seven days to give opportunity for rabies disease surveillance and opportunity for owners to reclaim. (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 d, e, and f.)
A stray cat that had been impounded at the facility on September 30, 2015 at 5:20 PM was euthanized the following morning on October 1, 2015 at 11:00 AM by intraperitoneal injection. Documents indicated that this cat was euthanized due to “behavioral issues.” This cat had a microchip that was registered to a previous owner, but documents show that the name and contact phone number for the current owner was provided to the facility. The current owner was not given the opportunity to reclaim the cat.
Disposition records received at the New Jersey Department of Health indicated that 312 cats and 71 dogs and one domestic rabbit were euthanized before the required seven day holding period between January 2, 2015 and October 9, 2015.
Furthermore, the inspector noted Gloucester County Animal Shelter had to keep Moe alive for at least 7 days after the shelter found out who Moe’s actual owner was on October 1.
N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.32-c. If either scan required reveals information concerning the owner of the cat or dog, the shelter or pound shall immediately seek to contact and notify the owner of the whereabouts of the cat or dog. Furthermore, if microchip identification is found, the shelter, pound shall hold the animal for at least seven days after notification to the owner.
A stray cat that was impounded at the facility on September 30, 2015 was scanned for a microchip and the person listed in the microchip database was contacted. The person listed in the database notified the facility that he was not the current owner of the cat and he was able to provide the contact information for the current owner. The cat was euthanized the following day and the current owner, whose name and phone number were written on the animal’s record, was not afforded the opportunity to reclaim her cat. The cat was not held for at least seven days after the facility was supplied with the current owner’s contact information.
The inspection report also stated Gloucester County Animal Shelter routinely broke New Jersey laws for failing to scan animals for microchips upon intake and prior to killing, adopting or transferring animals.
N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.32-a. When a cat or dog is put in the custody of and impounded with a shelter or pound, the shelter or pound shall scan the animal for microchip identification.
Records available at the time of this inspection showed that many animals were not being scanned for a microchip on intake to the facility. There were a total of 38 cats that were held in the feral cat room at the time of this inspection, but only 6 of these cats had been scanned for a microchip upon intake into the facility. There were 18 cats housed in the isolation room at the time of this inspection, but records indicated that 7 of these cats had not been scanned for a microchip upon intake to the facility. There were additional animals throughout the facility, including two dogs and a main coon type cat that had not been scanned upon intake.
N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.32-b. Prior to release of any cat or dog for adoption, transfer to another facility or foster home, or euthanasia of the cat or dog, the shelter or pound shall scan the cat or dog for microchip identification.
The inspector was told that animals were not being scanned for a microchip before being euthanized at the facility. There were no documents available at the facility that showed that animals had been scanned again prior to release, transfer, or euthanasia as required.
Gloucester County Animal Shelter Illegally and Cruelly Kills Animals
Gloucester County Animal Shelter illegally used intraperitoneal injections of Fatal Plus to kill cats. Per New Jersey law, shelters can only use intraperitoneal injections on comatose animals and neonatal kittens. Under this method, animals are injected in the abdominal cavity and can take up to 30 minutes to die. Sadly, Moe needlessly lost his life from this barbaric killing method.
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.
To make matters worse, Gloucester County Animal Shelter did not weigh animals prior to administering pre-killing sedatives and Fatal Plus poison. 87 cats and kittens were given low dosages of Fatal Plus and no dosage records existed for 1,204 other cats and kittens killed during the year. As a result, animals may have experienced great pain due to receiving incorrect dosages of these drugs.
1.11 (f) 3. Weigh all animals prior to administration of euthanasia, immobilizing, or tranquilizing agents.
The inspector was told that animals were not weighed prior to administration of euthanasia, immobilizing, or tranquilizing agents and that all cats received one milliliter (ml) of euthanasia solution and all kittens received .5 ml of solution. One of the euthanasia technicians stated that if a cat looks big, they would give a little more.
The label instructions on the bottle of Fatal Plus euthanasia solution stated that the required volume of solution is 1 ml per 10 lbs. of body weight and intravenous injection is preferred. The calculated dosage should be given in a single injection. Intraperitoneal or intracardiac injection may be made when intravenous injection is impractical, as in very small or comatose animals with impaired vascular functions. Since animals were not weighed before administration of euthanasia and tranquilizing agents, the dosages for these agents were not calculated as required for each individual animal.
A review of euthanasia log records received at the New Jersey Department of Health confirmed that most adult cats were given 1 ml of Fatal Plus euthanasia solution regardless of their actual weight, and kittens were given .5 ml without determining their weight before the administration of euthanasia solution. The euthanasia logs show that 1291 cats and kittens were euthanized between January 3, 2015 and October 20, 2015. Eighty of these cats were given more than 1 ml of euthanasia solution and 7 kittens were given .3 ml rather than .5 ml. There were no documents available to indicate that rabbits, ferrets, a pig, and various other domestic and wildlife species were weighed prior to the administration of euthanasia, immobilizing, or tranquilizing agents. There were no documents available to determine if the 1204 cats and kittens that were administered 1 ml or .5 ml sodium pentobarbital, as well as the additional animals that were not weighed prior to administration of euthanasia solution, were give a sufficient dosage as indicated on the product label to produce humane euthanasia as quickly and painlessly as possible in these animals.
Even more frightening, the shelter had no records indicating anyone confirmed animals were actually dead after the killing. In a worst case scenario, animals receiving dosages that were too low may have been still alive when disposed of.
Note: There were no documents available at the facility to indicate that each animal was being assessed after the administration of euthanasia agents as required to ensure that the animal was deceased prior to disposal. There were no instructions posted in the euthanasia area indicating the procedures for animal assessment after the animals were euthanized. During the inspection, there was a concern that section 1.11 (g) may not have been followed; therefore it is recommended that records be amended to include this information. The requirements for the section are as follows:
1.11 (g) After the administration of euthanasia agents to an animal, the person administering euthanasia shall assess each animal for the absence of a heartbeat by auscultation of the heart utilizing a stethoscope, establishment of the absence of a pulse and respiration, the absence of movement of the eyelid when the cornea is touched (corneal reflex) and checking for presence of maximum dilation of the pupils of the eyes. 1. The person administering euthanasia shall perform these assessments in combination at least 5 minutes apart until the person can definitively determine that the heart is no longer beating, to ensure that the animal is deceased prior to disposal.
High Kill Shelters View Animals as Trash
Animal extermination operations like Gloucester County Animal Shelter place little value on the lives of animals. After all, when you kill most of your animals, and nearly all of your cats, that seems like the logical view to take. If you are going to kill an animal in a week anyway, not treating a medical illness or taking the creature to a veterinarian doesn’t seem like a big deal. Sadly, organizations like PETA ignore countless examples of cruel operations like Gloucester County Animal Shelter and instead vilify even well-run no kill shelters. Unfortunately, PETA believes pets should not exist and their silence in these situations indicates killing pets by any means necessary is worth the cost to achieve their nefarious goal.
New Jersey Department of Health and the NJ SPCA Must Severely Punish Gloucester County Animal Shelter and Local Health Inspectors
Gloucester County Animal Shelter’s problems go far beyond minor code infractions. Frankly, the wholesale and institutionalized cruelty mandates the NJ SPCA focus on this case. Simply put, the consequences of inaction mean thousands of other animals each year will experience the same level of cruelty unless the NJ SPCA takes serious and drastic action, particularly against Shelter Director, Bill Lombardi. Sadly, the NJ SPCA’s record in pressing charges and winning cases against abusive shelters is poor.
The New Jersey Department of Health should fine Gloucester County Animal Shelter the maximum $50 fine for each infraction, including separate fines for each animal. 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. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health should recommend that the New Jersey Public Health Licensing and Examination Board revoke the local Health Officer’s license and take any other necessary disciplinary action. Simply put, the local health department allowed the shelter to operate in this illegal manner for years and needs to face serious consequences for its inaction.
Gloucester County Freeholders Must Respond to Local Shelter Reform Activists
Based on my conversation with a local activist, the shelter has ignored reformers for years. These dedicated people tried hard to work with the shelter, but were rebuffed countless times. Poor policies, such as aggressively cracking down on people practicing TNR and not adopting animals out at the shelter during weekends, leads to killing. Clearly, Gloucester County officials must fire Shelter Director, Bill Lombardi, and much of the staff and replace them with compassionate and competent people.
The shelter only takes in 13 dogs and cats per 1,000 people in Gloucester County, which is below the national average. In fact, animal control shelters take in far more animals in total and per capita and achieve no kill level live release rates. For example, the Reno, Nevada area’s open admission shelter takes in around 15,000 animals a year or around 36 dogs and cats per 1,000 people, and still saves 90% or more of these animals year after year. Clearly, we can shelter animals far better than what Gloucester County Animal Shelter is doing. People should contact Gloucester County Freeholders Robert Damminger and Daniel Christy and demand Gloucester County run a no kill shelter. It is time Gloucester County elected officials take this horrific situation and turn it into something positive.