Elizabeth Animal Shelter Shows Improvement, But Serious Problems Remain: Part 2

Update: 8/4/17: Subsequent to writing this blog, the Elizabeth Health Department “located” its 2016 inspection report performed by the Linden Health Department. This report noted several problems. I updated the inspection section of this blog to discuss this report.

My last blog discussed several changes the Elizabeth Animal Shelter made in 2016 after animal advocates raised concerns about the facility. Elizabeth Animal Shelter stopped illegally killing owner surrendered animals during the seven day protection period in 2016. As a result, the shelter’s live release rate significantly increased, but the shelter almost entirely relied on rescues and appeared to limit the number of animals it took in. You can read that blog here.

This blog will examine whether Elizabeth Animal Shelter still kills healthy and treatable animals. Additionally, this blog will answer the question as to whether the shelter still violates state law.

Shelter Continues to Illegally Transfer Stray Animals During the Seven Day Hold Period

Elizabeth Animal Shelter transferred and adopted out 73 dogs and cats during the seven day stray hold period in 2016. 64 of the 73 animals were cats which often have very low owner reclaim rates. Of the 64 cats, 52 were kittens which are highly susceptible to catching deadly illnesses in animal shelters. Additionally, the shelter sent a number of animals to rescue groups that provided much needed medical care. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter appeared to release many of these animals during the seven day hold period with good intentions.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter should retain ownership of the animals it releases during the seven day hold period. In other words, Elizabeth Animal Shelter should have the rescues and adopters “foster” these animals during this time. After seven days, the rescuers and adopters should then take ownership of the pet. While the animal is being fostered, the shelter should keep photos and other records as well as the rescue’s/adopter’s contact information to allow someone to redeem their pet. Similarly, the individual or group fostering the animal must return the pet back to the owner during the stray hold period. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter can easily comply with state law, give owners a chance to reclaim their lost pets, and create much needed space to save lives.

Shelter Still Kills Healthy and Treatable Animals

Overall, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s most commonly killed dogs for “aggression” and “severe behavior issues.” If we also add related problems, such as dog aggression, food aggression, leash behavior and bite cases, the shelter killed almost all dogs for some form of alleged aggression. In fact, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 19 of 22 dogs or 86% of these animals for aggression related problems.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s classified too many dogs with aggression and related behavioral issues. The shelter killed 6% of all dogs for aggression and similar reasons. On the one hand, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed a much lower percentage of dogs for so-called aggression than the regressive Bergen County Animal Shelter (21% of all dogs in 2015; 29% of dogs from Kearny in 2016). However, Elizabeth 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). Furthermore, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 18% of all pit bulls for aggression related behavioral issues in 2016 compared to just 2% of all pit bulls at Austin Animal Center during fiscal year 2016 (that number may have dropped to as low as 1% by the last quarter of the year). In other words, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed pit bulls for aggression related problems at a rate of 9-18 times higher than Austin Animal Center.

2016 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dogs Killed ReasonsAs I mentioned in my blog last year, Elizabeth Animal Shelter brought in a former volunteer from Associated Humane Societies-Newark as a response to public outcry about the shelter illegally killing two dogs immediately upon intake in 2014. In her role, this contractor evaluates dogs, makes recommendations about whether a dog is suitable for adoption, and networks with rescues and donors to increase lifesaving and improve animal care. Clearly, this person has done an excellent job coordinating with rescues. Thus, I believe this part time contractor has done good work.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter may be misusing its part time contractor’s behavioral evaluations to justify killing dogs. Despite some concerns from other animal advocates, the part time contractor’s written evaluations did not call for the shelter to kill dogs. In fact, many of the evaluations concluded the dogs were very good. However, the shelter performed evaluations for 16 of the 19 dogs it killed for alleged aggression related issues. Based on my review of these 16 evaluations, all of them had some negative findings. In some cases, the evaluations recommended a special home, but it seems to me as if the shelter leadership used these evaluations as an excuse to kill.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s continued reliance on discredited temperament testing methods is concerning. Recently, a study found behavioral evaluations were scientifically invalid and recommended shelters should instead socialize dogs to truly determine behavior. Even the proponents of temperament testing, such as the ASPCA, state shelters should use evaluations to identify a behavioral rehabilitation plan to try and make the animal adoptable. I found no evidence of the shelter attempting to seriously rehabilitate alleged problem behaviors in dogs. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter used scientifically invalid temperament testing methods and may have failed to use these evaluations to fix supposed behavioral problems.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed several dogs for alleged aggression related issues despite owners reporting no such issues. Shelter temperament testing methods are inherently flawed as the testing conditions (i.e. in a stressful shelter) do not replicate conditions a dog experiences in a home. Carez was a 7-9 year old gray pit bull surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on December 29, 2016. The owner reported no behavior or aggression issues and stated Carez was good with dogs, kids, adults and was house trained. On January 9, 2017, Elizabeth Animal Shelter evaluated Carez, who they renamed as Cupcake, and stated she “refused handling”, attempted to bite when handled, and was fearful and timid. In other words, Carez/Cupcake was afraid after going to a scary shelter environment. Ten days later Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Carez/Cupcake for human and dog aggression despite the owner reporting she was good with both people and dogs. Furthermore, no records provided to me indicated the shelter tried to rehabilitate this dog’s alleged behavior problems. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter appeared to use its behavioral evaluation as a justification to kill Carez/Cupcake and did not seem to make any effort to fix those claimed behavior problems.

Dog 16-L Surrender Form.jpg

Dog 16-L Evaluation.jpg

Dog 16-L Kill Record

Ghost was a two year old pit bull-boxer mix that was surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter along with his house mate, Blackie, on July 7, 2016. Ghost’s owner reported he had no behavioral or health issues. Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s evaluation stated he snapped, growled with teeth, attempted to bite and darted away when handled, had “higher energy”, but was controllable, was “dominant”, “does not like other people”, was not good with other dogs except Blackie, and requires an “adult only home.” Despite Ghost’s owner surrender form contradicting this evaluation and him being at the shelter a mere nine days, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Ghost for having a “Severe Behavior Issue.” No records I received indicated any effort to fix these alleged behavior problems.

Dog 8-G Surrender Form.jpg

Dog 8-G Evaluation.jpg

Dog 8-G Kill Record

Ghost’s companion, Blackie, was a five year old pit bull-Labrador retriever mix that was surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on the same day. Blackie’s owner also stated on the dog’s surrender form that Blackie had no behavioral or medical issues. Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s evaluation of Blackie was almost identical to Ghost’s temperament test except the shelter concluded Blackie was “hyper” rather than “high energy” and controllable, and grabbed treats roughly. Additionally, the evaluation made no reference to Blackie not liking people. Once again, despite the owner surrender form contradicting the Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s evaluation, the facility killed Blackie just nine days after he arrived at the shelter and on the very same day as his house mate, Ghost. No records I received indicated any effort to fix these alleged behavior problems.

Dog 9-G Surrender Form.jpg

Dog 9-G Evaluation.jpg

Dog 9-G Kill Record

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s reasons for killing cats are listed below. Overall, the shelter still killed a significant number of cats it deemed feral or having a behavior issue. Frankly, a shelter should never kill a cat for any behavioral reason given such cats can be neutered and released or go to a barn/warehouse. Additionally, the shelter killed many cats for no disclosed reason. If Elizabeth Animal Shelter did not kill healthy and treatable feral and other cats (presumably cats killed for no reason were not hopelessly suffering), the shelter’s euthanasia rate would be 8% or the rate I target for animal control facilities. While a good number of the other cats may have been hopelessly suffering, the shelter failed to provide a specific veterinary diagnosis for a substantial portion (i.e. 13 cats with undisclosed severe injuries/illnesses and other undisclosed injuries and illnesses) of these animals. As a result, no one can say for sure how many of these animals were truly hopelessly suffering.

2016 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cats Killed Reasons.jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed several cats for absurd or no reasons. Cat 31-J’s owner died and she was surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on October 24, 2016. Despite having a home previously, the shelter concluded she had a “Severe Behavior Issue” and killed her just 11 days later. Furthemore, the shelter’s euthanasia record erroneously stated she was killed on October 20 (four days before she arrived at the facility).

Cat 31-J Killed

Cat 31-J Intake Plus Disposition Record

Cat 31-J Kill FormCat 12-L was a 10 year old cat taken to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on December 14, 2016 by the property managers of an apartment complex. Presumably, this cat lived in a home, perhaps in one of the apartments in this building, since the property managers noted the cat was house trained. Despite this fact, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed this older cat for being feral and aggressive a little after a month later.

Cat 12-L Surrender Form.jpg

Cat 12-L Kill Record

Cat 21-F was surrendered with three other cats on June 16, 2016. According to the owner, none of these cats, including 21-F, had any behavioral or health issues. Two weeks later, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 21-F for no reason other than the animal being at the shelter for more than seven days.

Cat 21-F Surrender Form

Cat 21-F Kill Record.jpg

Shelter Provides More Veterinary Care, But Must Make Further Improvements

Elizabeth Animal Shelter provided veterinary care to some animals during the year. In 2015, the shelter essentially provided no veterinary care other than killing based on the records provided to me. Several animal advocates, including myself, raised these concerns last year. In 2016, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s veterinarian treated a number of animals at the shelter. Therefore, the pressure put on the shelter by animal advocates improved the care provided to the animals.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter must provide better veterinary care. While the shelter did treat some animals, I saw no evidence of the facility vaccinating animals upon intake. Shelter medicine experts strongly recommend facilities immediately vaccinate animals upon intake to reduce disease among the animal population. Elizabeth Animal Shelter should start doing this as its clearly better for the animals and will ultimately reduce the cost of treating sick animals. Additionally, the veterinary records I reviewed were often not very detailed and frequently illegible. Furthermore, many of the records I examined failed to fully meet the New Jersey Department of Health’s requirements. Thus, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter should vaccinate all animals immediately upon intake and improve its veterinary record keeping.

Shelter Has No Disease Control Program and Does Not Keep All Required Records

Elizabeth Animal Shelter currently has no disease control program. While the city’s Health Officer, assured me a draft program is currently under review by the Elizabeth Dog Control Committee, this is unacceptable. Under state law, a shelter must have a disease control program in order to operate. Last year, the New Jersey Department of Health made this explicitly clear:

If a facility does not have a disease control program established and maintained by a licensed veterinarian, the facility cannot be licensed to operate in New Jersey.

Therefore, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must put an appropriate disease control program into place as soon as possible.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also failed to document the breed on many cats it took in as required by state law. The shelter should start doing so especially since it does not require much effort.

Local Health Department Inspections Reveal Problems

Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2, local health authorities must inspect licensed animal shelters each year to ensure compliance with state laws. In other words, an animal shelter cannot legally operate without an inspection showing the facility is following the law.

The Linden Health Department conducted a poor quality inspection of Elizabeth Animal Shelter in 2014. This inspection found no serious issues, but animal advocates, including myself, documented numerous shelter law violations at that time. Linden Health Department is the same health department that ran Linden Animal Control’s facility. Not only did Linden fail to inspect its own shelter for seven years, but the New Jersey Department of Health forced Linden to close its house of horrors later on in 2014. Thus, this positive 2014 inspection report lacked credibility.

To make matters worse, Elizabeth Animal Shelter provided no 2015 inspection report. In 2014, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter inspected Linden Animal Control’s dreadful facility after the City of Linden failed to inspect its shelter for seven years. Despite knowing about this law, the City of Elizabeth apparently did not have its own shelter inspected in 2015. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate in 2015.

The Linden Health Department’s 2016 inspection of Elizabeth Animal Shelter found several concerning issues. Specifically, the inspection report noted the following

  1. Shelter did not have a required fire inspection
  2. The exhaust fan in the isolation area did not work (i.e. could result in infectious diseases spreading)
  3. Shelter had structural problems with the facility’s flooring
  4. Several damaged enclosures had wires used as a repair, but those wires could injure animals
  5. Cat enclosures were not adequate to house these animals
  6. Outside dog cages needed repairs
  7. Outside dog enclosures barriers not effective and might not prevent dogs from fighting
  8. Large stones used to block outside dog enclosures’ trough did not allow staff to clean properly

Despite these issues, the Linden Health Department gave Elizabeth Animal Shelter a “Conditional A” instead of an “Unsatisfactory” grade on the inspection. If the Linden Health Department found this many problems, one must wonder what the more competent New Jersey Department of Health would find.

Currently, Elizabeth Animal Shelter has not had a 2017 inspection performed despite 15 months passing since the last required annual inspection.

Records Continue to Raise Concerns as to Whether Elizabeth Animal Shelter Humanely Euthanizes Animals 

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s records did not specify the euthanasia drug it used (the records state “Euth.” which could mean Euthasol or just an unnamed euthanasia drug) and the method of euthanasia again in 2016. As a result, we cannot determine whether the shelter euthanized animals humanely as I discussed in last year’s blog.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter use of pure Ketamine as a sedative is not humane. The Humane Society of United State Euthanasia Reference Manual states shelters should not use Ketamine alone to sedate an animal for killing as it makes the animal’s muscles rigid and the injection stings so much that the animal reacts very negatively to it. If that was not bad enough, large doses can cause convulsions and seizures. To make matters worse, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s records indicate the facility used excessive doses as they did in 2015 of Ketamine making such horrific side effects more likely.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also purchased a massive supply of Ketamine at the end of 2015. Specifically, the shelter purchased 600 milliliters of the branded Ketamine drug, Ketathesia, which would provide recommended sedative doses for 1,500 cats weighing 8 pounds or 240 dogs weighing 50 pounds. Clearly, this purchase greatly exceeds the 41 cats and 22 dogs killed in 2016. In fact, this amount of Ketamine is also much more than would be needed for the number of animals the shelter would kill at this rate over the five year shelf life of the drug. To make matters worse, I did not see the legally required listing of inventory of both Ketamine and Fatal Plus (Sodium pentobarbital) or whatever killing agent the facility used on hand at the beginning and end of the year. One has to wonder what the shelter is doing with this huge supply of Ketamine? Given this is a widely abused drug, it certainly raises questions in my mind.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2016 Ketamine Invoice.jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s euthanasia logs list questionable weights for the animals and raise questions as to whether the shelter actually weighed the animals. Under N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.11 (f) 3 and 4, shelters must weigh each animal and keep a log of those body weights as well as the drugs used to immobilize and euthanize the animals. Almost all the adult cats weighed exactly 8 pounds. Additionally, most of the weights listed for dogs were convenient numbers, such as 60, 65, and 80 pounds. Frankly, I find it highly unlikely that many dogs just happened to weigh in at these user friendly amounts.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Proves Shelter Reform Bill S3019 Will Save Lives

S3019 requires shelters to notify rescues at least two business days before killing an animal. While this bill should mandate shelters give animals to rescues the shelters would otherwise kill, existing animal cruelty laws (i.e. “needlessly killing an animal”) likely would also bar shelters from killing such pets. When this provision of S3019 is combined with the state’s existing ban on killing animals, whether stray or surrendered, for seven days, shelters will have a strong incentive to send animals, particularly owner surrenders, to rescues. Furthermore, rescues will have more time to save animals from shelters.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s compliance with the seven day protection period in 2016 and its significantly higher live release rate show how successful S3019 would be. As mentioned above, Elizabeth Animal Shelter does not really follow 10 of the 11 No Kill Equation programs. Despite this, the shelter nearly achieved a 90% live release rate once it stopped illegally killing animals during the seven day protection period. Why? The Elizabeth Animal Shelter is extremely rescue friendly and these rescues had the time to save many pets. Thus, S3019 would significantly increase live release rates at many of New Jersey’s high kill shelters.

S3019’s other requirements would further increase live release rates. Under the bill, shelters must stay open five hours every weekday, including one day until at least 7 pm, and one weekend day. Additionally, the bill requires shelters to take numerous steps to reunite lost pets with their families that most facilities do not currently do. Furthermore, it requires shelters to use web sites and social media to promote animals for adoption. Finally, the bill mandates shelters provide improved veterinary and behavioral care that will make pets more adoptable. Thus, S3019’s requirements would clearly increase Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s live release rate and allow the shelter to save more homeless animals.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s Unsustainable Path

Clearly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must fix many basic sheltering issues. Specifically, the shelter must pass rigorous inspections every year, create and implement a robust disease control program, keep proper records, comply with the stray/hold law, and only euthanize animals humanely. Simply put, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must follow the law.

While the shelter’s apparent decision to impound fewer cats is preferable to killing these animals, the shelter is allowing problems to grow. Elizabeth Animal Shelter does not practice TNR to any significant degree. Therefore, the stray cats the shelter does not neuter and release remain intact and will continue to breed on the streets. Ultimately, residents will complain and either force the shelter to catch and kill these animals or potentially take matters into their own hands. Clearly, Elizabeth needs to practice TNR or better yet, Return to Field, preferably with the help of cat advocates, to limit the community cat population and resolve conflicts with people.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s complete reliance on a part time contractor to network with the rescue community is not sustainable. While this person has done an admirable job networking with rescues, it is unrealistic to expect this person to remain long-term at the shelter with the city paying her no more than $16,000 a year. Furthermore, the person will have difficulty performing all her duties with her just working 20 hours a week. In other words, Elizabeth should hire this contractor on a full time basis and adequately compensate her.

At a minimum, the city should reallocate the time this contractor spends conducting scientifically invalid behavioral evaluations to activities that would improve live release rates and care provided to animals. For example, this person could help design an enrichment program in conjunction with the shelter veterinarian, and help carry it out. Similarly, the part-time contractor could use this time to take engaging photos and videos of animals and write excellent adoption profiles.

Last year, this house of cards nearly collapsed. At the time, postings on social media suggested the city might part ways with this contractor. Thankfully, the rescue community protested and the part-time contractor remained with the shelter. However, this incident reveals how easily the shelter could regress.

Ultimately, a shelter must comprehensively adopt the 11 step No Kill Equation if it truly wants to succeed. Clearly, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter significantly improved after following the state’s seven day owner surrender protection period and using one No Kill Equation program, rescue partnerships. However, if the Elizabeth Animal Shelter wants to consistently provide a refuge for all the city’s homeless animals, it must enact most, if not all, of these programs.

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2014 Cat Report Cards for New Jersey Animal Shelters

Cats are losing their lives at an alarming rate in New Jersey animal shelters. Over 20,000 cats or 45% of the cats coming into New Jersey animal shelters in 2014 were killed, died, went missing or were unaccounted for. 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 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 save 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, these kittens should not be held in a traditional shelter setting and instead need to go to foster homes or a kitten nursery at or outside of the shelter. 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.

I modified the methodology for space-constrained shelters for this year’s analysis. Space constrained shelters do not have enough room to adopt out all of the animals they need to. Therefore, these shelters require rescue help. In the past, I assumed these shelters adopted out each cat based on the average time it takes to adopt out all cats. However, many cats require much less time to get adopted. Therefore, I assumed space-constrained shelters adopted out these animals first and then sent the cats taking longer to adopt out to rescues. While this significantly changed the results for space-constrained shelters, this assumption only had a minor impact on the overall results for all New Jersey animal shelters.

I also revised my analysis this year to put a cap on the targeted numbers of cats rescued from other shelters and cat adoptions. While my unmodified targeted numbers of rescued and adopted animals are quite achievable, I wanted to provide very conservative goals for New Jersey animals 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 last year, 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 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 last year’s blog.

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 45,162 New Jersey cats coming into the state’s animal shelters in 2014, 32,501 and 7,583 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 24,931 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 17,348 cats from out of state shelters or New Jersey’s streets after achieving a greater than 90% live release rate for cats coming into the state’s animal shelters. In reality, the New Jersey shelter system could rescue more than 17,348 cats from out of state shelters or from New Jersey’s streets given the 17,348 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 into 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 2014 data):

  • New York City – 3,127 additional cats need saving
  • Philadelphia – 3,786 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 6% 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 into 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 6.4 cats per 1,000 people in the state (4.6 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:

  • Tompkins County SPCA (Ithaca, New York area) – 16.5 cats per 1,000 people
  • Lynchburg Humane Society (Lynchburg, Virginia) – 11.1 cats per 1,000 people
  • Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (Charlottesville, Virginia area) – 10.8 cats per 1,000 people
  • Williamson County Animal Shelter (Williamson County, Texas area): 10.0 cats per 1,000 people
  • Nevada Humane Society (Reno, Nevada area) – 9.3 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, 6.4 cats per 1,000 people, I set out for New Jersey animal shelters is lower than the state of Colorado’s per capita cat adoption rate of 7.3 cats per 1,000 people. Given Colorado still has some regressive animal shelters and only an 82% live release rate for cats, 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.

2014 Cats Targets

Cat Deaths Vary Widely at New Jersey Animal Shelters

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

The tables below detail the death rates for cats at each New Jersey animal shelter. All cats missing are assumed “dead” based on the assumption they died or went to a very bad place. Shelters having cat death 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. Based on the assumptions above, 15,791 savable cats lost their lives or went missing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2014. Obviously, some of these cats are truly feral and require TNR or placement as barn cats, but surely many others could be 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, Atlantic County Animal Shelter, Burlington County Animal Shelter, Camden County Animal Shelter, Cumberland County Animal Shelter and Gloucester County Animal Shelter account for 7,441 of the or 47% of the 15,791 cats needlessly losing their lives. Associated Humane Societies three shelters had 1,818 cats unnecessarily lose their lives in 2014. Northern Ocean County Animal Facility and Southern Ocean Animal Facility had 1,344 cats lose their lives needlessly in 2014. Bergen County Animal Shelter, which happens to serve many towns in one of the country’s wealthiest counties, had 805 cats unnecessarily lose their lives in 2014. Collectively, these 11 shelters are 11% of the state’s shelters and account for 11,408 or 72% of the 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 93% in 2014. 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.

Several animal control shelters euthanized the targeted number of cats or fewer. Denville Animal Shelter, Ewing Animal Shelter, Byram Township Animal Shelter, Humane Society of Ocean County, Secaucus Animal Shelter, Trenton Animal Shelter and West Milford Animal Shelter prove municipal animal shelters can avoid killing healthy and treatable cats. While Bergen Protect and Rescue Foundation, North Jersey Humane Rescue Center and Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter reported low euthanasia rates and have animal control contracts, I cannot rely on their numbers due to the turmoil at these shelters during this time.

2014 Cat Death Rate

2014 Cat Death Rate (2)

2014 Cat Death Rate (3)

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 about 82% 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 23 out of the 76 facilities needing rescue assistance received the required support. In other words, only 30% 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 only received 82% of their cat rescue requirements. 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 the Companion Animal Protection Act (“CAPA”), 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 receiving the most extra rescue support were as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies-Newark – 714 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Cape May County Animal Shelter – 224 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Paterson Animal Control – 221 more cats transferred than necessary (estimated due to the shelter’s incorrect reporting of rescues as adoptions)
  • Trenton Animal Shelter – 195 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Toms River Animal Facility – 181 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Elizabeth Animal Shelter – 140 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter 124 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter – 78 more cats transferred than necessary
  • East Orange Animal Shelter – 71 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Linden Animal Control – 65 more cats transferred than necessary

While Cape May County Animal Shelter is known as a progressive shelter, most of the other facilities are not good in my opinion. Local activists have campaigned to remove Toms River Animal Facility’s Shelter Director, Jim Bowen. Associated Humane Societies-Newark has a history of problems and kills animals for ridiculous reasons. Paterson Animal Control has no volunteer program, no social media page or even a website with animals for adoption. Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed two dogs last year on the day the animals arrived at the facility. Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter, Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter, East Orange Animal Shelter and Linden Animal Control were all investigated in the last year or two due to serious state shelter law violations. 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:

  • Cumberland County SPCA – 865 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Atlantic County Animal Shelter – 306 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Hamilton Township Animal Shelter – 293 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter – 292 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Vorhees Animal Orphanage – 219 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Camden County Animal Shelter – 177 fewer cats transferred than necessary

The million dollar question is why do these shelters receive very little rescue help? As you will see below, Vorhees Animal Orphanage adopts out many cats and is doing a good job. On the other hand, Gloucester County Animal Shelter pursues an aggressive catch and kill policy for feral cats, routinely illegally kills animals during the 7 day hold period, does not adopt out animals at the shelter on weekends, allows disease to spread like wildfire and violates New Jersey shelter laws to an outrageous degree. 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.

2014 Cats Rescued

2014 Cats Rescued (2)

cr (3)

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 estimated 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 97 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 cat adoption target by the most of any shelter in terms of total adoptions. Based on the the types of cats currently available for adoption and the cat death rate of 7%, Animal Welfare Association does not seem to just take in highly sought after cats. 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. 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. Other rescue oriented shelters exceeding their adoption targets were Animal Adoption Center, Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter and Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge. Thus, several rescue oriented shelters exceeded their cat adoption targets and Animal Welfare Associated 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 by the most of any animal control shelter in terms of total cat adoptions. 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.” Byram Township Animal Shelter also exceeded its adoption goal. While the shelter has very limited adoption hours, the shelter’s volunteer organization partner also holds frequent adoption days at high traffic retail stores. The shelter’s volunteer organization charges reasonable adoption fees of $75 and $85 for cats and kittens, but also offers discounts when two or more cats are adopted together. Also, adoption fees for senior and special needs cats are only $35, but those fees are currently reduced to $25 for the holiday season. The Humane Society of Ocean County also exceeded its cat adoption target. While the shelter’s hours are fairly limited, the regular adoption fees for cats and kittens are only $50. In addition, the shelter adopts out barn cats who otherwise could not go to most homes. Additionally, the shelter proudly markets itself as a no kill animal control shelter and has a modern in-house veterinary facility that helps keep cats healthy and adoptable. Vorhees Animal Orphanage came close to meeting its adoption goal. This shelter’s normal adoption fees are quite reasonable. For example, cats at the shelter for 6 months or longer are $30, senior cats are $50, adult cats are $65, and kittens are $100. 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. Thus, several animal control shelters exceeded or came close to achieving their cat adoption goals and therefore prove these adoption targets are achievable.

Rescues should focus on pulling animals from Vorhees Animal Orphanage. This shelter has a high cat death rate 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. My suggestion to these shelters is to find ways to use more of your facility’s capacity to expand your lifesaving work to other areas. For example, these shelters should consider taking in animals from other shelters for a fee or even contracting with other municipalities.

Associated Humane Societies performance is particularly disappointing. Specifically, Associated Humane Societies has the physical capacity to significantly reduce the killing of healthy and treatable cats. Associated Humane Societies adoption shortfall of 5,542 cats is 35% of the 15,791 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 over $8 million of revenue last year. This works out to nearly $600 of revenue per dog and cat I project the shelter should take in per my Life Saving Model. As a comparison, Nevada Humane Society, KC Pet Project, and Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Society, which are no kill open admission shelters, took in only $219-$505 of revenue per dog and cat. Activists wanting to increase life saving in New Jersey should focus on changing Associated Humane Societies’ policies given the lifesaving potential of this organization.

Several other shelters had significant adoption shortfalls. Bergen County Animal Shelter’s adoption shortfall of 1,913 cats is quite disappointing. Bergen County is among the top 1% of the nation’s wealthiest counties and the shelter received nearly $500 of funding per dog and cat I project the shelter should take in based on direct support from Bergen County and the revenue from the local charity that helps support the shelter. Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter’s, Gloucester County Animal Shelter’s, Montclair Animal Shelter’s and East Orange Animal Shelter’s adoption shortfalls of 2,361 cats, 1,454 cats, 712 cats, and 253 cats are not surprising given the widely documented problems at these facilities during this time. Thus, many shelters with the ability to adopt out many cats are failing to do so.

2014 Cat adopt

2014 Cat adopt (2)

2014 Cat adopt (3)

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. 91 of the 97 shelters should rescue some cats from other local shelters. In fact, 50 of the 91 shelters with targeted excess capacity failed to rescue even a single cat from other animal shelters. Only 3 shelters with significant amounts of space to rescue cats from nearby shelters met or exceeded their cat rescue target. 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.

2014 rescued cats

2014 rescued cats (2)

2014 rescued cats (3)

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 shelter 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. 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 2,000 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 1,372 kittens from Salt Lake City area shelters. Similarly, several Jacksonville, Florida animal welfare groups created a nursery program called “Kitten University” which was “on track” to saving 1,400 kittens last year. 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 systems 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 nearly half of all cats entering New Jersey’s shelters dying, going missing or being unaccounted for, our state’s shelters are failing their cats.

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 ended 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 2014 “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health.” Unfortunately, 2015 data will not be available until August 2016.

This data was then used as follows:

  • 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 2014 cat intake data on the New York Animal Care & Control web site.
  • 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 14.2 days at Texas’s Williamson County Animal Shelter, less than 18 days at Nevada Humane Society, 21 days at Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society, 32 days at Lynchburg Humane Society,  33 days (32 for cats and 34 for kittens) at New Hampshire SPCA, 35 days at Montana’s Flathead County Animal Shelter, 41 days at Colorado’s Ark Valley 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 21 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 rescue 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 kittens 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 ran 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 rescues 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.

2014 New Jersey Animal Shelter Statistics Show Little Improvement

East Orange Animal Shelter Dog

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last September, I shared the 2014 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2014 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Several animal shelters, which reported statistics in prior years, failed to submit data in 2014. Specifically, Livingston Animal Shelter, Hunterdon Hills Animal Hospital, All Pets Veterinary Hospital and Warren Animal Hospital disclosed this data in 2013, but did not do so in 2014. These shelters failure to disclose data raises serious questions. For example, are they trying to hide embarrassing statistics from the public?

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 67 out of 96 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 68 out of 95 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. Even worse, 42 of the 67 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 43 of the 68 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year then reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, the more likely answer is many outcomes, such as animals killed, dying, or gone missing, were not recorded. Given 63% of the errors were due to shelters having less rather than more animals on hand at the end of the year than they should have had lends credence to the theory that errors were mostly due to shelters failing to account for various outcomes. To put it another way, 2,699 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 2,699 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in the last year.

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescue properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, rescues I know who work closely with these two facilities told me both shelters rarely adopt animals directly to the public. This makes sense as neither shelter advertized animals for adoption (i.e. no adoption web site or social medial pages run by the two shelters) in 2014. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the Shelter/Pound Annual Report mandatory for animal shelters along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill/death rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

2014 Summary Stats (1) (1) (2)The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake depresses the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. Calculating kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake increases the cat kill rate from 34.6% to 35.2% and the dog kill rate remains the same.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility who then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 13.5% to 14.2% and the cat kill rate from 35.2% to 37.4%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. I label this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. After making this adjustment, the dog death rate increases from 14.2% to 14.8% and the cat death rate rises from 37.4% to 43.4%.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports to estimate the local death rate except for St. Hubert’s. Since St. Hubert’s subsequently transfers many of these animals to other shelters, I only subtract out the number of dogs St. Hubert’s rescues from out of state less the dogs it transfers to other shelters. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog death rate from 14.8% to 17.7% and the state cat death rate from 43.4% to 43.8%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local death rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog death rate from 17.7% to 20.6% and the maximum potential state cat death rate from 43.8% to 47.3%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a death rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential death rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed death rate and maximum potential death rate for dogs is 20.9% and 31.7%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 44.8% death rate and a 48.9% maximum potential death rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than previously thought.

Overall, the statewide statistics showed little improvement from 2013. The dog death rate in 2014 only was three tenths of one percent lower than 2013. While the maximum potential dog death rate was 3.4 percentage points lower in 2014, we don’t know whether that is due to better record keeping or actually improved life saving. The cat death rate and maximum potential death rate decreased by 3.4% and 4.2%. The growing acceptance of TNR likely slightly decreased the percentage of cats losing their lives in New Jersey animal shelters this year. That being said, the improvements were very small and the percentage of dogs and cats losing their lives in the state’s animal shelters is still way too high.

Death Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives or go missing at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest death rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

Dog Death rate 2014

Cat Death Rate 2014

Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters had the most animals lose their lives or go missing:

Total Killed Died 2014 Dogs

Total Killed Died 2014 Cats

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

Unacct dogs

Unacct cats 2014

Dog and cat death rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as dead or missing. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2014, facilities with the highest dog and cat death rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

Max Pot Dr 2014 Dogs

Max Pot cats 2014

Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more animals from out of state than other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, 5,090 dogs were transferred from out of state animal shelters compared to only 1,692 dogs taken in from other New Jersey animal shelters. The number of out of state dogs transported into New Jersey decreased in 2014, but that is due to problems at Jersey Animal Coalition and Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter during the year. These problems likely resulted in fewer transported dogs. However, Jersey Animal Coalition, which is now closed, did not report any statistics for 2014. Furthermore, Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter erroneously reported it transported no dogs during 2014 as the facility imported many dogs from the south before the shelter’s problems received media attention in the summer of 2014. Thus, the decrease in transports is likely due to a combination of  incorrect reporting and increased regulatory pressure on these two shelters that transported many dogs into New Jersey.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in, died in and went missing from New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional dogs transported in from out of state by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

Dogs Transported 2014

Return to Owner Rates Better Than Average at Most Shelters

Return to owners (“RTO”) rates are one of the positive results from this analysis. Overall, the dog and cat RTO rates of 55% and 5% are approximately twice the national average. As I noted in my blog on reuniting lost pets with owners, return to owner rates are highly correlated with socioeconomic status. Wealthier people likely have more resources/knowledge to license and microchip their dogs. Similarly, people with greater incomes are more likely to afford reclaim fees or ransom payments to animal shelters. New Jersey’s RTO rates for dogs clearly fit this pattern with shelters serving wealthy towns returning most stray dogs to owners while many urban shelters are only returning about around a quarter of lost dogs to owners. Clearly, we need to help people in urban areas get microchips and ID tags on their dogs. Additionally, we need to create pet help desks at shelters in these cities to help people pay the reclaim fees, which are often mandated by the cities themselves, when necessary. The statewide cat reclaim rate, like figures from across the nation, is still very low and suggests shelters need to figure out better ways to get lost cats back to their families. New Jersey should allow shelters to transfer stray cats to rescues during the mandatory 7 day hold period since few are returned to owners at shelters. This would open up space to save more cats and reduce the chance of disease (i.e. cats spending less time in shelters are not as likely to get sick).

To get a better idea how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs death rates are as follows:

non-reclaimed dog death rate

Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed local dogs death rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs and taking very few animals in):

Max non-reclaimed dog death rate

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2014, only 53% of dog and 65% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog and cat capacity utilization to 62% and 85%. These estimates likely overestimate the average capacity utilized as many facilities kill animals once they reach a certain population level. Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Space usage dogs 2014

Space usage Cats 2014

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 9.0 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.9 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14-30 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and the Humane Society of the United States. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

Associated Humane Societies Kills Massive Numbers of Newark’s Homeless Animals

Associated Humane Societies often publishes emotional stories about the organization heroically rescuing animals from terrible situations in Newark. Typically, these stories are found on the AHS web site and/or their Humane News publication. These fundraising efforts are lucrative as AHS brought in an impressive $3.6 million in donations and grants for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014. The 2003 New Jersey Commission of Investigation report on AHS stated the organization’s fundraising campaigns did not fairly represent the care typically provided to animals:

The substandard conditions and treatment of the animals, which existed on a large scale until recently, betrayed AHS’s massive fundraising campaign through the years and contradicted AHS’s persona as a “humane” organization. Bernstein capitalized on the plight of animals to garner millions of dollars in contributions, but failed to apply any portion of those millions to establish a satisfactory level of care and treatment.

Are these fundraising stories representative of the care most Newark animals receive at AHS-Newark now? Has AHS-Newark improved enough since the 2003 New Jersey Commission of Investigation report was issued?

Additional Animal Control Contracts and Summary Statistics Raise Serious Concerns

In 2014, AHS-Newark added a number of municipalities, such as South Orange and Maplewood (both towns no longer contract with AHS-Newark) and the cities and towns formerly contracting with Linden Animal Control. Despite already killing large numbers of animals, AHS-Newark decided to contract with all these additional municipalities and receive substantial fees in return. In February 2015, AHS-Newark Assistant Executive Director, Scott Crawford, stated his organization could handle the additional animals.

The shelter’s annual summary statistics showed it impounded and killed more animals in 2014 verses 2013. Animal intake increased from 5,019 dogs and cats in 2013 to 6,194 dogs and cats in 2014. AHS-Newark reported the number of dogs and cats that were killed, died or went missing increased from 1,962 in 2013 to 2,356 in 2014. As a result, AHS-Newark literally earned more revenue by impounding and killing significantly more animals in 2014 verses 2013.

Detailed Analysis Conducted 

To get a better understanding of AHS-Newark’s handling of animals, I submitted an OPRA request to the City of Newark’s Animal Control Department seeking intake and disposition records of animals the city’s Animal Control Department impounded in 2014. The City of Newark picks up animals during normal working hours and delivers most animals to the AHS-Newark shelter. At other times, AHS-Newark ACOs perform these duties. The records do not include direct owner surrenders to the shelter from Newark residents (except for a few that were included), but do include people surrendering their animals to animal control who then take the animals to AHS-Newark. After much follow-up over a period of several months, I received AHS-Newark’s underlying intake and disposition records for the animals originating from animal control in Newark.

In total, I obtained around 3,000 pages of records and it took me several months to review and summarize this information. Many of these records were for wildlife, animals leaving before animal control officers arrived, and animals that were dead by the time the animal control officer got to the location. Overall, I reviewed the intake and disposition records of 966 cats and 649 dogs that AHS-Newark impounded in 2014. These records constituted 23% of the dogs and 28% of the cats AHS-Newark reported taking in during 2014.

I reviewed each record and summarized my findings. My summary included the animal’s ID number, species, breed, origin (stray, owner surrender, confiscated by authorities), intake date, outcome date, length of stay, outcome, reasons for killing, miscellaneous information, and any comments I had. I only counted the two primary reasons for killing, but generally mentioned other reasons listed in my notes.

AHS Newark’s Underlying Records Reveal Horrors

Honestly, when I received the information I thought the City of Newark forgot to provide me the records for animals making it out of the facility alive. However, the records included some animals who were adopted out and rescued. The records I obtained listed 229 additional animals I did not receive information for. Even if all these other animals made it out of AHS-Newark alive, the dog and cat kill rate based on intake would only drop nine percentage points. My records indicated AHS-Newark impounded 5.8 dogs and cats per 1,000 residents (6.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 people if I include the 229 missing animal records) that came from animal control in Newark. As a comparison, AHS-Newark impounded 4.3 dogs and cats per 1,000 residents from animal control in Irvington per a summary spreadsheet that AHS prepared. If I assume 43% of AHS-Newark’s animals from the City of Newark came from other sources (i.e. owner surrenders, people finding animals on street, etc), which is the percentage from nearby Irvington, then AHS-Newark would take in 10.2 dogs and cats per 1,000 residents (11.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 people if I include the 229 missing animals) from all sources in Newark. This figure is around the same as, if not a bit higher than, other demographically similar cities in the area. Additionally, I submitted another OPRA request for any missing animals to the City of Newark and was told no other records existed. While I can’t say for sure if my data set contains the overwhelming number of animals AHS-Newark obtained from animal control in Newark, I think it represents a very large percentage.

The sheer number and percentage of animals losing their lives at AHS-Newark is staggering. Overall, AHS-Newark killed 79% of the cats, 63% of the dogs, and 74% of the pit bull like dogs in this data set. Furthermore, if I add animals who died at AHS-Newark and only count known outcomes, 93% of cats, 70% of dogs, and 81% of pit bull like dogs in this data set lost their lives at AHS-Newark. To put it another way, 855 out of 919 cats, 424 out of 608 dogs, and 329 out of 408 pit bull like dogs lost their lives per these records. As a result, these records indicate AHS-Newark operated more like a death camp than an animal shelter for the dogs and cats coming to the facility from animal control in the City of Newark.

2014 City of Newark Outcomes

Even if the death rate for animals from Newark Animal Control was actually lower due to the City of Newark not providing me additional records, my analysis still shows AHS-Newark killed vast numbers of healthy and treatable animals.

Results Raise Question About AHS-Newark’s Reported 2014 Statistics

These results show AHS-Newark disclosed erroneous statistics to the New Jersey Department of Health. In AHS-Newark’s 2014 Shelter/Pound Annual Report, the organization stated 12 dogs and 92 cats died or went missing. However, my data set, which only includes 23% of the dogs and 28% of the cats AHS-Newark impounded during the year, had both more dogs (13) and cats (96) dying in the shelter in 2014 than AHS-Newark reported for all of its dogs and cats. If I add the animals where a “Not Available” outcome is listed, the number of animals dying or going missing rises to 15 dogs and 101 cats. Furthermore, my data set accounted for 50% and 53% of the number of dogs and cats AHS-Newark reported to kill despite only making up 23% and 28% of the number of dogs and cats AHS-Newark reported it impounded in 2014. While AHS-Newark may kill dogs and cats from the City of Newark at a higher rate than animals coming in from other jurisdictions, I find it hard to believe the kill rate is that much higher for Newark animals, particularly cats. In addition, AHS-Newark reported it impounded the exact same number of dogs (2,794) and cats (3,400) that had outcomes for the year. Frankly, I find that pretty hard to believe given AHS-Newark stated it held over 200 dogs and 200 cats at the shelter during the beginning and end of the year. Thus, this data raises concerns that more animals are losing their lives at AHS-Newark than the shelter is reporting.

AHS-Newark Quickly Kills Animals

In February 2015, AHS-Newark Assistant Executive Director, Scott Crawford, bragged about his shelter’s capacity and the extra time the facility had to place animals compared to some other local alternatives. Based on my review of the above records, AHS killed cats and dogs arriving from Newark Animal Control in January 2014 within 30 days and 27 days on average:

AHS-NEwark Jan 2014 LOS for Newark

After AHS-Newark took over the cities and towns formerly contracting with Linden Animal Control in November 2014, AHS-Newark killed cats and dogs impounded from Newark Animal Control in this data set much more quickly. Despite Mr. Crawford’s assertion in early February 2015, AHS-Newark rapidly killed cats and dogs impounded from Newark Animal Control in this data set two months before he made this outlandish claim. Based on my review of these records, AHS-Newark killed cats and dogs impounded from Newark Animal Control in December 2014 within 13 days and 11 days on average:

AHS-NEwark Dec 2014 LOS for Newark

As a result, AHS-Newark’s assertion that it keeps many animals alive a long time is not consistent with the data I examined for dogs and cats arriving from Newark Animal Control.

Absurd Justifications for Killing

AHS-Newark used many poor excuses to kill animals. The top four reasons AHS-Newark used to kill cats were as follows:

  1. Sick
  2. Aggressive, unfriendly and feral
  3. No reason listed
  4. Ringworm

AHS-Newark’s cats were often sick due to an Upper Respiratory Infection (“URI”) or the common cold. Countless records stated AHS-Newark killed the cat due to the animal “not responding to treatment.” With so many animals getting sick and not getting better, one has to wonder what kind of disease control program AHS-Newark has?

Several examples illustrate AHS-Newark’s inability to medically treat cats with colds. Toots was surrendered to AHS-Newark due to her owner no longer being able to care for her. Despite being a young cat less than 3 years old, AHS-Newark stated they had to kill her within 10 days of arriving at the shelter. While the intake and disposition record states Toots was not responding to treatment for her URI, the veterinary log on this record only mentions the standard vaccinations, deworming and Frontline flea and tick medication received on the day she arrived at AHS-Newark. The veterinary log then mentions she was poisoned to death with Fatal Plus 10 days later. Call me crazy, but I don’t see any documentation of any additional veterinary treatment for her URI on this record.

ID 128745 Killed for URI

Brooklyn was an 11 month old cat described as “very sweet” by AHS-Newark. Yet, within 11 days of arriving at the shelter, AHS-Newark killed her due to a “very bad URI” that did not get better. However, once again the veterinary log on this record did not describe any specific treatment for her cold after her vaccinations on the day she arrived.

ID 129234 Killed for URI

Moonlight was a 15 month old stray cat and described by AHS-Newark as “very beautiful, sweet and trusting” and “wants love and attention.” Yet, AHS-Newark killed her 16 days after her arrival at the shelter due to her having a “URI” and being “weak and lethargic.” Other than two rounds of the standard shelter vaccinations and deworming, AHS-Newark once again provided no other treatment specifically for the URI per the veterinary log in this record.

ID129667 URI Cat

The records did not indicate AHS-Newark sent any of these cats to an isolation area for treatment, reached out to any rescues or tried to place the animals in foster homes to recover from their illness. Thus, AHS-Newark failed all three cats, as well as many others, who were highly adoptable.

AHS-Newark labeled many cats feral and/or unadoptable for dubious reasons. Notably, the shelter provided inadequate amounts of time to socialize fearful cats who were justifiably scared in this high kill shelter. Furthermore, I saw no efforts to socialize virtually all of these cats on their records. In fact, AHS-Newark often classified owner-surrendered cats, who presumably lived in or around homes, as feral or otherwise unsuitable for people to adopt. For example, Baby Girl was a 3 and half year old cat surrendered due to her owner moving. AHS-Newark labeled this cat a “wild” and killed her within just 8 days of arriving at the shelter. In addition, AHS-Newark did not vaccinate her upon intake and therefore increased the risk of disease among the shelter’s cat population.

ID 129063 OS Cat Killed for Feral

Me Me was surrendered by her owner due to the owner not having room for the cat. Once again AHS-Newark labeled the cat as “wild”, did not vaccinate her, and killed her within 9 days:

ID 1208046 OS Cat Killed Feral

Lucky, who was nearly 9 years old, was surrendered due to her owner not being able to care for her any longer. Despite this cat most likely having lived in or around a home for many years, AHS-Newark labeled her as “wild”, did not vaccinate her, and killed her after just 7 days.

ID 128791 Feral Cat Killed

Thus, AHS-Newark’s labeling of cats as feral, aggressive and otherwise unadoptable is highly suspect.

AHS-Newark used a “throw everything but the kitchen sink” approach to justify the mass killing of dogs. Often times the shelter listed multiple boilerplate reasons, like aggression (including “cage crazy”/”not kenneling well”), dog aggression, sick, etc. The top five reasons AHS used to kill dogs were:

  1. Aggression related issues
  2. Sick
  3. Dog aggression
  4. No reason listed
  5. Overcrowded

While certainly some dogs likely were truly aggressive, many dogs labeled as such did not seem that way. Sadie was a nearly 4 year old pit bull mix with a very good behavioral evaluation. The evaluation stated Sadie was “playful, loving and affectionate once she gets to warm up.” The evaluation also stated Sadie “allows you to handle her from head to tail without complaint” and “she is easy taking treats and likes to share her toys.” Yet, just over one month later, “SC”, who I presume is AHS Assistant Executive Director, Scott Crawford, approved her killing for “becoming temperamental.” The record provided no elaboration on what her exact problems were nor did the record document any efforts to rehabilitate her.

ID 125906 Dog Killed Aggression

Sadie2

Billy was a 2 year old Plott Hound-Boxer Mix. The dog’s evaluation stated he did not behave well inside his kennel, but “all you have to do is take him outside and he is a totally different dog.” Billy’s evaluation went on to say “he is fine with being handled all over” was “gentle with treats”, had “a great food test” and “seemed fine with the other dogs outside.” Despite this very good evaluation, AHS-Newark decided to kill him exactly 3 weeks later for being “extreme cage crazy”, “becoming hard to handle”, “doesn’t show well” and “no dogs.” AHS-Newark couldn’t even take the time to write a proper sentence to justify killing this young dog. The record provided no documentation that AHS-Newark tried to alleviate his kennel stress or perform any other efforts to rehabilitate him. Simply put, the record indicates AHS-Newark killed Billy for convenience as he didn’t “show well” and was “hard to handle.”

ID 122530 Dog Killed

Billy 2

Danny was a nearly 3 year old American Bulldog. He had a good evaluation stating he was “playful”, “good with other dogs”, “knows sit”, and “needs manners.” In other words, Danny was a big playful puppy. In addition, his record states he was a “photo shoot dog.” Just over two months after Danny’s evaluation, AHS-Newark killed Danny and justified it by stating “no dogs” and “insane in kennels.” Once again the record mentions no actions to provide any enrichment to Danny. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that a high energy dog needs stimulation and exercise. Also, the record provides no details on Danny’s alleged dog aggression which is contradicted by his behavioral evaluation. Even more disturbing, AHS-Newark killed one of the few dogs in this data set with an evaluation (less than 10% of dogs and virtually no cats had an evaluation) and included in a photo shoot. If AHS-Newark kills dogs in the spotlight, what chance do the vast majority of animals that are never seen or heard have?

ID 125726 Part 1

ID 125726 Part 2

AHS-Newark’s practice of killing massive numbers of dogs for aggression related issues clearly needs to stop. While some dogs coming into a shelter are a serious threat to people and their problems will not satisfactorily respond to rehabilitation efforts, well-run animal control shelters typically find 5% or fewer of dogs fall into this category. In this data set, AHS-Newark killed 26% of their dogs for aggression related issues plus a number of others for dog aggression. As a result, AHS-Newark is unfairly labeling dogs as aggressive.

AHS-Newark also killed dogs due to lack of space. Qunn’s intake and disposition record described him as “very excitable, but nice” and “kind of wild, but very, very friendly.” Despite this, AHS-Newark killed Quinn for not being able to place him with another dog in a kennel and him being “hyper” and “hard to handle.” The record provides no evidence that AHS gave Quinn any exercise let alone enrichment. Furthermore, AHS-Newark killed Quinn during December which is typically one of the lowest intake months for shelters. Even worse, AHS-Newark killed Quinn for lack of space less than two months before Scott Crawford bragged about his shelter’s large capacity.

ID127690 Killed Pt 1

ID127690 Killed (2)

Red was a 16 month old dog surrendered to Newark Animal Control by his owner. After just 8 days, AHS-Newark killed him for having a cold and the isolation area being full and for allegedly not being able to house him with other dogs. The intake and disposition record provides no evidence AHS-Newark gave any specific treatment for his URI other than a canine flu vaccine upon intake. AHS-Newark killed Red due to a lack of space just two and half months before Scott Crawford boasted about his shelter’s ability to house lots of animals.

ID130711

Rambo was a “friendly stray dog” who was killed due to overcrowding. AHS-Newark identified the owner and apparently talked with her. For whatever reason, the owner did not reclaim the animal. AHS-Newark killed Rambo in December, one of the lowest intake months for most shelters, due to “no dogs”, “no response” to the letter to his owner and the main kennel being full. Once again Scott Crawford decided to kill a “friendly” dog due to lack of space just two months prior to him bragging about the large amount of animals his shelter could hold.

ID129821

AHS-Newark also killed many dogs for no documented reason. Pamtera was apparently abandoned in an apartment. AHS-Newark often publicizes these types of cases in fundraising appeals. After 11 days, AHS-Newark killed Pamtera for no reason other than it being “ok to pts per kp.”

ID130032

Dog ID# 130078, like most of the animals I reviewed records for, had no name. She was a 6 year old and 5 month old small terrier mix. After just 8 days, AHS-Newark killed her once again for no reason other than being “ok to pts per kp.” Even worse, this record did not state how AHS-Newark killed Dog ID# 130078.

ID 130078

Durango’s evaluation described him as “sweet and affectionate”, “very focused and loving towards all people, but he doesn’t like other dogs”, “genuinely loved to give and get attention” and “a handsome boy with knockout gorgeous eyes.” Furthermore, his intake and disposition record states in bold and in caps “Humane News – February”, “Petfinder”, “Facebook”, “Do Not PTS.” In other words Durango was a fantastic dog and was one of the few dogs AHS-Newark intended to promote. Despite all of these great things going for him, AHS-Newark killed Durango for no reason according to this record.

ID130867

ID 130867

AHS Hands Animals Over to a Rescue Subsequently Convicted for Animal Cruelty

AHS-Newark has a difficult adoption process in my experience. Typically, AHS-Newark makes people visit the shelter multiple times to adopt an animal. Often, this process can take a number of days. As a result of these policies, animals stay too long at the facility and this increases the chance the shelter will kill animals due to lack of space.

Gabriel Ganter (formerly Gabriel Palacios) was recently convicted of animal cruelty. Ms. Ganter ran Pit Bull Kisses rescue out of Newark until she moved to Dumont. On May 13, 2015, the Bergen County SPCA raided her Dumont home and found dead dogs in garbage bags, a live dog and starved cat on chains without proper shelter (warning: the photos in this link are deeply disturbing). Furthermore, one official stated the conditions insider her house were “horrid.” Ultimately, Gabriel Ganter pleaded guilty to not providing necessary care to animals this month.

Gabriel Ganter’s Pit Bull Kisses Rescue rescued the most animals of any organization in this data set. Pit Bull Kisses rescued 16 of the 35 dogs and cats rescued in the records I reviewed. In all fairness, many people in the animal welfare community were duped by Gabriel Ganter. However, Ms. Ganter began acting erratically in the summer of 2014 and AHS-Newark should have known this. Sadly, AHS-Newark still allowed Pit Bull Kisses to rescue the following dog and cat after this point:

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We can only hope this unnamed dog and cat went to other foster homes rather than Gabriel Ganter’s house of horrors.

AHS Fails Newark’s Stray Animals

The sheer amount of killing is mind boggling. Nearly 1,300 dogs and cats just from the City of Newark lost their lives after arriving at AHS-Newark in 2014. Furthermore, that number most likely would be higher if I obtained the records of the over 200 missing animals not provided to me. To put it another way, around 4 dogs and cats just from the City of Newark lose their lives at AHS-Newark on average each day of the entire year. 84% of the dogs and cats in this data set who came into AHS-Newark in 2014 and had outcomes lost their lives. For these animals, AHS-Newark is a slaughterhouse rather than a shelter.

The underlying records I examined reveal no substantial effort to end this pet extermination project. Massive numbers of animals get sick with treatable illnesses and AHS-Newark still kills them. The records I reviewed did not indicate the shelter often seeks foster homes or even places many sick animals in isolation areas. Even worse, not only do animals typically not receive behavioral rehabilitation, but AHS-Newark seems to actively classify animals as aggressive to justify killing those creatures. Worst of all, AHS-Newark placed such a low value on the lives of these animals that shelter staff couldn’t even write complete sentences or even spell correctly on many of these records. When you can’t take the time to properly document the animal’s information on its record, what hope do we have that you will invest the time and energy into saving that dog or cat? Now, perhaps these records are inaccurate, but that raises even more questions? If your records are inaccurate, why should we believe anything you claim?

Clearly, AHS-Newark should never have contracted with additional municipalities when it already killed far too many animals. Frankly, AHS-Newark should have sought ways to reduce intake rather than deliberately bring in more animals in exchange for more animal control and sheltering contract fees. While all three AHS facilities have more than enough space to save its dogs and cats, AHS fails to enthusiastically implement proven programs and policies to perform at these levels. As such, AHS-Newark should have terminated rather than have added animal control and sheltering contracts.

Donors Must Hold AHS Accountable

Donors should demand AHS-Newark comprehensively adopt the no kill equation as countless other animal control shelters successfully have. Animal control shelters in Kansas City, Missouri, Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah achieved no kill status and even save around 90% of their pit bull like dogs. Other animal control shelters in poor urban areas, such as in Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland, are close to achieving no kill. All of these animal control shelters take in more animals in total and on a per capita basis than AHS-Newark. Additionally, most of these shelters receive less revenue per animal than AHS. Thus, AHS-Newark should do great things.

At the end of the day, donors must wake up and demand AHS change its ways. Apparently, AHS thinks it can dupe its donors into thinking most of the animals it impounds from Newark are heroically rescued and sent to loving homes. Based on the records I reviewed, this absolutely is not the case. AHS must remove its entire senior leadership team, including Roseann Trezza, and replace them with people dedicated to comprehensively implementing the no kill equation. The good people donating to AHS clearly expect the organization to save its animals. It is time donors require AHS to use their hard earned money to save animals and not kill them for convenience and cost savings.

North Jersey Humane Society’s Horrible Inspection Report Exposes a Fake No Kill Organization

Last year, many people applauded Bloomfield’s decision to accept Bergen County Humane Enforcement’s and Bergen Protect and Rescue’s bid to run the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. After years of problems with the Bloomfield Department of Health and Human Services’ running of the animal shelter, which included banning virtually all volunteers and prohibiting a well-known trainer from keeping a dog with very minor behavioral problems, people were understandably eager to welcome an organization stating it would run a no kill shelter. Given Vincent Ascolese’s charismatic personality and him saying all the right things during a presentation to the town, one could hardly blame people for cheering Bloomfield’s decision to hire this organization.

Personally, I was very skeptical of Bergen County Humane Enforcement and North Jersey Humane Society, which was formed to run the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. First and foremost, I knew Vincent Ascolese, who is the Director of both Bergen Protect and Rescue and North Jersey Humane Society and the Supervising Animal Control Officer, previously brought animals from Hudson County to the horrific Jersey Animal Coalition. Second, Vincent Ascolese’s shelters contract with a for profit animal control company with a checkered history in Hudson County.

I was extremely disappointed when my spouse, my young child and I visited Bergen Protect and Rescue’s Cliffside Park shelter. The facility was extremely small and cramped and two people could barely pass each other through the tiny hallway inside the facility. After being ignored for 10 minutes by the the person in charge that day, we asked if we could see the dogs. This person told us no dogs were up for adoption at the facility and we had to make an appointment to see the animals even if they had any dogs up for adoption. The staff person’s claim seemed odd as many dogs were in a small area just around the corner from us. Even worse, the very next day I saw the shelter post one of the dogs I saw outside on their Facebook page as available for adoption. In addition, the staff person told us the adoption fee for an adult pit bull was over $300. While the staff person said we could drive to an adoption event the shelter was having that day, it was impractical as we did not know the area. Thus, my personal experience with this organization was not good.

Subsequently, I read about policies not consistent with well-run no kill animal control shelters. First, I saw high adoption fees on their web site (now the shelter does not even state what the fees are) which were consistent with the over $300 adoption fee communicated to us at the Cliffside Park shelter. The shelter’s web site states it may take up to a week to adopt an animal resulting in reduced lifesaving and potential overcrowding. Additionally, the Cliffside Park shelter transports many dogs in from out of state despite having what seemed like a very undersized facility. Not surprisingly, my analyses of the Cliffside Park facility’s 2013 performance showed the shelter only adopted out 35% of the number of dogs and 33% of the number of cats the shelter should adopt out. Finally, I was concerned seeing North Jersey Humane Society adopts out at least some intact animals where the shelter refers the adopter to a low cost vet clinic participating in the state subsidized spay/neuter program (funding often runs out during the year resulting in significant delays for the discounted spay/neuter services). Typically, I only see poorly run pounds use this program rather than doing the surgeries themselves with the shelter’s veterinarian. Thus, North Jersey Humane Society’s polices were not consistent with those of well-run no kill animal control shelters.

Last week’s news about the NJ SPCA charging Vincent Ascolese with animal cruelty floored me. The NJ SPCA rightfully charged Mr. Ascolese with 14 counts of animal cruelty for killing an injured deer fawn by slashing its neck with a knife and other issues with animal care at his facility. As bad as this news sounded, it paled in comparison to what I read in the recent New Jersey Department of Health inspection report of North Jersey Humane Society’s Bloomfield shelter.

Bloomfield and North Jersey Humane Society Allow Animals to Reside in a Dump

North Jersey Humane Society’s bid to perform animal sheltering services at the Bloomfield Animal Shelter required the town to bring the facility up to the standards of N.J.A.C. 8.23A. As a result, Bloomfield had a contractual obligation to ensure the building complied with the state law’s standards. Additionally, North Jersey Humane Society had a legal and moral obligation as the shelter operator to ensure the animals were housed in a safe facility.

The inspection report stated the facility was under construction and did not have the required permits. Additionally, the Bloomfield Department of Health and Human Services did not perform the required annual inspection and therefore the shelter did not have a license to operate.

The facility was occupied while under construction without evidence of local occupancy approvals and electrical, mechanical (HVAC), and building or construction permits.

The facility was not inspected by the local health authority for the current year and was not in compliance with these rules, and therefore, was not licensed at the time of this inspection.

Despite the shelter having many unsafe areas, North Jersey Humane Society housed animals in these conditions. The shelter kept dogs in a room without a ceiling with uncovered electrical wires and various dangerous items were hanging down from above.

The ceiling of the guillotine room was removed and was completely open to the rafters in the attic space. Dogs were being housed in this room at the time of this inspection. Electrical wires and junction boxes were exposed and hanging and were not properly secured as required; insulated ventilation ducts and other items were exposed and hanging down from the rafters (Pictures 2834 through 2836).

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North Jersey Humane Society left exposed screws adjacent to dog enclosures and the shelter’s entrance putting both people and animals at risk of injury.

There were boards with long protruding screws located on the ground near the entrance gate of the facility adjacent to an outdoor animal enclosure. These screws could cause injury to both animals and people (Picture 2829).

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The shelter had inadequate ventilation and smelled like urine. Furthermore, insufficient lighting prevented shelter staff from properly cleaning the animal enclosures resulting in a build up of feces and urine. North Jersey Humane Society apparently placed an outdoor animal enclosure on a surface that shelter staff cannot effectively disinfect. Furthermore, the town and North Jersey Humane Society did not repaint the surfaces of the outdoor animal enclosures and the staff could therefore not properly clean these kennels.

There was a strong, stale urine odor in the first animal enclosure room located next to the main office of the facility at the time of this inspection; the ventilation was not sufficient to remove odors as required.

The lighting in the facility was not sufficient to allow the viewing of all the interior surfaces of the animal enclosures to ensure that the enclosures had been cleaned and disinfected. The enclosures in the first animal enclosure room contained small pools of urine and small fragments of feces in the corners and bottom edges that had not been removed during the cleaning process. These corners and edges were unable to be viewed clearly due to the insufficient distribution of lighting in this room.

There was a chain link enclosure placed on the pavement in the driveway in front of the facility. This asphalt pavement was not impervious to moisture and not able to be readily cleaned and disinfected. This enclosure did not have any drains to contain and properly dispose of run off as required (Picture 2831).

The surfaces of the outdoor animal enclosures attached to the side of the building and accessible to the animals in these enclosures by a guillotine door were not impervious to moisture. These surfaces were originally painted, but the paint was peeling, and the surfaces were no longer impervious to moisture (Picture 2844).

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North Jersey Humane Society housed dogs in dangerous enclosures posing a risk of injury and possible death. The shelter left one dog in an outdoor enclosure without sufficient shade for two hours on a hot day in August and the inspector observed the dog drooling. Furthermore the dog bed in this enclosure was broken and had sharp exposed points. Another dog named Benny had a sharp metal wire that was in his cage.

The outdoor dog enclosure on the concrete slab in the driveway next to the entrance gate of the facility had a tarp type of material strapped to the top of the enclosure, but this tarp was not suitable to provide sufficient shade to avoid overheating or discomfort of the animals housed in this enclosure. ACO Stewart stated that the dog housed in this enclosure at the time of this inspection had been in the enclosure approximately two hours and the dog’s drooling was normal and not caused by overheating (Picture 2828).

A dog bed located in an outdoor enclosure near the entrance gate of the facility was broken and in need of repair. The bed contained metal triangle screw plates that had become separated from the frame. The points of the plate were exposed in an upward position and the legs of the bed were bent over (Picture 2828).

A small, thin, red coated dog named Benny was housed in an upper level enclosure in the annex room. The door of the enclosure had a wire that was bent over and protruding into the enclosure at the level of the dog that could cause injury (Picture 2856).

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To make matters worse, the shelter housed two large Rottweilers in kennels that were approximately 30% smaller than required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.6 (b):

Two large Rottweilers at the facility at the time of this inspection were each housed in primary enclosures that provided approximately 10.34 square feet of floor space when measured from the inside of the enclosure. These dogs were estimated to be approximately 39 to 42 inches long and required approximately 14 to 16 square feet of floor space.

North Jersey Humane Society Fails to Properly Clean its Shelter

North Jersey Humane Society failed to use proper procedures to clean the shelter. Specifically, the shelter did not remove cat litter, hair and other debris from an enclosure holding multiple cats. The shelter did not use EPA registered cleaning products. Even worse, the facility did not have suitable measuring devices to ensure staff applied the proper concentration of disinfectants.

Cats were being placed in a three tier cat cage during the daily cleaning process. This enclosure was being sprayed down with a spray bottle and immediately wiped out with a towel between each cat, but this cage was not being disinfected as required. There was an accumulation of cat litter, hair, and other debris trapped in the wire along the edges of the resting benches and at the bottom of this wire enclosure that had not been removed, cleaned and disinfected between each cat during the cleaning process. Toys were also being sprayed with the contents of the spray bottle and immediately wiped off, without allowing the required contact time for disinfection.

The bleach that was being used on the day of this inspection was Clorox Scented, Spashless bleach, which is not an EPA registered disinfectant. Two small bottles of Clorox regular bleach were later found in the upstairs storage area.

The disinfectants used at the facility, sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach) and Accel (accelerated hydrogen peroxide), were not being used at the correct dilution for disinfecting animal contact surfaces. The Accel requires a dilution ratio of 8 ounces (one cup) per gallon of water and the chlorine bleach that was found in the upstairs storage area requires 4 ounces (one half cup) per gallon of water according to the instructions on the product labels for disinfection of smooth and impervious animal contact surfaces.

There were no suitable measuring devices being used at the time of this inspection. One capful of these products (said to be approximately one ounce of concentrated solution) was being mixed into a one and a half gallon sprayer that was labeled as “Bleach” (Picture 2857). The cages were said to be sprayed down with this solution, allowed to sit for approximately 10 minutes while other cages are being sprayed down, and then the cages are rinsed with a hose and the remaining water was removed with a squeegee. The cages were not manually scrubbed clean at any time during the cleaning process.

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Furthermore, shelter staff stated they cleaned animal enclosures, but the inspector’s tape measure became covered with urine and feces when she was examining the cages.

The animal enclosures located in the first room of the facility near the office and main entrance to the facility were said to have been cleaned, but when a metal tape of a tape measure was placed in one of the upper cages while measuring the cage size, the length of tape became contaminated with urine and small bits of feces that remained inside of the cage after the cleaning process. The facility staff was not following proper cleaning and disinfection procedures to reduce disease hazards and odors caused by bacteria and other contaminants that remained on animal enclosure surfaces.

Finally, North Jersey Humane Society failed to use a proper cleaning solution to disinfect the animals’ food and water receptacles.

Food and water receptacles were being washed with a dishwashing liquid, rinsed and placed on a towel to dry, but they were not being disinfected daily as required. ACO Ascolese stated over the phone on the day of this inspection that the receptacles were being washed with an antibacterial type hand dishwashing liquid, but this type of dishwashing liquid was not an EPA registered disinfectant for use in animal facilities.

Cruel Treatment of Wildlife

North Jersey Humane Society treated wildlife in a way that constituted animal cruelty in my view. Two days prior to the inspection, the shelter impounded a 3 week old baby squirrel that was too young to eat, drink, urinate and defecate on its own. Instead of bottle-feeding this animal or sending the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, the shelter tried to feed the animal with a honey seed stick. The inspector told both the ACO at the shelter and Vincent Ascolese that the shelter must transport the squirrel to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center immediately. Furthermore, a New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife agent also stated the squirrel needed to go to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center right away. Despite this emergency, Vincent Ascolese refused to do so and said he’d take the animal to the animal hospital the shelter uses.

Frankly, I am appalled that the shelter does not take injured wildlife to licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers. Even some very regressive kill shelters transport wild animals to these facilities. Furthermore, North Jersey Humane Society and Bergen Protect and Rescue could have made a simple plea on their social media pages and many people would have gladly transported the animal and offered monetary assistance.

To make matters worse, the baby squirrel and an iguana were housed in the feral cat room where the door is left open overnight. The inspection report noted some type of animal entered the room as evidenced by feces found in one of the cages. Additionally, the bars in the baby squirrel’s cage were wide enough for the animal to fall through. Given the young squirrel had not yet opened its eyes, this was a very real possibility. In fact, this did happen and the inspector actually caught the baby squirrel falling from its cage. Furthermore, the shelter staff left water in a bowl for the baby squirrel that was deep enough for the animal to drown in. As a result, the baby squirrel was housed in a room with potential predators, feral cats and wildlife that could enter the room, and left in an environment where it could drown or even fall to its death.

A baby squirrel that was impounded at the facility on 8/17/15 was crying in distress in search of its mother at the time of this inspection. This squirrel was approximately 3 weeks old and was too young to eat, drink and eliminate on its own and at this young age, may have been unable to regulate its body temperature. This squirrel was not receiving proper care and nourishment as required and was not placed in a suitable housing environment to maintain the safety and wellbeing of this animal for the two days that it was housed at the facility (Pictures 2849 and 2850).

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A baby squirrel, approximately 3 weeks of age with its eyes not yet open, that was impounded at the facility on 8/17/15 was not being fed as required to meet the nutritional needs of this young squirrel. There was no infant replacement formula of any kind or any electrolytes or other preparation for rehydration at the facility for this squirrel at the time of this inspection.

The baby squirrel detailed in 1.7 (b) was not fed or provided with a rehydration solution during the entire inspection period. A squirrel of this age requires feeding approximately every three hours.

ACO Stewart stated that George, who was not at the facility at the time of this inspection, had been feeding the squirrel seeds and honey on a stick. Although the squirrel was too young to forage, the staff had placed the honey seed stick in the red cedar chip bedding with the assumption that the squirrel would search for its food.

The inspector, Frese, explained to ACO Stewart that this squirrel was a nursing squirrel and was too young to eat, drink, and eliminate on its own. Frese stated that this squirrel needed to be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately. ACO Stewart stated that the squirrel could not be transported at that time, but would be transported the next day. Frese stated that the squirrel may not live that long and then called the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) for assistance. Neither agency was available to transport the squirrel; the agent from the Division of Fish and Wildlife said the squirrel needed to be transported immediately to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

The Supervising ACO, Vincent Ascolese, called and spoke to Frese on the phone and explained that the squirrel was being cared for adequately with the seed stick placed in the bedding to teach the squirrel to find its food. Frese explained again that the squirrel was too young to forage and needs to be transported immediately to a rehabilitator. ACO Ascolese stated that they do not take any wildlife to a wildlife rehabilitator. He stated that he would instruct the staff to take the squirrel to Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital; that is where they take all injured and orphaned wildlife. ACO Ascolese stated that it is their policy for all injured and orphaned wildlife to be transported directly to the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital, Wildlife Division.

There was a hole in the ceiling of the room named the “feral cat” room (Picture 2851) and the animal control officer (ACO) Nicole Stewart, confirmed that the door to this room had been left open to the outside of the building overnight. There were feces in one of the cages in this room from some type of animal that had entered the room and perched on the top of the cage (Picture 2848). An iguana and a baby squirrel were housed in this room at the time of this inspection and had been in the room while the door was open overnight. ACO Stewart stated that this room is used for the feral cats that free roam the grounds of the facility.

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A baby squirrel was housed in an enclosure that had bars on the enclosure door that were wide enough for the squirrel to fit through. The squirrel was too young to walk normally, but was able to crawl. The squirrel crawled to the front of the enclosure and fit itself through the bars of the door. The squirrel had come halfway out of the enclosure, but was caught by the inspector, Frese, before it fell and was placed into the back into the enclosure. The squirrel was vocalizing a distress call as it crawled out of the cage (Picture 2866).

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The baby squirrel that was too young to eat and drink on its own was provided with a straight sided bowl filled with water in the enclosure that was deep enough that the squirrel could have become trapped and drowned in the water, due to the age and inadequate mobility of the squirrel.

The inspection report documented Vincent Ascolese killing an injured deer fawn. North Jersey Humane Society picked up a deer fawn with two broken legs in Woodland Park 12 minutes after the animal hospital the shelter uses closed (the animal hospital’s web site currently states it is open on the day of the week and time this happened). Instead of immediately taking the injured deer to another animal hospital or better yet, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility, as required by law, North Jersey Humane Society brought the animal back to the Bloomfield shelter. Vincent Ascolese subsequently slashed the deer’s throat in what one could consider an audition for joining the terrorist group, ISIS. Irregardless of whether the animal was hopelessly suffering, the shelter was required to send this animal for veterinary treatment. Even if euthanasia was required, slashing a deer’s throat is not humane and is illegal in New Jersey. Thus, Vincent Ascolese acted in an illegal and unethical manner and is now rightfully charged with animal cruelty.

A deer that was picked up by ACO McGowan in Woodland Park, Passaic County, on 6/29/15 was described on the “Animal Control Incident Transport Record” form as being severely injured and bleeding, with both hind legs broken and bone protruding through skin. The form stated “Well Pet Animal Hospital closed.” According to the website for this animal hospital, the normal business hours on Mondays, the day of the incident, are 9 AM to 6 PM. According to the animal control incident form, the ACO had arrived at the scene of the severely injured deer (fawn) at 6:12 PM, which was outside of this hospital’s posted hours of operation. The deer was transported to the Shelter facility at 6:47 PM. The “Animal Control Incident Transport Record” form indicated that the ACO did not immediately obtain emergency veterinary care from a licensed veterinarian as required by this regulation.

ACO Ascolese, stated during a phone call at the time of this inspection, that it is their policy for all injured and orphaned wildlife to be transported directly to the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital, Wildlife Division. The severely injured deer that was picked up on 6/29/15 was not transported to the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital in accordance with the policy stated by ACO Ascolese. The website for the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital shows that the hospital’s regular operating hours are from 9 AM to 8 PM on Mondays.

A deer (fawn) that was impounded at the facility on 6/29/15 was killed by ACO Ascolese who cut the throat of the deer with a knife resulting in exsanguination (death from loss of blood). Exsanguination is an unacceptable method of euthanasia in accordance with these regulations.

Furthermore, even if throat slashing was a legal euthanasia method, Vincent Ascolese was not allowed to euthanize animals under state law at that time since he lacked the certification to do so.

Dr. Diaz confirmed that he had certified ACO Ascolese in August, 2015. On 6/29/2015, ACO Ascolese killed a deer (fawn), prior to the animal euthanasia training that had been conducted on or about 8/12/2015.

North Jersey Humane Society Fails to Provide Adequate Care to its Animals

The shelter did not provide prompt veterinary care to an injured dog. Benny had open sores on his legs and was not placing any weight on his left front leg during the inspection. Despite these issues, North Jersey Humane Society provided no veterinary care for the 3 days he was at the shelter before the inspection.

A dog named Benny was not placing any weight on his left front leg at the time of this inspection. This dog also had several ulcer type sores in various locations on all four of his legs, most of which were covered with smooth, hairless, blackened skin tissue with a raised outer edge, but some of these sores were shallow open wounds with a red and pink wound bed. This dog had not received any veterinary care since it arrived at the facility on Sunday, August 16, 2015 (Picture 2856).

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North Jersey Humane Society also did not provide some animals adequate amounts of water. Specifically, an iguana had no water during the 7 hour inspection and the inspector had to tell shelter staff to provide water to a thirsty Rottweiler.

An iguana located in the feral cat room had spilled its water and the water had not been replaced during the inspection.

A Rottweiler that was housed in an outdoor enclosure did not have water in his water bucket at the time of this inspection. This dog was subsequently provided with water after this was brought to the attention of ACO Stewart (Picture 2868 through 2870).

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Shelter staff also left an iguana to sit in a wet bed during the entire 7 hour inspection.

An iguana that was impounded at the facility on 8/17/15 was housed in an enclosure with wet bedding after the water from the water bowl had been spilled in the enclosure. This wet bedding had not been changed during the entire inspection period (Picture 2867).

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North Jersey Humane Society did not isolate sick animals from healthy animals. The facility’s HVAC system emitted air from the isolation area, which is supposed to house sick animals, to locations holding healthy animals. In fact, the shelter used the ineffective isolation area it did have to house four healthy dogs due to overcrowding. And just how did the shelter become overcrowded? The facility transported 15 dogs, which made up 60% of the facility’s dog population at the time of the inspection, from Georgia 3 days before.

The facility did not have any isolation procedures in place and did not have a proper isolation area at the time of this inspection.

The ventilation in the dog and cat isolation rooms was not separated from the air used for the general population. The ventilation for the isolation rooms was supplied through the HVAC system for the facility and mixed with the air for the general population and did not exhaust directly to the outdoors as required.

Due to lack of space, the dog isolation room was being used to house 4 healthy dogs at the time of this inspection and the cat isolation room housed 13 cats that were not exhibiting signs of or being treated for a communicable disease. The dog isolation room did not have floor to ceiling walls and was open at the top of the walls to the holding area of the general dog population. The cat isolation room had windows that were open to the room where the general cat population was housed (Pictures 2861 and 2865).

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The 15 dogs that had been imported from Georgia and arrived at the facility on Sunday, 8/16/15, did not have completed cage cards as of the date of this inspection.

The shelter also did not answer its supervising veterinarian’s requests going back as far as five months to acquire medicines and diagnostic equipment to treat sick and/or injured animals.

A notebook was located on the premises that showed the supervising veterinarian’s findings along with the veterinarian’s signature and date of each visit. The notes in this log book indicated that the veterinarian had recommended the pharmacy stock at the facility be increased (this would require prescriptions from the supervising veterinarian with the required prescribing information) and suggested medical and diagnostic equipment be purchased for use at the facility. These notations had been recorded in the log book since March of 2015, with the last request for equipment dated 8/2/15. The facility did not have the diagnostic equipment on the premises as requested by the supervising veterinarian.

North Jersey Humane Society also had drugs without required information, such as the animal it was prescribed for, directions for use, date dispensed, and name of the facility distributing the medication. This raises serious questions as to whether the shelter illegally obtained these medicines and whether expired drugs were given to animals.

There were medications at the facility that did not contain prescription labels with the required information, including the animal’s name or identification, directions for use, the date dispensed, and the name and license number of the licensee and facility dispensing the medication. A 200 ml bottle of Toltrazuril, used for the treatment of coccidia in horses, was located on the top of a cart in the medical treatment room. The manufacturer’s label on the bottle stated to refrigerate after opening and expires one year after opening, but the bottle was not refrigerated and there was no date on the bottle indicating when the bottle had been opened. There were no records or directions from the supervising veterinarian indicating what the medication was to be used for and to which animal it had been prescribed. There was also a box of MilbeMite brand ear mite medication for cats on this cart with no prescription label, animal identification, and instructions for use (Pictures 2871 through 2873).

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North Jersey Humane Society’s Euthanasia Statistics May Not Be Accurate

North Jersey Humane Society reported it only euthanized one cat and three dogs died or went missing in its 2014 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. However, the inspection report noted 4 dead animals were in the facility’s freezer. To make matters worse, the shelter could not produce accurate and legally required intake and disposition records at the time of the inspection. Furthermore, Vincent Ascolese, who illegally killed the fawn, conveniently removed all the wildlife intake and disposition records and stored them in another county. As a result, I have no confidence in North Jersey Humane Society’s reported euthanasia and other statistics since the shelter could not produce the supporting documents.

There were also approximately four animals in the freezer that were bagged, but the bags were not labeled with a name or ID number.

Paper records were maintained on dogs and cats that were received at the facility, but the intake and disposition log which correlates when each animal arrived at the facility and the final disposition was maintained as a computer record. There was no one at the facility at the time of this inspection that had access to the computer records to ascertain when animals were received and the final dispositions. A notebook that was labeled “stray animal log” was not up to date and did not include all animals that were received at the facility. The log only listed dogs that had been impounded and the last entry was dated 7/1/15.

The “Animal Control Incident Transport Record” forms, which were the only records created for the intake and disposition of certain wildlife or other species of animals received at the facility, including the deer that was received at the facility on 6/29/15, were not kept at the premises. Kristi, the Executive Director of Shelter Services stated during a telephone conversation at the time of this inspection that all animal control records were removed from the establishment by ACO Ascolese and stored in an office located in different county.

No People Admit to Euthanizing Animals

The inspection report documented the supervising veterinarian contradicting the shelter’s statement about who performs euthanasia. Specifically, the ACO on staff during the inspection stated Dr. Nelson Diaz performs all euthanasia procedures for the shelter’s animals. However, the veterinarian stated he never euthanized any animals from the shelter despite the shelter reporting 1 euthanized cat in 2014 and four dead animals in shelter’s freezer at the time of the inspection.

Furthermore, the shelter had no required euthanasia equipment at the facility or documentation that any shelter staff were certified to euthanize animals. As a result, one has to wonder if Vincent Ascolese or some other people at the shelter illegally killed animals like Vincent Ascolese did with the deer fawn.

At the time of the inspection, no certification documents were found on the premises or made available to the inspectors to indicate which staff members were certified by a licensed veterinarian to perform humane euthanasia at the facility. ACO Stewart stated at the time of this inspection that all animal euthanasia was performed by the supervising veterinarian, Dr. Diaz. Dr. Diaz was contacted by phone and confirmed that he had not performed any animal euthanasia for this facility and he was not contacted regarding the deer (fawn) that was killed by ACO Ascolese. ACO Stewart also stated that ACO Ascolese was trained by Dr. Diaz to euthanize animals at the facility one week prior to the inspection (8/12/2015). Dr. Diaz confirmed that he had certified ACO Ascolese in August, 2015. On 6/29/2015, ACO Ascolese killed a deer (fawn), prior to the animal euthanasia training that had been conducted on or about 8/12/2015.

None of the required euthanasia equipment was on the premises at the time of this inspection; there were no posted instructions, and no euthanasia, tranquilizing or immobilizing agents on the premises. This facility was not equipped with the supplies to perform humane euthanasia on any animals at the time of this inspection and there were no records or other evidence provided at the facility during this inspection to indicate that the facility was equipped as required to perform euthanasia on 6/29/2015 when the deer (fawn) was killed by ACO Ascolese.

North Jersey Humane Society Violates Basic No Kill Principles

No kill shelters essentially need to do three broad things. First and foremost, no kill sheltering mandates not killing or allowing healthy and treatable animals to die. Second, no kill facilities must perform at a high level resulting in animals quickly leaving the shelter and going to good homes. Third, no kill sheltering requires animals be provided with an elite level of care.

North Jersey Humane Society violated all three of these principles. Vincent Ascolese never even tried to get the injured fawn to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center. In fact, Mr. Ascolese’s organization does not use licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers for any wild animals per the inspection report. His shelter’s careless disregard for an extremely vulnerable baby squirrel also violated no kill’s unwavering standard of not killing. Whether the shelter killed the baby squirrel directly or simply allowed it to die makes no difference. The shelter must have a passion for saving animals. Clearly, Vincent Ascolese’s organization has an attitude that some animals are simply not worth saving. After all, when the Director of North Jersey Humane Society slices open the throat of a fawn, is it any wonder other staff members will not do anything to save a baby squirrel?

North Jersey Humane Society’s and Bergen Protect and Rescue’s polices resulting in prolonged lengths of stay also violate no kill principles. To make a no kill animal control shelter work, the organization must quickly place animals into good homes. With excessive adoption fees, long waiting periods to adopt animals and poor customer service, Vincent Ascolese’s shelters simply do not perform in the manner they should.

Finally, North Jersey Humane Society fails to follow basic animal sheltering practices let alone the elite level standards of a no kill facility. Housing sick animals together, leaving animals without water, not providing prompt veterinary care, keeping animals in filthy enclosures, exposing animals to dangerous kennels, and potentially providing animals with expired medicines is unacceptable for any shelter, kill or no kill. Clearly, North Jersey Humane Society failed its animals and does not deserve the no kill or even a shelter label.

Bloomfield Needs to Take Immediate Action

Bloomfield and the shelter’s other contracting municipalities should expect far better service. Assuming North Jersey Humane Society’s annual fees are the same as its $120,000 bid for animal control and $145,000 bid for sheltering services, North Jersey Humane Society receives $265,000 a year in revenue from these towns. Based on the Bloomfield Animal Shelter’s total reported intake in 2014, this works out to nearly $1,500 of revenue per animal the shelter impounds. Also, the shelter receives donations in addition to these contract fees. Surely, North Jersey Humane Society can afford to provide proper care to its animals.

Bloomfield no longer can trust Vincent Ascolese to do the right thing. First, Bloomfield must make all necessary structural improvements to the shelter to ensure the facility can comply with state law. Second, the town must form an Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which should have qualified members dedicated to ensuring the town has an elite no kill shelter and to oversee and regulate whoever runs the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. Third, Bloomfield must enact the Companion Animal Protection Act (“CAPA”) that residents have demanded for years. Fourth, the town should pass a no kill resolution mandating at least a 95% live release rate for dogs and a 90% live release rate for cats impounded from the towns the shelter contracts with. Fifth, the town should demand North Jersey Humane Society stop transporting animals from southern states into the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. Simply put, the town can no longer take the word of a charismatic person with a dark side.

New Jersey Department of Health, the NJ SPCA and the Towns Contracting with Bergen Protect and Rescue Must Investigate That Shelter

Based on the egregious performance of North Jersey Humane Society, the New Jersey Department of Health and NJ SPCA must investigate Bergen Protect and Rescue to see if Vincent Ascolese’s other facility is also violating New Jersey shelter and animal cruelty laws. Furthermore, Cliffside Park should also do the same things as I recommend for Bloomfield to ensure the shelter is effectively supervised and regulated. Sadly, Vincent Ascolese’s organizations have lost all credibility and it is time these shelters prove to everyone they are ready to step up their game. If not, then the municipalities must move on and bring an organization in that will do the right things for the animals.

South Orange Board of Health’s Illogical Quest to Eliminate Community Cats

Earlier this summer, the South Orange Board of Health made their case for opposing TNR in the Village. During the presentation, the Board of Health harped on diseases that are virtually never transmitted from feral cats to people, such as toxoplasmosis, rabies, cat scratch fever and ringworm. Ironically, the South Orange Board of Health claims they are cat lovers and favor “trap and adopt” when they know very well many community cats are essentially wild and cannot live in a home (i.e. trapped feral cats are killed). The South Orange Board of Health stated they would entertain other ideas, but took the extreme position that the risk of one person catching a disease is worth killing massive numbers of cats. Furthermore, the South Orange Board of Health asserted cats are decimating wildlife. Are the Board of Health claims about the risks feral cats pose to people and the environment correct?

Misleading Rabies Hype

The South Orange Board of Health’s assertion that feral cats are a significant rabies risk does not match the evidence. During the presentation, the South Orange Board of Health used two recent cases of raccoons in South Orange contracting rabies as a reason for their opposition to community cats and TNR. Furthermore, the Board of Health stated vaccinating feral cats multiple times over their lifetimes is difficult. While re-trapping feral cats is not easy, the rabies vaccine most likely, as with most vaccines, lasts for far longer than the stated 3 year protection period since that figure is based on studies only lasting for 3 years. A leading researcher in the field believes these vaccines provide protection for 7 years at a minimum and is conducting a study on this very topic. For example, this researcher found other common vaccines provide protection for 9 years. The fact that no person has contracted rabies from any cat, let alone a feral cat, in the United States in the last 40 years proves feral cats transmitting rabies to people is not a serious public health concern.

The Board of Health also mislead the public by stating 90% of domestic animal rabies cases involve cats. Cats making up 90% of domestic animal rabies cases sounds bad right? However, 90% of a small number is nothing to get alarmed about. Obviously, dogs will have fewer rabies cases since most are vaccinated and don’t roam. Thus, the only domestic animals that have any real chance of getting rabies are unvaccinated cats (which are vaccinated under a TNR program) making the Board of Health’s assertion misleading.

Virtually all rabid animals are wild animals. In 2014, the New Jersey Department of Health found only 6% of all rabid animals in New Jersey were cats (which were certainly not vaccinated). In fact, 10 times more raccoons contracted rabies than cats last year in our state. Additionally, outdoor cats have lived in close proximity to humans for centuries and it seems odd that cats all off a sudden became a major public health threat. Thus, the South Orange Board of Health’s obsession with cats makes little sense from a public health perspective.

Toxoplasmosis Hype Has No Basis in the Real World

The South Orange Board of Health asserted people contracting toxoplasmosis from feral cats is a major public health concern, but real world evidence contradicts this claim. During the presentation, the South Orange Board of Health stated cats going to the bathroom outside could cause people with compromised immune systems to catch the disease. However, a person would have to not only touch these feces, but also ingest it as well to catch toxoplasmosis from an outdoor cat. In addition, cats who have this disease are only contagious for a few weeks. No wonder studies showed most toxoplasmosis cases in people come from eating undercooked meat and pregnant women, which are among the most likely people this parasite would infect, are unlikely to catch toxoplasmosis from a cat. Thus, the South Orange Board of Health exaggerated a health risk from feral cats.

Ironically, the South Orange Board of Health hypes the risk of zoonotic diseases much like anti-wolf groups in the Rocky Mountain states. These groups advocate, and even celebrate, the killing of wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rightly responded that these diseases rarely are contracted by people and are not a significant risk. Sadly, the South Orange Board of Health sounds more like anti-conservation nuts than a respected government agency.

Cats Do Not Negatively Impact Prey Populations in Natural Areas

The South Orange Board of Health claimed community cats are an ecological disaster and are decimating songbird populations. In particular, one of the South Orange Board of Health members stated this personally hurt him because he likes seeing birds in the park. Additionally, the South Orange Board of Health took PETA’s position that it is better to kill feral cats than let them live outside since such cats are suffering. So what does the evidence state about cat impacts on bird populations and the health of feral cats?

Indoor/outdoor owned cats primarily live and hunt in disturbed ecosystems within human developments. In a study on the island of Corvo, where no competing predators or large scale TNR programs exist to limit cat movements, found owned cats virtually never roamed more than 800 meters from their home. A study taking place in Albany, New York where coyotes existed, and which also live in South Orange, showed cats on average only roamed through the yards of four homes and almost never entered a forest preserve adjacent to the area (only 2 of 31 hunts occurred more than 10 meters into the forest). Thus, owned cats that roam outside primarily hunt within human developed habitats where the ecology and the mix of wildlife species are already disturbed.

Feral cats also primarily live in human developed areas rather than native animal habitats when coyotes are present. A study conducted in the Chicago Metropolitan area found coyotes primarily inhabited natural areas while feral cats were almost entirely confined to residential locations. Furthermore, the study found feral cats were generally healthy and had survival rates at the upper end of the range of wild carnivores. Therefore, this study contradicted the South Orange Board of Health’s claims that feral cats are decimating native wildlife and are suffering living outside.

Another extensive study confirmed the fact that feral cats do not spend much time in native animal habitats when coyotes are present. The study, which was conducted in 2,117 locations in 6 states, found cats virtually never spent time in native animal habitats where coyotes existed. Below is the author’s summary of these findings:

“Given the fact that we know domestic cats kill a lot of native wildlife, if cats are getting in our natural areas, it’s a big conservation concern,” says Kays. “That’s not what we found. There were basically no cats in 30 of the 32 protected areas we surveyed, and the one consistent variable was the presence of coyotes. The pattern was obvious and striking.”

“Basically no cats” means that over the course of the study, 16 parks had zero cats, and in 14 of the protected areas, a single cat was detected. Cameras were set up in state and national parks in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and in 177 sites in small forested patches and suburban areas around Raleigh, N.C.

Thus, feral cats in our area, which has coyotes, cannot significantly impact native animal populations since these cats virtually never go to the places where native wildlife populations primarily live in.

Flawed Cat Predation Impacts

The studies purporting to support cats decimating native wildlife lack the basic requirements of reputable predator-prey research. To negatively impact prey populations, predators must remove a significant percentage of those prey populations. However, most of these studies purportedly showing cats decimating native wildlife populations, particularly those in continental locations like South Orange, do not quantify how significant these predation numbers are relative to the sizes of the prey populations. The author of the cat study from Albany, New York cited above clearly describes this as follows:

While a number of researchers have extrapolated kill rates from a few cats into huge estimates of prey killed by cats over large areas (e.g. free-ranging cats kill as many as 217 million birds/year in Wisconsin (Coleman, Temple & Craven, 1997) and 220 million prey/year in the UK (Woods et al., 2003)), these are rarely contrasted with similar estimates of potential prey populations over the same scales. Unfortunately, biologists have rarely sampled both cat and prey populations in such a way that direct effects on prey populations can be shown (e.g. house cats reduce scrub breeding birds: Crooks & Soule, 1999; cat colonies reduce grassland birds: Hawkins, 1998).

The study’s author also explains how cat predation studies conducted on islands and other parts of the world, which are commonly cited as a reason to exterminate outdoor cats, are not applicable in the northeast:

First, harsh New York winters probably function to not only restrict IOHC movement for much of the year (George, 1974; Churcher & Lawton, 1987), but also they may limit the suitability of the area for true feral cats compared with warmer climates. Second, the native potential prey species in mixed coniferous/deciduous forests of northeastern North America may be less vulnerable than other areas because it includes few lizards or low-nesting birds. For example, the scrub nesting birds hunted by IOHC in suburban southern California (Crooks & Soule, 1999) might be expected to be more vulnerable than small mammal or canopy nesting bird populations simply because their low nesting habits are more easily exploited by scansorial cats (i.e. an evolutionary trap: Schlaepfer, Runge & Sherman, 2002). Finally, the nature preserve around these neighbourhoods includes enough forest to support populations of cat predators including coyotes (Canis latrans) and fishers (Martes pennanti: Kays, Bogan & Holevinski, 2001). The presence of these predators probably functions to limit feral cat numbers, as well as the movement of any IOHC into the forest preserve (Crooks & Soule, 1999).

Additionally, not all predation events have the same impacts on prey populations. Ecologists classify predation as either additive or compensatory. Additive predation, as the name suggests, means that killing a prey animal adds mortality and reduces the prey species’ population. On the other hand, if a predator kills a prey animal that is unlikely to survive long and/or breed, then the predation event is labeled compensatory and will not decrease the prey population. For example, if a cat kills a very young bird that fell from a tree or a very sick bird, then the cat is simply killing an animal that was going to die anyway. Given cats in TNR programs are fed, cats will have little incentive to work hard to kill healthy prey. Thus, the South Orange Board of Health’s review of the “evidence” failed to consider this critically important factor.

The South Orange Board of Health also ignored potential factors positively increasing songbird populations in developed areas. For example, bobcats are native to New Jersey and prey on birds, but this predatory species no longer lives in South Orange. Therefore, community cat predation on songbirds may partially compensate for native bobact predation no longer taking place. Additionally, people feed birds which may artificially increase populations of birds cats prey on.

The South Orange Board of Health also did not consider how people feeding birds negatively impacts native bird populations. A recent study in New Zealand found humans feeding birds increased non-native species numbers at the expense of native birds. In addition, another study found bird feeding resulted in many more birds catching serious diseases. A study conducted in Canada, reported bird collisions with house windows nearly doubled after bird feeding was started. Another study from Northern Ireland found winter feeding caused one bird species to lay its eggs too early in the spring when ample food was not yet available, and supplemental winter feeding could favor nonmigratory species over migratory species not receiving the extra food. Additionally the study stated bird feeding was disturbing the natural ecology of these species:

It seems highly likely that natural selection is being artificially perturbed, as feeding influences almost every aspect of bird ecology, including reproduction, behavior, demography, and distribution.

Thus, the South Orange Board of Health ignores the very real dangers of residents feeding birds, but instead focuses on community cats which have little to no impact on native birds in the area.

Eradicating feral cats also has other negative unintended consequences. On Macquarie Island, which is a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”) World Heritage Site, feral cat eradication efforts led to an increase in rabbit and other rodent populations. The increased rabbit populations devastated the island’s vegetation and likely negatively impacted many native birds dependent on these natural habitats. In New Zealand, another study documented a feral cat eradication program causing the rat population to increase. The rat population subsequently reduced the breeding success of the Cook’s petrel, which is a native sea bird species. Thus, the South Orange Board of Health’s cat eradication goal may negatively impact native wildlife.

South Orange Board of Health’s Desire to Eliminate Cats May Increase Lyme Disease and Other Infections

Lyme disease is a potential crippling disease. The disease, which is most commonly spread by the deer tick, can cause chronic fatigue, pain and other nervous system disorders if not effectively treated early on. Unfortunately, signs of the disease are not always easily seen soon after a tick bite and the disease can virtually destroy the quality of a person’s life.

Lyme disease has reached epidemic levels in New Jersey. The Center of Disease Control reported New Jersey had around 4,600 new cases in 2009 alone. While the number of people in the state contracting Lyme disease dropped since then, people are now starting to becoming infected in urban areas. Thus, public health officials must consider the potential impact of all policies on this epidemic.

People are far more likely to contract Lyme disease in areas with large populations of small mammals. While most people believe deer are responsible for Lyme disease, a recent study suggests the white footed mouse, eastern chipmunk and two species of shrews are the culprits. Specifically, the deer tick catches Lyme disease from these small mammals rather than deer. Thus, large numbers of these small mammals result in more infected ticks that can transmit Lyme disease to people.

New research suggests Lyme disease is far more common in areas where few natural predators exist. Scientists at the Cary Institute of New York found wooded patches of 3 acres or less, which are common in suburban areas like South Orange, contain 3 times as many deer ticks as larger more pristine wooded areas. Furthermore, 80% of the deer ticks carry Lyme disease in these small wooded lots and these ticks are 7 times more likely to harbor the disease than ticks in larger wooded tracts. In addition, other emerging tick-borne diseases, such as Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Powassan encephalitis, may also be more common in these wooded areas.

The high incidence of Lyme disease infected ticks coincides with larger populations of small mammals commonly found near residential areas. In smaller wooded tracts, ecological diversity decreases as competing species find it difficult to find enough resources to survive. Furthermore, predators of these species are less common due to altered habitats and threats from people.

The South Orange Board of Health’s desire to eradicate outdoor cats may have the unintended consequence of increasing Lyme disease rates. Cats are essentially the only predator of small mammals in the very small wooded lots harboring Lyme disease close to where humans live. Despite the hype about cats decimating songbird populations, cats mostly prey on small mammals. For example, the study conducted in Albany, New York cited above found 86% of cat prey were small mammals, most of which were mice. While scientists would need to conduct extensive scientific studies to determine if differing cat population numbers impact Lyme disease rates in people, logic would suggest eliminating cats could only cause more humans to contract Lyme disease or have no effect. In addition, fewer cats could result in more instances of other diseases carried by rodents, such as Hantavirus, Bubonic plague and Salmonellosis. Thus, the South Orange Board of Health may exchange eliminating non-existent health risks (i.e. rabies, toxoplasmosis, etc.) for increasing the chance of residents contracting other serious chronic diseases.

Furthermore, the South Orange Board of Health ignores the emotional distress killing massive numbers of cats has on animal loving residents. Given excessive stress has a tremendous negative impact on all aspects of one’s physical health, one has to wonder if the South Orange Board of Health considered this factor.

TNR Will Alleviate the Very Issues Raised by the South Orange Board of Health

In reality, TNR will achieve the very goals the Board of Health seeks to achieve. While I do believe we very much need cats to maintain a healthy balance in our human altered ecosystems, a large scale and well-run TNR program will more effectively reduce cat populations and limit cat ecological impacts than trap and kill policies. In a recent computer modeling study taking into account cats both migrating in and out of colonies, the authors found, in contrast to the South Orange Board of Health’s claim that all feral cats must be spayed/neutered to reduce the feral cat population, TNR programs only need to sterilize 30% of the reproductively active feral cat population to decrease colony size over the long term. While catching and killing would only require removing 20% of the reproductively active feral cat population, such efforts are much more difficult as few in the community would help trap or donate money to catch and kill cats. Additionally, the study found focusing sterilization efforts on females, if say financial resources are limited, could decrease the population with a lower sterilization rate. Unsurprisingly, despite the South Orange Board of Health’s assertion that TNR does not reduce community cat populations, multiple studies found TNR programs reduced feral cat populations. As a result, large scale and well-run TNR programs certainly can decrease the size of feral cat populations.

TNR also limits cat predation, roaming and nuisance behaviors. Specifically, altering the animals, particularly males, reduces roaming and the loud noises associated with fights males have over females. In addition, regular feeding reduces the distance feral cats range in search of food and decreases their desire to hunt. As a comparison, catch and kill policies do not remove enough cats to reduce the feral cat population and those cats are more likely to roam further, hunt more, and make loud noises fighting over mates. In addition, well-run large scale TNR programs have active conflict resolution procedures, often times performed by volunteers, to reduce nuisance complaints. Thus, TNR is a no-brainer based on the very claims the South Orange Board of Health makes.

South Orange Board of Health Proposes More Polices to Kill Even More Cats at Taxpayer Expense

The South Orange Board of Health proposed the following polices that will result in impounding and killing more cats:

1) Mandatory licensing and microchipping for all cats

2) Increase enforcement of public pet limit and cat feeding ban laws

3) “Educate” people on the dangers of outdoor cats

In a bizarre statement, one Board of Health member stated the town’s Animal Control Officer would go door to door to force residents to get their cat licensed and presumably give people a choice – kill or license your cat. That sure sounds like a wonderful way to educate people about an issue – threaten to kill their cat and then tell them that their beloved family member is a filthy disease carrying animal that should never leave their home unless the cat is on a leash or in a maximum security prison like enclousure. In addition, to reach a significant number of homes, South Orange taxpayers will have to pay for more ACOs or accept slower response times from their existing ACO. Additionally, the South Orange Board of Health’s trap and kill policy will lead to increased animal control costs due to the impounding of more unadoptable cats. Thus, the South Orange Board of Health’s proposed policy will be ineffective and costly to South Orange’s taxpayers.

South Orange Residents and Animal Loving People from Elsewhere Must Make Their Voices Heard 

The South Orange Board of Health will hold a meeting on their anti-community cat policies on September 17 at 7:30 PM in the South Orange Performing Arts Center (1 SOPAC Way, South Orange, NJ 07079). All animal loving people should attend this meeting and make the case for TNR in an intelligent and fact based manner.

As a back-up strategy, people should lobby the South Orange Village Council to not reappoint Board of Health members opposing TNR and also provide pro-TNR replacement Board of Health members. Four of the seven members terms expire within the next year. Simply put, if the South Orange Board of Health insists on killing massive numbers of cats at taxpayer expense, these people must go.

References

Rabies Vaccination Duration Research:

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/06/21/expert-proof-most-pets-are-vaccinated-way-too-often.aspx

Other Domestic Animal Vaccine Protection Period:

http://www.rabieschallengefund.org/education/age-and-long-term-protective-immunity-in-dogs-and-cats

Rabies Animal Cases in New Jersey:

http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/rabcases2014.pdf

Feral Cat Disease Risks to Humans:

http://www.alleycat.org/FeralCatHealth

Owned Cat Roaming Study on the Island of Corvo:

Hervías, S., Oppel, S., Medina, F. M., Pipa, T., Díez, A., Ramos, J. A., Ruiz de Ybáñez, R. and Nogales, M. (2014), Assessing the impact of introduced cats on island biodiversity by combining dietary and movement analysis. Journal of Zoology, 292: 39–47. doi: 10.1111/jzo.12082

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jzo.12082/abstract

Cat Predation and Roaming Study in Albany, New York:

Kays, R. W. and DeWan, A. A. (2004), Ecological impact of inside/outside house cats around a suburban nature preserve. Animal Conservation, 7: 273–283. doi: 10.1017/S1367943004001489

http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/staffpubs/docs/15128.pdf

Cat Roaming Study in Metropolitan Chicago Area:

Gehrt SD, Wilson EC, Brown JL, Anchor C (2013) Population Ecology of Free-Roaming Cats and Interference Competition by Coyotes in Urban Parks. PLoS ONE 8(9): e75718. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075718

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0075718

Cat Roaming Study in 6 State Area:

Roland Kays, Robert Costello, Tavis Forrester, Megan C. Baker, Arielle W. Parsons,Elizabeth L. Kalies, George Hess, Joshua J. Millspaugh, William McShea Journal of Mammalogy Jun 2015, DOI: 10.1093

http://jmammal.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/06/24/jmammal.gyv100.abstract

New Zealand Study Showing Bird Feeding Negatively Impacting Native Birds:

http://conservationmagazine.org/2015/05/beware-of-the-backyard-bird-feeder/

Canadian Study Documenting Increased Bird Collisions into Windows Due to Bird Feeding:

http://birdswindows.biology.ualberta.ca/bird-feeders-and-their-effect-on-bird-window-collisions/

Northern Ireland Study Documenting Negative Impacts to Birds from Bird Feeding:

http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2008/04/07/should-you-feed-the-birds/

Macquarie Island Feral Cat Eradication Study Detailing Negative Effects on Native Flora and Fauna:

Bergstrom, D. M., Lucieer, A., Kiefer, K., Wasley, J., Belbin, L., Pedersen, T. K. and Chown, S. L. (2009), Indirect effects of invasive species removal devastate World Heritage Island. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46: 73–81. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01601.x

http://www.bio.fsu.edu/miller/docs/Bergstrom_2009.pdf

New Zealand Study Documenting Feral Cat Elimination Negatively Impacting a Native Bird Species:

Spatial heterogeneity of mesopredator release within an oceanic island system PNAS 2007 104 (52) 2086220865doi:10.1073/pnas.0707414105

http://www.pnas.org/content/104/52/20862.full.pdf

Study Showing Small Mammal Prey of Cats is Primary Cause for Increase in Lyme Disease:

Deer, predators, and the emergence of Lyme disease PNAS 2012 109 (27) 10942-10947; doi:10.1073/pnas.1204536109

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/27/10942.full.pdf

Research Reporting Increased Lyme Disease in Small Wooded Areas with Few Natural Predators:

http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/ecoinf/lyme.jsp

Diseases Transmitted to People from Rodents:

http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/direct.html

Computer Modeling Study Reporting the Percentage of Sterlized Feral Cats Needed to Reduce the Population:

Simulating Free-Roaming Cat Population Management Options in Open Demographic Environments. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0119390. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119390

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0113553

East Orange Animal Shelter’s Horrific Inspection Report Raises Serious Questions

 

East Orange July Photos

East Orange Animal Shelter’s ongoing problems became well-known in the last year. In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Health uncovered significant issues during an inspection. One year later, the New Jersey Department of Health found the shelter had clogged drains and allowed the facility to fall apart. Furthermore, the shelter did not clean properly and keep required records. In 2014, the New Jersey Department of Health reported animals inundated with a toxic feces and chemical filled soup due to clogged drains, a fly infestation so severe that animals with open wounds and skin lesions were in danger of having maggots grow inside them, cats not provided with enough water and water they did have was contaminated with cat litter, and improper isolation of sick animals. Last June, East Orange Animal Shelter killed a dog recently adopted from Liberty Humane Society and did not appear to make any effort to return the dog to the other shelter. Thus, East Orange has run an outlaw operation for at least half a decade.

July 2015 Inspection Details Horrible Problems

On July 16, 2015, the New Jersey Department of Health inspected the East Orange Animal Shelter and issued a failing grade to the facility. Amazingly, the shelter did not even do the most basic things correctly to the point where it seemed the city made no effort to fix its long-standing problems. Below are some of the key inspection report findings and my comments.

East Orange Animal Shelter’s basic facilities were not only disgusting, but unsafe. The shelter’s ceiling tiles were damaged by water, and most likely harboring dangerous mold, and were literally coming down, including one that was close to falling into one dog enclosure:

EO Falling Tiles

The cat room had a putrid odor and was not properly ventilated:

EO Cat Odor

The guillotine doors to the dog enclosures had cracks that accumulated contaminated materials and therefore shelter personnel could not properly clean these areas:

Dirty Guillotine Doors

The drains surrounding the outdoor dog enclosures were clogged and therefore allowed dirty and toxic liquids to build up:

Drains 1

Drains 2

Dogs had to lie on beds that were falling apart. Cats were held in stacked enclosures that were at risk of falling over.

Cages Falling Over

Kittens, which depend on nourishing food to grow, were fed unknown dry food that may or may not have been suitable for them:

EO Kitten Food

Despite running a filthy facility, shelter staff still failed to disinfect food and water bowls:

EO Food and Water Bowls

The shelter did not provide adequate amounts, and in some cases any, water to animals. The inspector had to request one of East Orange’s ACOs to fill the water bowl not once, but twice, for a mother cat who appeared dehydrated and her kittens. Even worse, the facility had plenty of water bowls and still failed to provide water to the animals as required by state law.

EO Water to Animals

The shelter cleaned cat cages with powerful chemicals while cats were inside these enclosures:

EO Cat Cleaning 1

Cat Cleaning 2

Feces were left uncleaned for so long that it dried and adhered to the floor of one dog enclosure:

Dog Feces Uncleaned

The isolation room had mold covered food and feces that had been there for two weeks:

Isolation Not Cleaned in 2 Weeks

East Orange Animal Shelter failed to adhere to its veterinarian’s disease control program:

Disease Control Program Not Followed

Most disturbingly, the shelter did not provide legally required prompt and basic veterinary care to alleviate pain and suffering. One cat (“C871”) with an injured leg did not move during the entire inspection. Another cat (“C870”) had been at the shelter for 9 days and did not eat or drink during her stay at the facility. The cat’s weight decreased 64% from 11 pounds to 4 pounds during her time at the shelter. The inspector could feel the bones of the cat and noted the cat was dehydrated and making distress calls. Yet, the inspection report stated Dr. Kimani Griffith told a shelter employee on Wednesday July 15 that he would wait 5 more days to examine the animal. Another cat died one day after arriving at the shelter and no documentation existed to show the shelter diagnosed a medical condition or provided any veterinary care.

Apparently, Dr. Kimani Griffith got wind of the New Jersey Department of Health’s arrival and came to the East Orange Animal Shelter during the 5 and half hour inspection. The NJ Department of Health inspector had to show Dr. Kimani Griffith two dogs with medical issues, one with a red irritation on his face and another who was not eating, and three cats needing veterinary attention, C871 and C870 above and a third cat. Shockingly, Dr. Kimani Griffith declined the New Jersey Department of Health inspector’s request to take the two suffering cats, C871 and C870, to his veterinary office for immediate treatment. Finally, Dr. Kimani Griffith examined the two cats at his office the next day and diagnosed C871 with a fractured leg and C870 as severely dehydrated and in chronic renal/kidney failure. Dr. Kimani Griffith put a splint on C871 and euthanized C870.

Prompt Vet Care Not Provided 1

Vet Care Not Provided 2

The shelter did not document the veterinary care it was providing to animals. Based on the lack of documentation, once must assume few animals received proper veterinary care.

Vet Care Not Provided 3

The shelter had expired drugs and even gave some to shelter animals. Additionally, needles and syringes were readily accessible as they were left in an unlocked drawer and cabinet at the shelter.

Vet Care Not Provided 4

The shelter failed to properly isolate sick animals from healthy animals. Furthermore, the ventilation system allowed air from the isolation area where sick animals are housed to mix with the general shelter area where healthy animals reside. Thus, disease could easily spread.

Isolation 1

Isolation 2

The shelter also did not document whether people surrendering several animals for euthanasia were the actual owners. In other words, someone could steal your pet and have East Orange Animal Shelter kill your dog or cat. Additionally, the shelter illegally killed a cat on the day it arrived at the shelter.

Illegally Killing

When the shelter did kill animals, it did not do so humanely. Dr. Kimani Griffith stated animals are not weighed prior to euthanasia/killing as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A. As a result, animals may not get enough tranquilizer and euthanasia drugs causing the animals to suffer. Even more shocking, Dr. Kimani Griffith “walked” two ACOs through the euthanasia/killing process over the phone while the veterinarian was on vacation. Apparently, taking a life is no big deal and you can learn how to do so over a casual telephone call while your instructor is at the beach or somewhere else. Additionally, the shelter did not keep legally required records, such as the animal’s weight, and drug dosage used to euthanize/kill animals.

Euthanasis Violations 1

Euthanasis Violations 2

If East Orange Animal Shelter was not bad enough, the ACO vehicle used to haul animals to the facility was disgusting as well. Literally, the animals that were brought to the shelter had to lie in a filthy crate covered with blood and dirt on their way to this horrific shelter.

ACO Vehicle

The shelter also failed to maintain legally required intake and disposition records for each of the shelter’s animals:

Intake and Disposition Records

Finally, the New Jersey Department of Health answered some questions I had about the recently adopted Liberty Humane Society dog that East Orange Animal Shelter killed. While East Orange Animal Shelter did not kill the dog during the 7 day hold period, the facility did not document the dog was suffering nor did this pound document that it contacted Liberty Humane Society. Thus, East Orange Animal Shelter made no effort to save this dog.

LHS Dog

Reaction to Kane in Your Corner Investigation Raises More Questions

On Thursday, August 20, News 12’s Kane in Your Corner aired its investigation of the East Orange Animal Shelter. Amazingly, East Orange Health Officer, Rochelle Evans, who is ultimately responsible for the shelter, refused to talk with Walt Kane. However, the City’s public relations person, claimed the New Jersey Department of Health revised its report and removed most of its serious findings related to not providing prompt veterinary care. Yet, the New Jersey Department of Health subsequently responded to Walt Kane and stated they did not drop these New Jersey shelter law violations.

Walt Kane’s subsequent interview of Dr. Kimani Griffith also seemed bizarre. Dr. Kimani Griffith, who appeared quite nervous during the interview, stated East Orange’s erroneous claim that the New Jersey Department of Health removed some of the serious violations was due to a typo. On camera, Dr. Kimani Griffith said he is taking constructive criticism from the New Jersey Department of Health so “they could improve the operation.”

Yet, Dr. Kimani Griffith has been the supervising veterinarian for the East Orange Animal Shelter for all of the terrible New Jersey Department of Health inspections since 2010. Dr. Griffith receives $76,500 a year per his 2012 contract with East Orange to provide “animal care and sheltering services” to East Orange despite East Orange already having its own facility. Amazingly, Dr. Griffith’s fee represents nearly half of the shelter’s 2014 budget. Additionally, Dr. Kimani Griffith can bill the city for other services. Furthermore, Dr. Kimani Griffith also operates a shelter/rescue out of his veterinary office and apparently adopts out dogs for $300 and cats for $125. If Dr. Kimani Griffith, “rescues” animals from East Orange Animal Shelter, he could earn additional profits if he performs any vetting himself (i.e. no veterinary labor costs if he spays/neuters animal and provides vaccinations). Additionally, East Orange residents are unlikely to travel all the way to Mine Hill to adopt an animal that came from East Orange. Thus, Dr. Kimani Griffith seems to profit off East Orange’s homeless animals at the expense of East Orange’s taxpayers.

Sadly, the operation cannot just improve as Dr. Kimani Griffith suggests. East Orange must completely overhaul the shelter and remove Dr. Kimani Griffith and Rochelle Evans from having anything to do with the facility. At this point, a private no kill organization should take over as East Orange proved incapable of operating a humane shelter that saves rather than takes lives.

Walt Kane also mentioned the New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is conducting an investigation. Given this board found Dr. Kimani Griffith grossly negligent in the care he provided to an animal in private practice, perhaps this is why Dr. Kimani Griffith appeared nervous and tried to convey a conciliatory tone?

South Orange Has A lot of Explaining to Do

The South Orange Health Department quarantined and effectively shut down Jersey Animal Coalition after the shelter failed a joint New Jersey Department of Health and South Orange Health Department inspection last year. Yet, the South Orange Health Department, South Orange Board of Trustees and the South Orange Board of Health allowed the Village to contract with a veterinarian who allowed a shelter he supervises to be run to the ground for at least half a decade and fail an inspection just like Jersey Animal Coalition. Additionally, the South Orange ACO brought at least one stray dog to the East Orange Animal Shelter.

The South Orange Board of Health’s hypocrisy has been exposed by these events. At a recent South Orange Board of Trustees meeting, the Board of Health railed against TNR due to alleged risks relating to diseases, such as toxoplasmosis and rabies, despite these diseases virtually never being transmitted from feral cats to humans. However, the South Orange Board of Health apparently had no problems contracting with the supervising veterinarian of a shelter that fails to segregate sick animals from healthy animals and potentially allowing zoonotic diseases to run rampant. Furthermore, the South Orange Board of Health apparently is fine with sick and injured animals not receiving medical treatment for days or even weeks. Would the physicians on the South Orange Board of Health think this is appropriate for the their human patients?

NJ SPCA Fails to Act Again

The NJ SPCA did not promptly act in a number of recent animal shelter cases. Last year, the NJ SPCA only raided the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter after Kane in Your Corner aired its investigation. The NJ SPCA also did not take action at Linden Animal Control despite abuse that may have been even worse than Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter. In the case of Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter, charges against the shelter directors were downgraded and it appears these people will not face serious consequences for their actions.

The NJ SPCA’s performance in Essex County animal shelter abuse cases has been dismal. Despite multiple miserable inspection reports, some with horrific photos, the NJ SPCA failed to successfully take action against Associated Humane Societies – Newark in 2009 or 2011. The NJ SPCA took no successful action against Montclair Animal Shelter’s former management despite animals being forced to stay in cold conditions. Despite years of complaints about Jersey Animal Coalition, no serious action was taken against the shelter even after it failed its inspection last year. Even after being contacted about the East Orange Animal Shelter’s problems in 2014, the NJ SPCA failed to take serious action.  One has to wonder what Sergeant Al Peterson has been doing in Essex County all these years?

Clearly, the NJ SPCA could have expedited the resolution of these shelter problems if it got more effectively involved. Sadly, just like the New Jersey Commission of Investigation Report on the state’s SPCAs concluded in 2000 and the Animal Welfare Task Force Report found in 2004, the NJ SPCA and the county SPCAs inadequately protect animals and should step aside and let real professionals prosecute animal cruelty.

Special thanks to Reform the East Orange Animal Shelter for providing me with the inspection reports and photos