Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s Atrocious Inspection Report

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s horrific history. In 2003, State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (“SCI”) issued a scathing report on AHS. Specifically, the report stated AHS failed its animals on a grand scale:

The history of AHS’s shelter operation has been dominated by deplorable kennel conditions, inhumane treatment of animals by workers, mismanagement and nonexistent or inadequate medical care. The problems were neither singular nor occasional. The accounts and descriptions provided by members of the public and former and current staff members, including veterinarians, paint a bleak picture of shelter life. The reality for the animals belied AHS’s propaganda that its “sole purpose” has been “the care and welfare of animals” and that it has “a high adoption rate.”

The New Jersey Department of Health found AHS-Newark violating state law left and right in 2009. This inspection revealed AHS-Newark did the following:

  1. Illegally killed animals during state’s seven day hold period
  2. Left dead rotting animals in shopping carts outside
  3. Let dogs live in filthy kennels covered in feces
  4. Failed to properly treat sick animals
  5. Did not isolate sick animals from healthy ones
  6. Failed to properly clean animal enclosures
  7. Had an inadequate disease control program
  8. Did not list weights of animals and methods used to kill animals
  9. Did not properly keep animal intake and disposition records
  10. Facility needed repairs to prevent injury to animals
  11. Allowed animal enclosures to deteriorate to the point they could not be properly cleaned

Sadly, the New Jersey Department of Health continued to find significant issues during another inspection in 2011. The inspection report noted dogs housed in kennels with a collapsed roof and workers throwing damaged roof material directly over these dogs. Additionally the report stated outdoor drains were in severe disrepair, no isolation areas for sick large dogs existed, automatic dog feeders were filthy, dogs were exposed to contaminated water and chemicals during the cleaning process, and some animals were not receiving prompt medical care.

Last year, I wrote a blog highlighting potential violations from 2014. Specifically, records I examined suggested AHS-Newark may have violated state law as follows:

  1. Illegally killing animals during state’s seven day hold period
  2. Failing to properly treat sick animals
  3. Not keeping proper animal intake and disposition records

As a result of this review and the City of Newark’s Department of Health and Community Wellness failing to conduct robust inspections, I requested the New Jersey Department of Health inspect AHS-Newark.

After animal advocates got word of a joint New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspection (undoubtedly the New Jersey Department of Health did most, if not all, of the work) last week, AHS-Newark attempted to downplay the results. Specifically, the organization made a Facebook post that included the following language suggesting AHS-Newark just needed to refine a few processes to make sure it is “operating at the highest level”:

Associated Humane Societies (AHS) Newark branch has recently been inspected by both the NJ State Health Department and the City of Newark Health Department. We are working closely with both agencies to ensure we are operating at the highest level we can so we may provide the best service possible to both the animals and the public. We look at this as an opportunity to review and improve our processes and to retrain established and new staff.

Was AHS-Newark being fully transparent with its statement? Does AHS-Newark have massive problems? Has AHS-Newark consistently had the same issues? What kind of “service” does AHS-Newark provide to the animals and the public?

You can view the inspection report here and the related photos here. All photos posted in this blog were originally sourced from the New Jersey Department of Health’s August 22, 2017 inspection of AHS-Newark.

AHS-Newark Violates State Law on a Massive Scale

According to the inspection report, AHS-Newark did not comply with state law to such an extent that the City of Newark could not issue the facility a license.

1.2 (a) and (b) The facility is not in compliance with these rules, therefore a satisfactory certificate of inspection for the current licensing year by the local health authority cannot be issued. The facility is currently unlicensed and a license for the current year cannot be issued by the City of Newark until the facility is brought into significant compliance.

Illegal Killing During Seven Day Protection Period

AHS-Newark illegally killed both stray and owner surrendered animals during the seven day protection period. In fact, AHS-Newark illegally killed many animals according to the inspectors. Given AHS-Newark violated this law in 2009 and should have known from my blog last year that it potentially violated the law in 2014, the shelter has no excuse for these actions. To make matters worse, AHS-Newark illegally killed animals surrendered to the shelter and its clinic next door. Clearly, AHS-Newark has no respect for life since it can’t wait a mere seven days to kill animals.

1.10 (a) 1. and N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 Many animals were being euthanized before being held the required 7 days after intake or impoundment. Records showed that stray and surrendered animals that were received at the facility by animal control officers and other individuals were being euthanized within the mandatory 7 day holding period. Stray impounded animals are required to be held at least 7 days to provide an opportunity for owners to reclaim their lost pets. Examples of animals euthanized within the required 7 day holding period include but were not limited to the following ID numbers: 22392, 22393, 22394, 22395, 22396, 22397, 22398, 22399, 22400, 23831, 22847, 22856, 23999, 24000, 22684, 23708, 23732, 23733, 19517, 22937, 22945, 22944, and 22936.

Animals were also being accepted for elective euthanasia and were being euthanized on intake. Although the animals were being taken to the medical ward section of the facility for euthanasia to be performed, the owner of the animal was paying the euthanasia fees directly to the animal facility at the front desk. The veterinary medical ward is not a separate entity from the animal shelter and impoundment facility. In the case of an owner surrender, the facility is required to offer the animal for adoption for at least 7 days before euthanizing it, or may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal by the shelter or pound.

Records Suggest Killing and Euthanasia May Not Be Humane

AHS-Newark violated various euthanasia provisions of state law. Specifically, AHS-Newark did not:

  1. Post proper written euthanasia/killing instructions to assist people in conducting the procedure humanely
  2. Weigh animals prior to killing/euthanasia to ensure animals received proper doses of sedatives and killing agents
  3. Specify the method of killing/euthanasia

If AHS-Newark failed to provide enough sedatives, animals could experience emotional distress. Similarly, if AHS-Newark did not provide enough Fatal Plus and verify the animals’ deaths, animals potentially could have been placed into the facility’s incinerator while still alive.

1.11 (f) Written instructions were not posted in the euthanasia area that included the dosages by weight in pounds of all euthanasia, immobilizing, and tranquilizing agents used at the facility. Animals were not being weighed prior to administration of euthanasia, immobilizing, or tranquilizing agents. The weight recorded on an animal’s record at the time of intake was being used to calculate the dosages of these substances, but the weight on intake may not be the same weight of the animal at the time it is euthanized. Euthanasia records were not maintained that contained the body weight and dosage of all euthanasia, immobilizing, and tranquilizing agents administered to each animal. Dosage and usage logs were being maintained in a euthanasia log book, but this information was not available in the records reviewed by inspectors at the time of this inspection as required. (See 1.13 for more details.)

1.13 (a) Inspectors went to the medical ward of the facility and were provided with a stack of euthanasia records for animals that had been euthanized at the facility within the past month, but these records did not include the intake information and the description of the animals as required. The inspectors were unable to correlate the intake information and record numbers of animals that were obtained at the front desk to most of these euthanasia records. The weight of the animals was not being recorded on these paper records and the method of euthanasia, such as IV, IC, or IP, was not recorded in these records. Some of the euthanasia records were also missing the amount of euthanasia and tranquilizing agents that had been administered to these animals in addition to the species and description of these animals that had been euthanized.

Dead Animals Treated Like Trash

According to the inspection report, AHS-Newark had “bags of dead animal carcasses” next to the outside portion of its dog enclosures and close to its incinerator. Clearly, these bodies were outside for a long period of time since “a swarm of flies” were around the corpses. To make matters worse, more carcasses were dumped along with actual trash in a shopping cart just like the 2009 inspection report found. What kind of terror did the live dogs in the nearby enclosures feel with this stench of death in the air?

1.3 (d) There were bags of dead animal carcasses that had attracted a swarm of flies and were placed inside the gate adjacent to the dogs housed in the outdoor enclosures. These bags were stored outside of the walk-in refrigeration unit in the fenced area where the incinerator is located. There were additional bags of carcasses and trash stored in a red shopping cart in this same area that were also covered with flies.

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AHS-Newark Allows Disease to Spread Like Wildfire

Despite AHS taking in over $9 million of revenue last year, AHS-Newark failed to have a a supervising veterinarian establish a legally required written disease control and adequate health care program. Prescribed medicines were not administered to animals or given improperly according to shelter documents.

1.9 (a) The supervising veterinarian had not established a written disease control and adequate health care program at the facility and a disease control program was not being sufficiently maintained under the supervision of the veterinarian. Medications that had been prescribed by the veterinarian were not being documented as being administered as prescribed on the prescription label. Daily medication administration logs were missing several days, indicating that the medication may not have been administered on those days; daily medication logs were not being maintained and were not available on the shelter side of the facility; a prescription label for enrofloxacin prescribed to a dog with ID number 23466, stated to administer one tablet per day, but the medical chart on the computer stated twice per day.

The inspection report noted AHS-Newark did not separate sick animals from healthy ones. Isolating sick animals with contagious diseases is the cornerstone of any disease control program. In a shelter environment, one sick animal can quickly infect dozens more.

Shockingly, AHS-Newark did not provide veterinary care to a number of sick animals. Instead, it allowed a poor “listless” dog with “thick green nasal discharge” to sit in the main kennels. The animal caretaker in charge of medical care’s response? The dog “doesn’t look sick now.” Even worse, AHS-Newark kept dogs awaiting spay/neuter surgeries with coughing dogs having various contagious diseases. Since AHS-Newark typically only spays/neuters animals after someone adopts a pet, many adopters may have received a dog who was sick.

1.9 (f) Animals with signs of a communicable disease were not separated from other healthy animals and placed in an isolation room in order to minimize dissemination of such disease. Dogs that were said to have been diagnosed with Kennel Cough Complex by the supervising veterinarian and were prescribed medications, were housed in the general population. A brindle pit mix housed in kennel number 124 in the main kennel area of the facility, appeared listless and had thick green nasal discharge (pictures 3105 and 3106). This dog was not seen by a veterinarian and was not receiving medical care and was not moved to an isolation room. When this dog was pointed out by the inspector to the animal caretaker in charge of medical care, the caretaker stated that the dog “does not look sick now.” Animals in the general medical ward room, including one of the larger dogs that was heard coughing, were prescribed treatment for various illnesses and communicable diseases, but there were also healthy animals housed in this room that were awaiting spay or neuter surgeries before being released to their adoptive families.

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Even worse, AHS-Newark failed to even treat sick animals in the general population. If spreading disease to other animals was not bad enough, the inspectors specifically stated “animals exhibiting signs of stress were not provided any type of relief.”

Animals that were exhibiting signs of illness were housed with the general population and several animals that were being housed in the basement isolation room were not reported to and were not under the care of the supervising veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs of stress were not provided with any type of relief. The disease control protocols established for the highly contagious isolation room located in the medical ward section of the facility were not being adhered to by the animal caretakers. (See 1.9 (d) through (h) for details.) There were signs on the door to two cat rooms that stated do not use until approved by Dr. Reich (the supervising veterinarian) but the manager and staff stated that they did not know why those signs were placed on the doors and why those rooms could not be used.

AHS-Newark staff allowed disease to spread from the isolation area to the rest of the facility. Animal shelter employees must wear various protective clothing and gear to avoid transmitting highly contagious diseases to healthy animals. Despite clear written instructions on the wall outside the isolation area, the AHS-Newark animal caretaker wore their gloves in the isolation area and outside of this space. In fact, this person even walked into the general medical area with these gloves exposed to highly contagious diseases. To make matters worse, the animal caretaker also took two water bowls from the isolation area to the general medical ward and the person stated they hose off litter boxes from the isolation area outside. Thus, AHS-Newark created conditions for disease to rapidly spread through and outside the facility.

1.9 (f) 1. There was a sign posted on the wall outside of the highly contagious isolation room located at the end of the hallway in the medical ward area of the facility that contained instructions and procedures to control the dissemination of disease. The sign listed two veterinarians to contact for questions, but neither of these veterinarians were listed as the supervising veterinarian for the facility. The animal caretaker that was cleaning the cages in this highly contagious isolation room was not adhering to the posted instructions. The instructions stated to wear personal protective equipment, including gowns and shoe coverings and gloves, and to remove PPE when leaving the room. The person that was cleaning this room on the day of this inspection left the room several times during the cleaning process, and was not wearing gowns or shoe coverings as instructed on the sign. This person did not remove gloves before leaving this room and walked to the restroom to fill a water bowl, touching the door handle with the used gloves on, and later walked to the general medical ward room at the other end of the hallway to use the utility sink and again to get paper for the cages in the highly contagious isolation room. When questioned, the animal caretaker stated that bowls from this highly contagious isolation room are cleaned in the utility sink located in the general medical ward room and litter boxes are taken outdoors and hosed off and cleaned outside. This practice of cleaning litter receptacles and other items outdoors, both from the isolation rooms and the general population creates the potential for disease transmission to the outside of the facility.

AHS-Newark locked up feral cats in a hidden prison. According to inspectors, the room’s glass walls were completely covered with cardboard preventing people from looking inside. Furthermore, inspectors couldn’t even see inside after removing the cardboard due to accumulated filth.

1.9 (d) Cats that were difficult to handle and classified as “feral” cats were housed in enclosures that contained glass walls that were completely covered with cardboard and newspapers. These cats could not be observed for signs of disease, illness or stress. When the inspectors pulled off a portion of the cardboard to try and view these cats, the glass beneath was too dirty to see through clearly. This enclosure door contained a padlock so the inspectors were unable to open the door to get a better view of the cats and the conditions inside this enclosure.

To make matters worse, the shelter provided no hiding boxes, soft bedding, resting benches and individual housing compartments to allow these cats to hide from other cats in order to relieve stress. Stressed cats are more likely to contract diseases. Simply put, AHS-Newark threw so-called feral cats into this room until they met their fate (presumably killing).

1.9 (d)2. The hiding boxes that had previously been used in the “feral” cat enclosures were removed due to deterioration and had not been replaced with alternate suitable hiding boxes. There were approximately 27 cats housed in one of these enclosures and these cats were not provided with soft bedding and hiding places, resting benches, or individual housing compartments to hide from other cats in the same enclosure in order to relieve stress.

AHS-Newark’s dog enclosures were kept in such disrepair that staff could not disinfect these places. Therefore, once disease spread from the isolation area or other places, the dog kennels probably became and stayed infected. If that wasn’t bad enough, AHS-Newark’s food storage area was also prone to harboring disease for the same reasons.

1.4 (f) The interior surfaces of the main dog kennel enclosures and throughout the facility were in severe disrepair. The layers of accumulated peeling paint and broken concrete in the animal enclosures and throughout the facility created crevices that were unable to be readily cleaned and disinfected. The food storage room had holes in the walls at the floor that had been filled with expanding foam. This foam was not cut back, leveled, and covered with an appropriate product to create a smooth surface before being painted which resulted in numerous nooks and crannies that could not be readily cleaned and disinfected.

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To make matters worse, cats in group housing resided in rooms with carpeted cat trees that contained accumulations of dried feces or vomit.

There were carpeted cat trees and sisal rope cat scratchers in the communal cat rooms that contained an accumulation of hair and dried feces or vomit. These cat trees and rope items cannot be cleaned and disinfected and need to be removed and replaced with suitable items as discussed with the manager at the time of this inspection. The window ledge in the communal cat room was in disrepair and was unable to be readily cleaned and disinfected; the caulking was in disrepair at the viewing window ledge and needed to be resealed.

AHS-Newark also may have provided contaminated food to animals. The shelter did not scrub off particles on food and water bowls. Water dispensing devices had accumulated grime. In the basement isolation area sink, AHS-Newark had a bowl of food with black mold growth. One has to wonder how long this food bowl sat there.

1.7 (e) and (h) Animal food bowls were not being scrubbed clean before being disinfected. Food and water bowls were emptied and sprayed down with a disinfectant, but were not scrubbed clean before the disinfectant was applied. There were food particles left on the inside surfaces of the food buckets after the disinfecting process and there was an accumulation of grime on the automatic waterers that the inspector was able to scrape off with her fingernail after the disinfecting process was completed. The manufacturer’s instructions for this disinfectant requires that food contact surfaces be scrubbed before disinfection and the instructions state “Then thoroughly scrub all treated surfaces with soap or detergent and rinse with potable water before reuse.” These food and water receptacles were not being scrubbed with a soap or detergent appropriate for food contact surfaces followed by a thorough rinse with potable water after this disinfectant was applied.

The utility sink located in the basement isolation room contained stainless steel bowls that had not been cleaned. There was a large serving spoon in one of these bowls that had caked on food, and the food in the bowl appeared to have signs of decomposition and black mold growth.

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Similarly, AHS-Newark’s food storage area was a disaster. According to the inspection report, the shelter did not regularly clean this area and it accumulated spilled food, pigeon feathers and other debris.

The food storage room was not being cleaned regularly and there was an accumulation of spilled food, trash, pigeon feathers, and debris under and between the bags and boxes of stored food. The areas between and under the roll out banks of stainless steel caging contained an accumulation of dirt, trash and debris and were not being cleaned.

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If all of this was not bad enough, AHS-Newark did not even clean its kennels properly. Specifically, the geniuses at AHS-Newark sprayed disinfectant in kennels before removing all the feces. Even after using a rake to remove the feces, they did not remove “a thick layer of feces that remained on these surfaces.” Thus, the shelter did not disinfect the animal enclosures.

1.8 (c) Enclosures were not being thoroughly cleaned and rinsed as required by the manufacturer’s instructions before the disinfectant was applied to non-food contact surfaces. The disinfectant was being sprayed into the kennel enclosures before the feces were removed from these enclosures. The animal caretakers were instructed to scoop the feces from the enclosures, but after they scooped with a rake, there was still a thick layer of feces that remained on these surfaces that was not scrubbed off and rinsed away before a fresh application of disinfectant was applied. The manufacturer’s instructions state “Thoroughly clean all surfaces with soap or detergent and rinse with water. Apply fresh Use Solution to floors, walls, cages and other washable hard, non-porous environmental surfaces.”

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AHS-Newark Leaves Animals in Inhumane Conditions

AHS-Newark left a live skunk in unspeakably cruel conditions. According to the inspection report, the shelter picked up a live skunk at 7:00 am or 7:30 am and subsequently left the animal in direct sun in a blanket covered carrier on a concrete surface with air temperatures as hot as 87 degrees. The inspector found the animal at 11:20 am. Undoubtedly, the actual temperature inside the carrier was hotter since it was on a concrete surface. To add insult to injury, AHS-Newark left the skunk next to a bag of dead animals and an incinerator. The shelter effectively left the animal to die in these hot temperatures and allowed the skunk to sense its fate with the bag of slaughtered animals and incinerator close by. The AHS manager initially told the inspector no animal was in the carrier, but when the inspector showed them the skunk, the AHS manager stated the skunk was dead. Would AHS-Newark have placed this live animal into the incinerator if the inspector was not there? Only after the inspector notified shelter personnel did AHS-Newark move the skunk to a cooler place. What medical care did AHS-Newark ultimately provide? Killing later that day.

1.5 (a) A live skunk was found inside a small animal carrier which was completely covered with a heavy, black and white heather blanket and placed in direct sunlight on a concrete surface. The outside air temperature was approximately 85 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit at the time the skunk was found by the inspector at approximately 11:20 AM. This skunk was found adjacent to a bag of dead animal carcasses in the fenced area between the outdoor animal enclosures where the incinerator is located. When questioned, the manager stated that the carrier was empty, but when the inspector lifted the blanket and saw the skunk, the manager said the skunk was dead. The inspector told the manager that the skunk was alive and needed to be moved immediately out of the direct sunlight and placed in a cool location. The manager moved the skunk over several feet out of the direct sun and shortly after, the skunk was placed in the hallway of the building and was euthanized later that day. Records indicated that this skunk was picked up at 7:00 or 7:30 AM that morning (report shows 7:00 AM over written with 7:30).

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The shelter left a poodle in an enclosure on cardboard instead of proper bedding. As a result, the animal had urine soaked fur on its rear end and could not remain dry and clean.

1.6 (a) 4. A white poodle type dog housed in the small dog room had urine soaked fur on its rump and its legs and was unable to remain dry and clean. A large sheet of cardboard was being used as bedding in some of the small animal enclosures, which may be sufficient for cats that are provided with a separate litter receptacle, but this cardboard is not readily absorbent and liquids bead up long enough for the animals contained in these enclosures to become contaminated.

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AHS-Newark housed a mastiff in such a small enclosure that the animal could not turn about freely and lie in a comfortable position.

1.6 (a) 6. There was a large black mastiff type dog, ID number 23294, housed in a small enclosure, cage number 176, located against the back wall of the main basement housing area. This enclosure did not provide sufficient space for this dog to turn about freely and to lie in a comfortable normal position.

If this dog did not endure enough torture, the poor creature was left in the dark. How dark was his kennel? During the day, the inspectors could only see a reflection of the animal’s eyes and a shaded figure from outside the enclosure.

1.4 (d) There were lighting fixtures that needed repair throughout the facility, including the lighting fixture in the basement above enclosure number 176 that housed a large, black mastiff type dog. The lighting in this enclosure was insufficient and only the reflection of the eyes and a shaded figure of the dog could be seen from the front of this enclosure. (This dog can be seen in picture 3159 because of the camera flash.)

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Animals other than cats and dogs did not escape AHS-Newark’s neglect. According to the inspection report, the exotic animal room contained an “accumulation of rabbit feces and urine” and “most of this feces and urine had dried and adhered to these surfaces.”

The room where the exotic animals were housed contained an accumulation of rabbit feces and urine on the walls, on the electrical outlet, behind the filing cabinet and on the floors and baseboards around and under the rabbit enclosures and the filing cabinet. Most of this feces and urine had dried and adhered to these surfaces. There were white urine stains from the rabbits that had dried and set on the floor tiles surrounding these rabbit enclosures. The bars of these cages and the wheels contained an accumulation of feces and other dirt and debris and were not being cleaned and disinfected daily as required.

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AHS-Newark also failed to properly exercise dogs residing in small kennels as required by law. To make matters worse, AHS-Newark did not even allow dogs with a “vicious disposition” in the basement or in the small dog room to go for walks or to exercise in larger dog runs at all.

1.6 (h) Adult dogs confined in cages of less than double the minimum standard size were not being exercised in runs at least twice a day or walked on a leash for at least 20 minutes per day. Dogs housed in the basement enclosures and dogs housed in the small dog and cat room were not provided with runs to exercise and only some of these animals were being walked on a leash daily. The few dogs that were walked on a leash were said to be provided with a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes of walking time and there was not enough staff available to walk each dog for at least 20 minutes per day. Dogs with a vicious disposition that were housed in the basement or the small dog and cat room were not walked at all and did not have access to an exercise run.

AHS-Newark left several ill and injured dogs in enclosures without providing veterinary care. Two dogs appeared to have blood in their urine, one dog had diarrhea and vomited, and a third dog had an open wound on its paw. Even several dogs in the so-called basement isolation area did not receive veterinary care.

1.9 (d)1. Two dogs housed in the main dog kennel area appeared to have blood in their urine (pictures 3098 and 3099) and a shepherd type dog, ID number 23882, housed in the general housing area of the basement had diarrhea and had vomited its food. A white bully type dog had an open wound on its paw and there was no evidence that this dog was provided with medical care (picture 3157). Several animals that were housed in the basement isolation room were exhibiting signs of illness but the manager stated that these dogs had not yet been seen by a veterinarian and were not receiving medical treatment. Examples include ID numbers 23694, 23090, and 23572. Numerous animals housed in the medical ward holding room were prescribed medication, but the medical treatment logs were incomplete. Examples include, but were not limited to, ID numbers 23063, 22870, and 23378.

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AHS-Newark’s housing facilities were deplorable. According to the inspection report, “there were holes in walls in numerous rooms large enough for rodents to traverse.” Additionally, the inspection report noted “concrete flooring and block walls were in severe disrepair throughout the entire facility, with large cracks and chunks of missing concrete.” AHS-Newark even left “a large chain-link gate balanced on top of the outdoor dog enclosures; a strip of welded wire hardware cloth with exposed sharp pointed wires” hanging over the outdoor dog enclosures with a bowl, a bottle and other debris on top of these kennels. Simply put, AHS allowed its Newark facility to fall apart despite taking in around $8 million of revenue on average each year for the last decade.

1.3 (a) The housing facilities for animals were in disrepair. There were holes in the walls in numerous rooms that were large enough for rodents to traverse. Concrete flooring and block walls were in severe disrepair throughout the entire facility, with large cracks and chunks of missing concrete. The concrete flooring was peeling off in sheets. There was a large chain-link gate balanced on top of the outdoor dog enclosures; a strip of welded wire hardware cloth with exposed sharp pointed wires was hanging over the outdoor enclosures; and a bowl, a bottle with unknown contents and other items and debris were found on top of these animal enclosures. There were screws protruding from the wall in the “feral” cat enclosure where the original hiding boxes had been removed.

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In fact, the inspectors appeared concerned that a wall located at the door to the exterior kennels could collapse.

There was a large structural crack near the upper portion of the wall located at the door to the exterior kennels, where the concrete blocks or cinder blocks had separated and moved away from the inside wall. The attendant stated that this wall had not been evaluated by a qualified engineer and it was not determined if the wall would collapse.

The inspection report noted numerous facility problems that could injure animals. In the following example, AHS-Newark left damaged dog beds in enclosures that had exposed screws and sharp edges.

1.6 (a) 7. Many of the raised dog beds had damaged metal and plastic hardware that join the legs to the frame and support the beds. This hardware had exposed screws and sharp edges that could cause injury to the dogs. Some of these beds had damaged areas with sharp points from broken plastic legs and other chewed areas that could cause injury to the dogs.

Similarly, another dog enclosure contained a drainage pipe with no cover that could injure a dog’s legs:

1.6 (a) 2. There was a large, round, open drainage pipe in an outdoor dog enclosure that was missing a cover, which left an opening in the floor. This hole could cause leg injuries to the dogs housed in this enclosure.

The shelter’s main and outdoor dog kennels were exposed to water. HVAC vents were leaking water in the main dog kennel area. Water leaked from an air handling unit in the basement into an animal enclosure. Runoff from clogged gutters overflowed into the outside dog area. Therefore, dogs were housed in areas exposed to leaking water.

The air conditioning system was not being properly maintained or had not been properly installed to control water runoff from the various units. Water was leaking from the inside of the HVAC vents in the main dog kennel area; water was leaking from the air handling unit in the basement into an animal enclosure; and there was a heavy stream of water from an unknown source that was flowing off the roof into the gutter. The gutter was clogged with debris and this runoff was overflowing into the outside dog kennel area.

AHS-Newark’s ventilation systems had systemic problems. Despite the inspection taking place in August, AHS-Newark provided insufficient ventilation to dogs housed in the basement. Ventilation systems in other areas were filthy and/or in disrepair.

1.4 (c) The ventilation in the basement was insufficient to provide for the health and comfort of the animals housed in these rooms. The large exhaust fan in the general animal housing area of the basement was not being used at the time of this inspection, and the ventilation that was previously installed had been disconnected. The vent cover in the isolation room was cracked and contained an accumulation of dirt and debris. The ventilation covers in the general housing areas and other rooms throughout the facility also contained an accumulation of dirt and debris and needed to be cleaned. The plastic ventilation duct connected to the portable ventilation unit in the isolation room was improperly installed and was hooked to a piece of welded wire hardware cloth that was covering what appeared to be an obscured basement window opening. There was a piece of plexiglass type of plastic partially covering this window opening on the inside, in front of the hardware cloth.

The shelter’s basement, which houses dogs, had debris with “a long, roundworm like appearance” and other debris that had “the appearance of soaked rodent droppings.”

There was an accumulation of unrecognizable debris, some of which had a long, roundworm like appearance (possibly fibers of some sort), intertwined with small oblong pieces of debris that had the appearance of soaked rodent droppings. This debris had accumulated in the far corner under the utility sink located against the front wall in the basement.

If that was not bad enough, the upper storage area above the inside dogs kennels had “an excessive accumulation of rodent droppings.” Not only did AHS-Newark dogs have to live in poor conditions, but they had large amounts of rodent feces nearby.

There was an accumulation of rodent droppings in an upper storage area over the inside dog kennels and an excessive accumulation of rodent droppings in the long florescent light fixture in this same area.

Why did the shelter harbor so many rodents? The inspection report notes pet food was spilled all over the facility. Furthermore, AHS-Newark kept bags of donated food in a “haphazard” pile 3 to 4 feet high against a wall that facilitated rodent infestations.

1.3 (c) Food was spilled on top of food bags and on the floor between the wooden pallets in the food storage area located in the basement. Pieces of kibble were also found spilled in numerous locations throughout the facility, including in rooms that were not being used. Kibble was found between the fins of the baseboard radiators and under these radiators, under cages, in corners, behind storage items, inside cages that were said to have been cleaned, and there were pieces of kibble found next to rodent bait stations.

Bags of dry food that were said to have been recently donated were stored haphazardly in a pile approximately 3 to 4 feet high and touching the wall in the basement food storage room. Bags of purchased food were also stored against the wall. Food should be stored away from the wall and in a manner to facilitate cleaning in and around the bags of food, to prevent rodent harborage and infestation and to allow for sufficient ventilation to prevent moisture accumulation and molding of food.

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Improper Intake and Disposition Records Raise Concerns of More Killing

The inspection report noted AHS-Newark failed to include the ultimate disposition of a number of animals in its records. In other words, we don’t know what happened to these creatures. If AHS-Newark failed to record what happens to all of its animals, its kill rate may be higher than it reports.

1.13 (a) Computer records were being maintained, but staff was unable to access certain disposition records, including the required euthanasia documentation, and the paper records were incomplete. Inspectors were provided with a stack of paper intake records for animals received at the facility for the past month, but these records did not include the disposition records for these animals, and the inspectors were not provided computer access to review the records for these animals. A few records were selected by inspectors and the office staff could provide the disposition information for a small number of animals, but most of this information and the details were not readily available and the euthanasia information was inaccessible to the staff at the front desk.

NJ SPCA Must File Large Numbers of Animal Cruelty Charges

AHS-Newark committed atrocities against its animals on a massive scale. Frankly, I’ve never seen any New Jersey animal shelter treat animals this badly. Given this blog reported heinous conditions at many other state shelters, this says a lot. From leaving a skunk in a covered carrier during a hot August day next to dead animals and an incinerator, to leaving ill and injured animals to suffer, to allowing highly contagious diseases to spread, to illegally killing animals during the seven day protection period, to possibly killing animals inhumanely, to having dead bodies in bags and a shopping cart for apparently long periods of time near an area housing live dogs, to leaving animals in conditions to where they could injure themselves, AHS-Newark proved over and over again that it must be brought to justice.

Most troubling, the inspection report found the same problems, and even some new ones, documented in the 2003 SCI report and the horrific 2009 and 2011 New Jersey Department of Health inspection reports. Roseann Trezza was the Executive Director during the 2009 and 2011 inspections and was Assistant Executive Director when the SCI issued their report. Simply put, the NJ SPCA must throw the book at Roseann Trezza. This woman should not work with animals let alone lead the state’s largest animal sheltering organization. In the past, the NJ SPCA never went after AHS. Perhaps, this was due to former NJ SPCA Deputy Chief and Board President, Terrence Clark, also being Assistant Executive Director of AHS at the time? Whatever the reason, the NJ SPCA must act strongly if it wants to keep what little credibility it has left.

Municipalities Must Terminate Contracts with AHS

AHS-Newark contracting cities and towns can no longer fund this out of control house of horrors. While taxpayers should not support a high kill shelter, they should never pay an entity repeatedly violating state law on a massive scale. If the elected officials do not terminate their contracts with AHS-Newark, their political opponents should make this a campaign issue by running ads with the elected officials’ photos and pictures and language from this inspection report. Simply put, taxpayers should not have to tolerate spending their money on an organization treating animals like literal garbage over and over.

While some people may worry about shelter capacity issues if these municipalities leave AHS-Newark, this is not a significant problem. As I’ve documented in other blogs here and here, the state’s animal shelter system has more than enough space to absorb AHS-Newark’s animals if shelters’ use their full capacity and move animals into safe outcomes as quickly as other good animal control shelters. Specifically, all the municipalities, other than the City of Newark, are not large and do not have too many homeless animals. In the case of the City of Newark, it could request the New Jersey Department of Health to allow Newark to send its animals to several facilities in order to not overwhelm any single one.

At the same time, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka must re-start former Mayor Booker’s project to build a new no kill shelter in the city. While the City of Newark whould never have been in this position if it started building the shelter as planned in 2013, it now has all the justification it needs to take on this initiative.

Residents in the following municipalities should contact their mayors using the information below and demand they terminate their arrangements with AHS-Newark.

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

New Jersey Department of Health Must Inspect AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park

Given the massive problems at AHS-Newark, one has to also wonder how AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park operate. The New Jersey Department of Health has not inspected these other facilities in recent years. As a result, we need to know if AHS-Newark’s problems also occur at its sister shelters.

State Agencies Must Replace the Entire AHS Board and Executive Leadership

The AHS Board of Directors allowed Roseann Trezza to operate her facility without effective oversight. Roseann Trezza is the President of the Board of Directors. Furthermore, many of the AHS board members are employees/former employees or have other potential conflicts of interest that seriously question their ability to oversee this failing organization. Thus, the AHS board failed over and over to fix their organization’s catastrophic problems.

After the SCI released its 2003 report on AHS, AHS Executive Director Lee Bernstein resigned and Roseann Trezza took over. However, as we’ve seen over and over during the last 14 years, all of the awful AHS leadership needed to go.

As such, the various state agencies overseeing AHS should do everything in their power to force AHS to replace its entire leadership team and Board of Directors. Despite these massive issues, including significant structural issues potentially requiring a new facility, AHS has made statement to the press giving lame excuses and portraying that its well on its way to solving the catastrophic problems. Clearly, this organization is not serious about improving itself to any significant degree. If AHS wants to continue operating animal shelters, it must change its entire organization and not make a few minor tweaks as its recent Facebook post about the inspection implied. Creating a commission with no kill leaders and other innovative figures in the animal welfare movement can help put the right people in charge of the state’s largest animal sheltering organization. As a result, we can transform AHS-Newark from a house of horrors into a temporary home that provides love, elite care, and new lives to all healthy and treatable animals.

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Passaic’s Pitiful Animal Shelter

In 2004, Passaic Animal Shelter banned its volunteer group for allegedly “violating a number of policies.” However, the volunteers, who were also known as Helping Hands Passaic, also complained about the facility’s poor conditions and unnecessary killing. Therefore, Passaic Animal Shelter, like many regressive facilities, banned the volunteers in order to protect themselves at the expense of the animals.

The New Jersey Department of Health vindicated the volunteers after it issued a scathing inspection report later that year. The inspection report’s key findings were as follows:

  1. Illegal killing of stray cats during the seven day hold period
  2. Inadequate isolation of a kitten with ringworm
  3. Several cats and dogs did not have access to water
  4. Two outdoor dog runs had metal pipes with rusty and sharp edges that could cause serious injuries
  5. Improper food storage, including cleaning solution spilled on dog food bags
  6. Improper record keeping
  7. No required inspection performed by the Passaic Health Department
  8. An animal control officer left an opossum in a vehicle for two hours in 107 degree temperatures

After the inspection, the NJ SPCA issued three summonses to shelter staff for needlessly killing the stray cats during the seven day hold period and leaving the opossum in the hot vehicle. Despite this horrific treatment of animals, one of the charged staff, Marilyn Comerford, stayed on as the Animal Control Officer for 10 more years until she retired in 2014. Even worse, the City of Passaic honored Ms. Comerford, who also was the shelter manager, “for her years of dedication and service.”

How does the Passaic Animal Shelter perform today? Is the shelter a refuge for homeless animals or a place where they go to die?

Passaic Runs a High Kill Shelter

Passaic Animal Shelter killed many dogs at its shelter in 2016.  You can view the actual records here. Overall, 22% of all dogs who were impounded in 2016 lost their lives at the Passaic Animal Shelter. If we just count the dogs not reclaimed by owners (i.e. dogs the shelter had to find new homes for), 39% of all the dogs Passaic Animal Shelter took in during 2016 were killed or died. In other words, more than one out of three dogs Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for lost their lives.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed large numbers of pit bulls. Of the 86 pit bulls arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2016, 33 or 39% of these animals lost their lives. If we just count pit bulls Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for, 58% of these dogs lost their lives. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter operated more like a pit bull killing factory than a shelter for pit bulls.

While Passaic Animal Shelter’s live release rate appeared good for small dogs and other non-pit bull like dogs, it still killed too many of these animals. 10% of small dogs and 13% of other non-pit bull like dogs impounded during 2016 and not reclaimed by owners lost their lives. As a comparison, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is not a role model shelter, only euthanized 2% of nonreclaimed small dogs and 6% of nonreclaimed medium-large sized breeds other than pit bulls in 2016. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many small dogs and medium to large sized non-pit bull like dogs.

Passaic Animal Shelter adopted out hardly any dogs. Of the 170 dogs arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2016, the facility adopted out just 8 dogs or 5% of the dogs it took in. To put it another way, the shelter adopted out just 1 dog every 1.5 months. Frankly, a single person could foster and adopt out more dogs than the Passaic Animal Shelter did last year. Given this tiny number of dog adoptions, is it any wonder why the shelter kills so many dogs?

Passaic Animal Shelter 2016 Dog Statistics

Passaic Animal Shelter also killed large numbers of cats. You can read the actual records here. Overall, 48% of the 292 cats who were impounded during 2016 lost their lives. 45% of neonatal kittens (under 6 weeks old), 43% of older kittens (6 weeks to under 1 year) and 58% of adult cats (1 year and older) failed to leave the shelter alive. Simply put, Passaic Animal Shelter performed terribly for all types of cats.

Austin Animal Center in Texas proves Passaic Animal Shelter can save all of its healthy and treatable cats. Only 5% of all cats, 7% of cats 1 year and older, 3% of kittens aged 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 5% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives or went missing at Austin Animal Center in 2016. In other words, the death rate at Passaic Animal Shelter was 8 to 14 times greater for cats of various ages. Therefore, despite Passaic Animal Shelter impounding far fewer cats than Austin Animal Center in total and on a per capita basis, Passaic Animal Shelter killed a much higher percentage of these animals.

Passaic Animal Shelter also hardly adopted out any cats. Of the 292 cats entering the shelter in 2016, only 32 cats or 11% were adopted out. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter only adopted out 1 cat every week and a half. To put it bluntly, the shelter seemed to make little to no effort to adopt out its cats.

Passaic Animal Shelter 2016 Cat Statistics

Austin Animal Center 2016 Cat Statistics

Passaic Animal Shelter’s length of stay data reveals it quickly killed dogs. On average, Passaic Animal Shelter killed all dogs after 18.9 days, pit bulls after 41.9 days, and small dogs after 10.7 days. Only one dog from other breeds was killed making its 103 day length of stay irrelevant.

To make matters worse, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs with empty kennels. Based on an equation for determining a shelter’s population, we can estimate the Passaic Animal Shelter’s average dog population during the year. Using the 170 annual dog intake figure and the 19.3 day average length of stay for all dogs, we can estimate Passaic Animal Shelter had on average 9 dogs in its shelter during 2016. The Passaic Department of Health’s June 7, 2016 inspection report (10 dogs at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (7 dogs and 10 dogs at facility on 1/1/16 and 12/31/16) indicate this estimate was reasonable. 9 dogs only represents 3/4 of the shelter’s 12 dog capacity per its 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs while other kennels remained empty during the year.

Passaic Animal Shelter 2016 Dogs Length of Stay

Passaic Animal Shelter quickly killed cats and took too long to safely place the other cats. On average, the shelter killed all cats after 23.3 days, neonatal kittens after 20.5 days, older kittens after 29.0 days and adult cats after just 19.5 days. With Passaic Animal Shelter killing so many cats, one would expect the facility to have an easy time adopting out the remainder who should have exhibited few behavioral or medical issues. On average, Passaic Animal Shelter adopted out all cats after 56.9 days, neonatal kittens after 71.7 days, older kittens after 40.0 days and adult cats after 71.8 days. Similarly, Passaic Animal Shelter took 43.4 days to send cats of all ages to rescues with adult cats taking nearly 2 months. As a comparison, Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society, which serves as an animal control shelter, achieved a live release rate of 91% for cats over 4 months of age as well as for kittens 4 months and under with average lengths of stay of just 23 days for the older cats and 27 days for the younger cats in 2016. In other words, cats at Passaic Animal Shelter lost their lives at 5 times the rate as Longmont Humane Society despite Longmont Humane Society impounding more cats and having a 30% lower average length of stay than Passaic Animal Shelter (24.4 days verses 34.6 days).

The shelter also killed cats when empty cages existed. Based on the same equation used for dogs above, Passaic Animal Shelter only had an average population of 28 cats in 2016 compared to a capacity of 35 cats. The Passaic Department of Health’s June 7, 2016 inspection report (25 cats at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (13 cats and 17 cats at facility on 1/1/16 and 12/31/16) indicate this estimate was not too low. While the shelter may have been full during certain kitten season months, the shelter clearly killed cats while empty cages existed in many other parts of the year.

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Passaic Animal Shelter Fails to Provide Good Reasons for Killing

Passaic Animal Shelter killed most of its dogs for no reason. Overall, Passaic Animal Shelter listed no documented reason in the records provided to me for 69% of the dogs it killed. In other words, the shelter could not even explain why it took these animals’ lives. The shelter listed “aggressive” and “unpredictable” as reasons for 11% of the dogs it killed. Of the remaining reasons for killing dogs, Passaic Animal Shelter reported 8% were for bite cases, 6% were for serious injuries, 3% were for being nervous and 3% had an undisclosed illness.

Passaic Animal Shelter Dogs Killed Reasons

Hazel was an adult pit bull surrendered by her owner to the Passaic Animal Shelter on May 22, 2016. According to the shelter, Hazel had a “good” temperament, was not “aggressive” and had not bitten anyone. Despite this dog being clearly adoptable, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her for no documented reason 12 days later.

D69 Surrender Form

D69 Kennel Card

D69 Euthanasia Record

Kahloua was a 4 year old pit bull surrendered to the Passaic Animal Shelter by her owner on August 1, 2016. Her owner wrote a letter stating the dog was “not aggressive”, was “friendly”, was “happy”, “likes attention”, has “a good appetite” and “likes to play.” The owner also informed the shelter that Kahloua barked a little bit at people at first, but stopped once she got to know them. Despite the owner’s obvious plea to not kill her dog, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Kahloua 18 days later for no documented reason.

D112 Owner Letter to Shelter

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D112 Kennel Card

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King was a stray adult pit bull picked up at a Burger King on December 21, 2016. Passaic Animal Shelter stated King had a “good” temperament, was not aggressive and was not involved in a bite incident. Despite King being obviously adoptable and arriving at a time of the year when few animals come into animal shelters, Passaic Animal Shelter killed King just 8 days later.

D173 Euthanasia Record

Passaic Animal Shelter Kills Cats for No Reasons and Preventable Conditions

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

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Cat C66 was a 1 year old cat surrendered to the Passaic Animal Shelter by its owner on May 23, 2016. After just 11 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed this cat for no documented reason.

C66 Surrender Form

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Cat C188 was a 4 month old cat picked up a stray on August 25, 2016. Subsequently, the cat was surrendered to the Passaic Animal Shelter by his owner on September 6, 2016. After 21 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed him and 3 other cats he came in with for having Feline Panleukopenia. Given the 14 day incubation period and the many other cases at Passaic Animal Shelter, it is likely Cat C188 and the other cats he came in with contracted the disease at the shelter.

C188 Intake Record

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C188 Euthanasia Record.jpg

Frankly, the large number of Feline Panleukopenia cases at Passaic Animal Shelter are disturbing. Shelter medicine experts state shelters can greatly reduce the instances of this disease by vaccinating animals upon intake, housing cats appropriately, and cleaning effectively:

Although a scary and potentially devastating disease in a shelter, reliable vaccination on intake, effective routine cleaning with a parvocidal disinfectant, and housing that minimizes fomite transmission will greatly reduce the risk of spread. With new tools for diagnosis and risk assessment, even outbreaks can generally be managed without resorting to depopulation.

Furthermore, if Passaic Animal Shelter welcomed volunteers, it could treat cats with Feline Panleukopenia by sending these animals to specially trained fosters (technically the shelter has a foster program, but the facility does not promote fostering and few people would be willing to return fostered kittens to a high kill shelter). At these homes, the cats would receive anti-nausea drugs, antibiotics and fluid therapy in an safe environment where they would not infect other animals.

Cat C175 was a stray adult cat taken to the Passaic Animal Shelter on August 17, 2016. After 27 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her for being dehydrated, underweight and being icteric (i.e. having jaundice). Since this cat was at the Passaic Animal Shelter for nearly a month, she likely contracted the disease causing these symptoms at the facility.

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C175 Euthanasia Record.jpg

Veterinarian Contracts Support Killing

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

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

When should the vaccine be given?

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

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

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract provides details on the veterinary funding it provides. In the City of Passaic’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital, Passaic only pays $1,516 per month for veterinary services and $70.82 per month to test the cats it adopts out for FIV testing. Based on the details of the arrangement outlined in Rutherford Animal Hospital’s response to Passaic’s request for proposal, the city will only pay $850 per year for the FIV testing. Therefore, Passaic could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital a maximum of $19,150 per year ($20,000 total fee cap – $850 FIV fee) to provide veterinary care (excluding FIV testing and spay/neuter which adopters pay for) or $41.45 per dog and cat the shelter impounded in 2016.

The City of Passaic’s veterinary funding is inadequate. After we back out the cost of vaccines of approximately $15.53 per animal (based on $21.25 per adult dog, $27.25 per puppy, $9.25 per adult cat and $13.25 per kitten according the Maddie’s Fund’s Financial Management Tool) from the average $41.45 veterinary care fee per animal, Passaic Animal Shelter would have just $25.92 to treat each animal for all other illnesses and injuries. Clearly, that is not nearly enough to treat sick or injured animals. Given this fee also must cover the cost of killing, the city and Rutherford Animal Hospital have strong incentives to kill any animal where veterinary treatment may be costly or might not work. Thus, the contract’s financial terms encourage killing.

Passaic Animal Shelter Veterinary Care Funding.jpg

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

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital seems to indirectly cap adoptions at a low number. According to the City of Passaic’s contract for spay/neuter services with Rutherford Animal Hospital, it only pays a maximum of $6,000 per year with $80, $55 and $130 fees to spay/neuter each female cat, male cat and dog of either sex. Assuming the shelter used its spay/neuter fees based on the proportions of dogs and cats it took in (i.e. 37% dogs, 63% cats) and altered equal numbers of each sex, it could only spay/neuter 17 dogs and 56 cats. Based on the shelter’s Petfinder web site indicating the adoption fees include spay/neuter and the shelter’s policy and procedure manual indicating all adopted animals must be altered, this suggests the shelter could only adopt out 17 dogs and 56 cats for the entire year. However, Passaic Animal Shelter would need to have adopted out 39 dogs and 148 cats last year to achieve 95% dog and 92% cat live release rates. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter cannot come close to achieving no kill status based on its contract.

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Despite Rutherford Animal Hospital being required under its contract to maintain legally required euthanasia records, an unusually large number of dogs had weights ending in convenient numbers such as 0 or 5. Under state law, the shelter must weigh each animal prior to killing/euthanizing. If Passaic Animal Shelter only estimated weights, the shelter could have provided the wrong amount of tranquilizing and killing agents to these dogs. Thus, the shelter’s dog euthanasia records raise questions as to whether the facility actually humanely killed/euthanized dogs.

Passaic Animal Shelter Veterinary Records.jpg

Passaic Must Take a New Path

Clearly, Passaic Animal Shelter took action to protect itself at the expense of the city’s homeless animals after volunteers exposed its dirty little secrets more than a decade ago. After banning volunteers, the shelter no longer had anyone to make sure they tried to save lives. Instead, the shelter used its unilateral control to take the easy way out and kill animals needlessly. Why? The shelter’s leadership, within the facility, the Passaic Health Department, and its elected officials, simply found it easier to save a few animals and kill the rest. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter’s “Animal Control Policy and Procedure Manual” explicitly states it will not run a no kill shelter.

Passaic Animal Shelter has more than enough resources to run a no kill facility where it only euthanizes hopelessly suffering animals. In 2016, Passaic Animal Shelter received $384 of city funding per each of the 462 dogs and cats it impounded. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter only received $253 of funding per dog and cat and saved 99.5% of the 398 dogs and 99.2% the 471 cats who had outcomes in 2016. Furthermore, Chippewa County Animal Shelter impounded more animals in total (851 dogs and cats at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 462 dogs and cats at Passaic Animal Shelter) and on a per capita basis (22.4 dogs and cats per person at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 6.5 dogs and cats per resident at Passaic Animal Shelter). Unlike Passaic Animal Shelter, Chippewa County Animal Shelter welcomes volunteers and operates its facility using no kill methods. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter has no excuse for running a high kill shelter.

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

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

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

Bergen County Animal Shelter Continues its Killing Spree in 2016

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

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog on Bergen County Animal Shelter’s 2016 statistics for dogs and cats coming in from the town of Kearny. Sadly, the shelter’s Kearny statistics revealed the facility killed many dogs. Additionally, despite having a successful TNR program, Bergen County Animal Shelter still killed healthy and treatable cats.

Did Bergen County Animal Shelter perform better in 2016 for the other municipalities it contracts with? Was Bergen County Animal Shelter still high kill for these other cities and towns?

Shelter Kills Huge Numbers of Dogs

Bergen County Animal Shelter continued to kill many dogs in 2016. Overall, 22% of all dogs, 42% of pit bulls, 9% of small dogs and 26% of other medium to large sized breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter during the year. As a comparison, only 2% of all dogs and 4% of pit bulls lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in fiscal year 2016 despite that shelter taking in many more dogs in total and on a per capita basis. If we just count dogs who Bergen County Animal Shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding dogs reclaimed by their owners), 37% of all dogs, 63% of pit bulls, 17% of small dogs and 40% of other medium to large sized breeds were killed or died at the shelter. To put it another way, more than 1 in 3 nonreclaimed dogs, nearly 2 in 3 nonreclaimed pit bulls, nearly 1 in 5 nonreclaimed small dogs and more than 1 in 4 nonreclaimed other medium to large size breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter. Thus, all types of dogs entering the Bergen County Animal Shelter had a significant chance of losing their life.

Bergen County Animal Shelter hardly adopted out any dogs. Despite being a well-known county shelter in a high traffic area, the facility only adopted out 176 dogs during the year or less than 1 dog every 2 days. Furthermore, 101 of those adoptions were small dogs, which shelters have to do little work to adopt out. Bergen County Animal Shelter only adopted out 75 medium to large size dogs, which included just 33 pit bulls and 42 other medium to large size breeds. This works out to less than three pit bull adoptions and less than four other medium to large size breed adoptions a month.

The shelter also sent very few medium to large size dogs to rescues. While my prior dog report card blog on the state’s shelters showed Bergen County Animal Shelter had plenty of space to adopt out all of it nonreclaimed dogs, one would think the facility would at least try to send dogs it was going to kill to rescues instead. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter only sent 22 out of 309 medium-large size dogs to rescues in 2016. Even worse, Bergen County Animal Shelter only transferred 5 out of 155 pit bulls to rescues during the year. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed 13 times more pit bulls than it sent to rescues. Despite the shelter’s policy of contacting rescues prior to killing, I’ve personally never seen Bergen County Animal Shelter ever make a public plea to rescues to save dogs the shelter was going to kill. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter would rather kill medium to large size dogs than actually ask for help to save these animals.

2016 Bergen County Animal Shelter Statistics

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s statistics for dogs labeled as “adult” were even worse. Overall, 23% of all adult dogs, 47% of adult pit bulls, 9% of adult small dogs and 29% of adult other medium to large size breeds lost their lives. If we only count dogs the shelter had to find new homes for, 41% of nonreclaimed adult dogs, 73% of nonreclaimed adult pit bulls, 17% of nonreclaimed adult small dogs and 47% of nonreclaimed adult other medium to large size breeds lost their lives in 2016. To put it another way, around 3 out of 4 nonreclaimed adult pit bulls and nearly 1 out of 2 nonreclaimed other medium to large size breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter in 2016. Simply put, Bergen County Animal Shelter acted more like a pet killing factory than an animal shelter for adult medium to large size dogs requiring a new home.

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Dogs Stay Too Long at Shelter

Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to adopt out dogs. Overall, the average length of stay was 35 days for all dogs, 42 days for pit bulls, 34 days for small dogs and 31 days for other medium to large size breeds. Despite killing many dogs, sending few dogs to rescues and hardly adopting out dogs (i.e. the dogs the facility adopted out were likely the cream of the crop), the shelter took on average a whopping 63 days to adopt out its dogs. Similarly, Bergen County Animal Shelter took 77 days, 55 days and 73 days to adopt out its pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds. As a comparison, other successful shelters adopt out dogs, pit bulls in particular, at a much quicker rate despite having to place animals with more issues due to these facilities’ high live release rates. For example, New York’s Tompkins County SPCA adopted out its small dogs and pit bulls in around one third less time as Bergen County Animal Shelter. Similarly, Oregon’s Greenhill Humane Society adopted out its pit bulls in about half the time as Bergen County Animal Shelter. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter adopted out few dogs and took too long to do so.

The shelter also took too much time to send dogs to rescues. Specifically, Bergen County Animal Shelter took on average 41 days to send each dog to a rescue. The shelter took on average 71 days, 49 days and 20 days to send each pit bull, small dog, and other medium to large size breed to rescues. As a comparison, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter took on average 14 days, 24 days, 8 days and 11 days to adopt out/send to rescues (almost all were sent to rescues rather than adopted out) its dogs, pit bulls, small dogs, and other medium to large size breeds. In other words, Bergen County Animal Shelter took approximately 3 to 6 times longer to send its dogs to rescues than the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. Therefore, even though Bergen County Animal Shelter sent few dogs to rescues, it still took way too much time to do so.

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

2016 Bergen County Animal Shelter Dog Length of Stay Data

Many Cats Lose Their Lives

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat statistics in 2016 were also ugly. Overall, 25% of cats lost their lives or went missing. 35% of cats labeled as “adult” and 13% of cats labeled as “kitten” were killed, died or went missing. If we just count cats the shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding owner reclaims and cats “released” through TNR and other programs), 31% of all cats, 51% of cats with an “adult” label and 14% of cats with a “kitten” classification lost their lives or went missing. Thus, cats of all ages were not safe at Bergen County Animal Shelter.

2016 Bergen County Animal Shelter Cats Statistics

Bergen County Animal Shelter performed significantly worse than Austin Animal Center in Texas. To compare the two shelters, I tabulated Bergen County Animal Shelter’s statistics according to major cat age groups Austin Animal Center uses:

  1. Cats 1 year and older
  2. Cats 6 weeks to just under 1 year
  3. Cats under 6 weeks

At Bergen County Animal Shelter, 25% of all cats, 25% of cats 1 year and older, 23% of kittens aged 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 94% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives or went missing. On the other hand, only 5% of all cats, 7% of cats 1 year and older, 3% of kittens aged 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 5% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives or went missing at Austin Animal Center in 2016. In other words, the death rate at Bergen County Animal Shelter was 4 to 19 times greater for cats of various ages. These differences were even larger if we compared the nonreclaimed cat death rate. Therefore, despite Bergen County Animal Shelter impounding far fewer cats than Austin Animal Center in total and on a per capita basis, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed a much higher percentage of these animals.

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Austin Animal Center 2016 Cat Statistics

Shelter Fails to Safely Place Cats Quickly

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

Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to adopt out its cats. Overall, the shelter’s average length of stay was 58 days for all cats, 59 days for 1 year and older cats, 55 days for older kittens and 18 days for neonatal kittens. However, the shelter took on average 78 days, 86 days and 60 days to adopt out all cats, 1 year and older cats and older kittens. As a comparison, Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society’s average length of stay for cats over 4 months of age and 4 months and younger were 23 days and 27 days (most cats were adopted out). Furthermore, Longmont Humane Society moved its cats quickly out of its shelter through adoption and achieved a 92% cat live release rate (92% for older cats and 91% for 4 months and younger cats). Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to adopt out its cats.

Bergen County Animal Shelter also took too much time to send cats to rescues. Despite transferring only 3% of its cats to rescues, the shelter took 117 days, 147 days and 65 days to send all cats, 1 year and older cats and older kittens to rescues. As a comparison, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter sent significantly more cats to rescues in 2016 and only took 8 days, 10 days and 5 days to send all cats, cats labeled as adults and kittens to rescues/adopters (almost all went to rescues). Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter took too long to send cats to rescues.

The shelter’s neonatal kitten data suggests the facility cannot properly care for these vulnerable creatures. Out of 18 neonatal kittens entering Bergen County Animal Shelter last year, 17 lost their lives or went missing. In fact, the only one that lived was “released” to the Bergen County Health Department. Since the Bergen County Health Department runs a TNR program, it is possible this animal was returned to where it was found (i.e. not difficult to do). If this was the case, it would raise ethical concerns given the young age of this animal. Most disturbingly, the shelter killed 9 of these kittens after just 6 days on average and another 7 of these animals died after only 10 days on average. Based on this data, this suggests Bergen County Animal Shelter’s neonatal kittens quickly became very sick. Given the tiny number of neonatal kittens taken in, the shelter should have been able to place these animals in foster homes and/or provide intensive bottle feeding in a quiet nursery area. Instead, these most vulnerable animals faced an almost certain death sentence.

2016 Bergen County Animal Shelter Cat Length of Stay

Illegal Killing During Seven Day Protection Period

Max was a 10 year old cat surrendered by his owner for aggression on October 4, 2016. According to Max’s veterinarian, the family could opt to use a behaviorist to try and solve his problems. However, the family decided to not go that route and allegedly requested Bergen County Animal Shelter kill their cat. On that very day, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed Max and made no effort to save him.

Under state law, shelters cannot kill companion animals, including owner surrenders, for seven full days. In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during the seven day protection period if both of the following conditions are met:

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

Clearly, an aggressive cat is not hopelessly suffering. Therefore, Bergen County Animal Shelter violated state law and is subject to a fine of up to $2,000 for “needlessly killing” Max under N.J.S.A 4:22.

Most importantly, Bergen County Animal Shelter never tried to rehabilitate Max, place him in a barn cat program or in a feral cat colony. Simply put, Bergen County took money and quickly killed Max.

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Cat ID# 23243 was surrendered to the Bergen County Animal Shelter on September 13, 2016 after the animal’s owner died. After a mere four days, the shelter conducted a temperament test and determined the cats was aggressive and a “danger to staff.” Why did the shelter conclude this? The cat tried to bite when the evaluator touched the animal’s tummy then feet as well when the the tester tugged on the pet’s tail. In other words, Bergen County Animal Shelter instigated a stressed out cat whose owner died and was just dropped off in a scary shelter.

Once again, Bergen County Animal Shelter violated state shelter law. The shelter killed Cat ID# 23243 after just six days. Therefore, the shelter violated the seven day protection period since this cat was not hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, Bergen County Animal Shelter is subject to a fine of up to $2,000 for “needlessly killing” this animal under N.J.S.A 4:22.

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Blue was a 2 year old cat surrendered by his owner to the Bergen County Animal Shelter on April 4, 2016. Blue’s owner rescued him from a warehouse, but had to surrender the cat due to the owner’s new apartment not allowing pets. According to Blue’s owner, Blue didn’t like people much until he got to know them. The owner also mentioned Blue could bite when startled and did not like being petted and held. In other words, Blue had “catitude.” The owner also stated Blue was litter box trained and lived indoors.

Despite Blue’s owner clearly indicating Blue needing time to warm up to people, Bergen County Animal Shelter forced him to endure an intrusive and seemingly threatening evaluation just three days later. Unsurprisingly, Blue reacted scared and aggressive to the evaluator grabbing and roughly touching him. Shockingly, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s veterinarian approved killing Blue illegally during the owner surrender protection period if he “becomes a safety issue.” As expected, Bergen County Animal Shelter illegally killed Blue the next day only four days after he arrived at the facility.

As mentioned above, a shelter cannot kill any animal for aggression or safety of staff during the seven day protection period. As such, Bergen County Animal Shelter violated state shelter law and is subject to a fine of up to $2,000 for “needlessly killing” Blue during the seven day protection period.

To make matters worse, this cat already lived in a home making the staff safety issue null and void. Furthermore, no cat could ever pose such a serious danger to staff that killing the animal would be necessary. Even if safety was an issue, wouldn’t staff be exposed to danger when they handled the cat in order to kill the animal? Once again, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed an animal for convenience.

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Bergen County Residents Must Demand Much More

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

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

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Shows Improvement, But Serious Problems Remain: Part 1

Last year, I wrote a series of blogs highlighting significant problems at the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. You can read the two blogs here and here. Specifically, I discussed the following findings:

  1. Shelter had an unacceptably high kill rate
  2. Routine illegal killing of owner surrendered animals during the seven day protection period
  3. Frequent illegal transfers of stray animals to rescues during the seven day hold period
  4. Poor promotion of animals
  5. Shelter adopted out hardly any animals
  6. Shelter did not spay/neuter animals adopted out
  7. Rescues were often only the reason unclaimed animals made it out of the shelter alive
  8. No volunteers allowed at the shelter
  9. Little to no veterinary care provided
  10. Records indicated inhumane euthanasia/killing practices

In addition to my advocacy, other groups, such as the Reformers – Advocates for Animal Shelter Change in NJ, aggressively pushed for change at the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. Did Elizabeth Animal Shelter improve? Does the shelter still have serious problems?

Live Release Rate Increases Significantly

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s statistics for all dogs and cats it impounded in 2016 are listed below. You can view the actual records here and here. Overall, 8% of dogs and 16% of cats were killed, died or had unknown outcomes. This equates to a 92% dog live release rate and an 84% cat live release rate. In fact, the shelter reached the 90% live release rate threshold for dogs, and came pretty close to it for cats, that some people consider no kill (I use a much higher standard).

2016 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dog and Cat Statistics

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s death rate significantly decreased in 2016 compared to 2015. Overall, the shelter’s death rates for both cats and dogs dropped by about half in 2016.

2016 Verses 2016 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Death Rate

Elizabeth Animal Shelter still killed too many pit bulls in 2016. Specifically, about 1 in 5 pit bulls and 1 out of 4 unclaimed pit bulls lost their lives. On the other hand, Elizabeth Animal Shelter achieved very high live release rates for both small dogs and all other breeds.

2016 Elizabeth Dog Breeds Statistics

Similarly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed too many adult cats in 2016. Overall, around 1 in 5 adult cats lost their lives. On the other hand, Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported an impressive 92% live release rate for kittens.

2016 Elizabeth Cat Age Statistics

Despite Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s death rates for adult cats and pit bulls being too high, the facility still made progress in 2016. Overall, the death rates for adult cats and pit bulls decreased by half (from 42% to 21%) and by around one quarter (from 25% to 18%).

Improved Live Release Rate Associated with End of Routine Illegal Killings

Elizabeth Animal Shelter stopped routinely killing owner surrendered animals during the seven day protection period in 2016. In 2015, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 124 dogs and cats during the state mandated stray hold and owner surrender protection periods (many were killed immediately). On the other hand, Elizabeth Animal Shelter only euthanized 22 dogs and cats during these periods in 2016. While I do have some questions as to whether some of these animals were in fact hopelessly suffering, which they must be for a shelter to take the animal’s life during this time, the facility did appear to relegate these to medical cases.

Overall, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed/euthanized 15% and 4% of all the dogs and cats it impounded in 2015 and 2016 during the seven day protection period. This 11% decrease in killing over the two years accounts for nearly all of the 12% drop in the combined dog and cat live release rate from 2015 to 2016. Thus, the strong advocacy efforts to stop this illegal killing along with efforts to directly save these animals accounts for much of the improvement at the shelter.

Rescues Continue to Save the Day

Elizabeth Animal Shelter relied almost exclusively on rescues to save unclaimed animals. Based on my review of the supporting documents for approximately 40% of the dogs and cats listed as adopted or “medical release” in Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s intake and disposition records, 89% of these cats and 84% of these dogs went to rescues. This is very similar to my findings from the prior year. If I were to extrapolate this data for the entire year, I’d estimate Elizabeth Animal Shelter only adopted out 9% of the cats and 10% of the dogs they impounded. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter almost entirely relied on the rescue community to save its animals.

Based on my observations, Elizabeth Animal Shelter made little effort to adopt out animals. First, the animal shelter is almost never open. The facility is only open from 4 pm to 6 pm on weekdays and from 3 pm to 4 pm on Saturdays. In other words, the shelter is essentially never open when working people can adopt (i.e. weeknights and weekends). In fact, Elizabeth Animal Shelter violates state law by not being open for at least two hours on the weekend. Second, the shelter’s adoption web site has terrible photos of dogs that look like prison mugshots. Even worse, not a single cat adoption listing is currently on the web site. Third, the shelter does not vaccinate or spay/neuter the animals it adopts out. Instead, the shelter threatens adopters from Elizabeth with fines if they do not spay/neuter the animal within 30 days. Fourth, Elizabeth continues to bar volunteers from the facility who could help market these animals. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s poor policies continue to result in the facility adopting out few animals.

While Elizabeth Animal Shelter has very limited space, it can adopt out substantially many more animals. For example, models I developed based on the performance of good, but not the best, animal shelters suggest Elizabeth Animal Shelter could adopt out around 150 dogs and 160 cats each year. If Elizabeth Animal Shelter did this, it would likely allow the shelter to significantly reduce both the pit bull and adult cat kill rates. In reality, most high performing shelters must adopt out a substantial percentage of pit bulls and adult cats to achieve no kill level live release rates for these animals. Furthermore, if Elizabeth Animal Shelter adopted out more animals, rescues could save animals from other high kill shelters and reduce more killing in the state.

Animal Intake Decreases Significantly

Elizabeth Animal Shelter impounded far fewer dogs and and cats in 2016 as compared to 2015. You can view the actual records here and here. Specifically, the facility took in 16% fewer dogs and 32% fewer cats. However, Elizabeth Animal Shelter impounded 26% and 46% fewer owner surrendered dogs and cats in 2016 verses 2015.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2016 Verses 2015 Dog Intake

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2016 Verses 2015 Cat Intake

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s dog and cat intake decreased significantly more than both the Animal Care Centers of NYC and ACCT Philly. As you can see below, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s dog intake decreased around 2 to 3 times more than both of the two larger urban shelters in the region. However, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s cat intake decreased 3-11 times more than these other two shelters.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2016 Verses 2015 Intake Compared to Other Shelters

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s length of stay data supports this theory. The shelter’s average length of stay for dogs and cats in 2016 were 10.7 days (7.5 days in 2015) and 8.1 days (4.1 days in 2015). As a comparison, Elizabeth Animal Shelter only had about 11-13 days and 8-17 days to get each dog and cat out of the shelter in 2015 (i.e. when the shelter took in more animals) before it ran out of space. Therefore, Elizabeth Animal Shelter appeared to take fewer animals in, particularly cats, to avoid overcrowding, at least during higher intake months.

2016 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dog Length of Stay Data

2016 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cat Length of Stay Data

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s strategy of relying virtually entirely on rescues to create space is doomed to fail. While the shelter’s use of many rescues reduces the facility’s risk of any single rescue closing or not pulling animals for other reasons, large coalitions of rescues rarely are efficient at adopting out animals. Why? No single rescue faces any negative consequences if it fails to adopt out enough animals to prevent the shelter from killing. For example, if a single shelter or rescue agreed to pull all animals from Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s kill list, and Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed animals the rescue organization did not pull, the rescue organization could face criticism and lose donations. Similarly, if a single rescue saved all of the shelter’s animals it would receive praise and likely receive more financial support from the public. However, when dozens of organizations rescue animals voluntarily, no single group faces any repercussions and such groups have little to gain. Therefore, these organizations will often stick with overly restrictive adoption policies, less aggressive marketing, and overall less effective processes that result in fewer adoptions. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter has limited the number of positive outcomes it can achieve and will likely have to restrict intake to avoid overcrowding and/or killing.

While I would clearly prefer Elizabeth Animal Shelter impound and safely place more animals, the facility is better off not taking in dogs and cats if it is just going to kill them. Clearly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter can do much more and take in all animals needing help, but at the end of the day, I’d rather the animals have a chance of life on the streets or with their existing owners than face a certain death at a kill shelter (especially since most of these animals are healthy cats who are far better off on the streets than in a shelter).

In Part 2 of this series of blogs, I will examine whether Elizabeth Animal Shelter still kills healthy and treatable animals. Additionally, I’ll answer the question as to whether the shelter still violates state law. You can view Part 2 here.

Associated Humane Societies Fights to Kill or Dump Five Dogs

In early 2016, the Monmouth County SPCA investigated an Aberdeen Township resident’s dogs. During the Monmouth County SPCA’s inspection, the investigator noted the owner’s dogs were housed in a garage and outside. Additionally, the inspector stated the animals were in good health, had appropriate housing, but lacked access to readily available water. According to the owner, she only kept the dogs outside for a few hours and understood the inspector’s warning that the dogs must have water available when outside. On the same day, the inspector determined that the owner’s dogs were not licensed.

Subsequently, the Monmouth County SPCA notified Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls, which serves as Aberdeen Township’s animal control and sheltering organization, that the owner had unlicensed dogs. Shortly after, one of the resident’s dogs contracted rabies and bit several people. AHS-Tinton Falls then impounded the five other dogs living at the residence due to their potential exposure to rabies.

Aberdeen Township and the Monmouth County Health Department conflicted over the fate of these five dogs. Initially, the Monmouth County Health Department allowed the owners of the five dogs, Kim Rogers, to confine the dogs on her property for a six months rabies quarantine period based on the New Jersey Department of Health’s December 2014 guidelines for dogs exposed to a rabid animal without visible bites. In a sharply worded letter sent on February 8, 2016, Aberdeen Township objected and demanded the Monmouth County Health Department order the killing of these five healthy dogs.

Associated Humane Societies Seeks to Kill or Dump the Five Dogs

On the day after Aberdeen Township sought to kill the five dogs, AHS-Tinton Falls General Manager, Veronica Ehrenspeck, sent an email to AHS Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, and former AHS Assistant Executive Director, Scott Crawford. Ms. Ehrenspeck stated the Monmouth County Health Department preferred to have AHS-Tinton Falls confine the dogs for the six month rabies quarantine period and then return the dogs to the owner rather than immediately kill the dogs due to potential backlash from “animal activists.” She went on to state Monmouth County would pay all boarding costs. Despite this generous offer, Ms Eherenspeck claimed AHS would incur costs related to rabies vaccines, medical care, and housing. She also expressed concerns about AHS staff, other animals, and the public being exposed to dogs that may potentially develop rabies. Finally, Ms. Ehrenspect seemed to insinuate killing was the only option when she said “I don’t know any boarding facilities or towns that would want this exposure in their backyard.” Veronica Ehrenspeck Email Part 1

Veronica Ehrenspeck Email Part 2

Within an hour after receiving the AHS-Tinton Falls General Manager’s email, Roseann Trezza fired off an email to New Jersey Department of Health Senior Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Colin Campbell, to apparently seek assistance. While Ms. Trezza’s email is hard to understand, I interpret it to mean she’d rather kill the dogs than have the dogs go back to the owner, who she alleges is a “breeder”, after the dogs serve the six month quarantine period at her Tinton Falls shelter. Frankly, I find this deeply disturbing as a shelter director should not try to pit a state and county regulator of animal shelters against each other.

Roseann Trezza Email to Colin Campbell Pt 1

Roseann Trezza Email to Colin Campbell Pt 2

Dr. Colin Campbell responded the next day and told Ms. Trezza that they might prevent the owner from receiving the dogs back if the owner gets convicted for animal cruelty or operating an unlicensed kennel. However, Dr. Campbell correctly included Monmouth County Health Officer, Christopher Merkel, to keep him aware of this discussion.

Dr. Colin Campbell Response to Roseann Trezza Pt 1

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On the very next day, Roseann Trezza forwarded a “rough draft” of a letter prepared by Scott Crawford to Dr. Colin Campbell, but not the Monmouth County Health Officer, arguing AHS-Tinton Falls should kill the dogs. In the rambling letter, Mr. Crawford stated returning the dogs to Kim Rogers was “taken off the table” after a meeting with AHS and the Monmouth County Health Department. Despite AHS achieving their goal of preventing the owner from getting her dog back, Mr. Crawford claimed the five dogs were too great a risk to AHS staff, other animals at their shelter and the general public. In fact, Scott Crawford argued no shelter should adopt out these dogs even after a six month quarantine period citing rabies risk based on unnamed studies. Thus, Mr. Crawford said he’d prefer to kill the five dogs.

Scott Crawford went on in the letter to demand the Monmouth County Health Department let him kick the dogs out of his facility. In the letter, Mr. Crawford acted as if he was doing the Monmouth County Health Department a favor by giving them a few extra days over a holiday weekend to find another facility to house the five dogs. To show just how good a guy he was, Mr. Crawford offered to kill the dogs since in his “professional opinion at one point or another in the near future, a portion of if not all of these dogs originated from Kim Rogers’ residence will be sheading the rabies virus due to the circumstances surrounding this case.”

On the very next day, AHS seemed to succeed in its fight to kill the Aberdeen Five dogs. The Monmouth County Board of Health sent a letter to Kim Rogers stating they would kill her dogs in 7 days unless she provided proof of ownership, such as dog licensing and/or registration, and either a rabies inoculation certificate or documentation from her veterinarian that the animals received care. Ms. Rogers ultimately could not comply with these demands.

Wayne Township Animal Shelter Saves the Aberdeen Five

Miraculously, the Monmouth County Board of Health found alternative placement for the five dogs two weeks later. On February 26, the Monmouth Board of Health ordered AHS-Tinton Falls to transfer the Aberdeen Five to Wayne Township Animal Shelter. Around a month later, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Wayne Township reached an agreement where Monmouth County would pay $11,000 to Wayne Township to house the five dogs during the remainder of the six month quarantine period.

Wayne Township adopted out four of the five pit bull like dogs shortly after their quarantine period ended in August 2016. The shelter adopted out the following dogs:

  1. Tride Daddy, a three and half year old male, in September 2016
  2. Mamo Moo, a four year old female, in September 2016
  3. Baby Rosie, a nine month old female, in October 2016
  4. Jada, a four year old female, in January 2017

The fifth dog, Trigger, is currently up for adoption at the Wayne Township Animal Shelter. I’d encourage those looking for a dog to consider adopting Trigger.

Associated Humane Societies’ Reprehensible Actions

Scott Crawford’s argument that the five dogs posed a significant rabies risk to the public after the six month quarantine period is not supported by scientific evidence. As discussed above, the New Jersey Department of Health’s rabies policy at the time allowed confining animals potentially exposed to rabies for six months in lieu of killing. Ironically, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association shared its new rabies guidelines reducing the quarantine period from six months to four months the day before Scott Crawford wrote his dissertation on why authorities should kill the Aberdeen Five. Specifically, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association made this recommendation based on cases of animals developing rabies more than six months after exposure being “extaordinarily rare”:

The committee based the guidance on unpublished data from states that provided information on the incubation period for rabies in unvaccinated cats and dogs. There are cases in the literature of animals developing rabies more than six months after exposure, Dr. Brown noted, but these also are extraordinarily rare. She said the mean incubation period is about six weeks.

Subsequently, the New Jersey Department of Health altered their guidelines for handling animals potentially exposed to rabies. In March 2016, the state agency reduced the quarantine period from six months to four months. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health issued another directive in May 2016 stating health departments and shelters should confine rather than kill dogs not exhibiting clinical signs of the disease.

The fact that the Aberdeen Five dogs never came down with rabies after the six month quarantine period proves AHS was dead wrong. If AHS had their way, these five young dogs would never have received the opportunity to begin a new life.

AHS failed to provide one of the key services animal control shelters perform. Holding animals to protect public health is a key function animal control shelters provide. In fact, municipalities contract with third party shelters in part to house animals for rabies observation periods. Frankly, AHS-Tinton Falls effectively argued it was unable to properly quarantine these five dogs and protect its staff, which were not all vaccinated against rabies, other animals and the general public. If this is the case, should AHS-Tinton Falls have a license to operate an animal control shelter? If it was up to me, I would not award AHS a license to operate an animal control shelter unless it does one of the following:

  1. Reduces the number of municipalities it contracts with so it could effectively quarantine dogs with rabies
  2. Removes rabies quarantines from the services it offers
  3. Improves its policies and procedures to the point AHS certifies it can quarantine multiple animals for four month rabies quarantine periods

Personally, I find it difficult to believe AHS could not quarantine these five dogs. If its Tinton Falls facility was unable to do this, AHS could have used its Popcorn Park shelter where it houses a number of domestic and wild animals on a long term basis. Ironically, AHS touts its “open door policy” in its fundraising stories, but it shut the door on the Aberdeen Five. According to the organization’s 2014 Form 990, AHS took in nearly $9 million in revenue and had around $10 million in net assets. In fact, AHS-Tinton Falls received $43,000 in 2016 from Aberdeen Township alone plus an $18 per day fee for each animal housed per a court order (which may not have applied to the Aberdeen Five) and $95-$125 per animal fees charged to owners reclaiming their pets. Clearly, AHS could have used some of that war chest to properly quarantine these dogs at another facility.

AHS refused to quarantine the Aberdeen Five for the mandated period despite Monmouth County’s offer to pay for boarding costs. According to the AHS-Tinton Falls’ General Manager, Veronica Eherenspeck, this offer was insufficient since AHS would incur costs for rabies vaccinations, presumably for staff, and titer checks. Honestly, I am appalled an animal control shelter would require anything above and beyond a boarding fee to house and care for these animals. Vaccinating staff for rabies and monitoring the health of shelter animals should be pre-requisites for obtaining any animal control and sheltering contact. To argue Monmouth County taxpayers should pay these costs in addition to the $43,000 annual fee Aberdeen taxpayers shelled out to AHS-Tinton Falls is absurd. The fact that Wayne Township Animal Shelter took the Aberdeen Five for a $15 per day fee, which was 17% lower than the additional fee AHS charges Aberdeen Township for holding animals per government orders, proves AHS cared more about money than the lives of these five dogs.

AHS-Tinton Falls may have cost Monmouth County taxpayers up to $11,000. If AHS-Tinton Falls performed its duty as an animal control shelter, Monmouth County would not have had to pay Wayne Township Animal Shelter $11,000 to house these five dogs. While the cost to Monmouth County taxpayers may have been less due to Monmouth County SPCA raising funds for caring for the Aberdeen Five and any possible resititution paid by Kim Rogers, Monmouth County taxpayers should not have paid a dime. Simply put, AHS-Tinton Falls’ selfish behavior pushed the bill onto Monmouth County taxpayers.

AHS Actions Prove New Jersey Must Pass Shelter Reform Bill

AHS revealed its kill first mentality. From the very beginning of this ordeal, AHS personnel from the Tinton Falls General Manager all the way up to AHS executives sought to kill these animals. Based on the tone in the emails, you can clearly see killing is a key part of the AHS culture.

When a private animal shelter fights a health department to kill dogs, the organization has a critical problem with its leadership and culture. Health departments, which focus on protecting people from animals, often are quick to kill animals posing little risk to people. Often private shelters fight health departments to keep animals alive. However, AHS did just the opposite and fought with the health department in order to kill these five dogs. Simply put, AHS is a broken organization and its killing culture needs to change.

So how can shelter reform bill S3019 affect the AHS killing culture? First, AHS Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, would need the New Jersey Department of Health to certify that she was properly trained in progressive animal sheltering practices. Second, AHS would have to notify other organizations whenever it wanted to kill an animal. Third, AHS could not kill an animal until it certified it had no empty cages, foster homes and rescues available. Fourth, AHS would have to take active steps to reunite lost pets with their families. Fifth, AHS would have to provide high levels of care to animals, including robust medical treatment, socialization, and enrichment, that would make the pets more adoptable. Sixth, each AHS shelter would receive at least three unannounced inspections per year from qualified inspectors. Thus, shelter reform bill S3019 would put significant pressure on AHS to change its ways.

Clearly, New Jersey animal lovers must pressure AHS to save lives. We can do this by passing shelter reform bill S3019. By making a simple call or writing a quick email, you can do your part. To see how, please read the instructions in this link. The sooner we act, the sooner we’ll save more lives.

Why New Jersey Residents Must Support Animal Shelter Reform Bill S3019

Over the last three years I’ve documented New Jersey animal shelters routinely violating state law, abusing animals and killing pets for ridiculous reasons. During this time, I learned our state’s animal shelter system is broken and desperately needs reform. Recently, Senator Linda Greenstein introduced a bill, S3019, to “establish additional requirements for operation and oversight of animal shelters, pounds, kennels operating as shelters or pounds, and veterinary holding facilities.” Will S3019 improve New Jersey’s animal shelter system? Will more animals make it out of our shelters alive? Will shelters treat animals more humanely?

Bill Requires Shelters to Make Efforts to Save Lives

S3019 requires shelters and municipalities to conduct “community outreach” efforts to increase adoptions. Such efforts include using web sites and social media pages to promote adoptable animals. Furthermore, shelters must notify people who surrender animals, such as a good Samaritan who finds a stray animal and brings the pet to the shelter, prior to killing the animal if the person wants the shelter to contact them. In addition, the municipality where each shelter is located must post information about adoptable animals that is easily accessible to the public.

The bill makes shelters notify rescues, other shelters and interested individuals before killing an animal. Specifically, shelters must contact these organizations in writing or through electronic communication at least two business days before killing an animal. Unfortunately, the law allows shelter directors to still kill animals rescues and other shelters are willing to take if the shelter director determines an organization is “incapable of proper care for the animal.” While shelter directors should have that power when it comes to individuals, this provision provides regressive shelters a big loophole to kill animals other reputable groups want to save. Instead, the law should allow any 501(c)(3) rescue/other animal shelter to save an animal the shelter intends to kill unless the rescuing organization has pending animal cruelty charges, animal cruelty convictions, had its 501(c)(3) status revoked or seriously violated any rescue/shelter regulation.

S3019 also requires shelter directors to attest they made efforts to save an animal before killing the creature. Shelter directors must certify the following conditions apply:

  1. Animal was offered to rescues, other shelters and interested individuals and no suitable one wanted to save the animal.
  2. No cage space, whether permanent or temporary, exists (i.e. prevents killing with empty kennels)
  3. Animal cannot be housed with another animal
  4. No suitable foster homes exist
  5. No TNR programs in the state are willing to take a cat the shelter intends to kill

The bill also requires shelters to consider, study, and if possible, implement a TNR program. In addition, S3019 requires ACOs, NJ SPCA agents and officers and other law enforcement personnel to try and bring cats with no apparent owner to a shelter with a TNR program rather than a catch and kill facility.

Finally, the bill mandates animal shelters be open at least five hours on each weekday and one weekend day and stay open until at least 7 pm on one weekday. Given many New Jersey animal shelters are hardly open to the public, particularly when people are not working, this will greatly increase owner reclaims, adoptions, and transfers to rescues.

S3019 Requires Shelters to Try and Reunite Lost Pets with Families

The bill requires shelters to do three significant things to reunite more families with their lost pets. First, shelters must maintain continuously updated lost pet lists maintained by local law enforcement or other community groups (e.g. various lost pet Facebook pages covering each part of the state) and match the shelter’s animals with these lost pet listings. Once the shelter identifies an owner, the shelter must contact the owner. Second, shelters must post photographs and descriptions of stray animals with no identified owners on the internet (or in the local municipal clerk’s office if a shelter has no web site) along with the facility’s location, hours and contact information. Third, shelters must use universal microchip scanners, which can read all microchips, to identify and contact owners of lost pets. Thus, these required actions will increase the chances owners find their lost pets.

Bill Requires Humane Care

S3019 mandates shelters provide the following to their animals:

  1. Fresh water
  2. Appropriate food
  3. Environmental enrichment, such as socialization with staff or volunteers, toys and healthy treats
  4. Exercise outside of kennels at least once a day and more if required to maintain good condition and health and support recovery from diseases and injuries
  5. Prompt cage cleaning at least twice a day to prevent disease
  6. Not expose animals to spray from hoses and toxic cleaning agents
  7. Prompt and necessary veterinary care, including antibiotics, vaccines, fluid therapy, pain management and cage rest
  8. Specialized care for vulnerable animals, such as nursing females, infant animals, sick and injured animals, scared and reactive animals, older animals, and animals requiring therapeutic exercise
  9. Isolation of sick and diseased animals away from healthy ones
  10. Age appropriate vaccines that cover specific diseases upon intake to shelter
  11. Sick or diseased and injured animals must see a licensed veterinarian immediately and licensed veterinarian must document the animals’ condition, health and any health concerns

Thus, these provisions will make shelter animals healthier and more adoptable.

S3019 Requires Humane Euthanasia Techniques

The bill requires shelters do the following among other things when euthanizing animals:

  1. Only use licensed veterinarians or veterinarian technicians who are certified by the New Jersey Department of Health in humane euthanasia
  2. Use a properly ventilated and disinfected room
  3. No animal can see other animals, whether dead or alive, when sedated and euthanized
  4. Must lower animal after he or she is given the euthanasia drug onto a flat surface where the animal can lie or be held
  5. Shelter personnel must be with animal at all times during euthanasia

Shelters must verify an animal’s death by confirming no heartbeat, no respiration, pale bluish gums and tongue and no eye response to stimuli

Furthermore, S3019 allows shelters to immediately euthanize hopelessly suffering animals when a licensed veterinarian documents this diagnosis. Specifically, the veterinarian must document “the physical condition of the animal indicates that the animal cannot continue to live without severe, unremitting pain even with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care, or the animal has an illness that cannot be remediated with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care and will cause the animal continuing, unremitting pain.”

Animal Shelters Must Share Animal Intake and Outcome Statistics

Currently, New Jersey Animal Shelters voluntarily submit animal intake and outcome statistics annually to the New Jersey Department of Health. These statistics detail how animals arrived at the shelter (i.e. stray, owner surrender, confiscated by authorities, etc.) and how they left the shelter (returned to owner, adopted, euthanized, rescued, etc.). In addition, shelters report the population of dogs and cats and the facility’s capacity at the beginning and end of the year as well as the municipalities the shelter provides animal control and shelter services to. Based on my review of underlying records of several New Jersey animal shelters, these summary statistics are sometimes inaccurate.

S3019 requires shelters to report most of these statistics each year to the New Jersey Department of Health. This mandate would make these reports subject to inspection and could result in more accurate statistics. In addition, the bill requires the New Jersey Department of Health to publish these statistics, in total and broken out by shelter, on its web site. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health must post other information it gathers under this bill on its web site.

The bill should provide some additional data to improve transparency. Specifically, it should require the additional data shelters currently voluntarily report, such as the population of dogs and cats and the facility’s capacity at the beginning and end of the year as well as the municipalities the facility provides animal control and shelter services to. Additionally, in order to provide more transparency on how shelters handle local animals, the bill should require shelters to report the following:

  1. Number of animals broken out by species impounded from New York and Pennsylvania during the year
  2. Number of animals broken out by species impounded from other states during the year
  3. Number of New Jersey animals broken out by species euthanized during the year

S3019 also should add the required data in the Shelter Animal Count project. The Shelter Animal Count project is led by several major national animal welfare organizations, such as Maddie’s Fund, HSUS, ASPCA and Best Friends, as well as a number of other animal welfare organizations. Shelters voluntarily provide this data and the goal is to use these statistics to analyze national and regional animal sheltering trends. S3019 should add the following data reporting requirements from the Shelter Animal Count project:

  1. Break out data to show dogs and cats 5 months and younger and over 5 months of age
  2. Number of cats placed into barn cat and warehouse cats homes during the year
  3. Number of cats released through TNR programs if such cats were impounded for reasons other than TNR (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, etc.) during the year
  4. Number of animals broken out by species that died during the year
  5. Number of animals broken out by species that were lost during the year

Mandating the sharing of animal shelter statistics with the public will increase transparency and allow people to pressure animal shelters to save more lives.

New Jersey Department of Health Must Increase Oversight of Animal Shelters

Under the bill, the New Jersey Department of Health must educate shelter directors and certify these individuals are properly trained. The New Jersey Department of Health is required to use Rutgers University to provide this training. The training would cover state shelter and animal cruelty laws as well as shelter operations.

While this sounds good in practice, Senator Greenstein should amend the bill to make clear that this curriculum must emphasize life saving. If the training requires traditional animal sheltering practices, such as killing dogs and cats for silly “behavioral issues” or to reduce disease outbreaks (e.g. killing cats with ringworm), then this feature in the bill will increase rather than reduce shelter killing.

New Jersey animal shelters regularly violate state law due to the lack of regular high quality inspections. Currently, local health departments must inspect an animal shelter each year. Unfortunately, local health departments routinely perform poor quality inspections, and in some cases do not even perform the required inspections. While the New Jersey Department of Health has the right to inspect animal shelters and does an excellent job, it rarely inspects animal shelters. Over the last decade, the number of New Jersey Department of Health inspectors decreased from five to one and the state essentially stopped inspecting animal shelters. Thus, New Jersey desperately needs high quality inspections at its animal shelters.

S3019 requires at least three unannounced inspections each year. Unfortunately, the bill allows the New Jersey Department of Health to delegate these inspections to local health departments if the local health department inspectors complete a New Jersey Department of Health/Rutgers University training. While this training may educate these inspectors, local inspectors will not deal with enough shelters to gain the practical experience they need to conduct high quality inspections. Furthermore, local health departments typically either run a shelter or report to local governments that run or contract with animal shelters. In other words, these inspectors have an inherent conflict of interest that often results in poor quality inspections and shelters routinely violating state law. Thus, Senator Greenstein should amend the bill to require at least a majority, if not all three annual required inspections, be performed by the New Jersey Department of Health.

The bill also increases penalties for noncompliance with state shelter laws. Individuals and organizations that violate the law are subject to a fine of $100-$200 for the first violation, $200-$400 for the second violation, and $300-$800 for any subsequent violations. In addition, shelters having a third violation may have their license to operate suspended or revoked. Also, individuals and organizations conducting inhumane euthanasia face increased fines of $125 ($25 previously) for the first offense and $250 ($50 previously) for the second offense. Thus, shelters and employees would have a much greater incentive to comply with state law.

S3019 also provides funding mechanisms to help shelters comply with its provisions. All collected fines except those for illegal euthanasia would go towards the bill’s training programs and grants to animal control shelters for spay/neuter and other veterinary care. In addition, New Jersey taxpayers will have an option to voluntarily contribute money for these programs on their tax returns.

Animal Lovers Must Call and Write their State Senator and Assemblyman to Support S3019

While I think Senator Greenstein should make some changes to this bill, S3019 still is a game changer in its current form. Clearly, this bill will cause shelters to improve, save more lives and treat animals more humanely. In other words, animal lovers should support this bill wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, regressive shelters will try and kill this bill behind closed doors. Based on the history of similar legislation in other states, poorly performing shelters will contact elected officials to stop this bill. Many will not do so publicly since their positions are clearly unpopular. For example, many people believe Gloucester County Animal Shelter was behind Senator Sweeney’s recent quick kill bill. Given S3019 would force shelters to do more work and no major New Jersey shelters have publicly supported this bill to the best of my knowledge, many more regressive organizations will oppose this bill.

To make matters worse, some national animal welfare organizations will also likely oppose S3019. While Alley Cat Allies urged New Jersey residents to support S3019, other powerful animal welfare organizations will not do the same. For example, HSUS fought to stop similar bills in other states. In addition, HSUS has not made any public statements on S3019 despite urging New Jersey residents to support other animal bills in the state legislature. Simply put, HSUS should step up and support this bill or at least have the courage to make its position public.

Despite these influential adversaries, we have a secret weapon. The public overwhelmingly supports this bill. For example, 7 out of 10 Americans think shelters should not kill animals and only take the lives of hopelessly suffering animals or those that are too aggressive to place. In an animal friendly state like New Jersey, more people probably oppose shelter killing. Last month, the animal loving public stood up and forced Senator Sweeney to remove language from a bill allowing shelters to kill owner surrenders during the 7 day protection period. In fact, the public outrage was so strong that the change was made just two days after I posted about that bill.

So how can you make sure S3019 becomes state law? Call and/or write your local State Senator and Assemblyman and demand they support S3019, preferably with the changes outlined in this blog. Each municipality’s State Senator and Assemblyman are listed in the link below along with additional links containing their phone numbers.

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/districtnumbers.asp

Also, you can write your local State Senator and Assemblyman using the link below:

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/abcroster.asp

If there was ever a time for you to step up for the animals, this is it. Thousands of animals lives will be saved in the future if you make a quick call and/or write a short note to your elected representatives. Be on the right side of history and tell others to do the same.

Paterson’s Pathetic Pound – Part 2: Illegal Activities

In Part 1, I reported details on Paterson Animal Shelter’s high kill rate. In this blog, I will examine whether the shelter complies with state shelter laws. In addition, I will discuss ways the shelter can turn things around.

Illegal Killing During Seven Day Protection Period

Under state law, shelters cannot kill either owner surrendered or stray animals until seven days pass. The purpose of this law is to provide owners a chance to reclaim their lost pets and prevent shelters from immediately killing animals. In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during this seven day period if facilities meet both of the following conditions:

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

Paterson Animal Shelter illegally killed animals during the seven day protection period on a massive scale. In 2015, the shelter killed 125 cats and dogs, 47 cats and 78 dogs during this seven day protection period. Remarkably, Paterson Animal Shelter killed 71% of the cats and dogs, 98% of the cats and 61% of the dogs it killed in 2015 during this seven day period. Even worse, Paterson Animal Shelter killed 96 out of the 125 (77%) cats and dogs, 41 out of the 47 (87%) cats and 55 out of the 78 dogs (71%) it killed during the seven day protection period on the very first day. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter killed large numbers of animals during the seven day protection period and on the very day many of these animals entered the shelter.

Paterson Animal Shelter killed large percentages of owner surrendered animals during the seven day protection period. Specifically, Paterson Animal Shelter killed 23% of owner surrendered cats and dogs, 12% of owner surrendered cats and 33% of owner surrendered dogs during the seven day protection period.

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Paterson Animal Shelter had none of the legally required documentation that would allow it to euthanize these animals during the seven day protection period. While the shelter wrote things like “sick”, “grave condition”, and “tumor” in the records of some of these animals, the shelter provided no veterinary records documenting these animals were truly hopelessly suffering and that the veterinarian euthanized the animal as required by state law. In a small number of cases, the shelter mentioned some of the animals were taken to its outside veterinarian and euthanized, but this is not sufficient to comply with state law. Therefore, the shelter violated state shelter law even if some of these animals were hopelessly suffering.

The shelter killed many animals during the seven day protection period for convenience. In fact, Paterson Animal Shelter killed 27 of the 78 dogs (35%) during the seven day protection period for behavioral reasons. The shelter also killed 7 of the 47 cats (15%) for behavioral reasons that clearly indicated the animals were not hopelessly suffering.

Dog ID# 47962 was a 4 year old female Cane Corso surrendered by her owner to the Paterson Animal Shelter on December 6, 2015. Based on the shelter’s record keeping methodology described in the second image below, the date in the upper right corner indicates when the dog was killed. Paterson Animal Shelter killed this Cane Corso in the prime of her life after just 2 days and stated she was “very vicious” as the reason. Even if this dog was truly dangerous to people and would not respond to behavioral rehabilitation efforts (impossible to determine after just 2 days), a shelter can never kill a dog for behavioral reasons until seven days go by. Even worse, Paterson Animal Shelter illegally killed this dog after the New Jersey Department of Health sent out a directive on October 20, 2015 clarifying state law requiring shelters to not kill owner surrendered and stray animals during the seven day protection period. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter illegally killed this dog.

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Ghost was a 5 year old pit bull surrendered by his owner to the Paterson Animal Shelter on November 30, 2015. After just one day, Paterson Animal Shelter illegally killed Ghost for being “not friendly.”

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Dog ID# 48012 was a female mixed breed dog surrendered by her owner to the Paterson Animal Shelter on December 29, 2015. Despite state law prohibiting the killing of owner surrendered animals for seven days, Paterson Animal Shelter killed this dog on the day she arrived at the facility for being “not adoptable.”

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Cat ID# 47557 contained 2 white and gray cats that were surrendered by their owner to the Paterson Animal Shelter on July 24, 2015. Despite having an owner, Paterson Animal Shelter deemed both cats “wild” and “not friendly” and killed the two animals on the day they arrived at the facility per the euthanasia log below. Clearly, no one can determine if cats are feral, particularly ones that had an owner, as soon as they arrive at a shelter. However, even if these cats were truly feral, Paterson Animal Shelter cannot kill them until seven days pass. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter illegally killed these two cats.

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Dog ID# 47955 was a 1 year old pit bull surrendered to the Paterson Animal Shelter on December 2, 2015. Paterson Animal Shelter killed this young dog six days later for being “sick”, but did not provide any additional details. The shelter provided no veterinary records to prove this animal was hopelessly suffering for this or any other animal despite my OPRA requests for such information. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter appeared to illegally kill this young dog during the seven day protection period.

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Dog ID # 47630 was a 4 year old pit bull surrendered to the Paterson Animal Shelter on November 17, 2015. On that same day, Paterson Animal Shelter killed this dog for being “sick”, but provided no documentation that the dog was hopelessly suffering. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter appeared to illegally kill this dog during the seven day protection period.

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Cat ID # 48010 contained 5 cats that were surrendered by their owner to the Paterson Animal Shelter on December 29, 2015. The record also stated it had 6 cats, but I assume that was a mistake. The shelter’s euthanasia log shows the shelter killed all 5 cats on the day the animals arrived at the facility. Paterson Animal Shelter simply wrote “old” and “sick”, but provided no veterinary documents to prove the animals were hopelessly suffering and euthanized by a veterinarian. Most importantly, it is next to impossible that all 5 cats were hopelessly suffering. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter clearly violated the seven day protection period.

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Records Raise Serious Questions as to Whether Paterson Animal Shelter Humanely Euthanizes Animals 

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

Paterson Animal Shelter chooses to sedate rather than comfort animals prior to euthanasia. Specifically, the shelter injected ketamine or xylazine into nearly every animal to restrain them prior to administering a poison to kill the animals. The Humane Society of the United States Euthanasia Reference Manual states shelters should avoid using a preeuthanasia anesthetic and hold and comfort animals when appropriate:

When appropriate, it is often best practice to hold and comfort an animal for direct IV or IP injection of sodium pentobarbital rather than injecting a preeuthanasia anesthetic, but neglecting or refusing to use pre-euthanasia drugs when direct injection would cause the animal undue stress is equally ill-advised.

Paterson Animal Shelter’s decision to sedate virtually every animal instead of comforting these creatures speaks volumes about how the shelter feels about animals. While some animals are aggressive and require sedatives, surely a good number of these animals were not vicious or incapable of being comforted.

To make matters worse, Paterson Animal Shelter’s use of pure ketamine as a pre-euthanasia drug is cruel. 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.

Ketamine (available commercially as Ketaset, Ketaject, and others) is an anesthetic agent that renders an animal completely immobile. However, when used alone it can cause the muscles to become rigid, causing the body to  stiffen. It also stings so much upon injection that it creates a fairly pronounced reaction in most animals. Moreover, in large doses it can produce convulsions and seizures. For these reasons, ketamine is recommended for use only when combined with another drug (like xylazine to create PreMix, above), that tempers these negative effects

Paterson Animal Shelter’s use of another pre-euthanasia sedative, pure xylazine, is not humane and also puts shelter staff at risk. The Humane Society of the United States Euthanasia Reference Manual recommends shelters not use xylazine alone as it may cause vomiting, the animal to act violently to sudden noises and movements, the animal to bite, and makes it more difficult to inject the euthanasia drug.

Despite these advantages, xylazine is not recommended for use as a pre-euthanasia drug by itself because: a) it commonly causes vomiting, particularly in cats and in any animal that has recently eaten; b) though sedated, the animal remains conscious, and may react violently to sudden noises and movements; c) it may dangerously reduce the animal’s natural bite inhibition, making it potentially even more dangerous to handle; and d) it lowers the animal’s blood pressure to the point that it can be difficult to inject the sodium pentobarbital for euthanasia. For these reasons, xylazine is recommended for use only when combined with another drug (like ketamine to create PreMix, above), that tempers these negative effects.

Euthanasia and Intake and Disposition Records Do Not Comply With State Law

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.

Establish and maintain, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.13, euthanasia records that contain the body weight and dosage of all euthanasia, immobilizing, and tranquilizing agents administered to each animal.

Many of Paterson Animal Shelter’s euthanasia logs failed to document the weight of the animals killed/euthanized. Additionally, many of the weights listed had suspiciously round numbers like 20 pounds, 25 pounds, 70 pounds, etc. that possibly point to shelter staff estimating weights. If animals received too small of a dose of euthanasia drugs due to not being weighed, it is possible some animals were dumped or put into an incinerator still alive.

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N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13(a) requires shelters keep intake and disposition records containing the following information for each animal the facility impounds:

There shall be kept at each kennel, pet shop, shelter or pound a record of all animals received and/or disposed of. Such record shall state the date each animal was received, description of animal, license number, breed, age and sex; name and address of person from whom acquired; date euthanized and method, or name and address of person to whom sold or otherwise transferred.

Most of Paterson Animal Shelter’s intake and disposition records did not include the animal’s age. Additionally, most of the shelter’s cat intake and disposition records also did not list the animal’s breed. Finally, many of the shelter’s records contained multiple animals on the same record under the same ID number. Therefore, Paterson Animal Shelter did not retain all the required information for each impounded animal as the New Jersey Department of Health explained in its August 26, 2009 inspection report on Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

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Shelter Lacks Any Records Proving it Provides Veterinary Care and Has a Disease Control Program

Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.9(d), animal shelters must provide “at least prompt basic veterinary care” to “sick, diseased, injured or lame animals.” In practice, New Jersey Department of Health inspectors require shelters to retain veterinary records to prove the shelter complies with this law.

Paterson Animal Shelter did not maintain veterinary records during 2015. Despite my repeated OPRA requests, the shelter stated it had no veterinary records at the shelter or with its outside veterinarian.

Furthermore, Paterson Animal Shelter’s veterinarian invoices listed no explanation for the services performed. Specifically, Blue Cross Dog and Cat Hospital charged the City of Paterson $2,000 a month for unknown services. Based on both the shelter and veterinarian providing me no medical records, I have to assume the City of Paterson pays this veterinarian to act as the supervising veterinarian, to kill animals, and do little else.

As a result of Paterson Animal Shelter’s lack of any veterinary records, the shelter appears to provide little to no veterinary care to its animals other than killing.

Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.9(a), shelters “shall establish and maintain a program of disease control and adequate health care (program) under the supervision and assistance of a doctor of veterinary medicine.” Furthermore, “the program shall address the physical and psychological well-being of animals at the facility, including stress-induced behaviors, such as repetitious behavior or vocalizations, from auditory, visual, and olfactory stimuli.” Finally, the supervising veterinarian must sign a form certifying such a program is in place. Thus, animal shelters must develop a program to address physical and mental disease at their facilities.

Paterson Animal Shelter has no written policies and procedures. Specifically, the City of Paterson’s response to my request for such policies and procedures stated the shelter follows the state’s shelter laws. In other words, the shelter has no written disease control program let alone other policies, such as intake, adoption, and rescue. Frankly, it is stunning that the animal shelter in the state’s third largest city has no documented policies.

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Shelter May Violate Operating Hours Law

Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.10(b), an animal control shelter must have public access hours to allow people to reclaim their lost pets. The law states “the hours for public access shall be at least two hours each business day Monday through through Friday and two hours Saturday or Sunday, excluding legal holidays.”

Paterson Animal Shelter’s compliance with the law is questionable. On weekends, the shelter is only open by appointment only from 9 am to 3 pm. Based on my interpretation of the law, being open by appointment only on weekends does not meet the public access requirement. Regardless, any shelter requiring people make an appointment to visit the facility on weekends is not serious about saving lives. Similarly, the shelter’s very limited weekday hours, which are limited to two hours in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, make it extremely difficult for working people to reclaim, rescue or adopt an animal.

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Paterson Division of Health Fails to Perform Proper Annual Shelter Inspections

Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.2(b), the local health authority must inspect an animal shelter each year and issue a certificate indicating the shelter complies with state shelter laws. After requesting the Paterson Division of Health’s 2014, 2015 and 2016 Paterson Animal Shelter inspection reports, the City of Paterson could only provide a June 15, 2015 inspection report. Subsequent to my request, the Paterson Division of Health conducted its 2016 inspection on November 29, but this inspection occurred five and half months after the required deadline for the annual inspection (i.e. 2016 inspection occurred seventeen and half months after the 2015 inspection). Presumably, the Paterson Division of Health did not inspect the Paterson Animal Shelter in 2014 and the shelter therefore should not have had a license to operate during 2014 and for five and half months in both 2015 and 2016.

The Paterson Division of Health’s 2015 and 2016 inspection reports provide no confidence that the shelter complies with state shelter laws. The 2015 inspection, which took just an hour and half, missed all the shelter’s illegal killing of animals during the seven day protection period, the lack of a documented disease control program and veterinary records, missing required information in the intake and disposition and euthanasia records, and possible violations of the public operating hours requirement on weekends. In fact, the inspection report’s only comment stated “No Chapter 23A violations observed at the time of this inspection.” Similarly, the 2016 inspection report also only wrote essentially the same comment. Thus, the Paterson Division of Health failed to do even the most basic inspection.

Local health departments typically fail to properly inspect animal shelters. Under New Jersey animal shelter law, local health departments must inspect animal shelters each year. In reality these entities are ill-equipped to inspect animal shelters. Local health departments are used to inspecting places, such as restaurants, which are far different than animal shelters. Furthermore, the same health department that inspects Paterson Animal Shelter is under the same municipal government as the animal shelter. Clearly, this is a conflict of interest and recent experience in the state shows it plays out in poor quality inspections.

Passaic County SPCA Fails to Crack Down on Illegal Killing

The Passaic County SPCA has jurisdiction over the shelter and can enforce animal cruelty laws. For example, the Passaic County SPCA could potentially file animal cruelty charges related to the shelter illegally killing certain animals during the seven day protection period. Stuart Goldman, who is the former President and Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer for the Monmouth County SPCA, recently brought such a case alleging this against the Gloucester County Animal Shelter.

The Passaic County SPCA has an inherent conflict of interest in enforcing animal cruelty laws against the Paterson Animal Shelter. The Paterson Animal Shelter Chief Animal Control Officer, John Decando, also is a law enforcement officer with the Passaic County SPCA. Thus, the Passaic County SPCA’s lack of action is not surprising.

Shelter Budget Reflects Misguided Priorities

Paterson spends almost its entire shelter budget on employee salaries. The shelter’s 2015 budget reveals the Paterson Animal Shelter allocated $270,234 for its ACO salaries and $25,000 for a part-time veterinarian. Shockingly, 93% of the shelter’s budget went to pay the shelter’s ACOs and its shelter veterinarian (who provided no details on the services he performed in 2015). Even worse, virtually none of the remaining $23,900 in the shelter’s budget seems to go to saving lives. For example, $5,200 goes to janitor services and another $7,000 is allocated to a “clothing allowance.” One has to wonder why ACOs need $7,000 to buy clothes? Thus, the Paterson Animal Shelter appears to allocate virtually no money to saving the animals the public expects it to save.

Paterson Animal Shelter has enough funds to save lives. While the Paterson Animal Shelter’s budget is not huge, it still received $327 per dog and cat impounded during 2015 ($252 per dog and cat using the facility’s 2015 Shelter/Pound Annual Report animal intake figures). As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter, which also serves an impoverished area, received $242 per dog and cat and saved 98% of the 402 dogs and 488 cats it took in during 2015. In contrast to Paterson Animal Shelter, Chippewa County Animal Shelter relies heavily on volunteer and foster programs to save lives.

2015-paterson-animal-shelter-budget

Shelter Must Comply with State Law

The Paterson Animal Shelter has some positive things going for it. Many times the shelter waived fees for people surrendering as well as reclaiming animals due to hardships. Additionally, the shelter has low owner reclaims fees that help increase the chance animals are returned to owners. Finally, the shelter worked very closely with Second Chance Pet Adoption League and Start II rescue to save many animals.

That being said, Paterson Animal Shelter has significant problems that it must immediately address to comply with state law. Paterson Animal Shelter must cease killing animals, whether stray or owner surrenders, during the seven day protection period unless a veterinarian documents why the animals are hopelessly suffering and that veterinarian euthanizes the animal. The shelter and its veterinarian must create a written disease control program addressing both the physical and mental needs of its animals. Furthermore, the shelter must provide veterinary care to animals at the shelter and retain all records to document it is doing so. Also, the shelter must develop specific euthanasia protocols, which must include weighing animals and using recommended euthanasia procedures in the Humane Society of United State Euthanasia Reference Manual. Finally, Paterson Animal Shelter must include all required animal information, such as age and breed, in its intake and disposition records and remain open for at least two hours on weekends. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter must do many things to comply with the bare minimum standards in state shelter laws.

Chief Animal Control Officer Must Turn Shelter Around or Resign

Chief ACO, John DeCando, has been the face of the Paterson Animal Shelter for more than four decades. Mr. DeCando has led the animal shelter since 1975 and often is covered in the media. Unfortunately, Mr. DeCando only appears to contact the media to bring the spotlight on himself. For example, he frequently gives interviews about animal cruelty cases portraying himself as a hero, but to my knowledge never uses the media to save animals at his shelter.

John DeCando came under fire in recent years for collecting huge sums of money. From 2006 to 2010, Mr. DeCando claimed he was on call after hours and entitled to double time pay totaling $144,000 despite not doing any actual work approximately 80% of the time. Even worse, John DeCando’s own union president stated Mr. DeCando was not entitled to this pay. In fact, John DeCando’s subordinates only logged less than a month of this overtime during this five year period suggesting Mr. DeCando kept this sweet money for almost nothing deal entirely for himself. One has to wonder how many dogs, cats and wild animals could have received veterinary care with John DeCando’s $144,000 windfall?

While John DeCando’s failures at the Paterson Animal Shelter are serious, I do think Paterson should give him the opportunity to turn the shelter around. Mr. DeCando is charismatic and has the ability to run the shelter at a high level if he chooses to do so. He also has done some good things, such as waiving fees in hardship cases. Also, city officials do not seem to help him much with the shelter. As such, Paterson’s elected officials should give John DeCando a reasonable period of time to bring the shelter into compliance with state law and enact progressive lifesaving policies to increase the shelter’s dog live release rate to at least 95% and its cat live release rate to 92% or higher.

Paterson Animal Shelter Must Implement Lifesaving Policies

Paterson Animal Shelter should create a pet surrender prevention program to reduce intake at this space constrained facility. Nearly 40% of the dogs and more than 50% of the cats arriving at Paterson Animal Shelter were surrendered by their owners. If the shelter is coercing owners, who love their animals, to surrender their pets, then the shelter needs to cease doing so. Ideally, Paterson Animal Shelter would reach out to a group like Downtown Dog Rescue, which runs a highly successful pet surrender prevention program on behalf of the South Los Angeles City Shelter and three other municipal shelters, to learn how it can recruit a private organization to volunteer at the Paterson Animal Shelter to help families keep their pets. In 2015, Downtown Dog Rescue kept 1,172 pets, including 1,063 dogs and 108 cats, out of the South Los Angeles Shelter at an average cost per animal ranging from $50 to $150. Downtown Dog Rescue helps struggling pet owners pay fees, fines, and pet care costs and fix broken fences and dog houses. Paterson Animal Shelter can also reach out to national organizations, such as the ASPCA, Best Friends and HSUS, to seek guidance on recruiting such an organization as well as obtaining any additional funding that may entice a private group to run a shelter intervention program.

Paterson Animal Shelter can also move towards managed intake for owner surrenders. Under a managed intake program, a shelter uses various techniques to slow down and reduce intake. For example, a shelter will typically require owners to wait for a short period of time, such as a week, or make an appointment to surrender an animal. At the same time, the shelter will offer advice and provide materials to solve various pet problems. Often times, pet owners reevaluate their decision and keep the animal during the short wait period. However, the shelter must always immediately take in an animal the pet owner refuses to keep during this short period or if the pet is in a dangerous situation. As a result of this program, Lynchburg Humane Society found 60% of people wanting to surrender their pets ended up keeping their animal or rehomed the animal themselves with no increase in pet abandonment. Similarly, Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City achieved a live release rate of around 90% after instituting an appointment program.

The City of Paterson must ensure all animals are vaccinated upon arriving at the shelter to reduce the risk of disease. In the case of owner surrenders, the shelter should vaccinate the animals prior to the waiting period discussed above to ensure the animal has time to build immunity. In the end, this small investment will save the shelter money, particularly since it will need to hold animals longer to comply with state law.

The City of Paterson must shift money from animal control to lifesaving and heavily rely on volunteers. Given virtually all of the shelter’s budget is paid to ACOs, the shelter should reallocate a substantial portion of these funds to actually care for animals. Additionally, the shelter should recruit a “Friends” group to help raise funds for the shelter. To assist the effort, the City of Paterson should create a clear plan to reach a 90% plus live release rate and attain no kill status. Furthermore, the shelter should actively recruit volunteers to help in all aspects of caring for animals and getting those pets quickly into good homes. Simply having a single rescue make pleas to pull dogs from an unnamed shelter is not enough.

The shelter must stay open for many more hours to allow people to save animals. Specifically, the shelter must stay open seven days a week for at least six hours each day and include weekday evening hours. Simply put, people cannot reclaim, rescue or adopt dogs and cats if the shelter is often closed.

Paterson Animal Shelter must create a high volume adoption program. Currently, people can adopt unaltered and unvaccinated animals for $28, but the shelter makes no effort to market animals. Unsurprisingly, Paterson Animal Shelter only adopted out 3 cats and 15 dogs in 2015. Obviously, the shelter must vaccinate and alter all animals it adopts out. Furthermore, it should do so immediately for owner surrenders and right after the hold period for strays. The shelter can use volunteers to take attractive photos and videos, write engaging profiles, and market the animals on social media and adoption web sites. Additionally, John DeCando, who is very savvy with the media, should use his connections to frequently promote adoption, particularly when the facility is at near capacity.

Paterson Animal Shelter and nearby facilities should create a coalition to rescue dogs and cats. Based on my recent analyses on New Jersey animal shelter performance for dogs and cats, Paterson Animal Shelter would still need to send a substantial number of animals to rescues or other shelters even if it adopts out animals at a good rate. Specifically, Paterson Animal Shelter should have sent 232 dogs and 156 cats to rescues and/or other facilities in 2015. While Paterson Animal Shelter exceeded those goals, placing so many animals with rescues puts an unfair burden on these cash-strapped groups and also prevents rescues from saving animals from other shelters. As a result, other nearby shelters should step up and take animals from Paterson Animal Shelter after the facility runs out of space.

Paterson Animal Shelter can team up with a number of nearby shelters to save all of the facility’s healthy and treatable animals. If other nearby shelters perform as they should and quickly move animals out of their facilities, they can easily save Paterson Animal Shelter’s animals. For example, the nearby Wayne Animal Shelter, Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge and Pequannock Animal Shelter could save all healthy and treatable dogs that the Paterson Animal Shelter lacks the space to adopt out. Similarly, both Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge or Wayne Animal Shelter could single-handedly rescue all of the cats that Paterson Animal Shelter lacks the space to adopt out. Furthermore, many other nearby shelters could also help as well. Thus, Paterson Animal Shelter and nearby animal shelters can easily end the killing in the area.

Recently, Paterson Mayor, Joey Torres, expressed interest in moving the shelter to a more accessible location, expanding it, and adopting out animals. While I have doubts as to whether Paterson has the funding to build a proper animal shelter, these remarks do indicate the city’s elected officials could be receptive to turning this shelter around.

The City of Paterson must change course at its shelter. In an impoverished city with widespread corruption at the highest levels of government, Paterson desperately needs something to inspire residents. Turning around the Paterson Animal Shelter with local residents playing a key role fits the bill. Allowing youth, working families and senior citizens the opportunity to build something wonderful helps people as much as the animals they are caring for. If Paterson’s elected officials do turn this shelter around, they will not only help their animals and voters, but also their own political careers. Will they do the right thing?