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

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

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

Latest AHS-Newark Inspection Report Even Worse Than Prior Ones

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

AHS-Newark Had No Supervising Veterinarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHS-Newark Fails to Properly Clean and Disinfect Its Facility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHS-Newark Fails to Provide Proper Veterinary Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelter Continues to House Animals in Inhumane Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concerns About Inhumane Euthanasia

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

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

AHS-Newark’s Fails to Keep Proper Animal Records

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

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

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

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

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

Inspection Report Proves AHS Management Cannot Run Shelter Properly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People Must Continue to Pressure Authorities to Act

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

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

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

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

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City of Newark Tries to Sweep Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s Problems Under the Rug

Last August, the New Jersey Department of Health and the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected Associated Humane Societies-Newark. The inspection report, which the state health department appeared to write, documented AHS-Newark violating state law on a massive scale. Some of the inspection report’s key findings were as follows:

  • Violations were so numerous that the shelter could not receive a license to operate
  • Illegal killing of animals during seven day protection period
  • Improper euthanasia records potentially indicating such procedures were inhumane
  • Dead animals left like trash outside near enclosures used by live dogs
  • Live skunk left in a carrier covered by a blanket in the hot sun next to dead animals
  • Shelter did not have a proper disease control program
  • Sick animals not properly isolated from healthy ones
  • Some animals did not receive veterinary care
  • Feral cats left in a filthy room in inhumane conditions
  • Animals housed in dangerous conditions that could injure them
  • Dogs housed in terrible conditions in the shelter’s infamous basement

Subsequent to the Augest 22, 2017 inspection, the two heath departments inspected AHS-Newark on September 26, 2017 and found numerous problems still existed.

Since the Sepetember 26, 2017 inspection, what kind of job has the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness done to make sure AHS-Newark complies with state law? What does this agency’s past history tell us about its ability to enforce the state’s shelter laws? Can we trust the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness to do the right thing?

Newark Department of Health’s History of Inadequate Inspections

Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2, local health authorities must inspect animal shelters each year to ensure these facilities comply with state laws. The City of Newark’s Department of Health and Community Wellness is the local agency responsible for inspecting AHS-Newark. The New Jersey Department of Health also has the right to inspect animal shelters.

Newark’s Department of Health and Community Wellness performed inadequate inspections for many years. On December 5, 2008, the City of Newark inspected AHS-Newark and issued a “Satisfactory” rating. While the inspection report noted some violations, the virtually illegible comments in the report were very limited. In July 2009, the New Jersey Department of Health inspected AHS-Newark and found shocking violations. While I could write a series of blogs on this inspection, the following photos show the horrific conditions at the shelter:

6 Puppy with wounded ears

13 Dogs in feces

24 Closeup of Mange Dog

The City of Newark also failed to properly inspect AHS-Newark in 2011. On January 18, 2011, the City of Newark stated AHS-Newark fixed all the violations from a November 2010 inspection and issued a satisfactory rating. However, a New Jersey Department of Health inspection less than two months later found terrible problems. The state 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.

The following photos were taken during the 2011 inspection:

AHS 2011 Insepction Sick Rottie

AHS 2011 Inspection Cakes on Food 2

AHS 2011 Inspection Dog Near Feces in Drain

AHS 2011 Inspection Dog Under Roof Construction

The City of Newark’s inspection reports from 2011 through 2016 do not inspire confidence. On January 7, 2012, the City of Newark inspected AHS-Newark and did not use a proper shelter inspection form. In fact, the City of Newark appeared to use a restaurant inspection form and barely wrote anything in the report. The City of Newark inspected AHS-Newark on March 6, 2013 and again barely wrote anything in its report with a “Satisfactory” rating. Similarly, the City of Newark inspected AHS-Newark on April 9, 2014 and hardly wrote anything in its report. Specifically, the comments stated the shelter used an exterminator, “checked all facilities” and “conditions are satisfactory.” In 2015, the City of Newark issued a single page report with “Satisfactory” checked off. After I began posting AHS-Newark records in 2015 and someone else obtained a number of these inspection reports during that year, the City of Newark issued a marginally better report in 2016. The City of Newark wrote several very short bullet points about the inspection and then checked off a number of items on a checklist. Given AHS-Newark is New Jersey’s largest animal shelter and the history of issues at this facility, I’d expect the City of Newark’s inspector to provide detailed comments on the shelter’s compliance with each provision of applicable state law.

Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness Passes AHS-Newark with Flying Colors One Month Before Horrific State Health Department Inspection

The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness gave AHS-Newark a “Satisfactory” rating in a July 19, 2017 inspection report. Remarkably, 34 days later, the New Jersey Department of Health conducted a six hour inspection and found AHS-Newark violating so many provisions of state law that the facility could not receive a license. How on earth can two inspection agencies come up with such different results? The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness is either incompetent or corrupt or both.

Newark Health Dept. 7.19.17 AHS-Newark Inspection Part 2.jpg

Emails Reveal City of Newark’s Intentions

The City’s of Newark’s Manager of Environmental Health, which is the department that conducts inspections, initially expressed deep concerns about AHS-Newark. On September 6, 2017, Michael Wlison, City of Newark Manager of Environmental Health, sent an email to Solomon Jones, City of Newark Animal Control Director, stating the August 22, 2017 inspection found “deplorable conditions” at AHS-Newark and AHS-Newark violated their agreement with the city.

Newark Health Department Email 9.6.17 - AHS-Newark Deplorable

Mr. Wilson sent an email uncovering the City of Newark’s intentions 13 days later to the Newark Health Officer. In the email, Michael Wilson mentions he talked with Choi. Based on emails I received, this apparently is Choi Chuen, the City of Newark’s Deputy Chief of Staff. According to Michael Wilson, Choi Chuen stated a “feasibility study” found it was cheaper for the City of Newark to contract with AHS-Newark than to build and operate their own shelter. Additionally, Michael Wilson mentioned unnamed “political issues” in what seemed as a justification to keep contracting with AHS-Newark.

Ironically, Michael Wilson correctly pointed out the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness has a conflict of interest in that it inspects a shelter the City of Newark contracts with. In other words, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness is under pressure to give AHS-Newark a pass to reduce costs and avoid “political issues.”

Finally, Michael Wilson suggests the Newark Health Officer and Newark Deputy Chief of Staff meet to discuss AHS-Newark prior to meeting with the NJ SPCA (i.e. “Frank Rizzo”) and the New Jersey Department of Health (i.e. “the State”). Additional emails revealed these individuals tried to arrange this internal Newark government meeting.

Newark Email on Feasability of Building a New Shelter

Newark Health Department Conducts Inspection That Miraculously Finds AHS-Newark Significantly Improving

The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected AHS-Newark on October 4, 2017 without the New Jersey Department of Health and claimed AHS-Newark fixed many of the problems, but still did not give AHS-Newark a license. In addition, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness did not issue any summonses to AHS-Newark. However, the New Jersey Department of Health’s joint September 26, 2017 inspection report found AHS-Newark having far more problems. Did AHS-Newark suddenly improve after these nine days? One look at the new AHS-Newark protocols, many of which are a few single sentence set of bullet points, shows this remediation effort is a joke.

Frankly, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellnesses’ history of failing to properly inspect AHS-Newark, its admitted conflict of interest, and the City of Newark’s financial and political incentives makes me seriously doubt the validity of this inspection. Simply put, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness has no credibility and people should not attribute any value to its inspection reports.

Given the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness is intent on giving AHS-Newark a free pass to do what it pleases again, the New Jersey Department of Health must take over this inspection and regulatory process. As I previously stated, the New Jersey Department of Health must start legal proceedings to shut AHS-Newark down unless Roseann Trezza, all other AHS executives and the entire AHS Board of Directors resign. Additionally, the City of Newark and all the other contracting municipalities must find a new organization to house their animals or run such a facility themselves. At best, AHS-Newark will make inadequate changes that will go away after the state health department stops following up. Simply put, AHS-Newark cannot operate properly with its current leadership.

Animal Advocates Must Continue to Demand for Change

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

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

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

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

2016 New Jersey Animal Shelter Statistics Reveal Many High Kill Shelters

11/1/17 Update: An earlier version of this blog had the Beginning Missing Cats table erroneously list Tabby’s Place-Cat Sanctuary as having 112 missing cats. That shelter had no Beginning Missing Cats. That table is now corrected.

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog discussing decreased killing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2016. This blog will explore the 2016 statistics in more detail and assess the current status of the state’s animal shelters.

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last month, I shared the 2016 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases/other) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing/other outcome). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2016 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link. You can also view each “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” at this link.

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

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 60 out of 99 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 64 out of 98 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. 35 of the 60 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 37 of the 64 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year than reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, these shelters may have not recorded outcomes, such as animals who were killed, died, or went missing. To put it another way, 1,424 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 1,424 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in 2016.

Even worse, a number of animal shelters reported having a different number of animals at the end of 2015 and at the beginning of 2016. Obviously, shelters should report the same number of animals at the end of the prior year and the start of the current year. However, 40 of 99 shelters reported different numbers of dogs at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. Similarly, 44 of 98 shelters reported different numbers of cats at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. The worst offenders are listed in the tables below:

2016 Beginning Missing Dogs.jpg

2016 Beginning Missing Cats

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescue properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, intake and disposition records I reviewed at both of these shelters in recent years revealed virtually all “adopted” animals are actually rescued. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking on from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the data reporting mandatory for animal shelters as the shelter reform bill, S3019, does along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

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

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

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

2016 Dog and Cat Stats

The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake may depress the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. However, that did not happen this year primarily due to several shelters reporting significantly more outcomes than intake. Associated Humane Societies-Newark had the largest discrepancy and it was likely due to the shelter reporting incorrect numbers. Calculating the kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake caused the dog kill rate to go from 8.9% to 8.7% and the cat kill rate to change from 25.4% to 24.8%.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility who then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 8.7% to 9.5% and the cat kill rate from 24.8%% to 26.8%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. In the past, I’ve labeled this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. Unfortunately, the Shelter/Pound Annual Report includes animals who died or went missing in the “Other” outcome category. The “Other” category contains positive live releases, such as TNR for cats, at a few shelters. While including the “Other” category in the death rate for most shelters is appropriate (i.e. those facilities that don’t do TNR or don’t include cats released through TNR programs in “Other” outcomes), I’m no longer doing this due to an increasing number of shelters implementing TNR. Instead, I calculated the kill rate by subtracting out “Other” outcomes from total outcomes. If a shelter specifies the number of animals included in “Other” that left the shelter alive, I count this as “Other Live Release” and do not back these amounts out of total outcomes. After making this adjustment, the dog kill rate increases from 9.5% to 9.6% and the cat kill rate rises from 26.8% to 28.5%. For those interested in seeing the estimated death rates, I included them in the Appendix to my last blog as well as the supporting spreadsheet.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports to estimate the local kill rate except for St. Hubert’s. Since St. Hubert’s subsequently transfers many of these animals to other shelters, I only subtract out the number of dogs St. Hubert’s rescues from out of state less the number of dogs it transfers to other shelters. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog kill rate from 9.6% to 11.9% and the state cat death rate from 28.5% to 28.6%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local kill rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog kill rate from 11.9% to 14.1% and the maximum potential state cat kill rate from 28.6% to 31.6%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a kill rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential kill rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed kill rate and maximum potential kill rate for dogs is 13.4% and 22.2%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 30.8% kill rate and a 34.3% maximum potential kill rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than the state summary report suggests.

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

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

2016 Dog Kill Rate Less Other V2

2016 Cat Kill Rate Less Other

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

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters killed the most animals:

2016 Dogs Killed

2016 Cats Killed.jpg

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

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

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

Unaccounted for Dogs.jpg

Unaccounted for Cats.jpg

Dog and cat kill rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as killed. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2016, facilities with the highest dog and cat kill rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

2016 Dog Maximum Potential Kill Rate

2016 Cat Maximum Potential Kill Rate

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

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more dogs from out of state than from other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters transferred in 7,948 dogs from out of state animal shelters and only rescued 2,669 dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. However, St. Hubert’s frequently transfers a substantial number of its transports quickly to its partners in New Jersey and other states. If I back these out of the transports figure, it decreases from 7,948 dogs to 6,117 dogs. As a comparison, the total and adjusted transports in 2015 were 5,350 dogs and 5,004 dogs. While the state’s local kill rate decreased in 2016, it is likely the local kill rate would have decreased by more if not for the massive number of out of state transports.

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

Dogs Transported In

Return to Owner Rates Better Than Average at Most Shelters

Return to owners (“RTO”) rates are one of the positive results from this analysis. Overall, the dog and cat RTO rates of 56% and 10% are several times the national average. However, several shelters included cats placed into TNR programs as owner reclaims and therefore overstated their cat reclaim rates. As I noted in my blog on reuniting lost pets with owners, return to owner rates are highly correlated with socioeconomic status. Wealthier people likely have more resources/knowledge to license and microchip their dogs. Similarly, people with greater incomes are more likely to afford reclaim fees or ransom payments to animal shelters. New Jersey’s RTO rates for dogs clearly fit this pattern with shelters serving wealthy towns returning most stray dogs to owners while certain urban shelters are returning a much lower percentage of lost dogs to owners. Clearly, we need to help people in urban areas get microchips and ID tags on their dogs. Additionally, we need to create pet help desks at shelters in these cities to help people pay the reclaim fees, which are often mandated by the cities themselves, when necessary. The statewide cat reclaim rate, like figures from across the nation, is still very low and suggests shelters need to figure out better ways to get lost cats back to their families.

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

Non-Reclaimed Dog Kill Rate

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

Max Potential Nonreclaimed Kill Rate.jpg

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2016, only 46% of dog and 65% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog capacity utilization to 47%. While this adjustment did increase the cat population to a level exceeding capacity, it is highly unlikely this happened in reality. Shelter inspection reports I’ve reviewed did not reveal significantly larger dog and cat populations in the summer and winter months. This is likely due to the influx of highly adoptable kittens having short lengths of stay and shelters killing cats with empty cages.

Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Space Usage Dogs.jpg

Space Usage Cats

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

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 8.5 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14-30 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and the Humane Society of the United States. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

 

New Jersey Animal Shelter Statistics Improve in 2016

In 2015, New Jersey animal shelter statistics significantly improved. More cats left the state’s shelters alive, but the dog live release rate increased primarily due to lower animal intake. While the decrease in the kill rate in 2015 was great news, it might not be sustainable if shelters take in more animals.

How did New Jersey animal shelters perform in 2016 compared to 2015? What caused these changes? What shelters had positive and negative impacts on the state’s kill rate in 2016?

Killing Decreases at a Slower Rate in 2016

The table below summarizes the dog statistics in 2016 and 2015. To see how I calculate the various metrics, please review the footnotes in this link and my blog analyzing the 2015 statistics. You can view the 2016 statistics here.

This year I replaced the “death rate” metrics with “kill rate less other” ones. More shelters are including cats released into TNR programs in the other outcomes category. Therefore, counting other outcomes as died or missing may no longer be appropriate for cats. As such, I subtracted other outcomes from total outcomes to calculate a kill rate based on known outcomes. In order to be consistent, I also used this calculation for dogs. To see the “death rate” calculations, please look in the Appendix at the end of this blog. The year over year changes between the “kill rate less other” and “death rate” calculations were not significantly different.

All dog and cat statistics improved in 2016 verses 2015. On the positive side, the kill rate for non-reclaimed dogs decreased more than the other kill rates. Since high reclaim rates sometimes mask killing of dogs at shelters, this is good news. On the other hand, the much more modest improvement in the maximum potential kill rate metrics are concerning. Since more animals were unaccounted for in 2016 than 2015, this could indicate shelters killed animals they did not include in their statistics.

2016 Verses 2015 Dog Kill Rates.jpg

2016 Verses 2015 Cat Kill Rates

All of these metrics improved at much slower rate in 2016 compared to 2015. Overall, the dog kill rate adjusted for New Jersey transfers in 2016 only decreased at 57% of the rate as in 2015 (1.7% verses 3.0% decrease). Similarly, the cat kill rate adjusted for New Jersey transfers only decreased at 54% of the rate as in 2015 (3.7% verses 6.9% decrease). Since the year over year change in the death rate metrics in the Appendix were very similar to the kill rate data in the tables above, we can compare those death rate tables to the same data from my blog from last year. The maximum local death rate for dogs in 2016 decreased at just 10% (0.5% decrease in 2016 and 5.2% drop in 2015) of the rate in 2015. For cats, this metric decreased at just 16% of the rate in 2015 (1.6% decrease in 2016 and 9.8% drop in 2015). Finally, the non-reclaimed dog death rate decreased at 72% of the rate in 2015 (2.8% decrease in 2016 and 3.9% decrease in 2015) while the non-reclaimed cat death rate dropped by 34% of the rate in 2015 (2.4% decrease in 2016 verses 7.1% decrease in 2015).

While the decreased rate of improvement in 2016 is disappointing, this may be due to an unusually large drop in killing in 2015. In 2016, both the dog and cat kill rates adjusted for New Jersey transfers decreased more than these metrics did in 2014 (dogs: 1.7% verses 0.3% decrease; cats: 3.7% verses 3.4% decrease).

Positive Outcomes Drive Increased Life Saving

New Jersey animal shelters significantly increased the number of dogs leaving their facilities alive in 2016. Despite animal intake increasing (i.e. reflected in 3,619 more dog outcomes and a 12% rise from 2015), New Jersey animal shelters reported killing 242 fewer dogs. Even if we count “other” outcomes as died or missing, 219 fewer dogs lost their lives in 2016. Adoptions and transfers to rescues increased by 1,873 dogs or 12% and 1,731 dogs or 62%. While dogs transported in accounts for some of the increased adoptions, local adoptions still increased by 700 dogs.

2016 Vs 2015 Dog Outcomes.jpg

Even if I exclude St. Hubert’s, which transports many dogs in and quickly transports those dogs out (i.e. inflating total outcomes and sent to rescue amounts), the general trend remains the same.

2016 Vs 2015 Dog Outcomes Excluding St. Hubert'sThe following shelters contributed most to the decrease in the statewide dog kill rate.

2016 Verses 2015 Dog Kill Rate Largest Impacts.jpg

The table below provides insight as to why these shelters decreased the statewide dog kill rate the most. As you can see, all the shelters, which are relatively large, had kill rates over 10% in 2015 and all except Associated Humane Societies-Newark reported decreases in those kill rates. All the shelters except for Burlington County Animal Shelter, AHS-Newark and Cumberland County SPCA had fewer outcomes primarily due to decreased dog intake. Since outcomes and intake increased overall in the state and these facilities have above average kill rates, these shelters had a smaller impact on the state’s dog kill rate in 2016. This also applies to AHS-Newark since its dog outcomes were essentially flat last year.

2016 Large Decrease in Dog Kill Rate Shelters.jpg

The following table explains why most of these shelters’ kill rates decreased. In the case of Burlington County Animal Shelter, it adopted out many more dogs. On the other hand, Cumberland County SPCA sent more animals to rescues. Almost Home Animal Shelter switched from operating a kill shelter with animal control contracts to a limited admission facility. Most the other facilities except for AHS-Newark had fewer positive outcomes due to fewer animal outcomes, but the decrease in killing was greater. Thus, these shelters improved primarily due to having fewer animals come in.

2016 Verses 2015 Dog Decrease in Kill Rate Outcomes.jpg

Other Shelters Increased Statewide Dog Kill Rate

While the statewide dog kill rate decreased in 2016, several shelters partially offset this decrease. Specifically, the following shelters increased the dog kill rate, but this was more than offset by the facilities above.

2016 Shelters Increasing State Dog Kill Rate

The following table provides more details on these shelters. Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s dog kill rate increased dramatically to a very high level in 2016. Tyco Animal Control-Wyckoff’s increase in its dog kill rate in 2016 was due to it taking in dogs in 2016 and not 2015. All the other shelters reported kill rate increases from relatively low levels. However, the increased dog kill rates at some facilities could reflect changing management philosophies. For example, Old Bridge Animal Shelter effectively banned its volunteers and that could have resulted in the shelter killing more dogs for behavioral and other reasons. Finally, several shelters having much lower kill rates than the statewide kill rate took fewer dogs in during 2016 causing the statewide kill rate to increase.

2016 Dog Kill Rate Increasing Shelters

The table below explains why most of these shelters’ dog kill rates increased. Despite total outcomes increasing, all types of live releases decreased at Franklin Township Animal Shelter while the facility killed many more dogs. Liberty Humane Society’s and Edison Animal Shelter’s increased kill rates were driven by lower owner reclaims and more dogs killed. Perth Amboy Animal Shelter’s increased kill rate seemed to result from fewer adoptions and more dogs killed. Montville Animal Shelter’s owner reclaims and adoptions decreased significantly while it killed more animals. Most of the other shelters killed a greater percentage of dogs and had fewer live releases relative to total outcomes in 2016 verses 2015.

2016 Dog Kill Rate Increasing Shelters Outcomes.jpg

More Cats Leave Shelters Alive

New Jersey animal shelters significantly increased the number of cats leaving their facilities alive in 2016. Despite animal intake increasing (i.e. reflected in 1,717 more cat outcomes and a 4% rise from 2015), New Jersey animal shelters reported killing 1,219 fewer cats. Even if we count “other” outcomes as died or missing, 872 fewer cats lost their lives in 2016. Adoptions and transfers to rescues increased by 929 cats or 4% and 605 cats or 8%. Additionally, the significant increase in return to owners of 1,055 cats or 48% and other outcomes of 347 cats or 12% likely reflects shelters practicing TNR/SNR more.

2016 Cat Changes

The following shelters decreased the statewide cat kill rate the most.

2016 verses 2015 cat kill rate shelter decreases.jpg

The following table provides insight as to why these shelters decreased the statewide cat kill rate the most. As you can see, all the shelters, which are relatively large, had kill rates over 20% in 2015 and all reported decreases in those kill rates. All the shelters except for Bergen County Animal Shelter and Camden County Animal Shelter had fewer outcomes primarily due to decreased cat intake. Since outcomes and intake increased overall in the state and most of these facilities have above average kill rates, these shelters had a smaller impact on the state’s kill rate in 2016.

2016 verses 2015 cat kill rate decreases shelters.jpg

The table below explains why most of these shelters’ kill rates decreased. Cumberland County SPCA’s kill rate decreased due to it sending many more cats to rescues. Bergen County Animal Shelter’s kill rate decreased due to the organization sending many more cats into its TNR program (classified as return to owner). Camden County Animal Shelter’s kill rate dropped due to increased adoptions and more cats sent to rescues. Almost Home Animal Shelter switched from operating a kill shelter with animal control contracts to a limited admission facility. The other facilities had fewer positive outcomes due to fewer animal outcomes, but the decrease in killing was greater. Thus, these shelters improved primarily due to having fewer animals come in.

2016 Verses 2015 Cat LR Improve Shelter Outcomes.jpg

Other Shelters Increased Statewide Cat Kill Rate

While the statewide cat kill rate decreased in 2016, several shelters partially offset this decrease. Specifically, the following facilities increased the cat kill rate, but this was more than offset by the shelters above.

2016 verses 2015 cat increases kill rate

The following table provides more details on these shelters. T. Blumig Kennels’ cat kill rate increased dramatically to a very high level in 2016. Tyco Animal Control-Wyckoff’s increase in its cat kill rate in 2016 is due to it taking in cats in 2016 and not 2015. All the other shelters, except for Burlington County Animal Shelter, reported increases in their cat kill rates in 2016. Finally, many of these shelters had above average kill rates and took many more cats in during the year. Therefore, these shelters’ cat outcomes represented a larger portion of total cat outcomes in New Jersey and caused an increase in the statewide cat kill rate.

2016 verses 2015 cat kr increases shelters.jpg

The table below explains why most of these shelters’ kill rates increased. Most of these facilities’ kill rates increased due to these shelters taking in and killing more animals in 2016. Woodbridge Animal Shelter had several hoarding cases that increased intake and killing. These facilities need to improve their adoption and other programs to handle increased intake. AHS-Newark and Hamilton Township Animal Shelter reported a significant decrease in cat adoptions despite having more total cat outcomes. T. Blumig Kennels reported significantly fewer cat adoptions and less cats sent to rescue despite total cat outcomes barely decreasing.

2016 cat kr increase shelter outcomes.jpg

Advocacy Works

Overall, New Jersey’s 2016 animal shelter statistics are good news. While killing decreased at a lower rate last year than in 2015, New Jersey animal shelters took in more animals in 2016. Therefore, New Jersey animal shelters had to work harder to save additional animals. Given New Jersey animal shelters saved more animals, this suggests the state’s shelters as a whole are improving their lifesaving programs.

Clearly, growing animal advocacy efforts are pressuring shelters to improve. Individuals contacting their elected representatives puts pressure on shelters to do better. Similarly, donors communicating their concerns to privately run facilities also makes it difficult for these organizations to not make positive changes. Most importantly, this pressure provides strong incentives to these shelters to work with boots on the ground animal advocates, such as TNR groups, rescues and shelter volunteers. Thus, the synergistic efforts of no kill advocates and people working directly with animals helped drive the state’s improved animal sheltering statistics.

That being said, many New Jersey animal shelters are still horrific. In my next blog, I will identify these shelters and detail how they are failing their animals.

Appendix – Death Rates 

The statistics below calculate “death rates” assuming animals in “Other” outcomes lost their lives or went missing using the methodology from last year’s blog. The change in the “death rates” used below and “kill rates” in the tables above from 2016 and 2015 were not significantly different.

2016 Verses 2015 Dog Death Rates

2016 Verses 2015 Cat Death Rates

Associated Humane Societies-Newark Continues to Violate State Law Per New State and City Inspection Report

Last month, I wrote a blog about an August 22, 2017 joint New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspection report on Associated Humane Societies-Newark. Subsequently, I wrote another blog about AHS-Newark claiming how it fixed many problems.

On September 26, 2017, the New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected AHS-Newark again and issued another report. You can read this limited scope follow-up inspection report here and the related photos here. Did AHS-Newark fix all of its problems? Should the shelter be able to operate?

Serious Violations Continue to Exist

While the inspection reported noted AHS-Newark corrected several violations, many of these were relatively simple fixes. However, the shelter continued to break state law to such an extent that the authorities would not give AHS-Newark a license to operate:

9/26/17: Facility remains in noncompliance and a license for the current year cannot be issued.

Feral Cats Treated Inhumanely

The August 22, 2017 inspection report found AHS-Newark did not provide stress relief to feral cats housed in a room. Over one month later, AHS-Newark continued to not provide any stress relief to these cats according to the inspectors. The new inspection report noted the following:

  1. AHS-Newark did not provide enough litter receptacles
  2. AHS-Newark housed too many cats in the room to fit such litter receptacles
  3. AHS-Newark only had two litter receptacles and they were effectively unusable by most of the cats. One litter receptacle had a cat sleeping in it and the other litter receptacle tipped over.
  4. AHS-Newark did not provide the cats access to things to climb, resting benches or hiding boxes resulting in the cats bunching up against each other on the floor
  5. AHS-Newark housed these animals in severely overcrowded conditions that are “a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the cats”
  6. AHS-Newark must immediately provide alternative housing areas to the cats in this enclosure

9/26/17: Not corrected. Cats housed in the feral cat enclosure were severely overcrowded and not provided with any type of stress relief. There were at least twenty cats in this small enclosure. These cats were said to be aggressive; animals exhibiting signs of aggression are required to be housed individually in accordance with N.J.A.C. 1.6. There was an insufficient number of litter receptacles for the number of cats housed in these enclosures; there was insufficient floor space to hold litter receptacles due to the number of cats housed in the enclosure, and of the two litter receptacles provided in this enclosure, one contained a cat that was sleeping and the other had been tipped over. The cats housed in this enclosure were not provided with access to vertical space, resting benches, or hiding boxes and were forced to stay on the floor of the enclosure bunched up one against the other. This severity of overcrowding is a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the cats housed in this enclosure. The facility management will be required to provide alternative housing areas for the cats in this enclosure. This requires immediate correction.

To make matters worse, AHS-Newark continued to leave this enclosure’s glass or plexiglass window so filthy that people could not see inside.

9/26/17: Partially corrected. The cardboard and newspapers had been removed but the glass or plexiglass was not cleaned sufficiently to easily view the cats in these enclosures.

In fact, AHS-Newark did not clean this plexiglass at all and it contained “an accumulation of feces, dirt, hair and other debris.”

The plexiglass in the feral cat enclosure was not being cleaned and contained an accumulation of feces, dirt, hair and other debris.

Additionally, AHS-Newark had exposed nails in the feral cat room that could injure the animals. Also, the shelter still had not replaced broken dog beds that exposed dogs to potential injuries.

9/26/17: Not corrected. New raised beds were said to have been purchased and broken beds will be replaced. The feral cat enclosure contained two wooden and fiberboard cat furniture pieces. One of these pieces was broken and a board on the front panel had become loose and small nails were exposed. Please see 1.8 and 1.9 for additional continued deficiencies in the feral cat enclosures.

While AHS-Newark removed carpeted cat trees that “contained an accumulation of hair and dried feces or vomit”, the feral cat room continued to have its window ledges, resting benches and walls in disrepair. According to the August 22, 2017 inspection report, such conditions prevented employees from properly cleaning and disinfecting these areas.

9/26/17: Partially corrected, carpeted items removed; old caulk and broken edging needs to be removed and replaced at window ledges, resting benches and walls.

Animals Likely to Get Sick

While the inspectors noted AHS-Newark actually cleaned some areas of the facility, they still found filth in many places. Also, AHS-Newark apparently threw junk, including animal cages, on its roof and it blew off into a neighboring yard. Imagine if someone was hit by one of these falling cages?

9/26/17: Partially corrected, cleaning and disinfecting plan currently under review by the NJDOH. Many areas throughout the facility had been cleaned, but the corners and areas of the floors near the walls, and shelves and other areas, around pipes, and stairs contained dirt, hair and debris that had not been thoroughly cleaned. There were several animal cages and cage parts, and numerous HVAC filters and other debris that were found in the neighboring yard area. This debris was said to have blown off the roof. No items shall be stored on the roof of the facility.

The shelter’s cleaning procedures were inadequate yet again. AHS-Newark said it used Accel disinfectant, but had it in a container labeled with “DAWN” detergent. Additionally, the shelter threw a feces filled rabbit cage and another crate tray on the building’s roof. The inspector noted the feces spilled onto the roof. Since AHS-Newark claimed debris blew off their roof in the past, people and animals outside potentially could have crap literally rain down on them.

9/26/17: Partially corrected, cleaning and disinfecting plan currently under review by the NJDOH. The plexiglass in the feral cat enclosure was not being cleaned and contained an accumulation of feces, dirt, hair and other debris. A bucket that had the word DAWN written on the side in black permanent marker was said to contain Accel disinfectant and the adjacent bucket contained the detergent. A dirty rabbit cage (a black wire crate with a damaged removable tray) and another crate tray that contained an accumulation of feces, hay and debris were found on the roof of the facility. Some of these feces had spilled out onto the roof. The roof shall not be used to clean or store any items used at the facility.

AHS-Newark apparently did a poor job in fixing its animal enclosures. According to the inspection report, the shelter patched some holes and cracks. However, the inspectors stated AHS-Newark needed to remove and replace the concrete flooring due to it falling into such disrepair. Therefore, the shelter could not properly clean and disinfect these parts of the animal enclosures.

Several holes and cracks had been patched, but these concrete patches were not smoothed and leveled with an appropriate trowel and were left to harden with numerous folds and indentations that are unable to be cleaned and disinfected. The concrete flooring was being patched in various areas, but the flooring that is in severe disrepair will need to be removed and replaced. The laminated fiberboard cat cages in the small dog and cat room were missing pieces of laminate and needed repair. The facility management will be required to provide a detailed plan of correction for 1.3. (a) with an estimated timeline for completion.

The August 22, 2017 inspection report documented interior surfaces of the main dog kennel area and throughout the facility were in severe disrepair. Peeling paint and broken concrete prevented employees from being able to properly clean and disinfect these areas. Similarly, the food storage area had inadequately fixed holes in the walls at the floor that also prevented staff from cleaning and disinfecting these areas.

Over one month later, AHS-Newark failed to fix these issues.

9/26/17: Not corrected. The facility management will be required to provide a detailed plan of correction with an estimated timeline for completion.

Despite AHS-Newark finally starting to store food properly, it still had spilled food through the shelter. Therefore, AHS-Newark continued to set the conditions for a rodent infestation.

9/26/17: Partially corrected. Food was being stored correctly at the time of this site visit, but there were still pieces of kibble found in various areas, including behind the baseboard radiator back plate in the food storage room and on the floor in several areas.

Shockingly, AHS-Newark still did not have a supervising veterinarian establish a disease control program. A disease control program established by a supervising veterinarian is critical to ensuring animals stay as healthy as possible. Frankly, the fact AHS-Newark once again did not have such a disease control program should alone be the basis for shutting this shelter down.

9/26/17: Partially corrected. Medication logs were filled out with the dates that the medication had been administered to animals. Cleaning and disinfection protocols are under review by the NJDOH. A disease control program had not been established by the supervising veterinarian. The facility management shall provide a written disease control and health care plan established under the supervision and assistance of the supervising veterinarian. This requires immediate correction.

To make matters worse, the inspectors apparently could not identify a proper isolation area for sick animals. Isolating sick animals from healthy ones is the cornerstone of disease control in an animal shelter.

9/26/17: Partially corrected. A disease control and health care plan had not yet been established by the supervising veterinarian. It was unclear which room was to be the designated isolation room to be used only for the housing of animals being treated for or with signs of communicable disease. The isolation room is not to be used for any other purpose, including storage of items not for use in the isolation room and for housing animals that are not exhibiting signs of or being treated for a communicable disease.

Dogs in Basement Left in Horrible Conditions

AHS-Newark continued to not provide legally required exercise to dogs in its basement. Under state law, shelters must walk dogs for 20 minutes a day or exercise dogs in runs at least twice a day if such dogs reside in kennels below a certain size. The inspectors stated AHS-Newark must immediately house its so-called “aggressive” basement dogs in larger kennels.

9/26/17: Partially corrected. Dogs housed in the basement were the aggressive dogs that are unable to be safely walked. These dogs need to be housed in double enclosures to provide the minimum cage space as required for the size of the dogs housed in these enclosures. This requires immediate correction.

If providing no exercise to already stressed out dogs in AHS-Newark’s dungeon like basement was not bad enough, AHS-Newark continued to provide inadequate ventilation to these animals. As such, these dogs were subjected to odors and humidity. In fact, the inspectors noted these odors were “more prevalent” at this inspection than the last one.

9/26/17: Not corrected. The ventilation in the basement was insufficient to remove odors and humidity. Odors were more prevalent at the time of this site visit than the previous inspection. The facility management will be required to provide a detailed plan of correction with an estimated timeline for completion.

Dead Animals Still Left Outside Like Trash Near Live Dog Enclosures

During the August 22, 2017 inspection, AHS-Newark had bags of dead animals outside of its refrigerator and incinerator. To make matters worse, these dead animals were stored adjacent to the outside portions of live dog enclosures. According to a news article published on September 21, 2017, AHS Assistant Executive Director, Jill Van Tuyl, blamed outside agencies’ animal control officers and claimed she had new procedures to apparently rectify this problem.

Despite Jill Van Tuyl’s rosy solution, the inspectors found two bags containing dead raccoons in this place. Once again, AHS-Newark allowed dead animals to lie out like trash near outdoor enclosures that live dogs use.

9/26/17: Not corrected. There were two bags found on the floor outside behind the refrigeration unit that contained dead raccoons at the time of this site visit. The gate to the refrigeration unit was locked and inaccessible to inspectors and animal control officers arriving with animals.

AHS-Newark Continues to House Animals in Unsafe Conditions

The August 22, 2017 inspection report documented water leaking from AHS-Newark’s air conditioning system into the main dog kennel area and into an animal enclosure in the basement. According to the inspection report, the shelter did not correct this violation.

9/26/17: Not corrected. The previously unknown source of water was found to be flowing from the air conditioning units on the roof of the facility. The condensation pipe for the accumulated water from the evaporative coils was pouring directly onto the roof and was not being appropriately diverted as required. The facility management will need to comply with the requirements of and correct any deficiencies found by the Newark Code Enforcement Officers.

Previously, the inspectors documented a severe crack on the wall located at the door to the exterior dog kennels. How severe was this crack? The inspection report suggested a qualified engineer should evaluate the crack to determine if the wall would collapse.

While AHS-Newark patched this crack, the inspectors noted other parts of facility’s perimeter wall were also in similarly poor condition. How on earth does an organization taking in over $9 million of revenue last year allow its building to fall into this condition?

9/26/17: Partially corrected. This wall had been patched, but there were other areas along the perimeter wall that were in a similar condition at the time of this site visit. The Newark Code Enforcement Officers were on site to evaluate the condition of the building at the time of this site visit.

The August 22, 2017 inspection report noted the main and basement dog kennel areas were not structurally sound and maintained in good repair. Holes and cracks in the flooring existed throughout these animal enclosures and sheets of concrete were peeling up where the shelter attempted to make past repairs. Automatic watering stations had exposed pipes. Automatic feeders were present that staff could not properly clean and disinfect.

According to the September 26, 2017 inspection report, AHS-Newark only partially corrected these violations. Notably, serious problems must remain since the inspectors stated AHS-Newark must share a detailed plan with an estimated timeline for completion. The fact AHS-Newark did not even provide this plan calls its remediation efforts into question.

9/26/17: Partially corrected. The facility management shall provide a detailed plan of correction with an estimated timeline for completion.

Previously, the inspectors stated the guillotine doors in the dog kennel area were not strong enough to prevent dogs from escaping. In fact, a dog escaped its enclosure during the August 22, 2017 inspection. During the September 26, 2017 inspection, AHS-Newark said this was corrected. However, the inspectors disagreed and said the shelter must replace the guillotine doors and repair the adjacent walls. Once again, AHS-Newark’s absurd statement about solving these issues makes me seriously question its entire remediation program.

9/26/17: Said to have been corrected, but walls had not yet been repaired at the time of this site visit. Guillotine doors will need to be removed and replaced as the walls are repaired.

Departments’ of Health Must Shut AHS-Newark Down

The New Jersey and Newark health departments have allowed AHS-Newark to violate state law for decades. The New Jersey Commission of Investigation report on AHS in 2003 documented serious problems at AHS-Newark going back to the 1970s. Despite these repeated issues, the state and local health departments did little resolve them.

After AHS-Newark performed terribly during multiple inspections in 2009, the New Jersey Department of Health let AHS-Newark off easy. In a November 6, 2009 inspection report, the New Jersey Department of Health stated the following:

Many of the violations documented in the July 30 and August 26, 2009 inspections have been corrected and the conditions at this facility were improved at the time of this inspection. Management will need to maintain diligence during the more crowded and busy summer months to ensure continued compliance with New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C.) 8:23A 1.1 through 1.13.

Despite this upbeat statement, this very same inspection report documented serious problems such as improper cleaning and disinfecting procedures, not separating sick animals from healthy ones, not exercising dogs in small kennels, animal housing areas in severe disrepair and a lack of documentation to determine if sick animals received proper medical treatment. In other words, the New Jersey Department of Health gave AHS-Newark a free pass.

The New Jersey Commission of Investigation warned the New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Health Department six years earlier in its report on AHS that this approach is destined to fail. Specifically, they stated taking a collaborative approach with management that is not amenable to improving is a fruitless endeavor. Furthermore, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation stated these health departments “must be aggressive in pursuing legal proceedings” in these circumstances. Finally, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation explicitly asserted the municipality must take over the shelter or contract with another organization that will run the shelter properly in these situations.

The approach of the Department of Health and Senior Services to counsel and advise a shelter’s management on how to remedy the violations and improve the conditions is admirable. However, such an approach is effective only when the management is amenable to making the improvements. When it becomes clear that such an approach is unsuccessful, then the department must be aggressive in pursuing legal proceedings. The threat of enforcement proceedings, which typically appears in letters from the department to a shelter’s management, must be more than mere words. The failure to follow through leads to a loss of credibility for the department and reinforces the cavalier attitude of the shelter’s management. The inspecting and licensing authorities on the local level must conduct themselves in similar fashion. In the event of mounting fines and continued lack of responsiveness by shelter management, the municipality must be prepared to assume control of the shelter or entrust its operation to a suitable alternative.

Clearly, the New Jersey Department of Health and the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness must start legal proceedings to shut AHS-Newark down unless Roseann Trezza, all other AHS executives and the entire AHS Board of Directors resign. Additionally, the City of Newark and all the other contracting municipalities must find a new organization to house their animals or run such a facility themselves. At best, AHS-Newark will make inadequate changes that will go away after the state health department stops following up. Simply put, AHS-Newark cannot operate properly with its current leadership.

Animal Advocates Must Continue to Demand for Change

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

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

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

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

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.

2016 Bergen County Animal Shelter Adult Dog Statistics.jpg

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 

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

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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.

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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.