Last year, I wrote about Passaic Animal Shelter’s pitiful performance in 2016. Specifically, I wrote about the shelter’s high kill rate, the many healthy and treatable animals the facility killed and the various policies that resulted in these outcomes.
Did Passaic Animal Shelter improve in 2017? Did the shelter continue to kill many healthy and treatable animals?
Passaic Runs a High Kill Shelter
Passaic Animal Shelter killed many dogs at its shelter in 2017. You can view the actual records here. Overall, 19% of all dogs who were impounded in 2017 lost their lives at the Passaic Animal Shelter. If we just count the dogs not reclaimed by owners (i.e. dogs the shelter had to find new homes for), 32% of all the dogs Passaic Animal Shelter took in during 2017 were killed or died. In other words, around one out of three dogs Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for lost their lives.
Passaic Animal Shelter killed large numbers of pit bulls. Of the 58 pit bulls arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2017, 19 or 34% of these animals lost their lives. If we just count pit bulls Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for, 48% of these dogs lost their lives. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed around one third of all pit bulls and nearly one half of nonreclaimed pit bulls.
Passaic Animal Shelter also killed too many other medium to large size dogs impounded during 2017. The shelter killed 21% of all other medium to large size dogs and 75% of nonreclaimed other medium to large size dogs. Since the shelter only had four nonreclaimed other medium to large size dogs, the 75% death rate might not be representative of the shelter’s overall performance.
As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only reported 1% of all dogs, 1% of pit bulls, 2% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size dogs losing their lives. Similarly, only 2% of all nonreclaimed dogs and all three types of nonreclaimeds dog lost their lives. In other words, Passaic Animal Shelter’s dog death rates and nonreclaimed dog death rates for all dogs and pit bulls were 19 to 34 times greater and 16 to 24 times higher than Austin Animal Center’s dog death rates and nonreclaimed dog death rates for all dogs and pit bulls.
Passaic Animal Shelter adopted out hardly any dogs. Of the 125 dogs arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2017, the facility adopted out just 14 dogs or 11% of the dogs it took in. To put it another way, the shelter adopted out just 1 dog every month. Frankly, a single person could foster and adopt out more dogs than the Passaic Animal Shelter did last year. Given this tiny number of dog adoptions, is it any wonder why the shelter kills so many dogs?
Passaic Animal Shelter also killed large numbers of cats. You can read the actual records here. Overall, 26% of the 274 cats who were impounded during 2017 lost their lives. 17% of neonatal kittens (under 6 weeks old), 17% of older kittens (6 weeks to under 1 year) and 48% of adult cats (1 year and older) failed to leave the shelter alive. Simply put, Passaic Animal Shelter performed terribly for all types of cats.
Austin Animal Center in Texas proves Passaic Animal Shelter can save all of its healthy and treatable cats. Only 5% of all cats, 7% of cats 1 year and older, 2% of kittens aged 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 9% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives or went missing at Austin Animal Center in 2017. In other words, the death rate at Passaic Animal Shelter was two to eight times greater for cats of various ages. Therefore, despite Passaic Animal Shelter impounding far fewer cats than Austin Animal Center in total and on a per capita basis, Passaic Animal Shelter killed a much higher percentage of these animals.
Passaic Animal Shelter also hardly adopted out any cats. Of the 274 cats entering the shelter in 2017, only 24 cats or 9% were adopted out. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter only adopted out one cat every two weeks. To put it bluntly, the shelter seemed to make little to no effort to adopt out its cats.
Passaic Animal Shelter’s length of stay data reveals it quickly killed dogs. On average, Passaic Animal Shelter killed all dogs after 14 days, pit bulls after 14 days, small dogs after 11 days and other medium to large size dogs after 14 days.
To make matters worse, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs with empty kennels. The Passaic Department of Health’s August 25, 2017 inspection report (11 dogs at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (10 dogs and 8 dogs at facility on 1/1/17 and 12/31/17) indicate the shelter was not overflowing with dogs during the year since the 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report states the facility has a capacity of 12 dogs.
Passaic Animal Shelter quickly killed cats. On average, the shelter killed all cats after 9 days, neonatal kittens after 9 days, older kittens after 12 days and adult cats after just 8 days.
The shelter also killed cats when empty cages existed. The Passaic Department of Health’s August 25, 2017 inspection report (13 cats at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (17 cats and 13 cats at facility on 1/1/17 and 12/31/17) indicate the shelter used less than half of its 35 cat capacity during the year.
Passaic Animal Shelter Fails to Provide Good Reasons for Killing
Passaic Animal Shelter killed most of its dogs for no logical reason in 2017. Overall, Passaic Animal Shelter listed no documented reason in the records provided to me for 43% of the dogs it killed. In other words, the shelter could not even explain why it took these animals’ lives. The shelter listed “aggressive”, “behavior” or “unpredictable” as reasons for killing 39% of the dogs it killed. Of the remaining reasons for killing dogs, Passaic Animal Shelter reported 9% were for bite cases, 4% were for injuries and 4% were for being sick.
Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many dogs for aggression related problems. While Passaic Animal Shelter killed 9% of dogs for being or being aggressive or part of a bite case, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.2% of its dogs for aggression related issues in 2017. Instead of falsely labeling dogs as aggressive and just deciding to kill dogs with behavioral issues, Austin Animal Center properly judges dog behavior and rehabilitates dogs with genuine aggression issues. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression at 45 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.
Dog ID# D1 was a stray adult pit bull like dog that entered the Passaic Animal Shelter on January 3, 2017. The shelter labeled the dog “food aggressive” and killed him 24 days later despite having no bite history. Given that multiple studies have found food aggression tests unreliable and even the creator of one of the major food aggression tests has come out against using these evaluations, its amazing Passaic Animal Shelter would kill this dog for being food aggressive. Instead of killing these dogs, the creator of one of the major shelter evaluation methods recommends providing all adopters information on how to manage food aggression.
Dog ID# D65 was a stray adult pit bull that was brought to the Passaic Animal Shelter on June 17, 2017. Passaic Animal Shelter killed Dog ID# 65 just 13 days later on June 30, 2017 citing a failed temperament test even though the dog had no bite history. Scientific studies on shelter temperament testing prove these exams are completely unreliable. Even the ASPCA, which is not supportive of no kill policies created one of the major temperament tests, says “euthanasia decisions should not be based solely on a dog’s behavior during an assessment or in any other single situation unless the aggression is egregious” and “when the behavior has been reported by multiple sources.” Based on the shelter’s documents below, Dog ID# D65 did not display “egregious” aggression or have aggression “reported by multiple sources” and was not provided any form of behavioral rehabilitation. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Dog ID# 65 for convenience.
Dog ID# 53 was a stray American bulldog that was brought to Passaic Animal Shelter on May 23, 2017. Despite having no documented bite history, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her 21 days later on June 13, 2017 citing aggression. Once again, Passaic Animal Shelter provided no details as to what the aggression was and documented no effort to rehabilitate this animal.
Passaic Animal Shelter Kills Cats for No Reasons and Preventable Conditions
Passaic Animal Shelter killed cats using the reasons in the table below. Overall, the shelter most commonly killed cats for no documented rationale. Additionally, the facility often killed cats for exhibiting illnesses, such as Feline Panleukopenia that it could significantly reduce by vaccinating cats upon intake to the facility, using volunteers to provide enrichment (improves immune response to disease), cleaning the shelter properly, and reducing the animals’ length of stay in a good way. Also, the shelter killed a number of other cats with treatable medical conditions. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed numerous cats for no reasons and preventable causes.
Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many cats for medical reasons. Based on the data below, Passaic Animal Shelter killed 11% of the cats it took in for various medical reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 4% of the cats it took in during 2017 for various medical reasons. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed cats for medical reasons at three times the rate as Austin Animal Center.
Samantha was a 3 year old cat released by her owner to the Passaic Animal shelter on March 27, 2017. Despite the cat being young and weighing a healthy 10 pounds, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Samantha just 10 days later citing no reason.
If Killing Samantha wasn’t bad enough, Passaic Animal Shelter killed another cat from the same home on the same day. Coco was a 1 year old cat who also weighed 10 pounds and was surrendered on March 27, 2017. Like Samantha, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her 10 days later on April 6, 2017.
Fancy was a five year old cat surrendered by her owner to the Passaic Animal Shelter on May 3, 2017. After just 13 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Fancy for no documented reason.
Veterinarian Contracts Support Killing
Passaic Animal Shelter contracts with Rutherford Animal Hospital to provide veterinary care. On the surface, Rutherford Animal Hospital looks like an excellent choice given it is a large and modern veterinary facility. However, when one looks at the specifics in the contracts, major concerns arise.
Passaic Animal Shelter rarely vaccinates animals upon intake. While Rutherford Animal Hospital vaccinates the shelter’s animals, it visits the shelter as little as twice a week. Since Rutherford Animal Hospital, and not anyone who works at the shelter, vaccinates animals, many dogs and cats, including ones carrying highly contagious diseases, will sit in the facility spreading disease until the outside veterinarian comes to the shelter. The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program clearly explains why shelters must immediately vaccinate animals to control diseases in their facilities:
When should the vaccine be given?
Immediately upon intake, if not sooner! In almost all cases, shelter animals should be vaccinated immediately upon intake. A delay of even a day or two will significantly compromise the vaccine’s ability to provide protection. In a cost saving effort, some shelters delay vaccination until the animal is made available for adoption, or even until it is adopted. While this does provide a service to adopters, the protective effect of the vaccine within the shelter is greatly reduced or eliminated. (In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.) When possible, vaccination prior to intake is ideal (e.g. for owner surrendered animals or those returning from foster care).
Therefore, Passaic Animal Shelter’s vaccination program is ineffective and this may partially explain why the facility killed so many cats for illnesses and had so many other cats die.
Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract provides details on the veterinary funding it provides. In the City of Passaic’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital, Passaic only pays $1,516 per month for veterinary services and $70.82 per month to test the cats it adopts out for FIV testing. Based on the details of the arrangement outlined in Rutherford Animal Hospital’s response to Passaic’s request for proposal, the city will only pay $850 per year for the FIV testing. Therefore, Passaic could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital a maximum of $19,150 per year ($20,000 total fee cap – $850 FIV fee) to provide veterinary care (excluding FIV testing and spay/neuter which adopters pay for) or $47.99 per dog and cat the shelter impounded in 2017.
The City of Passaic’s veterinary funding is inadequate. After we back out the cost of vaccines of approximately $15.53 per animal (based on $21.25 per adult dog, $27.25 per puppy, $9.25 per adult cat and $13.25 per kitten according the Maddie’s Fund’s Financial Management Tool) from the average $47.99 veterinary care fee per animal, Passaic Animal Shelter would have just $32.46 to treat each animal for all other illnesses and injuries. Clearly, that is not nearly enough to treat sick or injured animals. Given this fee also must cover the cost of killing, the city and Rutherford Animal Hospital have strong incentives to kill any animal where veterinary treatment may be costly or might not work. Thus, the contract’s financial terms encourage killing.
Rutherford Animal Hospital plays a major role in Passaic Animal Shelter’s high kill operation. Specifically, Rutherford Animal Hospital “makes the final determination of status of animal for adoption, fostering or euthanasia.” In other words, Rutherford Animal Hospital approves all the absurd reasons for killing animals documented in this blog. Sadly, Rutherford Animal Hospital apparently chooses to kill for financial reasons rather than treat the shelter animals like valued clients from its private practice.
Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital seems to indirectly cap adoptions at a low number. According to the City of Passaic’s contract for spay/neuter services with Rutherford Animal Hospital, it only pays a maximum of $6,000 per year with $80, $55 and $130 fees to spay/neuter each female cat, male cat and dog of either sex. Assuming the shelter used its spay/neuter fees based on the proportions of dogs and cats it took in (i.e. 31% dogs, 69% cats) and altered equal numbers of each sex, it could only spay/neuter 14 dogs and 61 cats. Based on the shelter’s policy and procedure manual indicating all adopted animals must be altered, this suggests the shelter could only adopt out 14 dogs and 61 cats for the entire year unless Rutherford Animal Hospital accepts additional payments from adopters. However, Passaic Animal Shelter would need to have adopted out 32 dogs and 74 cats last year to achieve 95% dog and 92% cat live release rates. Even if adopters could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital these spay/neuter fees, it would significantly increase the adoption fee and likely discourage adoptions. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter cannot come close to achieving no kill status based on its contract.
Shelter Makes Little to No Effort to Adopt Out Animals
Passaic Animal Shelter has little presence on the internet. At the time I’m writing this blog, Passaic Animal Shelter has just two cats and no dogs up for adoption on Petfinder and no animals listed for adoption on its Adopt a Pet web site. In fact, neither web site provides any information on how one can even adopt a pet from this facility. The shelter’s actual web site also does not list any animals up for adoptions and provides no details on how one can adopt a pet.
Passaic Animal Shelter also is virtually never open to adopters. The shelter’s adoption hours are as follows:
Monday: 8:30 am to 9:30 am; 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm; 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Tuesday to Friday: 8:30 am to 9:30 am; 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Saturday: 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
In other words, the shelter is just open four hours a week when working people could come in to adopt. Remarkably, the shelter is open just two hours for the entire weekend and is closed on Sundays. Does this look like a shelter that is working hard to save its animals?
Passaic Must Take a New Path
Clearly, Passaic Animal Shelter makes little to no effort to saving lives. After banning volunteers over a decade ago, the shelter no longer had anyone to make sure they tried to save lives. Instead, the shelter used its unilateral control to take the easy way out and kill animals needlessly. Why? The shelter’s leadership, within the facility, the Passaic Health Department, and its elected officials, simply found it easier to save a few animals and kill the rest. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter’s “Animal Control Policy and Procedure Manual” explicitly states it will not run a no kill shelter.
Passaic Animal Shelter has more than enough resources to run a no kill facility where it only euthanizes hopelessly suffering animals. In 2017, Passaic Animal Shelter received $564 of city funding per each of the 399 dogs and cats it impounded. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter only received $242 of funding per dog and cat and saved 99% of the 311 dogs and 99% the 490 cats who had outcomes in 2017. Furthermore, Chippewa County Animal Shelter impounded more than twice as many animals in total as Passaic Animal Shelter (804 dogs and cats at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 399 dogs and cats at Passaic Animal Shelter) and about four times more on a per capita basis (21.3 dogs and cats per person at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 5.6 dogs and cats per resident at Passaic Animal Shelter). Unlike Passaic Animal Shelter, Chippewa County Animal Shelter welcomes volunteers and operates its facility using no kill methods. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter has no excuse for running a high kill shelter.
Passaic residents must call Mayor Hector Lora at 973-365-5510 and make sure the mayor keeps the following promise he made:
This was about leaving a legacy for our children and (setting) an example for all.
Clearly, Passaic must set an example that taking the easy way out and killing homeless animals for convenience is unacceptable. Mayor Lora can leave a legacy for Passaic’s children by turning his shelter around and allowing his constituents and others to help him do so. Teaching children the value of life and hard work is priceless. Let’s help Mayor Lora understand this.