Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s Atrocious Inspection Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHS-Newark Violates State Law on a Massive Scale

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

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

Illegal Killing During Seven Day Protection Period

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

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

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

Records Suggest Killing and Euthanasia May Not Be Humane

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Animals Treated Like Trash

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

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

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AHS-Newark Allows Disease to Spread Like Wildfire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AHS-Newark Leaves Animals in Inhumane Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Improper Intake and Disposition Records Raise Concerns of More Killing

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

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

NJ SPCA Must File Large Numbers of Animal Cruelty Charges

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

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

Municipalities Must Terminate Contracts with AHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Agencies Must Replace the Entire AHS Board and Executive Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelter Still Kills Healthy and Treatable Animals

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

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s classified too many dogs with aggression and related behavioral issues. The shelter killed 6% of all dogs for aggression and similar reasons. On the one hand, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed a much lower percentage of dogs for so-called aggression than the regressive Bergen County Animal Shelter (21% of all dogs in 2015; 29% of dogs from Kearny in 2016). However, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed a significantly larger percentage of dogs for aggression/behavior issues than Austin Animal Center (0.5% of all dogs killed for aggression related reasons in the last quarter of of fiscal year 2016). Furthermore, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 18% of all pit bulls for aggression related behavioral issues in 2016 compared to just 2% of all pit bulls at Austin Animal Center during fiscal year 2016 (that number may have dropped to as low as 1% by the last quarter of the year). In other words, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed pit bulls for aggression related problems at a rate of 9-18 times higher than Austin Animal Center.

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

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

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

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

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Dog 16-L Kill Record

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

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Dog 8-G Kill Record

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

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Dog 9-G Kill Record

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

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

Cat 31-J Killed

Cat 31-J Intake Plus Disposition Record

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

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Cat 12-L Kill Record

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

Cat 21-F Surrender Form

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Shelter Provides More Veterinary Care, But Must Make Further Improvements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Health Department Inspections Reveal Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Proves Shelter Reform Bill S3019 Will Save Lives

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

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

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

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s Unsustainable Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Humane Societies Fights to Kill or Dump Five Dogs

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

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

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

Associated Humane Societies Seeks to Kill or Dump the Five Dogs

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

Veronica Ehrenspeck Email Part 2

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

Roseann Trezza Email to Colin Campbell Pt 1

Roseann Trezza Email to Colin Campbell Pt 2

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

Dr. Colin Campbell Response to Roseann Trezza Pt 1

Dr. Colin Campbell Response to Roseann Trezza Pt 2.jpg

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

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

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

Wayne Township Animal Shelter Saves the Aberdeen Five

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

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

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

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

Associated Humane Societies’ Reprehensible Actions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHS Actions Prove New Jersey Must Pass Shelter Reform Bill

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

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

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

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

Why New Jersey Residents Must Support Animal Shelter Reform Bill S3019

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

Bill Requires Shelters to Make Efforts to Save Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

S3019 Requires Shelters to Try and Reunite Lost Pets with Families

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

Bill Requires Humane Care

S3019 mandates shelters provide the following to their animals:

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

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

S3019 Requires Humane Euthanasia Techniques

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

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

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

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

Animal Shelters Must Share Animal Intake and Outcome Statistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Jersey Department of Health Must Increase Oversight of Animal Shelters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s Horrible Handling of Irvington’s Homeless Animals

Last year, I analyzed a large number of records for animals coming into Associated Humane Societies-Newark during 2014. These records, which primarily consisted of animals coming in from animal control in Newark, revealed massive killing and incompetence at this so-called “shelter.” Overall, 93% of cats, 70% of dogs, and 81% of pit bull like dogs with known outcomes in this data set lost their lives at AHS-Newark.

Did AHS-Newark change for the better in 2015? Does AHS-Newark save a lot more animals coming in from other municipalities? Do animals coming in from animal control fare worse than dogs and cats arriving at the shelter from other sources?

Detailed Analysis Conducted 

To get a better understanding of AHS-Newark’s handling of animals, I submitted an OPRA request to the City of Irvington’s Health Department seeking intake and disposition records of all Irvington animals, such as strays and owner surrenders, AHS-Newark impounded during the first 9 or so months in 2015. After much follow-up over a period of several months, I received AHS-Newark’s underlying intake and disposition records for these animals. Unfortunately, AHS-Newark refused to honor subsequent OPRA requests for records of animals coming in during the last three or so months of 2015.

In total, I obtained around 300 animal records and it took me several weeks to review and summarize this information. Many of these records were for wildlife, animals leaving before animal control officers arrived, and animals that were dead by the time the animal control officer got to the location. Overall, I reviewed the intake and disposition records of 89 cats and 93 dogs that AHS-Newark impounded from Irvington in 2015.

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

Underlying Records Reveal Mass Killing

The sheer number and percentage of Irvington animals losing their lives at AHS-Newark is staggering. Overall, AHS-Newark killed 75% of the cats, 60% of the dogs and 74% of the pit bull like dogs that had outcomes in this data set. These kill rates were only slightly lower than the kill rates from my 2014 data set for Newark animals where AHS-Newark killed 83% of cats, 67% of dogs and 79% of pit bull like dogs. Furthermore, if I add Irvington animals who died at AHS-Newark, 83% of cats, 60% of dogs and 74% of pit bull like dogs lost their lives in this data set at AHS-Newark. As a comparison, 93% of cats, 70% of dogs and 81% of pit bull like dogs lost their lives in the 2014 data set for Newark animals. To put it another way, 62 out of 75 cats, 46 out of 77 dogs, and 32 out of 43 pit bull like dogs who had outcomes lost their lives per these Irvington records. As a result, these records indicate AHS-Newark operated more like a death camp than an animal shelter for the dogs and cats coming to the facility from Irvington during the first 9 months of 2015.

The percentage of dogs and cats losing their lives increases if we only consider the animals AHS-Newark had to shelter for more than a short period of time. Typically, shelters quickly return dogs and cats to their owners since such animals usually are licensed and/or have microchips. Therefore, shelters have to do little work to return these animals to their families. If I calculate the death rate excluding owner-reclaims, 83% of cats, 68% of dogs and 82% of pit bull like dogs lost their lives in this data set. In other words more than 2 out of 3 dogs and 4 out 5 pit bull like dogs and cats not reclaimed by owners lost their lives in this data set. Thus, AHS-Newark operated more like a pet killing factory than an animal shelter for Irvington’s homeless dogs and cats during the first 9 months of 2015.

AHS-Newark’s kill and death rates for dogs may actually be higher. Of the 22 unclaimed dogs safely making it out of AHS-Newark, 16 of these animals were transferred to AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park. Similarly, 6 of the 7 unclaimed pit bull like dogs leaving AHS-Newark alive went to AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park. AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park do not operate their shelters under a no kill philosophy and it is possible some of these dogs lost their lives at these other AHS facilities. Thus, AHS-Newark’s statistics may even be worse than the charts below indicate.

AHS-Newark’s adoption statistics in this data set were abysmal. Specifically, AHS-Newark only adopted out 8% of its cats, 4% of its dogs, and 0% of its pit bull like dogs in this data set. In fact, AHS-Newark only adopted out 9% of its small dogs in this data set. AHS-Newark poor adoption policies, which include normal dog adoption fees of $200 or more, requiring notarized letters from landlords when leases are silent about pets, and requiring existing dogs meet dogs at the facility, hamper the shelter’s ability to adopt out animals. In addition, the large number of animals receiving inadequate physical and behavioral care and the overall poor customer service at the shelter also hurt adoption efforts. Thus, AHS-Newark needs to overhaul their policies to increase adoptions.

Irvington’s overall 2015 statistics and the animal control only data were nearly identical. This suggests the horrific Newark statistics, which were primarily animals coming in from animal control, I reviewed last year may be similar to the overall Newark statistics.

AHS Irvington 2015 Dog and Cat StatsAHS Irvington 2015 Pit Bulls and Small Dogs Stats

AHS-Newark’s length of stay data reveals the shelter’s poor performance. First and foremost, AHS-Newark killed cats in this data set after just 12 days on average. Overall, AHS-Newark’s dog length of stay figures indicated animals resided way too long at the shelter. For example, despite the shelter only adopting out 4 out of 93 dogs, AHS-Newark still took nearly 7 weeks on average to adopt those few animals out. Additionally, AHS-Newark’s dog average length of stay figure may actually be higher since the shelter had significant numbers of animals that were in the ending population and transferred to other AHS shelters. Therefore, these animals likely spent additional time in an AHS shelter. Finally, even this data set’s small dogs, which typically fly out of shelters, spent 49 days on average at AHS-Newark. The 49 day average length of stay figure understates the time spent at AHS shelters since more than half of these dogs went to another AHS shelter after leaving the Newark facility or were in the ending population at AHS-Newark. Thus, AHS-Newark quickly killed cats and took way too long to safely place dogs in this data set.

AHS Irvington 2015 LOS Data

AHS Irvington 2015 LOS Data Pits and Small Dogs

Poor Reasons for Killing

AHS-Newark killed many healthy and treatable animals. AHS-Newark’s top three reasons for killing cats were as follows:

  1. Feral/Aggressive
  2. Sick
  3. Ringworm

On March 8, 2015 an Irvington resident surrendered two cats named Benny and Jet to AHS-Newark due to the person being unable to care for the animals. Despite the cats having a previous home, AHS-Newark labeled the cats as “feral” and killed the two animals 9 days later.

cat ID 132712Cat ID 132713

On May 4, 2015 Cat ID# 134247 arrived at AHS-Newark “covered in motor oil and gasoline.” Despite this cat’s obvious trauma, AHS-Newark stated this cat “WILL BITE” and killed her 17 days after coming into the shelter. The shelter did note it was able to give the cat a bath. No rehabilitation efforts were documented on the record below. A recent study found gradual touching and petting and talking in a soft voice is highly effective at socializing so-called aggressive cats. Thus, AHS-Newark appeared to do little to save this traumatized cat.

Cat id 134247.jpg

On May 8, 2015, AHS-Newark impounded a female cat and two kittens from an address in Irvington. The 7 year and 5 month old black cat (Cat ID# 134396), which may have been the mother of the two 7 month old black kittens, was killed by AHS-Newark 11 days later. AHS-Newark killed the female kitten, Cat ID# 134395, two minutes later. Three minutes after AHS-Newark killed the female kitten, the shelter killed the male kitten (Cat ID# 134394). Frankly, I wonder how close these kittens were to each other and the mother prior to their killing given the short time between killing each animal. If the animals were in fact near each other and were a family, I can only imagine the horror these kittens were in prior to AHS-Newark poisoning them to death.

Cat ID134396

Cat ID 134394.jpg

134495

AHS-Newark took in Cat ID# 131808 from an Irvington resident who found her on January 16, 2015. After just 8 days, AHS-Newark killed the cat for having an upper respiratory infection that was “not improving.” Nothing in the “Health Records” on the document below indicate any specific treatment for the URI beyond the vaccinations on the day this 12 month old cat arrived at AHS-Newark. Furthermore, the record provides no documentation that AHS-Newark tried to place this cat in a foster home or with a rescue prior to killing her.

Cat ID 131808.jpg

Kathleen was surrendered to AHS-Newark on March 26, 2015 due to her owner moving out of state. According to the record below, Kathleen’s owner stated the 9 year and 7 month old cat never went outside. While its unclear from the record where Kathleen caught a URI, I would think an indoor cat would not have had the virus prior to arriving at the shelter. While at AHS-Newark, Kathleen’s URI did not respond to treatment and the cat developed pneumonia. According to the “Health Records” on the document below, AHS-Newark provided no other treatment beyond normal veterinary care on the day this cat arrived at the shelter. Amazingly, Kathleen developed pneumonia during the cat’s less than two week stay at AHS-Newark. After just 12 days, AHS-Newark killed Kathleen.

Cat ID 133217.jpg

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

  1. Aggression related issues
  2. Dog aggression
  3. Overcrowded

AHS-Newark labeled many dogs as aggressive that did not seem that way. On August 3, 2015, AHS-Newark received Emmet back from an adopter. The adopter returned this 1 year and 8 month old Labrador mix due to Emmet having a sore and being too active. While Emmet was at the shelter previously, he received an excellent evaluation. Besides being “full of puppy energy” and dog selective, he “had a great food test” and was “gentle taking treats” and “friendly with people.” Furthermore, Emmet was one of the select few dogs chosen for a photoshoot and the shelter wrote “DO NOT PTS” (i.e. do not put to sleep) prior to his adoption. Despite this great evaluation and favorable treatment at the shelter, “sc”, who I presume is former AHS Assistant Executive Director, Scott Crawford, decided to kill him for being “Cagey” (i.e. cage aggression), “very dog aggressive” and for the crime of being returned by an adopter. As the Dogs Playing for Life program has found, cage or barrier aggression often does not mean a dog is aggressive in normal conditions outside of an unnatural kennel environment. Thus, it seems AHS-Newark simply looked for a reason to kill this young Labrador mix after he was returned by his adopter.

Dog ID 137543 pt 1.jpg

Dog ID 137543 pt 2

Zoey was a 3 year and 6 month old stray dog taken to AHS-Newark on May 15, 2015. On August 18, 2015 the shelter wrote “DO NOT PTS-PHOTOSHOOT/FACEBOOK” on Zoey’s record below. Additionally, the photo on Zoey’s record below showed a person sitting with her. Despite AHS-Newark’s clear instructions not to kill Zoey, Scott Crawford decided to kill her two weeks later for being “cage craze”, “been developing barrier issues”, and acting “aggressive during length of stay.” Nothing in the record below indicated AHS provided any kind of behavioral treatment to Zoey.

Dog ID 134633 pt 1.jpg

Dog ID 134633 pt 2.jpg

Spike was a 4 year and 4 month old stray dog taken to AHS-Newark on June 3, 2015. AHS-Newark killed Spike 20 days later for having dog aggression, “developing barrier issues” and lack of space. Nothing on the record indicated AHS-Newark tried to socialize Spike with other dogs to help treat his alleged dog aggression.

Dog ID 135253.jpg

Star was a 3 year and 5 month old stray dog taken to AHS-Newark on June 3, 2015. On July 21, 2015, AHS-Newark wrote “DO NOT PTS PER SW PHOTOSHOOT FACEBOOK.” Around a month later on August 22, 2015, AHS-Newark again wrote “DO NOT PTS” after Star apparently was evaluated. Star’s evaluation was spectacular. Specifically, the evaluation stated “She radiates joy with her disposition” and she was “a Kennel staff favorite with her wonderful loving disposition”, “warm and affectionate”, “very friendly”, and a “GREAT DOG.” With an evaluation like this and instructions to not kill her written on two separate occasions, one would think Star was safe. Sadly, AHS-Newark killed Star just 18 days later for being dog aggressive, “no interest for adoption” and lack of space. If a dog like Star can’t make it out of AHS-Newark alive, what chance do the many dogs outside the public spotlight have?

Dog ID 135258 Pt 1.jpg

Dog ID 135258 Pt 2.jpg

Crush, who was a 1 year and 5 month old dog, was surrendered by his owner to AHS-Newark on January 15, 2015. Apparently, AHS-Newark posted Crush on Petfinder and Facebook as the shelter wrote “PETFINDER FACEBOOK DO NOT PTS PER SW.” Crush had an excellent evaluation that described him as “one happy dude” and went on to say “had no issues sharing his food bowl”, he shared his toys with people, and “did well with the female dog he met outside.” Despite his stellar evaluation, AHS-Newark killed Crush 70 days after he arrived at the shelter. AHS-Newark justified killing Crush for not being able to be share a kennel with another dog, “extreme barrier aggression”, being “unpredictable at times” and “declining further.” No where on the record does AHS-Newark mention any efforts to preserve Crush’s psychological well-being. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1:9, shelters must have a disease control program that addresses the psychological well-being of their animals. Thus, it seems AHS-Newark did nothing to prevent Crush from deteriorating at the stressful AHS-Newark shelter or simply mislabeled him as having various forms of aggression.

Dog ID 131795

Dog ID 131795 (2)

Questionable Statistics

The data I reviewed suggests AHS-Newark may also kill large numbers of animals from other communities the shelter contracts with. AHS-Newark’s death rate for the Irvington animals in this blog was nearly as high as the 2014 Newark animal data set I reviewed in a prior blog. While Newark and Irvington may be more difficult communities to serve (i.e. higher intake, fewer reclaimed animals, more pit bull like dogs, etc.), I find it hard to imagine the death rates, particularly for unclaimed animals, are that much lower in other contracting municipalities.

The statistics in this blog and my prior blog on Newark animals arriving at AHS-Newark make me question AHS-Newark’s 2015 reported statistics. AHS-Newark killed 43% of cats and 25% of dogs based on its 2015 summary statistics. However, AHS-Newark killed 75% of cats and 60% of dogs in the 2015 Irvington data set I reviewed. If I exclude unclaimed animals, AHS-Newark killed 44% of unclaimed cats and 31% of unclaimed dogs based on its 2015 summary statistics. In the data set above, AHS-Newark killed 75% of unclaimed cats and 68% of unclaimed dogs. Thus, I question whether AHS-Newark’s reported summary statistics are in fact accurate.

AHS-Newark Requires New Leadership

AHS shocked the animal welfare community this summer when it hired Niki Dawson to replace Scott Crawford as its Assistant Executive Director. While I certainly had serious issues with Niki Dawson’s views and past performance, I stated she could make some improvements. However, I expressed skepticism that Ms. Dawson would have the authority to make those changes with Roseann Trezza being in charge. Around a month or so after joining AHS, AHS and Niki Dawson apparently parted ways as AHS posted Niki Dawson’s position on a job listing web site in late August. Furthermore, around the same time several people independently told me Niki Dawson no longer was working at AHS.

Niki Dawson’s quick departure from AHS is deeply disturbing. While Ms. Dawson has had a history of working at shelters for very short periods of time, her time at AHS is one of the shortest tenures that I know of. Even more unsettling is the fact that Niki Dawson has long held traditional sheltering and anti-no kill views. In fact, Ms. Dawson faced significant criticism from animal advocates over the years for killing animals at various shelters. Frankly, if a prominent traditional shelter and anti-no kill leader only lasts a month or so at AHS, that should raise major red flags to the New Jersey Department of Health, the NJ SPCA and the AHS Board of Directors. The longer these authorities fail to act the more their personal and professional reputations will deteriorate.

Clearly, AHS has failed its animals as well as the people in the communities it serves. From possible violations of state shelter laws to killing massive numbers of animals to killing dog and cats who are friends and families to wasting obscene amounts of money on lawyers to banning volunteers and fighting with many others in the animal welfare community, Roseann Trezza and AHS continue to do wrong by their animals and the public at large.

AHS needs a new Executive Director who will make the massive changes in culture, staffing, and programs needed to make the Newark facility an excellent shelter. Nothing will change at AHS as long as Roseann Trezza calls the shots. Given the scale of the killing at AHS, animal welfare advocates should make replacing Roseann Trezza with a compassionate and competent leader their primary goal. If animal advocates succeed, thousands of animals and hundreds of thousands of people will benefit. Personally, I can’t think of any anything better for New Jersey’s pets and animal loving people.

Why I Think the New Jersey Department of Health Should Inspect Associated Humane Societies-Newark

Associated Humane Societies-Newark has a history of doing the wrong things for its animals. In 2003, the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (“SCI”) issued a scathing report on AHS and concluded:

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

In 2009 and 2011, the New Jersey Department of Health detailed extensive violations of New Jersey animal shelter laws. Animals lived in filthy kennels and were covered in feces. Dogs were housed in kennels with a collapsed roof and workers were throwing damaged roof material directly over these dogs. Additionally 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.

In recent years, I’ve heard several people state AHS-Newark no longer is a house of horrors. While I certainly believe the shelter is better than it was under Lee Bernstein, the organization’s current Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, has been in charge when many of these problems occurred. Is AHS-Newark just hunky dory or does it still have tremendous problems?

As described in a prior blog, I obtained a large number of intake and disposition records for animals AHS-Newark primarily impounded from animal control in the City of Newark during 2014. These records included 1,615 dogs and cats. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to other types of AHS-Newark records. Ultimately, we would need a proper inspection, which would involve reviewing additional types of records, to determine whether AHS Newark violated state shelter laws. Therefore, people should not conclude AHS-Newark violated any laws unless a New Jersey Department of Health inspection makes this determination. However, I think there are reasonable grounds to suspect AHS-Newark might not have complied with state shelter laws at times based on my review of a large sample of AHS-Newark’s 2014 intake and disposition records.

Animals Killed During 7 Day Hold Period

New Jersey animal shelter law clearly states shelters must not kill animals, whether they are strays or owner surrenders, for at least 7 days. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health recently issued guidance summarizing the law’s requirements:

Pursuant to State law (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 a. through l.) all municipalities must have a licensed animal impoundment facility (pound) designated where stray and potentially vicious animals can be safely impounded. Impounded stray animals shall be held at the pound for at least seven days (i.e., 168 hours) from the time impounded before the animal is offered for adoption or euthanized, relocated or sterilized, regardless of the animal’s temperament or medical condition.

Animals that are voluntarily surrendered by their owners to licensed pounds or shelters shall be offered for adoption for at least seven days prior to euthanasia or shelter/pound management may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such a transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal.

In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during the 7 day hold 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 humane rationale in the animal’s medical record

The New Jersey Department of Health’s July 30, 2009 inspection report detailed AHS-Newark’s killing of animals during the 7 day stray/hold period:

Killed Prior to 7 Day Hold 2009

AHS-Newark killed a number of animals in 2014 during the 7 day hold period according to the records I reviewed. Many of the intake and disposition records did not clearly document a justifiable reason for the killing in my view and/or appeared to indicate a vet tech rather than a veterinarian killed the animals. While I do not have the related medical files on these animals, the shelter does have “health records” listed and AHS-Newark did document appropriate reasons for euthanizing animals during the 7 day hold period in other records I examined. That being said, I would have to review the related medical records on these animals to say for sure that AHS-Newark didn’t have a legitimate humane reason to kill these animals during the 7 day hold period.

AHS-Newark killed dozens of dogs and cats with ringworm during the 7 day hold period. AHS-Newark stated they needed to “protect the shelter” in some of the records. However, AHS-Newark cannot kill animals during the 7 day hold period unless “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.” Frankly, ringworm is a highly treatable fungus and killing these animals for ringworm does not meet this standard in my opinion. If AHS-Newark does not have large enough isolation areas, they should contract with fewer municipalities or enact progressive programs to place animals more quickly to create room and reduce disease rates.

Cat ID# 126803 was just 13 months old and AHS-Newark killed this kitten after just 3 days of arriving at the shelter for having ringworm. The intake and dispostion record did not disclose any other health issues. Futhermore, AHS-Newark vet tech, Danya, appeared to kill this cat and not a licensed veterinarian according to the record below.

126803

AHS-Newark killed Cat ID# 129321 on the day he or she arrived at the shelter for having ringworm on the tail and right hind paw. Once again, one of AHS-Newark’s vet techs and not a licensed veterinarian appeared to kill this cat according to the following record.

129321

Furthermore, this record did not include all of the information required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13(a). Specifically, AHS-Newark did not include the cat’s age, sex or breed on this record.

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

AHS-Newark also killed Cat ID# 130709 for ringworm on the day he or she arrived at the shelter. Once again, an AHS-Newark vet tech rather than a licensed veterinarian appeared to kill the cat according to this record. Also, AHS-Newark did not document the cat’s age and sex on this record as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13(a).

130709

AHS-Newark killed a dog named Leydi during the 7 day hold period for having ringworm. Leydi was almost 4 years old and surrendered by her owner (I removed names of owners and finders of animals from records in this blog unless the case was publicized). The record states she came in on June 30, 2014 and was killed on that date. However, the record also states Leydi was at the shelter for 3 days. According to the record, “sc”, who I presume is former AHS Assistant Executive Director, Scott Crawford, approved the killing of this dog “to protect the shelter.” Once again, I fail to see how this constitutes a hopelessly suffering animal with a poor prognosis for recovery. Once again, an AHS-Newark vet tech and not a licensed veterinarian appeared to kill Leydi according to this record.

126404

AHS-Newark killed Dog ID# 130241 on the day he or she arrived at the shelter for having ringworm (“Rounded spot without hair”). Once again, one of AHS-Newark’s vet techs and not a licensed veterinarian appeared to kill this dog according to this record. Additionally, this record did not include required information, such as age and sex. Even worse, this record stated AHS-Newark killed the dog at 5:27, but then gave various vaccinations, a deworming, and Frontline flea and tick medicine 7-8 minutes later? Either AHS-Newark applies treatment to dead dogs or can’t keep proper records.

130241

 

ID 130241 Pt 2

AHS-Newark killed Dog ID# 129618 one day after she arrived at the shelter. The 4 and half year old dog was a stray that was found in a yard of a vacant home. Once again, Scott Crawford approved the killing “due to dog having ringworm on the left side of hip and under neck.” Also, one of the shelter’s vet techs and not a licensed veterinarian appeared to kill this dog during the 7 day stray/hold period according to this record.

129618

AHS-Newark also killed a number of animals during the 7 day hold period for no reasons according to the records I reviewed. Cat ID# 127278 was a nearly 11 year old cat that AHS-Newark killed within 2 days of arriving at the shelter. The record below revealed he was was given an FVCRP vaccine, a deworming, and frontline flea and tick medicine the day after he arrived at AHS-Newark. AHS-Newark killed him the next day and the record I reviewed stated no reason for his killing. Additionally, one of AHS-Newark’s vet techs and not a licensed veterinarian appeared to kill this cat according to this record.

127278 pt 1

127278 pt 2

Cat ID# 130535 was a 2 year and 5 month old stray cat. AHS-Newark killed her 6 days after she arrived at the shelter for being “aggressive” and “unable to socialize.” Once again, I fail to see how this was a hopelessly suffering animal that AHS-Newark could possibly justify killing during the 7 day hold period. Additionally, AHS-Newark appeared to use one of its vet techs and not a licensed veterinarian to kill this animal according to this record.

130535

Cat ID# 123355 was a 22 month old cat surrendered by her owner. In this case, AHS-Newark’s vet approved the killing 5 days after the cat arrived at the facility. However, the record stated this animal was “getting sick and too aggressive to be handled for treatment.” The record does not disclose what the illness was, but if it was an upper respiratory infection (URI) I don’t see how this illness would be “severe and the prognosis for recovery is poor.” If this was a URI, AHS-Newark should make sure it has enough space in its isolation area to treat animals or at least let the animals rest in a calm environment if they can’t be handled for treatment during their 7 day hold period. Even if AHS-Newark could kill/euthanize this cat during the 7 day hold period, AHS-Newark should have had a licensed veterinarian and not a vet tech euthanize the animal. According to this record, a vet tech appeared to kill/euthanize Cat ID# 123355.

123355

Separate Records Not Kept for All Animals

The New Jersey Department of Health’s August, 26, 2009 inspection report found AHS-Newark did not keep certain records in accordance with N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13(a). The inspectors noted AHS-Newark improperly included multiple animals on the same ID number. As a result, AHS-Newark did not keep all the required information on these animals.

Multiple Animals on Same ID#

On May 16, 2014 AHS-Newark impounded 26 cats from one person. AHS-Newark killed 25 of these cats for having ringworm on the day these cats arrived at the shelter according to the record below. While I think killing these cats only for ringworm may violate the 7 day hold period provision, I also think this record may not comply with the record keeping requirements of N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13(a). Specifically, the provision states:

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

Given AHS-Newark included all of the animals under the same ID# on this record, we don’t know the age, sex or breed of each of these cats (except for 1 of the 26 cats).

124999

On July 30, 2014 AHS-Newark impounded 223 animals from a Newark pet shop. Unfortunately, the records I reviewed indicated AHS-Newark may have failed to comply with N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13(a) by including many animals on the same ID number. One example is the following record where the shelter included 45 cockatiels on the same ID number.

127408

Stray Animals Transferred and Sent to Rescues During the 7 Day Hold Period

The New Jersey Department of Health’s recent summary of the state’s shelter laws says a municipality’s designated shelter or pound must hold stray animals for seven days prior to “relocating” these animals.

Pursuant to State law (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 a. through l.) all municipalities must have a licensed animal impoundment facility (pound) designated where stray and potentially vicious animals can be safely impounded. Impounded stray animals shall be held at the pound for at least seven days (i.e., 168 hours) from the time impounded before the animal is offered for adoption or euthanized, relocated or sterilized, regardless of the animal’s temperament or medical condition.

N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.10 (b)(7) states a pound can accept a stray from a municipality it does not contract with, but it must notify the ACO in the contracting town and return the animal if the contracting municipality’s facility demands it. If that provision applied here, AHS could transfer animals between AHS-Newark and its other shelters during the 7 day hold period. However, I interpret this provision to only apply to animals initially impounded by the shelter not contracting with the municipality. Thus, I think the law requires the contracting shelter to hold stray animals for 7 days prior to transferring animals to any shelter in order to facilitate owner reclaims.

AHS-Newark appeared to transfer a number of stray animals, which included many highly adoptable dogs, to its Tinton Falls and Popcorn Park facilities during the 7 day hold period. None of the records I reviewed indicated an owner signed the dogs over to AHS-Newark. The Newark Police Department picked up a nearly 5 year old shih tzu on May 26, 2014. After 3 days, AHS-Newark transferred this dog 44 miles away to AHS-Tinton Falls according to the following record.

125293

The Newark Police Department took a 15 month old Labrador retriever mix to AHS-Newark on April 25, 2014. Less than a week later, AHS-Newark sent this dog 72 miles away to AHS-Popcorn Park according to the record. Furthermore, AHS put “Humane News – June 2014” on the record and apparently intended to promote this dog for adoption and/or fundraising.

124421

Newark Animal Control took a stray 3 year and 9 month old German Shepherd to AHS-Newark on July 10, 2014. One day later, AHS-Newark sent the dog 72 miles away to AHS-Popcorn Park according to the following record.

126764

While the New Jersey Department of Health’s interpretation of N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 seems clear to me, AHS-Newark’s actions are unethical to me even if they were legal. Many Newark residents do not own cars or even know where the Tinton Falls and Popcorn Park facilities are. Making these owners travel over 40 and 70 miles away decreases the chance these dogs can return to their families. Frankly, the fact that these dogs were highly adoptable breeds makes me think AHS was more concerned with earning adoption fees and/or fundraising off these animals.

AHS-Newark also appeared to send some stray animals to rescues during the 7 day hold period. While the frequency of this practice was nowhere near as common as I found at the nearby Elizabeth Animal Shelter, this would violate the 7 day stray hold period if true. On November 28, 2014, AHS-Newark impounded Cat ID# 130941 as a stray. According to AHS-Newark’s intake and disposition record, this cat, which had ear mites, spent 4 days at AHS-Newark and was sent to Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter (record states “rescue”, but I think they meant animal shelter).

Cat 130941.jpg

On December 11, 2014 AHS-Newark took in Cat ID# 131175 as a stray. According to the AHS-Newark record below, the shelter transferred the cat to Perfect Pals rescue five days later on December 16, 2014. Thus, according to this record, AHS-Newark did not hold this stray cat the required 7 days.

Cat ID 131175 rescued during 7 day hold

On December 29, 2014 someone left a stray 6 month old pit bull named Goldie at AHS-Newark. The record below does not indicate that the owner surrendered the animal to AHS-Newark. According to this record, AHS-Newark transferred the dog to Coming Home Rescue 6 days later. Thus, if this record is accurate, AHS-Newark would have transferred this dog prior to the end of the 7 day stray hold period.

ID 131452 Rescued During 7 Day Hold

Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness Fails to Conduct Proper Inspections

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

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

15 Dogs in dirty kennel

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 New Jersey Department of Health has not issued any additional AHS-Newark inspection reports since 2011 to the best of my knowledge.

The City of Newark’s inspection reports since 2011 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.

Frankly, these inspections are a joke and the City of Newark has dropped the ball. The City of Newark clearly missed huge problems found in subsequent state inspections in 2009 and 2011. Furthermore, the City of Newark’s Health and Wellness Department’s subsequent inspection reports lacked any real detail to demonstrate they properly inspected AHS-Newark. Thus, I place no value on AHS-Newark’s favorable inspection reports since the 2011 New Jersey Department of Health inspection.

New Jersey Department of Health Must Perform Routine and Robust Inspections

Ultimately, only a competent inspector can determine if AHS-Newark complied with New Jersey shelter laws in the past and current does so. While I did see fewer problems in the records I reviewed for Irvington animals arriving at AHS-Newark in 2015, this was a much smaller data set. As such, I’m asking the New Jersey Department of Health to inspect AHS-Newark.

Clearly, the New Jersey Department of Health must inspect AHS-Newark on a regular basis. Unfortunately, local health departments lack the expertise and the will to properly inspect animal shelters. In fact, I’ve long called for the New Jersey Department of Health to perform legally required inspections. Sadly, the New Jersey Department of Health has only one person, Linda Frese, to inspect all of the state’s shelters, pet shops and boarding facilities. Furthermore, Ms. Frese also is responsible for rabies control in the state as well. Obviously, the Christie administration needs to add inspectors. However, in the meantime, the New Jersey Department of Health should prioritize its time and regularly inspect large shelters with a history of problems like AHS-Newark. Simply put, the stakes are much higher at the state’s largest animal shelters. Thus, the New Jersey Department of Health should inspect AHS-Newark on a quarterly basis until it can demonstrate that the shelter complies with all of the state’s shelter laws.

City of Newark Needs to Carry Out Cory Booker’s Plan for a New No Kill Shelter in Newark

Mayor Ras Baraka must complete former Mayor Booker’s project to build a new no kill shelter. In 2011, the former Mayor announced his intention to build a new no kill shelter in Newark. Unfortunately, I’ve heard nothing about this project since Mr. Booker became a senator. Even if AHS-Newark is in fact complying with state shelter laws, the shelter kills astronomical numbers of animals. Many large cities, such as Kansas City, Missouri, Austin, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, and Salt Lake City, Utah reached no kill status (i.e. 90% or higher live release rate). In fact, urban shelters with old and outdated facilities can quickly achieve no kill status. For example, Lifeline Animal Project took over Atlanta’s animal control shelters and reached 90% live release rates at its two facilities in just three years. All these shelters take in far more animals than AHS-Newark in total and around the same or more on a per capita basis. AHS Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, has held leadership position in the organization for more than four decades and has led AHS for 13 years. Clearly, Ms. Trezza and her dysfunctional organization cannot end the killing at AHS-Newark. Thus, the City of Newark must take on sheltering its own animals as the city’s contractor has failed Newark’s and other municipalities’ animals time and time again.

Will Mr. Baraka step up for the voiceless or continue to fund the killing of many of his city’s homeless animals?

Elizabeth’s Enigma of an Animal Shelter (Part 2 of 2)

In my last blog, I discussed the recent history of the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. Specifically, I wrote about how the shelter’s illegal killing of Jennifer Arteta’s two dogs, Daphne and Rocko, during the 7 day hold period in June 2014 sparked an effort to reform the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. Additionally, I analyzed the shelter’s 2015 statistics to see if the changes the shelter made improved the plight of animals entering the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. To read Part 1 of this blog, please click this link.

Part 2 of this blog analyzes Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s compliance with New Jersey shelter laws. This blog also examines the shelter’s recent actions. Finally, I provide an answer to the question as to whether the Elizabeth Animal Shelter still needs reform.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Illegally Kills Massive Numbers of Animals Prior to the End of the 7 Day Hold Period

Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed animals during the 7 day hold before and after the illegal killing of Daphne and Rocko. Despite Daphne being playful and Rocko loving to cuddle, Elizabeth Animal Shelter wrote “aggressive” on their intake and disposition records and killed them on the day the two dogs arrived at the shelter. Under New Jersey shelter law, shelters cannot kill any animal, whether stray or surrendered by their owners, until after 7 full days. Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed 48 dogs and 35 cats in 2014 prior to the end of the 7 day hold period. To put it another way, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed 49% of the dogs and 85% of the cats it killed in 2014. In fact, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed 25 dogs and 14 cats in 2014 after News 12 New Jersey reported Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s illegal killing of Daphne and Rocko. Even worse, Elizabeth Animal Shelter resumed the illegal killings less than a month after the News 12 story came out and the related uproar. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter thumbed its nose at animal advocates, state law and all Elizabeth pet owners.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter continued to illegally kill animals during the 7 day hold period in 2015. Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed 28 dogs and 96 cats during the 7 day hold period in 2015. To state it another way, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed 53% of the dogs and 86% of the cats it killed in 2015. In addition, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 9 of those dogs and 5 of those cats after the New Jersey Department of Health issued a memo on October 20, 2015 reminding all shelters that it is illegal to kill animals during the 7 day hold period. Under New Jersey law, shelters technically can’t kill animals who are hopelessly suffering during the 7 day hold period, but the New Jersey Department of Health generally does not go after shelters if a veterinarian documents the animal was hopelessly suffering in a detailed manner. While Elizabeth Animal Shelter labeled some animals as “sick” or “medical euthanasia”, the city provided no veterinary records proving these animals were in fact hopelessly suffering. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed even more animals in 2015 than 2014.

You can find all the intake and disposition records for 2014 here and for 2015 here.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Illegally Adopts Out and Sends Stray Animals to Rescues During the 7 Day Hold Period

Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally adopted out and sent large numbers of dogs and cats to rescues during the 7 day stray/hold period in 2014. Under New Jersey shelter law, shelters must hold stray animals for 7 days prior to adopting those pets out or sending them to rescues. The law is designed to provide pet owners a reasonable opportunity to find their animals. In 2014, Elizabeth Animal Shelter adopted out/transferred to rescues 21 stray dogs and 120 stray cats during their stray/hold periods. 13% and 36% of all dogs and cats Elizabeth Animal Shelter adopted out/sent to rescues were done so illegally in 2014. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter violated the 7 day stray hold period on a massive scale in 2014.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter continued to illegally adopt out and send large numbers of animals to rescues during the 7 day hold period in 2015. In 2015, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally adopted out/transferred to rescues 30 dogs and 75 cats. 14% and 25% of all dogs and cats Elizabeth Animal Shelter adopted out/sent to rescues were done so illegally in 2015. In fact, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed or adopted out/sent to rescues 106 of 171 stray cats or 62% of these animals during the 7 day stray/hold period in 2015. Similarly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed or adopted out/sent to rescues 35 out of 209 stray dogs or 17% of these animals during the 7 day stray/hold period in 2015. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter willfully violated state shelter law and potentially prevented scores of animals from finding their families.

While I can understand Elizabeth Animal Shelter feels pressure to place animals quickly with its small facility, the shelter’s actions are not justified. Certainly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s limited space causes the shelter to fill up quickly. However, Elizabeth Animal Shelter did not appear to consistently use its full capacity. The following table compares the “required length of stay” or the maximum time the shelter could keep each animal on average before it runs out of room each month with the average length of of stay for these periods. In other words, this metric estimates how much shelter capacity was used. As you can see, Elizabeth Animal Shelter only used around 61% and 27% of its dog and cat capacity on average during the year. In fact, Elizabeth Animal Shelter did not come close to reaching its maximum capacity in any one month.

Elizabeth Dog Capacity Used

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 Statistics (25)

Clearly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s space constraints did not force it to adopt out and send animals to rescues during the 7 day stray/hold period. The city and the shelter simply wanted to save money and do less work by handing animals to rescues as quickly as possible.

To further support the shelter having enough space to obey the state’s 7 day hold period, I recalculated Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s average length of stay if it kept animals for the required 7 day hold period. If the shelter held animals it either illegally killed or adopted out or sent to rescues during the 7 day hold period for 7 days, the shelter’s average length of stay would only rise to 6.3 days for cats and 8.2 days for dogs. As a comparison, the shelter’s required length of stay each month was significantly below these figures (8.8 days to 62 days for cats and 9.2 days to 25.7 days for dogs). Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter did not have to violate the state’s 7 day hold law to avoid overcrowding.

Animals Killed Off the Books

Elizabeth Animal Shelter took a number of injured and sick animals directly to an outside veterinarian and did not report doing so in its intake and disposition records. The veterinarian killed/euthanized almost all of these animals (3 dogs, 12 cats plus a number of wild animals). While many were hopelessly suffering, the veterinarian’s invoices inadequately documented the reason for killing/euthanasia in some cases. The example below provides one such example where the veterinarian killed a cat and listed the animal as “injured” without any specific details:

Elizabeth Vet Invoice

Furthermore, the shelter provided me no additional veterinary records in response to my OPRA requests. Given this veterinarian killed most of these dogs and cats on behalf of Elizabeth Animal Shelter prior to the 7 day hold period, the inadequate documentation represents additional shelter law violations. Also, I could not find any of these animals included in the Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s intake and disposition records. Therefore, the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13 which requires intake and disposition data on every single impounded animal. Finally, the shelter’s inability to count these animals in its records raises questions as to whether the shelter is also killing other animals off the books.

If I add these dogs and cats to the intake and disposition records, the shelter’s death rates increase by 1-2 percentage points:

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 Statistics (23).jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 Statistics (24)

Highly Questionable Categorization of Animals as Owner Surrenders

Elizabeth Animal Shelter classified an unusually large number of dogs and cats as owner surrenders. Specifically, the shelter classified 42% of dogs and 60% of cats as being surrendered by their owners. As a comparison, New Jersey animal shelters as a whole only classified 32% and 27% of stray and surrendered dogs and cats as owner surrenders in 2014. Furthermore, shelters serving poor areas, such as Liberty Humane Society (20% of both stray and owner surrendered dogs and cats classified as surrendered by owners), Camden County Animal Shelter (28% and 19% of stray and owner surrendered dogs and cats classified as surrendered by owners), and Atlantic County Animal Shelter (19% and 11% of stray and owner surrendered dogs and cats classified as surrendered by owners), categorized much lower percentages of animals as owner surrenders. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter placed unusually large numbers of animals into the owner surrender category.

In fact, per the records I reviewed, the shelter classified nearly every single animal turned in by a person as an owner surrender. However, in reality, shelters receive significant numbers of strays from people finding animals and turning them over to the shelter. Below is an example of one of the shelter’s animal surrender forms (I removed certain information to protect the person’s personal information). As you can see, the form does not state the person surrendering the animal is the owner nor does the form seek any documentation that the animal is in fact owned by the person.

Elizabeth Surrender form.jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s convenient classification of most animals as owner surrenders rather than strays reduces costs and saves shelter staff from doing more work. Under current state law, shelters must hold all strays for 7 days to provide the animal’s owner the opportunity to get their family member back. If Elizabeth Animal Shelter classifies the animal as an owner surrender rather than a stray under current law, the shelter can immediately hand the animal over to a rescue instead of caring for the animal for 7 days. Prior to 2011, the shelter could also immediately kill an owner surrendered animal upon intake. As discussed above, Elizabeth Animal Shelter still operates as if the old law relating to owner surrendered animals was still in place and often kills owner surrenders during the 7 day hold period. To make matters worse, Elizabeth Animal Shelter only accepts owner surrenders on Thursdays, the day its part-time veterinarian comes to the shelter, and kills large numbers of so-called owner surrenders on that day. In fact, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed 77 or 72% of the 107 “owner surrender” dogs and cats it killed in 2015 on the day the shelter accepted those animals. In other words, just like Daphne and Rocko, Elizabeth Animal Shelter conveniently classifies animals as owner surrenders to kill them as soon as possible, even if doing so is illegal.

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s decision to sedate virtually every animal instead of comforting these creatures speaks volumes about how the shelter feels about animals. While some animals are aggressive and require sedatives, surely not 163 of 164 cats and dogs were vicious or incapable of being comforted. After all, when you order the “owner surrenders” to come in on Thursdays for killing you don’t have time to hold and comfort animals. You just stick them with Ketamine and then poison them to death.

To make matters worse, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s use of pure Ketamine as a preeuthanasia drug is cruel. The Humane Society of United State Euthanasia Reference Manual states shelters should not use Ketamine alone to sedate an animal for killing as it makes the animal’s muscles rigid and the injection stings so much that the animal reacts very negatively to it. If that was not bad enough, large doses can cause convulsions and seizures.

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

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also used excessive doses of Ketamine. Elizabeth Animal Shelter administered 1.5 cubic centimeters of Ketamine to virtually every adult cat. The product label states 1 milliliter, which equals 1 cubic centimeter, of the Ketamine drug contains 100 milligrams of the active Ketamine ingredient. In addition, the product label states cats requiring restraint should receive a dose of 5 milligrams/pound of cat. The product label also states veterinary personnel should use a dose of 10-15 milligrams/pound of cat to produce anesthesia. Based on most cats weighing 8 pounds, that means the cats should have only received 40-120 milligrams or 0.4-1.2 cubic centimeters of the Ketamine drug. In other words, Elizabeth Animal Shelter provided doses up to 4 times greater than the label indicates. In addition, cats weighing as little as 5 pounds, which would require 0.25-0.75 cubic centimeter doses per the product label, also received the 1.5 cubic centimeter dose. Given large doses can “produce convulsions and seizures”, this indicates many animals could have experienced agony prior to their killing.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also used incorrect doses of its euthanasia drug assuming it used sodium pentobarbital or Fatal Plus. Per the Humane Society of United States Euthanasia Reference Manual, shelters should use 1 cubic centimeter of Fatal Plus per 10 pounds of animal body weight for intravenous and heart sticking injections and 3 cubic centimeters of Fatal Plus per 10 pounds of animal body weight for intraperitoneal injections. For an 8 pound cat, that would equal 0.8 cubic centimeters of Fatal Plus. However, Elizabeth Animal Shelter used 2 cubic centimeters of its euthanasia drug for just about every adult cat weighing 8 pounds and for most adult cats of different weights. If the shelter used intraperitoneal injections on the 8 pound cats, that would require 2.4 cubic centimeters of the drug compared to the 2 cubic centimeters used by the shelter. Animals receiving too small of a dose may have been still alive before being dumped in the trash or an incinerator if the shelter used intraperitoneal injections. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s use of these drugs raises serious questions about whether the facility humanely euthanizes animals.

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

Perhaps the most egregious example was Elizabeth Animal Shelter listing a groundhog weighing 40 pounds in its euthanasia log below. Groundhogs typically weigh from 4-9 pounds with 31 pounds being the maximum weight. Now either Elizabeth Animal Shelter impounded the largest groundhog in world history or it didn’t actually weigh the animal. Conveniently, the animal preceding this mammoth sized groundhog was a raccoon weighing the same 40 pounds.

Elizabeth Groundhoug weight.jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s questionable record keeping raise concerns about whether controlled substances at the shelter are secure. If the shelter reports using more of these controlled substances than they actually do (i.e. a possibility if they are in fact running a humane operation), that provides staff the opportunity to steal some of these drugs. In the case of Ketamine, this is a highly sought after black market recreational drug. As a result, the shelter’s euthanasia records raise concerns that go beyond animal welfare.

Shelter Budget Reflects Misguided Priorities

Elizabeth spends almost its entire shelter budget on employee salaries. Unlike most municipalities that separately disclose the animal shelter’s budget, Elizabeth buries the shelter’s projected expenditures within its Health Department budget. The Health Department’s 2016 budget reveals the Elizabeth Animal Shelter pays salaries totaling $144,481 for its ACOs and $23,241 for a part-time veterinarian. In addition, the Health Officer, Mark Colicchio, who spends part of his time overseeing the shelter, receives a salary of $92,787 a year. Unfortunately, the budget provides no other details on animal shelter expenditures. Unless other animal shelters costs are covered in the $145,000 “Other Charges” line in the Health Department budget, the shelter devotes nearly 100% of its costs to paying people’s salaries and not on animal care.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s part-time veterinarian seems to do nothing more than come in and kill animals. Based on discussions I’ve had with several people familiar with the shelter, the part-time veterinarian works at the shelter every Thursday. As discussed above, the shelter only accepts “owner surrenders”, which seems to include both animals actually surrendered by their owners and stray animals found by people, on the day the veterinarian comes in. Sadly, the shelter kills many of these animals on that very day. In fact, that is exactly what happened to Daphne and Rocko. Despite requesting veterinary records under OPRA, the shelter provided me no such records other than those for emergency care performed by an outside veterinarian (most of these animals were euthanized). In other words, Elizabeth’s part-time veterinarian appears to receive around $450 to come in on each Thursday to kill animals.

Videos Reveal Poor Animal Sheltering Practices

In a recent video, Darcy Del Castillo and another ACO were not conducting behavioral evaluations according to the ASPCA’s guidance. Specifically, the ASPCA guidance states:

  1. The room should be quiet: no phones, intercoms, pagers, barking dogs, people talking, and animals housed here
  2. No distractions during the test such as phones, multi-tasking assessors, side conversations and smells that can capture the dog’s interest.
  3. Tester should hold leash with slack

During the video, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s evaluator uses a room filled with distractions, talks with another person, and tethers the dog on a tight leash to a kennel. Additionally, another staff member yells at the dog.

Furthermore, the shelter still conducts food guarding tests despite the ASPCA recommending that shelters stop using these inaccurate tests and instead provide all adopters information on how to manage food aggression. Many shelters classify and kill dogs for being food aggressive that don’t display food guarding in a home. Additionally, many dogs who pass food aggression tests in a shelter display the trait in a home setting. Thus, the shelter’s continued use of food aggression tests puts both animals and people at risk.

Another video shows an ACO using a chokepole on a friendly dog abandoned in a home. Given chokepoles can strangle a struggling dog, ACOs should only use these devices as a last resort. Frankly, this video speaks volumes about how some of Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s ACOs feel about animals.

Elizabeth Tries to Dupe the Public Into Believing the Shelter Saved Lots of Animals During the Holidays

In late December, a local news story raved about the job Elizabeth Animal Shelter is doing. The article, which appeared like it was hastily written by the Elizabeth Health Department, stated the shelter saved all of its animals prior to Christmas. Additionally, the news story mentioned positive changes began in the Fall of 2013 (actually it was in 2014) after the facility started evaluating animals and allowing people to post the shelter’s animals on social media. Furthermore, the article touted the city’s pet limit law and policy requiring adopters to alter their animals or face fines. Finally, the article praised Darcy Del Castillo’s sharing of animals on her Shelter Helpers Facebook page and also made a quick reference to the Friends of Elizabeth Animal Shelter Facebook page.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed many animals during the month of December. As the tables below show, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 44% and 20% of all non-reclaimed cats and dogs. In fact, the shelter’s kill rate in December was higher than the average for the year despite very low animal intake relative to most months. While the shelter labeled some of these animals as “sick” and “medical euthanasia”, the city provided me no actual veterinary documentation that these animals were in fact hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, the high kill rate makes it highly unlikely that most of these animals were in a permanent state of severe physical distress. Thus, Elizabeth failed to tell the public about its entire performance during the holiday season.Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 Statistics (20)

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 Statistics (28)

The Elizabeth Animal Shelter also violated the 7 day hold period during December 2015. The shelter illegally killed 7 dogs and cats prior the end of the 7 day hold period during December 2015. In fact, the facility illegally killed two owner surrendered cats on December 31 just before the New Years Day holiday. Furthermore, Elizabeth Animal Shelter adopted out/sent to rescue 3 stray dogs during their 7 day hold period in December 2015. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter patted itself on the back while it operated in an illegal manner.

Elizabeth’s touting of its more stringent animal control laws reveals a city putting into place policies that will take rather than save lives. First and foremost, the shelter’s hypocritical requirement that Elizabeth residents alter adopted dogs when the city shelter refuses to do so discourages adoptions. How many companies sell you a product with the threat of heavy fines if you don’t do what they say? Its like Toyota selling you an automobile without seat belts and fining you if you don’t put them in yourself. Frankly, that type of policy scares adopters away. Second, pet limit laws reduce the number of homes for animals and lead to increased shelter intake and killing. The ASPCA, HSUS, Best Friends and the No Kill Advocacy Center all oppose these laws as these statutes waste scarce resources that cities can use to save animals and lead to increased shelter killing. Furthermore, cities can enforce animal cruelty statutes without having pet limit laws. Thus, Elizabeth brags about animal control policies that exacerbate rather than reduce shelter killing.

The glowing Elizabeth Animal Shelter story failed to recognize many of the other people responsible for emptying the shelter out before last Christmas. Specifically, the press release failed to recognize Jennifer Arteta, who runs the Friends of Elizabeth Animal Shelter Facebook page mentioned in the story. Ms. Arteta was the owner of the two dogs, Daphne and Rocko, who Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed in June 2014 and who led the effort to reform the shelter. In addition, the story failed to mention the Union County Lost Pets Facebook group which actively promotes and finds placement for Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s animals. The person running the Union County Lost Pets group also worked to reform Elizabeth Animal Shelter after the Daphne and Rocko incident. As a result, the article failed to mention that the very people fighting against the city to reform the shelter played a key role in emptying out the Elizabeth Animal Shelter.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Still Needs Reform

The Elizabeth Animal Shelter has improved in some respects since it illegally killed Daphne and Rocko in June of 2014. Certainly, the shelter decreased its dog kill rate and Darcy Del Castillo deserves some credit. However, the shelter’s cat kill rate increased since Ms. Del Castillo’s arrival at the shelter. That being said, Elizabeth Animal Shelter is a far safer place for animals than the atrocious Associated Humane Societies-Newark shelter located a few miles away.

However, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s improvement with dogs is primarily due to the rescue community and not the city or its shelter. After following Facebook pages, such as Union County Lost Pets and Friends of the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, and reviewing the shelter’s records, I can clearly see how hard local rescues, animal advocates and Elizabeth residents work to save animals from the shelter. The shelter basically throws out a terrible photo and tells the rescue community to save the animal or the dog or cat will die. Even the few animals the shelter adopts out are due to local animal advocates promoting the pets rather than the shelter itself. Other than Ms. Del Castillo, no one at the shelter appears to do anything proactive to save the animals. Even worse, the near 100% reliance on rescues likely results in little to no net increase in lifesaving in the region due to rescues pulling from Elizabeth Animal Shelter rather than other local kill shelters.

The Elizabeth Animal Shelter fails to even do basic animal sheltering. The shelter typically provides no veterinary care other than killing. The city does not spay/neuter or even vaccinate its animals. Furthermore, the shelter willfully violates New Jersey’s shelter laws relating to public operating hours and the 7 day hold period. In other words, the shelter still regularly does the very thing that sparked reform efforts at the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. Additionally, the shelter may be violating state shelter laws in the areas of humane euthanasia as well as record keeping.

The Elizabeth Animal Shelter also violates many of the standards of care advocated by the ASPCA. The ASPCA is a traditional shelter advocacy group and it typically recommends far lower standards than what no kill groups do. However, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter violates even these lower standards. Specifically, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter fails to do the following things:

  1. Have minimum standards for facilities, sanitation, medical protocols, and enrichment/socialization
  2. Shelters should never use the expiration of applicable holding periods or owner relinquishment as license to immediately euthanize animals simply because, at least legally, their “time is up”
  3. Shelters must provide clear notice to the public concerning shelter locations, hours, fees and the return-to-owner process
  4. Shelters should be accessible during reasonable hours to owners seeking to reclaim their pet. These hours should include some reasonable additional period of time beyond the typical workday (e.g. 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday) so that pet owners who may not have flexible work schedules have the best opportunity to reclaim their pets.
  5. Shelters should make written descriptions of key processes and information easily and readily available for public inspection.

Despite the increase in the facility’s dog live release rate, too many animals still lose their lives at the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. 1 out of 3 pit bull like dogs and cats requiring new homes lose their lives at the shelter. In this day and age where animal control shelters in large cities, such as Jacksonville, Florida, Baltimore, Maryland, Salt Lake City, Utah, Portland, Oregon Austin, Texas, Atlanta, Georgia, Kansas City, Missouri, and Washington DC achieved or are close to reaching no kill status (90% or higher live release rate), we should expect far more from the Elizabeth Animal Shelter.

Elizabeth needs to operate its shelter using the no kill equation in an enthusiastic manner. The key programs are as follows:

NKE

For far too long, the city’s leaders have chosen to operate the Elizabeth Animal Shelter as cheaply as possible. The city’s shelter is literally located in a public works area hidden from public view.Elizabeth Dog Warden - Google Maps

City officials never expanded the facility, despite plenty of land being available, and allowed it to remain undersized. Furthermore, city officials compensated by violating its own residents’ rights by killing and transferring animals illegally during the 7 day hold period. Simply put, Elizabeth’s political leaders view homeless animals as trash and only allow rescuers to pick that trash up before its taken to the garbage dump.

Elizabeth residents should demand far more than an old school pound that expects rescues to save the day and completely pay the bills. Clearly, the city of Elizabeth’s residents have spoken up and taken actions that prove they desperately want a no kill city shelter. Just imagine what animal advocates could achieve if they had a city and a shelter determined to do its part in saving lives. Instead of desperately trying to take animals off of death row, these volunteers could urgently work with the shelter to treat, rehabilitate and quickly get homeless animals into permanent homes. In return, hundreds of people would come to the city to adopt, volunteer, donate funds to the shelter and spend money at local businesses.

If the city chooses to not operate the shelter according to state law as well as its residents’ desires, Elizabeth should issue an RFP to allow one or more of the rescues to take the facility over. Clearly, the city of Elizabeth is failing its animals and its pet owning residents. If elected officials won’t act, then its time for Elizabeth voters to replace these politicians with folks who will do the right thing for Elizabeth’s animals and citizens.