Linden Animal Control, which has had a terrible reputation for years, recently came under fire. At an April 15 City Council meeting, Robert Scutro and several other people passionately argued the shelter needed drastic changes (see 2 hour and 21 minute mark of the video). During the meeting, City Health Officer, Nancy Koblis, and City Council Member, Michele Yamakaitis, largely dismissed the concerns. Yamakaitis heads the Animal Control Committee which was formed to investigate and rectify Linden Animal Control’s issues. Elizabeth’s Health Department, at the request of Yamakaitis’s committee, found serious problems during a May 8 inspection. On July 23, New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Animal Welfare, which typically conducts much more thorough inspections, visited the facility and failed Linden Animal Control. The city plans to shut the shelter down at the end of 2014, contract with another facility in 2015, and open a new shelter in 2016.
Linden issued a stunning press release after the Office of Animal Welfare inspection report. The city clearly attempted to downplay the shelter’s problems and make it seem as if they were on top of the issue. Basically, Yamakaitis stated the facility is run down, but animals aren’t being neglected. Mayor Richard Gerbounka blamed the issues on Union County not building a facility, but said all was good:
“Our facility certainly wasn’t the best in the area, but we attempted to maintain it with reasonable standards while Union County was proposing a county-wide facility. Many of these issues came with age, which would require larger scale remodeling with a large cost associated, and this remodeling would have been moot if Union County built a facility that would have not only been more modern, but larger.”
Yamakaitis made several general short-term recommendations, but all the recommendations are dependent on “materials, financing, and ability becoming available.” As a result, the recommendations are meaningless because they are not mandatory. Its like a 500 pound man saying “I’ll lose weight if somehow I end up eating healthier and exercising.” In other words, the recommendations are pointless.
Linden’s Animal Control Committee plans on building the new shelter with private funding. As you will see below, Linden Animal Control’s problems were primarily the result of the individuals in charge and we should not donate one cent to these same people.
Office of Animal Welfare Inspection Report Shows Problems Due to People Running the Shelter
The Office of Animal Welfare inspection report revealed little to no effort was made to clean the shelter. Despite only housing 7 dogs from animal control and a handful of cats, shelter staff did not pick up feces. Instead, they sprayed feces with a hose without removing dogs from adjacent kennels, resulting in chunks of feces and chemicals hitting animals. Even worse, spraying rather than scooping feces caused a toxic urine, feces, and chemical filled soup to pass by each animal. Given the trenches were not maintained, this feces, urine, and chemical brew just sat in front of all the animals to breathe in. As a result, Linden Animal Control’s staff allowed the animals to literally live in crap.
Linden Animal Control’s cleaning protocol used frighteningly toxic chemicals. In the report, one animal control officer admitted to using bleach at a concentration 32 times higher than required for safely cleaning with animals present in nearby kennels. In fact, the bleach concentration used with animals in the facility was 10 times higher than the level used to disinfect a facility with no animals present. Additionally, the inspector noted the high concentration of bleach was so corrosive it could have led to the deterioration of the building’s structure. Thus, Linden Animal Control exposed animals to hazardous levels of chemicals and may have contributed to the dangerous conditions of the building itself.
Linden Animal Control did little to contain or treat diseases at the shelter. The facility had no legally required isolation area for sick animals. Additionally no legally required disease control program was put in place by the alleged supervising veterinarian, Dr. Shukla of Rahway Animal Hospital. Also, nothing was being done to alleviate stress or provide for the psychological well-being of animals. In fact, Linden Animal Control had no records or documentation showing many animals received any medical treatment to “alleviate pain and suffering” as required by law. One dog who was lucky enough to see the veterinarian apparently did not receive its required medicine for various worms and Giardia as significant amounts of the medicine were missing during the inspection. The inspector also noted “this dog was not provided with any means of stress relief, such as separation or barriers to prevent the direct view of other dogs, soft bedding, and a clean, dry environment, free from the strong odor of urine and the scent of other bodily secretions that had permeated the porous concrete in the dog enclosures.” As a result, Linden Animal Control’s management did little to help the animals under its care.
Linden Animal Control also failed to perform legally required procedures to reunite lost pets with their families. Records indicated animals were not properly scanned for microchips. Additionally, records proved numerous animals were not held the legally required 7 days. Holes in the ceiling allowed 10 cats to escape over 16 weeks from the Linden prison, which prevented their owners from finding the cats at the shelter. Also, the shelter was left open during the day when the ACOs were out allowing anyone to take any animal they wish.
Linden Animal Control failed to document it humanely killed its animals. The shelter has no euthanasia room so animals can see, smell, and hear other animals being killed. No legally required euthanasia instructions, weighing animals for proper drug dosage, or method of killing were documented. Additionally, no one kept records of how these drugs were used as required by law. While City Council member Yamakaitis claimed animals are now being killed at Rahway Animal Hospital, the inspection showed Ketamine, which is widely abused drug, was dispensed and numerous used syringes were found.
Of course Yamakaitis also said “extremely injured or sick animals” are still killed at Linden Animal Control. I guess Linden has lots of “extremely injured or sick animals.” Good thing those pesky animals are suffering so much as Yamaitikis’s dream team can give them the wonderful gift of a cruel death in front of all their cell mates.
Linden Animal Control devoted a significant portion of the shelter’s space for their own and their friend’s dogs. The shelter, which took in 226 dogs in 2012, only has 11 kennels. On average, Linden Animal Control would only have 18 days before it ran out of kennel space. Despite this shortage of space, employees used one kennel to house their personal dog and another enclosure to hold a Linden Department of Transportation employee’s dog. Making matters worse, Linden Animal Control only impounds strays (i.e. does not accept owner surrenders) and is licensed as a pound and not a boarding facility. The staff also used another kennel to hold a scale for euthanasia which they are supposedly not doing. As a result, the shelter lost nearly 30% of its already small amount of kennel space due to employees selfish decisions.
Linden failed to perform even basic maintenance at its shelter. Crumbling cinder blocks, rusted steel posts, dirty food bowls lying around, accumulations of fur and dirt under cat cages, improperly working air conditioning, an oil furnace without its front panel, and overgrowing vegetation engulfing the facility all indicate neglect of the shelter. Similarly, allowing a drainage system to fall into disrepair, which contributed to a feces, urine and chemical soup surrounding the animals like a toxic moat, also indicates the management couldn’t care less about the facility or its animals. In fact, the shelter had holes in the cat room so large that rodents and small mammals could “freely walk in.” To make the shelter more inviting for wild animals, the shelter left open bags of cat food adjacent to these openings. Additionally, if rodents and small mammals were not enough to welcome in, shelter staff allowed a mop to lie in dirty water for god knows how long allowing mosquitoes and other insects to breed at will.
Linden Should Get Out of the Animal Control and Sheltering Business
Mayor Gerbunka’s claim the condition of the shelter was due to Union County failing to build an animal shelter is ridiculous. Employees negligence or downright sadism caused most of these problems. Furthermore, the Union County shelter was not under construction and the idea that it was coming anytime soon is a joke. Additionally, Linden failed to maintain the basic fixtures at the shelter, such as fencing, enclosures, and even doors to the facility. The fact Linden plans to close the shelter at the end of the year and build a new facility clearly shows it failed to do the right thing for many years.
Linden residents must hold Mayor Gerbunka accountable this November. Mayor Gerbunka, in addition to presiding over this disgraceful shelter, has consistently denied the allegations and defended those directly responsible for the situation. Animal advocates need to send a strong message that this behavior has consequences.
Linden, Roselle, Fanwood, Clark, and Winfield residents need to demand a real no kill shelter. All these municipalities will contract with a new facility in 2015. The people running any new shelter must truly care for the animals. Clearly, Mayor Gerbunka Council Member Yamakaitis, Linden Health Officer, Nancy Koblis, and Linden Animal Control staff must have no role in animal control or the operation and oversight of a new shelter. At this time in history, animal control shelters are saving well over 95% of their animals and providing high quality care. We know how to do it and just have to demand it. After all the animals have gone through at Linden Animal Control for decades, the least we can do in those creatures memories is to provide state of the art care for homeless animals in the future.
Additional Information – Key Extracts From Office of Animal Welfare Inspection Report
“The concrete trenches inside the interior and exterior dog enclosures had settled and were in disrepair. Contaminated and stagnant water and excrement collected in these trenches and did not progress to the drain. These trenches and drains were not covered and the dogs housed in these enclosures were not protected from contamination, injury, and disease transmission from the animal waste and chemicals in this water.”
“Feces was not scooped and removed from animal enclosures, but was forced into the drainage trenches with a hose. This action not only increases the risk of contamination of adjacent animal enclosures and animals due to the particles of feces that become air borne when sprayed with a high pressure hose, but large chunks of fecal matter then has to be forced down the trenches toward the drain with the hose. These drainage trenches were not covered inside these animal enclosures and this fecal matter and other waste material had to pass along each animal enclosure, exposing each of these animals in adjacent enclosures to this waste material.”
“Animals in adjacent enclosures were not being protected from water and other waste material when the feces were being sprayed into the drainage trenches. The animal enclosures did not have a barrier between each enclosure to prevent the flow of water and waste materials from contaminating animals and adjacent enclosures. Each time a hose is used in animal enclosures, the animal in that enclosure as well as animals in adjacent enclosures will need to be removed from the enclosures to prevent contamination.”
“The dog enclosures were not sloped appropriately in some areas to allow liquids to run toward the drain. Urine from some of the dog enclosures had streamed into the main walkway at the time of this inspection.”
“There were no grates or other type of coverings over the drainage trenches inside each of the indoor and outdoor dog enclosures. Dogs were not protected from contamination and disease transmission from the animal waste that collected in these trenches.”
“The facility was not being cleaned and disinfected properly. The enclosures were not being cleaned with a detergent followed by a safe and effective disinfectant and feces were not being scooped and removed from enclosures before the enclosures were hosed down. When asked how the facility was cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis, the Animal Control Officer stated that he mixes a half-gallon (8 cups) of bleach into a half-gallon of water and this mixture is poured onto the walls and floors of the animal enclosures. Some of the bottles of bleach found in the facility at the time of this inspection contained a concentration of more than 8% sodium hypochlorite. Bleach to water at a ratio of 1:1 is highly corrosive and could cause eroding of the cinder blocks and other building materials and could also cause skin burns and inhalation injuries to people and animals. The highest concentration of bleach that would be used as a disinfectant for resistant fungal spores in an animal facility is a ratio of 1:10 (1 ½ cups to 1 gallon water) with a product containing 6% sodium hypochlorite. The animals would need to be removed from rooms where this high concentration of bleach is used. The ratio for standard disinfection of animal facilities on a daily basis would be 1:32 (1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water.)”
“The facility did not have a separate isolation room available on the premises to house animals that display signs of communicable disease from healthy animals.”
“Premises were not clean and in good repair to protect animals from injury and disease and to facilitate the prescribed husbandry practices and prevent nuisances. Animal enclosures were in severe disrepair and were unable to be properly disinfected due to the large cracks and chunks of missing concrete in the flooring, around expansion joints, in the walls of the dog enclosures, and in the areas around the guillotine doors. The surfaces of these enclosures were not impervious to moisture and there was a strong odor of urine and animal waste that had permeated these concrete and cinder block surfaces and the odor was unable to be abated, even though the surfaces had been doused with a 1:1 ratio of bleach to water. There was an accumulation of algae or other growth on the mortar joints and the cinder blocks in the outdoor animal enclosures.”
“All areas throughout the facility were not being cleaned on a daily basis. The building was in severe disrepair and the floors, walls, ceilings, exterior doors and other surfaces were not being maintained in good repair.”
“The supervising veterinarian for the facility was said to be Dr. Shukla of the Rahway Animal Hospital, but there was no documentation available at the facility to indicate that a disease control and health care program had been established and was being maintained under the direction of a supervising veterinarian at the facility. There was no evidence that a program to address the psychological well-being of animals, including stress induced behaviors, was in effect at the facility.”
“There were no medical records, no veterinary signatures, and no treatment logs to document that any medical treatments were being or had been administered at the facility and there was no documentation to indicate that a veterinarian had visited the facility and was in charge of a disease control and health care program.”
“Records that were available in the office of the Linden Health Department showed that some animals were described as displaying signs of illness and some of these animals had died at the facility. There were no medical records available to indicate that these animals were provided with at least prompt basic veterinary care to relieve pain and suffering.”
“An emaciated female dog, ticket number 1054, was picked up on 7/22/14 according to the information on the ticket, and was taken to an animal hospital for emergency veterinary care before being transported to the impoundment facility. This dog was said to have been prescribed Panacur (prescription brand of Fenbendazole) by a local veterinarian for the treatment of roundworms and Giardia. This medication is required to be given three days in a row to be effective against certain species of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm and up to five days in a row for Giardia, but only one packet was found in the pouch on the gate of her enclosure on the date of this inspection. There were no records documenting that this medication had been administered, when it may have been administered, and by whom it may have been administered. This dog was also prescribed a feeding regimen by the veterinarian. Instructions indicated that this dog was to be fed small amounts of canned food every four hours; but there were no treatment records available on the premises to document that this dog had been fed as instructed.
This dog also had enlarged and distended teats and may have recently nursed puppies before being impounded. This dog was displaying signs of stress at the time of this inspection; she was pacing from side to side and was snapping at the dogs housed on either side of her enclosure. This dog was not provided with any means of stress relief, such as separation or barriers to prevent the direct view of other dogs, soft bedding, and a clean, dry environment, free from the strong odor of urine and the scent of other bodily secretions that had permeated the porous concrete in the dog enclosures.”
“The facility did not have an isolation room to separate animals with signs of a communicable disease and there were no procedures in place at the time of this inspection to control the dissemination of disease as recommended by the supervising veterinarian.”
“Records indicated that numerous animals that were impounded by Linden Animal Control Officers were not being held for the required seven day holding period before being euthanized, transferred or adopted. Records also indicated that numerous cats had escaped soon after being transported to the facility.”
“No records were available at the facility to indicate that a written description of lost animals and proof of ownership, such as a license for or picture of the animal, was being obtained from persons searching for lost pets. There were no procedures and security measures established at the facility for the viewing of confined animals to prevent the spread of disease.”
“Since the date of this inspection, the NJDOH has received documentation indicating that at least two impounded dogs had been transferred out of the facility before being held the required seven days. One dog, number 1054 described previously, had been transferred to another non-contracting animal facility due to the inability of the Linden Animal Shelter staff to
“The certifications signed by various veterinarians for the three persons administering animal euthanasia at the facility did not state the technique or techniques for which the individuals were certified.”
“It was not determined at the time of this inspection where the euthanasia procedures were carried out. Written instructions for euthanasia is required to be posted in the euthanasia area. This area should not be in the direct view of or within close proximity of other animals housed at the facility to prevent undue stress that may be caused to animals housed in the vicinity.”
“Records were not maintained on the premises that contained the body weight and dosages of the immobilizing and tranquilizing agents administered to each animal being euthanized. There were no records created or maintained that indicated the route of injection of each substance administered to animals as required. There was a bottle of Ketamine on the premises that had been used, as evidenced by the needle punctures and a crystalized residue on the rubber stopper of the bottle. There were no logs and disposition records on the premises documenting the appropriate use of this drug.”
“Some records did not contain complete information as required for animals that had been impounded or otherwise taken into the facility and the final disposition was not being recorded
or was incomplete on most of the documents for impounded animals. There were no medical records available for animals that may have received veterinary medical treatment; and the method of euthanasia, including the dosages by weight and the route of injection, was not being recorded in the animal’s final disposition record for the animals that had been euthanized.”
“When the owner’s identification or other form of identification that could be traced back to the owner was found on an animal picked up by Linden Animal Control Officers, no records were available to indicate that notification was being served by the Animal Control Officers to the owners or persons charged with the care of the animal that the animal had been seized and would be liable to be offered for adoption or euthanized if not claimed within seven days after service of the notice.”
“The facility did not have a certificate of inspection issued by the local health authority showing compliance with these rules. There was no documentation at the facility indicating that the facility was licensed to operate as required under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8. The application for licensure shall be accompanied by the written approval of the local municipal and health authorities showing compliance with the local and State rules and regulations governing the location of and sanitation at such establishment. This facility was not in compliance with State rules and regulations at the time of this inspection, which is a prerequisite for licensing.”
“There were two dogs at the facility that were not impounded animals, but were said to be owned by municipal or other employees. One dog was being housed at the facility for long term boarding, but there were no records or other identifying information for the dog or the employee. Another dog was said to be surrendered by its owner and the owner was a Department of Transportation employee. There was no owner information for this dog on the animal’s ticket and there were no other records available for this dog. This facility was not licensed as a boarding kennel at the time of this inspection. The facility has eleven dog enclosures available to house impounded animals for five municipalities, including Linden. One of these enclosures was being used to store the scale for animal euthanasia, and two other’s housed employee’s dogs, and one enclosure housed a dog being held under a court order, leaving seven available enclosures to house impounded animals.”
“The housing facilities for animals were not maintained in good repair, to protect the animals from injury, to contain the animals, and to restrict the entrance of other animals. The soffit panels over the exterior dog enclosures had fallen down and the attic roof space was exposed. This space was large enough to allow wildlife and other animals to enter the building.”
“There were holes in the ceiling of the cat room; one appeared to be for a pipe which had been removed and one was a framed access opening with no panel with which to cover it. This access opening in the ceiling of the cat room was large enough to allow easy escape into the attic space and out of the building through the fallen soffit panels over the exterior dog enclosures. A portion of records that were reviewed documented that ten cats had escaped from the facility within a 16 week period.”
“There was a hole in the wall in the cat room with a white PVC pipe in it that led directly to the outside of the facility and was large enough for rats and other small animals to enter and exit freely. There was a hole in the floor in the cat room which could have originally been some type of drain, but its function was unable to be determined. This hole was not covered and contained an accumulation of cat litter, food, and other waste material.”
“The exterior concrete slab under and surrounding the steel posts which were supporting the roof of the facility was crumbling and the steel posts were severely rusted and deteriorated. The cinder blocks of the lower section of the interior and exterior wall of the building which were surrounding the guillotine doors inside the dog enclosures were separating and the blocks were showing signs of deterioration. The cinder blocks at the end of the wall of the building in the exterior dog enclosures were separating outward from the top of the wall, creating a diminishing gap from top to bottom along the blocks in a step pattern. The steel access door to the underground concrete utility or valve box where the pipe clean outs were located was severely rusted and the hinges were rusted into a position that prevented the lid from closing completely.”
“There was a mop bucket and string mop attached to a severely rusted mop handle that was sitting outside in front of this green metal structure. This bucket was filled with dirty water and appeared to have not been used for some time and was creating a harborage for mosquitos and other water breeding insects.”
“Although the main entrance gate was locked on the morning of this inspection, the exterior door to the main indoor housing area of the facility was ajar and the facility was left unlocked when the animal control officer left the facility. There were no other employees or volunteers at the facility at that time.”
“Inside the building there was an accumulation of food, fur, dirt, and other materials under cat cages, between the filing cabinet and refrigerator, around and behind the utility sink, around and behind the furnace and the base of the wall, and there was a buildup of dirt on the floors in front of the furnace and other areas throughout the facility. There were cobwebs and debris around the wiring that passed through the walls below the ceiling and there were cobwebs and debris around the open bags of food and other items stored in the cat room.”
“The oil furnace had a large rusted area above the oil burner assembly. The facility had working air conditioning at the time of this inspection, but the Health Officer said the unit has to be watched because it was not working properly; it freezes up and the unit shuts down. The unit needs to defrost before it can be started up again. The front panel for the oil furnace that was said to be missing was found during the inspection, but the screws to attach it to the front of the furnace were missing.”
“The concrete flooring in the cat room was in disrepair and was not smooth in many areas and was not easily cleaned and disinfected. The interior and exterior surfaces, including the doors of the cat enclosures were rusted and peeling and unable to be properly cleaned and disinfected.”
“Surfaces of the indoor and outdoor dog enclosures were severely deteriorating, had cracks and chunks of broken concrete in some areas, and the multiple layers of paint on these surfaces had peeled off and the surfaces were not impervious to moisture and able to be readily cleaned and disinfected. There were numerous areas of unsealed concrete that was not impervious to moisture and was unable to be disinfected. The plastic dog beds used inside the enclosures were scratched and chewed in some areas and had crevices that were unable to be properly cleaned and disinfected.”