One year ago, East Orange Animal Control made news for all the wrong reasons. At the time, the city’s recently hired Animal Control Officer, Amanda Ham, dramatically increased the animal shelter’s live release rate. However, East Orange Health Officer, Rochelle Evans, fired the ACO after Ms. Ham complained to the NJ SPCA about dreadful conditions the city refused to fix. Shortly after Ms. Evans fired Amanda Ham, the New Jersey Department of Health inspected the shelter and documented horrific conditions. Specifically, the New Jersey Department of Health reported animals inundated with a toxic feces and chemical filled soup, a fly infestation so severe that animals with open wounds and skin lesions were in danger of having maggots grow inside them, cats not provided with enough water and water they did have was contaminated with cat litter, and improper isolation of sick animals. Thus, East Orange Animal Control’s shelter was a complete mess last year.
East Orange Animal Control Kills a Friendly Dog Adopted from Liberty Humane Society
East Orange Animal Control killed a friendly dog recently adopted from Liberty Humane Society. Roxy was adopted from Liberty Humane Society in late April and was a sweet dog according to the shelter’s volunteers. For some reason, the adopter decided not to keep Roxy and turned her into East Orange Animal Control in late May. On Tuesday, June 2, Liberty Humane Society heard East Orange Animal Control might have Roxy and attempted to contact East Orange Animal Control, but East Orange Animal Control did not respond to Liberty Humane Society that day. On Wednesday, June 3, East Orange Animal Control killed Roxy and two other dogs while the facility had empty kennels.
While some people may blame the owner for this event, this criticism is unfair. The owner did a noble thing and adopted the dog from Liberty Humane Society, a shelter with very little space, and surely saved a life. Certainly, the owner should have returned the dog to Liberty Humane Society. However, we don’t know if there were extenuating circumstances. For example, perhaps the owner could not travel to Liberty Humane Society due to lack of transportation. Alternatively, perhaps East Orange Animal Control was close to her home and she thought the shelter would do its job and get Roxy back to Liberty Humane Society. Either way, East Orange Animal Control decided to kill the dog and must shoulder 100% of the blame.
East Orange Animal Control’s actions raises serious questions. If Roxy was surrendered to East Orange Animal Control on May 28 or after, East Orange Animal Control would have violated N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 e. requiring shelters to offer an animal for adoption for at least 7 days before killing that animal. While East Orange Animal Control is not legally required to scan animals surrendered by their owners for a microchip, one would think a shelter would do so. If East Orange Animal Control did scan Roxy for a microchip, East Orange Animal Control would have known Roxy was recently adopted from Liberty Humane Society. If East Orange Animal Control knew Roxy was recently adopted from Liberty Humane Society, the killing of her would be even more heinous. Tragically, Liberty Humane Society had plenty of empty kennels to house Roxy after the shelter adopted out 37 animals a few days earlier during a fee-waived adoption promotion.
East Orange Animal Control’s Questionable Veterinarian
The New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Examiners concluded Dr. Kimani Griffith was grossly negligent in the care he provided a patient’s dog. In September 2004, Dr. Griffith spayed a female dog and performed a mastectomy after noticing a lump on the dogs’s teats. After the owner’s dog experienced complications from the surgery, Dr. Griffith failed to properly diagnose the problem and delayed appropriate treatment that resulted in the dog’s death. The New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Examiners ordered Dr. Griffith to pay nearly $2,500 in fines and complete 20 hours of continuing education in the area of General Surgery.
South Orange Takes Animals to East Orange Animal Control and to Dr. Griffith
South Orange has taken at least one animal this year to East Orange’s animal shelter. After Jersey Animal Coalition left South Orange in 2014 due to conflicts related to a failed New Jersey Department of Health inspection, South Orange brought animals to the high kill Associated Humane Societies – Newark shelter. In 2015, after AHS-Newark required South Orange to also purchase animal control services, South Orange ended its relationship with AHS-Newark. Earlier this year, South Orange ACO, Melanie Troncone stated South Orange currently was taking stray animals to Puppy Love, a pet groomer in Maplewood, and South Orange Animal Hospital. Ms. Trancone stated the animals would be held for 7-10 days at these locations and then released to an unnamed rescue or a shelter. Around the same time as the ACO made this statement, she wrote the following comment on a Facebook post saying she brought a large stray dog to East Orange’s animal shelter:
One has to question why South Orange would choose to take a lost dog to one of the state’s worst pounds? Does South Orange have a contract with East Orange Animal Control or Dr. Giffith’s Country Lakes Animal Clinic in Mine Hill? Either alternative is not good and to not notify residents is despicable while the town drags its feet on re-opening the old JAC shelter with new management.
Companion Animal Protection Act Desperately Needed
The Companion Animal Protection Act (“CAPA”) requires several things that would have prevented the tragic killing of Roxy. First, CAPA requires all, not just stray, animals be scanned for microchips and possible owners or caretakers be contacted. In the case of Roxy, a micochip scan would have identified Liberty Humane Society as the faciity she came from and East Orange Animal Control would have had to contact Liberty Humane Society. Second, under CAPA animal shelters cannot kill animals when
(1) there are empty cages, kennels, or other living environments in the shelter; and,
(2) a foster home is available; and,
(3) a rescue groups is willing to accept the animal; and,
(4) the animal can be transferred to another shelter with room to house the animal; and
(5) the director of the agency does not certify that he or she has no other alternative.
Under CAPA, East Orange Animal Control would have been prohibited from killing Roxy since the shelter had empty kennels at that time. Additionally, the shelter would have had to contact rescues, fosters and other shelters before killing Roxy which likely would have caused people to identify her earlier. Certainly, if East Orange Animal Control contacted Liberty Humane Society, which had room, Liberty Humane Society would have taken Roxy back. Thus, CAPA would likely have prevented Roxy’s killing assuming the law was properly enforced.
Mayor Lester Taylor Must Do the Right Thing for His Community and the Animals
East Orange Animal Control is currently spending much more money than other municipal shelters who save their animals. In 2013, the city spent $345 per dog and cat and likely killed most of their animals (the facility did not report outcome data). On the other hand, Perth Amboy only spent $281 per dog and cat in 2013 and saved 97% of its dogs and 93% of its cats. In 2014 East Orange budgeted $2.63 per person on its animal control and sheltering operations while Perth Amboy only spent $2.34 per person in 2014. Thus, East Orange is wasting taxpayers money and embarrassing the city in the process.
East Orange Animal Control currently bans volunteers from its shelter. Basically, the only exposure animals got until recently were pictures a couple of select people were allowed to take through the kennels. Clearly, such pictures are depressing and don’t do nearly enough to promote the adoption of these animals.
Sadly, East Orange Animal Control has now illegally banned people from even taking these photos. Furthermore, East Orange Animal Control bars the public from taking photos of the animal shelter as well.
Nathan Winograd, who is a no kill leader and an accomplished attorney, provided the following summary of why it is illegal for animal control shelters to ban photos and videos:
Banning photography and video in public areas of the shelter limits free speech. See Animal Legal Defense Fund vs. Otter, 2014 WL 4388158*10 (D. Idaho 2014). The taking of a photograph or video is “included with the First Amendment’s guarantee of speech and press rights as a corollary of the right to disseminate the resulting recording.” ACLU vs. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583, 597 (7th Cir. 2012). As the ACLU has correctly argued, “Videotaping and capturing images of poor shelter conditions or neglected animals are indistinguishable from ‘commenting’ or ‘speaking out’ on such conditions.” Volunteers, rescuers, and members of the public have a right to document things they believe are improper. They also can take photographs and videotape to assist in finding animals homes.
Not only is East Orange Animal Control needlessly killing animals, it now is violating our First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press. As a result, East Orange Animal Control has added violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to its breaking of state animal shelter laws.
Volunteering at an animal shelter does as much good for the people giving their time as the animals themselves. People need to have meaning to their life. Rehabilitating an animal and being part of its metamorphosis is incredibly moving. Animals open up the most hardened hearts as evidenced by the many successful animal shelter programs at prisons. Senior citizens, young people who need direction, and families looking to spend time together can join up, save lives, and be part of something that builds up their self-esteem and their community. Thus, animal shelter volunteer programs help the people volunteering just as much as the animals those folks help.
East Orange must stop depriving its own citizens from experiencing the opportunity to volunteer and better themselves. Countless communities, such as ones with high poverty rates like Perth Amboy, have come together and made their animal shelter a source of pride. Mayor Taylor touts his community support programs yet his animal shelter refuses to let those citizens help. It is time Mayor Taylor clean house in his Animal Control department, hire caring and compassionate people, and let his community help its animals. If Perth Amboy, which has a higher poverty rate than East Orange, can do this then why can’t East Orange?
East Orange’s residents must come together and demand more from their city government. Illegal activities, unethical actions, and depriving the city’s own citizens the opportunity to better themselves have made the city’s animal shelter an urgent issue. If the elected officials refuse to fix the animal shelter, then East Orange’s citizens should make sure those officials are shown the door.
This is downright fucking SHAMEFUL!!! Roxy could’ve been my dog’s twin, so this just infuriates me all the more! These assholes need to be taken to task and then removed from their positions with a quickness! Amanda could single-handedly run this place better than the whole lot of these douche canoes and I think it’s about time that these heartless, incompetent fools be named, exposed, ousted, and made an example of immediately!!!!!
Scott my name is alex kelly I am the former aco for East Orange I must say that I worked there for a year and a half under the same administration and im saying that it seems that anyone that tried to do the right thing was picked on or fired. Me I waited until I found something else and then resigned. In that time I flipped that place over. I found paint in the garbage and painted 98 percent of that place.I found a desk in the trash and made everything work. So as far as adoptions I was at a 97 percent and sending animals out to rescues. So the euthanasia rate was basically non existence. Only if we had mo other choice. And all this was recent. I resigned June 5. But I was out since the 2nd. Its not anywhere near what the report reflected.I fixed just about singlehandedly. But I just could not deal with them anymore. Take care.Alex Kelly
Hi Alex- I am currently writing a letter to Mayor Taylor regarding this place and I am considering paying a visit to attempt to help out the animals. Can you please email me at LFifick@hotmail.com and just tell me a little bit about your experience there and which direction to start in to help these poor animals? Do they accept volunteers? Since they are only open a few hours a day, who cares for the animals when nobody is there?
Thanks for the help!
I have volunteered at a municipal shelter and have seen first hand that the animals can be properly cared for, that TNR works (75% reduction in the cat population in the shelter), and that volunteers can be a valuable asset. It is not 1950 anymore and there is no reason to still be a Pound instead of a Shelter.
Let us all sign this petition to the city council https://www.change.org/p/city-of-east-orange-nj-address-inhumane-animal-shelter-conditions
Why is it so hard to do the right thing. Karma for all the people involved in this evil. Rest in peace sweet Roxy and all the other sweet innocent dogs that were wrongly killed.
What is the NJSPCA doing with regards to these horrible conditions and killings? Granted we don’t know the circumstances of why the “adopter” returned the dog, but all she had to do was CALL LHS and a volunteer could have picked up the dog. Bottom line she didn’t give a damn and it was more convenient to just toss the dog into a high kill shelter.
I was poised to write a short note from my new home outside new jersey.
But instead I am bursting out of my seams on what to say here. When others notify the health department it appears – POOF they are gone.
Its a little thing called retaliation. Why is that? The laws seem set up so the Health Department who licenses and is never going to be really able to win and prevent real animal problems. Though the Health Dept are required to license animal shelters, at the State of New Jersey there is only one investigator. How many shelters re there?
UPON REPORTS, the Health Dept is (by law) required to bring in the SPCA which is managed under Attorney General office, an appointed position. This means even the most well meaning folks who do animal control and are in the Health Officer category might be hesitant to evaluate and report problems at shelters – even if they know its happening. Many of these people do love animals.
AND New Jersey is one of few states where the AG is appointed. Most other states its an elected position. Its no wonder that the divisions of power and work under the AG is being scrutinized now – given Bridge Gate and other matters. I understand in the past the AG was responsible for oversight of historical preservation funds too – what ? Why is animal law the purview of police men and the SPCA under the attorney general guidance now?
The animal cruelty laws which are supposedly some of the most stringent in the nation make leave little room to help others on their way out of animal neglect – even when they want to do the right thing. People hesitate to report cases of neglect as its “not that bad” just someone who loves animals. They fear legal consequences or harming their neighbors. CONCERNED volunteers express dismay and concern to board members and officials but then themselves become the target and are labeled trouble makers> Many people lose jobs. Its this fear that holds them hostage as jobs are often at stake. They may threaten the status quo or existing operating systems. The “complainers” are banned OR are terminated helping to create the very nightmares they want to prevent. Its a sad fact of life.
As a former nurse it seems that since one of the biggie health insurance companies actually, just RECENTLY, came out in favor of spending more money up front to prevent future problems (like it was some NEWS FLASH).
Any health care person and nurse knows this and is taught this both anecdotally and in study. ITS REALLY A DUHHH MOMENT FOR ME.
Its the old wive’s tale adage: AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE.
Why can’t those expected to be in charge of the animals see it this way too?
WHY CANT THEY? There is money needed to do right by animals. People dont seem motivate unless its their own pet. Personally having had them my whole life my lifestyle is not allowing it right now. Is that wrong/ I feel i am being fairer to an animal not to adopt him/her unless I am in the right space and mind set.
I am going to write again to this blog; its time to wake up. When are we going to do the humane things by animals? Probably never and it makes me sad.
We can’t do right by each other either. I am going to have to take a break for now as it makes me have to go back and rethink the next posting i do.
Thanks for brining this to other people’s attention.
That I am grateful for.
I have not prepared what is next but this note I see almost every other day seemed fitting. Its what my friend’s daughter writes with each email: “IGNORANCE OF THE LAWS OF KARMA IS NO EXCUSE. “