East Orange Animal Shelter’s Horrific Inspection Report Raises Serious Questions


East Orange July Photos

East Orange Animal Shelter’s ongoing problems became well-known in the last year. In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Health uncovered significant issues during an inspection. One year later, the New Jersey Department of Health found the shelter had clogged drains and allowed the facility to fall apart. Furthermore, the shelter did not clean properly and keep required records. In 2014, the New Jersey Department of Health reported animals inundated with a toxic feces and chemical filled soup due to clogged drains, 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. Last June, East Orange Animal Shelter killed a dog recently adopted from Liberty Humane Society and did not appear to make any effort to return the dog to the other shelter. Thus, East Orange has run an outlaw operation for at least half a decade.

July 2015 Inspection Details Horrible Problems

On July 16, 2015, the New Jersey Department of Health inspected the East Orange Animal Shelter and issued a failing grade to the facility. Amazingly, the shelter did not even do the most basic things correctly to the point where it seemed the city made no effort to fix its long-standing problems. Below are some of the key inspection report findings and my comments.

East Orange Animal Shelter’s basic facilities were not only disgusting, but unsafe. The shelter’s ceiling tiles were damaged by water, and most likely harboring dangerous mold, and were literally coming down, including one that was close to falling into one dog enclosure:

EO Falling Tiles

The cat room had a putrid odor and was not properly ventilated:

EO Cat Odor

The guillotine doors to the dog enclosures had cracks that accumulated contaminated materials and therefore shelter personnel could not properly clean these areas:

Dirty Guillotine Doors

The drains surrounding the outdoor dog enclosures were clogged and therefore allowed dirty and toxic liquids to build up:

Drains 1

Drains 2

Dogs had to lie on beds that were falling apart. Cats were held in stacked enclosures that were at risk of falling over.

Cages Falling Over

Kittens, which depend on nourishing food to grow, were fed unknown dry food that may or may not have been suitable for them:

EO Kitten Food

Despite running a filthy facility, shelter staff still failed to disinfect food and water bowls:

EO Food and Water Bowls

The shelter did not provide adequate amounts, and in some cases any, water to animals. The inspector had to request one of East Orange’s ACOs to fill the water bowl not once, but twice, for a mother cat who appeared dehydrated and her kittens. Even worse, the facility had plenty of water bowls and still failed to provide water to the animals as required by state law.

EO Water to Animals

The shelter cleaned cat cages with powerful chemicals while cats were inside these enclosures:

EO Cat Cleaning 1

Cat Cleaning 2

Feces were left uncleaned for so long that it dried and adhered to the floor of one dog enclosure:

Dog Feces Uncleaned

The isolation room had mold covered food and feces that had been there for two weeks:

Isolation Not Cleaned in 2 Weeks

East Orange Animal Shelter failed to adhere to its veterinarian’s disease control program:

Disease Control Program Not Followed

Most disturbingly, the shelter did not provide legally required prompt and basic veterinary care to alleviate pain and suffering. One cat (“C871”) with an injured leg did not move during the entire inspection. Another cat (“C870”) had been at the shelter for 9 days and did not eat or drink during her stay at the facility. The cat’s weight decreased 64% from 11 pounds to 4 pounds during her time at the shelter. The inspector could feel the bones of the cat and noted the cat was dehydrated and making distress calls. Yet, the inspection report stated Dr. Kimani Griffith told a shelter employee on Wednesday July 15 that he would wait 5 more days to examine the animal. Another cat died one day after arriving at the shelter and no documentation existed to show the shelter diagnosed a medical condition or provided any veterinary care.

Apparently, Dr. Kimani Griffith got wind of the New Jersey Department of Health’s arrival and came to the East Orange Animal Shelter during the 5 and half hour inspection. The NJ Department of Health inspector had to show Dr. Kimani Griffith two dogs with medical issues, one with a red irritation on his face and another who was not eating, and three cats needing veterinary attention, C871 and C870 above and a third cat. Shockingly, Dr. Kimani Griffith declined the New Jersey Department of Health inspector’s request to take the two suffering cats, C871 and C870, to his veterinary office for immediate treatment. Finally, Dr. Kimani Griffith examined the two cats at his office the next day and diagnosed C871 with a fractured leg and C870 as severely dehydrated and in chronic renal/kidney failure. Dr. Kimani Griffith put a splint on C871 and euthanized C870.

Prompt Vet Care Not Provided 1

Vet Care Not Provided 2

The shelter did not document the veterinary care it was providing to animals. Based on the lack of documentation, once must assume few animals received proper veterinary care.

Vet Care Not Provided 3

The shelter had expired drugs and even gave some to shelter animals. Additionally, needles and syringes were readily accessible as they were left in an unlocked drawer and cabinet at the shelter.

Vet Care Not Provided 4

The shelter failed to properly isolate sick animals from healthy animals. Furthermore, the ventilation system allowed air from the isolation area where sick animals are housed to mix with the general shelter area where healthy animals reside. Thus, disease could easily spread.

Isolation 1

Isolation 2

The shelter also did not document whether people surrendering several animals for euthanasia were the actual owners. In other words, someone could steal your pet and have East Orange Animal Shelter kill your dog or cat. Additionally, the shelter illegally killed a cat on the day it arrived at the shelter.

Illegally Killing

When the shelter did kill animals, it did not do so humanely. Dr. Kimani Griffith stated animals are not weighed prior to euthanasia/killing as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A. As a result, animals may not get enough tranquilizer and euthanasia drugs causing the animals to suffer. Even more shocking, Dr. Kimani Griffith “walked” two ACOs through the euthanasia/killing process over the phone while the veterinarian was on vacation. Apparently, taking a life is no big deal and you can learn how to do so over a casual telephone call while your instructor is at the beach or somewhere else. Additionally, the shelter did not keep legally required records, such as the animal’s weight, and drug dosage used to euthanize/kill animals.

Euthanasis Violations 1

Euthanasis Violations 2

If East Orange Animal Shelter was not bad enough, the ACO vehicle used to haul animals to the facility was disgusting as well. Literally, the animals that were brought to the shelter had to lie in a filthy crate covered with blood and dirt on their way to this horrific shelter.

ACO Vehicle

The shelter also failed to maintain legally required intake and disposition records for each of the shelter’s animals:

Intake and Disposition Records

Finally, the New Jersey Department of Health answered some questions I had about the recently adopted Liberty Humane Society dog that East Orange Animal Shelter killed. While East Orange Animal Shelter did not kill the dog during the 7 day hold period, the facility did not document the dog was suffering nor did this pound document that it contacted Liberty Humane Society. Thus, East Orange Animal Shelter made no effort to save this dog.


Reaction to Kane in Your Corner Investigation Raises More Questions

On Thursday, August 20, News 12’s Kane in Your Corner aired its investigation of the East Orange Animal Shelter. Amazingly, East Orange Health Officer, Rochelle Evans, who is ultimately responsible for the shelter, refused to talk with Walt Kane. However, the City’s public relations person, claimed the New Jersey Department of Health revised its report and removed most of its serious findings related to not providing prompt veterinary care. Yet, the New Jersey Department of Health subsequently responded to Walt Kane and stated they did not drop these New Jersey shelter law violations.

Walt Kane’s subsequent interview of Dr. Kimani Griffith also seemed bizarre. Dr. Kimani Griffith, who appeared quite nervous during the interview, stated East Orange’s erroneous claim that the New Jersey Department of Health removed some of the serious violations was due to a typo. On camera, Dr. Kimani Griffith said he is taking constructive criticism from the New Jersey Department of Health so “they could improve the operation.”

Yet, Dr. Kimani Griffith has been the supervising veterinarian for the East Orange Animal Shelter for all of the terrible New Jersey Department of Health inspections since 2010. Dr. Griffith receives $76,500 a year per his 2012 contract with East Orange to provide “animal care and sheltering services” to East Orange despite East Orange already having its own facility. Amazingly, Dr. Griffith’s fee represents nearly half of the shelter’s 2014 budget. Additionally, Dr. Kimani Griffith can bill the city for other services. Furthermore, Dr. Kimani Griffith also operates a shelter/rescue out of his veterinary office and apparently adopts out dogs for $300 and cats for $125. If Dr. Kimani Griffith, “rescues” animals from East Orange Animal Shelter, he could earn additional profits if he performs any vetting himself (i.e. no veterinary labor costs if he spays/neuters animal and provides vaccinations). Additionally, East Orange residents are unlikely to travel all the way to Mine Hill to adopt an animal that came from East Orange. Thus, Dr. Kimani Griffith seems to profit off East Orange’s homeless animals at the expense of East Orange’s taxpayers.

Sadly, the operation cannot just improve as Dr. Kimani Griffith suggests. East Orange must completely overhaul the shelter and remove Dr. Kimani Griffith and Rochelle Evans from having anything to do with the facility. At this point, a private no kill organization should take over as East Orange proved incapable of operating a humane shelter that saves rather than takes lives.

Walt Kane also mentioned the New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is conducting an investigation. Given this board found Dr. Kimani Griffith grossly negligent in the care he provided to an animal in private practice, perhaps this is why Dr. Kimani Griffith appeared nervous and tried to convey a conciliatory tone?

South Orange Has A lot of Explaining to Do

The South Orange Health Department quarantined and effectively shut down Jersey Animal Coalition after the shelter failed a joint New Jersey Department of Health and South Orange Health Department inspection last year. Yet, the South Orange Health Department, South Orange Board of Trustees and the South Orange Board of Health allowed the Village to contract with a veterinarian who allowed a shelter he supervises to be run to the ground for at least half a decade and fail an inspection just like Jersey Animal Coalition. Additionally, the South Orange ACO brought at least one stray dog to the East Orange Animal Shelter.

The South Orange Board of Health’s hypocrisy has been exposed by these events. At a recent South Orange Board of Trustees meeting, the Board of Health railed against TNR due to alleged risks relating to diseases, such as toxoplasmosis and rabies, despite these diseases virtually never being transmitted from feral cats to humans. However, the South Orange Board of Health apparently had no problems contracting with the supervising veterinarian of a shelter that fails to segregate sick animals from healthy animals and potentially allowing zoonotic diseases to run rampant. Furthermore, the South Orange Board of Health apparently is fine with sick and injured animals not receiving medical treatment for days or even weeks. Would the physicians on the South Orange Board of Health think this is appropriate for the their human patients?

NJ SPCA Fails to Act Again

The NJ SPCA did not promptly act in a number of recent animal shelter cases. Last year, the NJ SPCA only raided the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter after Kane in Your Corner aired its investigation. The NJ SPCA also did not take action at Linden Animal Control despite abuse that may have been even worse than Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter. In the case of Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter, charges against the shelter directors were downgraded and it appears these people will not face serious consequences for their actions.

The NJ SPCA’s performance in Essex County animal shelter abuse cases has been dismal. Despite multiple miserable inspection reports, some with horrific photos, the NJ SPCA failed to successfully take action against Associated Humane Societies – Newark in 2009 or 2011. The NJ SPCA took no successful action against Montclair Animal Shelter’s former management despite animals being forced to stay in cold conditions. Despite years of complaints about Jersey Animal Coalition, no serious action was taken against the shelter even after it failed its inspection last year. Even after being contacted about the East Orange Animal Shelter’s problems in 2014, the NJ SPCA failed to take serious action.  One has to wonder what Sergeant Al Peterson has been doing in Essex County all these years?

Clearly, the NJ SPCA could have expedited the resolution of these shelter problems if it got more effectively involved. Sadly, just like the New Jersey Commission of Investigation Report on the state’s SPCAs concluded in 2000 and the Animal Welfare Task Force Report found in 2004, the NJ SPCA and the county SPCAs inadequately protect animals and should step aside and let real professionals prosecute animal cruelty.

Special thanks to Reform the East Orange Animal Shelter for providing me with the inspection reports and photos

Racism in Rescue

Racism is one of the dirty little secrets in the sheltering and rescue community. From my experience, some people in the animal welfare community hide behind the claim of protecting animals to justify racist attitudes. Even worse, such attitudes result in more shelter killing.

Several incidents opened my eyes to the issue of racism in animal welfare. While I volunteered at an urban animal control shelter with a high kill rate, a fellow volunteer took several dogs to a Boys and Girls Club in the city the facility was located in. After the event, the volunteer felt great as a number of dogs received some very good applications from families who were minorities. Subsequently, the shelter denied every single application for no good reason. Another time I helped organize an adoption event for a different shelter, which had many dogs spending years at the facility, in a middle to upper middle class community where around 45% of the population is black or Hispanic. During the event we met many potential adopters and the pet store chain was going to allow us to hold adoption days every weekend. Subsequently, a high ranking person at the shelter told us that we would not return to the location because they “didn’t like the element.” After several failed attempts to get that person to explain what they meant by “element”, we were told to drop it and the decision was final. We’ve also helped organize an adoption event that is part of a street fair for several years in a nice section of a large city. Despite having lots of people going to this street fair year after year, we’ve had great difficulty getting many local rescues and shelters to attend. While these animal welfare groups never said it was due to the location, I no doubt believe this is the reason they did not attend. Thus, I’ve directly experienced overt racism in my volunteer experience at animal shelters.

Additionally, I’ve seen shelters and rescues belittle people in urban areas. For example, Associated Humane Societies Assistant Executive Director, Scott Crawford, shared a joke that people shouldn’t go to Newark, which is where his organization’s largest shelter is located, since its a “shadowy place.” Similarly, I’ve seen rescues call urban areas around shelters they pull animals from as “ghettos.” In fact, I’ve even seen some rescues express deep sorrow that animals at high kill shelters were returned to their owners in urban areas.

The sad incident of Quattro the cat also brought out some nasty racial tensions. Last year, a 12 year old, a 10 year old and a 6 year old boy stoned a cat to death in a horrific incident in Paterson. Local animal advocates were rightfully appalled. However, online comments became so racist and vulgar that the local newspaper had to delete many of them. The animal advocates demanded all 3 boys, including the 6 year old, be charged with animal cruelty. While I certainly agree with prosecuting the older boys, I find it hard to believe that a 6 year old, who was in the presence of 2 much older boys, should have had been charged with this crime.

Subsequently, local animal advocates held a rally for Quattro in Paterson and local residents clashed with the animal activists. While I certainly understand the motivations to hold the rally, I think it was counterproductive to animal welfare in Paterson. Paterson Animal Control kills hundreds of dogs each year at its shelter and acts in secrecy. Those very residents that clashed with animal welfare activists need to become advocates for the many animals being killed at the so called city shelter. Rightly or wrongly local residents equated the racist online comments with the animal welfare activists’ desire to charge all 3 children with animal cruelty. Additionally, the Paterson residents felt the animal activists were outsiders and were ignoring the very real issue of children being killed in the city. Clearly, this effort did not help many Paterson residents become sympathetic to the cause of animal welfare despite the organizers’ good intentions.

Humane organizations until fairly recently used to profile black pit bull owners and seize their dogs. In 2003, Sociologist Arnold Arluke published an article titled “Ethnozoology and the Future of Sociology,” in The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. The following extract from that article provides a frightening summary of this practice:

Seizing Black Pit Bull Owners dogs

Kim Wolf, who formerly worked at Animal Farm Foundation and currently runs an organization supporting inner city pet owners, rightfully explained that this practice led people in the inner city to distrust animal welfare organizations. After all, if humane organizations are seen as groups that will steal your family member and likely kill them in the process, then how can you expect people in inner cities to support animal shelters and rescues?

Racism may also happen unconsciously in ways we are not aware of. Research over the last two decades on implicit or unconscious bias has shown almost all people naturally discriminate in many ways. In fact, 20% of large companies in the United States even have training classes on this topic. Basically, our brains evolved to make split second decisions to help us avoid dangers. During prehistoric times, our brains needed biases to make these quick decisions, such as hiding from or attacking anything unfamiliar to us. In the modern world, these biases can have nasty effects, such as wrongly denying a qualified minority a job, a promotion or a shelter animal. The key thing is nearly every person has these biases and it does not mean everyone is a racist. However, people need to always step back and review their actions and try to uncover their natural biases that may have negative unintended consequences. For example, if a shelter or rescue refuses to adopt out an animal to a young black or Hispanic man from an urban area, is it for legitimate reasons or is it simply unconscious bias? Thus, shelters and rescues should become aware of their own natural biases and work to eliminate those that serve no legitimate purpose for animal welfare.

Racism’s Deadly Consequences for Homeless Animals

Rescues and shelters must increase their market share to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. Approximately 17 million people in the country will acquire a dog or cat each year and would consider obtaining that animal from a shelter or rescue. Around 3 million dogs and cats are adopted while about 3 million of these animals are killed in shelters each year. If shelters can increase their market share from 3 million to 6 million of those 17 million potential homes, shelters will no longer kill healthy and treatable animals. Thus, shelters and rescues must persuade 35% of these 17 million people to choose to adopt.

Animal welfare organizations must make in-roads in under-served communities to increase market share to end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter animals. According to HSUS, 30% of dogs and cats in American homes came from a shelter or a rescue. On the other hand, in poor or under-served urban communities, which have very large minority populations, only 3% of owned dogs and cats came from shelters or rescues. 71% of people in these areas acquire their dogs from family, friends, neighbors or breeders. Furthermore, HSUS stated that they are seeing pet stores, which obtain puppies from cruelly bred puppy-mill dogs, market more aggressively to people in poor urban areas through things such as layaway plans. These facts suggest that a significant portion of the increased market share needed to end shelter killing must come from minority groups living in poor urban areas.

Increasing market share in poor under-served communities will raise spay/neuter rates and improve the welfare of pets. HSUS found 87% of dogs and cats in these areas were not altered and most pets had not seen a veterinarian. However, HSUS noted poor urban areas had no veterinarians, and even when present, these veterinarian offices were often far away and hard to reach for pet owners. If shelters adopt out dogs and cats to pet owners in under-served areas, these folks will have spayed/neutered rather than intact animals and the homeless pet population should decrease over time. Furthermore, shelters can build relationships with pet owners in poor urban areas through adoptions and can then help these folks access low-cost veterinary care. Thus, shelters and rescues can help end shelter killing and increase animal welfare by gaining market share in under-served communities.

Sadly, many shelters and rescues refuse to adopt out animals to people in under-served communities. A recent study obtained demographic data from people who adopted animals from shelters and pit bull rescues. Blacks adopted less than 1% of the dogs from the shelters and the pit bull rescues. Additionally, Hispanics only adopted 3% and less than 1% of the dogs from the shelters and the pit bull rescues. On the other hand, whites adopted 90% and 93% of the shelters’ and the pit bull rescues’ dogs. As a comparison, blacks, Hispanics and whites make up 13%, 17% and 63% of the country’s population. Less than 5% of the adopters did not attend college. Also, only 12% and 7% of the animal shelters’ and pit bull rescues’ adopters earned less than $30,000 a year. Thus, the study found few minorities, people with less education, and lower income people obtained pets from shelters and pit bull rescues.

Shelters and rescues need to abandon their fears and reach out to minorities and under-served communities to save lives. While I understand the concerns of shelters and rescues about placing animals in poor communities, I think these fears are grossly exaggerated. HSUS’s Pets for Life program has found people in under-served communities generally are viable adoption candidates. In fact, many people already do informal rescue by taking animals in from the streets. Additionally, HSUS has been able to persuade 74% of people they meet with intact animals in under-served communities to alter their pets and nearly 90% of these folks actually spay/neuter their dog or cat. Downtown Dog Rescue and Beyond Breed documented people lined up for hours to access free/true low-cost spay/neuter services. Certainly, adopters with less economic resources and education need more support, but that outreach already is needed. Like it or not, these folks will obtain a dog or cat from some source. If it is your shelter or rescue, you can then supply them with an altered and vaccinated animal. Perhaps more importantly, you will establish a relationship that can help provide education on pet ownership. Thus, shelters and rescues need to reach out to under-served communities and minorities to save lives and improve animal welfare.

Shelters and rescues need to take proactive steps to reduce racism and save lives. Animal welfare organizations should compare their percentage of minority adoptions and the percentage minorities comprise of the overall population in their areas and set goals to reduce the divergence in these numbers. In other words, if blacks and Hispanics make up 30% of the population in a shelter’s/rescue’s area, the shelter/rescue should strive to adopt out a roughly similar percentage of their animals to these racial groups. Of course, shelters and rescues should do this by reaching out to new adopters who can help the organization save lives. Even if shelters and rescues can’t achieve this perfect balance, there is no reason they can’t improve adoption numbers to minorities and/or those folks who live in under-served areas.

At the end of the day, shelters and rescues have to make a decision whether they want to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. While a state with a relatively low per capita intake of homeless animals like New Jersey may not need to reach as many new adopters as other areas, we do need to do so if we want a no kill country. Based on the numbers above, our country needs to adopt out roughly 19 dogs and cats per 1,000 people to end the killing of healthy and treatable pets. This per capita adoption rate is towards the upper portion of the range of existing no kill animal control shelters. States with low intake like New Jersey not only need to take care of their own animals, but must help other states as well. We can save these animals, but will rescues and shelters abandon their racial and other biases to do so? Hopefully, the sheltering and rescue community chooses to save more lives and help ease racial tensions.