Last August, the New Jersey Department of Health and the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected Associated Humane Societies-Newark. The inspection report, which the state health department appeared to write, documented AHS-Newark violating state law on a massive scale. Some of the inspection report’s key findings were as follows:
- Violations were so numerous that the shelter could not receive a license to operate
- Illegal killing of animals during seven day protection period
- Improper euthanasia records potentially indicating such procedures were inhumane
- Dead animals left like trash outside near enclosures used by live dogs
- Live skunk left in a carrier covered by a blanket in the hot sun next to dead animals
- Shelter did not have a proper disease control program
- Sick animals not properly isolated from healthy ones
- Some animals did not receive veterinary care
- Feral cats left in a filthy room in inhumane conditions
- Animals housed in dangerous conditions that could injure them
- Dogs housed in terrible conditions in the shelter’s infamous basement
Subsequent to the Augest 22, 2017 inspection, the two heath departments inspected AHS-Newark on September 26, 2017 and found numerous problems still existed.
Since the Sepetember 26, 2017 inspection, what kind of job has the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness done to make sure AHS-Newark complies with state law? What does this agency’s past history tell us about its ability to enforce the state’s shelter laws? Can we trust the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness to do the right thing?
Newark Department of Health’s History of Inadequate Inspections
Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2, local health authorities must inspect animal shelters each year to ensure these facilities comply with state laws. The City of Newark’s Department of Health and Community Wellness is the local agency responsible for inspecting AHS-Newark. The New Jersey Department of Health also has the right to inspect animal shelters.
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:
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:
The City of Newark’s inspection reports from 2011 through 2016 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.
Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness Passes AHS-Newark with Flying Colors One Month Before Horrific State Health Department Inspection
The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness gave AHS-Newark a “Satisfactory” rating in a July 19, 2017 inspection report. Remarkably, 34 days later, the New Jersey Department of Health conducted a six hour inspection and found AHS-Newark violating so many provisions of state law that the facility could not receive a license. How on earth can two inspection agencies come up with such different results? The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness is either incompetent or corrupt or both.
Emails Reveal City of Newark’s Intentions
The City’s of Newark’s Manager of Environmental Health, which is the department that conducts inspections, initially expressed deep concerns about AHS-Newark. On September 6, 2017, Michael Wlison, City of Newark Manager of Environmental Health, sent an email to Solomon Jones, City of Newark Animal Control Director, stating the August 22, 2017 inspection found “deplorable conditions” at AHS-Newark and AHS-Newark violated their agreement with the city.
Mr. Wilson sent an email uncovering the City of Newark’s intentions 13 days later to the Newark Health Officer. In the email, Michael Wilson mentions he talked with Choi. Based on emails I received, this apparently is Choi Chuen, the City of Newark’s Deputy Chief of Staff. According to Michael Wilson, Choi Chuen stated a “feasibility study” found it was cheaper for the City of Newark to contract with AHS-Newark than to build and operate their own shelter. Additionally, Michael Wilson mentioned unnamed “political issues” in what seemed as a justification to keep contracting with AHS-Newark.
Ironically, Michael Wilson correctly pointed out the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness has a conflict of interest in that it inspects a shelter the City of Newark contracts with. In other words, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness is under pressure to give AHS-Newark a pass to reduce costs and avoid “political issues.”
Finally, Michael Wilson suggests the Newark Health Officer and Newark Deputy Chief of Staff meet to discuss AHS-Newark prior to meeting with the NJ SPCA (i.e. “Frank Rizzo”) and the New Jersey Department of Health (i.e. “the State”). Additional emails revealed these individuals tried to arrange this internal Newark government meeting.
Newark Health Department Conducts Inspection That Miraculously Finds AHS-Newark Significantly Improving
The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected AHS-Newark on October 4, 2017 without the New Jersey Department of Health and claimed AHS-Newark fixed many of the problems, but still did not give AHS-Newark a license. In addition, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness did not issue any summonses to AHS-Newark. However, the New Jersey Department of Health’s joint September 26, 2017 inspection report found AHS-Newark having far more problems. Did AHS-Newark suddenly improve after these nine days? One look at the new AHS-Newark protocols, many of which are a few single sentence set of bullet points, shows this remediation effort is a joke.
Frankly, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellnesses’ history of failing to properly inspect AHS-Newark, its admitted conflict of interest, and the City of Newark’s financial and political incentives makes me seriously doubt the validity of this inspection. Simply put, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness has no credibility and people should not attribute any value to its inspection reports.
Given the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness is intent on giving AHS-Newark a free pass to do what it pleases again, the New Jersey Department of Health must take over this inspection and regulatory process. As I previously stated, the New Jersey Department of Health must start legal proceedings to shut AHS-Newark down unless Roseann Trezza, all other AHS executives and the entire AHS Board of Directors resign. Additionally, the City of Newark and all the other contracting municipalities must find a new organization to house their animals or run such a facility themselves. At best, AHS-Newark will make inadequate changes that will go away after the state health department stops following up. Simply put, AHS-Newark cannot operate properly with its current leadership.
Animal Advocates Must Continue to Demand for Change
Here are several things every person can do to improve this situation.
- Pressure the NJ SPCA to throw the book at Roseann Trezza and all her accomplisses
- Call Mayor Ras Baraka at (973) 733-6400 and demand he re-start former Mayor Booker’s project to build a new no kill shelter in the city
- Call the New Jersey Department of Health at (609) 826-4872 or (609) 826-5964 and tell them to 1) Shut AHS-Newark down unless Roseann Trezza, all other AHS executives and all AHS board members resign and 2) Inspect AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park
Additionally, people should contact the following mayors using the information below and demand they terminate their arrangements with AHS-Newark unless it gets rid of Roseann Trezza, its other executives and its entire Board of Directors:
Belleville: (973) 450-3345
Carteret: (732) 541-3801
Clark: (732) 388-3600
Fanwood: (908)-322-8236, ext. 124; firstname.lastname@example.org
Newark: (973) 733-6400; https://www.newarknj.gov/contact-us
Irvington: (973) 399-8111
Linden: (908) 474-8493; email@example.com
Fairfield: (973) 882-2700; firstname.lastname@example.org
Orange: (973) 266-4005
Plainfield: (908) 753-3310; email@example.com
Roselle: (908) 956-5557; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rahway: 732-827-2009; email@example.com
Winfield Park: (908) 925-3850