Elizabeth Animal Shelter Breaks the Law and Kills Healthy and Treatable Animals in 2017

My last blog detailed Elizabeth Animal Shelter killing more animals in 2017. Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s dog death rate nearly doubled and its cat death rate increased by nearly 50% in 2017 compared to 2016. Furthermore, the shelter hardly adopted out any animals themselves, but instead relied almost entirely on rescues.

What reasons did Elizabeth Animal Shelter use to kill animals in 2017? Were they justified? Did the shelter continue to violate state law as the shelter did in 2016?

Shelter Kills Large Numbers of Dogs for Aggression

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed too many dogs for aggression/behavior. As the table below shows, the shelter killed 9% of all dogs for aggression/behavior. On the other hand, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.2% of all the dogs it took in for aggression/behavior during 2017. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression/behavior at 45 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also killed too many dogs for treatable medical reasons. During 2017, the shelter killed 3% of all dogs medical related reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized around 0.8% of all dogs in 2017 for medical reasons. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed dogs for medical reasons at four times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dogs Killed.jpg

The shelter killed even more pit bulls for aggression/behavior. During 2017, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 25% of the pit bull like dogs it took in for aggression/behavior. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.3% of the pit bulls it took in during 2017 for aggression/behavior. To put it another way, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed pit bull like dogs for aggression/behavior at 83 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

As with all dogs, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed too many pit bulls for medical reasons. Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 5% of all pit bulls for medical reasons in 2017. However, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.6% of all pit bulls in 2017 for medical reasons. As a result, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed pit bulls for medical reasons at eight times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Pit Bulls Killed.jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also killed more dogs for aggression/behavior in 2017 as compared to 2016. The shelter killed 9% and 6% of all dogs for aggression/behavior in 2017 and 2016. Similarly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 25% and 18% of pit bull like dogs for aggression/behavior in 2017 and 2016. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s dog and pit bull kill rates for aggression/behavior increased by nearly 50% in 2017.

Dog ID# 15-D was a 5 year old pit bull surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on April 20, 2017. According to the owner, the dog had no aggression/behavior problems or medical issues. While the owner mentioned the dog was not compatible with other dogs and cats, the owner stated the dog was good with kids and adults and was house trained. Despite this dog obviously not having aggression issues with people, the shelter’s veterinarian labeled the dog “not friendly” and killed him after just two weeks at the shelter.

15-D Surrender Form.jpg

15-D Dog Killed at Ellizabeth Animal Shelter

15-D Euthanasia Record

Harley (Dog ID# 24-F) was a ten year old pit bull like dog surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on June 29, 2017. While Harley’s owner mentioned the dog was not compatible with other dogs and cats, the owner stated the dog was good with kids and adults and was house trained. Even though Harley’s owner clearly indicated the dog was good with both kids and adults, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Harley seven days later for “human aggression.”

Dog 24-F Elizabeth Surrender Form.jpg

Dog 24-F Elizabeth Euthanasia Record.jpg

Hawk (Dog ID# 19-H) was a two and half year old pit bull like dog surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on August 24, 2017. According to Hawk’s owner, Hawk had no aggression/behavior problems and was not sick or injured. In addition, Hawk’s owner stated the dog was good with other dogs, kids and adults and was house trained. Despite these facts, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Hawk two weeks later for alleged human and animal aggression. Furthermore, the records did not indicate the shelter made any rehabilitation efforts to fix these so-called behavior issues.

Dog 19-H Elizabeth Surrender Form.jpg

Dog 19-H Elizabeth Euthanasia Record

Rocky was a one year old pit bull like dog surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on March 13, 2017. According to Rocky’s owner, the dog was not sick or injured and had no aggression/behavior issues. After seven days, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Rocky and cited parvo and bloody diarrhea as the reasons. Furthermore, the veterinarian’s invoice suggests Elizabeth Animal Shelter did not treat Rocky other than possibly giving him a parvo vaccine on the day they killed him (the vaccine could have been administered to another dog).

Elizabeth Animal Shelter failed Rocky in every way. Assuming the dog was not sick when he arrived at the shelter, the shelter would have been able to treat Rocky as soon as he displayed symptoms. If the dog was displaying parvo symptoms when he arrived at the shelter, Elizabeth Animal Shelter would have broken state law by not providing prompt medical care since Rocky did not see a veterinarian until seven days later. Instead, Elizabeth Animal Shelter should have treated Rocky with fluid therapy, anti-nausea medications and antibiotics and given him several fecal and blood tests. Most importantly, parvo virus is highly treatable and shelters, such as Austin Pets Alive, are saving around 90% of puppies who contract parvo. Adult dogs, such as Rocky, would certainly have an even higher chance of surviving this disease if the shelter properly treated this dog. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter either waited too long to treat Rocky or simply found it easier and cheaper to kill him.

Dog ID 11-C Elizabeth Surrender Form.jpg

Dog ID 11-C Euthanasia Record.jpg

Dog 11-C Vet Invoice.jpg

Shelter Kills Too Many Cats for Aggression and Questionable Medical Reasons

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed large numbers of cats for aggression and other behavioral reasons. Overall, the shelter killed 9% of all cats citing aggression/behavior and feral as the reasons. Frankly, shelters should never kill cats for behavior and large animal control facilities, such as Austin Animal Center, prove it is possible.

The shelter also killed too many cats for medical reasons. Overall, the shelter killed 11% of all cats due to various medical reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 4% of their cats for medical reasons even though rescues took a much smaller percentage of cats. Given rescues take so many cats at Elizabeth Animal Shelter, it is highly likely a number of additional ill/injured cats died or were euthanized shortly after rescues took the animals.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cats Killed Reasons

Ke Ke was a one year old cat surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on April 13, 2017. Ke Ke’s owner stated he had no behavior or aggression issues, no health problems, was good with cats, adults and kids and was house trained. Despite Ke Ke being obviously adoptable, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed him 16 days later stating the “cat is very aggressive and feral.” Clearly, this cat was scared in a shelter environment and Elizabeth Animal Shelter used that as a basis to kill him.

7-D Cat Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form.jpg

7-D Cat Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record.jpg

Tiger was a six month old cat surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on October 5, 2017. The owner stated Tiger had no behavior or aggression problems, no health issues, and was good with cats and kids. Despite the owner stating the cat was not aggressive, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed her just seven days later for having a “Severe Behavior Issue.”

4-J Cat Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form.jpg

Cat 4-J Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record.jpg

Kitty was a four year old cat surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on November 11, 2017. The owner stated Kitty was good with dogs, kids and adults and was house trained. While the owner stated the cat had no illnesses or injuries, they did note the cat had urine issues. After just five days, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Kitty for having “bloody urine.” While bloody urine can be caused by a serious disease, such as cancer, the shelter did not document the cat was hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, cats with blood in the urine, which is also known as hematuria, can be treated. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter may have illegally killed Kitty during the seven day protection period and made little effort to save her life.

7-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form

7-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record

Chester was a three month old kitten surrendered along with his sister, Diamond, to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on November 30, 2017. According to the owner, the two kittens were good with dogs, cats, kids and adults and were not sick or injured. In addition, the owner requested the shelter keep the animals together. After 20 days, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Chester for having bloody diarrhea. No records provided to me indicated any effort to treat this kitten.

18-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form

18-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record

18-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Veterinary Invoice

Shelter Becomes Less Transparent

As I reported last year and in 2016, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s legally required euthanasia records did not comply with state law. Specifically, the records did not identify the euthanasia drug the shelter used (the records stated “Euth.” which could mean Euthasol or just an unnamed euthanasia drug) and the method of euthanasia. Furthermore, the euthanasia records in 2016 and 2015 indicated euthanasia was not conducted humanely based on the shelter using pure ketamine in excessive doses as a tranquilizing agent. Finally, many of the legally required weights listed in the euthanasia records were convenient numbers, such as those ending in a zero or five, and possibly suggested the shelter did not weigh animals before administering tranquilizers and euthanasia drugs.

Elizabeth’s Health Officer told me the shelter moved its euthanasia activities to its veterinarian’s office in 2017 and did not have euthanasia records. Furthermore, I found many killed animals, particularly cats, were only included in the veterinarian invoices and not the shelter’s records. While the shelter can have animals killed/euthanized at an outside veterinarian’s office, the shelter must maintain all of the euthanasia records as well as intake and disposition records at the shelter as the New Jersey Health Department of Health’s July 23, 2014 inspection report on Linden Animal Control stated. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.11 (f) (4) and 1.13 (a) and (b).

Elizabeth Animal Shelter may have illegally killed cats before seven days passed. While the shelter stopped routinely illegally killing owner surrendered animals in 2016, the shelter’s veterinarian killed many cats at his office that the shelter did not include in its intake and disposition records. If the shelter’s veterinarian did not hold these animals for seven days, and the animals were not hopelessly suffering, the shelter would have violated the state’s stray/hold period found in N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16. Overall, I found the shelter failed to include nearly 40 cats in its intake and disposition records that were killed at the shelter veterinarian’s office. Almost all the cats the veterinarian listed as ill or injured did not have sufficient documentation in the records provided to me to prove these cats were hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, the veterinarian killed a number of cats for aggression or being feral. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter may have illegally killed large numbers of cats before seven days passed.

Shelter Has No Disease Control Program, No Recent Inspection Reports 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 was under review by the Elizabeth Dog Control Committee last year, the city did not provide me a disease control program this year despite repeated requests under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. Under state law, a shelter must have a disease control program in order to operate. In 2016, 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.

Furthermore, the City of Elizabeth failed to provide me any legally required health department inspection reports that were conducted in 2017 and 2018. Under state law, a shelter must be inspected each year, by June 30 of that year, and show compliance with shelter statutes to receive a license to operate in that year. As a result, Elizabeth Animal Shelter was illegally operating an animal shelter since it should not have had a license to operate the facility after July 1, 2017.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also failed to document the breed on many cats it took in as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13 (a). The shelter should start doing so especially since it does not require much effort.

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

Elizabeth Animal Shelter transferred and adopted out 38 dogs and cats during the seven day stray hold period in 2017 (almost all went to rescues). 31 of the 38 animals were cats which often have very low owner reclaim rates. Of the 31 cats, 21 were kittens which are highly susceptible to catching deadly illnesses in animal shelters. However, only two of the seven dogs and 10 of the 31 cats were released for medical reasons. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter appeared to release most of these animals during the seven day hold period for reasons other than medical treatment.

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 pets. While animals are 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, individuals or groups fostering these animals must return pets back to the owners 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.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Must Make Bold Moves to Improve

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 and comply with the stray/hold law. Simply put, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must follow the law.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Animal Shelter continues to act as if its above the law. Despite my blogs over the last couple of years alerting the shelter to its violations of state law, it continues to break state law. Ultimately, the New Jersey Department of Health must inspect this shelter to force it to take these blatant violations of state law seriously.

Elizabeth animal advocates must step up and resume the activism they conducted in 2014. At that time, the promised volunteer/contractor was the major change the city made to placate animal advocates. As the data from my last blog and this blog show, this person, at least in her current part time role, is not enough to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals in Elizabeth. Instead, the city must create a No Kill Implementation plan similar to the one in Austin, Texas that mandates the shelter fully put the No Kill Equation into place and achieve a minimum 90% live release rate. Furthermore, the City of Elizabeth can hire a no kill consultant, such as No Kill Learning, to help the shelter put this plan into place. If the City of Elizabeth makes these changes, Elizabeth Animal Shelter will finally become a facility that saves rather than takes lives.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Kills More Animals in 2017

Elizabeth Animal Shelter came under fire in 2014 after it illegally killed an owner’s two dogs on the day they arrived at the facility. While the owner and several animal advocates initially put significant pressure on elected officials, the animal advocates appeared to cut a deal. From what I could tell, the shelter reform activists ended their campaign in exchange for having a volunteer, who eventually became a paid contractor, spend time at the shelter. In her role, this contractor evaluates dogs, makes recommendations about whether a dog is suitable for adoption, and networks with rescues and donors.

In 2016, I wrote a series of blogs highlighting significant problems at the Elizabeth Animal Shelter. You can read the two blogs here and here. Specifically, I discussed the following findings:

  1. Shelter had an unacceptably high kill rate
  2. Shelter routinely killed owner surrendered animals illegally during the seven day protection period
  3. Shelter frequently transferred stray animals to rescues illegally during the seven day hold period
  4. Shelter did a poor job promoting and adopting out animals
  5. Shelter did not spay/neuter animals adopted out
  6. Rescues were often the only reason unclaimed animals made it out of the shelter alive
  7. No volunteers allowed at the shelter
  8. Little to no veterinary care provided
  9. Records indicated possible inhumane euthanasia/killing practices

Last year, I wrote two blogs, which you can read here and here, which showed some improvements, but many problems remaining. Specifically, Elizabeth Animal Shelter stopped illegally killing animals during the seven day stray/hold and owner surrender protection periods and decreased its kill rate. However, most of the shelter’s other issues still existed.

Did Elizabeth Animal Shelter improve in 2017? Did the shelter’s strategy of almost completely relying on rescues end the killing of healthy and treatable animals? Is Elizabeth Animal Shelter violating state law?

Data Reviewed

I obtained Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s intake and disposition records for each animal coming into the Elizabeth Animal Shelter in 2017. Additionally, I requested all other supporting documents for a few months of the year. However, the City of Elizabeth gave me these records for almost every animal impounded in 2017.

As I discovered in past years, Elizabeth Animal Shelter brought a significant number of animals directly to its veterinarian. In many of these cases, the veterinarian killed these animals, but the shelter did not include these dogs and cats in its intake and disposition records. In a much smaller number of instances, the intake and disposition records included killed animals that the veterinarian did not list in his invoices to the shelter. As a result, I added all killed animals from the veterinarian’s invoices that were not included in the intake and disposition records in the statistics below.

You can find the 2017 intake and disposition records here and the veterinary invoices including additional killed animals here.

Many Medium to Large Size Dogs and Adult Cats Killed 

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed many medium to large size dogs in 2017. Based on my review of the facility’s individual animal records and veterinary invoices, 15% of all dogs lost their lives. While the shelter did an excellent job with small dogs based on only 1% of these animals losing their lives, 35% of pit bull like dogs and 13% of other medium to large size dogs were killed or died in 2017. Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs the shelter had to find new homes for. When we just look at nonreclaimed dogs, 21% of all dogs, 45% of pit bulls, 1% of small dogs and 21% of other medium to large size dogs were killed or died. Thus, nearly half the pit bulls and around 1 out of 5 other medium to large size dogs requiring new homes lost their lives at the Elizabeth Animal Shelter last year.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dog Statistics

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed many adult cats in 2017. Overall, 23% of the cats and kittens lost their lives or went missing during the year. While the shelter did a good job with kittens as evidenced by its 6% kitten death rate, the shelter did a poor job with adult cats. Specifically, 37% of adults cats were killed, died or went missing. Thus, more than 1 out of 3 adult cats lost their lives or went missing in 2017.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cat Statistics.jpg

Statistics Deteriorate Despite Shelter Taking Fewer Animals In

Elizabeth Animal Shelter impounded fewer dogs in both 2016 and 2017. While the significant decrease in dog intake from 2015 to 2016 was accompanied by a sharp drop in the dog death rates in 2016, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s 2017 dog death rates essentially went back to the 2015 levels despite the facility taking in 20% fewer dogs.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 to 2017 Dog Intake and Death Rate

Most disturbing, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed a much higher percentage of their pit bulls despite taking far fewer of these animals in. As you can see in the table below, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s pit bull death rates nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 despite the shelter taking in 11% fewer pit bulls. Even worse, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s 2017 pit bull death rates were significantly higher than its 2015 pit bull death rates even though the shelter took in 33% fewer pit bulls in 2017 compared to 2015. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter did a much poorer job with its pit bulls in 2017 than it did in both 2016 and 2015.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 to 2017 Pit Bull Intake and Death Rate

Elizabeth Animal Shelter did go in the right direction with small dogs. While its small dog intake dropped modestly over the three years, the shelter decreased its small dog death rates to a very low level.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 to 2017 Small Dog Intake and Death Rate

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also did a worse job with other medium and large dogs in 2017. While its other medium to large dogs intake increased slightly in 2017 compared to 2016, its other medium and large dog death rates quadrupled. However, these death rates were still lower than its 2015 other medium and large dog death rates.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 to 2017 Other Dog Intake and Death Rate

The shelter’s cat death rate also significant increased in 2017. Cat intake rose by a modest 9% in 2017 compared to 2016, but the cat death rate increased significantly from 16% to 23%. While the cat death rate in 2017 is lower than it was in 2015, Elizabeth Animal Shelter took in 26% fewer cats in 2017 compared to 2015.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cats Impounded and Death Rates

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s adult cat death rate skyrocketed in 2017. Despite adult cat intake increasing by just 5% in 2017 compared to 2016, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s adult cat death rate nearly doubled. Furthermore, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s adult cat death rate was only a little lower in 2017 compared to 2015 even though Elizabeth Animal shelter impounded 35% fewer cats in 2017 than in 2015.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Adult Cats Impounded and Death Rates

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s kitten numbers improved in 2017. Even though the shelter’s kitten intake increased by 14% in 2017 compared to 2016, the kitten death rate decreased from 8% to 6%.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter 2015 to 2017 Kitten Intake and Death Rate

Rescues Do Most of the Work

Elizabeth Animal Shelter continued to push the dog lifesaving burden onto the rescue community. Overall, I reviewed the underlying records for 157 of the 164 dogs adopted out or sent to rescues. Elizabeth Animal shelter only adopted out 12% of all these dogs, 24% of these pit bull like dogs, 7% of these small dogs and 14% of these other medium to large dogs. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter placed substantially all the burden for finding dogs new homes on the rescue community.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s pit bull adoption and sent to rescue numbers explain why the shelter kills so many of these animals. While the shelter adopted out a larger percentage of the pit bulls adopted out or rescued than other dogs, this is due to Elizabeth Animal Shelter saving so few of these pit bulls. The shelter only adopted out 9 pit bulls or just 10% of all the pit bulls it took in. Since many rescues do not take in pit bull like dogs or take way too long to adopt these dogs out, animal control shelters must adopt out large numbers of these dogs to stop killing these pets. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s weak adoption program dooms vulnerable animals like pit bull like dogs.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dogs Sent to Rescue and Adopted Out

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Pit Bulls Sent to Rescue and Adopted Out

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Small Dogs Sent to Rescue and Adopted Out.jpg

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Other Dogs Sent to Rescue and Adopted Out

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also almost exclusively relied on rescues to find new homes for cats and kittens. Overall, I reviewed the underlying records for 243 of the 248 cats adopted out or sent to rescues. Elizabeth Animal Shelter only adopted out 7% of these cats, 6% of these adult cats and 9% of these kittens. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter depended almost entirely on rescues to save their cats and kittens.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cats Sent to Rescue and Adopted Out

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Adult Cats Sent to Rescue and Adopted Out.jpg

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Kittens Sent to Rescue and Adopted

Reliance on Rescues Dooms Less Adoptable Animals

Rescues mostly focused on pulling small dogs and took few pit bull like dogs. As you can see in the table below showing the rescues taking the most dogs, most of these groups, including a rescue run by the Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s contractor, pulled far more small dogs than pit bulls and other medium to large size dogs. Given shelters have to do little to no work to adopt out small dogs, one has to wonder whether the shelter really needed rescues to pull so many small dogs.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dogs Pulled By Rescues.jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s dog length of stay data also shows rescues rushing to save small dogs, but not quickly pulling pit bulls and other medium to large size dogs. As you can see below, all dogs had an average length of stay of 11.5 days during the year compared to just 10.7 days in 2016. While small dogs’ average length of stay decreased from 6.1 days in 2016 to 4.8 days in 2017, the average length of stay for pit bulls (2016: 19.4 days; 2017: 22.1 days) and other medium to large dogs (2016: 6.3 days; 2017: 10.1 days) increased significantly. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s over-reliance on rescues resulted in medium to large size dogs, particularly pit bulls, staying at the shelter for a long time.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dog Length of Stay

Most rescues focused on pulling kittens more than adult cats. As you can see below, rescues pulling the most cats took similar numbers of adult cats and kittens. However, since Elizabeth Animal Shelter impounded more adult cats (57%) than kittens (43%), rescues disproportionately took in kittens. While this is not as extreme as the dog data, it does show most rescues were less likely to take adult cats than kittens.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cat Rescue Pulls

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s cat length of stay data also shows rescues took longer to pull adult cats than kittens. As you can see below, all cats, adult cats and kittens had average lengths of stay of 7.8 days, 8.7 days and 6.9 days. However, rescues took 1.5 days longer to pull adult cats than kittens (8.7 days for adult cats and 7.2 days for kittens).

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cat Length of Stay Data

Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s strategy of relying virtually entirely on rescues to create space is doomed to fail. While the shelter’s use of many rescues reduces the facility’s risk of any single rescue closing or not pulling animals for other reasons, large coalitions of rescues rarely are efficient at adopting out animals. Why? No single rescue faces any negative consequences if it fails to adopt out enough animals to prevent the shelter from killing. For example, if a single shelter or rescue agreed to pull all animals from Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s kill list, and Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed animals the rescue organization did not pull, the rescue organization could face criticism and lose donations. Similarly, if a single rescue saved all of the shelter’s animals it would receive praise and likely receive more financial support from the public. However, when dozens of organizations rescue animals voluntarily, no single group faces any repercussions and such groups have little to gain. Therefore, these organizations will often stick with overly restrictive adoption policies, less aggressive marketing, and overall less effective processes that result in fewer adoptions. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter has limited the number of positive outcomes it can achieve and therefore kills animals when it runs out of space.

As a result, this strategy is failing less “adoptable” animals, such as medium to large size dogs, especially pit bulls, and adult cats. If Elizabeth Animal Shelter expects to save these animals, it will have to fully implement the 11 programs found in the No Kill Equation. In particular, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must develop a robust adoption program, which should include using volunteers, to save the many medium to large size dogs and adult cats losing their lives at the facility.

In my next blog, I’ll highlight the reasons Elizabeth Animal Shelter uses to kills animals. Additionally, I’ll discuss whether the shelter is complying with state law.

Hamilton’s Horrendous Response to Animal Shelter Criticism

In May, I shared Hamilton Township’s horrible 2017 animal shelter statistics on my Facebook page. Overall, the shelter killed 22% of the dogs who had outcomes during the year. If the 18 dogs listed in “Other” outcomes died or went missing, then 28% of dog would have been killed, died or went missing. Since many dogs in suburban shelters like Hamilton Township Animal Shelter have licenses and/or microchips and are quickly reclaimed, its informative to look at the dogs that owners did not reclaim. Hamilton Township Animal Shelter killed 76 dogs or 41% of unclaimed dogs during 2017. Assuming the 18 additional dogs in “Other” outcomes died or went missing, 52% of Hamilton Township’s non-reclaimed dogs would have lost their lives or went missing last year. On the other hand, Austin Animal Center saved 99% of its dogs and 98% of its non-reclaimed dogs in 2017. Thus, Hamilton Township Animal Shelter’s dogs lost their lives at 22 to 26 times the rate of Austin Animal Center.

Hamilton Township Animal Shelter’s cats faced an ever more grim fate. Hamilton Township Animal Shelter killed 220 or 38% of the cats who had outcomes in 2017. If the 125 cats classified in “Other” outcomes lost their lives or went missing, 60% of the cats who had outcomes in 2017 at Hamilton Township Animal Shelter would have been killed, died or went missing. As a comparison, only 5% of cats were euthanized, died or went missing at Austin Animal Center in 2017. Thus, cats at Hamilton Township Animal Shelter were around 8 to 12 times more likely to lose their lives than cats at Austin Animal Center.

Even more troubling, the shelter celebrated the expansion of its animal shelter in 2015. Despite spending over $1 million on this project and increasing its animal shelter operating budget by 56%, the shelter still kills huge numbers of healthy and treatable animals.

Hamilton Township Council Demands Improvement

In June, the Hamilton Township Council decided to conduct a full investigation of the animal shelter. Councilman Rick Tighe said:

Innocent animals are being killed each year due to the ineffective leadership of the mayor and her administration

AND

I believe there are ways we can improve the town’s euthanasia rate while also reducing the burden on our taxpayers. I look forward to conducting a full investigation to fix this problem once and for all.

Council Vice President Jeff Martin stated:

Three years ago Hamilton spent $1.1 million to improve the Hamilton Animal Shelter with the promise it would reduce euthanasia rates, improve adoption rates and therefore reduce costs. Unfortunately, what we have seen is the opposite.

Mayor Yaede Carts Out Biased People to Defend the Animal Shelter

On July 11, Mayor Yaede issued a poorly written press release. The press release cited a shelter employee filing a “Notice of Claim” against several council members for allegedly creating a “Hostile work environment.” How did the council do this according to the employee and Mayor Yaede? By daring to speak the truth and calling the shelter workers “killers of innocent animals.” To support her claims, the Mayor stated:

We are now beginning to see respected community leaders coming forward to defend the reputation of our shelter staff.

So who are these “respected community leaders?”

Mayor Yaede used the veterinarian the town contracts with to vouch for the shelter. So let me see, we expect someone who is paid by the shelter to provide an unbiased assessment of that very shelter? Additionally, this veterinarian has worked with the shelter for decades and surely must have known about the needless killing of healthy and treatable animals.

Furthermore, Hamilton shelter reform advocate, Steve Clegg, obtained the following two sentence long “Disease Control Program” the veterinarian approved.

Hamilton Township Animal Shelter Disease Control Program.jpg

 

Under state law, shelters must have a disease control program and such program must “address the physical and psychological well-being of animals at the facility, including stress-induced behaviors, such as repetitious behavior or vocalizations, from auditory, visual, and olfactory stimuli.” Clearly, the veterinarian approved an inadequate disease control program.

Dr. Carter’s credibility is further diminished by the following statements insinuating the shelter only euthanizes hopelessly suffering animals.

The [Hamilton Township] shelter also promotes humane treatment for terminally ill rescues and abandoned pets to lessen the suffering.  At times euthanasia is the last resort given and at times it’s heartbreaking to put an animal down knowing that it was the right decision for all involved.

Hamilton Township Animal Shelter’s high kill rates compared to high performing animal control shelters proves this facility kills healthy and treatable animals. In 2017, 22% of dogs and 38% of cats lost their lives at Hamilton Township Animal Shelter (those number could be as high as 28% for dogs and 60% for cats if animals listed in “Other” outcomes died). As a comparison, EASEL Animal Rescue League, which operates the nearby Ewing Animal Shelter, only had 1% of their dogs and 7% of their cats lose their lives in 2017. In other words, 22-28 times more dogs and 5-9 times more cats lost their lives or went missing at Hamilton Township Animal Shelter compared to Ewing Animal Shelter. Thus, these numbers prove Hamilton Township Animal Shelter is killing pets and not just euthanizing hopelessly suffering animals.

Hamilton Township Animal Shelter’s own euthanasia records also show the shelter killing healthy and treatable animals. For example, on May 22, 2017 Hamilton Township Animal Shelter took in and killed 46 cats on the very same day and cited “Hoarder House, Ringworm, Upper Respiratory Infection” as the reasons for killing most of these animals. No effort was made to save these cats. The shelter just killed them. Similarly, the shelter killed a 10 year old dog named Havoc during the seven day protection period citing “Owner Surrender Senior Dog in December 2017.” Since many of these animals were not hopelessly suffering according to Hamilton Township Animal Shelter’s records, it is likely the shelter illegally killed these animals during the state’s seven day protection period. Thus, Hamilton Township Animal Shelter kills many healthy and treatable animals.

Hamilton Township taxpayers are also getting ripped off by their animal shelter. According to a recent news article, Ewing pays EASEL Animal Rescue League $150,000 per year to run the shelter. When we add this amount to town’s $104,750 animal control department budget, Ewing pays $254,750 per year for animal control and its animal shelter. Based on EASEL Animal Rescue League taking in 896 dogs and cats in 2017, Ewing pays $284 per dog and cat. As a comparison, Hamilton allocated $546,966 in its 2018 budget to its animal control and sheltering operation. Based on the Hamilton Township Animal Shelter taking in 938 dogs and cats in 2017, the town pays $583 per dog and cat. In other words, Hamilton is paying more than twice as much per dog and cat than Ewing. Even if we exclude animals EASEL rescued from other shelters, Hamilton would still pay 53% more per animal than Ewing. Thus, Hamilton taxpayers are getting ripped off in that they are paying much more money than Ewing taxpayers and Hamilton Township’s animal shelter is killing far more animals.

Mayor Yaede’s press release also cited the President of a rescue group that has had a special relationship with the shelter for nearly two decades. Unfortunately, certain people in the rescue community put their friendships with shelter directors over the interests of animals. According to this rescue group’s President, this group volunteers at the shelter. However, it appears they have an exclusive ability to do so as I know of no way someone can volunteer at the shelter without being under the control of this group. Whether this group defends the shelter because they are friendly with shelter management, enjoy their special status, feel they must defend the shelter to continue volunteering or are completely misguided, they have no credibility in my book.

Finally, Mayor Yaede’s press release cited a positive 2017 “inspection” by an NJ SPCA official. Specifically, the press release quoted “Corporal” Matt Payne stating the following:

The facility was very clean, there was no waste in any of the kennels, the animals appeared to be in good health, had water/food, and were well cared for.

Given that the Hamilton Township Animal Shelter hardly used any of its capacity since it killed so many animals, is it surprising someone could find the shelter “clean?” At the beginning and end of 2017, Hamilton Township Animal Shelter reported having 10 dogs and 16 dogs and a capacity for 36 dogs. Similarly, the facility’s 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual report also stated the shelter held 15 cats and 11 cats at the beginning and end of 2017 and a capacity for 53 cats. In other words, Hamilton Township Animal Shelter only on average used 36% of its dog capacity and 25% of its cat capacity. Thus, any shelter can be “clean” if the shelter kills many animals and has few in the facility.

The good “Corporal” went on to state the following:

The shelter has multiple intake rooms, a sick quarantine room, and a vet that sees the animals.

While the NJ SPCA official can state the shelter has intake and quarantine rooms, using them is a totally different matter. Specifically, the shelter’s inadequate and probably illegal “disease control program” provides no requirements, let alone procedures, for the shelter to use these parts of the facility to reduce and treat illnesses. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health, and not the NJ SPCA, is the agency responsible for determining if a shelter complies with state law. If Hamilton Township Animal Shelter was serious about complying with state law, it would have requested a surprise inspection from the state health department.

Over the years, the NJ SPCA has looked the other way as shelter after shelter clearly broke animal cruelty laws. Examples include Linden Animal Control, Associated Humane Societies-Newark, Jersey Animal Coalition, Elizabeth Animal Shelter, Gloucester County Animal Shelter and Paterson Animal Shelter to name just a few. In all these cases, the NJ SPCA had documented evidence, such as state health department inspection reports and/or shelter records provided/made public by animal advocates. Even when the NJ SPCA brought charges, such as against the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter and Associated Humane Societies-Newark (after years of not doing anything), the NJ SPCA brought too few charges and could not produce strong enough evidence to secure convictions with serious penalties.

Most importantly, the NJ SPCA has no credibility. Last year, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation issued a scathing report on this state agency. For example, the report found the NJ SPCA unresponsive to animal cruelty complaints, spent much more money on legal bills than animal care, had high ranking officials enrich themselves by entering into business transactions with the NJ SPCA and the organization’s top brass received all sorts of questionable benefits, such as cars for personal use. Subsequently, the NJ SPCA told its members to lie to legislators by using fake names in attempt to kill a bill that eliminated the NJ SPCA’s law enforcement powers. Thus, in the very same year the NJ SPCA wrote its glowing report on the Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, the NJ SPCA’s corrupt and inept actions became well-known to the public.

The NJ SPCA lost its law enforcement powers on July 1, 2018. After the state legislature approved the bill, including a 63-0 vote in the state Senate, Governor Christie signed the bill into law in early 2018. In other words, both Republicans and Democrats were so appalled with the corrupt and inept nature of the NJ SPCA that they agreed the organization could no longer enforce animal cruelty laws. Thus, its fitting that a wasteful and animal unfriendly shelter would cite another corrupt organization that failed the animals most needing its help.

Hamilton Residents Must Demand Reform

Mayor Yaede’s poorly thought out press release is consistent with her other actions. In 2016, Mayor Yaede and the council correctly put into place an ordinance banning the sales of dogs and cats, except those that are rescue animals, at retail pet stores. However, Mayor Yaede recently admitted to buying a puppy from a pet store called the Puppy Palace in a nearby community. In other words, Mayor Yaede circumvented the very law she put into place. Even worse, Mayor Yaede sent a message that it is better to obtain pets from shady pet stores rather than saving lives from the town’s animal shelter. If that was not enough, Mayor Yaede brought her dog to a park where dogs are not allowed. Even worse, the Trentonian newspaper said Mayor Yaede contacted the Hamilton Little League President to make excuses for the mayor. While I do not approve of banning dogs from parks, Mayor Yaede’s total disregard for the law and her attempt to get others to excuse it speaks volumes about her character.

Mayor Yaede’s person overseeing the shelter proved the current people running the facility cannot make positive change. In order to solve a problem, one must acknowledge the problem exists. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Plunkett, Director of the Department of Health, Recreation, Senior and Veterans Services, thinks the shelter is doing a fantastic job according to a recent NJ.com article:

I couldn’t be more proud of our animal shelter staff and the…commitment they show to the citizens and animals of Hamilton

Apparently, a shelter that violates state law, spends far more money per dog and cat and kills many times more animals than a neighboring community’s shelter makes Mr. Plunkett “proud” and shows “commitment” to the “citizens and animals of Hamilton.” If that’s what commitment means to Mr. Plunkett, both the taxpayers and animals of Hamilton can use a lot less of it. In reality, it seems Jeffrey Plunkett is defending the shelter to protect his job paying him $122,535 a year.

Hamilton residents must demand serious reforms at the Hamilton Township Animal Shelter. Specifically, they must accept nothing less than the following:

  1. Fire shelter manager Todd Bencivengo and other key employees and replace them with a competent and compassionate shelter manager and staff members who will save lives
  2. Create a No Kill Implementation plan similar to the one in Austin, Texas that mandates the shelter fully put the No Kill Equation into place and achieve a minimum 90% live release rate

Residents should attend the Hamilton Township Council meeting on Tuesday, July 17, at the Nottingham Fire Company Ballroom, 200 Mercer Street, Hamilton, NJ 08690 and make the points above. Furthermore, they should also convey these demands in emails to the following Hamilton Township council members:

Council President Anthony Carabelli,Jr.: ACarabelli@HamiltonNJ.com
Council Vice President Jeffrey Martin: JMartin@HamiltonNJ.com
Councilwoman Ileana Schirmer: ISchirmer@HamiltonNJ.com
Councilman Richard Tighe: RTighe@HamiltonNJ.com
Councilman Ralph Mastrangelo: RMastrangelo@HamiltonNJ.com

Hamilton’s residents have the chance to end the needless killing of the town’s homeless animals and waste of taxpayer dollars. Let’s make sure that happens.