Clifton Animal Shelter Can’t Comply with State Law

In my last blog, I discussed Clifton Animal Shelter’s senseless killing of healthy and treatable animals. That blog detailed Clifton Animal Shelter routinely breaking state law when it killed animals during the state’s seven day protection period. Did Clifton Animal Shelter break other laws during 2017?

Inhumane and Illegal Killing Methods

Clifton Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not specify how the shelter killed or euthanized animals as required by state law. Specifically, the records do not state whether the shelter euthanized/killed each animal by an intravenous (preferred method), intraperitoneal or intracardiac (i.e. heart sticking) injection. Per New Jersey law, shelters can only use intraperitoneal injections on comatose animals and neonatal kittens. Under this method, animals are injected in the abdominal cavity and can take up to 30 minutes to die. Heart sticking, as the name implies, involves stabbing an animal in the heart with Fatal Plus poison and New Jersey shelters can only use this method on heavily sedated, anesthetized or comatose animals. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not indicate whether animals are in fact humanely euthanized.

To make matters worse, Clifton Animal Shelter’s records indicated the facility did not even weigh animals prior to killing them. In other words, the shelter could have not provided enough sedatives to calm the animals and not enough euthanasia drugs to kill them. Therefore, animals could have experienced stress and pain during the procedure and then may have been dumped or put into an incinerator while still alive.

Clifton Animal Shelter also used excessive doses of Ketamine. The shelter administered 1.0 to 2.0 milliliters of Ketamine to virtually every adult cat it killed. The product label states 1 milliliter of the Ketamine drug contains 100 milligrams of the active Ketamine ingredient. In addition, the product label states cats requiring restraint should receive a dose of 5 milligrams/pound of cat. The product label also states veterinary personnel should use a dose of 10-15 milligrams/pound of cat to produce anesthesia. Based on most cats weighing 8 pounds, that means the cats should have only received 40-120 milligrams or 0.4-1.2 milliliters of the Ketamine drug. In other words, Clifton Animal Shelter provided doses of up to five times greater than the label indicates. Given large doses can “produce convulsions and seizures”, this indicates many animals could have experienced agony prior to their killing.

Clifton Animal Shelter Sedative Log Example

Clifton Animal Shelter Fatal Plug Log

To make matters worse, Clifton Animal Shelter had no records showing how it used another sedative, Xylazine, despite the facility purchasing significant quantities of this drug. While the shelter is not required to keep controlled dangerous substance logs of Xylazine under existing law, the facility must detail how much of this substance it gave to animals it killed under N.J.A.C 8.23A-1-11(f)(4).  Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter either broke state law by not recording its use of Xylazine, violated the Open Public Records Act by not providing the records I requested or spent $456 on drugs it didn’t use.

Clifton Animal Shelter's 2017 Purchases of Sedatives

If this was not bad enough, Clifton Animal Shelter violated New Jersey’s controlled dangerous substance law by having Ketamine at the shelter. As you can see here, Ketamine is a Schedule III Controlled Substance. Per the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs, animal shelters cannot have Ketamine at their shelters unless the controlled substance is the property of the veterinarian. As the invoice above shows, Parkview Animal Hospital sold Ketamine to Clifton Animal Shelter. Furthermore, Clifton Animal Shelter does not have an in-house veterinarian. Therefore, the shelter illegally kept Ketamine in the facility.

Animal Shelters Holding of Controlled Dangerous Substances

Local Health Department Inspection Report Reveals Big Problems

The Clifton Health Department inspected Clifton Animal Shelter on July 25, 2017 and found serious issues. You can read the full inspection report here. The shelter’s dog kennel area had rodent droppings and the dogs likely had the rodents enter their enclosures. How did the rodents likely get into this area? The shelter had holes in the floors and open containers of dog food. Therefore, the shelter effectively lured rodents into the facility with open containers of food and gave the rodents a clear path inside by leaving holes in the floors unfixed.

Clifton Animal Shelter did not have a legally required isolation area. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(g)N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(h) and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(i), a shelter must have a separate isolation area. What did the shelter use instead? A bathroom that the animal control officer claimed had a separate ventilation system. Call me crazy, but I’m highly skeptical that a facility which can’t fix holes in the floor and leaves food containers open would build a separate ventilation system for its bathroom. Regardless of the ventilation system, a bathroom is too small to serve as isolation room and presents other challenges if people also use the bathroom. For example, people coming in and then spreading disease to the rest of the facility. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter lacked one of the key required features of an animal shelter.

The shelter did not have a scale to weigh animals. This finding confirms my suspicion, which was based on the shelter not listing weights of the animals it killed and euthanized, that the facility did not weigh animals prior to killing animals. Therefore, Clifton Animal Shelter could have easily provided excessive doses of Ketamine, which can “produce convulsions and seizures”, and/or not provided enough Fatal Plus to ensure animals were actually dead. As a result, Clifton Animal Shelter could have easily dumped animals in a landfill or placed pets into an incinerator who were still alive.

Clifton Animal Shelter also was not open the required hours according to the signs on its doors at the time. Under N.J.AC. 8.23A-1.10(b)(1), a shelter must be open at least two hours each weekday and two hours on Saturday or Sunday. However, the shelter’s signs said it was only open one and a half hours each weekday. While the signs on the shelter’s door now indicate Clifton Animal Shelter is open long enough to meet state law requirements, the facility is hardly ever open to adopters. Specifically, the shelter is only open from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Monday to Friday and Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm. In other words, the shelter is only open on average two hours each day. Furthermore, the facility is closed on Saturdays (except for appointments) despite people adopting many animals on this day at other shelters.

The shelter also lacked a disease control program that was certified by its supervising veterinarian. Given having a disease control program certified by a licensed veterinarian is extremely important and required by state law, this is a serious problem. While the shelter did have a veterinarian certify its disease control program in 2018, the actual program did not provide adequate detail, particularly regarding different types and ages of animals as well as addressing the mental health and “stress” of animals as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-19(d)(2).

Despite all these significant problems plus the shelter illegally killing animals before seven days, the Clifton Health Department remarkably gave Clifton Animal Shelter a “Satisfactory” rating. As regular readers know, local health departments typically are incapable of conducting proper inspections of animal shelters due to incompetence and conflicts of interest. Therefore, a state health department inspection would likely find many more significant problems.

Clifton Animal Shelter Inspection Report Notes Part 1

Clifton Animal Shelter Inspection Report Notes Part 2.jpg


Clifton Animal Shelter Hours

The Montclair Health Department inspected Clifton Animal Shelter on July 6, 2018 and also found some problems. During the obviously too short one hour and twenty minute inspection, the Montclair Health Department noted Clifton Animal Shelter had no written euthanasia instructions posted in the facility and its euthanasia records still did not list body weights as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(f). Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter may have continued to kill animals inhumanely in 2018.

Given Montclair Health Department’s history of missing obvious violations of state law at its town shelter in the past and having no records of legally required annual inspections in 2010 and 2012, one should assume this was a poor quality inspection.

Montclair Health Department Finds Euthanasia Violations at Clifton Animal Shelter

Clifton Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for 25 days in 2017 and six days in 2018. Under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8(b), a shelter’s license expires on June 30th each year. N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 requires a shelter to comply with state law and receive a Certificate of Inspection for the current licensing year. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate during 25 days in 2017 and six days in 2018.

Clifton Animal Shelter Certificate of Inspection.jpg

Clifton Animal Shelter Certificate of Inspection (2).jpg

Finally, both inspection reports confirmed the conclusion from my last blog that Clifton Animal Shelter killed animals with empty kennels. Despite both inspections taking place during a time of the year when shelters are crowded due to high intake, Clifton Animal Shelter only housed 5 dogs and 28 cats during the July 25, 2017 inspection and 6 dogs and 26 cats during the July 6, 2018 inspection. As a comparison, Clifton Animal Shelter reported having a capacity of 16 dogs and 52 cats in its 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed animals around the times it only used about one third of its dog capacity and one half of its cat capacity.

Friends of the Shelter Take Adoption Fees from Animal Shelter

As I discussed in my last blog, Friends of the Shelter is an organization that controls the volunteer program at the shelter and also has the option to save animals Clifton Animal Shelter plans to kill. According to the shelter’s intake and disposition records, a number of these animals remain at the shelter.

As you can see from the emails below, the adoption fees for all the cats and dogs adopted from the shelter during the month of June in 2017 went to Friends of the Shelter and not Clifton Animal Shelter. While the agreement between Friends of the Shelter and Clifton Animal Shelter, which you can find here and here, does require Friends of the Shelter to pay any subsequent costs after the transfer of an animal takes place, I am skeptical that Friends of the Shelter is assuming 100% of the costs given the animals are housed in the city’s shelter.

Friends of Animal Shelter Adoption Fees

Friends of Animal Shelter Adoption Fees (2).jpg

Most importantly, I’m struck between the performance of Friends of the Shelter and EASEL Animal Rescue League. Prior to 2015, when EASEL Animal Rescue League took over managing Ewing Animal Shelter, it also had a similar arrangement to Friends of the Shelter in many respects. However, EASEL Animal Rescue League is a proud no kill organization. We see this difference when we look at the 2014 kill rates of Ewing Animal Shelter and Clifton Animal Shelter. In 2014, Ewing Animal Shelter only euthanized 3% of its dogs and 1% of its cats while Clifton Animal Shelter killed 13% of its dogs and 39% of its cats. Thus, Friends of the Shelter is not performing at the level it should be.

While Friends of the Shelter obviously does some good work, their leadership seems behind the times. For example, I could not find an active Facebook page from this group or the animal shelter itself. While a Clifton Animal Shelter Facebook page exists, its “unofficial” and just has information about the facility and reviews (i.e. animals up for adoption are not posted). In 2018, its shocking that any animal shelter or rescue group would not have a Facebook page.

Clifton Residents Must Demand Better

The saying “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” perfectly applies to the Clifton Animal Shelter. What do visitors see when they enter the door to the shelter? A sign showing the facility is virtually never open and a threat of imprisonment if the person leaves an animal outside the building. Obviously, this is not welcoming to adopters who walk in the door.

Clifton Animal Shelter Hours

Clifton Animal Shelter Unwelcoming.jpg

Clifton Animal Shelter is not serving the city’s homeless animals and residents well. In 2017, Clifton Animal Shelter impounded just 4.9 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and received $300 per dog and cat impounded from the city. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter took in 21.1 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and received just $228 from the government per dog and cat impounded. Clifton Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed animal death rates of 29% for dogs and 19% of cats in 2017 while Chippewa County Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed death rates of 1% for dogs and 2% for cats. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter’s nonreclaimed dogs and cats lost their lives at 29 times and 10 times the rate as an animal control shelter receiving far more animals on a per capita basis (and in total too) and having significantly less funding from its government.

Clifton taxpayers are also spending more money per animal than Ewing’s taxpayers on its animal shelter and killing more animals. 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 the 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, Clifton allocated $176,900 in its 2017 budget to its animal control and sheltering operation. Based on Clifton Animal Shelter taking in 589 dogs and cats in 2017, the town had $300 of funding per dog and cat. In 2017, EASEL Animal Rescue League reported only 2% of noneclaimed dogs and 7% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives. As a comparison, Clifton Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed death rates of 29% for dogs and 19% for cats. Thus, Clifton taxpayers spent more money than Ewing taxpayers on its animal shelter and its nonreclaimed dogs were 15 times and its nonreclaimed cats were three times as likely to lose their lives.

To add insult to injury, Clifton Animal Shelter blatantly violated the following laws:

  1. Frequently killed animals during the seven day protection period
  2. Euthanasia records did not indicate method of killing to determine if it was a humane way
  3. Euthanasia records did not list animals’ weights to determine if they received the proper doses of sedative and killing agents
  4. Euthanasia records did not indicate how the shelter used the sedative Xylazine
  5. Held Ketamine at the facility in violation of the state’s controlled dangerous substance laws
  6. Shelter did not have a scale and therefore could not have weighed animals to ensure they received the proper doses of sedative and killing agents
  7. Shelter did not have an adequate disease control program meeting state law requirements
  8. Shelter was not inspected as required by June 30th in both 2017 and 2018 and should not have had licenses to operate for parts of 2017 and 2018

Clifton residents and people who shop in the city should contact the elected officials below and demand the following:

  1. The shelter stop illegally killing animals during the seven day protection period
  2. The shelter follow all state laws
  3. The shelter fully and comprehensively implement the No Kill Equation
  4. The city pass the Companion Animal Protection Act and require the shelter to save at least 90% of its animals
  5. The city replace the ACO in charge with an effective and compassionate shelter manager
  6. Eliminate Friends of the Shelter’s monopoly over the volunteer program and allow the effective and compassionate leader to build such a program based on best practices across the country

The contact information for these officials is as follows:

Mayor James Anzaldi: (973) 470-5757;

Councilman Peter C. Eagler:

Councilman William Gibson:

Councilman Raymond Grabowski:

Councilman Steven Hatala, Jr.:

Councilman Joseph C. Kolodziej:

Councilwoman Lauren E. Murphy:

Given the relatively small numbers of animals this shelter takes in, it should achieve great things. With your advocacy and persistence, we can make this change happen.

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