Over the years, I documented massive problems at Associated Humane Societies-Newark. You can read a summary of these issues along with the details here. The shelter’s issues date back more than half a century. In particular, the New Jersey Department of Health found major issues on August 22, 2017, September 26, 2017 and October 20, 2017. Despite these problems, the New Jersey Department of Health refused to inspect AHS-Newark again even though the inept Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness found significant problems.
Finally, after many complaints, the New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness performed a joint inspection of AHS-Newark on September 10, 2021. While the inspection report is less detailed than prior ones and the handwriting is hard to read, it provides important information. You can read the full inspection report here. How did AHS-Newark do? After four years, has the shelter solved its major issues?
Facility is a Disease Breeding Ground
AHS-Newark had numerous areas where concrete was broken creating both a physical safety hazard and and an area impossible to disinfect. Specifically, the inspectors noted concrete outside boarding on the kennel side, on the inside corner of the last outdoor kennel and on the floors of two large dog kennels required repairs.
Furthermore, the inspectors noted the interior of the main kennels had peeling paint. Dogs can ingest such peeling paint.
As a result, the inspectors stated areas with broken concrete and peeling paint can’t be properly cleaned and disinfected.
The inspectors also found water buckets and receptacles were not secured and could tip over (i.e. making the dogs and their enclosures wet). Additionally, AHS-Newark did not properly disinfect the food and water receptacles.
In one of the most disgusting findings, the report said there was “pooling of urine” in the outdoor enclosure area.
Even when the shelter cleaned the floor in the medical room, it used a product that had no label to indicate it was an effective disinfectant.
Illegal and Potentially Inhumane Killing and Euthanasia
AHS-Newark only weighed animals at intake, but did not weigh them again prior to killing/euthanizing. Therefore, animals may not have received proper doses of sedatives and killing agents. If an animal gained significant amounts of weight while at the shelter, such as a dog or cat who came in malnourished or very young, the animal would not receive enough poison to kill them and its possible he or she could have been dumped or incinerated while still alive. Similarly, these animals may not have received enough sedatives and could experience emotional distress. Thus, the shelter could have inhumanely killed/euthanized some animals.
The shelter broke state law by not listing what method it used to kill/euthanize animals. Specifically, the records do not state whether the shelter killed/euthanized 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 a poison filled needle and New Jersey shelters can only use this method on heavily sedated, anesthetized or comatose animals. As a result, we don’t know if AHS-Newark used an inhumane way of killing/euthanizing animals.
AHS-Newark violated the state’s ban on killing owner-surrendered animals for seven days. Specifically, the shelter illegally killed animals supposedly brought in for owner-requested euthanasia before seven days went by.
Improper Record Keeping
Finally, the shelter did not include the name of the people who received cats under its TNR program as required by state law.
Poorest Quality State Inspection in Years
When reading this inspection report compared to prior ones at AHS-Newark, its clear this was not nearly as thorough as past reports. This inspection was just over two hours long compared to the initial 2017 AHS-Newark inspection taking six hours and the third inspection taking nearly three hours. Also, the prior reports were typed up and provided detailed explanations about the violations while this report only mentioned the violations. Finally, the current report has hard to read handwriting while the past ones were neatly typed out.
The new State Public Health Veterinarian wrote the most recent report and an experienced inspector wrote the prior reports. Linda Frese has inspected state shelters for decades. While Ms. Frese is listed as one of the inspectors, the report was written by the recently hired Dr. Darcy McDermott. Frankly, its deeply disappointing that Dr. McDermott did not have Linda Frese write up a high quality report that the public and the shelter’s animals deserve.
Allegations of Poor Veterinary Care
While this poor quality inspection report did not find any violations of improper veterinary care, the rescue community has mentioned cases where AHS-Newark’s medical care appeared substandard. For example, a dog named Grace allegedly became so ill at AHS-Newark that a rescue had to bring her to an intensive care unit at Oradell Animal Hospital. Similarly, one person alleged a dog injured his leg after getting wrapped in a sheet (who AHS-Newark later killed) and another individual alleged AHS-Newark has not provided proper care. Whether these claims are true or not, I find it difficult to believe AHS-Newark consistently provides sufficient veterinary care, especially since the shelter had 217 cats and 112 dogs at the facility during the inspection and the risk of disease from the facility and its cleaning methods.
AHS-Newark Problems Remain from Prior Inspection Reports
Despite the poor quality inspection, the report found numerous problems. In total, AHS-Newark had 13 violations of state law, but that number could be higher. Specifically, each owner requested euthanasia that occurred before seven days would be a violation (I only counted as one violation in the 13 total violations) and there are likely many of these.
AHS-Newark’s violations were identical to many outlined in the August 22, 2017 inspection report. Like the August 22, 2017 inspection report, AHS-Newark had cracked concrete floors and peeling paint. Similarly, AHS-Newark had a concrete wall that needed repairs as it had in the August, 22, 2017 inspection report. As in the August 22, 2017 inspection report, AHS-Newark did not properly clean and disinfect food and water receptacles and did not use the proper solution to clean and disinfect parts of the facility. Finally, just like the August 22, 2017 inspection report, AHS-Newark illegally killed animals brought in for “elective euthanasia” before seven days, did not weigh animals prior to killing/euthanizing and did not record the method it killed/euthanized animals. Finally, as in the August 22, 2017 inspection report, AHS-Newark still did not fully comply with animal record keeping requirements. Thus, AHS-Newark’s problems are ones they should have solved over the last four years.
Authorities Must Act
The New Jersey Department of Health must take bold action rather than doing the same thing its done for decades and expecting a different result. In the past, the state health department has largely asked AHS-Newark and other shelters to do better. Unfortunately, this seems like the case now as the New Jersey Department of Health told AHS-Newark to provide a plan of correction within two weeks. Why should we expect AHS-Newark will permanently fix its issues when it didn’t fulfill its promises in the past? Instead, the state health department should move to shut AHS-Newark down unless AHS replaces its entire board of directors and its executive leadership with independent and competent individuals.
Given the massive problems at AHS-Newark, one has to also wonder how AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park operate. The New Jersey Department of Health has not inspected these other facilities in recent years. As a result, we need to know if AHS-Newark’s problems also occur at its sister shelters.
Newark’s Humane Law Enforcement Officer should charge the AHS board and executive leadership with Title 4 animal cruelty violations for each animal, which was not hopelessly suffering, the shelter killed before seven days.
At the same time, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka must re-start former Mayor Booker’s project to build a new no kill shelter in the city. Furthermore, the city should put the AHS-Newark shelter into receivership as the borough of Helmetta did when its shelter had major issues and appoint competent people to run it.
Residents in the following municipalities should contact their mayors using the information below and demand they terminate their arrangements with AHS-Newark.
- Belleville: (973) 450-3345
- Carteret: (732) 541-3801
- Clark: (732) 388-3600 Fairfield: (973) 882-2700; email@example.com
- Fanwood: (908)-322-8236, ext. 124; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Linden: (908) 474-8493; email@example.com
- Newark: (973) 733-6400; https://www.newarknj.gov/contact-us
- New Brunswick: https://www.cityofnewbrunswick.org/government/mayors_office/contact_my_office.php
- North Brunswick: (732) 247-0922 Ext 430; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Orange: (973) 266-4005
- Roselle: (908) 956-5557; email@example.com
- Rahway: 732-827-2009; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Winfield Park: (908) 925-3850