Associated Humane Societies-Newark has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The shelter received three terrible inspection reports over the last few months. In addition, NJ.com, PIX 11 News and News 12’s Kane in Your Corner all published/aired news stories exposing this “house of horrors.” As a result of these inspections and news reports, the NJ SPCA charged AHS Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, with eight criminal and eight civil counts of animal cruelty. This story made both national and international news and was published in well-known news outlets, such as the New York Times. Subsequently, the Star Ledger issued a scathing editorial demanding the state remove Roseann Trezza and put the Newark shelter into receivership (i.e. run by other competent people on a temporary basis until they find a permanent solution). Despite all this, AHS defended Roseann Trezza and appears unwilling to institute substantive change.
AHS-Newark has consistently killed large percentages of the animals it takes in per annual statistics the organization reported to the New Jersey Department of Health. In 2014, AHS-Newark killed 29% of its dogs and 42% of its cats. AHS-Newark killed 25% of its dogs and 43% of its cats in 2015. In 2016, AHS-Newark killed 25% of its dogs and 44% of its cats. Thus, AHS-Newark’s annual statistics consistently revealed the facility was high kill.
AHS-Newark’s statistics were far worse according to underlying records I obtained. Based on individual animal records for Newark dogs and cats primarily coming to the facility from animal control in 2014, 70% of dogs, 81% of pit bull like dogs and 93% of cats with known outcomes lost their lives in this data set. Similarly, 60% of dogs, 74% of pit bull like dogs and 83% of cats with known outcomes from the City of Irvington lost their lives at AHS-Newark during the first nine or so months of 2015 based on individual animal records provided to me. Thus, AHS-Newark’s underlying records revealed a much higher percentage of animals losing their lives from these two cities.
Subsequently, AHS-Newark refused to provide these records from other contracting municipalities. The shelter stated they changed their software system. Additionally, the organization claimed it did not have to submit records, even if requested by the contracting municipality, under OPRA. In fact, AHS-Newark even added similar language to agreements with contracting municipalities I saw.
Luckily, another animal advocate was able to obtain AHS-Newark’s intake and disposition records for stray animals from the City of Plainfield. These records related to all of 2016 and the first nine or so months of 2017. Unfortunately, AHS-Newark only provided a report that provided little information on each animal and no disposition dates. Therefore, AHS-Newark provided less transparent records than it previously gave to me.
Plainfield has a local group that aggressively tries to save the city’s animals. Plainfield Residents’ Association for Animal Rescue (“PRAAR”) helps local residents find alternatives to surrendering owned and stray animals to AHS-Newark (i.e. reducing animal intake at the shelter) and reclaim stray animals impounded by AHS-Newark. As a result of these efforts, AHS-Newark should be able to achieve high live release rates for Plainfield’s homeless animals.
What kind of job did AHS-Newark do in handling Plainfield’s homeless animals? Are Planfield’s elected officials making good use of the city’s taxpayer dollars by contracting with AHS-Newark?
Many Plainfield Dogs Lose Their Lives at AHS-Newark
AHS-Newark killed a large percentage of the stray dogs it took in from Plainfield in 2016. Overall, AHS-Newark’s kill rate for Plainfield’s stray dogs in 2016 was around the same as AHS-Newark’s total dog statistics in its “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” However, AHS-Newark’s 2016 “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” had errors I previously described and is not particularly reliable. While AHS-Newark’s dog kill rate was lower than the 2014 Newark and 2015 Irvington kill rates I calculated, AHS-Newark still killed 24% of dogs or roughly 1 out of 4 dogs. Even worse, AHS-Newark killed 37% of pit bull like dogs or more than 1 out of 3 pit bull like dogs from Plainfield.
Since many dogs reclaimed by owners have licenses and microchips, it is easy for AHS-Newark to quickly send these animals back home to their families. Additionally, PRAAR helps owners reclaim their dogs from the shelter. As a result of these efforts and lower poverty rates in Plainfield, AHS-Newark’s dog reclaim rate was around two to three times higher than the reclaim rates I computed for 2014 Newark dogs and 2015 Irvington dogs.
AHS-Newark did a poor job in finding new homes for Plainfield’s stray dogs. The shelter killed 34% of all non-reclaimed dogs, 52% of non-reclaimed pit bulls, 11% of non-reclaimed small dogs and 23% of other non-reclaimed dogs. In other words, AHS-Newark killed approximately 1 out of 3 non-reclaimed dogs, 1 out of 2 non-reclaimed pit bulls and 1 out of 4 non-reclaimed other medium to large size dogs.
To make matters worse, AHS-Newark’s dog and non-reclaimed dog kill rates may have been higher. To the extent transferred dogs went to other AHS facilities, which are kill shelters, and those facilities killed these animals, the kill rates would increase.
AHS-Newark adopted out hardly any dogs. The shelter only adopted out 16 dogs in total, 4 pit bull like dogs, 8 small dogs and 4 dogs from other breeds. In fact, AHS-Newark only adopted out 17% of all these dogs, 8% of pit bull like dogs, 27% of small dogs and 24% of dogs from other breeds.
The shelter’s statistics for the first nine or so months of 2017 were actually worse in some respects. Overall, 21% of all dogs, 41% of pit bull like dogs, 4% of small dogs and 7% of dogs from other breeds lost their lives. However, the non-reclaimed dog death rates were higher for all dogs and pit bull like dogs during the first nine or so months of 2017. Specifically, 38% of all non-reclaimed dogs and 62% of non-reclaimed pit bull like dogs lost their lives at this so-called shelter. In other words, more than 1 out of 3 non-reclaimed dogs and nearly 2 out of 3 non-reclaimed pit bulls lost their lives at AHS-Newark.
Once again, AHS-Newark adopted out hardly any dogs. Most notably, AHS-Newark only adopted out 16% of all dogs and just 10% of pit bull like dogs during the first nine or so months of 2017.
Plainfield Cats Die in Droves at AHS-Newark
Large percentages of stray cats and kittens from Plainfield lost their lives at AHS-Newark in 2016. AHS-Newark killed 24% of all cats, 39% of adult cats and 17% of kittens. However, many additional kittens died at the shelter. Once we factor in the kittens dying at AHS-Newark, the death rates for all cats and kittens were 42% and 44% in 2016. If we back out the 4 cats that were “released”, which I assume were either reclaimed by their owner or were trapped, neutered and released, the non-released cat death rate was 45% for all cats, 50% for adult cats and 44% for kittens. In other words, nearly 1 out of 2 stray cats and kittens from Plainfield requiring a new home lost their lives at AHS-Newark in 2016.
Shockingly, AHS-Newark hardly adopted out any cats. The shelter adopted out just 6 of 61 or 10% of all cats, 2 of 18 or 11% of adult cats and 4 of 43 or 9% of kittens. While the shelter sent 24 cats and kittens to rescues and/or other shelters, its unclear whether these were all no kill organizations. If AHS-Newark transferred some of these cats to AHS-Tinton Falls or AHS-Popcorn Park, its possible the kill rates could be higher since AHS-Tinton Falls killed 51% and AHS-Popcorn Park killed 26% of cats with known outcomes in 2016.
Plainfield’s stray cats continued to lose their lives at AHS-Newark during the first nine or so months of 2017. Overall 30% of all cats, 28% of adult cats and 32% of kittens lost their lives at AHS-Newark. Amazingly, AHS-Newark adopted out just 2 out of 55 cats or just 4% of these animals. The shelter did not adopt out a single one of the stray 33 kittens it took in from Plainfield. Frankly, a single person could adopt out many more cats than AHS-Newark did.
AHS-Newark’s atrocious performance handling cats is clear when we break out the statistics by age. As you can see in the tables below, AHS-Newark reported only taking 1 neonatal kitten (i.e. less than 6 weeks old) in during 2016 and the first nine or so months of 2017. Since these are often the most vulnerable animals (highly susceptible to disease, those without mothers require around the clock bottle feeding), this makes AHS-Newark’s high death rates more disturbing.
AHS-Newark performed far worse than Austin Animal Center. In 2016 and 2017, AHS-Newark had higher death rates for all age groups. However, AHS-Newark’s death rates for older kittens (6 weeks to just under 1 year) were 15-25 times higher than Austin Animal Center’s despite the Texas shelter taking in nearly 1,800 of these animals. Even though older kittens are the most highly adoptable age group, AHS-Newark failed to adopt out a single stray older kitten taken in from Plainfield in 2016 and the first nine or so months of 2017. Is it any wonder why 75% and 45% of older kittens from Plainfield lost their lives during 2016 and the first nine months of 2017?
Plainfield Taxpayers Ripped Off
Plainfield pays AHS-Newark exorbitant amounts for the “service” it receives. According to the city’s prior contract with AHS-Newark, which Plainfield is continuing to use on a month to month basis, it pays AHS-Newark $121,890 a year. This works out to $781 per each of the 156 stray dogs and cats the shelter impounded from Plainfield in 2016. In fact, Plainfield taxpayers paid AHS-Newark $5,540 per adoption based on the $121,890 contract fee and the paltry 22 dog and cat adoptions the shelter did in 2016. If these fees were not high enough, Plainfield taxpayers must pay AHS-Newark $18 per day to board an animal involved in a court case proceeding. Since such cases can take a long time to resolve, this potentially puts Plainfield taxpayers on the hook to pay AHS-Newark much more. Plainfield taxpayers must also pay AHS-Newark additional costs, which could be substantial, if the shelter takes in feral cats from abandoned colonies. Thus, Plainfield taxpayers are paying exorbitant fees to AHS-Newark for terrible service.
AHS-Newark also charges Painfield residents additional high fees. Plainfield residents must pay AHS-Newark $95 to reclaim a lost animal during normal operating hours on weekdays. However, the shelter charges $125 if the person reclaims the animal after 5 pm on weekdays and on weekends. Furthermore, AHS-Newark makes Plainfield residents pay an additional $4.24 per day during the first 7 days and $12.84 per day after day 7 to reclaim their animal. Also, residents must pay AHS-Newark $95 per hour on weekdays until 5 pm and $125 per hour on weekdays after 5 pm and weekends to remove wildlife from inside their homes unless the animal poses a threat to the resident’s well-being. In addition, AHS-Newark charges feral cat colony caretakers or the City of Plainfield an additional $65 per animal fee to spay/neuter, vaccinate, ear tip and microchip these cats. Thus, Plainfield taxpayers must pay additional exorbitant fees to use AHS-Newark’s services.
AHS-Newark also rips off Plainfield taxpayers in other ways. Under the arrangement, AHS-Newark, and not the town, decides if an injured or sick animal gets to receive emergency veterinary treatment outside AHS-Newark’s normal operating hours (i.e. when no AHS-Newark veterinarian is present). Furthermore, AHS-Newark asserts it “owns” an animal after day 7 despite the New Jersey Commission of Investigation questioning this notion. Practically speaking, Plainfield residents have no say in what happens to stray animals after day 7 despite paying AHS-Newark nearly $800 per dog and cat plus additional fees. Also, the contract only requires AHS-Newark to respond to calls within one hour during normal business hours. During weeknights and weekends, AHS-Newark has no time limit to respond to calls. If a dog or cat is hit by a car and needs quick veterinary treatment, the animal is out of luck. To make matters worse, Plainfield residents cannot even call AHS-Newark directly when animals need assistance. Instead, they must first call the police or health department who would subsequently call AHS-Newark. Frankly, this is absurd when seconds could make the difference between life and death for an injured animal.
Plainfield Must Aggressively Seek a New Animal Control and Sheltering Provider
While Plainfield recently issued a Request for Proposal for animal control and sheltering services, this is not strong enough action. First, the RFP provides no requirements for a third party to save lives. Given animal control shelters in hundreds of communities across the nation save over 90% of their animals, Plainfield should require any provider to save at least 90% of Plainfield’s animals. Second, the RFP calls for impounding feral cats which shelters should not do except if such animals are sick, injured, in serious danger or if the animals will be altered, vaccinated and released to where they were found. Third, the City of Plainfield must be proactive and reach out to alternative providers and persuade them to bid on the contract. Simply put, AHS-Newark is not an acceptable alternative and the city must act as if it has no provider.
Local Shelters Must Bid on Plainfield Contract
Plainfield Area Humane Society must aggressively pursue the Plainfield animal control and sheltering contract. Based on 2016 analyses I did on the shelter’s cats and dogs, Plainfield Area Humane Society could have taken in 477 more dogs and 1,212 more cats in 2016. Clearly, this vastly exceeds the 95 stray dogs and 61 stray cats AHS-Newark impounded from Plainfield last year. Frankly, Plainfield Area Humane Society should be appalled at how AHS-Newark is treating its hometown animals. Thus, Plainfield Area Humane Society should jump at the opportunity to save the homeless animals in its own community.
St. Hubert’s should also aggressively bid on the Plainfield contract. St. Hubert’s-North Branch is less than 20 miles away and could easily take on Plainfield’s contract. The organization routinely transfers in dogs from the south and rescues many cats from other New Jersey animal shelters. According to St. Hubert’s Strategic Directories and Priorities for 2015-2018, the organization seeks to continue being a “model shelter” and wants to “seek contracts with targeted municipalities.” Clearly, Plainfield needs a new sheltering provider and St. Hubert’s should try to obtain the contract.
Additionally, other shelters could pledge to rescue animals from facilities contracting with Plainfield. For example, Woodbridge Animal Shelter could take in 84 more dogs (nearly as many dogs AHS-Newark impounded from Plainfield in 2016) and 306 more cats (many more cats than AHS-Newark impounded from Plainfield in 2016) based on my 2016 analyses I did on the shelter’s cats and dogs.
While Plainfield’s feral cat policy would be problematic for many, if not all, of these organizations, these shelters could pressure the city to change its stance. In other words, if Plainfield wants to contract with an organization to provide animal control and/or sheltering services, the city must allow TNR.
People Must Demand Plainfield Replace AHS-Newark Unless the Entire AHS Leadership Resigns
Plainfield’s elected officials will continue to shortchange the city’s animals unless residents and other people pressure these politicians to change. In other words, people must write to the City Council and Mayor and demand they dump AHS-Newark unless AHS removes Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, all other long-time executives and the entire AHS Board of Director.
To make this task easier, people can send the following letter using the emails below:
Dear Honorable Mayor Rapp, Council President Williams, Councilwoman Toliver, Councilman Storch, Councilwoman Rivers, Councilman Goode, Councilwoman Mills-Ransome and Councilman McRae,
Recently, Rahway announced they will terminate their contract with Associated Humane Societies-Newark after the shelter’s dismal performance in three New Jersey Department of Health inspections and the NJ SPCA charging Associated Humane Societies Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, with eight counts of criminal and civil animal cruelty charges.
So, the questions that remain are: What is Plainfield waiting for? What is Plainfield doing to address the AHS-Newark crisis?
Unless Roseann Trezza, other long-time executives and the entire Board of Directors of AHS immediately resign, there is absolutely no plausible excuse for Plainfield to continue to use AHS-Newark. Find us another animal control and sheltering provider, even if on a temporary basis.
We’ve had enough unnecessary killing.
Here is the latest from the editorial board of the Star Ledger:
Below is the PIX 11 News expose on AHS-Newark:
News 12’s Kane in Your Corner’s report on AHS-Newark is linked below:
Roseann Trezza, all long-time AHS executives and the entire AHS board must go.
We anticipate that a response from our elected representatives will be forthcoming in the near future.
Additionally, everyone should attend the next Plainfield City Council meeting:
Date: December 11, 2017
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: 325 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
During that meeting people should demand the following:
- Plainfield terminate its contract with AHS-Newark unless Roseann Trezza, other long-time executives and the entire Board of Directors of AHS immediately resign
- Aggressively pursue another organization that will seek to achieve a greater than 90% live release rate
- Plainfield enact a TNR ordinance to save lives and reduce costs to taxpayers
Plainfield’s use of the high kill and lawless AHS-Newark shelter is no longer tolerable. The city must do the right thing and contract with an organization that will serve both the animals and people of Plainfield well.