Franklin Township Animal Shelter Illegally Kills Animals and Breaks State Law

In my last Franklin Township Animal Shelter blog, I detailed the facility frequently killing healthy and treatable animals. Additionally, I documented the shelter taking too long to safely place animals. In this blog, I’ll examine whether Franklin Township Animal Shelter complies with state law and discuss some of the reasons why it needlessly kills animals.

Illegal Killing During Seven Day Protection Period

Under state law, shelters cannot kill either owner surrendered or stray animals until seven days pass. The purpose of this law is to provide owners a chance to reclaim their lost pets and prevent shelters from immediately killing animals. In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during this seven day period if facilities meet both of the following conditions:

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the rationale in the animal’s medical record

Overall, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s intake and disposition records revealed it killed six dogs and six cats during the state’s seven day protection period. All six dogs were owner surrenders. Four of the six cats were strays and the other two cats were surrendered by their owners. Based on my review of the paperwork the shelter provided to me, several of these animals did not appear to be hopelessly suffering. Even when the shelter wrote some notes suggesting the animals might have serious medical issues, the intake and disposition records, except for possibly one, and supporting paperwork did not indicate a veterinarian made a diagnosis and euthanized the animal during the seven day hold period as required by the above regulations. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter violated state law when it killed each of these animals.

Mink or Dog ID# 76 was a three year old Shar-Pei-Cane Corso mix that was surrendered to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on February 14, 2018. On the only supporting document Franklin Township Animal Shelter provided me, the shelter stated “very aggressive”, “owner request” and “E&D.” According to the shelter’s intake and disposition log as well as its euthanasia drug log, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed Mink on the very day he arrived at the facility. Under state law, a shelter cannot kill a dog before seven days unless its hopelessly suffering. Clearly, aggression does not meet that standard. Furthermore, the euthanasia record indicates the shelter’s head animal control officer, Katie Nordhous (abbreviation: KN), and another shelter staff member (abbreviation: RH) killed Mink. Thus, Franklin Township illegally killed Mink before seven days since Mink was not hopelessly suffering and a veterinarian did not kill the animal during this period.

Mink Illegally Killed FTAS

Mink Illegally Killed FTAS 2.jpg

Mink Illegally Killed FTAS 3

Nevada or Dog ID# 155 was a 12 year old pit bull like dog surrendered to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on March 27, 2018. According to the shelter’s paperwork, the owner surrendered the dog due to cancer (unclear if the owner or dog had it), a divorce and the owner moving. The owner also stated they could not afford a surgery that the dog apparently needed. As an example of Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s terrible record keeping, the intake and disposition record stated the shelter killed Nevada the day before he arrived at the shelter. However, the euthanasia record showed Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed Nevada on the day she came in on March 27, 2018.

Once again, Franklin Township Animal Shelter illegally killed an animal before seven days. The shelter did not have a veterinarian document Nevada was hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, the animal apparently required a surgery which suggests Nevada had a reasonable chance for treatment. Second, the euthanasia record indicates the shelter’s head animal control officer, Katie Nordhous (abbreviation: KN), and not a veterinarian killed Nevada on the day she came into the shelter. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter violated state law since the shelter did not have a veterinarian document Nevada was hopelessly suffering and did not have a veterinarian euthanize the animal even if she was hopelessly suffering.

Nevada Illegally Killed FTAS 1

Nevada Illegally Killed FTAS 2.jpg

Nevada Illegally Killed FTAS 3

Cat ID# 429 was surrendered to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on June 27, 2018. According to paperwork the shelter provided me, the shelter stated the cat was “very old + sick” and this was an “Elective Euthanasia.” Per the shelter’s euthanasia record, the facility killed Cat ID# 429 on the day the shelter took the animal in.

While its possible this cat was hopelessly suffering, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s records do not indicate a veterinarian made that determination as required by state law. Furthermore, the euthanasia record lists “RH” as the individual killing the animal who has the same initials as a shelter employee. Under state law, even if an animal can be humanely euthanized before seven days, a veterinarian must be the person who euthanizes the animal. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter violated state law by killing Cat ID# 429 before seven days and not having a veterinarian be the person conducting the procedure.

Cat ID 429 Illegally Killed FTAS 1.jpg

Cat ID 429 Illegally Killed FTAS 2.jpg

Cat ID 429 Illegally Killed FTAS 3.jpg

Potential Inhumane Killing 

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s Telazol log shows the shelter used too little of this sedative when killing large dogs. According to the Humane Society of the United State Euthanasia Reference Manual, shelters should use 0.3-0.5 milliliters for each 10 pounds of an animal’s body weight. However, the manual recommends using 0.5 milliliters per 10 pounds of an animal body weight. As you can see in the shelter’s Telazol log below, the shelter did not provide enough Telazol to the following dogs:

  • Dog ID# 669 weighed 89 pounds and received 1.5 milliliters when it should have received 4.5 milliliters
  • Dog ID# 928 weighed 62 pounds and received 1.5 milliliters when it should have received 3.1 milliliters
  • Dog ID# 76 weighed 82 pounds and received 2.0 milliliters when it should have received 4.1 milliliters
  • Dog ID# 112 weighed 27 pounds and received 0.5 milliliters when it should have received 1.4 milliliters

Clearly, Franklin Township Animal Shelter did not provide enough Telazol to calm dogs, who required a sedative, before killing them.

FTAS Uses Too Little Sedatives for Some Dogs.jpg

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not specify how the shelter killed or euthanized animals. 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, N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(f)4 and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13A, shelters must document the method they use to kill animals. According to N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(c) 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, Franklin Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not comply with state law and do not indicate whether animals are in fact humanely euthanized in accordance with state law.

Additionally, the shelter’s Telazol log does not indicate what individual administered this controlled substance to each animal. Per the New Jersey Department of Health July 16, 2018 inspection report on Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, shelters must have individuals certified to euthanize animals sign off on both the euthanasia drug and sedatives amounts used when killing an animal to comply with New Jersey’s controlled dangerous substance laws. While Franklin Township Animal Shelter personnel did sign off in the euthanasia drug logs, they did not do so in their sedative logs. Thus, the shelter violated state law.

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

Animal Shelters Holding of Controlled Dangerous Substances

FTAS Purchase of Telazol

Inadequate Disease Control Program

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not vaccinate all animals entering the shelter. Specifically, the shelter only vaccinates animals that are available for adoption. Given the shelter kills large numbers of dogs and cats, it is not vaccinating a substantial portion of the shelter population. The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program clearly explains why shelters must immediately vaccinate animals to control diseases in their facilities:

When should the vaccine be given?

Immediately upon intake, if not sooner! In almost all cases, shelter animals should be vaccinated immediately upon intake. A delay of even a day or two will significantly compromise the vaccine’s ability to provide protection. In a cost saving effort, some shelters delay vaccination until the animal is made available for adoption, or even until it is adopted. While this does provide a service to adopters, the protective effect of the vaccine within the shelter is greatly reduced or eliminated. (In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.) When possible, vaccination prior to intake is ideal (e.g. for owner surrendered animals or those returning from foster care).

Furthermore, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not mandate all necessary vaccines. While the disease control program states the shelter vaccinates animals available for adoption for rabies, distemper and bordatella or kennel cough (dogs only), the UC David Koret Shelter Medicine program also recommends shelters vaccinate dogs for adenovirus-2, parvovirus and parainfluenza and cats for feline herpesvirus-1 (feline viral rhinotracheitis/FHV-1) and feline calicivirus.

Therefore, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s vaccination program is ineffective and this may partially explain why the facility killed so many cats for illnesses and had so many other cats die.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter also “screens” all cats for FIV and FeLV prior to spay/neuter. Shelter medicine experts recommend facilities not test healthy cats for these two diseases based on the following reasons:

  1. The tests are often inaccurate
  2. Tests are expensive and prolong animals’ length of stay at shelters
  3. Tests are used to kill cats who are not sick or treatable

Based on the shelter’s policy of routinely testing cats for FIV and FeLV, its unsurprising the shelter’s records revealed it killing cats who tested positive for these illnesses. As mentioned in my earlier Franklin Township Animal Shelter blog, many shelters adopt out cats who actually have these diseases as well. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program may be causing the shelter to needlessly kill cats for simply testing positive for FIV or FeLV.

FTAS Vaccination and FeLV and FIV Protocol.jpg

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program is not compliant with state law. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(a)1., the disease control program must address both the “physical and psychological well-being of animals.” However, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not address the psychological well-being of animals. Given the shelter killed 80 cats for being feral, aggressive and having certain behavior issues or nearly 20% of all the cats impounded, the shelter’s inadequate disease control program is costing many cats their lives. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program violates state law and is leading to unnecessary killing at the shelter.

§ 8:23A-1.9 Disease control

(a) Facilities subject to this subchapter as provided in N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.2 shall establish and maintain a program of disease control and adequate health care (program) under the supervision and assistance of a doctor of veterinary medicine.

1. The program shall 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.

Finally, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not have other important provisions. As the New Jersey Department of Health mentioned in its October 21, 2015 inspection report on Gloucester County Animal Shelter, shelters must have written protocols to properly feed animals and have workers avoid passing pathogens throughout the facility (e.g. procedures on employees dealing with sick animals in an isolation area and then moving to parts of the facility with healthy animals). While the disease control program mentions employees should not be in contact with healthy animals after entering the isolation area, it has no protocols for staff to do that (i.e. protective clothing in isolation area and discarding after dealing with sick animals, etc.). Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program violates state law by not addressing these key areas of disease control.

Shelter Makes Little Effort to Save Animals

Franklin Township Animal Shelter hardly is ever open for people to save animals. The shelter’s hours are as follows:

  • Tuesday-Friday: 12 pm to 3 pm
  • Saturday: 12 pm to 6 pm
  • Sunday and Monday: Closed

While the shelter has decent hours on Saturdays, the facility is virtually never open for most working people on other days. Most people cannot go to the shelter in the early afternoon on weekdays. If that was not bad enough, the shelter is closed to the public on two days, including Sundays when many people adopt or reclaim lost pets. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter makes it extremely difficult for the public to save the shelter’s animals.

Given shelters already incur costs to feed and care for animals on days the shelter is closed, it makes complete sense to allow the public to adopt and reclaim animals on those days. Based on the shelter’s high kill rate, long lengths of stay and large shelter population, this facility should be open many more hours.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter violates state law since its not open on Mondays. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.10(b)1., shelters must be open to the public at least two hours a day on weekdays and one weekend day. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter breaks state law by not being open on Mondays.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter has no active Facebook page. While a Franklin Township 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 this day and age, its shocking any shelter would not have an active Facebook page. While Second Chance for Animals, which is a volunteer group supporting the shelter, has a Facebook page it uses to promote Franklin Township Animal Shelter pets, most people would not know to look there for the shelter’s animals. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter needs its own active Facebook and other social media pages.

The shelter’s web site hardly has any useful information. Even though the shelter has a Petfinder page, it currently only has 21 pets listed for adoption while its September 9, 2019 inspection report had 135 animals at the facility. While Second Chance for Animals does have a web site about the shelter, most people would not know to look there. Additionally, the web site does not contain enough information about the shelter. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter must create its own web site and make it useful to the public.

Second Chance for Animals plays a key role at the shelter. This group has helped Franklin Township Animal Shelter since 1998. On its web site, Second Chance for Animals states it pays for spay/neuter, microchips, emergency and senior pet veterinary care, pet food, cat litter and other things. According to the Second Chance for Animals 2018 Form 990, the organization spent $51,544 on food, cat litter, veterinary care and FIV and FeLV testing on Franklin Township Animal Shelter pets. Additionally, the Form 990 states Second Chance for Animals paid $20,390 to spay/neuter 255 animals, which I presume most if not all were from Franklin Township Animal Shelter. Second Chance for Animals’ web site also states the organization takes Franklin Township Animal Shelter pets to adoption events. Its also possible the organization contributed more funds to the shelter since Second Chance for Animals had another $17,732 of reported expenses in its 2018 Form 990. Finally, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s web site mentions Second Chance for Animals administers the shelter’s volunteer program. Thus, Second Chance for Animals is an integral part of Franklin Township Animal Shelter.

While Second Chance for Animals assistance to Franklin Township Animal Shelter is admirable, it has not resulted in the shelter becoming no kill. I’ve seen other long term arrangements between shelter-based rescue groups and regressive shelters not serve the animals well. For example, Friends of Shelter Animals at Clifton Animal Shelter has had a similar long-term relationship with Clifton Animal Shelter and that shelter still performs poorly. Similarly, Hamilton Township Animal Shelter also had an exclusive relationship with Animal Friends for Education and Welfare (AFEW). AFEW defended Hamilton Township Animal Shelter despite that facility violating state law, being high kill and wasting taxpayer dollars. Thus, I’m concerned when rescue groups are closely connected to regressive shelters for long periods of time and those facilities remain high kill.

Franklin Township provided me no documented animal shelter policies and procedures other than the disease control program. In other words, the shelter apparently has no written procedures concerning interactions with the public, marketing animals, recruiting and retaining volunteers, reclaiming lost pets and various other shelter activities.

Worthless County Inspections

Somerset County Health Department inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on August 29, 2017 and reported the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23-1.3 for having food and/or bedding unprotected and having buildings and grounds dirty or hazardous. To support, these findings the county health department wrote a few one sentence notes. The inspector noted the shelter used inadequate eye wash bottles and had a vet trailer with a door that didn’t close properly. The shelter’s head animal control officer also did not sign the inspection report. Despite this, Somerset County Health Department gave Franklin Township Animal Shelter a “Satisfactory” grade.

Somerset County Health Department 8.29.17 Inspection Report on Franklin Township Animal Shelter

Somerset County Health Dept. 8.29.17 Inspection of FTAS Page 2.jpg

Somerset County Health Dept. 8.29.17 Inspection of FTAS Page 3

Somerset County Animal Shelter inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on November 14, 2018 and reported the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 for not having a certificate of an annual fire inspection and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.3 for having food and/or bedding unprotected. The county health department provided no details on these violations. As in the prior year, the shelter’s head animal control officer did not sign the inspection form.

Remarkably, Somerset County Health Department did not cite the shelter’s blatant violations of state law. Specifically, the county health department missed the shelter illegally killing animals before seven days, the lack of an adequate disease control program, improper keeping of intake and disposition and euthanasia records and not being open when it should be. Also, the county health department did not catch the shelter violating controlled dangerous substance laws by having Telazol at the facility and employees not signing off on the Telazol usage logs. Despite all these violations of state law, and two violations the inspection report did note, Somerset County Health Department gave Franklin Township Animal Shelter a “Satisfactory” grade.

Somerset County Health Department 11.14.18 Inspection Report on Franklin Township Animal Shelter.jpg

Somerset County Health Department also inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on September 9, 2019. Once again, the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23-1.2 by not having a certificate of annual fire inspection. As in the 2018 inspection, Somerset County Health Department provided no comments on how it conducted its inspection or its findings. Also, the shelter’s head animal control officer did not sign the inspection report.

Somerset County Health Department 9.9.19 Inspection Report on Franklin Township Animal Shelter.jpg

Franklin Township Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for around two months in 2017, four and half months in 2018 and over two months in 2019. 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. As you can see above, Somerset County Animal Shelter inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on 8/29/17, 11/14/18 and 9/9/19. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for substantial parts of the last three years.

Finally, the inspection reports confirm the shelter’s excessive average lengths of stay documented in my last blog lead to the facility holding too many animals. While I’m a strong supporter of shelters using their full capacity, they must also maintain short average lengths of stay to save lives, treat animals humanely, reduce disease and save costs. Despite Franklin Township Animal Shelter having enough capacity for dogs and cats to the extent it could have rescued 388 cats and 117 dogs in addition to the animals it took in during 2018, the shelter exceeded its 24 dog capacity in all three years’ inspection reports and also went over its 107 cat capacity in two of the three years’ inspection reports. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter must enact progressive programs to reduce its average length of stay by developing a proactive adoption program, decrease intake (such as through TNR and SNR) and expand its capacity by implementing a large scale foster program.

Franklin Township Fails to Use Money to Fund Shelter

Franklin Township had plenty of money to fund its shelter in 2018. Per the town’s 2018 Annual Financial Statements, the town’s Current Fund paid animal control and shelter salaries and wages of $124,354. However, the town spent another net $106,526 from its Animal Control Fund on animal control and sheltering. While I can’s find anything explicitly stating the up to $12,025 donation Second Chance for Animal contractually agreed to provide the shelter is included in the Animal Control Fund, I suspect it is. However, I cannot tell if the additional amounts Second Chance for Animals spent on the shelter are included in these figures. Therefore, the shelter received at least $230,880 of total funding in 2018 or approximately $361 per dog and cat impounded.

Franklin Township failed to use large amounts of its Animal Control Fund to help animals. As you can see in the following table, which excludes license fees the town must send to the state of New Jersey, Franklin Township had $266,675 in this fund at the start of 2018 and collected another $140,731 for licenses, Current Fund budget appropriations and donations and shelter fees charged to the public during the year. Therefore, the town had an astounding $407,406 to fund its shelter in addition to the $124,354 it spent out of its Current Fund on shelter staff salaries and wages. However, the town only gave the shelter $106,526 of the $407,406 in the Animal Control Fund during 2018. Even worse, the town took $29,657 of this funding to use for other government functions since it failed to spend enough money (shelters must use these funds within three years under state law or the funds go to general government use). In other words, the town could have given the shelter an additional $300,880 in 2018. Even if the shelter only used half of this in 2018, and reserved the rest for use in 2019, Franklin Township could have nearly doubled the shelter’s funding and had at least $596 of funding per dog and cat. Based on the performance of many successful no kill animal control shelters, Franklin Township Animal Shelter has plenty of funding to do right by its animals.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter is not serving the city’s homeless animals and residents well. In 2018, Franklin Township Animal Shelter impounded just 9.7 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and should have received funding of at least $596 per dog and cat. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter took in 21.0 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and received $551 of revenue per dog and cat impounded. Franklin Township Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed animal death rates of 26% for dogs and 45% for cats in 2018 while Chippewa County Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed death rates of 2% for dogs and 1% for cats in 2018. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s nonreclaimed dogs and cats lost their lives at 18 times and 45 times the rate as an animal control shelter receiving far more animals on a per capita basis (and in total too) and having less funding on a per animal basis.

Franklin Township 2018 Animal Control Fund Activity.jpg

2018 Franklin Township Animal Control Fund Activity Part 2

In reality, Franklin Township Animal Shelter can significantly reduce its sheltering costs and increase its funding per animal by implementing TNR. The town’s municipal code actually requires property owners to trap so-called feral cats, which are “destructive or an annoyance”:

If feral (wild) cats become destructive or an annoyance, it shall be the responsibility of property owners to set and maintain traps for the removal of such feral (wild) cats inhabiting their private property. Once trapped, the Township Division of Animal Control will accept the animals for disposal. For purposes of this section, the term “private property” shall include common areas owned by homeowners’ associations, regardless of whether or not the homeowners’ association has granted permission to the Township to enter upon said common areas for the purpose of enforcing owners regarding dogs and/or cats running at large.

Clearly, the town spends exorbitant amounts of money rounding up and killing these cats. Instead, Franklin can implement TNR to drastically reduce cat intake and killing. If the town did this, it would significantly reduce costs to taxpayers.

Franklin Township Residents Must Demand Better

As discussed in my last Franklin Township Animal Shelter blog, this facility kills large percentages of the animals it takes in. For example, the shelter killed 26% and 56% of all dogs and pit bulls not reclaimed by an owner in 2018. Similarly, 45% of all cats and 69% of adult cats not reclaimed by an owner lost their lives last year. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter is failing many of the animals it takes in.

To add insult to injury, Franklin Township Animal Shelter blatantly violated various laws as follows:

  1. Killed animals during the seven day protection period
  2. Euthanasia records did not indicate the method of killing to determine if it was a humane way
  3. Euthanasia records did not indicate what individuals administered the sedative Telazol to animals
  4. Held Telazol at the facility in violation of the state’s controlled dangerous substance laws
  5. Shelter did not have an adequate disease control program meeting state law requirements
  6. Shelter was not open at the times required by state law
  7. Shelter was not inspected as required by June 30th in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and should not have had licenses to operate for parts of those three years

Additionally, Franklin Township and its animal shelter did/does the following things:

  1. Used inadequate sedative doses to calm some dogs before killing them
  2. Fails to adequately vaccinate large numbers of animals and therefore increases risk of disease at the facility
  3. Shelter hardly is open when working people can adopt animals and reclaim lost pets
  4. Had excessively long lengths of stay and large shelter populations that likely raise disease rates and increase costs
  5. Has no documented procedures for many of the shelter’s activities
  6. Failed to use large sums of money from the Animal Control Fund (i.e. includes dog license fees)
  7. Needlessly raises taxpayer costs by mandating residents round up so-called feral cats for the shelter to kill

Franklin Township residents and people who shop in the town 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 Second Chance for Animals’ 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 Phillip Kramer: 732-675-7912; Mayor.Kramer@franklinnj.gov

Deputy Mayor and Council Member James Vassanella: 732-873-2500 ext. 6328; Councilman.Vassanella@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Rajiv Prasad: 732-873-2500, ext. 6319; Councilman.Prasad@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Kimberly Francois: 732-873-2500 ext. 6395; Councilwoman.Francois@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Crystal Pruitt: 732-873-2500 ext. 6329; Councilwoman.Pruitt@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Theodore Chase: 732-873-2500 ext. 6318; Councilman.Chase@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Charles Onyejiaka: 732-873-2500 ext. 6396; Councilman.Onyejiaka@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Carl R.A. Wright: 732-873-2500 ext. 6397; Councilman.Wright@franklinnj.gov

Township Manager Robert G. Vornlocker: 732-873-2500 ext. 6201; Robert.Vornlocker@franklinnj.gov

New Jersey’s Highest Kill Shelters in 2018

Recently, I wrote a blog discussing decreased killing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2018. This blog will explore the 2018 statistics in more detail and assess the current status of the state’s animal shelters.

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last month, I shared the 2018 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases/other) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing/other outcome). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2018 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link. You can also view each “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 56 out of 92 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 59 out of 91 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. 32 of the 56 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 34 of the 59 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year than reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, these shelters may have not recorded outcomes, such as animals who were killed, died, or went missing. To put it another way, 2,002 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 2,002 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in 2018.

Even worse, a number of animal shelters reported having a different number of animals at the end of 2017 and at the beginning of 2018. Obviously, shelters should report the same number of animals at the end of the prior year and the start of the current year. However, 32 of 92 shelters reported different numbers of dogs at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. Similarly, 37 of 91 shelters reported different numbers of cats at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. The worst offenders are listed in the tables below:

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescues properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, intake and disposition records I reviewed at both of these shelters in recent years revealed almost all “adopted” animals are actually rescued. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking on from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the data reporting mandatory for animal shelters as the shelter reform bill, S725, does along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

This year I revised the cat statistics to remove an estimate of the cats St. Hubert’s transfers in and quickly transfers out through its Sister Shelter WayStation program. Previously, I made this adjustment only for dogs. Since St. Hubert’s is effectively acting as a middle man and not holding these animals very long, it makes sense to exclude these dogs and cats from the various kill rate statistics. If I did not exclude these animals, I would understate the dog and cat kill rates due to inflated intakes and outcomes numbers. Therefore, I removed all of St. Hubert’s dogs transferred out from the intake and outcomes figures in the metrics. Since St. Hubert’s primarily uses the Sister Shelter Waystation program to quickly transfer in cats and send them to out of state facilities, I only backed out the cats St. Hubert’s transferred to out of state organizations in the various kill rates. This adjustment increased the dog kill rate (intake) from 5.5 to 6.3% and the cat kill rate (intake) from 16.1% to 16.3%.

The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake may depress the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. Calculating the kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake caused the dog kill rate to increase from 6.3% to 6.4% and the cat kill rate to increase from 16.3% to 16.7%.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility which then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 6.4% to 6.8% and the cat kill rate from 16.7% to 18.0%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. In the past, I’ve labeled this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. Unfortunately, the Shelter/Pound Annual Report includes animals who died or went missing in the “Other” outcome category. The “Other” category contains positive live releases, such as TNR for cats, at a few shelters. While including the “Other” category in the death rate for most shelters is appropriate (i.e. those facilities that don’t do TNR or don’t include cats released through TNR programs in “Other” outcomes), I’m no longer doing this due to an increasing number of shelters implementing TNR. Instead, I calculated the kill rate by subtracting out “Other” outcomes from total outcomes. If a shelter specifies the number of animals included in “Other” that left the shelter alive, I count this as “Other Live Release” and do not back these amounts out of total outcomes. After making this adjustment, the dog kill rate remained at 6.8% and the cat kill also stayed at 18.0%. For those interested in seeing the estimated death rates, you can find them in the supporting spreadsheet.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs and cats) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports from total outcomes to estimate the local kill rate. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog kill rate from 6.8% to 9.2% and the state’s cat kill rate from 18.0 to 19.3%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local kill rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog kill rate from 9.2 to 12.9% and the maximum potential state cat kill rate from 19.3% to 21.3%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a kill rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential kill rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed kill rate and maximum potential kill rate for dogs is 9.7% and 21.0%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 20.4% kill rate and a 22.9% maximum potential kill rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than the state summary report suggests.

Kill Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest kill rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters killed the most animals:

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

Dog and cat kill rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as killed. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2018, facilities with the highest dog and cat kill rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more dogs from out of state than from other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters transferred in 10,131 dogs from out of state animal shelters and only rescued 2,399 dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. However, St. Hubert’s frequently transfers a substantial number of its transports quickly to its partners in New Jersey and other states. If I back out St. Hubert’s transfers of dogs to out of state organizations, the number of transports decreases from 10,131 dogs to 6,360 dogs. While the state’s local kill rate decreased in 2018, it is likely the local kill rate would have decreased by more if not for the massive number of out of state transports.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional out of state dogs transported into New Jersey by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

Shelters Do Far Worse with Animals Requiring New Homes

Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs shelters have to find new homes for. To get a better idea of how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows:

Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs in and taking very few animals in):

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2018, only 62% of dog and 75% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog capacity utilization to 70%. While this adjustment did increase the cat capacity utilization to over 100%, it is highly unlikely this happened in reality. Shelter inspection reports I’ve reviewed often did not reveal significantly larger dog and cat populations in the summer and winter months. This is likely due to the influx of highly adoptable kittens having short lengths of stay and shelters killing cats with empty cages.

Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 8.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.4 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and No Kill Movement. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

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; janzaldi@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Peter C. Eagler: peagler@cliftonnj.org

Councilman William Gibson: wgibson@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Raymond Grabowski: rgrabowski@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Steven Hatala, Jr.: shatala@cliftonnj.org

Councilman Joseph C. Kolodziej: jkolodziej@cliftonnj.org

Councilwoman Lauren E. Murphy: lmurphy@cliftonnj.org

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.

Clifton’s Crummy Animal Shelter

Last year, Clifton Animal Control Officer, Robert Boyle, made headlines when he told a cop to shoot and kill a dog named Wildfire that was lying down in the woods. Mr. Boyle was also listed as the “Shelter Manager” on Clifton Animal Shelter’s 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Additionally, Robert Boyle was the Chief of the Passaic County SPCA and a board member of the NJ SPCA.

Does Clifton Animal Shelter also kill healthy and treatable animals when lifesaving alternatives exist? Is the shelter complying with state law?

Deadly Dog Data

In order to get a better understanding of the job Clifton Animal Shelter did in 2017, I obtained the intake and disposition records for each individual dog and cat the shelter took in during the year. You can find those records here. In addition, I obtained all supporting records for each dog and cat the shelter killed. You can find those records here.

Clifton Animal Shelter killed too many dogs in 2017. While the overall dog kill rate of 12% was not extremely high, it was still much greater than kill rates at elite municipal shelters. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its dogs in 2017. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs at 12 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Pit bulls fared far worse at the Clifton Animal Shelter in 2017. The shelter killed 19% of pit bulls. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its pit bulls in 2017. As a result, Clifton Animal Shelter killed pit bulls at 19 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Clifton Animal Shelter also killed too many small dogs and other medium to large size breeds in 2017. Overall, the shelter killed 10% of both small dogs and other medium to large size dogs. Frankly, shelters should be able to save nearly all small dogs due to the fact such animals cannot seriously injure dog savvy adult owners. Even the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive facility, only euthanized 1% of small dogs in 2017. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size breeds last year. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed both small dogs and other medium to large size dogs at 10 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

While Clifton Animal Shelter’s overall dog kill rates were bad, the shelter’s kill rates for dogs not reclaimed by their owners were far worse. Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners. When we just look at dogs not reclaimed by owners, Clifton Animal Shelter killed 29% of all dogs, 50% of pit bulls, 21% of small dogs and 31% of other medium to large size breeds. In other words, Clifton Animal Shelter killed around 1 out of 3 dogs, 1 out of 2 pit bulls, 1 out of 5 small dogs and 1 out of 3 other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners. As a comparison, only 2% of all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs not reclaimed by their owners at Austin Animal Center lost their lives in 2017. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners at 15 times, 25 times, 11 times and 16 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Dog Statistics

Too Many Cats Lose Their Lives

Clifton Animal Shelter’s statistics reveal the shelter killed too many cats. Overall, 19% of cats lost their lives at Clifton Animal Shelter in 2017 or about four times the percentage at Austin Animal Center last year. Both adult cats and neonatal kittens lost their lives at higher rates, 25% and 32%. As a comparison, only 7% and 9% of adult cats and neonatal kittens lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2017. Therefore, adult cats and neonatal kittens were four times more likely to lose their lives at Clifton Animal Shelter than at Austin Animal Center in 2017.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Cat Statistics

Other Domestic Animals and Wildlife Killed in Droves

Clifton Animal Shelter’s other domestic animals’ kill rate was too high. Overall, the shelter killed 13% of all domestic animals and 14% of nonreclaimed other domestic animals in 2017.

The shelter killed wildlife at an astronomical rate during 2017. Clifton Animal Shelter killed 109 of 145 wild animals or 75% of those it took in. If we add the 5 wild animals that died, the shelter had a 78% death rate for wild animals. In other words, 4 out of 5 wild animals lost their lives after encountering Clifton’s animal control officers in 2017.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Other Domestic Animals and Wildlife Statistics.jpg

Clifton Animal Shelter Quickly Kills Animals

Clifton Animal Shelter’s dog length of stay data revealed the shelter quickly killed dogs. Specifically, the shelter killed all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds after 13 days, 21 days, 10 days and 10 days on average in 2017. Clearly, this is not nearly enough time to determine if the shelter can save these animals. Based on the shelter taking in 228 dogs during 2017, its 8 day average length of stay for dogs and shelter capacity calculations, we can estimate the shelter only held around five dogs on average at the shelter in 2017 compared to its reported capacity of 16 dogs. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs throughout the year while it only on average used less than one third of the shelter’s dog capacity.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Dogs Length of Stay

Clifton Animal Shelter also quickly killed cats. Amazingly, Clifton Animal Shelter killed all cats on average after just a single day. The shelter killed adult cats, older kittens, neonatal kittens and cats with no age listed after one day, two days, one day and zero days on average in 2017. In fact, the shelter killed 47 of the 59 cats it killed before seven days went by. Given shelters cannot kill either stray or owner surrendered cats until seven days pass (except for cats a veterinarian documents as hopelessly suffering and the veterinarian euthanizes the animals), this could indicate the shelter illegally killed these animals (see below for more details).

Based on the shelter taking in 361 cats during 2017, its 41 day average length of stay for cats and shelter capacity calculations, we can estimate the shelter only held around 41 cats on average at the shelter in 2017 compared to its reported capacity of 52 cats. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed cats throughout the year despite only using 79% of its cat capacity on average during the year.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Cats Length of Stay.jpg

Clifton Animal Shelter also quickly killed other domestic animals and wildlife in 2017. The shelter killed the other domestic animals after just six days on average. Two of these three animals were killed immediately for being “injured”, but the records I received never specified what those injuries were. More disturbing, Clifton Animal Shelter killed wild animals after zero days on average. Of the 109 wild animals the shelter killed in 2017, 107 were killed immediately and two were killed after one day. Given the shelter’s astronomical wildlife kill rate and the fact it killed virtually all these animals immediately, one must conclude the shelter has the same lack of respect towards wildlife as Robert Boyle did for the dog Wildfire.

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Dogs Killed for Absurd Reasons

Clifton Animal Shelter killed most of its dogs for alleged aggression and behavior problems. The table below shows 65% of the dogs the shelter killed were for aggression and behavior problems, 8% for being “old”, 8% for no documented reason and most of the rest for health related reasons. When we look at all dogs, Clifton Animal Shelter killed 7% of all dogs for aggression related reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.2% of the dogs it took in during 2017 for aggression and behavior related reasons. In other words, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression and behavior related reasons at 35 times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter erroneously labeled dogs aggressive in its shelter just as its ACO, Robert Boyle, did when he told a police officer to shoot the dog Wildfire.

The shelter also killed too many dogs for medical reasons. During 2017, Clifton Animal Shelter killed 3% of all dogs for medical reasons. However, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.8% of all dogs for medical reasons. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter killed dogs for medical reasons at four times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Reasons for Killing Dogs

Lokie or D-022 was a stray adult husky impounded by Clifton Animal Shelter on February 9, 2017. Upon intake, the shelter noted Lokie was not aggressive. After eight days passed, Clifton Animal Shelter offered Lokie to the Friends of the Shelter. What did this “Friends” group do? Friends of the Shelter refused to accept Lokie into their adoption program due to food aggression/resource guarding. Given that multiple studies have found food aggression tests unreliable and even the creator of one of the major food aggression tests has come out against using these evaluations, it is shocking the Friends of the Shelter would not accept this dog. Even more perplexing, huskies are in high demand and many people would adopt one with or without food aggression. On the day after Friends of the Shelter refused to save Lokie, Clifton Animal Shelter killed him.

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Jack was an adult Labrador-pit bull mix that was surrendered to the Clifton Animal Shelter on April 23, 2017 and adopted on the very same day. On May 18, 2017, Jack was returned to the Clifton Animal Shelter. The shelter stated Jack had “anxiety issues” and offered him to Friends of the Shelter as a “courtesy.” Friends of the Shelter “rejected” Jack on May 25, 2017 and the shelter killed him on the very same day. Why did Friends of the Shelter reject Jack? They claimed he had “severe separation anxiety.” Both the shelter and their partners in crime, Friends of the Shelter, refused to treat Jack and the shelter killed him.

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Cliff was an adult stray poodle that the Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on December 18, 2017. The shelter noted the dog had a matted coat and was dirty. Therefore, this dog was likely on the streets for a period of time and likely had difficulty finding food. Despite poodles being highly sought after by adopters, Friends of the Shelter “rejected” Cliff on December 30, 2017 for having “food aggression.” On that very day, Clifton Animal Shelter killed Cliff. Even though most adopters do not care about food aggression and the behavior frequently disappears in a home, both the shelter and Friends of the Shelter thought Cliff was not worth saving.

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Pops was a stray senior Papillion that Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on May 30, 2017. According to the shelter, the dog was sleeping a lot, not eating and had “nasty and loose” teeth. Given the condition of the dog’s teeth, one could easily see why the dog was not eating and was acting lethargic. While the Clifton Animal Shelter stated Pops was “seen by vet”, the shelter provided me no documents proving the dog saw a veterinarian and any orders for ensuring the dog received proper nourishment. In reality, even toothless dogs can eat if given the proper soft food. On June 6, 2017, Friends of the Shelter “rejected” Pops claiming he was in “very poor health” and “10-12+” years old.

Instead of reaching out to the community for help, Clifton Animal Shelter apparently just gave its henchman, Friends of the Shelter, the chance to save Pops. However, when it comes to Friends of the Shelter, having a medical condition and being old means your not worth saving.

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Cats Killed for Having Treatable Medical Conditions

Clifton Animal Shelter killed cats for many treatable conditions. As you can see in the table below, the shelter killed many cats for testing positive for FeLV or FIV, being feral, having no mother, having ringworm (which is very treatable), testing for rabies (requires killing the cat and the results frequently reveal cats do not have the disease) and no documented reasons.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV is a disease similar to HIV that weakens a cat’s immune system. Generally speaking, FIV is difficult to spread as it is only passed to other cats through deep bite wounds. While the disease can compromise a cat’s immune system, some cats can live many years pretty much like a normal cat. Practically speaking, FIV cats should be altered and live either alone or with other cats that are compatible with them. While these cats may need extra care, progressive shelters save these animals and adopt them out.

Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV is a retrovirus that only affects cats. Healthy cats with normal immune systems quickly fight off the disease. However, the disease can infect cats with impaired immune systems. The disease suppresses a cat’s immune system and most cats live 2-3 years with the disease, but some animals live for a much longer period of time. In a shelter environment, FeLV positive cats won’t spread the disease as long as the animals are housed in separate areas and shelters adhere to proper cleaning and disease control protocols. Progressive no kill shelters, such as Austin Pets Alive, adopt out FeLV positive cats successfully. Furthermore, shelters can use foster programs to effectively house these animals outside a shelter environment.

2017 Clifton Animal Shelter Reasons for Killing Cats

Pumpkin was 5-7 year old neutered cat the Clifton Animal Shelter took to its veterinarian after he was hit by a car. While Pumpkin did have two broken canines and had a short post-trauma seizure after he was brought to the veterinarian, Pumpkin’s medical records stated he “ate well”, was “alert, purring” and was “very friendly.” However, Clifton Animal Shelter told the veterinarian to kill Pumpkin after he tested positive for FeLV on the day after the shelter impounded him.

New Jersey animal shelter law clearly states shelters must not kill animals, whether they are strays or owner surrenders, for at least 7 days. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health recently issued guidance summarizing the law’s requirements:

Pursuant to State law (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 a. through l.) all municipalities must have a licensed animal impoundment facility (pound) designated where stray and potentially vicious animals can be safely impounded. Impounded stray animals shall be held at the pound for at least seven days (i.e., 168 hours) from the time impounded before the animal is offered for adoption or euthanized, relocated or sterilized, regardless of the animal’s temperament or medical condition.

Animals that are voluntarily surrendered by their owners to licensed pounds or shelters shall be offered for adoption for at least seven days prior to euthanasia or shelter/pound management may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such a transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal.

In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during the 7 day hold period if both of the following conditions are met as discussed in this section of the New Jersey Department of Health’s July 30, 2009 inspection report on Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the humane rationale in the animal’s medical record

Clearly, Pumpkin was not hopelessly suffering since he was eating well, acting friendly and most vital signs were normal. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter illegally killed Pumpkin before seven days passed.

Given Pumpkin was neutered and very friendly, he likely had an owner. Clifton Animal Shelter ensured Pumpkin would never get the chance to go back to his family.

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Cat ID#s 025, 026, 027, 028 and 029 were a litter of newborn kittens the Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on March 31, 2017. After the shelter could not find the mother, it decided to kill every single one of the kittens stating they were “not viable.”

As with Robert Boyle’s order to kill Wildfire, the shelter’s lack of respect for life is apparent. Instead of killing these kittens right away, the shelter could have sent them to a foster home or had volunteers set up a nursery to bottle feed the animals. Instead, the shelter illegally killed the kittens immediately without making any effort to save them.

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Midnite was a two month old stray cat the Clifton Animal Shelter impounded on June 4, 2017. After two days, Clifton Animal Shelter’s veterinarian, Dr. Barbara Barrow, wrote a letter authorizing the killing of Midnite. According to the veterinarian, she would have to amputate the kitten’s tail and he was too feral to be handled by staff while he recovered.

While the veterinarian can write this letter, this animal was not hopelessly suffering and the shelter and veterinarian illegally killed Midnite in my view. First, no person can determine if a cat is truly feral after just two days. Second, even if the cat was feral, the animal was not hopelessly suffering. Third, shelter workers get paid to handle all types of animals, including feral ones. Thus, the veterinarian’s claim the animal was difficult to handle does not allow the shelter or the veterinarian to kill an animal during the stray/hold period.

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Marina was an “older” stray cat the Clifton Animal Shelter took in on October 16, 2017. According to the shelter, their outside veterinarian, Dr. Aziz, approved killing Marina for “severe ringworm.” According to the veterinarian’s record, Marina “most likely” had ringworm “all over the face”, but the record never mentioned killing Marina. The shelter then killed Marina on the very day it took her in.

Frankly, ringworm is a highly treatable condition and never should be a reason to kill an animal. Even more egregious, Clifton Animal Shelter killed this stray cat immediately and blatantly violated the state’s stray hold period. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter illegally killed Marina.

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Clearly, Clifton Animal Shelter, like its former ACO, Robert Boyle, frequently chooses to kill animals since its easier. Even more egregious, the shelter often violates the state’s seven protection period when it kills animals. While this all goes on, the Friends of the Shelter group, like its name suggests, acts more like a friend to the shelter than the animals that reside in it. Thus, Clifton Animal Shelter and Friends of the Shelter have a dysfunctional relationship that is not helping the animals as much as it should.

In my next blog, I’ll examine whether Clifton Animal Shelter humanely euthanizes animals and violates other aspects of state law.

New Jersey’s Highest Kill Shelters in 2017

Last month, I wrote a blog discussing decreased killing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2017. This blog will explore the 2017 statistics in more detail and assess the current status of the state’s animal shelters.

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last month, I shared the 2017 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases/other) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing/other outcome). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2017 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link. You can also view each “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 59 out of 93 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 60 out of 91 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. 39 of the 59 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 38 of the 60 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year than reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, these shelters may have not recorded outcomes, such as animals who were killed, died, or went missing. To put it another way, 2,245 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 2,245 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in 2017.

Even worse, a number of animal shelters reported having a different number of animals at the end of 2016 and at the beginning of 2017. Obviously, shelters should report the same number of animals at the end of the prior year and the start of the current year. However, 34 of 93 shelters reported different numbers of dogs at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Similarly, 43 of 91 shelters reported different numbers of cats at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. The worst offenders are listed in the tables below:

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2017 New Jersey Animal Shelters Beginning Missing Cats

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescues properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, intake and disposition records I reviewed at both of these shelters in recent years revealed almost all “adopted” animals are actually rescued. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking on from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the data reporting mandatory for animal shelters as the shelter reform bill, S725, does along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

2017 New Jersey Detailed Dog and Cat Kill Rates

This year I revised the dog statistics to remove an estimate of the dogs St. Hubert’s transfers in and quickly transfers out through its Sister Shelter WayStation program. Since St. Hubert’s is effectively acting as a middle man and not holding these animals very long, it makes sense to exclude these dogs from the various kill rate statistics below. If I did not exclude these animals, I would understate the dog kill rate due to inflated intake and outcomes numbers. Therefore, I removed all of St. Hubert’s dogs transferred out from the intake and outcomes figures to calculate the kill rates above except the “Kill Rate Per State Report (Intake).” This adjustment increased the dog kill rate (intake) from 6.6% to 7.3%. While St. Hubert’s also transfers in and transfers out cats through the Sister Shelter WayStation program, the numbers did not have a material impact on the statewide kill rates. As a result, I did not revise the cat statistics.

The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake may depress the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. Calculating the kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake caused the cat kill rate to increase from 18.4% to 18.8% while the dog kill rate remained at 7.3%.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility which then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 7.3% to 8.0% and the cat kill rate from 18.8% to 20.5%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. In the past, I’ve labeled this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. Unfortunately, the Shelter/Pound Annual Report includes animals who died or went missing in the “Other” outcome category. The “Other” category contains positive live releases, such as TNR for cats, at a few shelters. While including the “Other” category in the death rate for most shelters is appropriate (i.e. those facilities that don’t do TNR or don’t include cats released through TNR programs in “Other” outcomes), I’m no longer doing this due to an increasing number of shelters implementing TNR. Instead, I calculated the kill rate by subtracting out “Other” outcomes from total outcomes. If a shelter specifies the number of animals included in “Other” that left the shelter alive, I count this as “Other Live Release” and do not back these amounts out of total outcomes. After making this adjustment, the dog kill rate increases from 8.0% to 8.1% and the cat kill rate rises from 20.5% to 21.9%. For those interested in seeing the estimated death rates, you can find them in the supporting spreadsheet.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports from total outcomes to estimate the local kill rate. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog kill rate from 8.1% to 10.5% and the state’s cat kill rate from 21.9% to 22.2%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local kill rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog kill rate from 10.5% to 14.2% and the maximum potential state cat kill rate from 22.2% to 24.7%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a kill rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential kill rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed kill rate and maximum potential kill rate for dogs is 11.6% and 23.5%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 22.8% kill rate and a 25.8% maximum potential kill rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than the state summary report suggests.

Kill Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest kill rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

2017 Dog Kill Rate

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Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters killed the most animals:

2017 Shelters with Most Dogs Killed

2017 Shelters with Most Cats Killed

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

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2017 Shelters Most Unaccounted for Cats

Dog and cat kill rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as killed. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2017, facilities with the highest dog and cat kill rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

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Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more dogs from out of state than from other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters transferred in 9,918 dogs from out of state animal shelters and only rescued 2,950 dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. However, St. Hubert’s frequently transfers a substantial number of its transports quickly to its partners in New Jersey and other states. If I back out St. Hubert’s transfers of dogs to out of state organizations, the number of transports decreases from 9,918 dogs to 8,326 dogs. As a comparison, the total and adjusted transports in 2016 were 7,948 dogs and 7,033 dogs. While the state’s local kill rate decreased in 2017, it is likely the local kill rate would have decreased by more if not for the massive number of out of state transports.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional out of state dogs transported into New Jersey by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

2017 Dogs Transported into NJ

Shelters Do Far Worse with Animals Requiring New Homes

Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs shelters have to find new homes for. To get a better idea of how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows:

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Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs in and taking very few animals in):

2017 Maximum Potential Nonreclaimed Dog Kill Rate

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2017, only 56% of dog and 71% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog capacity utilization to 62%. While this adjustment did increase the cat capacity utilization to 97%, it is highly unlikely this happened in reality. Shelter inspection reports I’ve reviewed often did not reveal significantly larger dog and cat populations in the summer and winter months. This is likely due to the influx of highly adoptable kittens having short lengths of stay and shelters killing cats with empty cages.

Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Space Usage Dogs

Space Usage Cats

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 9.2 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.3 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14-30 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and the Humane Society of the United States. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

2016 New Jersey Animal Shelter Statistics Reveal Many High Kill Shelters

11/1/17 Update: An earlier version of this blog had the Beginning Missing Cats table erroneously list Tabby’s Place-Cat Sanctuary as having 112 missing cats. That shelter had no Beginning Missing Cats. That table is now corrected.

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog discussing decreased killing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2016. This blog will explore the 2016 statistics in more detail and assess the current status of the state’s animal shelters.

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last month, I shared the 2016 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases/other) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing/other outcome). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2016 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link. You can also view each “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 60 out of 99 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 64 out of 98 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. 35 of the 60 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 37 of the 64 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year than reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, these shelters may have not recorded outcomes, such as animals who were killed, died, or went missing. To put it another way, 1,424 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 1,424 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in 2016.

Even worse, a number of animal shelters reported having a different number of animals at the end of 2015 and at the beginning of 2016. Obviously, shelters should report the same number of animals at the end of the prior year and the start of the current year. However, 40 of 99 shelters reported different numbers of dogs at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. Similarly, 44 of 98 shelters reported different numbers of cats at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. The worst offenders are listed in the tables below:

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2016 Beginning Missing Cats

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescue properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, intake and disposition records I reviewed at both of these shelters in recent years revealed virtually all “adopted” animals are actually rescued. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking on from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the data reporting mandatory for animal shelters as the shelter reform bill, S3019, does along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

2016 Dog and Cat Stats

The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake may depress the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. However, that did not happen this year primarily due to several shelters reporting significantly more outcomes than intake. Associated Humane Societies-Newark had the largest discrepancy and it was likely due to the shelter reporting incorrect numbers. Calculating the kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake caused the dog kill rate to go from 8.9% to 8.7% and the cat kill rate to change from 25.4% to 24.8%.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility who then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 8.7% to 9.5% and the cat kill rate from 24.8%% to 26.8%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. In the past, I’ve labeled this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. Unfortunately, the Shelter/Pound Annual Report includes animals who died or went missing in the “Other” outcome category. The “Other” category contains positive live releases, such as TNR for cats, at a few shelters. While including the “Other” category in the death rate for most shelters is appropriate (i.e. those facilities that don’t do TNR or don’t include cats released through TNR programs in “Other” outcomes), I’m no longer doing this due to an increasing number of shelters implementing TNR. Instead, I calculated the kill rate by subtracting out “Other” outcomes from total outcomes. If a shelter specifies the number of animals included in “Other” that left the shelter alive, I count this as “Other Live Release” and do not back these amounts out of total outcomes. After making this adjustment, the dog kill rate increases from 9.5% to 9.6% and the cat kill rate rises from 26.8% to 28.5%. For those interested in seeing the estimated death rates, I included them in the Appendix to my last blog as well as the supporting spreadsheet.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports to estimate the local kill rate except for St. Hubert’s. Since St. Hubert’s subsequently transfers many of these animals to other shelters, I only subtract out the number of dogs St. Hubert’s rescues from out of state less the number of dogs it transfers to other shelters. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog kill rate from 9.6% to 11.9% and the state cat death rate from 28.5% to 28.6%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local kill rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog kill rate from 11.9% to 14.1% and the maximum potential state cat kill rate from 28.6% to 31.6%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a kill rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential kill rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed kill rate and maximum potential kill rate for dogs is 13.4% and 22.2%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 30.8% kill rate and a 34.3% maximum potential kill rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than the state summary report suggests.

Kill Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest kill rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

2016 Dog Kill Rate Less Other V2

2016 Cat Kill Rate Less Other

Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters killed the most animals:

2016 Dogs Killed

2016 Cats Killed.jpg

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

Unaccounted for Dogs.jpg

Unaccounted for Cats.jpg

Dog and cat kill rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as killed. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2016, facilities with the highest dog and cat kill rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

2016 Dog Maximum Potential Kill Rate

2016 Cat Maximum Potential Kill Rate

Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more dogs from out of state than from other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters transferred in 7,948 dogs from out of state animal shelters and only rescued 2,669 dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. However, St. Hubert’s frequently transfers a substantial number of its transports quickly to its partners in New Jersey and other states. If I back these out of the transports figure, it decreases from 7,948 dogs to 6,117 dogs. As a comparison, the total and adjusted transports in 2015 were 5,350 dogs and 5,004 dogs. While the state’s local kill rate decreased in 2016, it is likely the local kill rate would have decreased by more if not for the massive number of out of state transports.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional out of state dogs transported into New Jersey by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

Dogs Transported In

Return to Owner Rates Better Than Average at Most Shelters

Return to owners (“RTO”) rates are one of the positive results from this analysis. Overall, the dog and cat RTO rates of 56% and 10% are several times the national average. However, several shelters included cats placed into TNR programs as owner reclaims and therefore overstated their cat reclaim rates. As I noted in my blog on reuniting lost pets with owners, return to owner rates are highly correlated with socioeconomic status. Wealthier people likely have more resources/knowledge to license and microchip their dogs. Similarly, people with greater incomes are more likely to afford reclaim fees or ransom payments to animal shelters. New Jersey’s RTO rates for dogs clearly fit this pattern with shelters serving wealthy towns returning most stray dogs to owners while certain urban shelters are returning a much lower percentage of lost dogs to owners. Clearly, we need to help people in urban areas get microchips and ID tags on their dogs. Additionally, we need to create pet help desks at shelters in these cities to help people pay the reclaim fees, which are often mandated by the cities themselves, when necessary. The statewide cat reclaim rate, like figures from across the nation, is still very low and suggests shelters need to figure out better ways to get lost cats back to their families.

To get a better idea of how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows:

Non-Reclaimed Dog Kill Rate

Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs in and taking very few animals in):

Max Potential Nonreclaimed Kill Rate.jpg

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2016, only 46% of dog and 65% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog capacity utilization to 47%. While this adjustment did increase the cat population to a level exceeding capacity, it is highly unlikely this happened in reality. Shelter inspection reports I’ve reviewed did not reveal significantly larger dog and cat populations in the summer and winter months. This is likely due to the influx of highly adoptable kittens having short lengths of stay and shelters killing cats with empty cages.

Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Space Usage Dogs.jpg

Space Usage Cats

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 8.5 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14-30 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and the Humane Society of the United States. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

 

2015 New Jersey Animal Shelter Statistics Reveal Big Problems Still Exist

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog detailing decreased killing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2015. This blog will explore the 2015 statistics in more detail and assess the current status of the state’s animal shelters.

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last month, I shared the 2015 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing/other outcome). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2015 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 54 out of 91 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 55 out of 92 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. While this is actually a significant improvement over the results in 2014, this raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. 25 of the 54 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 29 of the 55 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year then reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, these shelters may have not recorded outcomes, such as animals who were killed, died, or went missing. To put it another way, 1,193 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 1,193 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in 2015.

Even worse, a number of animal shelters reported having a different number of animals at the end of 2014 and at the beginning of 2015. Obviously, shelters should report the same number of animals at the end of the prior year and the start of the current year. However, 40 of 90 shelters reported different numbers of dogs at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. Similarly, 38 of 91 shelters reported different numbers of cats at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. The worst offenders were Burlington County Animal Shelter (39 missing dogs and 98 missing cats at the beginning 2015), Monmouth SPCA (43 missing dogs and 56 missing cats at the beginning 2015) and Bergen Protect and Rescue Foundation (22 extra dogs and 76 missing cats at the beginning of 2015).

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescue properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, intake and disposition records I reviewed at both of these shelters in 2015 revealed virtually all “adopted” animals are actually rescued. This makes sense as neither shelter advertises animals for adoption on a web site like Petfinder. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking on from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the Shelter/Pound Annual Report mandatory for animal shelters along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill/death rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

2015 NJ Summary Totals2.jpgThe Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake may depress the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. Calculating kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake increases the cat kill rate from 28.0% to 28.2% and the dog kill rate remains the same.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility who then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 10.6% to 11.2% and the cat kill rate from 28.2% to 30.5%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. I label this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. Unfortunately, the Shelter/Pound Annual Report includes animals who died or went missing in the “Other” outcome category. While it is possible this “Other” category contains positive live releases, such as TNR for cats, I suspect the “Other” category consists almost entirely of animals who died or went missing for most shelters. Therefore, I classify animals in the “Other” category as dead or missing unless the shelter specifies the number of animals included in this category that left the shelter alive. For example, I do not count cats as dead/missing when shelters, such as Montclair Township Animal Shelter and Edison Animal Shelter, write a note on the form listing out the number of TNR cats placed in the “Other” outcome category. After making this adjustment, the dog death rate increases from 11.2% to 11.9% and the cat death rate rises from 30.5% to 35.8%.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports to estimate the local death rate except for St. Hubert’s. Since St. Hubert’s subsequently transfers many of these animals to other shelters, I only subtract out the number of dogs St. Hubert’s rescues from out of state less the number of dogs it transfers to other shelters. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog death rate from 11.9% to 14.4% and the state cat death rate from 35.8% to 36.1%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local death rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog death rate from 14.4% to 15.4% and the maximum potential state cat death rate from 36.1% to 37.5%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a death rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential death rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed death rate and maximum potential death rate for dogs is 17.0% and 24.7%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 37.7% death rate and a 39.4% maximum potential death rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than the state summary report suggests.

Death Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives or go missing at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest death rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

2015 dog death rate

2015 cat death rate
Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters had the most animals lose their lives or go missing:

2015 Dogs Killed died

2015 cats killed died

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

2015 unaccounted for dogs

2015 unaccounted for cats

Dog and cat death rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as dead or missing. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2015, facilities with the highest dog and cat death rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

2015 max pot dogs

2015 max pot cats.jpg

Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more dogs from out of state than from other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters transferred in 5,350 dogs from out of state animal shelters and only rescued 1,631 dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. In fact, transports of out of state dogs increased by 260 dogs while rescues of dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters decreased by 61 dogs in 2015 compared to 2014. While the state’s local death rate decreased in 2015, it is likely the local death rate would have decreased by more if not for the massive number of out of state transports.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in, died in and went missing from New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional out of state dogs transported into New Jersey by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

2015 Dogs transported

Return to Owner Rates Better Than Average at Most Shelters

Return to owners (“RTO”) rates are one of the positive results from this analysis. Overall, the dog and cat RTO rates of 57% and 7% are approximately 2-3 times the national average. As I noted in my blog on reuniting lost pets with owners, return to owner rates are highly correlated with socioeconomic status. Wealthier people likely have more resources/knowledge to license and microchip their dogs. Similarly, people with greater incomes are more likely to afford reclaim fees or ransom payments to animal shelters. New Jersey’s RTO rates for dogs clearly fit this pattern with shelters serving wealthy towns returning most stray dogs to owners while certain urban shelters are returning a much lower percentage of lost dogs to owners. Clearly, we need to help people in urban areas get microchips and ID tags on their dogs. Additionally, we need to create pet help desks at shelters in these cities to help people pay the reclaim fees, which are often mandated by the cities themselves, when necessary. The statewide cat reclaim rate, like figures from across the nation, is still very low and suggests shelters need to figure out better ways to get lost cats back to their families. New Jersey should allow shelters to transfer stray cats to rescues during the mandatory 7 day hold period since few are returned to owners at shelters. This would open up space to save more cats and reduce the chance of disease (i.e. cats spending less time in shelters are not as likely to get sick).

To get a better idea of how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs death rates are as follows:

2015 nonreclaimed dog death rate

Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed dogs death rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs and taking very few animals in):

2015 max pot non rec death rate

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2015, only 49% of dog and 63% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog and cat capacity utilization to 51% and 95%. These estimates likely overestimate the average capacity utilized as many facilities kill animals once they reach a certain population level. Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

2015 space usage dogs.jpg

2015 space cusage cats.jpg

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 8.2 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14-30 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and the Humane Society of the United States. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

2014 New Jersey Animal Shelter Statistics Show Little Improvement

East Orange Animal Shelter Dog

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last September, I shared the 2014 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2014 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Several animal shelters, which reported statistics in prior years, failed to submit data in 2014. Specifically, Livingston Animal Shelter, Hunterdon Hills Animal Hospital, All Pets Veterinary Hospital and Warren Animal Hospital disclosed this data in 2013, but did not do so in 2014. These shelters failure to disclose data raises serious questions. For example, are they trying to hide embarrassing statistics from the public?

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 67 out of 96 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 68 out of 95 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. Even worse, 42 of the 67 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 43 of the 68 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year then reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, the more likely answer is many outcomes, such as animals killed, dying, or gone missing, were not recorded. Given 63% of the errors were due to shelters having less rather than more animals on hand at the end of the year than they should have had lends credence to the theory that errors were mostly due to shelters failing to account for various outcomes. To put it another way, 2,699 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 2,699 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in the last year.

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescue properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, rescues I know who work closely with these two facilities told me both shelters rarely adopt animals directly to the public. This makes sense as neither shelter advertized animals for adoption (i.e. no adoption web site or social medial pages run by the two shelters) in 2014. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the Shelter/Pound Annual Report mandatory for animal shelters along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill/death rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

2014 Summary Stats (1) (1) (2)The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake depresses the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. Calculating kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake increases the cat kill rate from 34.6% to 35.2% and the dog kill rate remains the same.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility who then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 13.5% to 14.2% and the cat kill rate from 35.2% to 37.4%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. I label this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. After making this adjustment, the dog death rate increases from 14.2% to 14.8% and the cat death rate rises from 37.4% to 43.4%.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports to estimate the local death rate except for St. Hubert’s. Since St. Hubert’s subsequently transfers many of these animals to other shelters, I only subtract out the number of dogs St. Hubert’s rescues from out of state less the dogs it transfers to other shelters. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog death rate from 14.8% to 17.7% and the state cat death rate from 43.4% to 43.8%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local death rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog death rate from 17.7% to 20.6% and the maximum potential state cat death rate from 43.8% to 47.3%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a death rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential death rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed death rate and maximum potential death rate for dogs is 20.9% and 31.7%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 44.8% death rate and a 48.9% maximum potential death rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than previously thought.

Overall, the statewide statistics showed little improvement from 2013. The dog death rate in 2014 only was three tenths of one percent lower than 2013. While the maximum potential dog death rate was 3.4 percentage points lower in 2014, we don’t know whether that is due to better record keeping or actually improved life saving. The cat death rate and maximum potential death rate decreased by 3.4% and 4.2%. The growing acceptance of TNR likely slightly decreased the percentage of cats losing their lives in New Jersey animal shelters this year. That being said, the improvements were very small and the percentage of dogs and cats losing their lives in the state’s animal shelters is still way too high.

Death Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives or go missing at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest death rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

Dog Death rate 2014

Cat Death Rate 2014

Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters had the most animals lose their lives or go missing:

Total Killed Died 2014 Dogs

Total Killed Died 2014 Cats

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

Unacct dogs

Unacct cats 2014

Dog and cat death rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as dead or missing. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2014, facilities with the highest dog and cat death rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

Max Pot Dr 2014 Dogs

Max Pot cats 2014

Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more animals from out of state than other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, 5,090 dogs were transferred from out of state animal shelters compared to only 1,692 dogs taken in from other New Jersey animal shelters. The number of out of state dogs transported into New Jersey decreased in 2014, but that is due to problems at Jersey Animal Coalition and Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter during the year. These problems likely resulted in fewer transported dogs. However, Jersey Animal Coalition, which is now closed, did not report any statistics for 2014. Furthermore, Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter erroneously reported it transported no dogs during 2014 as the facility imported many dogs from the south before the shelter’s problems received media attention in the summer of 2014. Thus, the decrease in transports is likely due to a combination of  incorrect reporting and increased regulatory pressure on these two shelters that transported many dogs into New Jersey.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in, died in and went missing from New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional dogs transported in from out of state by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

Dogs Transported 2014

Return to Owner Rates Better Than Average at Most Shelters

Return to owners (“RTO”) rates are one of the positive results from this analysis. Overall, the dog and cat RTO rates of 55% and 5% are approximately twice the national average. As I noted in my blog on reuniting lost pets with owners, return to owner rates are highly correlated with socioeconomic status. Wealthier people likely have more resources/knowledge to license and microchip their dogs. Similarly, people with greater incomes are more likely to afford reclaim fees or ransom payments to animal shelters. New Jersey’s RTO rates for dogs clearly fit this pattern with shelters serving wealthy towns returning most stray dogs to owners while many urban shelters are only returning about around a quarter of lost dogs to owners. Clearly, we need to help people in urban areas get microchips and ID tags on their dogs. Additionally, we need to create pet help desks at shelters in these cities to help people pay the reclaim fees, which are often mandated by the cities themselves, when necessary. The statewide cat reclaim rate, like figures from across the nation, is still very low and suggests shelters need to figure out better ways to get lost cats back to their families. New Jersey should allow shelters to transfer stray cats to rescues during the mandatory 7 day hold period since few are returned to owners at shelters. This would open up space to save more cats and reduce the chance of disease (i.e. cats spending less time in shelters are not as likely to get sick).

To get a better idea how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs death rates are as follows:

non-reclaimed dog death rate

Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed local dogs death rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs and taking very few animals in):

Max non-reclaimed dog death rate

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2014, only 53% of dog and 65% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog and cat capacity utilization to 62% and 85%. These estimates likely overestimate the average capacity utilized as many facilities kill animals once they reach a certain population level. Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Space usage dogs 2014

Space usage Cats 2014

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 9.0 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.9 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14-30 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and the Humane Society of the United States. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

New Jersey’s Lawless Animal Shelters Need Policing

Recently, terrible conditions at New Jersey animal shelters became well-publicized. The NJ SPCA took over Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter in January after Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter’s Board President was charged with animal cruelty for failing to provide proper care to a number of cats at the facility. In March, Jersey Animal Coalition failed a joint state Office of Animal Welfare and South Orange inspection resulting in the shelter’s planned closing in November. The Office of Animal Welfare inspected the East Orange Animal Shelter in June and found horrific problems. During June, Elizabeth Animal Shelter illegally killed an owner’s two dogs before the 7 day state mandated hold period elapsed. In July and August, the Office of Animal Welfare inspected Linden Animal Control and requested Linden’s Health Officer shut the facility down. The Office of Animal Welfare also documented significant problems at Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter in July and the problems continue to exist today. Local animal activists in Montclair documented Montclair Township Animal Shelter violating New Jersey animals shelter laws, such as failing to maintain adequate temperatures in the facility, using toxic solutions of chemicals causing burns and possibly lung injuries to shelter animals, and failing to provide prompt veterinary care. As a a result of these events, animal activists in New Jersey are becoming aware of the crisis in our state’s animal shelters.

New Jersey Animal Shelter Laws Are Pretty Good

New Jersey’s animal shelter laws are pretty good relative to other states. Our stray/hold period of seven days is longer than most states. New Jersey also prevents its shelters from killing owner surrendered pets immediately by requiring these animals be held 7 days or sent to rescue. Furthermore, state animal shelter laws require facilities to have a supervising veterinarian who approves a disease control program that addresses “both the animals’ physical and psychological well-being.” N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9 also mandates “animals displaying signs of stress shall be provided with relief pursuant to the disease control and health care program.” New Jersey shelters must also keep their facilities clean and use solutions and products that will not harm the animals. Finally, specific rules exist to help ensure euthanasia is done as humanely as possible.

Local Boards of Health Fail Miserably at Enforcing New Jersey Animal Shelter Laws

New Jersey animal shelter laws are largely enforced by local boards of health rather than the New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Animal Welfare. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 (b), animal shelters must pass an annual inspection by the local health authority. The New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Animal Welfare, which is tasked with ensuring sanitary and humane conditions exist at New Jersey’s animal shelters, also has the right under state law to inspect these facilities. In practice, the Office of Animal Welfare rarely inspects animal shelters. Ultimately, local municipalities through a recommendation by the local health authority or the state Office of Animal Welfare can revoke an animal shelter’s license.

The shocking conditions exposed this year at northern New Jersey animal shelters prove local health authorities cannot adequately enforce the state’s animal shelter laws. Prior to the NJ SPCA arresting Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter’s Board President in January 2014, the Office of Animal Welfare issued a scathing inspection report on October 23, 2013. The inspection report noted Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter housed sick and healthy cats together, kept cats with feces all over their feet and legs, failed to provide sick kittens covered in feces prompt vet care, allowed cats and kittens to have eye discharge so severe they couldn’t open their eyes, illegally killed animals before the 7 day hold period elapsed, and routinely used heart sticking to kill animals. Jersey Animal Coalition, which performed poorly in state Office of Animal Welfare inspections from 2005 – 2007, passed subsequent South Orange inspections and then miserably failed an Office of Animal Welfare inspection in March 2014. The inspection report noted sick/injured animals and animals under severe psychological stress were not treated, massive amounts of feces within and outside the facility, sick and healthy animals were housed together, no disease control program approved by a veterinarian, and animals not provided adequate amounts of water. The Office of Animal Welfare inspected East Orange Animal Shelter in June and reported animals inundated with a toxic feces and chemical filled soup, a fly infestation so severe that animals with open wounds and skin lesions were in danger of having maggots grow inside them, cats not provided with enough water and water they did have was contaminated with cat litter, and improper isolation of sick animals. Montclair’s Board of Health was “unable to locate” legally required inspections from 2010 and 2012, and took a grand total of an hour and 45 minutes and 60 minutes to conduct inspections in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Montclair’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee documented numerous problems going on for years, such as dogs exposed to the elements, animals left isolated for extended times, and water not being properly supplied to dogs and cats. In October, Clifton Animal Control allegedly forced an owner to surrender their dog and then illegally killed the family pet before the required 7 day hold period elapsed. Thus, we clearly see local boards of health cannot properly ensure New Jersey’s animal shelters are kept sanitary and run in a humane manner.

Reports of serious violations of state animal shelter laws at various central central New Jersey facilities show the problem exists throughout the state. Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which presumably passed the Elizabeth Board of Health’s annual inspections, apparently routinely illegally killed owner surrendered animals. Based on reports at the time, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter told a person surrendering two dogs, which he did not own, to bring the dogs in on their weekly kill day and the shelter executed the animals that very same day. Linden’s Board of Health failed to even perform legally required annual inspections of Linden Animal Control from 2007-2012. When the state Office of Animal Welfare inspected the facility on two occasions, the Office of Animal Welfare requested Linden close the facility immediately due to the horrific conditions. Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter inspections conducted by the Middlesex County Board of Health and Office of Animal Welfare turned up serious problems for years, but the very same local regulator continues to say everything is good. At the same time, activists documented terrible conditions and blatant violations of New Jersey animal shelter and federal controlled substance laws. As a result, local boards of health fail to do the necessary job of ensuring animal shelter laws are properly enforced.

The failure of local boards of health to properly enforce animal shelter laws is not surprising. In reality these entities are ill-equipped to inspect animal shelters. Local boards of health are used to inspecting places, such as restaurants, which are far different than animal shelters. In reality, animal shelters are more akin to hospitals than restaurants and other businesses local boards of health usually inspect. The New Jersey Department of of Health and several other public and private entities inspect health care facilities for compliance with state and federal laws at least annually. As a result, the New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Animal Welfare should regulate the state’s animal shelters in a similar manner as the New Jersey Department of Health regulates hospitals and other health care facilities.

Local health departments are not independent from many of the shelters these agencies regulate. While local Health Officers must be licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health, these Health Officers and their personnel are employees of local governments. As such, these local health departments will typically not want to rock the boat. After all, would you want to tell the elected official, who is your boss, that his or her animal shelter failed to comply with New Jersey laws? Clearly, the costs to fix, which would either increase property taxes or reduce spending on other popular programs, and negative press hurt the reelection prospects of these local politicians. When you consider the state Office of Animal Welfare rarely performs independent inspections, local Health Officers have a strong incentive to not enforce New Jersey’s animal shelter laws. Thus, the system to regulate New Jersey’s animal shelters is set up to fail.

NJ SPCA Cannot Effectively Regulate Animal Shelters

The NJ SPCA, which are New Jersey’s animal police, has limited authority and will to clean up the state’s animal shelters. This private group, which holds police powers relating to animal cruelty law enforcement, typically handles animal shelters with kid gloves. For example, several people told me the NJ SPCA was notified of Jersey Animal Coalition’s problems years ago, but never acted until after the state Office of Animal Welfare and South Orange Board of Health asked the NJ SPCA to investigate Jersey Animal Coalition for animal neglect/cruelty last March. After seven months, the NJ SPCA has yet to conclude its investigation, but stated last May they would first work with the shelter to clean up its issues before bringing animal cruelty charges. Apparently, this cleanup never happened since Jersey Animal Coalition is closing and the NJ SPCA does not look like it will charge anyone. Similarly, the NJ SPCA’s Monmouth County guy, Buddy Amato, gave Helmetta Regional Animal shelter a glowing report in August despite numerous inspections, photos, and complaints proving otherwise. Subsequently, the NJ SPCA came to the shelter again and found major issues, but gave management 30-60 days to fix their problems. In 2012, Buddy Amato defended several Monmouth County towns who illegally killed feral cats before the state mandated 7 day hold period elapsed. Even when the NJ SPCA did take action against Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter, the courts put the former Board President charged with animal cruelty back in charge. As a result, the NJ SPCA’s and the courts coddling of cruel animal shelter directors encourages all animals shelter directors to act in their own, rather than the animals, interest.

New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Animal Welfare Needs to Directly Enforce State Animal Shelter Laws

The Office of Animal Welfare needs to dramatically increase the number of its animal shelter inspections. From January 1, 2013 through August 6, 2014, the Office of Animal Welfare only inspected six different animal shelters out of one hundred plus facilities in the state housing dogs or cats. The Office of Animal Welfare only has one inspector, Linda Frese, to police over one hundred animal shelters plus countless pet shops statewide. Luckily, Linda Frese performs thorough inspections and does terrific work. However, Ms. Frese needs lots of help to ensure all shelters are inspected properly. Given the crisis at our state’s animal shelters, the Office of Animal Welfare needs to hire enough inspectors to ensure every animal shelter in the state is inspected on a quarterly basis. Additionally, the Office of Animal Welfare should conduct these inspections without notifying local health departments to ensure these are truly surprise inspections.

New Jersey must pass new legislation providing the Office of Animal Welfare full power to close down terrible animal shelters. Under current law, the Office of Animal Welfare can only recommend that a municipality revoke an animal shelter’s license. As a result, local politicians currently can allow terrible animals shelters to continue neglecting their animals. Thus, the independent state Office of Animal Welfare must hold this authority to ensure New Jersey animal shelters are run properly.

Companion Animal Protection Act Needs to Become State Law

New Jersey shelter laws and the Office of Animal Welfare encourage shelter killing. Animal shelters in the Garden State may kill animals for any reason after seven days. For far too many shelters it is simply easier and cheaper to kill animals after one week. After all, if you have fewer animals in your facility you don’t have to clean, feed, and provide veterinary care to those animals. In fact, the Office of Animal Welfare actually encourages shelters to kill and advises municipalities to contract with kill rather than no kill shelters. As a result, New Jersey must pass legislation to force shelters to stop killing and start saving their animals.

The Companion Animal Protection Act (“CAPA”) needs to become law to ensure shelters save rather than take lives. CAPA requires shelters to follow many parts of the no kill equation, which is a series of programs proven to reduce or actually end the killing of savable animals. Specifically, CAPA requires animal shelters/municipalities do the following:

  1. Implement TNR and prohibit anti-feral cat policies
  2. Develop detailed animal care protocols for all animals, which includes nursing mothers, unweaned kittens and puppies, and animals which are old, sick, injured or needing therapeutic exercise
  3. Clean animal enclosures at least two times per day to maintain proper hygiene and be welcoming to prospective adopters
  4. Not kill any animal a rescue is willing to take
  5. Prohibit banning of rescues unless the rescue is currently charged with or convicted of animal cruelty/neglect
  6. Contact all rescues at least two business days before an animal is killed
  7. Match lost pet reports with animals in shelter and post stray animals on the internet immediately to help find lost pets owners
  8. Promote animals for adoption using local media and the internet
  9. Adopt animals out seven days a week for at least six hours each day, which includes evenings and weekends when potential adopters are likely to visit
  10. Not have discriminatory adoption policies based on breed/age/species/appearance (i.e. can’t prohibit pit bull, elderly pet, etc. adoptions)
  11. Offer low cost spay/neuter services, substantive volunteer opportunities to the public, and pet owner surrender prevention services
  12. Not kill any animals when empty cages exist, enclosures can be shared with other animals, or foster homes are available
  13. Shelter Executive Director must certify they have no other alternative when killing/euthanizing an animal
  14. Publicly display animal shelter intake and disposition statistics (i.e. numbers of animals taken in, adopted, returned to owner, killed, etc) for the prior year
  15. Provide the local government and the public access to the intake and disposition statistics each month
  16. Pet licensing revenues must be used to fund low cost spay/neuter and medical care for shelter animals rather than go to other government uses

Passing CAPA will require a huge fight as many New Jersey’s animal shelters along with the Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”) and ASPCA will lobby against these common sense reforms. HSUS and the ASPCA fought similar reform efforts in many other states, such as New York, Minnesota, and California. However, this is a fight we must take on. CAPA, quarterly shelter inspections by the Office of Animal Welfare, and giving the Office of Animal Welfare the power to shut shelters down will spur massive improvements in the state’s animal shelters. Non-compliant municipalities and private animal shelters will face stiff penalties and therefore will dramatically change their ways.

As the past year showed us, we no longer can wait for municipalities and animals shelters to police themselves. Now is the time for a new sheriff to ride into town to bring law and order to our animal shelters. We can make this happen by demanding our state senators and local assemblymen/assemblywomen pass these laws to improve our shelter system. State Senator, Linda Greenstein, seems quite amenable to reforming our state’s shelter system and is someone we should work with.  Animal lovers are a huge voting block and New Jersey politicians better take us seriously. Enough is enough and if the politicians won’t help, we will show them the door. We can do this so let’s get to work!