Plenty of Homes Exist for Shelter Dogs and Cats in New Jersey and Cumberland County

Recently, I criticized Cumberland County SPCA’s practice of spaying obviously pregnant cats in a Facebook post. Specifically, I stated the shelter clings to the objectively false “too many animals not enough homes” narrative when it justifies spaying visibly pregnant cats. While spaying obviously pregnant cats is common in animal welfare, there are organizations heavily involved with TNR that do not do so. When a pregnant cat is spayed, the shelter kills the mother’s kittens via a forced abortion where the kittens suffocate to death or, if the kittens can breathe on their own, by taking them out of their mother and injecting them with Fatal Plus poison.

Despite my post laying out clear data on why Cumberland County SPCA does not have to kill these kittens, I received largely fact-free criticisms from several people working at Cumberland County SPCA as well as certain individuals in the rescue community. For example, people claimed pet overpopulation exists and cited shelter killing and rescues having trouble adopting out cats and kittens as support for these claims. Does Cumberland County SPCA and any New Jersey animal control shelter really need to kill these kittens?

Market Research Data Proves Shelter Killing is Unnecessary

No kill leader, Nathan Winograd, has preached that shelters do not need to kill due to “pet overpopulation” for a decade. While national groups, like HSUS and the ASPCA, opposed Mr. Winograd and the no kill movement for several years, even they agreed that more than enough homes exist for the animals coming into shelters in 2014. As you can see in this video from HSUS Expo 2014 citing data used by the Shelter Pet Project, approximately 17 million people in the country will acquire a dog or cat each year and would consider obtaining that animal from a shelter or rescue. Around 3 million of these animals are killed in shelters each year. If shelters can increase their market share by adopting out dogs and cats to 3 million of those 17 million potential homes, shelters will no longer kill healthy and treatable animals. Thus, shelters and rescues must persuade 18% of these 17 million households to choose to adopt.

The HSUS Expo 2014 also had Dr. Emily Weiss from the ASPCA and Todd Cramer from PetSmart Charities support the concept that more than enough homes exist for shelter animals. During their presentation, they touted customer friendly adoption processes (i.e. open adoptions). Furthermore, another speaker showed how many shelters and rescues would refuse to adopt to the other presenters, who are obviously good pet owners, using overly restrictive adoption polices that drive potential adopters to breeders and pet stores. Therefore, the idea that shelters do not have to kill is supported by both the leaders of the no kill movement and the traditional animal sheltering industry.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Have More Than Enough Homes for Cats

The American Pets Product Survey, which is the original source of the information above, recently issued updated data. Using this data and demographic statistics, I was able to compute reasonable estimates of just how many pets New Jersey residents acquire each year relative to the number of pets state shelters kill in a year.

The table below summarizes the New Jersey cat adoption market. Initially, we must estimate the number of cats that live in New Jersey households. Based on the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Survey, 94,200,000 cats live in the country’s households. By taking the percentage New Jersey households are of United States’ households, we can estimate 2.5% of the 94,200,000 cats in U.S. households are in New Jersey homes. Given the home ownership rate in New Jersey and the country are identical and fewer residents in New Jersey (15%) live in homeowners associations, condos and co-ops compared to the country as a whole (21%), New Jersey residents do not face greater pet owning restrictions than the country as a whole. Therefore, using estimates in New Jersey based on national data is reasonable.

We must then compute the number of cats in New Jersey homes and how many cats New Jersey residents acquire each year. To do that, we multiply 2.5% by the 94,200,000 to estimate 2,384,490 cats live in New Jersey homes. Under the assumption cats spend 10 years in a home and people replace those cats, we can estimate New Jersey residents acquire 238,449 cats each year. While the average cat lives longer than 10 years, many people acquire adult cats and cats also become lost. Therefore, the average time a cat is in a home is likely around 10 years.

Next, we must compare New Jersey animal shelters’ share of the market to the averages of several high performing animal control shelters. Based on the data above and recent statistics from Virginia’s Lynchburg Humane Society, Nevada Humane Society’s Washoe County and Carson City facilities and Kansas City, Missouri’s KC Pet Project, these shelters have 47%, 34% and 22%, respectively, of the cat acquisition markets in their communities. All three organizations serve more challenging areas than the average New Jersey animal shelter as shown by their communities’ poverty rates (Lynchburg Humane Society: ~16%, Nevada Humane Society: 13% and KC Pet Project: 18%) exceeding New Jersey’s poverty rate (10%). Furthermore, a greater percentage of households are rented in these three areas (i.e. more pet restrictions) than New Jersey. If New Jersey’s animal shelters obtained the average of these three shelters’ cat market shares (35%), New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out 82,294 cats each year. Given New Jersey animal shelters needlessly killed 9,138 cats in 2016 (i.e. total cats needed to reduce all state animal shelters’ kill rates to 8%), New Jersey animal shelters would only need to adopt out 9,138 or 15% of the additional 59,056 cats these shelters should adopt out.

Clearly, New Jersey animal shelters can adopt out far more cats then they do.

NJ Cat Supply and Demand

Cumberland County SPCA Has More Than Enough Homes to End the Killing of Cats

The same analysis for Cumberland County yields a similar result. As you can see below, I used Cumberland County’s number of households as a percentage of New Jersey’s households to compute the number of available homes in the county. Based on the average percentage (35%) the three benchmark animal shelters above make up of the cat adoption market, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 1,306 cats or nearly two and a half times more than the 547 cats the shelter adopted out in 2017. In other words, the shelter could attain a no kill level cat live release rate of 92% (i.e. a proxy for no kill status) and even rescue a little more than 100 additional cats from other facilities if it simply replicated the average cat adoption market share of these three role model shelters. While Cumberland County Animal Shelter does take in more cats than the average shelter in the state, this analysis shows more than enough homes exist for its cats.

Cumberland County, NJ Cat Market

State Has Plenty of Homes for Shelter Dogs

New Jersey shelters have even more homes available for their dogs than cats. Based on the average dog market share of the three benchmark shelters (23%), New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out 47,430 more dogs than they do now. Since the state’s animal shelters needlessly killed 2,168 dogs in 2016, they’d just have to reach 5% of the 47,430 additional dog adoptions to ensure every New Jersey animal shelter had at least a 95% dog live release rate. Furthermore, data from the 2017-2018 American Pets Products Survey indicates New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out 36,156 medium and large size dogs. In fact, this exceeds the 33,463 dogs the state’s shelters impounded in 2016.

NJ Dog Supply and Demand

Cumberland County SPCA Can Adopt Out Many More Dogs

Cumberland County SPCA also has many more homes available for their dogs. Based on the three role model animal shelters’ average market share of the dog acquisition market, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 507 more dogs than they did in 2017. Since Cumberland County SPCA needlessly killed 42 dogs (46 dogs may have lost their lives if the four dogs the shelter listed as “Other” outcomes died) in 2017, they’d just have to reach less than 10% of the 507 additional dog adoptions to ensure the shelter had at least a 95% dog live release rate. Furthermore, data from the 2017-2018 American Pets Products Survey indicates Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 574 medium to large size dogs out a year. Thus, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out many more dogs and stop killing healthy and treatable dogs.

Cumberland County Dog Supply and Demand

Plenty of Homes Exist in My More Conservative Analysis

Each year, I use a model I created to target the number of dogs and cats every New Jersey animal shelter should adopt out, send to rescue and rescue from other facilities. You can read more about these models for dogs here and cats here.

New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out far more dogs and cats than they unnecessarily kill according to my model. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out over 32,000 more cats or four times as many cats than they currently needlessly kill. Similarly, the state’s animal shelters could adopt out nearly 12,000 more local dogs (i.e. excluding transports) or five times more than they currently needlessly kill.

NJ Cat Adoption Potential - NJ Animal Observer Model

2016 NJ Shelters Dog Adoption Potential

While Cumberland County SPCA impounds more cats than most New Jersey communities, the same trend holds for this shelter. Specifically, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 712 more cats while it needlessly killed 549 cats (630 cats if we assume the 81 cats classified as “Other” outcomes died). Interestingly, rescues and other shelters pulled over 150 more cats than my model targets for Cumberland County SPCA. Thus, Cumberland County SPCA received more than enough rescue assistance.

CCSPCA 2017 Cat Adoption Potential - NJ Animal Observer Model

Cumberland County SPCA’s dog data is ever more favorable. Specifically, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 209 more dogs per my model while it needlessly killed 42 dogs (46 dogs if we assume the four dogs the shelter classified as “Other” outcomes died). Furthermore, the rescue community did more than their fair share by rescuing around 120 more dogs than I target for Cumberland County SPCA.

CCSPCA 2017 Dog Adoption Potential - NJ Animal Observer Model.jpg

Reaching Adopters Requires High Quality Customer Service

Frequently, I see regressive shelters and certain rescues complain about too many animals and not enough homes while these organizations make it difficult for people to adopt. Many shelters and rescues create an adversarial relationship with potential adopters by requiring various documents and other hurdles to “prove” their worthiness to adopt. Some examples are as follows:

  • Home checks
  • Landlord references and/or home ownership documents
  • Veterinary references
  • Personal references
  • Household pet veterinary records
  • Mandating all family members go to adopt the animal at the same time
  • Requiring existing household dogs go and visit the dog a family wants to adopt
  • Requiring fenced in yards
  • Barring families who work from adopting
  • Not allowing families with children to adopt (when the animal does not have serious behavior problems)
  • Denying adoptions when an existing pet is not spayed/neutered even when the shelter/rescue will alter the adopted pet.

While I could write paragraphs on why these policies end up killing shelter pets, the Humane Society of the United States’ Adopters Welcome guide provides excellent explanations on why these policies do not work along with supporting studies. The key points about these policies are as follows:

  1. Make potential adopters feel like criminals
  2. Cause people to provide “the right answers” and not share other information
  3. Reduce the number of good pet owners who can adopt
  4. Extend the time animals stay with shelters and rescues that ultimately lead to increased killing for space, more stress and behavioral deterioration in shelter animals and higher disease rates in shelter animals

After adopting out animals the conventional way through rescues my spouse and I fostered for, we switched to an “open” or conversational based adoptions process similar to the HSUS Adopters Welcome policies. Instead of using a check the box adoption approval process, we develop relationships with adopters. We spend a good amount of time talking with the adopter, getting to know them, and helping them determine whether the pet is a good fit. As a result of the relationships we develop, the adopters almost always become “friends” with us on Facebook and we often see the pets enjoying life in their new homes.

Why Many Shelters and Rescues Ignore Data That Saves Lives

So why do shelters ignore the clear evidence that more than enough homes exist for homeless animals, particularly in New Jersey? When shelters and their staffs kill animals, they must rationalize this fact especially if they love animals. If not enough homes exist, these individuals can then say they have no choice. This rationalization, which may have been true decades ago when shelter intake was far higher, is embedded in the culture of many shelters and even many rescuers. Thus, these people will often get angry when they learn killing shelter pets is in fact avoidable.

The reasons many rescuers also believe in pet overpopulation is more complicated. As I indicated above, some long-time rescuers may still view the world as it was decades ago when pet overpopulation really did exist. On the other hand, some rescuers may require the pet overpopulation myth to rationalize their close friendships with individuals running kill shelters. Finally, some cat rescuers, particularly those practicing TNR, may see the large numbers of community cats and be frustrated they can’t find homes for every one of them. While finding a home for every single community cat is not realistic, community cats do in fact thrive outside. Therefore, some TNR practitioners may conflate community cats with those in shelters to incorrectly conclude not enough homes exist for the much smaller number of cats in shelters.

Shelters and rescues frequently use onerous and counterproductive adoption processes due to the people they typically encounter not representing the pet owning public. Many shelters and rescues often deal with people who must surrender their animals as well those that may abuse their pets. However, this is a tiny percentage of the pet owner population. For example, New Jersey animal shelters impounded 67,594 dogs and cats in 2016 from the state while 4,655,071 dogs and cats live in New Jersey homes per the estimates above. In other words, only 1.5% of the dogs and cats in New Jersey homes entered a shelter as a stray, an owner surrender or in a cruelty seizure in 2017. However, even that estimate is too high since shelters impound many community cats with no owner. If we just look at dogs, New Jersey animal shelters only took in 1.1% of the dogs in New Jersey homes. Even this number may be too high since many dogs arriving at shelters were lost due to an accident and the owner quickly reclaimed the animal. If we exclude all reclaimed dogs from these calculations, only 0.6% of dogs in New Jersey homes would end up in a shelter. Thus, many shelters and rescues are judging potential adopters based on around 1% of New Jersey pet owners.

Many shelters and rescues may use overly strict adoption processes due to personal reasons. Unfortunately, I’ve encountered some people running shelters and rescues who believe they are morally superior to others and/or are on a power trip. While these people may claim their adoption processes are there to protect the animal, I find they enjoy having power over people who are emotionally attached to an animal they want to adopt. In extreme cases, I’ve seen overt racism involved. Finally, I’ve found some individuals running shelters and rescues to lack people skills and openly claim they hate people and love animals. While there is no crime in having that view, organizations would save more lives if they have individuals who like people interacting with adopters.

At the end of the day, the animal welfare movement must make logical decisions based on objective data rather than myth and folklore if we are to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. The sooner we do that, the sooner will will achieve a no kill New Jersey and a no kill nation.

Potential Impact of Large Scale Shelter-Neuter-Return in New Jersey

In my last blog, I analyzed how New Jersey shelters can save the cats coming into their facilities. How would these results change if all New Jersey animal control shelters implemented large scale shelter-neuter-return (“SNR”) programs? Could these programs save municipalities money? What would be the potential lifesaving impact in New Jersey and beyond?

California Shelter-Neuter-Return Program Significantly Reduces Cat Intake and Killing

San Jose, California has offered a low cost spay-neuter program for owned and feral cats since 1994. Under the program, people use a voucher to get any owned or feral cat spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped for $25. In other words, the city practiced a traditional subsidized trap-neuter-return (“TNR”) program. The public trapped cats, brought them to clinics for spay/neuter surgery, and subsequently released the cats back to their habitats. Despite this program, the local animal control shelter, San Jose Animal Care and Services, still killed over 70% of its adult cats.

San Jose Animal Care and Services implemented a SNR program several years ago. Based on a 2005 survey, 93% of owned cats were altered while just 5.5% of fed community cats were spayed/neutered. As a result of these findings, the city implemented a SNR program to better target the community cat population that continued to breed. Healthy feral and some fearful cats were impounded by the shelter, altered, vaccinated, microchipped, ear tipped for identification purposes and returned to the location where these cats were found. Shelter personnel impounded the cats, performed the veterinary work, and volunteers returned the cats to their habitats. Friendly, shy and some fearful cats did not enter the SNR program (i.e. shy and and fearful cats were sent to rescue or rehabilitated by the shelter).

San Jose Animal Care and Services’ SNR program drastically reduced the facility’s cat intake and killing after starting this initiative. The scientific journal, PeerJ, published a study that documented a decrease in San Jose Animal Care and Services’ cat intake of 29% over the four year study. Additionally, the shelter’s cat kill rate dropped from over 70% to 23% in four years. Furthermore, dead cats found on the streets decreased by 20% over the period presumably due to a smaller cat population resulting from the SNR program. Additionally, the number of cats euthanized for Upper Respiratory Infections (“URI”) at the shelter decreased by 99% over the four year study. Thus, the SNR program significantly reduced cat intake, cat killing and the outdoor cat population.

SNR Program Would Dramatically Increase Life Saving in New Jersey

In order estimate the impacts from implementing similar SNR programs in New Jersey, I used my cat Life Saving Model. As discussed in more detail in my prior blog on how New Jersey animal shelters are performing with their cats, the Life Saving Model computes each shelter’s targeted number of animal outcomes, such as euthanasia, animals sent to rescue, adoptions, and animals rescued from other shelters, based on each facility’s reported capacity and past cat intake. To estimate the impact of a well-run SNR program, I reduced each animal control shelter’s cat intake and owner reclaims by 29% (i.e. the decrease in San Jose Animal Care and Services cat intake). Cat intake and owner reclaims were not reduced at facilities without animal control contracts. The 29% decrease in cat intake assumption is reasonable given San Jose’s preexisting TNR program was likely as or more effective than most New Jersey programs (i.e. San Jose’s $25 low cost spay/neuter fee is lower than the amount New Jersey TNR caretakers typically pay for spay/neuter).

The table below compares the Life Saving Model’s targeted outcomes for the entire New Jersey shelter system based on the most recent number of cat impounds and projected cat intake after implementing a well-run SNR program. The targeted community or New Jersey cat intake decreased by 13,456 cats or 27%. Notably, the targeted number of New Jersey cats euthanized also decreased by 27% due to fewer cats coming into shelters. Additionally, the reduction in cat intake also significantly reduced the targeted number of cats sent to rescue by 6,594 cats or 54%. The extra capacity freed up from reduced New Jersey cat intake would allow shelters to rescue and adopt out at least another 13,777 more cats from out of state shelters or New Jersey’s streets. As a result, well-run SNR programs could significantly increase lifesaving in New Jersey.

NJ Shelter Cats Model for Blog SNR Summary

SNR Significantly Reduces the Number of Cats Needing Rescue from Animal Control Shelters

SNR would allow many space constrained animal control shelters to rely much less on rescues to save their cats. The table below compares the targeted number of cats needing to go to rescues with and without a large scale SNR program at the state’s animal control shelters. Shelters having the largest decreases in cats needing rescue as a result of implementing a large scale SNR program along with their most recently reported cat kill rates (counting cats who died, went missing and were unaccounted for as killed) are as follows:

  • Camden County Animal Shelter – 1,223 fewer cats needing rescue; current kill rate: 67%
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter – 998 fewer cats needing rescue; current kill rate: 82%
  • Atlantic County Animal Shelter – 882 fewer cats needing rescue; current kill rate: 83%
  • Cumberland County SPCA – 681 fewer cats needing rescue; current kill rate: 72%

Thus, SNR significantly reduces the need for animal control shelters to rely on rescues and rescue oriented shelters.

NJ Shelter Cats Model for Blog SNR s2r

NJ Shelter Cats Model for Blog SNR s2r (2)

SNR Greatly Expands the Ability of New Jersey Animal Shelters to Rescue Cats

SNR would significantly increase the ability of New Jersey animal shelters to save more cats from other facilities and the streets. The table below compares the targeted number of cats shelters should rescue with and without a large scale SNR program at the state’s animal control shelters. The following shelters would be able to increase their targeted number of rescued cats the most:

  • Associated Humane Societies – Newark – 630 additional cats could be rescued
  • Bergen County Animal Shelter – 442 additional cats could be rescued
  • Cumberland County SPCA – 441 additional cats could be rescued
  • Monmouth SPCA – 437 additional cats could be rescued
  • Liberty Humane Society – 397 additional cats could be rescued
  • Associated Humane Societies – Tinton Falls – 346 additional cats could be rescued

Thus, many animal control shelters could not only save their feral cats, but rescue many additional friendly cats as well.


Re (2)

Large Scale and Targeted SNR or TNR Programs Could Reduce Cat Intake Even More in Some Urban Areas

The Veterinary Journal published a study recently detailing the results of a large scale and targeted TNR program. The Alachua County, Florida animal control shelter increased the scale of its existing TNR program in one urban zip code where many of the shelter’s cats came from. Specifically, sterilizations increased from 4-10 cats/1,000 people to 57-64 cats/1,000 people in the target area while an adjacent area (i.e. the non-target area) maintained its sterilization rate of 8-12 cats/1,000 people. This high sterilization rate is important given altering a large percentage of the overall community cat population is critical to reducing the number of outdoor cats. Significant community outreach efforts were conducted, such as mailing information about the program to residents and businesses 5 times over the two year study, volunteers going door to door explaining the program, and TNR program administrators helping solve community cat nuisance problems. After 2 years, shelter intake decreased by 66% in the target area and only 12% in the adjacent non-target region. As a result, we can attribute the 54% (66%-12%) excess decrease in shelter intake as the net impact of this program.

Urban New Jersey animal shelters may be able to reduce their cat intake even further based on the experience in Alachua County, Florida. While some of the decreased shelter cat intake in this one zip code relative to San Jose may have been due to Alachua County spaying/neutering and releasing friendly cats in addition to feral cats, the significantly higher sterilization rate of community cats (57-64 cats/1,000 people in Alachua County verses ~2.5 cats/1,000 residents in San Jose) no doubt played a significant role. In addition to not breeding, sterilized cats tend to roam and fight each other less resulting in fewer nuisance complaints. Fewer nuisance complaints leads to shelters impounding less cats. Certainly, a TNR program at this large of a scale is expensive, but running such a program in a small area, such as single zip code with a large intact cat population, is realistic. Thus, urban New Jersey animal shelters may be able to reduce their cat intake by even more than the tables above suggest.

Large scale SNR and TNR programs are significantly more effective than traditional TNR programs. In the case of many TNR programs, a few volunteers capture cats for the program. Often, animal control shelters still impound feral cats outside of official colonies or just leave unaltered feral cats in the community. The SNR program in San Jose is more effective as ACOs capture feral cats who subsequently are spayed/neutered, vaccinated and returned to their outdoor homes. Similarly, the Alachua County TNR program used massive community outreach to sterilize and vaccinate more of the community’s cats. As a result, large scale SNR and TNR programs alter a greater percentage of the community cat population which ultimately results in reduced outdoor cat populations that are easier for people to live with.

Large Scale SNR/TNR Makes Complete Sense for Municipalities

Municipalities will save significant amounts of money over the long term from implementing large scale SNR programs. Assuming 20% of the cats impounded at New Jersey shelters are feral, that works out to 1.1 cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. Multiplying 1.1 feral cats by the estimated cost of $72 to perform SNR on a feral cat gives us a cost of $79.20 per 1,000 resident or 7.9 cents per person. Now, let’s assume the average New Jersey community pays $3 per capita for animal control and sheltering. If we assume 50% of these costs are for animal control services and cats make up 2/3 of of these animal control calls (cats make up 66% of stray animals taken in by New Jersey shelters), then a 29% reduction in cat intake would result in a 28.7 cent per resident reduction in animal control costs. The animal control savings of 28.7 cents per residents is nearly four times greater than the 7.9 cent cost to run a SNR program. Furthermore, Maddie’s Fund’s Financial Management Tool estimates it costs around $40 to provide care to adult feral cats/kittens and kill them after the 7 day hold period. Based on New Jersey animal shelters taking in roughly 5.5 cats per 1,000 residents on average, the 29% reduction in cat intake would result in cat sheltering cost savings of 6.4 cents/resident. In other words, taxpayers would save a net 27.2 cents per resident as a result of implementing San Jose’s SNR program. These cost savings exclude likely lower sheltering costs relating to less disease from lower cat intake and increased donations/volunteer services due to lower kill rates. Thus, implementing SNR is a no-brainer from a taxpayer perspective.

SNR also reduces nuisance complaints in the community. Smaller community cat populations are less likely to cause problems. Additionally, altered cats are far less likely to roam long distances in search of mates, and don’t get into loud fights over mating or territory which bother people. Furthermore, the reduction in shelter intake will allow ACOs to respond more quickly to animal control calls for nuisance complaints. Thus, SNR would result in fewer complaints about community cats to local officials over the long-term.

SNR programs are growing in popularity. Unsurprisingly, several other animal control shelters near San Jose also implemented similar SNR programs and experienced similar reductions in cat intake. Clearly, nearby communities are incentivized or pressured to do better when their neighbors do great things. Furthermore, similar successful programs were implemented in Los Angeles, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico, San Antonio, Texas, and the Atlanta, Georgia area. In Albuquerque, cat intake and killing decreased by 39% and 86% after just two years. Thus, large scale and targeted SNR and TNR programs are a major innovation in animal welfare.

Shelters and municipalities need to get behind SNR. SNR will clearly save the lives of countless feral cats, but will also indirectly save many more cats through increased space opening up at shelters and a reduction in disease outbreaks. It is time shelter leaders, the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey, and of course the public come together and demand these programs be put into place. We have the evidence and the argument behind us. Now is the time to fight for what is right.

New Jersey Animal Shelter Statistics Are Far Worse Than Previously Thought

Photo of discarded dead animals from a 2009 Office of Animal Welfare inspection report of Associated Humane Societies – Newark. The Executive Director at the time is still in charge of this shelter today.












Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last August, I shared New Jersey’s animal shelters summary statistics on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Animal Welfare 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 Office of Animal Welfare 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 Office of Animal Welfare’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2013 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 2013. Specifically, Summit Animal Clinic in Union City, Associated Humane Societies – Tinton Falls, Mercerville Animal Hospital and Angel Pets Animal Welfare in Woodbridge disclosed this data in 2012, but did not do so in 2013. Additionally, East Orange Animal Shelter has never submitted Shelter/Pound Annual Reports to the state, but did share limited data with The Record newspaper. These shelters failure to disclose data raises serious questions. For example, are they trying to hide embarrassing statistics from the public? I’ve included these shelters’ 2012 data, and in the case of East Orange, its limited 2013 data in my analysis. Also, I performed my analysis without these shelters as well. Unless indicated below, I’ve included these shelters’ data in the analysis under the assumption the statistics would be similar if submitted to the Office of Animal Welfare in 2013.

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, 69 out of 100 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 71 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. Even worse, 54 of the 69 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 46 of the 71 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 71% 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, 3,231 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 3,231 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) in 2013. 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, Office of Animal Welfare 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 Office of Animal Welfare 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 Previously Believed

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 Office of Animal Welfare’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.


The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the Office of Animal Welfare 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 dog kill rate from 13.4% to 13.9% and the cat kill rate from 38.5% to 39.2%.

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 13.9% to 14.5% and the cat kill rate from 39.2% to 40.8%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals dying or gone 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 14.5% to 15.5% and the cat death rate rises from 40.8% to 46.8%.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases save 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. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog death rate from 15.5% to 18.9% and the state cat death rate from 46.8% to 47.4%.

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 18.9% to 22.1% and the maximum potential state cat death rate from 47.4% to 49.5%.

Finally, the maximum potential New Jersey cat death rate decreases slightly from 49.5% to 49.4% if I include the 2012 data from shelters who failed to report statistics in 2013 to the Office of Animal Welfare. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than previously thought.

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 are listed in the following tables:

NJ Shelter Rates Tables (6)

NJ Shelter Rates Tables (7)

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

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:

NJ Shelter Rates Tables (8)

Unacct 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 don’t or rarely transport, facilities with the highest dog and cat death rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

NJ Shelter Rates Tables (2)

Max pot cats po

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, 5,676 dogs were transferred from out of state animal shelters compared to only 1,410 dogs taken in from other New Jersey animal shelters. 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 or 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:

NJ Shelter Rates Tables (5)

New Jersey animal shelters transported 642 cats from out of state while nearly 50% of cats in the state’s animal shelters were killed, died or went missing. Animal Welfare Association (280 cats received from out of state) and Mount Pleasant Animal Shelter (211 cats received from out of state) rescued more cats from out of state facilities than New Jersey animal shelters. In the case of Mount Pleasant Animal Shelter, the organization’s Executive Director told me these cats were rescued from New York Animal Care and Control. One can only hope the out of state cats rescued by other New Jersey animal shelters came from nearby New York and Pennsylvania facilities rather than from shelters far away down south.

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 52% and 4% 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 urban shelters are only returning about one fifth 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).

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 2013, only 61% of dog and 66% 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 87%. 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:

NJ Shelter Rates Tables (11)

NJ Shelter Rates Tables (13)

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 control facilities only impound 8.7 animals per 1,000 New Jersey residents. 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 this so let’s get to work!

Linden Animal Control Fails Office of Animal Welfare Inspection

Linden Animal Control, which has had a terrible reputation for years, recently came under fire. At an April 15 City Council meeting, Robert Scutro and several other people passionately argued the shelter needed drastic changes (see 2 hour and 21 minute mark of the video). During the meeting, City Health Officer, Nancy Koblis, and City Council Member, Michele Yamakaitis, largely dismissed the concerns. Yamakaitis heads the Animal Control Committee which was formed to investigate and rectify Linden Animal Control’s issues. Elizabeth’s Health Department, at the request of Yamakaitis’s committee, found serious problems during a May 8 inspection. On July 23, New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Animal Welfare, which typically conducts much more thorough inspections, visited the facility and failed Linden Animal Control. The city plans to shut the shelter down at the end of 2014, contract with another facility in 2015, and open a new shelter in 2016.

Linden issued a stunning press release after the Office of Animal Welfare inspection report. The city clearly attempted to downplay the shelter’s problems and make it seem as if they were on top of the issue. Basically, Yamakaitis stated the facility is run down, but animals aren’t being neglected. Mayor Richard Gerbounka blamed the issues on Union County not building a facility, but said all was good:

“Our facility certainly wasn’t the best in the area, but we attempted to maintain it with reasonable standards while Union County was proposing a county-wide facility. Many of these issues came with age, which would require larger scale remodeling with a large cost associated, and this remodeling would have been moot if Union County built a facility that would have not only been more modern, but larger.”

Yamakaitis made several general short-term recommendations, but all the recommendations are dependent on “materials, financing, and ability becoming available.” As a result, the recommendations are meaningless because they are not mandatory. Its like a 500 pound man saying “I’ll lose weight if somehow I end up eating healthier and exercising.” In other words, the recommendations are pointless.

Linden’s Animal Control Committee plans on building the new shelter with private funding. As you will see below, Linden Animal Control’s problems were primarily the result of the individuals in charge and we should not donate one cent to these same people.

Office of Animal Welfare Inspection Report Shows Problems Due to People Running the Shelter

The Office of Animal Welfare inspection report revealed little to no effort was made to clean the shelter. Despite only housing 7 dogs from animal control and a handful of cats, shelter staff did not pick up feces. Instead, they sprayed feces with a hose without removing dogs from adjacent kennels, resulting in chunks of feces and chemicals hitting animals. Even worse, spraying rather than scooping feces caused a toxic urine, feces, and chemical filled soup to pass by each animal. Given the trenches were not maintained, this feces, urine, and chemical brew just sat in front of all the animals to breathe in. As a result, Linden Animal Control’s staff allowed the animals to literally live in crap.

Linden Animal Control’s cleaning protocol used frighteningly toxic chemicals. In the report, one animal control officer admitted to using bleach at a concentration 32 times higher than required for safely cleaning with animals present in nearby kennels. In fact, the bleach concentration used with animals in the facility was 10 times higher than the level used to disinfect a facility with no animals present. Additionally, the inspector noted the high concentration of bleach was so corrosive it could have led to the deterioration of the building’s structure. Thus, Linden Animal Control exposed animals to hazardous levels of chemicals and may have contributed to the dangerous conditions of the building itself.

Linden Animal Control did little to contain or treat diseases at the shelter. The facility had no legally required isolation area for sick animals. Additionally no legally required disease control program was put in place by the alleged supervising veterinarian, Dr. Shukla of Rahway Animal Hospital. Also, nothing was being done to alleviate stress or provide for the psychological well-being of animals. In fact, Linden Animal Control had no records or documentation showing many animals received any medical treatment to “alleviate pain and suffering” as required by law. One dog who was lucky enough to see the veterinarian apparently did not receive its required medicine for various worms and Giardia as significant amounts of the medicine were missing during the inspection. The inspector also noted “this dog was not provided with any means of stress relief, such as separation or barriers to prevent the direct view of other dogs, soft bedding, and a clean, dry environment, free from the strong odor of urine and the scent of other bodily secretions that had permeated the porous concrete in the dog enclosures.” As a result, Linden Animal Control’s management did little to help the animals under its care.

2533 Exterior dog enclosures need repair; dog transferred to AHS

Linden Animal Control also failed to perform legally required procedures to reunite lost pets with their families. Records indicated animals were not properly scanned for microchips. Additionally, records proved numerous animals were not held the legally required 7 days. Holes in the ceiling allowed 10 cats to escape over 16 weeks from the Linden prison, which prevented their owners from finding the cats at the shelter. Also, the shelter was left open during the day when the ACOs were out allowing anyone to take any animal they wish.

Linden Animal Control failed to document it humanely killed its animals. The shelter has no euthanasia room so animals can see, smell, and hear other animals being killed. No legally required euthanasia instructions, weighing animals for proper drug dosage, or method of killing were documented. Additionally, no one kept records of how these drugs were used as required by law. While City Council member Yamakaitis claimed animals are now being killed at Rahway Animal Hospital, the inspection showed Ketamine, which is widely abused drug, was dispensed and numerous used syringes were found.

2502 Ketamine

2504 Used Syringes in Drawer

Of course Yamakaitis also said “extremely injured or sick animals” are still killed at Linden Animal Control. I guess Linden has lots of “extremely injured or sick animals.” Good thing those pesky animals are suffering so much as Yamaitikis’s dream team can give them the wonderful gift of a cruel death in front of all their cell mates.

Linden Animal Control devoted a significant portion of the shelter’s space for their own and their friend’s dogs. The shelter, which took in 226 dogs in 2012, only has 11 kennels. On average, Linden Animal Control would only have 18 days before it ran out of kennel space. Despite this shortage of space, employees used one kennel to house their personal dog and another enclosure to hold a Linden Department of Transportation employee’s dog. Making matters worse, Linden Animal Control only impounds strays (i.e. does not accept owner surrenders) and is licensed as a pound and not a boarding facility. The staff also used another kennel to hold a scale for euthanasia which they are supposedly not doing. As a result, the shelter lost nearly 30% of its already small amount of kennel space due to employees selfish decisions.

Linden failed to perform even basic maintenance at its shelter. Crumbling cinder blocks, rusted steel posts, dirty food bowls lying around, accumulations of fur and dirt under cat cages, improperly working air conditioning, an oil furnace without its front panel, and overgrowing vegetation engulfing the facility all indicate neglect of the shelter. Similarly, allowing a drainage system to fall into disrepair, which contributed to a feces, urine and chemical soup surrounding the animals like a toxic moat, also indicates the management couldn’t care less about the facility or its animals. In fact, the shelter had holes in the cat room so large that rodents and small mammals could “freely walk in.” To make the shelter more inviting for wild animals, the shelter left open bags of cat food adjacent to these openings. Additionally, if rodents and small mammals were not enough to welcome in, shelter staff allowed a mop to lie in dirty water for god knows how long allowing mosquitoes and other insects to breed at will.

2519 Cat enclosures rusted, stick inside cage

2496 Floor in front of furnace

2498 Mop bucket, dirty water stored outside, rusted mop head

Linden Should Get Out of the Animal Control and Sheltering Business

Mayor Gerbunka’s claim the condition of the shelter was due to Union County failing to build an animal shelter is ridiculous. Employees negligence or downright sadism caused most of these problems. Furthermore, the Union County shelter was not under construction and the idea that it was coming anytime soon is a joke. Additionally, Linden failed to maintain the basic fixtures at the shelter, such as fencing, enclosures, and even doors to the facility. The fact Linden plans to close the shelter at the end of the year and build a new facility clearly shows it failed to do the right thing for many years.

Linden residents must hold Mayor Gerbunka accountable this November. Mayor Gerbunka, in addition to presiding over this disgraceful shelter, has consistently denied the allegations and defended those directly responsible for the situation. Animal advocates need to send a strong message that this behavior has consequences.

Linden, Roselle, Fanwood, Clark, and Winfield residents need to demand a real no kill shelter. All these municipalities will contract with a new facility in 2015. The people running any new shelter must truly care for the animals. Clearly, Mayor Gerbunka Council Member Yamakaitis, Linden Health Officer, Nancy Koblis, and Linden Animal Control staff must have no role in animal control or the operation and oversight of a new shelter. At this time in history, animal control shelters are saving well over 95% of their animals and providing high quality care. We know how to do it and just have to demand it. After all the animals have gone through at Linden Animal Control for decades, the least we can do in those creatures memories is to provide state of the art care for homeless animals in the future.

Additional Information – Key Extracts From Office of Animal Welfare Inspection Report

“The concrete trenches inside the interior and exterior dog enclosures had settled and were in disrepair. Contaminated and stagnant water and excrement collected in these trenches and did not progress to the drain. These trenches and drains were not covered and the dogs housed in these enclosures were not protected from contamination, injury, and disease transmission from the animal waste and chemicals in this water.”

“Feces was not scooped and removed from animal enclosures, but was forced into the drainage trenches with a hose. This action not only increases the risk of contamination of adjacent animal enclosures and animals due to the particles of feces that become air borne when sprayed with a high pressure hose, but large chunks of fecal matter then has to be forced down the trenches toward the drain with the hose. These drainage trenches were not covered inside these animal enclosures and this fecal matter and other waste material had to pass along each animal enclosure, exposing each of these animals in adjacent enclosures to this waste material.”

“Animals in adjacent enclosures were not being protected from water and other waste material when the feces were being sprayed into the drainage trenches. The animal enclosures did not have a barrier between each enclosure to prevent the flow of water and waste materials from contaminating animals and adjacent enclosures. Each time a hose is used in animal enclosures, the animal in that enclosure as well as animals in adjacent enclosures will need to be removed from the enclosures to prevent contamination.”

“The dog enclosures were not sloped appropriately in some areas to allow liquids to run toward the drain. Urine from some of the dog enclosures had streamed into the main walkway at the time of this inspection.”

“There were no grates or other type of coverings over the drainage trenches inside each of the indoor and outdoor dog enclosures. Dogs were not protected from contamination and disease transmission from the animal waste that collected in these trenches.”

“The facility was not being cleaned and disinfected properly. The enclosures were not being cleaned with a detergent followed by a safe and effective disinfectant and feces were not being scooped and removed from enclosures before the enclosures were hosed down. When asked how the facility was cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis, the Animal Control Officer stated that he mixes a half-gallon (8 cups) of bleach into a half-gallon of water and this mixture is poured onto the walls and floors of the animal enclosures. Some of the bottles of bleach found in the facility at the time of this inspection contained a concentration of more than 8% sodium hypochlorite. Bleach to water at a ratio of 1:1 is highly corrosive and could cause eroding of the cinder blocks and other building materials and could also cause skin burns and inhalation injuries to people and animals. The highest concentration of bleach that would be used as a disinfectant for resistant fungal spores in an animal facility is a ratio of 1:10 (1 ½ cups to 1 gallon water) with a product containing 6% sodium hypochlorite. The animals would need to be removed from rooms where this high concentration of bleach is used. The ratio for standard disinfection of animal facilities on a daily basis would be 1:32 (1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water.)”

“The facility did not have a separate isolation room available on the premises to house animals that display signs of communicable disease from healthy animals.”

“Premises were not clean and in good repair to protect animals from injury and disease and to facilitate the prescribed husbandry practices and prevent nuisances. Animal enclosures were in severe disrepair and were unable to be properly disinfected due to the large cracks and chunks of missing concrete in the flooring, around expansion joints, in the walls of the dog enclosures, and in the areas around the guillotine doors. The surfaces of these enclosures were not impervious to moisture and there was a strong odor of urine and animal waste that had permeated these concrete and cinder block surfaces and the odor was unable to be abated, even though the surfaces had been doused with a 1:1 ratio of bleach to water. There was an accumulation of algae or other growth on the mortar joints and the cinder blocks in the outdoor animal enclosures.”

“All areas throughout the facility were not being cleaned on a daily basis. The building was in severe disrepair and the floors, walls, ceilings, exterior doors and other surfaces were not being maintained in good repair.”

“The supervising veterinarian for the facility was said to be Dr. Shukla of the Rahway Animal Hospital, but there was no documentation available at the facility to indicate that a disease control and health care program had been established and was being maintained under the direction of a supervising veterinarian at the facility. There was no evidence that a program to address the psychological well-being of animals, including stress induced behaviors, was in effect at the facility.”

“There were no medical records, no veterinary signatures, and no treatment logs to document that any medical treatments were being or had been administered at the facility and there was no documentation to indicate that a veterinarian had visited the facility and was in charge of a disease control and health care program.”

“Records that were available in the office of the Linden Health Department showed that some animals were described as displaying signs of illness and some of these animals had died at the facility. There were no medical records available to indicate that these animals were provided with at least prompt basic veterinary care to relieve pain and suffering.”

“An emaciated female dog, ticket number 1054, was picked up on 7/22/14 according to the information on the ticket, and was taken to an animal hospital for emergency veterinary care before being transported to the impoundment facility. This dog was said to have been prescribed Panacur (prescription brand of Fenbendazole) by a local veterinarian for the treatment of roundworms and Giardia. This medication is required to be given three days in a row to be effective against certain species of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm and up to five days in a row for Giardia, but only one packet was found in the pouch on the gate of her enclosure on the date of this inspection. There were no records documenting that this medication had been administered, when it may have been administered, and by whom it may have been administered. This dog was also prescribed a feeding regimen by the veterinarian. Instructions indicated that this dog was to be fed small amounts of canned food every four hours; but there were no treatment records available on the premises to document that this dog had been fed as instructed.
This dog also had enlarged and distended teats and may have recently nursed puppies before being impounded. This dog was displaying signs of stress at the time of this inspection; she was pacing from side to side and was snapping at the dogs housed on either side of her enclosure. This dog was not provided with any means of stress relief, such as separation or barriers to prevent the direct view of other dogs, soft bedding, and a clean, dry environment, free from the strong odor of urine and the scent of other bodily secretions that had permeated the porous concrete in the dog enclosures.”

“The facility did not have an isolation room to separate animals with signs of a communicable disease and there were no procedures in place at the time of this inspection to control the dissemination of disease as recommended by the supervising veterinarian.”

“Records indicated that numerous animals that were impounded by Linden Animal Control Officers were not being held for the required seven day holding period before being euthanized, transferred or adopted. Records also indicated that numerous cats had escaped soon after being transported to the facility.”

“No records were available at the facility to indicate that a written description of lost animals and proof of ownership, such as a license for or picture of the animal, was being obtained from persons searching for lost pets. There were no procedures and security measures established at the facility for the viewing of confined animals to prevent the spread of disease.”

“Since the date of this inspection, the NJDOH has received documentation indicating that at least two impounded dogs had been transferred out of the facility before being held the required seven days. One dog, number 1054 described previously, had been transferred to another non-contracting animal facility due to the inability of the Linden Animal Shelter staff to

“The certifications signed by various veterinarians for the three persons administering animal euthanasia at the facility did not state the technique or techniques for which the individuals were certified.”

“It was not determined at the time of this inspection where the euthanasia procedures were carried out. Written instructions for euthanasia is required to be posted in the euthanasia area. This area should not be in the direct view of or within close proximity of other animals housed at the facility to prevent undue stress that may be caused to animals housed in the vicinity.”

“Records were not maintained on the premises that contained the body weight and dosages of the immobilizing and tranquilizing agents administered to each animal being euthanized. There were no records created or maintained that indicated the route of injection of each substance administered to animals as required. There was a bottle of Ketamine on the premises that had been used, as evidenced by the needle punctures and a crystalized residue on the rubber stopper of the bottle. There were no logs and disposition records on the premises documenting the appropriate use of this drug.”

“Some records did not contain complete information as required for animals that had been impounded or otherwise taken into the facility and the final disposition was not being recorded
or was incomplete on most of the documents for impounded animals. There were no medical records available for animals that may have received veterinary medical treatment; and the method of euthanasia, including the dosages by weight and the route of injection, was not being recorded in the animal’s final disposition record for the animals that had been euthanized.”

“When the owner’s identification or other form of identification that could be traced back to the owner was found on an animal picked up by Linden Animal Control Officers, no records were available to indicate that notification was being served by the Animal Control Officers to the owners or persons charged with the care of the animal that the animal had been seized and would be liable to be offered for adoption or euthanized if not claimed within seven days after service of the notice.”

“The facility did not have a certificate of inspection issued by the local health authority showing compliance with these rules. There was no documentation at the facility indicating that the facility was licensed to operate as required under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8. The application for licensure shall be accompanied by the written approval of the local municipal and health authorities showing compliance with the local and State rules and regulations governing the location of and sanitation at such establishment. This facility was not in compliance with State rules and regulations at the time of this inspection, which is a prerequisite for licensing.”

“There were two dogs at the facility that were not impounded animals, but were said to be owned by municipal or other employees. One dog was being housed at the facility for long term boarding, but there were no records or other identifying information for the dog or the employee. Another dog was said to be surrendered by its owner and the owner was a Department of Transportation employee. There was no owner information for this dog on the animal’s ticket and there were no other records available for this dog. This facility was not licensed as a boarding kennel at the time of this inspection. The facility has eleven dog enclosures available to house impounded animals for five municipalities, including Linden. One of these enclosures was being used to store the scale for animal euthanasia, and two other’s housed employee’s dogs, and one enclosure housed a dog being held under a court order, leaving seven available enclosures to house impounded animals.”

“The housing facilities for animals were not maintained in good repair, to protect the animals from injury, to contain the animals, and to restrict the entrance of other animals. The soffit panels over the exterior dog enclosures had fallen down and the attic roof space was exposed. This space was large enough to allow wildlife and other animals to enter the building.”

“There were holes in the ceiling of the cat room; one appeared to be for a pipe which had been removed and one was a framed access opening with no panel with which to cover it. This access opening in the ceiling of the cat room was large enough to allow easy escape into the attic space and out of the building through the fallen soffit panels over the exterior dog enclosures. A portion of records that were reviewed documented that ten cats had escaped from the facility within a 16 week period.”

“There was a hole in the wall in the cat room with a white PVC pipe in it that led directly to the outside of the facility and was large enough for rats and other small animals to enter and exit freely. There was a hole in the floor in the cat room which could have originally been some type of drain, but its function was unable to be determined. This hole was not covered and contained an accumulation of cat litter, food, and other waste material.”

“The exterior concrete slab under and surrounding the steel posts which were supporting the roof of the facility was crumbling and the steel posts were severely rusted and deteriorated. The cinder blocks of the lower section of the interior and exterior wall of the building which were surrounding the guillotine doors inside the dog enclosures were separating and the blocks were showing signs of deterioration. The cinder blocks at the end of the wall of the building in the exterior dog enclosures were separating outward from the top of the wall, creating a diminishing gap from top to bottom along the blocks in a step pattern. The steel access door to the underground concrete utility or valve box where the pipe clean outs were located was severely rusted and the hinges were rusted into a position that prevented the lid from closing completely.”

“There was a mop bucket and string mop attached to a severely rusted mop handle that was sitting outside in front of this green metal structure. This bucket was filled with dirty water and appeared to have not been used for some time and was creating a harborage for mosquitos and other water breeding insects.”

“Although the main entrance gate was locked on the morning of this inspection, the exterior door to the main indoor housing area of the facility was ajar and the facility was left unlocked when the animal control officer left the facility. There were no other employees or volunteers at the facility at that time.”

“Inside the building there was an accumulation of food, fur, dirt, and other materials under cat cages, between the filing cabinet and refrigerator, around and behind the utility sink, around and behind the furnace and the base of the wall, and there was a buildup of dirt on the floors in front of the furnace and other areas throughout the facility. There were cobwebs and debris around the wiring that passed through the walls below the ceiling and there were cobwebs and debris around the open bags of food and other items stored in the cat room.”

“The oil furnace had a large rusted area above the oil burner assembly. The facility had working air conditioning at the time of this inspection, but the Health Officer said the unit has to be watched because it was not working properly; it freezes up and the unit shuts down. The unit needs to defrost before it can be started up again. The front panel for the oil furnace that was said to be missing was found during the inspection, but the screws to attach it to the front of the furnace were missing.”

“The concrete flooring in the cat room was in disrepair and was not smooth in many areas and was not easily cleaned and disinfected. The interior and exterior surfaces, including the doors of the cat enclosures were rusted and peeling and unable to be properly cleaned and disinfected.”

“Surfaces of the indoor and outdoor dog enclosures were severely deteriorating, had cracks and chunks of broken concrete in some areas, and the multiple layers of paint on these surfaces had peeled off and the surfaces were not impervious to moisture and able to be readily cleaned and disinfected. There were numerous areas of unsealed concrete that was not impervious to moisture and was unable to be disinfected. The plastic dog beds used inside the enclosures were scratched and chewed in some areas and had crevices that were unable to be properly cleaned and disinfected.”

The State of the State of New Jersey’s Animal Shelters

New Jersey’s animal shelters are largely failing the animals under their care. While New Jersey’s kill/euthanasia rates decreased modestly in recent years, many animals are still losing their lives in the state’s animal shelters.

High Kill Rates Despite Few Animals Brought into New Jersey’s Animal Shelters

New Jersey animal shelters take in far fewer animals than many shelters across the country. Based on the New Jersey Department of Heath’s 2012 Animal Intake and Disposition report, New Jersey shelters impounded approximately 10 animals per 1000 people. The Humane Society of the United States says the average community in the country takes in 30 animals per 1000 people. Additionally, New Jersey’s intake numbers are certainly lower since the Animal Intake and Disposition Report double counts animals impounded from one New Jersey animal shelter and transferred to another New Jersey animal shelter. For instance, the per capita intake rate of several large northern New Jersey animal control shelters is only 5-8 dogs and cats per 1000 people.

Thanks to New Jersey’s long time low-cost spay-neuter program and relatively cold climate (i.e reduces length of breeding season) New Jersey’s shelters take in few animals. While many spay/neuter advocates point to New Hampshire’s subsidized spay/neuter program as the solution to shelter killing, New Jersey started its program 10 years before New Hampshire. Despite this program’s existence for 30 years, 15% of all dogs and nearly half of all cats are killed in New Jersey’s animal shelters. In reality, the death rate of New Jersey shelter dogs and cats is higher due to:

1) Double counting of some transferred animals from one New Jersey animal shelter to another

2) Large numbers of highly adoptable transported dogs from out-of-state masking the local animal kill rate

3) Number of animals dying in shelters are not counted in above figures

In fact, kill rates at some New Jersey animal shelters are eye-opening. For example, the state’s largest animal shelter, Associated Humane Societies, reported 2,628 cats killed, died, or went missing in their 2012 Shelter/Pound Annual Reports submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health.  To put it another way, 69% of all the cats who had an outcome at Associated Humane Societies 3 animal shelters lost their lives or cannot be accounted for in 2012. At Ron’s Animal Shelter in Salem County, 73% of all dogs and 87% of all cats who had an outcome were killed in 2012. At the Paterson and Trenton Animal Shelters, 38% and 54% of dogs who had outcomes in 2012 were killed, respectively. Thus, many animals simply have little chance after entering many of the state’s animal shelters.

By comparison, over 200 communities across the country are saving 90% or more of the animals impounded into their shelters. For example, cities, such as Reno, Nevada with a per capita intake rate of 38 dogs and cats per 1000 people saved 94% of their animals in 2012.  The Austin, Texas region’s coalition of shelters and rescues, with a human population of 1,024,000 saves approximately 92% of its animals despite taking in roughly three and half times as many animals per capita as New Jersey’s animal shelters. These shelters are implementing widely known and proven policies to achieve this success. Why are so many New Jersey shelters failing to do so?

Shelters With Lots of Funding Not Leading the Way to Success

New Jersey has several well-funded animal welfare groups who are not doing what it takes to end the unnecessary loss of lives in the state. When a shelter receives millions of dollars in donations and animal control contract fees, this group needs to lead. Unfortunately, we see many organizations sticking with backwards policies or simply choosing to stay silent about the poorly performing shelters across the state. In some cases, these well-funded shelters actively fight life saving policies. These animal shelters need to ensure their animals make it out alive and strongly advocate for positive change.

Old School Pounds Still Thrive in New Jersey

In this day and age, folks would be shocked that old-school pounds still exist in New Jersey. In reality, many facilities only keep animals for the mandatory 7 day holding period for strays (and less for owner-surrenders). At the end of the hold period, these animals are usually either killed or if lucky pulled by a rescue. Adoptions are uncommon in these facilities since:

1) They do not post dogs online

2) Facilities often not open due to animal control officer out picking up animals or simply having limited hours

These truly are catch and kill old school pounds.

Shelters Never Giving Dogs a Chance

We noticed a disturbing trend where shelters never give dogs a chance to get adopted. Many times shelters deliberately misuse temperament tests to kill dogs. Other times shelters conveniently do not have enough behavioral evaluators/profile writers to get the dogs marketed online before the pets are killed. These shelters then highlight the chosen few who are helped. If nobody knows a dog exists, how can the someone complain if it is killed?  In reality, 10%, and more likely 5% or fewer dogs should have severe untreatable behavioral problems.

Limited Admission No-Kill Shelters and Rescues Turning Their Back on Local Animals

Many limited admission shelters bring in large numbers of dogs into New Jersey from other states.  In addition, many rescues who do not have a physical shelter and are not included in the statistics above are also bringing large numbers of animals from out-of-state. Anecdotally, many of these dogs seem to be medium to large-sized breeds who directly compete with the dogs being killed in New Jersey’s shelters. Apparently, the once plentiful supply of small breeds from southern shelters are no longer available and easy to adopt puppies from large breeds are being brought into the state.

How many dogs are being transported? Based on the Shelter/Pound Annual reports of 5 rescue oriented shelters out of 105 shelters statewide, 1,045 dogs were brought into New Jersey. In Connecticut, state officials determined 14,138 dogs were transported from primarily southern states which is nearly 4 animals per 1000 people. If these numbers are similar in New Jersey, 40% of our animals and probably close to half of the adoptable dogs would be transports. Thus, these transports are significantly competing with New Jersey’s local dogs and undoubtedly displacing many of our local dogs resulting in less New Jersey dogs making it out of shelters alive.

The logic many of these groups use does not hold up to scrutiny. Many rescuers will say “a life saved is a life saved no matter where it came from.” Unfortunately, the fallacy with this argument is that we are not killing because rescuers are not saving enough animals. Animals are dying because of the policies and choices made by people running shelters. If shelters facing far more difficult circumstances than New Jersey shelters are ending the killing,  then New Jersey shelters are not doing a good enough job. If rescuers help local shelters achieve no-kill status (saving 90% + of all animals), it puts enormous pressure on other local shelters to perform better. Donors and concerned citizens want their shelters to succeed and the money will flow to those shelters who make the grade. Eventually the poorly performing shelter directors will shape up or ship out. Imagine what the pressure on other state’s high kill shelters would be if New Jersey became a no-kill state? It can be done and we just need to come together to make that happen.

Trend Towards Reduced Funding for New Jersey Animal Control Shelters

In recent years many communities entered into arrangements to reduce animal control and sheltering costs. The 2010 property tax cap law, which limits municipality property tax increases to 2% each year, likely facilitated this phenomenon. Unfortunately, homeless animals are often at the bottom of municipal budget priorities and this trend is not positive for New Jersey’s homeless animals.

Animal Welfare Activists Need to Take on Poorly Performing Shelters

Unfortunately, many in the animal welfare world blame the public for shelter killing instead of the shelter leaders who are responsible for it. You will see things like “if only everyone spayed/neutered their pets” or “we just need a breeding ban” then we wouldn’t have any shelters killing savable animals. While these specific arguments can be addressed individually, the simple answer is communities with a far more irresponsible public have ended the killing. We can do it by simply following proven policies to get there. To get those policies in place, we need to inspire, persuade, and pressure those in charge to do so.