Associated Humane Societies-Newark Violates State Law and the New Jersey and Newark Health Departments Look the Other Way

Newark has long had severe problems with Associated Humane Societies-Newark. Over 50 years ago, the modern form of AHS-Newark began with a corrupt contract that a court threw out and resulted in AHS long-time Executive Director, Lee Bernstein, being sentenced to jail. In 2003, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation issued a scathing report on AHS that found the organization raising massive amounts of money and failing to properly care for their animals. Over the years, state health department inspectors uncovered horrific problems and former Mayor Cory Booker tried to build a new no kill shelter to replace AHS-Newark. I published blogs about how the shelter killed massive numbers of Newark animals and broke state law left and right.

The New Jersey Department of Health found horrific problems at AHS-Newark in 2017. You can read the August 22, 2017 inspection here, the September 26, 2017 inspection here and the October 20, 2017 inspection report here. Overall, the problems were so severe that authorities charged former Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, with animal cruelty. Ultimately, the prosecutor and Roseann Trezza entered into an agreement in May 2018 to supposedly bar Ms. Trezza from the Newark shelter for two years and make her pay a $3,500 fine in exchange for dismissing the charges.

After the October 20, 2017 New Jersey Department of Health inspection, the state health department stopped inspecting AHS-Newark. As I documented at that time, the City of Newark and its health department inadequately inspected the shelter for years and tried to sweep the problems under the rug. In fact, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness reported few to no issues around the same times the state health department found massive problems in the past and in 2017.

The Department of Health and Community Wellness official overseeing the AHS-Newark inspection process uncovered the City of Newark’s intentions in 2017. Specifically, Michael Wlison, City of Newark Manager of Environmental Health, stated a “feasibility study” found it was cheaper for the City of Newark to contract with AHS-Newark than to build and operate their own shelter. Additionally, Michael Wilson mentioned unnamed “political issues” in what seemed as a justification to keep contracting with AHS-Newark.

Ultimately, the City of Newark did not pursue operating its own shelter. After Newark and AHS-Newark had a significant contract dispute in March 2018, AHS-Newark stopped providing any services during a second dispute in November 2018. Subsequently, AHS-Newark contracted with St. Hubert’s for around six months. St. Hubert’s terminated its arrangement with Newark citing “financial hardship” in April 2019 and the City of Newark contracted again with AHS-Newark at around a 50% higher monthly cost than its previous arrangement with the shelter.

Has AHS-Newark improved since this time? Is the New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness ensuring AHS-Newark follows state law and treats animals properly?

Data Reviewed

To get a better understanding of the job the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness did at inspecting AHS-Newark, I submitted an Open Public Records Request for all AHS-Newark inspection reports conducted from January 1, 2019 until early September 2020. The City of Newark sent me a number of inspection reports, emails and AHS-Newark records. You can see all the records at this link.

Overall, the inspection reports were of poor quality. Specifically, the inspectors frequently reacted to complaints and did not proactively inspect the shelter for other problems. Additionally, the inspectors did not even take the time to type out their findings. Instead, they appeared to just quickly write down a few notes that were often difficult to read. Additionally, it was often impossible to determine which set of inspection report notes related to which specific inspection. Thus, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness continued to do a poor job at inspecting AHS-Newark.

City of Newark’s Poor Quality Inspections Still Find Problems in 2019

Michael Wilson inspected AHS-Newark on April 15, 2019 and gave the shelter a Conditional A grade. As you can see, the inspection only took a mere one hour and 15 minutes and noted an isolation room violation. Unfortunately, I could not find any accompanying notes detailing the nature of the violations.

While I could not determine if the inspection notes below were from the April 15, 2019 inspection, they did lay out some serious issues. AHS-Newark again had food debris, which can lead to rodent infestations, a broken baseboard, an unsanitary isolation room in the shelter’s infamous basement, had a dirty area with dead animals and also failed to finish the required painting in the facility. Thus, even the inept Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness found serious problems.

Miraculously, Michael Wilson came back to the shelter eight days later and gave the shelter a “Satisfactory” grade with no comments in the inspection report provided to me.

Newark Health Department Finds Massive Problems in 2020

After receiving a complaint on January 6, 2020, Michael Wilson inspected the shelter three days later. The complaint alleged the shelter had a foul odor, unsanitary conditions and cats having upper respiratory infections. During the inspection, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness found the shelter had a “strong animal odor”, all the main dog kennels required painting/stripping and pigeons inside the facility. Mr. Wilson ordered the shelter to separate dogs and cats to reduce stress (i.e. cats are a prey to dogs and cats understandably are scared in such an environment) and get more volunteers to provide mental stimulation to the animals.

In February 2020, the New Jersey Department of Health received multiple complaints about a serious disease in a dog that died at AHS-Newark and the shelter imposing a quarantine in part of the facility. Instead of inspecting AHS-Newark, the New Jersey Department of Health inspector, Linda Frese, told the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness to investigate and ensure there was no outbreak at the shelter and in the community.

Once again, Michael Wilson conducted a reactionary and low quality inspection on February 19, 2020. In the report, Mr. Wilson noted AHS-Newark had 284 dogs and 359 cats at the facility. This was a dramatic increase from the 117 dogs and 49 cats the shelter had in the April 15, 2019 inspection report. Therefore, the risk of a disease outbreak was much greater. Despite this, the inspector only noted a fire inspection violation. Mr. Wilson did not even provide an inspection grade nor write down when he completed the inspection to let us know how long this inspection was.

The inspection report comments raise serious question about the job Michael Wilson did. Mr. Wilson obtained an “Interim Report” from Cornell University that showed the deceased dog had a “Moderate Positive” result for Coronavirus PCR and “High Positive PCR, Beta” for Mycoplasma cynos. The report stated these were preliminary results and additional testing was in progress. While Michael Wilson’s inspection report comments stated he was waiting for final results, the City of Newark did not provide them to me. Thus, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness did not appear to obtain the final report.

The inspection report comments also showed no proactive efforts in this inspection. Basically, Mr. Wilson reiterated the Cornell University preliminary report’s findings. Additionally, he wrote some quick notes about cleaning protocols, but they seemed more like what the shelter told him rather than him actually observing the staff. For example, the report states the shelter cleaned daily, but then cleaned more after receiving the preliminary report. However, Mr. Wilson could not obtain a cleaning log to verify that claim. Also, I also found it a bit unusual that the shelter stated it got a new supervising veterinarian on the very day this sick dog died in his cage. Thus, I did not get a warm fuzzy feeling after reading this shoddy inspection report.

Massive Problems Emerge Recently

The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected AHS-Newark after receiving a complaint about cats at the shelter on August 10, 2020. During this inspection, Michael Wilson, who apparently got a promotion to Chief REHS, assigned another person to inspect the shelter. Based on the inspector’s report and email to Michael Wilson, the inspector simply talked with Assistant Executive Director, Ken McKeel, and the shelter manager, reviewed “some med records” and hardly did anything else.

Despite this being an inadequate inspection, the report noted 60 under 8 week kittens died of Feline panleukopenia. According to the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, Feline panleukopenia is a devastating disease that “causes vomiting, diarrhea, and can cause sudden death in cats”, is transmitted through cat feces or poop and can last in a shelter for months or even years without proper disinfection. The virus is transmitted primarily by the fecal-oral route (including through exposure to objects/clothing/hands contaminated with virus from feces). FPV is very durable and can persist in the environment for months or even years unless inactivated by an effective disinfectant. However, the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program also states its very preventable through common sense measures:

Although panleukopenia can be a scary and potentially devastating disease in a shelter, reliable vaccination on intake, effective routine cleaning with a parvocidal disinfectant, and housing that minimizes fomite transmission will greatly reduce the risk of spread. With new tools for diagnosis and risk assessment, even outbreaks can generally be managed without resorting to depopulation.

Even though AHS-Newark was clearly not following these disease prevention and control guidelines, the wonderful Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspector simply stated management was doing things to minimize this disease. The inspector made some general comments about vaccination protocols, cleaning and isolating animals. Nothing in the report indicates they observed the shelter doing these things, obtained the specific detailed protocols from the supervising veterinarian and observed all the shelter’s cats for signs of disease. However, the report noted AHS-Newark had over 400 cats (up from 49 cats and 284 cats from other inspections) and 589 other animals in the building. Based on AHS-Newark’s 2019 Shelter/Pound Annual Report, the shelter’s cat capacity is 300 cats and 275 dogs and other animals. In other words, the shelter exceeded its cat capacity by over 33% and its dog and other animal capacity by almost 100%. Thus, AHS-Newark was at high risk of disease outbreaks.

The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspection did little to reduce AHS-Newark’s issues as complaints poured into the New Jersey Department of Health. In a September 2, 2020 email from New Jersey Department of Health inspector, Linda Frese, Ms. Frese stated the shelter received “a few extensive complaints regarding the current conditions at the Associated Humane Societies in Newark.” Specifically, Ms. Frese mentioned cats dying from Feline panleukopenia, animals not being properly identified, the shelter cleaning with animals in their cages that resulted in chemical burns, animals not receiving proper medical care and the shelter possibly not having a required supervising veterinarian. Additionally, AHS-Newark was alleged to not have air conditioning in its ACO vans that potentially caused a dog to die last August.

At the end of the email, Linda Frese requested they have a conference call to discuss the complaints. What was Michael Wilson’s response just twenty minutes later? Three words: “Will investigate ASAP.”

Clearly, Linda Frese was alarmed at this response as she laid out a detailed email stating all the things the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness should look for. Additionally, Ms. Frese asked Michael Wilson to have his inspectors check “all the hidden rooms throughout the facility.” After reading this email, I got the impression Linda Frese did not trust Michael Wilson’s inspectors to do the job correctly.

In response, Michael Wilson sent one of his inspectors in and they once again did a reactive and poor quality inspection. First, the inspector did not even complete an inspection report. Instead, they just listed out the New Jersey Department of Health’s areas to investigate and wrote mostly one or two sentence responses. Once again, the inspector often relied on AHS-Newark’s assertions. For example, the inspector simply accepted management’s word that 1) animals are removed from cages during deep cleaning, 2) all the animal control vans have air conditioning despite multiple allegations that these vehicles don’t and one dog died and another dog became seriously ill in one of these vehicles and 3) that animals are euthanized humanely. Thus, this was another inadequate inspection.

Despite the poor quality inspection, the report still found numerous violations of state animal shelter laws. The shelter admitted more kittens died the night before which could indicate violations of N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9 (c) that requires animals be observed daily for illness and receive prompt treatment. AHS-Newark also didn’t know the amount of water and disinfectant used in its solutions to clean cages. Obviously, the correct ratio of water to disinfectant in these solutions is critical to ensure proper disinfection and safety for the animals (i.e. avoid chemical burns, breathing in chemicals, etc.). Clearly, the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.8 (c) that states shelters must clean with “all soiled surfaces with a detergent solution followed by a safe and effective disinfectant.” The shelter also violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.6 and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.8 by not taking animals out of their cages during cleaning and allowing the animals to be in the enclosures while they were still wet. Also, AHS-Newark did not have hand drying paper which also violates N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.8 (d) that states “Premises (buildings and grounds) shall be kept clean and in good repair in order to protect the animals from injury and disease, to facilitate the prescribed sanitary practices as set forth in these rules, and to prevent nuisances.” AHS-Newark also had numerous cats with no identification cards (i.e. how can the shelter know the medical history of animals and provide treatment if it can’t tell which cats are which). This violates N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13 which requires the shelter have accurate records of each animal.

The inspection report indicates AHS-Newark may have violated the humane euthanasia regulations in N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11. AHS-Newark records did not show it weighing animals to ensure it gave sufficient sedatives and euthanasia drug doses. Similarly, the euthanasia records did not indicate the shelter used the required humane injection method (typically intravenous). Additionally, the shelter provided no documentation that individuals who were not veterinarians were properly certified to humanely euthanize animals. Finally, AHS-Newark provided no documentation that it confirmed euthanized animals lacked a heartbeat, pulse, respiration and eye movement to ensure the animals were in fact dead before they was disposed of or cremated. Thus, AHS-Newark’s records indicate it may have violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11.

Subsequently, Michael Wilson stated AHS-Newark had several of these violations. In addition, Mr. Wilson said AHS-Newark broke the law by not reporting bites to the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness.

Miraculously, Michael Wilson’s inspectors visited AHS-Newark the next day and jotted down a few messy handwritten sentences stating the shelter fixed the violations. Furthermore, the inspectors gave AHS-Newark a “Satisfactory” grade despite the report indicating the inspectors did not do a full inspection. Does anyone in their right mind believe AHS-Newark should have a “Satisfactory” rating?

Subsequently, the New Jersey Department of Health’s Deputy State Public Health Veterinarian (i.e. Linde Frese’s boss) told Michael Wilson to investigate a case of a Shih-tzu dog alleged to have its coat matted with maggots and to not have received medical care for days. In fact, the complaint alleged the infection was bad enough that it could require a veterinarian to amputate the leg. This dog allegedly arrived at AHS-Newark on the very day the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness last inspected AHS-Newark and gave it a “Satisfactory” grade. Interestingly, Michael Wilson forwarded this email to two of his inspectors stating he wanted them to jointly inspect AHS-Newark. In my opinion, this seems like he lacked confidence in his inspectors to individually do the job right.

The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspected AHS-Newark the very next day and found everything hunky dory. Specifically, the inspectors saw the dog and the animal had his/her wound treated with pain medicine and an antibiotic. The shelter’s records indicated the dog came in on September 11, 2010, which was a day after the September 10, 2020 date the person making the complaint stated. While the inspector did review the shelter’s intake records for September 10, 2020, I don’t think the inspector can rely on such records given AHS-Newark’s repeated inability to keep accurate records. In other words, if the dog really came in on September 10, 2020 (i.e. if AHS-Newark did not enter the animal into its records until September 11, 2020) and did not receive treatment until the next day, AHS-Newark would have violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(d) 1 that requires prompt veterinary care to relieve pain and suffering. Thus, the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness once again relied on AHS-Newark’s assertions instead of thoroughly inspecting the shelter.

New Jersey Department of Health Fails to Do its Job

Twenty one years ago the New Jersey Commission of Investigation’s first report on the state and county SPCAs analyzed the animal shelter inspection system. You can read this report starting on page 126 of this link. In summary, the report found local health departments did not properly inspect animal shelters.

The rules and regulations governing the operation and conditions of shelters are contained in a document entitled Sanitary Operation of Kennels, Pet Shops, Shelters and Pounds, which was promulgated by the state DOH. Generally, it is acknowledged that the rules and regulations are adequate, but that they are not enforced vigorously. It is evident that the thoroughness of the inspection, the findings of deficiencies and the ultimate rating of the facility are dependent upon the discretion, thoroughness and skill of the inspector. As candidly admitted by one local inspector who had not conducted thorough and probing inspections, he simply had lacked the training and experience to perform anything more than a perfunctory visit. Based upon an examination of the inspection system, inspections and the effectiveness of the system vary greatly.

The New Jersey Commission of Investigation clearly described how the state health department did much better inspections than local health departments.

There were also differences in the types of inspections that were conducted by state officials versus state inspectors and by state versus local personnel. With rare exception, the inspections conducted by state DOH officials were more thorough and more likely to cite violations than those conducted by state DOH inspectors. Examples appear below in the inspections of the Cape May County and Hudson County SPCA shelters. Where SPCA shelters were problematic, the inspections conducted by the state DOH were more thorough and consistent than those conducted by the local authorities. As evidenced by the inspection findings for the Cape May County and Hudson County SPCA shelters, more thorough inspections were performed and significant violations cited when state officials visited the shelters.

Furthermore, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation explained how local health departments (e.g. the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness) often did not want to identify problems due to the difficulty in finding an alternative shelter. In fact, they cited Jersey City’s Hudson County SPCA. Subsequent to the New Jersey Commission of Investigation’s report, Jersey City did find a facility for the newly formed Liberty Humane Society to operate and handle the city’s homeless animals.

The Commission was told that the dilemma perceived by local inspecting authorities in dealing with any shelter that is constantly in violation is that there is no realistic alternative facility if the shelter is shut down. Clearly, this was the situation with the licensing of the Hudson County SPCA shelter, despite the persistent and serious problems found there.

In the early 1990s, the state health department had more staff and was more focused on animal shelter inspections. As the New Jersey Commission of Investigation report explains, the state health department inspected every animal shelter once every two years. Based on the number of animal shelters in New Jersey today, that would amount to around 45 to 50 inspections each year. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health would spend time going over the issues with the local health departments.

The role of the state DOH in conducting shelter inspections has changed dramatically over the past decade. At the beginning of the 1990s, the department’s Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases Program had more staff and its focus was considerably more narrow than it is today. There were four field veterinary technicians who inspected shelters once every two years, in addition to a coordinator who occasionally conducted inspections. Typically, joint inspections with the local health official were conducted, and the DOH inspector spent time reviewing procedures and pertinent issues with the local authority.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the New Jersey Department of Health conducted far fewer inspections. As a result of budget cuts, the department had fewer staff and were responsible for more things. The state health department stopped inspecting shelters proactively and only responded to certain complaints. In fact, just as the New Jersey Department of Health is currently doing with AHS-Newark and other shelters, it often just referred the problems to incompetent local health departments. Nonetheless, the state health department’s animal shelter inspection function, which had three people, conducted six shelter inspections in 1999. As a comparison, the New Jersey Department of Health’s animal shelter inspection team has two members currently, and hasn’t inspected a single shelter in almost two years. In fact, the New Jersey Department of Health has not inspected any shelter other than Hamilton Township Animal Shelter since October 21, 2017 (i.e. about three years). Thus, the New Jersey Department of Health is doing an even worse job now than it did twenty one years ago when the New Jersey Commission of Investigation wrote its scathing criticism of the agency.

Commencing in about 1994, as department budgets were cut throughout state government and positions were eliminated through attrition, the program’s staff was reduced drastically. Currently, the program is not only responsible for many more areas of the public health, but its staff consists merely of the State Public Health Veterinarian, the Senior Public Health Veterinarian and one field veterinary technician. The routine, biannual inspection has been replaced by a reactive inspection, which occurs only when substantive complaints are received. The DOH, which is besieged by numerous complaints daily, dismisses many complaints because it lacks jurisdiction over the matter alleged and routinely refers complainants to the local health office even when it has jurisdiction. In 1999, the DOH conducted approximately six shelter inspections and only three as of August 2000.

The New Jersey Commission of Investigation report also criticized the state health department for failing to fine shelters for violations. While the individual fines of $5-$50 per violation are small, they can add up if the infractions involve many animals and exist for many days. At a minimum, fines can send the message the shelter must improve. As in the past, the New Jersey Department of Health failed to fine AHS-Newark for its repeated violations or even pressure the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness to close AHS-Newark down. Given the New Jersey Department of Health did fine the East Orange Animal Shelter $4,000 in 2015 (the shelter has significantly improved since then) and asked and got the Linden Health Department to close Linden Animal Control in 2014, the state health department can take positive action. However, the New Jersey Department of Health has simply chose to do nothing in recent years.

However, the DOH does possess the statutory authority to institute enforcement proceedings to assess fines against a shelter. According to DOH officials, this remedy is reserved for only the most egregious cases. The department’s clear preference has been to bring a facility into compliance through recommendations, technical assistance and frequent reinspections. Its reluctance to institute enforcement proceedings is reflected in the facts that it has imposed sanctions only twice in the past 15 years or more and that both cases were instituted in 2000, the first at the insistence of the Attorney General’s Office and the second on DOH’s initiative.

The New Jersey Commission of Investigation severely criticized the state and local health departments coddling approach to regressive shelters twenty one years ago. Specifically, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation stated the health departments, who were doing far more then than now, must issue large fines to regressive shelters and close those facilities if they choose to not fix their problems. Most notably, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation clearly said municipalities must take over these shelters or find other ones to use.

The approach of the state Department of Health to counsel and advise a shelter’s management on how to remedy the violations and improve the conditions is admirable. However, such an approach is effective only when the management is amenable to making the improvements. When it becomes clear that such an approach is unsuccessful, then the department must be aggressive in pursuing legal proceedings. The language threatening enforcement proceedings, which typically appears in letters from the department to a shelter’s management, must be more than mere words. The failure to follow through leads to a loss of credibility for the department and reinforces the cavalier attitude of the shelter’s management. The inspecting and licensing authorities on the local level must conduct themselves in similar fashion. In the event of mounting fines and continued lack of responsiveness by shelter management, the municipality must be prepared to assume control of the shelter or entrust its operation to a suitable alternative.

The New Jersey Commission of Investigation repeated its conclusions about the inspection system in a scathing report on AHS-Newark in 2003. You can read that report here. The report made the following conclusion:

The history of AHS’s shelter operation has been dominated by deplorable kennel conditions, inhumane treatment of animals by workers, mismanagement and nonexistent or inadequate medical care. The problems were neither singular nor occasional. The accounts and descriptions provided by members of the public and former and current staff members, including veterinarians, paint a bleak picture of shelter life. The reality for the animals belied AHS’s propaganda that its “sole purpose” has been “the care and welfare of animals” and that it has “a high adoption rate.”

As a result of the New Jersey Commission of Investigation’s reports on the SPCAs and AHS, the state formed the Office of Animal Welfare and a large group of stakeholders, which was formed by an Executive Order from Governor McGreevey, issued the Animal Welfare Task Force Report in 2004. The report recommended local health authorities conduct at least two annual inspections (not counting those relating to complaints) of shelters. Additionally, the Animal Welfare Task Force report said the state health department should inspect every animal shelter at least once a year.

Local health departments should inspect each animal facility a minimum of two times per year (inspections conducted in response to complaints should not count for this purpose). DHSS should supplement local oversight by inspecting each facility at least once each year

As a result of the report’s recommendations, the Office of Animal Welfare had a staff of five people to inspect animal shelters that was in addition to the New Jersey Department of Health’s inspection staff. After a couple of years, the Office of Animal Welfare only had two staff left and they were merged into the New Jersey Department of Health’s inspection team. Based on conversations with a knowledgeable person, the two remaining Office of Animal Welfare staff conducted significantly more inspections of shelters, pet stores, etc. each year than the state health department does today. Sadly, the New Jersey Department of Health did not replace these inspectors when they left a number of years later.

Despite the New Jersey Department of Health having less personnel, I found the state health department was somewhat responsive to complaints when I began NJ Animal Observer in 2014. The New Jersey Department of Health’s inspections over this time and the results are listed below.

Even with the limited actions the state health department took, the inspections often had some positive impact on shelters (i.e. closing regressive facilities down and/or getting rid of bad management). With the strong animal advocacy community in New Jersey and the power of social media, these terrible inspection reports became known to many people. In addition, print and/or television media also often ran stories on these inspections. Thus, even with the New Jersey Department of Health doing little more than inspecting animal shelters, the impact often was significant.

As the timeline of state health department inspections shows, the New Jersey Department of Health started inspecting far fewer shelters after the 2017 AHS-Newark inspections and stopped inspecting altogether after its January 2019 Hamilton Township Animal Shelter inspection. In the last two years, numerous people have asked the New Jersey Department of Health to inspect shelters after making serious allegations. Also, staffing cannot explain the state health department’s refusal to inspect as it has the same number of inspectors over the entire time period above (i.e. 2014 to 2020). Thus, there is no substantive reason why the New Jersey Department of Health stopped inspecting animal shelters.

Clearly, the New Jersey Department of Health’s refusal to inspect animal shelters has had dire results for the animals at AHS-Newark and other regressive shelters. As the information above shows, AHS-Newark’s problems not only remain, they may be getting worse. The inspection reports indicate animals piling up in the shelter and rampant disease outbreaks. As of the time I’m writing this blog, AHS-Newark stopped adopting out dogs and sending dogs to rescues due to canine parvovirus at the shelter. In fact, the public’s frustration has grown to the point where shelter reform bill S636 includes a provision requiring the state health department to inspect every animal shelter three times a year. Given the ongoing problems at one of the state’s largest animal shelters, Governor Murphy and New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Persichilli must provide an explanation as to why the state health department has not performed its job, make the New Jersey Department of Health inspect animal shelters, particularly those with repeated major problems, and take the actions the New Jersey Commission of Investigation and Animal Welfare Task Force demanded they do in 1999, 2003 and 2004.

North Jersey Humane Society’s Horrible Inspection Report Exposes a Fake No Kill Organization

Last year, many people applauded Bloomfield’s decision to accept Bergen County Humane Enforcement’s and Bergen Protect and Rescue’s bid to run the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. After years of problems with the Bloomfield Department of Health and Human Services’ running of the animal shelter, which included banning virtually all volunteers and prohibiting a well-known trainer from keeping a dog with very minor behavioral problems, people were understandably eager to welcome an organization stating it would run a no kill shelter. Given Vincent Ascolese’s charismatic personality and him saying all the right things during a presentation to the town, one could hardly blame people for cheering Bloomfield’s decision to hire this organization.

Personally, I was very skeptical of Bergen County Humane Enforcement and North Jersey Humane Society, which was formed to run the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. First and foremost, I knew Vincent Ascolese, who is the Director of both Bergen Protect and Rescue and North Jersey Humane Society and the Supervising Animal Control Officer, previously brought animals from Hudson County to the horrific Jersey Animal Coalition. Second, Vincent Ascolese’s shelters contract with a for profit animal control company with a checkered history in Hudson County.

I was extremely disappointed when my spouse, my young child and I visited Bergen Protect and Rescue’s Cliffside Park shelter. The facility was extremely small and cramped and two people could barely pass each other through the tiny hallway inside the facility. After being ignored for 10 minutes by the the person in charge that day, we asked if we could see the dogs. This person told us no dogs were up for adoption at the facility and we had to make an appointment to see the animals even if they had any dogs up for adoption. The staff person’s claim seemed odd as many dogs were in a small area just around the corner from us. Even worse, the very next day I saw the shelter post one of the dogs I saw outside on their Facebook page as available for adoption. In addition, the staff person told us the adoption fee for an adult pit bull was over $300. While the staff person said we could drive to an adoption event the shelter was having that day, it was impractical as we did not know the area. Thus, my personal experience with this organization was not good.

Subsequently, I read about policies not consistent with well-run no kill animal control shelters. First, I saw high adoption fees on their web site (now the shelter does not even state what the fees are) which were consistent with the over $300 adoption fee communicated to us at the Cliffside Park shelter. The shelter’s web site states it may take up to a week to adopt an animal resulting in reduced lifesaving and potential overcrowding. Additionally, the Cliffside Park shelter transports many dogs in from out of state despite having what seemed like a very undersized facility. Not surprisingly, my analyses of the Cliffside Park facility’s 2013 performance showed the shelter only adopted out 35% of the number of dogs and 33% of the number of cats the shelter should adopt out. Finally, I was concerned seeing North Jersey Humane Society adopts out at least some intact animals where the shelter refers the adopter to a low cost vet clinic participating in the state subsidized spay/neuter program (funding often runs out during the year resulting in significant delays for the discounted spay/neuter services). Typically, I only see poorly run pounds use this program rather than doing the surgeries themselves with the shelter’s veterinarian. Thus, North Jersey Humane Society’s polices were not consistent with those of well-run no kill animal control shelters.

Last week’s news about the NJ SPCA charging Vincent Ascolese with animal cruelty floored me. The NJ SPCA rightfully charged Mr. Ascolese with 14 counts of animal cruelty for killing an injured deer fawn by slashing its neck with a knife and other issues with animal care at his facility. As bad as this news sounded, it paled in comparison to what I read in the recent New Jersey Department of Health inspection report of North Jersey Humane Society’s Bloomfield shelter.

Bloomfield and North Jersey Humane Society Allow Animals to Reside in a Dump

North Jersey Humane Society’s bid to perform animal sheltering services at the Bloomfield Animal Shelter required the town to bring the facility up to the standards of N.J.A.C. 8.23A. As a result, Bloomfield had a contractual obligation to ensure the building complied with the state law’s standards. Additionally, North Jersey Humane Society had a legal and moral obligation as the shelter operator to ensure the animals were housed in a safe facility.

The inspection report stated the facility was under construction and did not have the required permits. Additionally, the Bloomfield Department of Health and Human Services did not perform the required annual inspection and therefore the shelter did not have a license to operate.

The facility was occupied while under construction without evidence of local occupancy approvals and electrical, mechanical (HVAC), and building or construction permits.

The facility was not inspected by the local health authority for the current year and was not in compliance with these rules, and therefore, was not licensed at the time of this inspection.

Despite the shelter having many unsafe areas, North Jersey Humane Society housed animals in these conditions. The shelter kept dogs in a room without a ceiling with uncovered electrical wires and various dangerous items were hanging down from above.

The ceiling of the guillotine room was removed and was completely open to the rafters in the attic space. Dogs were being housed in this room at the time of this inspection. Electrical wires and junction boxes were exposed and hanging and were not properly secured as required; insulated ventilation ducts and other items were exposed and hanging down from the rafters (Pictures 2834 through 2836).

2834 2835 2836 (14)

North Jersey Humane Society left exposed screws adjacent to dog enclosures and the shelter’s entrance putting both people and animals at risk of injury.

There were boards with long protruding screws located on the ground near the entrance gate of the facility adjacent to an outdoor animal enclosure. These screws could cause injury to both animals and people (Picture 2829).

2829 (14)

The shelter had inadequate ventilation and smelled like urine. Furthermore, insufficient lighting prevented shelter staff from properly cleaning the animal enclosures resulting in a build up of feces and urine. North Jersey Humane Society apparently placed an outdoor animal enclosure on a surface that shelter staff cannot effectively disinfect. Furthermore, the town and North Jersey Humane Society did not repaint the surfaces of the outdoor animal enclosures and the staff could therefore not properly clean these kennels.

There was a strong, stale urine odor in the first animal enclosure room located next to the main office of the facility at the time of this inspection; the ventilation was not sufficient to remove odors as required.

The lighting in the facility was not sufficient to allow the viewing of all the interior surfaces of the animal enclosures to ensure that the enclosures had been cleaned and disinfected. The enclosures in the first animal enclosure room contained small pools of urine and small fragments of feces in the corners and bottom edges that had not been removed during the cleaning process. These corners and edges were unable to be viewed clearly due to the insufficient distribution of lighting in this room.

There was a chain link enclosure placed on the pavement in the driveway in front of the facility. This asphalt pavement was not impervious to moisture and not able to be readily cleaned and disinfected. This enclosure did not have any drains to contain and properly dispose of run off as required (Picture 2831).

The surfaces of the outdoor animal enclosures attached to the side of the building and accessible to the animals in these enclosures by a guillotine door were not impervious to moisture. These surfaces were originally painted, but the paint was peeling, and the surfaces were no longer impervious to moisture (Picture 2844).

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North Jersey Humane Society housed dogs in dangerous enclosures posing a risk of injury and possible death. The shelter left one dog in an outdoor enclosure without sufficient shade for two hours on a hot day in August and the inspector observed the dog drooling. Furthermore the dog bed in this enclosure was broken and had sharp exposed points. Another dog named Benny had a sharp metal wire that was in his cage.

The outdoor dog enclosure on the concrete slab in the driveway next to the entrance gate of the facility had a tarp type of material strapped to the top of the enclosure, but this tarp was not suitable to provide sufficient shade to avoid overheating or discomfort of the animals housed in this enclosure. ACO Stewart stated that the dog housed in this enclosure at the time of this inspection had been in the enclosure approximately two hours and the dog’s drooling was normal and not caused by overheating (Picture 2828).

A dog bed located in an outdoor enclosure near the entrance gate of the facility was broken and in need of repair. The bed contained metal triangle screw plates that had become separated from the frame. The points of the plate were exposed in an upward position and the legs of the bed were bent over (Picture 2828).

A small, thin, red coated dog named Benny was housed in an upper level enclosure in the annex room. The door of the enclosure had a wire that was bent over and protruding into the enclosure at the level of the dog that could cause injury (Picture 2856).



To make matters worse, the shelter housed two large Rottweilers in kennels that were approximately 30% smaller than required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.6 (b):

Two large Rottweilers at the facility at the time of this inspection were each housed in primary enclosures that provided approximately 10.34 square feet of floor space when measured from the inside of the enclosure. These dogs were estimated to be approximately 39 to 42 inches long and required approximately 14 to 16 square feet of floor space.

North Jersey Humane Society Fails to Properly Clean its Shelter

North Jersey Humane Society failed to use proper procedures to clean the shelter. Specifically, the shelter did not remove cat litter, hair and other debris from an enclosure holding multiple cats. The shelter did not use EPA registered cleaning products. Even worse, the facility did not have suitable measuring devices to ensure staff applied the proper concentration of disinfectants.

Cats were being placed in a three tier cat cage during the daily cleaning process. This enclosure was being sprayed down with a spray bottle and immediately wiped out with a towel between each cat, but this cage was not being disinfected as required. There was an accumulation of cat litter, hair, and other debris trapped in the wire along the edges of the resting benches and at the bottom of this wire enclosure that had not been removed, cleaned and disinfected between each cat during the cleaning process. Toys were also being sprayed with the contents of the spray bottle and immediately wiped off, without allowing the required contact time for disinfection.

The bleach that was being used on the day of this inspection was Clorox Scented, Spashless bleach, which is not an EPA registered disinfectant. Two small bottles of Clorox regular bleach were later found in the upstairs storage area.

The disinfectants used at the facility, sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach) and Accel (accelerated hydrogen peroxide), were not being used at the correct dilution for disinfecting animal contact surfaces. The Accel requires a dilution ratio of 8 ounces (one cup) per gallon of water and the chlorine bleach that was found in the upstairs storage area requires 4 ounces (one half cup) per gallon of water according to the instructions on the product labels for disinfection of smooth and impervious animal contact surfaces.

There were no suitable measuring devices being used at the time of this inspection. One capful of these products (said to be approximately one ounce of concentrated solution) was being mixed into a one and a half gallon sprayer that was labeled as “Bleach” (Picture 2857). The cages were said to be sprayed down with this solution, allowed to sit for approximately 10 minutes while other cages are being sprayed down, and then the cages are rinsed with a hose and the remaining water was removed with a squeegee. The cages were not manually scrubbed clean at any time during the cleaning process.


Furthermore, shelter staff stated they cleaned animal enclosures, but the inspector’s tape measure became covered with urine and feces when she was examining the cages.

The animal enclosures located in the first room of the facility near the office and main entrance to the facility were said to have been cleaned, but when a metal tape of a tape measure was placed in one of the upper cages while measuring the cage size, the length of tape became contaminated with urine and small bits of feces that remained inside of the cage after the cleaning process. The facility staff was not following proper cleaning and disinfection procedures to reduce disease hazards and odors caused by bacteria and other contaminants that remained on animal enclosure surfaces.

Finally, North Jersey Humane Society failed to use a proper cleaning solution to disinfect the animals’ food and water receptacles.

Food and water receptacles were being washed with a dishwashing liquid, rinsed and placed on a towel to dry, but they were not being disinfected daily as required. ACO Ascolese stated over the phone on the day of this inspection that the receptacles were being washed with an antibacterial type hand dishwashing liquid, but this type of dishwashing liquid was not an EPA registered disinfectant for use in animal facilities.

Cruel Treatment of Wildlife

North Jersey Humane Society treated wildlife in a way that constituted animal cruelty in my view. Two days prior to the inspection, the shelter impounded a 3 week old baby squirrel that was too young to eat, drink, urinate and defecate on its own. Instead of bottle-feeding this animal or sending the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, the shelter tried to feed the animal with a honey seed stick. The inspector told both the ACO at the shelter and Vincent Ascolese that the shelter must transport the squirrel to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center immediately. Furthermore, a New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife agent also stated the squirrel needed to go to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center right away. Despite this emergency, Vincent Ascolese refused to do so and said he’d take the animal to the animal hospital the shelter uses.

Frankly, I am appalled that the shelter does not take injured wildlife to licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers. Even some very regressive kill shelters transport wild animals to these facilities. Furthermore, North Jersey Humane Society and Bergen Protect and Rescue could have made a simple plea on their social media pages and many people would have gladly transported the animal and offered monetary assistance.

To make matters worse, the baby squirrel and an iguana were housed in the feral cat room where the door is left open overnight. The inspection report noted some type of animal entered the room as evidenced by feces found in one of the cages. Additionally, the bars in the baby squirrel’s cage were wide enough for the animal to fall through. Given the young squirrel had not yet opened its eyes, this was a very real possibility. In fact, this did happen and the inspector actually caught the baby squirrel falling from its cage. Furthermore, the shelter staff left water in a bowl for the baby squirrel that was deep enough for the animal to drown in. As a result, the baby squirrel was housed in a room with potential predators, feral cats and wildlife that could enter the room, and left in an environment where it could drown or even fall to its death.

A baby squirrel that was impounded at the facility on 8/17/15 was crying in distress in search of its mother at the time of this inspection. This squirrel was approximately 3 weeks old and was too young to eat, drink and eliminate on its own and at this young age, may have been unable to regulate its body temperature. This squirrel was not receiving proper care and nourishment as required and was not placed in a suitable housing environment to maintain the safety and wellbeing of this animal for the two days that it was housed at the facility (Pictures 2849 and 2850).



A baby squirrel, approximately 3 weeks of age with its eyes not yet open, that was impounded at the facility on 8/17/15 was not being fed as required to meet the nutritional needs of this young squirrel. There was no infant replacement formula of any kind or any electrolytes or other preparation for rehydration at the facility for this squirrel at the time of this inspection.

The baby squirrel detailed in 1.7 (b) was not fed or provided with a rehydration solution during the entire inspection period. A squirrel of this age requires feeding approximately every three hours.

ACO Stewart stated that George, who was not at the facility at the time of this inspection, had been feeding the squirrel seeds and honey on a stick. Although the squirrel was too young to forage, the staff had placed the honey seed stick in the red cedar chip bedding with the assumption that the squirrel would search for its food.

The inspector, Frese, explained to ACO Stewart that this squirrel was a nursing squirrel and was too young to eat, drink, and eliminate on its own. Frese stated that this squirrel needed to be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately. ACO Stewart stated that the squirrel could not be transported at that time, but would be transported the next day. Frese stated that the squirrel may not live that long and then called the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) for assistance. Neither agency was available to transport the squirrel; the agent from the Division of Fish and Wildlife said the squirrel needed to be transported immediately to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

The Supervising ACO, Vincent Ascolese, called and spoke to Frese on the phone and explained that the squirrel was being cared for adequately with the seed stick placed in the bedding to teach the squirrel to find its food. Frese explained again that the squirrel was too young to forage and needs to be transported immediately to a rehabilitator. ACO Ascolese stated that they do not take any wildlife to a wildlife rehabilitator. He stated that he would instruct the staff to take the squirrel to Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital; that is where they take all injured and orphaned wildlife. ACO Ascolese stated that it is their policy for all injured and orphaned wildlife to be transported directly to the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital, Wildlife Division.

There was a hole in the ceiling of the room named the “feral cat” room (Picture 2851) and the animal control officer (ACO) Nicole Stewart, confirmed that the door to this room had been left open to the outside of the building overnight. There were feces in one of the cages in this room from some type of animal that had entered the room and perched on the top of the cage (Picture 2848). An iguana and a baby squirrel were housed in this room at the time of this inspection and had been in the room while the door was open overnight. ACO Stewart stated that this room is used for the feral cats that free roam the grounds of the facility.



A baby squirrel was housed in an enclosure that had bars on the enclosure door that were wide enough for the squirrel to fit through. The squirrel was too young to walk normally, but was able to crawl. The squirrel crawled to the front of the enclosure and fit itself through the bars of the door. The squirrel had come halfway out of the enclosure, but was caught by the inspector, Frese, before it fell and was placed into the back into the enclosure. The squirrel was vocalizing a distress call as it crawled out of the cage (Picture 2866).

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The baby squirrel that was too young to eat and drink on its own was provided with a straight sided bowl filled with water in the enclosure that was deep enough that the squirrel could have become trapped and drowned in the water, due to the age and inadequate mobility of the squirrel.

The inspection report documented Vincent Ascolese killing an injured deer fawn. North Jersey Humane Society picked up a deer fawn with two broken legs in Woodland Park 12 minutes after the animal hospital the shelter uses closed (the animal hospital’s web site currently states it is open on the day of the week and time this happened). Instead of immediately taking the injured deer to another animal hospital or better yet, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility, as required by law, North Jersey Humane Society brought the animal back to the Bloomfield shelter. Vincent Ascolese subsequently slashed the deer’s throat in what one could consider an audition for joining the terrorist group, ISIS. Irregardless of whether the animal was hopelessly suffering, the shelter was required to send this animal for veterinary treatment. Even if euthanasia was required, slashing a deer’s throat is not humane and is illegal in New Jersey. Thus, Vincent Ascolese acted in an illegal and unethical manner and is now rightfully charged with animal cruelty.

A deer that was picked up by ACO McGowan in Woodland Park, Passaic County, on 6/29/15 was described on the “Animal Control Incident Transport Record” form as being severely injured and bleeding, with both hind legs broken and bone protruding through skin. The form stated “Well Pet Animal Hospital closed.” According to the website for this animal hospital, the normal business hours on Mondays, the day of the incident, are 9 AM to 6 PM. According to the animal control incident form, the ACO had arrived at the scene of the severely injured deer (fawn) at 6:12 PM, which was outside of this hospital’s posted hours of operation. The deer was transported to the Shelter facility at 6:47 PM. The “Animal Control Incident Transport Record” form indicated that the ACO did not immediately obtain emergency veterinary care from a licensed veterinarian as required by this regulation.

ACO Ascolese, stated during a phone call at the time of this inspection, that it is their policy for all injured and orphaned wildlife to be transported directly to the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital, Wildlife Division. The severely injured deer that was picked up on 6/29/15 was not transported to the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital in accordance with the policy stated by ACO Ascolese. The website for the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital shows that the hospital’s regular operating hours are from 9 AM to 8 PM on Mondays.

A deer (fawn) that was impounded at the facility on 6/29/15 was killed by ACO Ascolese who cut the throat of the deer with a knife resulting in exsanguination (death from loss of blood). Exsanguination is an unacceptable method of euthanasia in accordance with these regulations.

Furthermore, even if throat slashing was a legal euthanasia method, Vincent Ascolese was not allowed to euthanize animals under state law at that time since he lacked the certification to do so.

Dr. Diaz confirmed that he had certified ACO Ascolese in August, 2015. On 6/29/2015, ACO Ascolese killed a deer (fawn), prior to the animal euthanasia training that had been conducted on or about 8/12/2015.

North Jersey Humane Society Fails to Provide Adequate Care to its Animals

The shelter did not provide prompt veterinary care to an injured dog. Benny had open sores on his legs and was not placing any weight on his left front leg during the inspection. Despite these issues, North Jersey Humane Society provided no veterinary care for the 3 days he was at the shelter before the inspection.

A dog named Benny was not placing any weight on his left front leg at the time of this inspection. This dog also had several ulcer type sores in various locations on all four of his legs, most of which were covered with smooth, hairless, blackened skin tissue with a raised outer edge, but some of these sores were shallow open wounds with a red and pink wound bed. This dog had not received any veterinary care since it arrived at the facility on Sunday, August 16, 2015 (Picture 2856).


North Jersey Humane Society also did not provide some animals adequate amounts of water. Specifically, an iguana had no water during the 7 hour inspection and the inspector had to tell shelter staff to provide water to a thirsty Rottweiler.

An iguana located in the feral cat room had spilled its water and the water had not been replaced during the inspection.

A Rottweiler that was housed in an outdoor enclosure did not have water in his water bucket at the time of this inspection. This dog was subsequently provided with water after this was brought to the attention of ACO Stewart (Picture 2868 through 2870).



Shelter staff also left an iguana to sit in a wet bed during the entire 7 hour inspection.

An iguana that was impounded at the facility on 8/17/15 was housed in an enclosure with wet bedding after the water from the water bowl had been spilled in the enclosure. This wet bedding had not been changed during the entire inspection period (Picture 2867).

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North Jersey Humane Society did not isolate sick animals from healthy animals. The facility’s HVAC system emitted air from the isolation area, which is supposed to house sick animals, to locations holding healthy animals. In fact, the shelter used the ineffective isolation area it did have to house four healthy dogs due to overcrowding. And just how did the shelter become overcrowded? The facility transported 15 dogs, which made up 60% of the facility’s dog population at the time of the inspection, from Georgia 3 days before.

The facility did not have any isolation procedures in place and did not have a proper isolation area at the time of this inspection.

The ventilation in the dog and cat isolation rooms was not separated from the air used for the general population. The ventilation for the isolation rooms was supplied through the HVAC system for the facility and mixed with the air for the general population and did not exhaust directly to the outdoors as required.

Due to lack of space, the dog isolation room was being used to house 4 healthy dogs at the time of this inspection and the cat isolation room housed 13 cats that were not exhibiting signs of or being treated for a communicable disease. The dog isolation room did not have floor to ceiling walls and was open at the top of the walls to the holding area of the general dog population. The cat isolation room had windows that were open to the room where the general cat population was housed (Pictures 2861 and 2865).


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The 15 dogs that had been imported from Georgia and arrived at the facility on Sunday, 8/16/15, did not have completed cage cards as of the date of this inspection.

The shelter also did not answer its supervising veterinarian’s requests going back as far as five months to acquire medicines and diagnostic equipment to treat sick and/or injured animals.

A notebook was located on the premises that showed the supervising veterinarian’s findings along with the veterinarian’s signature and date of each visit. The notes in this log book indicated that the veterinarian had recommended the pharmacy stock at the facility be increased (this would require prescriptions from the supervising veterinarian with the required prescribing information) and suggested medical and diagnostic equipment be purchased for use at the facility. These notations had been recorded in the log book since March of 2015, with the last request for equipment dated 8/2/15. The facility did not have the diagnostic equipment on the premises as requested by the supervising veterinarian.

North Jersey Humane Society also had drugs without required information, such as the animal it was prescribed for, directions for use, date dispensed, and name of the facility distributing the medication. This raises serious questions as to whether the shelter illegally obtained these medicines and whether expired drugs were given to animals.

There were medications at the facility that did not contain prescription labels with the required information, including the animal’s name or identification, directions for use, the date dispensed, and the name and license number of the licensee and facility dispensing the medication. A 200 ml bottle of Toltrazuril, used for the treatment of coccidia in horses, was located on the top of a cart in the medical treatment room. The manufacturer’s label on the bottle stated to refrigerate after opening and expires one year after opening, but the bottle was not refrigerated and there was no date on the bottle indicating when the bottle had been opened. There were no records or directions from the supervising veterinarian indicating what the medication was to be used for and to which animal it had been prescribed. There was also a box of MilbeMite brand ear mite medication for cats on this cart with no prescription label, animal identification, and instructions for use (Pictures 2871 through 2873).




North Jersey Humane Society’s Euthanasia Statistics May Not Be Accurate

North Jersey Humane Society reported it only euthanized one cat and three dogs died or went missing in its 2014 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. However, the inspection report noted 4 dead animals were in the facility’s freezer. To make matters worse, the shelter could not produce accurate and legally required intake and disposition records at the time of the inspection. Furthermore, Vincent Ascolese, who illegally killed the fawn, conveniently removed all the wildlife intake and disposition records and stored them in another county. As a result, I have no confidence in North Jersey Humane Society’s reported euthanasia and other statistics since the shelter could not produce the supporting documents.

There were also approximately four animals in the freezer that were bagged, but the bags were not labeled with a name or ID number.

Paper records were maintained on dogs and cats that were received at the facility, but the intake and disposition log which correlates when each animal arrived at the facility and the final disposition was maintained as a computer record. There was no one at the facility at the time of this inspection that had access to the computer records to ascertain when animals were received and the final dispositions. A notebook that was labeled “stray animal log” was not up to date and did not include all animals that were received at the facility. The log only listed dogs that had been impounded and the last entry was dated 7/1/15.

The “Animal Control Incident Transport Record” forms, which were the only records created for the intake and disposition of certain wildlife or other species of animals received at the facility, including the deer that was received at the facility on 6/29/15, were not kept at the premises. Kristi, the Executive Director of Shelter Services stated during a telephone conversation at the time of this inspection that all animal control records were removed from the establishment by ACO Ascolese and stored in an office located in different county.

No People Admit to Euthanizing Animals

The inspection report documented the supervising veterinarian contradicting the shelter’s statement about who performs euthanasia. Specifically, the ACO on staff during the inspection stated Dr. Nelson Diaz performs all euthanasia procedures for the shelter’s animals. However, the veterinarian stated he never euthanized any animals from the shelter despite the shelter reporting 1 euthanized cat in 2014 and four dead animals in shelter’s freezer at the time of the inspection.

Furthermore, the shelter had no required euthanasia equipment at the facility or documentation that any shelter staff were certified to euthanize animals. As a result, one has to wonder if Vincent Ascolese or some other people at the shelter illegally killed animals like Vincent Ascolese did with the deer fawn.

At the time of the inspection, no certification documents were found on the premises or made available to the inspectors to indicate which staff members were certified by a licensed veterinarian to perform humane euthanasia at the facility. ACO Stewart stated at the time of this inspection that all animal euthanasia was performed by the supervising veterinarian, Dr. Diaz. Dr. Diaz was contacted by phone and confirmed that he had not performed any animal euthanasia for this facility and he was not contacted regarding the deer (fawn) that was killed by ACO Ascolese. ACO Stewart also stated that ACO Ascolese was trained by Dr. Diaz to euthanize animals at the facility one week prior to the inspection (8/12/2015). Dr. Diaz confirmed that he had certified ACO Ascolese in August, 2015. On 6/29/2015, ACO Ascolese killed a deer (fawn), prior to the animal euthanasia training that had been conducted on or about 8/12/2015.

None of the required euthanasia equipment was on the premises at the time of this inspection; there were no posted instructions, and no euthanasia, tranquilizing or immobilizing agents on the premises. This facility was not equipped with the supplies to perform humane euthanasia on any animals at the time of this inspection and there were no records or other evidence provided at the facility during this inspection to indicate that the facility was equipped as required to perform euthanasia on 6/29/2015 when the deer (fawn) was killed by ACO Ascolese.

North Jersey Humane Society Violates Basic No Kill Principles

No kill shelters essentially need to do three broad things. First and foremost, no kill sheltering mandates not killing or allowing healthy and treatable animals to die. Second, no kill facilities must perform at a high level resulting in animals quickly leaving the shelter and going to good homes. Third, no kill sheltering requires animals be provided with an elite level of care.

North Jersey Humane Society violated all three of these principles. Vincent Ascolese never even tried to get the injured fawn to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center. In fact, Mr. Ascolese’s organization does not use licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers for any wild animals per the inspection report. His shelter’s careless disregard for an extremely vulnerable baby squirrel also violated no kill’s unwavering standard of not killing. Whether the shelter killed the baby squirrel directly or simply allowed it to die makes no difference. The shelter must have a passion for saving animals. Clearly, Vincent Ascolese’s organization has an attitude that some animals are simply not worth saving. After all, when the Director of North Jersey Humane Society slices open the throat of a fawn, is it any wonder other staff members will not do anything to save a baby squirrel?

North Jersey Humane Society’s and Bergen Protect and Rescue’s polices resulting in prolonged lengths of stay also violate no kill principles. To make a no kill animal control shelter work, the organization must quickly place animals into good homes. With excessive adoption fees, long waiting periods to adopt animals and poor customer service, Vincent Ascolese’s shelters simply do not perform in the manner they should.

Finally, North Jersey Humane Society fails to follow basic animal sheltering practices let alone the elite level standards of a no kill facility. Housing sick animals together, leaving animals without water, not providing prompt veterinary care, keeping animals in filthy enclosures, exposing animals to dangerous kennels, and potentially providing animals with expired medicines is unacceptable for any shelter, kill or no kill. Clearly, North Jersey Humane Society failed its animals and does not deserve the no kill or even a shelter label.

Bloomfield Needs to Take Immediate Action

Bloomfield and the shelter’s other contracting municipalities should expect far better service. Assuming North Jersey Humane Society’s annual fees are the same as its $120,000 bid for animal control and $145,000 bid for sheltering services, North Jersey Humane Society receives $265,000 a year in revenue from these towns. Based on the Bloomfield Animal Shelter’s total reported intake in 2014, this works out to nearly $1,500 of revenue per animal the shelter impounds. Also, the shelter receives donations in addition to these contract fees. Surely, North Jersey Humane Society can afford to provide proper care to its animals.

Bloomfield no longer can trust Vincent Ascolese to do the right thing. First, Bloomfield must make all necessary structural improvements to the shelter to ensure the facility can comply with state law. Second, the town must form an Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which should have qualified members dedicated to ensuring the town has an elite no kill shelter and to oversee and regulate whoever runs the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. Third, Bloomfield must enact the Companion Animal Protection Act (“CAPA”) that residents have demanded for years. Fourth, the town should pass a no kill resolution mandating at least a 95% live release rate for dogs and a 90% live release rate for cats impounded from the towns the shelter contracts with. Fifth, the town should demand North Jersey Humane Society stop transporting animals from southern states into the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. Simply put, the town can no longer take the word of a charismatic person with a dark side.

New Jersey Department of Health, the NJ SPCA and the Towns Contracting with Bergen Protect and Rescue Must Investigate That Shelter

Based on the egregious performance of North Jersey Humane Society, the New Jersey Department of Health and NJ SPCA must investigate Bergen Protect and Rescue to see if Vincent Ascolese’s other facility is also violating New Jersey shelter and animal cruelty laws. Furthermore, Cliffside Park should also do the same things as I recommend for Bloomfield to ensure the shelter is effectively supervised and regulated. Sadly, Vincent Ascolese’s organizations have lost all credibility and it is time these shelters prove to everyone they are ready to step up their game. If not, then the municipalities must move on and bring an organization in that will do the right things for the animals.