NEWARK -- The city's independently-run animal shelter is operating without a license after failing three back-to-back inspections that detailed kennels in severe disrepair, bags of carcasses covered in flies and sick animals not receiving basic vet care. Associated Humane Societies, which opened its doors in 1906, is a nonprofit that operates three shelters, including one in Newark. The Newark facility on Evergreen Avenue also provides animal control services for the city and 13 other municipalities.
Jill Van Tuyl, assistant director for Associated Humane Societies, said the violations were unacceptable and staff was doing everything it could to correct ongoing problems. "It's an old building that has a lot of issues and we're doing our best to make sure any deficiencies with regard to the facility are rectified," Van Tuyl said. Some animal rights advocates, however, are questioning why the Newark shelter remains open despite more than a decade of egregious findings including a scathing 2003 report by the state and failed inspections in years since.
Last month, health officials said the Newark shelter had made some fixes but hit the facility with new violations -- including not giving animals water and not having a supervising veterinarian. "This is completely and totally out of control at this point," said Collene Wronko, a member of Reformers - Advocates for Animal Shelter Change in NJ. "Why are they still allowed to take in animals?" Van Tuyl, who began working at the nonprofit in January, said many of the violations stemmed from the inability to hire and keep personnel, including kennel technicians who clean and feed the animals.
"Give me a chance. I'm new here and I want us to be better and I want us to be in compliance," she said. "The team and I are working very hard to make these changes. It's a big ship to right." Newark's Department of Health and Community Wellness that regulates the Newark shelter together with the state Department of Health said they were monitoring the shelter's progress and allowing it to operate on a conditional permit.
"Corrective action for several deficiencies previously reported have been observed to date and implemented including the hiring of a full-time veterinarian and full-time staff member designated to ensure that animals are fed and provided water accordingly," the department said in a statement. Spurred by an anonymous complaint, local and state health officials conducted a joint inspection on Aug.
22 and slapped the Newark facility with 40 violations. A follow-up inspection on Sept. 26 and Oct. 20 found some improvements but the shelter still has not met licensing requirements. Among the cited deficiencies: Sick animals were held in the same room as healthy animals and caretakers were not following procedures to control the spread of disease. Cats and kittens with nasal and eye discharge were held in the same room with nursing cats and kittens.
A white Maltese with sores and missing hair and other sick animals were not provided with vet care. There was excessive amount of medical waste that was not properly disposed of and the facility kept poor records of the animals. There was insufficient ventilation in the basement for animals housed there to remove odors and humidity. Flooring throughout the facility was in disrepair and needed to be removed.
Van Tuyl said she took issue with the record keeping citations and said her staff showed inspectors the proper paperwork. She also said the staff didn't have time to address medical needs for some of the animals since inspectors came first thing in the morning and many of the animals became ill overnight. "We are on top of this now, and the vets, they make their rounds in the mornings," she said.
Alan Rosenberg, who used to volunteer at the Newark facility and is a shelter reform activist, blamed the shelter's management for its ongoing woes. "They're not using best practices; there's so much information available nowadays on how to properly run an animal shelter," Rosenberg, who runs the NJ Animal Observer blog said. "A successful animal shelter tries to move animals out of the shelter as quickly as possible.
" Associated Humane Society's current executive director, Roseann Trezza, has served on the board of directors since 1973 and according to the nonprofit's 990 tax filing, reported $112,000 in compensation in 2016. She could not be reached for comment. The nonprofit reported $9 million in revenue from grants, contributions and their animal control contracts with municipalities in its most recently available 990 tax form.
Associated Humane Societies has two other facilities in Tinton Falls and Forked River, including the Popcorn Park animal sanctuary. "We're a nonprofit and it's a big operation," Van Tuyl said. The nonprofit is the largest sheltering system in the state and provides 24/7 animal control services. "It takes a lot to keep it going." Newark's $675,000 annual contract with the agency allows for the sheltering of animals picked up by animal control services.
It also calls for the shelter to protect the animals from injury, keep them dry and clean, and give them enough space, according to a copy of the contract obtained by Rosenberg through a public records request. The agency reported spending more than $4 million on salaries, $127,000 in legal fees, more than $1 million on animal food and supplies, and $126,000 in repairs and maintenance. Rosenberg said health officials can -- and should -- shut the shelter down, but they're worried about "where are we going to put these animals?" In 2011, then Newark Mayor Cory Booker proposed building a city-run, no-kill animal shelter.
He cited ongoing problems at Associated Humane Societies and its high kill rate. Booker's administration pointed to a stinging 2003 report by the State Commission of Investigation that led to the resignation of long-time executive director Lee Bernstein. The city-run shelter was never built -- despite Booker allegedly raising $39,000 for it -- and plans for it did not re-emerge under Mayor Ras Baraka's administration.
"We need to fix this and make it right," Van Tuyl said. Staff writer Noah Cohen contributed to this report. Karen Yi may be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook.See Also: Goose Creek Animal Clinic
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ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The Associated Humane Society's Newark animal shelter is one of the largest and busiest in New Jersey. For years, the nonprofit shelter has led Essex County in dog and cat intakes, accepting thousands of animals from suburbs around North Jersey into its Evergreen Avenue facility and adopting many out to happy homes. But for every dog or cat that finds its "forever family" at the AHS Newark shelter, another may face a grim and uncertain future.
On Aug. 22, spurred by a complaint, four Newark and New Jersey Department of Health officials performed a joint inspection of the AHS Newark facility. While touring the building, the inspectors allegedly witnessed a medley of violations that included: Bags of animal carcasses left laying outside the buildingSick animals with bloody urine, diarrhea, vomiting, Kennel Cough and nasal discharge Dogs and cats kept in cramped, dark enclosures without exerciseA deteriorating, dirty building that posed health and safety risks As a result of the violations, the AHS is currently working without a business license in Newark and has a "conditional satisfactory" permit from the city health department.
The fallout from the inspection has caused a shakeup at the AHS Newark facility, with several policies being revamped in an effort to meet local and state standards, a spokesperson told Patch. AHS, the self-described "largest animal sheltering system in New Jersey," also maintains facilities in Forked River and Tinton Falls. And according to 2016 intake report data obtained by the NJ Animal Observer blog, the Newark AHS is paid to provide animal control officer and holding/impounding services to Belleville, Carteret, Clark, Fanwood, Hillside, Newark, Irvington, Linden, Fairfield, Plainfield, Roselle, Rahway and Winfield Park.
Patch contacted the Newark and New Jersey Departments of Health seeking comment for this article. The Newark DOH did not reply to our request for more information.The NJ DOH provided the following statement:"The New Jersey Department of Health accompanied the Newark Health Department in a joint inspection of Associated Humane Societies Animal Shelter on Aug. 22. Numerous violations were documented and the Newark Health Officer is working with Associated Humane Societies management to fix the violations.
The Newark Health Department is the lead agency. The New Jersey Department of Health has agreed to assist the Newark Health Department with a follow-up inspection."The information below comes from a copy of the Aug. 22 inspection report, acquired via an Open Public Records Act request. Don't forget to visit the Patch Newark Facebook page here. Photo: A dog in its enclosure at the AHS-Newark shelterEUTHANASIA AND 7-DAY HOLDS When a dog or cat is surrendered to a licensed New Jersey animal shelter, the facility is required by state law to offer the animal for adoption for at least seven days before euthanizing it.
This law is especially relevant in Essex County, which led the state in euthanized dogs for the fourth straight year in 2016. During the Aug. 22 inspection of the AHS Newark facility, officials expressed serious concerns about euthanasia procedures at the shelter, alleging that many animals were being put down before the required seven-day hold. Records at the shelter showed that at least two dozen stray and surrendered animals were euthanized before their mandatory week of reprieve was complete.
According to inspectors, several animals were also being accepted for "elective euthanasia" or were killed "on intake." Inspectors also raised two other concerns about the AHS-Newark's euthanasia policies. "Animals were not being weighed prior to administration of euthanasia, immobilizing or tranquilizing agents.""Staff were unable to access certain disposition records, including the required euthanasia documentation, and the paper records were incomplete.
"But according to AHS Assistant Director Jill Van Tuyl, there's more to the story than the inspection report implies. "We're not euthanizing healthy animals that are coming in," Van Tuyl told Patch. "These may be animals that are dying already, or that are in bad shape as deemed by the veterinarian. We don't want animals suffering either. So I think that was taken out of context [by inspectors]." "Our vet now has a way of manually keeping records for animals that might be euthanized before the seven-day period," Van Tuyl said, adding that the new policy will help with transparency.
Whether this new transparency will placate local animal welfare activists remains to be seen. "AHS-Newark's 2016 statistics are simply awful," NJ Animal Observer blogger Alan Rosenberg charged in a recent blog post. "Last year, this shelter reported killing 2,261 animals (568 dogs, 1,533 cats and 160 other animals). On average, AHS-Newark killed six animals every day of the year. About 27% of dogs, 55% of cats and 85% other animals were killed, died or had undisclosed outcomes.
" "Clearly, AHS-Newark is a high-kill facility," Rosenberg stated. Photo: An animal carcass wrapped in plastic at the AHS-Newark shelterHEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS During the Aug. 22 inspection, officials documented several risks to the health and safety of the animals in AHS-Newark custody. Several sick animals were found with symptoms such as bloody urine, diarrhea, vomiting, Kennel Cough and nasal discharge.
Some of these animals were housed with the general population, alongside healthy dogs and cats awaiting spay or neuter surgeries before being released to their adoptive families. Photo: This pit bull mix in the shelter's main kennel appeared "listless" and had a green nasal discharge, according to inspectorsInspectors recorded the following violations: "A white, poodle-type dog housed in the small dog room had urine-soaked fur on its rump and its legs and was unable to remain dry and clean.
" "Adult dogs confined in cages… were not being exercised in runs at least twice a day or walked on a leash for at least 20 minutes per day. Dogs with a vicious disposition that were housed in the basement or the small dog and cat room were not walked at all and did not have access to an exercise run." "Cats that were difficult to handle and classified as 'feral' were housed in enclosures that contained glass walls completely covered with cardboard and newspapers.
" "A white, bully-type dog had an open wound on its paw and there was no evidence that this dog was provided with medical care." "There was a large, black, mastiff-type dog housed in a small enclosure against the back wall of the main basement housing area. This enclosure did not provide sufficient space for this dog to turn about freely and lie in a comfortable, normal position." "There were carpeted cat trees and sisal rope cat scratchers in the communal cat rooms that contained an accumulation of hair and dried feces or vomit.
" "A large sheet of cardboard was being used as bedding in some of the small animal enclosures." "Several animals that were housed in the basement isolation room were exhibiting signs of illness but the [shelter] manager stated that these dogs had not yet been seen by a veterinarian and were not receiving medical treatment." "The room where the exotic animals were housed contained an accumulation of rabbit feces and urine on the walls, on the electrical outlet, behind the filing cabinet and on the floors and baseboards around and under the rabbit enclosures and a filing cabinet.
"Photo: This white, "bully" mix had an open wound on its paw, inspectors sayPhoto: A white, poodle-type dog housed in the small dog room had urine-soaked fur on its rump and legs, inspectors sayPhoto: The room where the exotic animals were housed contained an accumulation of rabbit feces and urine on the walls, inspectors sayOther alleged violations included: Animal food bowls that weren't being scrubbed clean before being disinfectedDirty dishes, including a spoon and bowl with "caked-on food" and black mold Improperly stored bags of food at risk of molding and kibble scattered throughout the building An accumulation of rodent droppings in an upper storage area over the inside dog kennels A lack of cleaning that resulted in a "layer of black grime" on the walls and floorsPhoto taken during Aug.
22 inspection at AHS-NewarkPhoto taken during Aug. 22 inspection at AHS-NewarkVan Tuyl told Patch that some of the alleged health and safety violations may have been a case of "bad timing." For example, there was an incident where an animal had an accident and the responsible staff member didn't get a chance to clean it before inspectors arrived. "That being said, I'm not making any excuses," Van Tuyl added.
The shelter is currently revamping its protocols to make sure that the health and safety issues get fixed. This includes efforts such as the phasing out of cardboard as bedding material and retraining of staff members, Van Tuyl said. "I came up with a dog-walking log sheet so we make sure every animal is getting walked the proper amount," Van Tuyl said. "We're keeping a paper trail of it." BAGS OF CARCASSES Inspectors also questioned the Newark shelter's procedures for the disposal and storage of carcasses.
"There were bags of dead animal carcasses that had attracted a swarm of flies and were placed inside the gate adjacent to the dogs housed in the outdoor enclosures," inspectors wrote. "These bags were stored outside of the walk-in refrigeration unit in the fenced area where the incinerator is located." There were additional bags of carcasses and trash stored in a red shopping cart in the same area that were "covered with flies," inspectors wrote.
Photo: Bags of carcasses and trash stored in a red shopping cartVan Tuyl told Patch that some of the carcasses that inspectors saw may have been brought to Newark from other towns. "What happens is that other animal control officers will come to our driveway and leave the carcasses," she said. "Staff may not be aware of it and that's why they may be left out." To help solve the problem, visiting ACOs are now prohibited from leaving the front office until an AHS staff member has made sure that any carcasses they left have been properly stored, Van Tuyl said.
BUILDING AND REPAIR ISSUES Inspectors also noted several issues with the condition of the building. Their observations included: Holes in the walls in numerous rooms that were "large enough for rodents to traverse" Concrete flooring and block walls in severe disrepair throughout the entire facility Peeling paint in the animal enclosures Exposed metal surfaces and electrical outlets throughout the facility that could cut or shock an animalDog beds with damaged metal and plastic hardware, exposed screws and sharp edges that could cause injuryA strip of welded wire hardware cloth with exposed, pointed wires hanging over the outdoor enclosuresScrews protruding from the wall in the "feral" cat enclosure"Insufficient" ventilation in the basementAn improperly maintained or incorrectly installed air conditioning system unable to control water runoff from the various unitsA debris-clogged rain gutter with runoff that overflowed into the outside dog kennel areaLighting fixtures that need repair throughout the facilityPhoto taken during Aug.
22 inspection at AHS-NewarkPhoto taken during Aug. 22 inspection at AHS-NewarkSKUNK IN THE SUN While conducting the Aug. 22 inspection, officials found a skunk inside a small animal carrier that was completely covered with a heavy, black-and-white heather blanket and placed in direct sunlight on a concrete surface in 85-degree weather next to the shelter's incinerator. "When questioned, the [shelter] manager stated that the carrier was empty," inspectors wrote in their report.
"When the inspector lifted the blanket and saw the skunk, the manager said the skunk was dead." When the inspector told the manager that the skunk was not in fact "dead" and needed to be moved immediately out of the direct sunlight, the manager moved the skunk several feet into a cooler area. Shortly after, the animal was placed in the hallway of the building. The skunk was euthanized later that day, inspectors said.
A cause of death wasn't provided in the report. Van Tuyl admitted that the skunk incident was unacceptable. "That shouldn't have happened," she told Patch. "I'm still not sure where the breakdown in communication happened. I will say that a brand-new employee was involved in that. It goes back to the retraining that we're doing right now to make sure things like that don't happen again." MAKING REPAIRS According to Van Tuyl, the shelter's effort to get things up to code is already at full steam ahead.
After the Aug. 22 inspection, the shelter embarked on a series of emergency improvements, agreeing on a Sept. 11 deadline with the Newark Department of Health for a follow-up inspection, which the shelter passed. The shelter's next round of repairs is slated to finish on Sept. 23, at which point the city will make another visit, Van Tuyl said. For now, staff have made "significant progress," she pointed out.
Repairs already completed include: Removing the chain link fence above the kennels Disposing of dirty food containers Throwing out dirty cat trees "Proactively" replacing drain caps in the kennels Revamping record-keeping procedures, including intake and euthanasia paperwork Removing old shelves in the cat areas While the remaining violations from the Aug. 22 inspection are still unabated, Van Tuyl asserted that the shelter's staff are hard at work on making things right.
"We're looking at this as an opportunity to address some things that we've always wanted to," she told Patch. "This can be the change that everyone has wanted, including the staff." The AHS posted a statement about the inspection on their Facebook page on Sept. 12, writing that the experience was an opportunity to review and improve its processes, as well as to "retrain" staff members. LOW PAY, HIGH-REWARD: A TOUGH JOB Van Tuyl said that working at the AHS Newark shelter is a different experience from any other in Essex County.
"Other shelters don't necessarily hold bite cases or aggressive dogs or other unadoptable animals, whereas in Newark, that's where they're brought," Van Tuyl said. "So it looks like we're disproportionately euthanizing animals, but were getting in a lot of very tough cases, animals that are not necessarily adoptable." And it really gets her goat when people accuse the shelter's workers of being uncompassionate, she told Patch.
"I've been doing this for 25 years," she said. "If I didn't care about the animals, I wouldn't be in such a stressful industry. The staff does the best we can. It's a tough building with a lot of challenges. And I don't think that anyone is working here for the very low rate of pay. They can go down the street and make more money at McDonald's." MOVING TOWARDS A BETTER FUTURE According to Van Tuyl, the most unproductive thing that that people can do for the shelter and its animals right now is to start playing the blame game.
"It's easy to point fingers and say we're not doing things right," she told Patch. "But very few people have stepped up to the plate to help." The shelter needs volunteers and donors who can pitch in and clean, do projects and generally help in any way possible, Van Tuyl said. In particular, there is an urgent need for linens and bedding at the moment. The shelter can also use Kuranda-brand beds to help them withstand some of the roughhousing from the facility's "very strong bully breeds," Van Tuyl said.
A good example of recent help from the community was AHS's first-ever participation in the annual "Clear The Shelter" adoption event, which was pulled off with the key assistance of some longtime volunteers. "People can just reach out and ask us, 'What do you need?'" Van Tuyl emphasized. Contact the shelter and learn more about the AHS by clicking here. Send local news tips and feedback to eric.
firstname.lastname@example.org Photos: New Jersey Department of Health, via OPRA request