Until recently, the shelter was contracted to take in stray animals brought there from North Bergen and Union City. But it was closed on April 11 following health inspections earlier this year by the city and state.
Most other towns in the county use either the Associated Humane Societies shelter in Newark, or the Liberty Animal Shelter in Jersey City.
At Tuesday's Superior Court hearing to determine the status of the shelter, which is located on Johnston Avenue in Jersey City, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri ruled that it must stay closed until June 26. He also said that in order to even to talk about it reopening, the operators of the shelter must get a shelter license, draw up a plan to remedy the violations found in city and state inspections earlier this year, provide all documents to the court pertaining to the operation of the shelter (including who is on its board of directors), and hire a veterinarian.
June 26 is the next court date for the case involving the Hudson County SPCA.
What led to the closing?
On April 11, the Hudson County Superior Court issued an order suspending operations at the Hudson County SPCA, run by Union City residents Hector and Zoe Carbajales. The 42 animals held there were removed and taken to the city's other shelter, the Liberty Humane Society shelter near Liberty State Park. The animals taken out of the Hudson County SPCA on April 11 included 15 dogs, one ferret, and 26 cats, including a mother cat with kittens. The SPCA shelter had been inspected this past January by the city and in February by the state, both finding violations.
A new animal advocacy group, Hudson Animal Advocates, formed recently to push for reforms at the SPCA. This group, along with Jersey City's Division of Health, obtained an emergency Order to Show Cause from the Hudson County Superior Court to close the SPCA.
Animal activists go before judge
Various groups appealed to Judge Olivieri in court on Tuesday.
Among those appearing in court were David Norman of a new group called Hudson Animal Advocates, and the group's attorney, Diana Jeffrey of NJ Appleseed, a nonprofit organization based out of Newark. The pair wanted the judge to rule for the shelter to remain closed until there were significant changes in management, or even new management.
On the other side, Hector Carbajales wanted the hearing postponed to a future date because his attorney could not attend the hearing. He claimed he had no money to remedy the violations cited.
One lawyer, Howard Myerowitz, represented a collection of people who would like to help manage the shelter. The group included former employees and volunteers of both the Liberty Humane Society and the Hudson County SPCA, including Nicole Dawson, the former manager of the Liberty Animal Shelter.
They were not alone. In the audience were representatives from a local animal rescue organization, Companion Animal Trust, who also want to manage the SPCA.
Also in attendance were Bob Vogt and Joe Frank from the Jersey City Division of Health, and a lawyer from the city's Law Department.
Also, Christine Vanek, corporation counsel for the city of Union City, wanted the shelter to stay open. The towns of Union City and North Bergen have used the shelter's services for some time. They recently were forced to start using a shelter in Newark instead, which most surrounding towns also use. However, the Newark shelter's costs have risen.
Others hope to take over management
Olivieri spent about 30 minutes listening to presentations from Jeffrey, Carbajales, Meyerowitz, Vogt, and the lawyer for Jersey City before making his ruling. He particularly took issue with Carbajales for not providing any documentation stating why he wanted a postponement of the hearing, and also requesting the postponement an hour before the hearing was set to take place.
Also, Olivieri credited two SPCA volunteers and two former veterinarians for the SPCA for providing documentation of not only the unacceptable conditions but for their personal efforts to improve the shelter. He also requested that the parties interested in managing the shelter provide paperwork at the next court hearing proposing their plans.
What happens to the animals?
When asked how Union City is handling animal control following Olivieri's decision, Vanek said, "We're going to have to look into the alternatives," explaining that in the meantime, Carbajales is still contracted to pick up animals, but is bringing them to the Associated Humane Societies shelter in Newark.
Vivian Kiggins, executive director of the Liberty Humane Society, said last week that of the 42 animals from the SPCA shelter placed in the Liberty Animal Shelter, eight have been adopted so far.
Comments on the ruling After the hearing, Jeffrey said the judge's ruling was "fair under the circumstances," adding that the SPCA acted in a manner "not responsible, accountable, and transparent." Carbajales was not available for comment after the hearing and gave the Jersey City Reporter a phone number that, when dialed, was out of service
. Meanwhile, a published report in a local daily newspaper stated that Carbajales had to be treated at the hospital this past weekend after accidentally shooting himself in the foot with one of the guns he legally owns at his Union City home.
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