The SPCA shelter had already been closed since April 11 after state and local investigations found unhealthy conditions. Before that time, local animal lovers and volunteers had long complained about conditions at that shelter.
There are actually two animal shelters in Jersey City - the now-closed SPCA shelter on Johnston Avenue and the Liberty Humane Society shelter near Liberty State Park. The latter was founded six years ago by animal activists who were dissatisfied with the history and conditions at the SPCA.
After the activists opened the Liberty Humane Society shelter six years ago, the city of Jersey City decided to give them a contract instead of the SPCA shelter. However, not every town stopped using the SPCA shelter. It was still contracted by the towns of North Bergen and Union City, whose health officer Richard Censullo, said the other alternatives were too expensive.
This past Thursday, the managers of the now-closed SPCA shelter, Zoe and Hector Carbajales of Union City, were told to come to court, as were various animal groups who would like to take over the SPCA shelter's operations.And last week, the State SPCA Thursday's hearing
Thursday's 45-minute hearing saw Judge Thomas Olivieri rule on several issues regarding the SPCA's future operating status.
A whopping five lawyers were present to represent various animal activist groups and individuals who wanted to reform the shelter.
And representing the Hudson County SPCA (Hector Carbajales and the Board of Trustees) were attorney Jeffrey Edelman and board member Geoffrey Santini. Carbajales did not show up.
Hudson Animal Advocates is a relatively new group that had worked with Jersey City's Division of Health to obtain an emergency Order to Show Cause in April from the Hudson County Superior Court to close the SPCA. At a previous hearing on May 20, Olivieri ruled that the shelter had to stay closed until last Thursday June 26.
At that May 20 hearing, Olivieri also gave Carbajales various conditions he had to remedy in order to re-open the shelter, including revealing who was on its mysterious board of directors.
But at Thursday's hearing, Olivieri said he had not received any information from the SPCA pertaining to his demands at the May 20 ruling. He also had not received any opposition from the SPCA to placing the shelter into receivership under another entity.
At the hearing, Edelman actually stated his opposition to the shelter being placed into receivership, but the judge scolded him for not making his position known much earlier. "It is not fair to the other lawyers here and it is not fair to this court, I am not hearing this," Olivieri said. "So you can save your breath."
But Olivieri said the SPCA attorney can file his opposition by July 17 to be heard at a July 31 hearing.
In the meantime, Olivieri gave the receivership responsibility to Liberty Humane Society in the interim, and may even place the shelter in permanent receivership with Liberty Humane.
That means that until a next hearing in Olivieri's court on July 31, Liberty Humane will be responsible for securing the shelter building, investigating who serves on the SPCA board and how it is structured, and detailing financial assets of the SPCA.
Judge Olivieri also bought up the issue of Union City and North Bergen's contract with Carbajales to pick up animals in their towns. Jersey City Attorney Nora Kallen said the city was communicating with both towns to work out an arrangement for Jersey City animal control officers to pick up the animals.
There were no representatives for Union City and North Bergen in the courtroom.
Attorney Howard Myerowitz, representing four dues-paying members of the SPCA, said he would send a letter to the state's Department of Health and Human Services asking for Carbajales' certification as an animal control officer in the state of New Jersey to be revoked.
Olivieri also issued an order to prevent any sale of the shelter property by the SPCA, and to investigate the financial management of the shelter especially in light of recent revelations in the press that Carbajales allegedly withdrew $12,000 from the SPCA account after the shelter was closed.
Jennifer Morrill, a spokesperson for Jersey City, said last week that Hector and Zoe Carbajales face charges of violating state regulations on disposal of medical waste and possible animal cruelty charges.
According to Health Officer Richard Censullo, Hector Carbajales was being paid $4,500 a month each from Union City and North Bergen to pick up strays in those towns. Carbajales speaks
Meanwhile, Jersey City officials were disgusted last week by the discovery of the animals in the freezer a week ago. Jersey City police and animal control officers entered the shelter Monday to remove the rotting remains of dogs, cats, and a goat.
City Councilwoman Viola Richardson, who represents the council ward area where the shelter is located, said she was "sickened" by what she has read in newspapers.
"They ought to shut that place down," she said. "Those people should never be allowed to operate any facility under any condition in this life."
But last week, in an interview with the Reporter, Carbajales said he was being treated unfairly.
"I feel like it's a witch hunt," Carbajales said. "It's been one attack after another."
Carbajales defended himself saying that he has been taking all the heat while he is president of a board comprised of seven members, including Vice President Jason Bibber, Man-at-Arms Victor Hernandez, Secretary Zoe Carbajales, and other members he would not name, all of whom were volunteers in charge of running the shelter.
Regarding the recent grisly find at the SPCA, Carbajales explained that when the shelter was closed, he and the board were ordered to sign live animals over to Liberty Humane.
"We did not understand if we should take the dead animals," Carbajales said. "We were waiting for the court to tell us what we can do with the dead animals."
He said they decided to "leave animals in the freezer until we know what to do with them."
Power to Building 1 at Johnston Avenue had been shut off, but Building 2 on that lot still had electricity to keep the dead animals in cold storage, he said.
Carbajales claimed that there had been several break-ins at the closed site and, "It looks like someone tried to steal the freezer." He then speculated that the thief probably saw the dead animals inside and left the freezer behind unplugged.
But city spokesperson Stan Eason said on Thursday that there have no break-ins or burglaries on record with the police since the shelter closed on April 11. However, the police responded four times to alarms being set off in the shelter.
Carbajales offered no explanation for the animals' causes of death. What are North Bergen and Union City doing?
Both North Bergen and Union City had taken on month-to-month contracts with Carbajales after his shelter had closed, since the towns are required to have animal control services.
Originally, Carbajales was supposed to bring the animals to the Associated Humane Societies of Newark, but Roseann Trezza, that shelter's executive director, said there is no contract with Carbajales, and that neither he nor the cities were willing to meet that agency's financial requirements.
Subsequently, Carbajales had provided a draft copy of a contract to bring animals to the Jersey Animal Coalition, South Orange, to Censullo in his RFP (Request for Proposal) packet.
The Jersey Journal reported last week that this shelter is currently closed, but Shelter Manager Doreen Roman assured the Reporter that the Jersey Animal Coalition is very much open and accepting animals.
However, while Roman said that the shelter had accepted animals from Carbajales prior to the SPCA closing, she said she has not received any from him since.
Shelter Director Ruth Perlmutter said that though a contract with Carbajales is pending. A draft of the contract provided by Censullo indicates that the contract is effective July 1.
She and Roman said they were just trying to do their part as a no-kill shelter to put animal welfare first if Carbajales has nowhere else to take the animals.
"We've never turned an animal away," said Perlmutter.
Meanwhile, both municipalities are searching for a permanent animal control services provider.
Censullo said, "Anyone who's interested can pick up an RFP [packet] at the City Clerk's Office, and with their proposal, they have to show the city how they're viable and how they intend to meet our standards."
While many area towns use the Associated Humane Societies shelter in Newark, Censullo said it is too expensive.
Those competing for the contract must explain where they're going to bring the animals (both dead and alive), possess a certificate of liability insurance, and they must show that their employees are certified animal control officers. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.