The battle rages on at The Liberty Humane Society’s animal shelter in Jersey City between the shelter’s management and former volunteer workers over the shelter’s euthanasia policy. And the shelter is still in danger of closing, because state inspectors on Aug. 24 found violations that must be remedied within two weeks.
The shelter provides animal control services to both Jersey City and Hoboken. Spokespersons from both cities said last week they were monitoring the situation but expressed some concern over whether the shelter may be forced to close. The shelter had 58 dogs and approximately 180 cats as of last Monday.
Onetime supporters and local animal lovers have raised objections to the euthanasia and the evaluations criteria. They say too many dogs are being put to sleep and that many of these animals have been evaluated incorrectly. They say the dogs can be trained out of their aggression by experts and either sent to rescue groups or even adopted by people who can make the dogs less aggressive.
A vigil was held in front of the Liberty Humane Society’s shelter on Thursday
The dissenting sides each made a case for their positions on Thursday. That morning, Dawson and interim board member Laura Moss met with the press at the shelter then Dawson gave a tour of the facility. Later in the evening, those opposed stood outside the shelter for a vigil to remember the dogs put to sleep and call attention to the policy they want ended.
The shelter has had other issues to deal with during a turbulent summer.
Inspectors from the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services, along with employees from the city’s Health Department, did an inspection on Aug. 24, the follow-up to an Aug. 4 inspection. The earlier inspection found violations like dogs being kept in cages smaller than allowed, and sick animals kept in the same area as healthy animals.
The Aug. 24 inspection found that cages still “did not provide sufficient space” among many other findings. Dawson said last week the shelter had purchased 14 large dog runs which will be added to the main kennel to alleviate some of the state violations. The shelter must also make repairs to the facility like adding plumbing to the cat intake trailer, fixing leaking sinks, and broken doors. She said that if the violations are not remedied, the state could fine the Liberty Humane Society or temporarily close the shelter until they are compliant.
Despite the inspection results, Dawson said the shelter has made improvements in its operation since mid-July, including vaccinating incoming stray kittens within 24 hours and evaluating dogs within the 7-day mandate stray hold, so they can be made available for adoption or rescue placement “instead of warehousing them for months” as she said was the case when the new management came in.
Fired employee speaks out
A Facebook page called “Liberty Humane Society Uncensored” last week posted a listing claiming that both kennel manager Jane Vega and shelter manager Jillian Walters had been fired.
“I cannot comment on why the shelter and kennel manager were terminated, but I can confirm that they are no longer with the organization,” Dawson said last week.
Vega in an interview last week also confirmed the firings, which took place last Sunday while she had a day off from the shelter. Vega said interim board member Diana Jeffrey left a voicemail that afternoon telling her that she was fired.
Walters could not be reached for comment.
Vega said the firings stemmed from the “painful” decision to put down a pit bull named Spencer, who she had grown close to in the past few months, after he had bitten her last weekend when she was tending to him. She said the two dismissals were set in motion when Vega posted a note about Spencer on her personal web page, mourning his loss. Vega said that’s when she was contacted by management who were upset that she had posted about Spencer.
Jersey City and Hoboken react
Hoboken has a $96,000 annual contract with the Liberty Humane Society for animal control and sheltering services. Hoboken’s director of Health and Human Services, Leo Pellegrini, toured the shelter on Wednesday in response to the issues of their euthanasia policy as well as the recent state inspection.
Pellegrini said he saw that the shelter workers “did a lot of work” cleaning up the shelter but Hoboken officials will continue monitor the shelter. Pellegrini also said the visit was to ask the shelter to create a separate wing for stray animals brought in from Hoboken that would be named, “HoBarken.”
Jersey City spokesperson Jennifer Morrill said last week that the city is in “constant dialogue with the board president to ensure the welfare and safety of our residents and animals” on the about the euthanasia policy.
Morrill also said that the majority of the calls and comments to City Hall about euthanasia at the shelter have been from individuals out of the area with a few from Jersey City residents.
The city has a one-year contract for over $320,000 in place with Liberty Humane Society due to expire in Nov. 2010. The contract breaks down as follows: $283,506 for pound/shelter services and $38,000 for animal control services on weekends and furloughs.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.