Especially now, local animals need you
Liberty Humane Society hit with leadership changes and controversies
by R.J. Harper
Reporter Correspondent
Aug 19, 2012 | 2028 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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In a slow economy, people are less likely to adopt pets and more likely to abandon them. Hudson County towns have struggled in the last several years with more strays and fewer local animal facilities – especially with the closure of one shelter in Jersey City four years ago, the former SPCA shelter, after it received poor state health inspections.

Now, the remaining shelter in Jersey City is struggling to handle a different set of problems.

The remaining shelter, the Liberty Humane Society shelter, was founded eight years ago by volunteers and has contracts to take strays from Hoboken and Jersey City.

Last month, the shelter got hit with a notice from an energy company saying they plan to run a pipeline through the property (see related story at right).
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The shelter has 400 pets looking for homes.
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While battling that issue, the agency is dealing with management changes, dissension from some volunteers, and lawsuits from those who have questioned their euthanasia policy, all while trying to fulfill their main mission: to get their animals adopted out to good homes.

Keeping up with it

The shelter cares for approximately 400 dogs and cats right now. It is small but busy, located in a converted garage near the entrance of Liberty State Park and across the street from Liberty Science Center. The shelter hopes to expand in the near future.

They are still scrambling to fully recover from last year’s highly contentious management shake-up. Several managers and members of the board of directors have come and gone among fighting over the agency’s policy for euthanizing animals, and other matters.

“Another shelter manager left back in November, and there have been about four such managers in that position over the last two years,” acknowledged Director of Development Irene Borngraeber.

Wayne Kasserman is the current manager.

The shelter has also been hit by lawsuits from volunteers, and initiated legal action of its own after activists allegedly posted threatening comments against shelter leadership and their families on a website. One former volunteer was arrested by Jersey City police in November of 2010 for alleged harassment and making terroristic threats.

“I can’t really talk about the current litigation in place with the older volunteers [at LHS],” Borngraeber said last week. “A difference in opinion is okay though. Some people send their pets to doggie spas and others treat their pets like children. Some people disagree with that. An animal in a private home, however, is very different than one in a shelter like ours.”

Several staffers were laid off earlier this summer.

But staffing and volunteer issues don’t appear to be LHS’ biggest challenge this summer.

The more serious battle the agency now faces is the Spectra Energy company’s plan to run a natural gas pipeline through their property.

“This land we are on near Liberty State Park is all actually owned by the city of Jersey City. We are just leasing it,” said Borngraeber.

The court order was delivered to LHS a month ago. Spectra Energy seeks to temporarily dig up close to 40 percent of LHS’ leased property on Jersey City Boulevard, Borngraeber said.

Leadership

It now appears that the society’s board president, Andy Siegel, will have to strategically navigate LHS’s future on Jersey City Boulevard. The eight-member LHS board, as well as the city of Jersey City, have publicly vowed to battle Spectra.

“We are actively seeking pro bono representation [against Spectra],” said Borngraeber. “We just got served the eminent domain order last month and our response [to the court] is now overdue. FERC [a federal agency that approved the gas pipeline] never responded in court after our initial injunction was filed by the city. Things are really in limbo with this pending court case.”

Help by adopting a pet

Amidst all of the chaos, the shelter continues its mission to adopt out dogs and cats.

“It’s the summer and it’s always the most stressful for the animal shelters – especially for open admission facilities like ours,” said Borngraeber. “We have to accept every stray that comes through that door. Not only are we faced with the huge influx of summer animals, we’re also now having to fight for the future of the whole facility – including dealing with eminent domain issues.”

She added, “We have to exist because of our state mandate. Every municipality has a responsibility to have an active animal shelter. The only way for us to move forward with our capacity of animals is to just operate. We’ll still be here! So come...adopt!”

She added, “We are reaching out to our national network of rescue organizations, shelters, and transport groups for help placing the almost 400 animals we have on site. If you have ever considered adopting a pet, please step forward now and give our community’s homeless animals a certain future.”

The shelter is located at 235 Jersey City Blvd. Its website is libertyhumane.org.

Several attempts to call the shelter last week resulted in calls going to voicemail.

“We are fielding an enormous number of phone calls during this time and apologize to those unable to get through,” explained Borngraeber. “We would appreciate it if supporters would save the phone lines for essential calls related to LHS operations and instead visit our website (www.libertyhumane.org) or Facebook page (facebook.com/libertyhumanesociety). For questions related to adoptable animals, it’s always best to come to the shelter in person.” People can also look for their pets on petfinder.com.

The shelter is open Tuesday through Friday from 2 to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (201) 547-4147 or e-mail lhs@libertyhumane.org.

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