Ever since one of Jersey City’s two animal shelters was taken out of commission last year due to health violations, the fate of the city’s stray animals and even its pets seems to have gotten more dire.
Last week, two of the city’s animal control officers were being investigated after they picked up a woman’s pet cat and allegedly dumped it in a local park instead of taking it to the Liberty Humane Society shelter. The problem was only discovered when the aunt of the cat’s owner saw the men retrieve the pet, and an animal control officer apparently told the cat’s owner that he had dumped it in a park a mile away.
In addition, a hearing was scheduled this past Friday regarding the Hudson County SPCA shelter, which was closed for health violations last April.
In an unrelated matter regarding animals, a hearing was also scheduled Friday in Jersey City Municipal Court regarding a Jersey City woman’s two mastiff dogs that allegedly attacked several people downtown (see sidebar).
Good News: Daisy is found!
The story of Daisy the Cat has a happy ending, as the cat was found in Lincoln Park on Wednesday morning.
In a story that was first reported on the Reporter’s “up to the minute news” portion of its website (www.hudsonreporter.com), Daisy’s saga began the night of Feb. 26 when the cat’s owner, Morgan Metius, says she slipped out of her house on Mercer Street in Jersey City, leading to a chain of events with the cat allegedly dumped by two Animal Control officers in Lincoln Park after she was retrieved from a house on Friday morning. The two officers have been taken off active duty pending an investigation.
Metius and her boyfriend, Kip McQueen undertook a frantic search last week for her 10-pound, grayish cat.
But the city spokesperson, Jennifer Morrill, said due to efforts of the city’s Chief Animal Control Officer, Joe Frank, the missing cat, Daisy, was recovered at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Morrill said Frank set out 15 traps throughout Lincoln Park, using canned mackerel as bait, and the cat was found in a trap on the west side of the park. When the cat was found, she appeared to be healthy, but Frank took her to a veterinarian where she was examined and did not require medical attention. She was later returned to the owner.
Morrill issued the following statement:
“We are pleased that Daisy has been returned to her owner and that this concerning incident had a happy ending. However, the city is currently investigating the two officers involved and the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”
“Mama and Kitty reunited.” – Morgan Metius
The incident has caused uproar amongst animal lovers locally, who have called for a complete overhaul of the Animal Control office.
Metius posted on the local Internet bulletin board, JCList, “Mama and Kitty reunited” but was not available for comment.
Hearing on SPCA shelter
The Hudson County SPCA (Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals) shelter on Johnston Avenue in Jersey City remains closed with its windows boarded up.
The last time there were signs of life in the facility was April, 2008, when the shelter was ordered closed by Hudson County Superior Court after city and state inspections in January and February found animals not only to be poorly fed, but also living in an “unheated and filthy” environment.
Then, a shocking discovery was made in the shelter on June 20 when a utility worker allegedly came across 15 animal carcasses in an unplugged freezer, as well as syringes and medical waste.
SPCA interim president Hector Carbajales and his wife Zoe, who had managed the shelter, still face charges pertaining not only to the closure of the shelter, but also of violating state regulations on disposal of medical waste in connection with the incident. They were scheduled to appear in Jersey City Municipal Court this past Friday, March 6 on those charges.
Carbajales, as of January, still had a $5,000/month contract with Union City to pick up stray animals and take them to the Jersey Animal Coalition (JAC) in South Orange.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Humane Society, which operates the city’s other shelter, was authorized in June by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri to have “temporary receivership” in order to secure the shelter building, investigate who serves on the SPCA board and how it is structured, and detail the financial assets of the SPCA. No date has been set for when attorneys will appear in court about the Liberty Humane Society receiving permanent receivership to operate the shelter.
The shelter had also taken in the 40 animals removed from the SPCA shelter before it was closed.
Liberty Animal Shelter’s manager, Aurora Placentino, said all the animals from the SPCA have been adopted, with the last one – a cat named Patches – in February.
The last court activity concerning the SPCA took place in September, with a conference between the various attorneys involved and Judge Thomas Olivieri.
Cynthia Hadjiyannis, attorney for the Liberty Humane Society, said last week she is close to finishing a report for submission to Olivieri about the finances, governance, and operation of the SPCA shelter from 2005-2008. But it wasn’t easy.
“When we originally took possession, there were no records at the shelter,” Hadjiyannis said. “Just trying to reconstruct the SPCA records has been a task.”
Two South African boerboel mastiffs named Imani and Jumba have been living in a trailer in the back of the Liberty Animal Shelter since January.
They may be living on borrowed time.
This past Friday, Mar. 6, the owner of the two dogs, Susan Kolb, was scheduled to appear in Jersey City Municipal Court to try to prove her dogs are not “vicious.” She was attempting to save her dogs from being put to sleep under the state’s Vicious Dog Law or local laws.
The two dogs allegedly attacked several people in downtown Jersey City since September. Kolb, a local handler of that breed, allegedly had the dogs off a leash. Their combined weight totals 270 pounds.
Jonathan L. Rodriguez, 24, of Brunswick Street, suffered arm and leg injuries on Jan. 19 at Washington Street and Christopher Columbus Drive after the dogs ran away from their owner, he has said.
James Joyce, 24, was allegedly attacked on Jan. 9 by the dogs at Warren and Morris streets, requiring six stitches.
And on Sept. 21, a 6-month old child and her grandmother were allegedly knocked down and attacked by the mastiffs in a park at Greene and Essex streets.
Kolb also may face criminal charges, as the attacks are currently under review by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
City laws distinguish between a dog that is “dangerous” and one that is “vicious,” and there are strict ways the dog must be handled in each case.
A dog is classified as “dangerous” if it launches unprovoked attacks on humans or animals or has a “propensity” to do so. A “vicious” dog is one that, also unprovoked, bites or causes physical injury to a human or a domestic animal. In other words, the difference is that a “dangerous” dog can attack but would not cause severe harm like a “vicious” dog.
Ironically, when Aurora Placentino of the Liberty Animal Shelter talks about Imani and Jumba, she says they are anything but vicious to shelter staff.
“They’re getting better, and they are getting more and more trusting of us,” Placentino said. – RK Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.