As the SPCA turns Future of Hudson County animal shelter discussed in court
by Ricardo Kaulessar Reporter staff writer
Aug 10, 2008 | 886 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local animal lovers want the Hudson County SPCA (Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals) shelter on Johnston Avenue to be reformed and then reopened to serve the entire county.

They discussed the matter before a judge in Hudson County Superior Court this past Thursday.

Right now, some towns in the county use the Associated Humane Societies shelter in Newark for their stray animals, while others use the relatively new Liberty Humane Society shelter in Jersey City.

But a third option, the Hudson County SPCA shelter, was closed by court order on April 11, after state and local investigations found unhealthy conditions there. Local animal lovers and volunteers had long complained about conditions at that shelter, and went before a judge to have it closed.

Now, some of those same animal lovers want the shelter to reopen with better conditions.

SPCA interim president Hector Carbajales and his wife Zoe, who managed the shelter, are facing charges pertaining not only to the closure of the shelter but also of violating state regulations on disposal of medical waste. On June 20, a Jersey City utility worker came across 15 animal carcasses in an unplugged freezer as well as syringes and medical waste at the closed shelter.

The Carbajaleses, who live in Union City, are scheduled to appear in Guttenberg Municipal Court this coming Tuesday, July 5 at 6 p.m.

There already have been three hearings in Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri's court where he has listened to lawyers representing various entities involved with the SPCA and other animal groups.

The next court appearance for the lawyers in front of Olivieri is scheduled for Sept. 15. But this will be a private conference meeting that will "not be on the record," according to Olivieri. It will be meant to sort out the messy SPCA situation.Under investigation?

Last week, a source told a local newspaper that the cities of Union City and North Bergen were subpoenaed by the NJ Attorney General's Office for information pertaining to their contracts with the SPCA to pick up strays.

Yet, last week, the health inspector for both towns told the newspaper that he is considering a contract with Carbajales to continue picking up strays in the town.

Carbajales' services have been much cheaper than those at the Newark facility. Future of SPCA

At Thursday's hearing, Liberty Humane Society (LHS) attorney Cynthia Hadjiyannis told Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri that it has done an assessment of the SPCA. She said her group has determined that new equipment and supplies will be needed, and is working to install new locks and fix two sections of the fence surrounding the shelter.

Also, Hadjiyannis said that the LHS has recently retrieved SPCA documentation that was left behind in the shelter. Olivieri had appointed LHS in June to have temporary receivership of the shelter. That gave them license to secure the shelter building, investigate who serves on the SPCA board and how it is structured, and study the financial assets of the SPCA.

Nora Kallen, attorney for Jersey City, said Thursday that the city's Health Department recently conducted a "walkthrough" of the shelter and found it was empty, with the exception of a half bag of dog food. She said the section of the shelter where the freezer with the dead animals were found must be cleaned.

Hadjiyannis said the LHS would take the responsibilities of removing the dog food and cleaning the section within ten days. State SPCA looking into it

Harry Levin, attorney for the state's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA), said the organization is seeking to get access to the shelter to conduct their own investigation of what took place there. The state SPCA has also suspended the charter of the Hudson County facility.

But Diana Jeffrey, attorney representing a relatively new local animal welfare group, Hudson Animal Advocates, challenged Levin's assertion that the NJSPCA was unaware of the problems at the shelter beforehand. She said that the NJSPCA was responsible for inspecting the Hudson County SPCA and should have been aware of the problems.

Judge Olivieri said he still wants to see the NJSPCA involved in the legal proceedings so that everyone can find out in court "what they know and when did they know it."

Jeffrey Edelman, attorney for the Hudson County SPCA, said he wants to conduct a forensic accounting to learn further of the financial state of the HCSPCA.

Edelman got a laugh from some in the courtroom when he said that Diana Jeffrey, who had subpoenaed SPCA financial records to investigate their past spending, had the most financial information about the SPCA.

Edelman also elicited a few more chuckles when he said that the Hudson County SPCA was "transitioning" back to its designated role of investigating animal cruelty in Hudson County.

Nora Kallen asked for the court to consider how the city will be compensated for the cost of removing the dead animals on June 20. Edelman suggested that the HCSPCA be allowed by the court to sell the shelter property, and that the money be put in escrow and pay Jersey City back. Comments on this story can be sent to rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com.
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