UC still using embattled shelter manager With countywide SPCA closed, town officials weigh options
by : Amanda Staab Reporter staff writer
Nov 06, 2008 | 319 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Union City officials still have not made a final decision as to where to take the city's stray animals, six months after the town's previous shelter, the Hudson Country SPCA in Jersey City, was closed by a court order due to alleged health violations.

But for the time being, Union City is contracting with Hector Carbajales, who had helped run the embattled SPCA facility, to pick up the city's strays.

In January and February, health inspectors found neglected animals that were sick and underweight in unhealthy living conditions at the countywide SPCA, which was run by Hector with his wife, Zoe Carbajales. Both are Union City residents.

After that shelter was ordered closed, towns who used it were forced to look for other places to bring their stray and found animals.

Recently, the neighboring town of North Bergen voted to use a shelter in Newark, the Associated Humane Societies shelter, which is also used by West New York and several other Hudson County towns.

As for Carbajales, he now has a contract to take Union City's animals to the Jersey Animal Coalition (JAC) in South Orange, N.J.

"The concern is that Union City is using Carbajales, who was the president of the SPCA," said Carol McNichol from Companion Animal Trust, Inc., an animal rescue group based in Jersey City, last week.

Richard Censullo, who is the health officer for both Union City and North Bergen, said, "He has not been charged with anything. It is all speculative. Even if he was charged, he would need to be convicted."

However, the other manager of the Hudson County SPCA, Carbajales's wife Zoe, faces charges related to the shelter. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for this Tuesday, Oct. 7, in Guttenberg Municipal Court, the court confirmed last week.

Hector Carbajales also has appeared in court related to the future of the SPCA.

"It just appeared that there were consistently problems, so when the shelter was closed by the court order, then we needed to look at other facilities," said Censullo.

Censullo said the state has approved Carbajales's employment.

"The city is looking for a long-term solution and a long-term contract," said Censullo. "Hector has submitted a request for a contract, and so has the Humane Society in Newark."

Money is a concern Union City Mayor Brian Stack said that town officials are reviewing all the options and plan to make a decision within the next month. He also said that cost has been an issue.

"We have two concerns," he said. "We have concerns about the animals, if they are being taken care of properly, and what these services cost."

The Newark shelter is said to be much more expensive than Carbajales' service was.

Censullo said it used to cost Union City approximately $48,000 a year to use the Hudson County SPCA, and will cost about $182,000 a year to use the shelter in Newark.

He also said that Carbajales is currently charging the town $5,000 a month, which would add up to $60,000 a year.

Censullo said that finding the right shelter for the animals is made more difficult by the fact that there are not many shelters in the area.

"They are private, and they are pretty much the only game around," said Censullo.

Besides the closed SPCA shelter, the only other shelter in Hudson County is the Liberty Humane Societies shelter, which has limited space because it took the animals that were removed from the SPCA shelter and also handles Jersey City's strays.

Censullo said that the mayor has called several shelters all over New Jersey to get more proposals and possibly, better rates. However, the response has been that the shelters only take care of their own local areas.

Desperately need more shelters "There is a possibility that within the next five to seven years, Liberty [Humane shelter] will be undergoing a major expansion program," said Censullo. "If they do go through with the expansion, they will sit down with other municipalities and start negotiating contracts." He added, "We desperately need a shelter in Hudson County."

McNichol agrees.

"We feel that Hudson County needs more shelters, because if everyone is going to be hiring [the Associated Humane Societies in Newark], it's going to run out of capacity," she said. Censullo said that Union City had a contract with the shelter in Newark until 2005, when the rate increased dramatically.

"The SPCA, at that time, was viable and a good option," said Censullo. "They came in at a much lower price, around $4,000 a month, and the contract was identical. At that point, it was almost a no-brainer to go with the lowest bidder who we felt could do the job."

Vincent Rivelli, the director of public health for West New York, said that his town has used the Newark shelter for "quite a few years" and had no problems with it.
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