Andrew Siegel, the president of the Liberty Humane Society, the animal shelter in Jersey City, said that the city’s contract awarded last month for shelter services represented a significant cut.
The City Council passed the resolution at its Feb. 26 meeting. The $236,069 contract is for 10 months rather than 12 months like in the past, and 27 percent less than was paid for under the old contract.
The shelter was founded 10 years ago by volunteers who were dissatisfied by another shelter run by the city, which has since closed. LHS has contracts to take strays from Hoboken and Jersey City.
The closure of the other shelter about six years ago due to problematic state inspections put a lot more on the shoulders of Liberty to deal with the flood of abandoned animals in the city.
“Our board has voted not to accept this agreement.” – Andrew Siegel
Several years ago, the shelter had a management shakeup, some controversy of euthanization policies, and lawsuits among officials and volunteers.
Siegel has been seen as a key figure in helping to restore faith in the shelter, and with the aid of the eight-member LHS board, providing services.
Siegel said he opposed the new contract resolution and wanted the city to return to the previous contract, and suggested that the city should look for additional revenue sources to help provide the services to the city.
Now he wants to meet with the administration and possibly cover some of the contract costs through licensing fees.
“Our board has voted not to accept this agreement,” he said.
Councilman Daniel Rivera, however, said he had concerns about the shelter, and planned to pay a visit there, citing possibly abuse.
Siegel said this was unfair.
“I’ve been president for two years and involved with Liberty for over 10 years,” Siegel said. “There is no abuse.”
He said the shelter is recognized for by a number of outside organizations, and that 55 cents out of every dollar of funding has to go to services besides those associated with animal control.
“This is a $9,000 a month reduction from $32,000 to $23, 000,” he said. “Our mission is to get every animal adopted. This contract for animal shelter is different from animal control. We supply all the services animal control doesn’t supply in the cities. We are currently in discussions with the city of Bayonne to take up services there.”
Council President Rolando Lavarro said the city needs to look for ways to save money. He said the shelter administers unneeded services to animals brought in by the city’s animal control team.
“Shots are not state mandated,” he said. “Our focus is on sheltering.”
City officials also said that Liberty closes its doors at 7 p.m. while Animal Control – an agency run by the city – operates until 11 p.m. which means animal control officers have to enter the shelter at their own risk when they catch animals.
Animal Control is responsible a variety of services, from dog licensing to responding to reports of diseased or injured animals. They are also responsible for collecting stray or lost animals.
The contract passed by the council would pay Liberty to “keep for redemption and destroying of all animals found within the municipal limits when there is no public pound.”
Jersey City, like many urban municipalities in the state, is undergoing a significant flood of feral cats. In some case, because of the downturn of the economy, people abandoned pets. Animal Control often has to deal with collecting both.
Liberty usually provides shots and other services to maintain the health of animals brought into the shelter.
Siegel said the city appears to be taking a step backwards in returning to the concept of an animal pound, rather than a shelter.
“It’s the bad old days,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.