“On April 18 I hope to never say the words ‘animal control’ ever again,” said Bayonne Law Director John Coffey III after the Bayonne City Council voted to temporarily extend the city’s often criticized NJ Animal Control and Rescue(NJACR) contract that expired in November. The resolution effectively pays the provider for services rendered from the time the contract ended through April 28. “Over the next 25 to 30 days we will be fleshing out who the next provider is going to be.”
The city’s newest request for proposals, issued late summer of 2017, dictates a two-year, $90,000 maximum animal control contract, and outlines eleven new requirements. NJACR and the Jersey City-based Liberty Humane Society (LHS) both responded in September, with LHS returning the lowest bid.
“I’m talking to both providers to make sure the city’s interests are protected and the animals’ interests are protected,” Coffey said.
“We don’t mind helping the animals, but the point is that we shouldn’t have to. We want transparency, we want reliability, we want assurance.” – Carla Harrilal
Making a choice
Hudson County municipalities have contracts with one of two very differentanimal control and shelter providers. NJACR is run by Geoffrey Santiniwho, through an NBC investigation this month,was allegedly found to have a “low-show” job at the North Bergen Housing Authority and a city-issued SUV that he allegedly used for private purposes.According to West New York officials, Santini was placed on paid administrative leave without the SUV pending an internal investigation.
NJACR has contracts with several Hudson County municipalities, while Hoboken and Jersey City have contracts with LHS.
“I wish you would have rescinded it years ago when you started receiving complaints,” said Bayonne resident Megan McNally at the meeting. Another resident, Carla Harrilal, said that the city’s preference for NJACR since 2015 is “becoming more and more strange to everyone” as negative stories about NJACR continue to hurt the city’s reputation. Residents at the meeting also spoke out against the company in 2015, when the Union City Feral Cat Committee posted a 23-page report urging North Hudson towns to drop NJACR for not having its own licensed shelter. Earlier reports of animal cruelty at a “no-kill” shelter in Cliffside Park where many Hudson County animals were transferred by NJACR has also been a subject of ire for many residents.
In its first council meeting since the NBC report, the City of Garfieldrescinded its animal control contract with NJACR on Tuesday, March 14, “pending further review,” according to a report from NorthJersey.com.
Trust in that organization seems to be permanently eroded as McNally and other residents concerned about the city’s choice of animal control said that they want the provider to not only remove the animals from Bayonne, but to protect them, too.
“When residents see a cat or dog or turtle in need, they wonder who they should call,” said Carla Harrilal. “We don’t mind helping the animals, but the point is that we shouldn’t have to. We want transparency, we want reliability, we want assurance.”
LHS was originally awarded Bayonne’s animal control contract in 2014, but the city switched in 2015 to NJACR, as city officials cited concerns about LHS’s ability to address “nuisance wildlife.”Bayonne City Hall was then met with citizenprotests; ever since, LHS has been winning the battle of public opinion.
“I believe and always have believed that our city officials are caught between doing the right thing for our city and our animals or what is in their political best interest,” said resident Peter Franco before the meeting. When officials indicated that the city may go in a different direction in April, Franco spoke at the podium:
“I think we can all sleep easy knowing something will be done next month.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.