Bayonne has renewed its animal control contract for another year with NJ Humane Society. Based in West New York, the organization ran by Geoffrey Santini offers animal control and rescue services and owns a no-kill shelter at 6412 Dewey Avenue.
The council has approved a resolution exercising the renewal option in the contract for another year with NJ Humane Society, LLC. The contract provides the city with an Animal Control Officer and Shelter Services for an amount not to exceed $81,185.
The contract was initially approved in 2021 and ran from May 1 to Dec. 31, of that year, with the option to extend it twice, each for one year. It originally paid $6,765.48 monthly, for $54,123.84 over an eight-month period.
With this renewal, the annual contract is brought to $81,185.76. The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
The renewal of the animal control contract was drama-free this time around, despite being a point of contention in the past.
Battle over animal control
In 2014, the council awarded the contract to Liberty Humane Society under then Mayor Mark Smith’s administration after animal advocates opposed previous contractor Santini.
In 2015, the council dropped the city’s contract with Liberty Humane Society, citing the need to deal with “nuisance wildlife.” The new contract was for New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue (NJACR) owned by Santini, beginning in April of 2016.
The change in contract prompted outrage by local residents in favor of Liberty Humane Society. The anger erupted in a protest outside of the December 2015 city council meeting during the public comment portion. But the council had already approved the contract, and NJACR stayed on as animal control.
In 2018, the council awarded the contract to Liberty Humane Society instead of of NJACR, after Santini had been accused in an NBC News investigative report of spending most of his time on his animal control business and little time at his federally funded full-time public housing job as Security Director at the North Bergen Housing Authority.
NJACR also came under fire for its alleged lack of documentation in the animal control process. Residents who came to the city council meeting in 2018 questioned whether the company followed proper animal control procedures and voiced displeasure with response times.
Following that, the council ended its contract with Santini. The contract was again awarded to Liberty Humane Society for 2019 and 2020. However, Santini is again in charge of animal control in Bayonne after landing the contract for 2021 between the city and the NJ Humane Society, a nonprofit which was formed by him after he acquired his shelter location in West New York.
At the time in 2021, the council said the move saved money, up to $26,000 over the course of the potentially three-year contract. Residents and members of local organizations including the Bayonne Feral Cat Foundation spoke in favor of changing from Liberty Humane Society to NJ Humane Society. The contract was subsequently and unanimously approved then, and its extension was unanimously approved at the March meeting of the council in 2022.
Trap, neuter, and release
NJ Humane Society is also working with the city to establish a trap, neuter, and release (TNR) program. However, it has hit some road bumps that have delayed the establishment of the program.
The council previously tabled a resolution to establish the program with the NJ Humane Society for $25,000. The move came at the request of Santini, who said there are a number of cat rescues in Bayonne and that he wants to make sure everyone is on the same page.
NJ Humane Society is also eyeing a site to operate the TNR program out of in Bayonne. He said the organization is looking into using the old boathouse at end of the parking lot at 16th Street Park, but there were some issues with the building.
In the past, the facility was used for cat-related needs. However, the building does not have heating or water, according to Santini.
In a statement, Mayor James Davis told the Bayonne Community News that the TNR program remains at a halt until a location has been secured. However, the city is looking into partnering with an organization who may be able to provide the necessary facility.
“To do trap-neuter-release properly, the City of Bayonne would need an appropriate building that has running water, heat, and space for post-surgery recovery,” Davis said. “Since we do not have an appropriate, available location, we are exploring the option of partnering with others who may be able to provide the service in already existing facilities.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.