OPINION: St. Hubert’s Bests Livingston as Option for Animal Shelter

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by Claire Roberts, Maplewood

Having read the comments of the Livingston mayor and Police Capt. Marshuetz with great interest in the Village Green article of January 4, I very much hope they will make good on their promises to address the serious problems at the Livingston shelter.

But their remarks raise more questions than answers, and they are completely silent on the most important issue of all:  the fact that the Livingston shelter has no stated mission to be “no-kill” or even “low-kill”, and once this tiny facility is filled—with a capacity for five dogs and 10 cats—will the shelter euthanize adoptable pets for lack of space?  While many dogs may be reclaimed quickly by their owners, the Livingston shelter has already housed one dog for months because the dog is the subject of an endless law suit. So that leaves only four spaces available for other dogs–even if all the cages were in working order–until the dispute is settled.

While South Orange’s 12-18 dogs a year might not force the Livingston shelter into a “killing for lack of space” situation, what happens when you add in Maplewood’s 17-24 dogs? What if there’s another endless lawsuit involving a dog that has to be housed? And what happens if Livingston decides to sell sheltering contracts to other towns? South Orange and Maplewood have no control at all over that. What’s the tipping point at which this one-room shelter will have to kill for lack of space?

If it’s true that no healthy animals have been put down in 12 years, it’s because outsiders have stepped in to help.  Maplewood’s former animal control officer, Debbie Hadu, posted that she had taken several dogs from the Livingston shelter when they were going to be put down and found homes for them.

On the issue of no isolation area at the shelter, although Capt. Marschuetz said that sick and contagious animals are brought to the vet and that’s why the shelter doesn’t need a separate area, there’s no mention in the NJ state regulations that housing sick animals at a vet’s office is an acceptable alternative.

And there’s a history of promises being made to spend money on the Livingston shelter, yet the money never appears.  Two years ago residents created an online petition that stated, “Every year, Livingston lists renovating the building as ‘important’ in its budget proposal, and every year, not a dollar is allocated toward improvements.” Livingston did finally agree to spend some of that long-promised money after the public petition.

To have confidence that any new money will be put into the building to bring it up to state standards, we need concrete answers to the following questions:

1.  How much money is Livingston planning to put into the shelter in the next few months and how much for all of 2017?

2.   What specific repairs and renovations will be made? What is the timetable for them?

3.  How many paid employees are there working with the animals? My understanding is that they have only one paid employee, the animal control officer. If so, who covers for the ACO when he is sick or on vacation?

4.  Has this employee been trained in how to comply with the state regulations for animal facilities in NJ?

5.  What exactly are the volunteers doing and how many volunteers are there regularly?

6.  Is Livingston willing to undergo an unannounced inspection of its shelter by the NJ State Department of Health? That’s the only way to know if they really comply with the regs since municipal health department inspections are often lax or incomplete.

I’ve visited both Livingston and St. Hubert’s, and even if Livingston spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on its shelter, there’s simply no comparison between the two. I encourage anyone who is interested to visit both facilities and see if they don’t agree.

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