Updated July 26, 2015 with a statement from Maplewood Township Committeewoman India Larrier, who is also President of the Maplewood Board of Health.
The recent news that Maplewood would sever its relationship with Associated Humane Society (AHS) of Newark and contract its animal control and sheltering needs to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison was met with relief and elation by some residents.
The town has been under contract with AHS since January 2015, a deal that provoked some negative feedback from residents concerned about AHS’s status as a “kill” shelter as well as its past history of violations.
St. Hubert’s is “probably the best animal control site in New Jersey,” said Maplewood Health Officer Robert Roe at the July 7 TC meeting when the news was announced. Overall, TC members seemed pleased and relieved about the agreement. It’s a “great thing,” said Township Committeeman Jerry Ryan, adding that “for every bad thing” said about AHS “you hear ten things good about St. Hubert’s.”
However, The Village Green has learned that it was AHS that decided to end its relationship with Maplewood, informing the township on June 1 that it was invoking the contract’s 60-day cancellation clause.
In an email earlier this week, Township Administrator Joseph Manning wrote, “…we were satisfied with the job AHS was doing. If they had not cancelled we would have continued until we worked out a shared service with [South Orange] for animal control services.”
The township had previously explored an agreement with St. Hubert’s but decided against it, in large part because of the cost, Manning said. The AHS contract was costing Maplewood a total of $41,802, which the township was paying monthly. The St. Hubert’s contract will cost $71,601, according to a copy obtained by The Village Green.
After AHS told the township it was terminating its relationship (the contract expired on July 31), Maplewood officials contacted St. Hubert’s, Manning said.
“We went above and beyond the scope of our contract for Maplewood,” said AHS assistant director Scott Crawford in an email. “We bent over backwards time and time again. We have done our best to serve the municipality through our animal control and sheltering efforts” as well as spay/neuter and wellness clinics.
He said a lot went into AHS’s decision, but that the organization could only work “with municipalities that support our operation” so that the town and AHS can best “work together for their community.”
Crawford alleged that “disgruntled” former AHS volunteers spread “misguided facts” about the shelter on social media. “[Those facts] are not true of today’s [AHS]… we take pride in our operations and do our best to run a humane mission for every animal that comes in to our care.”
Regarding euthanasia, Crawford said, “…to us it is better to take in the thousands of homeless animals we take care of annually instead of leaving them on the streets and in horrible prior situations….”
(St. Hubert’s does not purport to be a “no-kill” shelter, noting on its website that it employs euthanasia as a “last resort” when animals are deemed too aggressive to be adoptable.)
Crawford also alleged that Maplewood officials made negative statements about AHS in public “to cover and save their own faces,” while in private attempting to convince the shelter to continue serving the town.
But Crawford said the shelter refused, adding, “the damage is done.”
“We are solely here for the animals’ and residents’ best interests and always will be.”
Asked to respond to the allegations, Manning said, “I think that AHS did the job they were hired to do. I would have preferred them to continue providing those services until the end of the contract but [we look] forward to having St. Hubert’s provide our animal control services. St. Hubert’s has a great reputation, is known leader in the field of animal safety, rescue and adoption. I think our residents will be pleased with St. Hubert’s.”
Committeewoman India Larrier, who also serves as Maplewood Board of Heath President, responded, “We indeed did ask AHS to reinstate the contract, since we were in need of their services at the time. AHS was a good way at the proper time, and the sudden choice they made to terminate the contract was disappointing at the time. The contract was made such that either party could choose to walk away ‘for any reason.’ They chose to walk away, and we have no ill feelings. However, things happen for a reason, and I believe St. Hubert’s will be a great for for us.”
Manning said since the July 7 meeting, the township had clarified some details about the services St. Hubert’s will provide, including how it will work with local rescue groups and “additional costs for services.” Roe will present those details at the next Township Committee meeting on July 21, at which time he and Manning will recommend awarding the contract to St. Hubert’s.