Collum: South Orange Now Focusing on Animal Control Issues

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Village President Sheena Collum responded in detail to several questions about animal control at Monday night’s Board of Trustees meeting, assuring members of the public that Village leaders were now concentrating on resolving issues around animal control now that the fate of Village Hall had been decided.

During public comments, South Orange resident Virginia Canino asked the Board when they would vote on a possible Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Release — or TNVR — program for South Orange’s feral cats.

Canino thanked Trustees for the presentation on the program by Michelle Lerner earlier this year. (Lerner also testified about the program in Maplewood before that municipality adopted a TNRV program last fall.)

Collum explained that, unfortunately, the Board of Trustees did not have jurisdiction on on setting such a policy, unlike the Maplewood Township Committee which also acts as that town’s Board of Health. Rather, the power to adopt such a policy rested with the State-approved South Orange Board of Health, which is a separate body from the Board of Trustees. In addition, Collum noted that her understanding was that the Board of Health had recommended against TNVR.

“It is not necessarily that we agree,” said Collum, “because I have a fair amount of questions about what seems to be a very big gap between what their view is as a real public health risk in South Orange, and I’m having a very hard time balancing that against several communities that have been able to successfully implement it in a very humane way and also address the population of feral cats.”

Collum noted that the Board of Health would be meeting on Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the 3rd floor conference room of 76 South Orange Avenue, where municipal offices are currently located.

Canino returned to the microphone during the second public comments period to ask Collum about progress in replacing the Jersey Animal Coalition. Canino said that it was her understanding that the East Orange Pound, where a vendor being used by South Orange is currently sending some strays, “has had severe violations,” will not allow photographs to be taken at the pound, provided no disease control program or records, and offered limited hours for adoption. Canino said that in closing the JAC, South Orange had moved “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

Another commenter, Claire Roberts of Maplewood, said she was in favor of using the former JAC building as a shared shelter for South Orange and Maplewood even though Maplewood “to my delight” is entering into a short-term contract with St. Hubert’s. Roberts asked when the next community forum on the fate of the building and shelter services would take place.

Collum responded that animal control contracts and the disposition of the JAC building do indeed fall within the jurisdiction of the Board of Trustees. “We are actively looking into it,” said Collum, who assured Roberts that, now that the future of Village Hall had been decided, the Trustees and administration could concentrate on the facility and animal control services.

“We will be looking for a recommendation,” said Colllum. Collum said that Trustees Walter Clarke and Howard Levison were working with Village Assistant Administrator Adam Loehner on “evaluating options” and were working on “pricing models and the costs.” Collum said she had also met with Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca “about South Orange and Maplewood working together” on “options that would benefit both towns.”

“That’s an active conversation, “said Collum.

Collum added that she unfortunately could not answer a lot of questions publicly right now but assured members of the public that the Village was “working on it” and thanked the public for “keeping us on our toes.”

“We’re hope to come up with something good,” said Collum.

Watch video of the July 13 South Orange Board of Trustees meeting here:

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