Election South Orange

South Orange Candidates Answer SOMA for Animals Questionnaire

From SOMA for Animals:

Recently, SOMA for Animals sent all the candidates running for office in South Orange a questionnaire asking these four questions.

1. Do you favor continuing or discontinuing South Orange’s contract with St. Hubert’s for animal control and sheltering? Please give your reasons for your position.

2. When all municipal departments have been moved out of the former JAC building (i.e. ‪298 Walton Avenue‬), after the renovation of the Baird is finished, how would you want to use 298 Walton?

3. South Orange recently modified its animal code to permit leashed dogs to enter the majority of its parks. What other opportunities do you see or ideas do you have to make South Orange a more animal-friendly community?

4. South Orange’s agreement with St. Hubert’s says that South Orange will work with St. Hubert’s and the community to encourage the policy of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) of community cats. What thoughts do you have about specific ways the Village could work with St. Hubert’s and the South Orange community to encourage TNR?

Here are their responses:

Sheena Collum for Village President:

1. Do you favor continuing or discontinuing South Orange’s contract with St. Hubert’s for animal control and sheltering?  Please give your reasons for your position.

I fully support continuing our relationship with St. Hubert’s. As SOMA for Animals is aware, I worked with the leadership in identifying better and more humane options for our animals. We removed ourselves from prior agreements, opted not to send animals to the Livingston Shelter and instead, took the recommendation that St. Hubert’s was the best option for us. Given the numbers of animals and the financial analysis, it makes perfect sense to continue this relationship into the future. I will also note that it should come as no surprise that I worked very hard with this group (and other animal-rights activists) on a series of accomplishments we achieved together. As a owner of two chihuahuas, I love pets and I want us to be a very animal-friendly community while providing balance to those who do not have pets. Much of the work we completed together was done in collaboration and I hope to continue that.

2. When all municipal departments have been moved out of the former JAC building (i.e. ‪298 Walton Avenue‬), after the renovation of the Baird is finished, how would you want to use 298 Walton?

It’s too early for me to definitively say what the future will be but the top priorities for me would 1) revenue generating lease that benefits our community and the residents of the neighborhood and 2) a municipal use/community space that enhances our Master Plan objectives (we’re in the middle of that process right now). Additionally, even upon completion of the Baird, it will be important for our community to have options for relocation during the library renovation as well without incurring additional costs. 

3.  South Orange recently modified its animal code to permit leashed dogs to enter the majority of its parks. What other opportunities do you see or ideas do you have to make South Orange a more animal-friendly community?

Yes and I’d like to that A.J. Albrecht for working on this and providing a wealth of material to our Board of Trustees (I know many others worked on this as well but she went above and beyond in providing best practices for towns). First, animal-friendly comes with responsibility and that falls primarily on pet owners. Too many owners have not registered their pets where we can confirm that all vaccinations have been done. Before we become more “friendly”, we need to be more “responsible” first. Second, pet-owners need to be held accountable for their actions when it comes to our pooper-scooper laws. Following that, I have several ideas that I think would be fun. The idea of a dog run has always intrigued me because of the socialization that occurs amongst pets. This is not a capital priority for me but would welcome the opportunity to work with SOMA for Animals on ideas around this and private fundraising. Next, I would love for us to have town-wide adoption days in conjunction with reputable groups like St. Huberts. I would be honored to work with partners on designating a few days throughout the year for adoptions to occur. We could also partner with with local businesses on this. Next, I absolutely love how at the end of the year, Maplewood lets doggies go for a swim before the pool is cleared out for the fall – let’s do this! 

During my tenure, I also worked to bring us a pilot program on backyard chickens that was introduced to use by a 5th grader. These types of initiatives don’t come from the top down but rather, directly from our community. I believe I have shown that I work well with people on ideas in a collaborative and balanced way. The pilot-program has been going very well and I’m open to more opportunities (other than roosters).

4.  South Orange’s agreement with St. Hubert’s says that South Orange will work with St. Hubert’s and the community to encourage the policy of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) of community cats.  What thoughts do you have about specific ways the Village could work with St. Hubert’s and the South Orange community to encourage TNVR?

I will take responsibility for being the lead from the governing body on getting TNVR instituted with the expertise of Soma for Animals. This was a subject matter I knew nothing about until it was brought to my attention. I spent considerable time not just reviewing the research presented to me but reaching out to other Mayors in the state to get their feedback on a TNVR policy and all believed it achieved the stated goals. As I type this message, I have no specific plans nor is this part of my platform. I believe through my actions as the Village President that I’m open and research-based in how we approach our feral cat population in humane ways. With that said, I would again welcome the opportunity to work with SOMA for Animals on ways we can further our partnership. One idea that just popped into my head is establishing an animal-welfare advisory committee. It’s something we have not had before but as we explore all these new ways to make South Orange more animal-friendly, it would be wise for us to surround ourselves with people who are subject matter experts and help guide the Board of Trustees (which is also the Board of Health) in the right direction.

The South Orange Forward Team, Deborah Davis Ford, Stacey Trimble Borden, Matt Wonski & Ed Grossi:

1. Do you favor continuing or discontinuing South Orange’s contract with St. Hubert’s for animal control and sheltering?  Please give your reasons for your position.

Studies have shown that using an outside organization with the required expertise to manage the animal control and sheltering program is in the best interest of the Village and it is in our best interest to maintain good working relationships with all parties involved.

2. When all municipal departments have been moved out of the former JAC building (i.e. ‪298 Walton Avenue‬), after the renovation of the Baird is finished, how would you want to use 298 Walton?

It is important to consider the demographics when changing the use of this building to see how all of the pos sibilities will impact the immediate community and to get public input before decisions are made. 

3.  South Orange recently modified its animal code to permit leashed dogs to enter the majority of its parks. What other opportunities do you see or ideas do you have to make South Orange a more animal-friendly community?

South Orange Village modified their animal control ordinance to improve their animal friendliness.  We should all work to achieve these common goals.

4.  South Orange’s agreement with St. Hubert’s says that South Orange will work with St. Hubert’s and the community to encourage the policy of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) of community cats.  What thoughts do you have about specific ways the Village could work with St. Hubert’s and the South Orange community to encourage TNVR?

Studies are showing favorability of implementing the TNVR programs around the country.  The responsibility of dealing with feral cats is a complex and sometimes an emotional one.  Engaging the residents and business owners is necessary in making the program successful.

From Your Voice, Our Village Donna Coallier, Bob Zuckerman, & Summer Jones:

1. Do you favor continuing or discontinuing South Orange’s contract with St. Hubert’s for animal control and sheltering?  Please give your reasons for your position. We do not have access to the St. Hubert’s contract and so can’t speak to whether it should be continued. 

We believe the contract should be made available to interested residents for comment, along with metrics on their performance criteria, and would consider those comments and other details before deciding whether to continue the contract. 

2. When all municipal departments have been moved out of the former JAC building (i.e. ‪298 Walton Avenue‬), after the renovation of the Baird is finished, how would you want to use 298 Walton?

We believe the building should be used in a manner that would be complimentary to the surrounding park and wildlife area, such as for recreation purposes or as a wildlife/natural sciences learning center. 

3.  South Orange recently modified its animal code to permit leashed dogs to enter the majority of its parks. What other opportunities do you see or ideas do you have to make South Orange a more animal-friendly community? 

One idea: add dispensers for animal clean up bags near parks and other areas frequented by dog walkers. Another: encourage a “chip” program to help locate the many lost pets the seem to find their way to our streets. Most importantly, we would seek to survey residents to determine what other measures they’d like to see.

4.  South Orange’s agreement with St. Hubert’s says that South Orange will work with St. Hubert’s and the community to encourage the policy of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) of community cats.  What thoughts do you have about specific ways the Village could work with St. Hubert’s and the South Orange community to encourage TNVR?  

We generally support TNVR as an appropriate policy for controlling the feral cat population here in South Orange, but don’t have data or information on whether it is effective, its impact on feral cat population to date, and other related pros and cons regarding its deployment. We would encourage St. Huberts to disclose this data so that it can be shared on the Village website and opened up for comment by residents

From “Think Work Thrive” Bobby Brown , Toshie Davis, & Ed Moore:

1. Do you favor continuing or discontinuing South Orange’s contract with St. Hubert’s for animal control and sheltering?  Please give your reasons for your position.

As with any public contract we would want to look at a few alternatives to ensure that we are getting the best combination of services and costs before making a decision — but it certainly looks like our relationship with St. Hubert’s is successful and should be continued. In the future we will continue involving all of our residents in this decision and again look for humane, high quality care for the animals at the best possible cost to the village. The services St. Hubert’s provides to South Orange are a good example of where working with other surrounding towns can allow us to achieve sufficient scale to provide a higher quality of service at a more reasonable price.

2. When all municipal departments have been moved out of the former JAC building (i.e. ‪298 Walton Avenue‬), after the renovation of the Baird is finished, how would you want to use 298 Walton?

We are open to many possible uses for 298 Walton when it is vacant, including using it once again as an animal shelter. On the BOT we will be prioritizing a comprehensive space plan for all municipal functions and all municipally owned property and will ensure that animal control and sheltering be one of the functions included in this planning process.  

3.  South Orange recently modified its animal code to permit leashed dogs to enter the majority of its parks. What other opportunities do you see or ideas do you have to make South Orange a more animal-friendly community?

Allowing leashed dogs into some of the parks while a no-brainer for some residents was a significant issue for others. We think that the current arrangement is a positive step that should be treated as a learning experiment. We should have a public meeting every six months or so to hear from residents about how it is working at the parks that now allow leashed dogs and consider changes based on what we learn: Have there been any issues? How many pet owners bring their dogs with them to the park? Have feelings on either side of the issue changed now that we are allowing it?  

4.  South Orange’s agreement with St. Hubert’s says that South Orange will work with St. Hubert’s and the community to encourage the policy of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) of community cats.  What thoughts do you have about specific ways the Village could work with St. Hubert’s and the South Orange community to encourage TNVR?

The TNVR program seems to us to be both humane and successful today, but the number of cats captured and treated each year appears to be low. It would be helpful to have an annual resident inventory of locations with feral cats to track this issue and see if there is more need than we currently realize. An awareness campaign on social media outlets such as Nextdoor and Facebook/SOMA Lounge would seem an obvious way to start to get a handle on the issue.

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