Although the Liberty Humane Society isn’t thrilled with Bayonne terminating the animal control contract earlier this month, our tour through their facility showed their top priority is still animal care.
“We are a non-profit animal shelter that was formed in 1998, we started operating in Jersey City in 2004. For a long time, Jersey City didn’t have a non-profit animal shelter. Animals were being subcontracted out to other places that were unknown and dubious,” said Irene Borngraeber, the executive director of LHS.
The cats in the facility have Kuranda beds, stainless steel litter pans, a “stretch and scratcher” post and a sock filled with catnip – in addition to their usual food and water – inside their cages.
Each feline also has their medical information logged onto an online database that makes it easy for potential owners to learn about the cat’s history.
“A group of concerned citizens got together and pressured them in order to open the facility, which is a non-profit partnership. Currently, in the state of New Jersey, the law only requires that you hold domestic animals for seven days. After that, it doesn’t specify what happens to them.”
“So, as a non-profit, we raise the money needed to cover the costs of housing those animals, for adoptions, spay and neuter surgery, medical care – all of the other things the public thinks is necessary for domestic animals, but the municipalities generally will not pay for,” she explained.
Also worth noting is that cats that are ill with ailments such as respiratory infections, or even ringworm, are kept in a a separate area from healthy cats so that disease does not spread.
LHS relies on dozens of volunteers to walk the dogs being housed at the facility, which is made easier via an online check-in system, as well as color coding the cages to give handlers a better idea of how difficult each individual dog is to walk.
We also had a chance to meet Valerie Wilson, the lead veterinary technician at LHS, who showed us the kind of care a stray kitten receives when he or she is first brought to the facility.
At the November 10 Bayonne City Council meeting, the board terminated their contract with LHS in favor of the Lodi-based company New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue.
The company is owned by Geoff Santini, who has animal contracts in Union City, West New York and North Bergen – who also held a contract in the Peninsula City under the name Hudson County Animal Enforcement, Inc. prior to LHS.
Borngraeber declined to address the situation beyond the statement they released on their website, claiming that they were not made aware of a new request for proposal being issued by the city, further stating that issues arose over residents asking LHS to “remove healthy wildlife from municipal and private property.”
“We were not aware that the City had issued a new Request for Proposals (RFP), or that they were seeking to terminate our agreement until hours before the council meeting,” the statement says.
“Over the last year, LHS has faced increasing pressure from the City of Bayonne to remove healthy wildlife from municipal and private property and euthanize or relocate them elsewhere. This is against our animal control policies, and against best practices,” adding that they follow NJ’s standard animal control practices.
“The Bayonne Municipal Council does not agree with LHS’s wildlife policy and has chosen to contract with a company who will take a different, as yet undocumented approach.”
City officials have essentially said the move was strictly business, given that NJ Animal Control and Rescue boasts cost savings for Bayonne.
Santini did not respond to calls or a voicemail seeking comment on Monday.