Right now, what happens to the animals in many New Jersey animal shelters is uncertain, at best. Facility conditions can be unsafe and/or unhealthful; medical treatment, inconsistent; and live-release rates, especially for cats, shamefully low.
An “Intake & Disposition” report filed each year with the state supposedly lists animals entering and leaving a given shelter. It’s not required and it’s self-reported, meaning that its numbers can be questionable, to say the least. In fact, the fate of countless animals who enter animal shelters here is a mystery.
All too often, “what happens to the animals in many NJ animal shelters” gives the lie to the most positive definition of “shelter.” Cats in shelters — especially “feral,” or “community” cats — are still much more vulnerable than dogs, leading in numbers killed.
Although we may know of “model animal shelters” here and there, we hear too often about “bad shelters,” ACOs who routinely kill feral cats or hunt for recreation, and animals who have “lived” in shelters for months or years. New Jersey was enlightened in 1982 when it became the first state to ban gas chambers for the euthanasia of cats and dogs. Now we’re overdue for more enlightened behavior toward, and for, shelter animals.
On February 27 a light went on at the far end of a very long tunnel. On that date, Senator Linda R. Greenstein (District 14, Mercer and Middlesex), introduced in the state legislature S3019 – establishing “additional requirements for operation and oversight of animal shelters . . .” Here is just one excerpt to love on sight:
. . . shelters and pounds should be caring, safe havens for animals in need [,]
with a life-affirming mission reflecting the humane values of the State’s
citizens, residents, and taxpayers; that these safe havens save the lives of
animals and work toward ever-increasing live-release rates. . . .
And that, literally, is just the beginning of what could lead to significant animal shelter reform. The bill is replete with informed, humane requirements for informed, humane animal shelters (necessarily known in Greenstein’s bill as “regulated animal holding facilities”) — exactly what New Jersey animals deserve. Among many other considerations, S3019 mandates
♦ consulting with a licensed veterinarian, developing and implementing protocols for many facets of shelter operation;
♦ establishing community outreach policies and procedures to maximize opportunities for adoption of shelter animals;
♦ implementing if feasible a “trap, neuter, vaccinate, ear-tip and return” program as an alternative to euthanasia for feral cats;
♦ maintaining specified shelter records for the Dept. of Health to compile and make readily available to the public online;
♦ inspecting of shelters at least three times a year by certified inspectors, visiting without notice, to assure compliance with regulations;
♦ adhering to specified shelter hours of operation that include weekdays, evening and weekend times.
Starting its move toward hoped-for passage, Greenstein’s bill will first be heard in a NJ Senate committee. Other steps will include posting, discussion and possible amendments, and a companion bill will move through the Assembly. We can follow its progress by simply entering S3019 in the gold box at top-right of the legislative website: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/ and clicking “search.” To read or print the bill, click on the red S3019 that follows.
And please do all you can to support this much-needed bill that will strengthen the laws governing animal shelters and make life much better for shelter animals throughout New Jersey.
– Pat Summers
Return to our website for details
on what we’re all about “for the animals.”