Former Volunteer Alleges Neglect at the Humane Society of Port Jervis
December 11, 2012
Christine Cotroneo says she volunteered several days each week at the Humane Society of Port Jervis in NY from August – November 2012. She worked mostly with the cats and stated in a letter to the board that the animals’ most basic needs – food, water and a clean cage – were too often left unmet, sometimes for days. Ms. Cotroneo says that during the time she volunteered, sick cats were mixed in with healthy cats, she had no knowledge of any cats being tested for FeLV/FIV before being housed together, intact males were caged with intact females (according to the cage cards) and she never observed any cats receiving veterinary care. To the best of her knowledge, the shelter did not have a protocol requiring vaccination upon intake for all pets during the months she volunteered.
If you click the below photo to enlarge (then use your browser’s BACK button to return to the post), you’ll see the cage card for this cat indicates an impound date of August 29 while the time stamp on the photo is August 30. The cat is shown having no food, no water and no litter box:
Ms. Cotroneo says she told staff about this dog’s filthy cage but no one attended to him during the hours she was there that day:
Ms. Cotroneo observed worms in the bags of cat food, the bin in which the food is stored and in the bowls in the cages. One one occasion, she saw a cat eating worms out of his bowl.
Ms. Cotroneo says during her volunteer work, she would give each cat at least 10 minutes outside the cage to stretch their legs and for socialization. She has no knowledge of the cats being let out of their cages at any other time.
Ms. Cotroneo says this litter of kittens with a severe flea infestation was never removed from the cage while she was at the HS of Port Jervis:
Even the water bowl in the kittens’ cage had fleas in it.
Ms. Cotroneo says all these kittens slowly died in this cage. In a letter to the board of the HS of Port Jervis dated November 15, 2012, she stated she saw a second litter (not pictured) also apparently slowly dying in their cage:
[W]hen I learned on November 13, 2012 that another litter was dying, one by one, yet still sitting there in their cage, I approached President, Lisa Eagan, to see if I could take them home and get them medical attention. Rather than allowing me to do that, she advised me that she would have your shelter veterinarian, Dr. Roeder, take a look at them. I do not know if this has been done. From what I recall, there were at least seven kittens in that litter, now there are only four, so I assume three have already died.
The letter to the board was e-mailed on November 15. Ms. Cotroneo next visited the shelter to volunteer on November 18. At that time, she says she was handed a letter advising her that she’d been fired. That letter was dated November 13, the day she says she asked if she could save a dying litter of kittens and was refused.
An open records request by Ms. Cotroneo for the HS of Port Jervis’ stats was denied by the town of Deerpark on November 14. The town claims the shelter is private although the website appears to indicate an animal control contract with the HS of Port Jervis which would make the facility taxpayer funded, at least in part. If that is the case, they are indeed subject to open records requests.
After Ms. Controneo contacted me with her concerns and documentation of what appears to be neglect at the HS of Port Jervis, I reached out to Lisa Eagan, president of the board. I am posting our brief correspondence in its entirety:
To: Lisa Eagan
Sent: Thursday, December 6, 2012 11:42 AM
Subject: Port Jervis HS
I write a blog on animal shelters and was contacted by Christine Cotroneo who says she was recently fired as a volunteer at your shelter. She has made some allegations of neglect at the shelter and I wanted to see if the Board had any comment or would be willing to talk with me about the shelter. I also wanted to request a copy of the statistics for the most recent year on file detailing intakes and outcomes at PJHS.
There are enough homes for every shelter pet in America.
Subject: Re: Port Jervis HS
From: Lisa Eagan
Date: Sat, December 08, 2012 10:08 pm
I am disappointed to hear that Christine would say negative and untrue statements about how we treat our animals at our shelter. The executive board would be more than willing to meet with you in person if you personally have had an issue with our shelter. As for the statistics of our shelter, I will have to respectfully decline your request for our records. I hope to hear from you soon.
Since I believe my letter was clear and that no reasonable person would interpret from it that I personally “had an issue” with the shelter (but rather was seeking comment about specific allegations of neglect for the blog), I interpret the response to be a NO. No comment on photographs appearing to show neglect, no we won’t tell you how many pets died in their cages or in our kill room and no we won’t talk to you but yeah – “hope to hear from you soon”. Well, here you go.
One thing worth noting about the photographs provided by Ms. Cotroneo: they weren’t all taken at 7 or 8 in the morning when one might expect to find cages that hadn’t been cleaned for 14 hours or bowls that had been tipped over during the night. They appear to show a pattern of neglect, not a few isolated incidents.
I know there must be other caring people who have or are volunteering or working at the HS of Port Jervis who want to speak up for the pets but feel afraid to do so. I hope they will see this post as an open door. Thank you Christine for opening it.