The Hunterdon Humane Shelter contracts with several NJ municipalities to perform animal control services. There have been public allegations of wrongdoing against the shelter for more than a decade. During this time, the shelter’s bank account has continued to expand. Hunterdon Humane is now a very wealthy organization but appears to have spent only a small portion of its money on animal care:
By the end of 2012 the organization’s net assets surpassed $5 million.
For the year 2012, gross revenues were more than $1.2 million, but expenses were only $436,757.
Of those expenses listed, only about $58,000 was specified as being for “animal care.”
Earlier this month, Hunterdon Humane’s president and director, Theresa Carlson, was charged with 18 counts of animal cruelty in connection with 9 shelter cats for whom she allegedly failed to provide proper sustenance. The charges stem from an investigation conducted in August 2013 by the county prosecutor’s office and the NJ SPCA. As part of the investigation, search warrants were executed at both the shelter and a nearby vet clinic, which has remained unnamed. Two pigs were found in “deplorable condition” at the shelter along with a number of seriously ill cats:
Two veterinarians working along with NJSPCA officers determined that 17 cats were in need of immediate emergency veterinary care. Those 17 cats were transported to an animal hospital in the Flemington area. Four of the cats were in such poor condition that they needed to be humanely euthanized.
The NJ SPCA has extensive familiarity with the troubled Hunterdon shelter:
Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter was previously the Hunterdon County SPCA, but the state SPCA revoked its charter in 2004. That action came after the local chapter failed to enforce animal cruelty laws by not prosecuting former Nets basketball star Jayson Williams, then an Alexandria resident , for allegedly shooting his Rottweiler after losing a bet.
The NJ SPCA had heard testimony from multiple witnesses at a hearing in 2004 regarding the revocation of Hunterdon’s charter:
Conditions at the county SPCA shelter in Mt. Pleasant were discussed by former employees, who said the cats were overcrowded and sick animals were allowed to mix with healthy ones. A state SPCA investigator testified similarly about conditions at the shelter and said hygiene management was poor when he was there.
The NJ SPCA continued to hear testimony from more witnesses at an appeals hearing in 2005:
At the hearing, witnesses testified that donations were made for specific items that were never purchased, and requests for expenditures on facility repairs, or additional food or equipment for the care of the animals were denied.
Except for the NJ SPCA revoking Hunterdon’s charter in 2004, causing the organization to transfer its assets and change its name to Hunterdon Humane, no action was taken. Then NJ SPCA President Stuart Rhodes reportedly said at the time he would consider filing charges against the shelter but that never happened. Concerned citizens appealed directly to Hunterdon’s board in 2008, without result.
Even after the 2013 raid, no charges were filed until January 2014 and no explanation was given for the delay. But the NJ SPCA moved swiftly to gain control of the Hunterdon shelter, filing a petition with the courts immediately after the January 14 arrest. The petition was granted January 15. The animals will hopefully now receive the help they have long needed and deserved. The NJ SPCA indicated resources and services are coming from national animal welfare groups including American Humane and Petsmart Charities, with a number of additional grants having been sought by NJ SPCA, “to assist in this unfortunate situation.”
Assuming NJ SPCA will apply its new found speediness in gaining access to Hunterdon’s fat bank account, I hope it’s their intention to repay every penny of donated resources and grants to the agencies from which they obtained them. Although those in charge at Hunterdon allegedly misused funds for years while animals suffered and the NJ SPCA did nothing, that’s not what should be happening now. This is one “unfortunate situation” where outside resources and grant money will be unneeded once NJ SPCA gets control of Hunterdon’s $5 million in cash and assets. There are a great many shelters and rescue groups in this country, particularly ones that have become overburdened trying to save animals from the kill room at their local pounds, which could benefit greatly from the resources and grants being directed toward Hunterdon. If NJ SPCA fails to repay every donated service and dollar received for helping the Hunterdon animals, it will be an immense disservice to every animal group in desperate need of those resources. And it will look more than a little suspicious that NJ SPCA dragged its feet regarding Hunterdon for 10 years, arriving on scene only after Hunterdon’s bank account had swelled past the $5 million mark and then held out its hand for donations.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)