Wantage denies allegations that its pound is substandard

| 21 Feb 2012 | 12:59

Wantage - A Fredon veterinarian has alleged that Wantage is operating the dog pound as all-kill facility, and has suggested that the shelter is understaffed, too small, keeps slipshod or possibly deliberately inaccurate records, and has inadequate facilities to keep sick animals in isolation. But Wantage Mayor Jeffrey Parrott said there is no truth to the allegations. In fact, the mayor reported at a recent township committee meeting, the pound has recently gotten top marks from state regulators, whose only recommendations were adding more runs and a quarantine room for sick animals. The committee approved plans to construct an addition. In a series of letters addressed to Wantage administrator Jim Doherty, Linda Grau, D.V.M., said she had visited the facility, and had observed the lack of space to isolate sick, or possibly sick, animals. Grau also said she had treated what appeared to be an unusually large number of sick cats that cat advocate Laurie Walsh told her she had rescued from the Wantage animal control facility. Walsh, a former veterinarian technician, operates a no-kill licensed cat shelter, Claws Cat Rescue & Adoption Shelter of Sussex County, known as C.L.A.W.S., from a location behind her home in Sussex. Grau said Walsh had brought in a two-month old kitten that was “emaciated and dehydrated, and had an “enormous maggot lodged in its neck and a billiard-ball-sized abscess under its throat” — from the Wantage facility. Although Doherty didn’t dispute the state of the kitten’s health, he said that it had entered the facility in that condition, and Animal Control Officer John Abate had meant to seek veterinary care for the animal within 24 hours of its arrival at the shelter. Abate relinquished possession of the kitten to Walsh, Doherty said, because he believed that because Walsh operates a licensed cat shelter, the state-mandated seven-day waiting period could be waived. “The state has clarified the need for John to honor the seven-day waiting period, regardless of who requests the animal prior to that time,” Doherty said. Grau also told Doherty she had informed Gwyn Sondkike of the N.J. Dept. of Health and Human Services that she (Grau) had documentary evidence that animals in the care of the Wantage Township Pound had been abused or neglected, Doherty said she had not produced any evidence so far to support her allegations. In a letter dated Oct. 27 and addressed to Grau, Doherty wrote: “I am sure you will understand that when faced with allegations of wrongdoing involving any Wantage employee, the Township of Wantage needs to see this evidence.” The township administrator also said that if the charge proved to be without merit, that township would have to correct the record to preserve public trust. Doherty agreed that the Wantage dog pound has too many “customers” and not enough space, but said that the township will comply with the N.J. Department of Health mandate to add a new wing or to house fewer animals. Wantage has applied for a grant to help pay for the new construction and is preparing an isolation room until the new wing is built. The inspection took place on Nov. 20. In addition, Doherty said Wantage officials are taking a hard look at the scope of the service Wantage Animal Control provides to local towns including Franklin, Hamburg, Sussex, Newton and Stillwater, and looking for ways to cut back. Branchville and Lafayette employ their own animal control officers, but contract with Wantage for the use of the dog pound. Montague and Hampton contract with Wantage for animal control service, but use other locations to keep the animals. During the Nov. 20, inspection, Doherty said, State Health Department Inspectors did find a few problems, but the township is working to address them. Most, Doherty said, resulted from simple oversights. For example, inspectors found that the required Fire Inspection Certificate and the Certificate of Veterinary Supervision weren’t posted because they had been removed temporarily by a window washer. Doherty said that inaccuracies in records for euthanized animals resulted from a bookkeeping error. “Wantage maintains individual disposition forms for every animal, as well as an animal log book that summarizes all of the animal activity by month,” Doherty said. “Each individual disposition form clearly shows whether the animal was adopted or euthanized; there is a clear record of this information for every animal. The State Health Department has asked for additional detail to be included on the forms, and Wantage has agreed to do this.” Doherty said that in June 2006 a member of the office staff had mistakenly assumed that Wantage was reporting animals euthanized at the Port Jervis Humane Society to the N.J. Department of Health and to the Humane Society. To guard against a duplicate report, this person began logging the animals as having been “transferred” instead of “euthanized.” The State Health Department has clarified that Wantage should show the animals to have been euthanized, and Wantage will correct the entries between June and November of this year, Doherty said.  He added that Wantage has been using the Port Jervis, N.Y. Humane Society for euthanizing animals for many years with the knowledge of the N.J. State Health Department, and never has been cited for any violation. “The manner of euthanization used at the Port Jervis Humane Society is completely legal and compliant with the requirements of the State of New Jersey,” Doherty stated. In his report following the Nov. 20 inspection, Dr. Colin Campbell, the state’s senior public health veterinarian, said that problems “noted at this facility earlier in 2006 have been corrected and the facility was very clean at the time of the inspection.” Sussex County Health Officer Herb Yardley said that he has found the Wantage pound to be consistently one of the cleanest facilities he has ever seen in the State of New Jersey. “If the pound looks clean and neat, that’s because all, or nearly all, of the animals are killed after seven days,” Walsh concluded. Records showing admissions as compared with adoptions were not immediately available for the press to review.