When Essex County Place visited the Jersey Animal Coalition (JAC) shelter on Tuesday, May 6, JAC president and founder Ruth Perlmutter was sitting on a bench outside the shelter, looking at the bills which had just arrived in the mail. "We've had ongoing bills and no income", said Perlmutter, who founded JAC in 1988.
The shelter, which is located off Walton Avenue in South Orange, is currently under quarantine. It was closed after a joint inspection by the South Orange Department of Health and the New Jersey Department of Health in March. Since the closure, stray animals from South Orange have been taken to Associated Humane Societies in Newark.“Adoptions were a big part of our income”, Perlmutter told Essex County Place. Since the shelter is closed, and no animals are permitted to leave the facility, adoptions cannot take place. “People are waiting to adopt certain animals”, said Perlmutter.
However, multiple posts by JAC on their Facebook page indicate that many animals are available for adoption despite the closure. One post from May 6 asks followers to “please adopt” a cat named Tiger Lily, and other posts provide links to adoption applications. In fact, as of May 7, there is little indication on the Facebook page that the shelter is closed.
When asked about what donations are needed by JAC, Perlmutter simply said, “we need money”. According to Perlmutter, gas and electricity for the shelter costs approximately $4000 per month, and JAC is running out of money to keep the shelter in operation. JAC has been considering hosting a car wash in order to raise money, Perlmutter said.
However Nancy Schetelick, a former volunteer coordinator for JAC, warned against giving monetary donations to the coalition. “No monetary donations at all”, Schetelick said in an email to PlaceNJ.com, “No one knows where the money goes and I for one stopped sending in monetary donations over a year ago”. Schetelick recommended that those interested in donating to the shelter should donate supplies so that the animals are not unclean and hungry. “At least with supplies, they cannot turn around and sell them for money, they have to use them for the animals”, said Schetelick.
One of the primary reasons for the shelter closure had been because three cats had been infected with ringworm. Perlmutter claimed that the cats have since been cured, however South Orange Village Deputy Administrator Adam Loehner told Essex County Place that "we are not aware of this as the only communication with the JAC at this time has been through their lawyer regarding the case".
JAC was charged in March with over 50 violations. Not guilty pleas were filed last month by JAC attorney William Strazza. At the time, South Orange Municipal Prosecutor Gracia Robert Montilus said that he expects the case to move towards trial after the discovery period. Perlmutter had originally been facing two unrelated violations dating back to February, however charges were dismissed by a municipal court judge in April.
However, despite the various legal troubles JAC is facing, Perlmutter said that the animals who live in the shelter are “still being very well taken care of”. She continued by saying that one of her biggest concerns is “that the animals are going to (the AHS Shelter in) Newark”, which unlike JAC, is not a no-kill shelter. When a citizen stopped to ask whether the JAC shelter had reopened, Perlmutter assured that the shelter would reopen soon. “No one benefits from us being closed...certainly the animals are not benefiting...We look forward to welcoming the public when we reopen”.