Several people spoke at the South Orange Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, June 9, regarding the quarantine and closure of the Jersey Animal Coalition shelter off of Walton Avenue.
Richard Fishbein, of South Orange, criticized the way that the village has handled the closure. Fishbein said that village Health Officer John Festa and Deputy Administrator Adam Loehner have visited the shelter several times with in the past few weeks.
"They know it's in excellent condition", Fishbein said. "Your strategy is clear, make the shelter spin its wheels and deplete all of its resources".
Gale Petrecca, of Union Township, told the Board of Trustees that she was a volunteer at the JAC shelter for four years.
"I don't know how anyone could blame the town for this mess that JAC has gotten itself into", Petrecca said. "They're creating a lot of chaos", she continued, encouraging village officials "to just keep up the effort to straighten this place out".
Petrecca claimed that volunteers "have been getting banned because they speak up", saying that she has been threatened in the past. "it just seems to come down to the dollar for JAC", said Petrecca.
Michael Schickram, of West Orange, told the Board of Trustees that he has been a volunteer at the shelter for seven years. Schickram says that he does not believe that the village should take over the shelter, and he wants the board to continue to work with the JAC.
"Unfortunately, there's a tremendous amount of misinformation being posted online by a few fortunate former volunteers that terrible things are happening at the shelter". Schickram said.
Schickram praised shelter founder and president Ruth Perlmutter, and then said that "some people have disagreements with her and it gets emotional and people say the wrong things and they don't volunteer there anymore...you have to respect the administration of the shelter like you would any business or any other organization".
Former volunteer coordinator Nancy Schetelick, of Union Township, told the Board of Trustees that she had trained over 200 volunteers before being banned from the shelter.
"I was banned because I made some comments about the way the shelter was being run", Schetelick claimed. "I'm sure the people who are running it mean well, but they don't have enough money to keep it going, not the way it should be", she added, mentioning that "if you can find a way to help the animals, get somebody else to take it over or the volunteers are willing to help put the animals someplace else, it's just that we don't want them staying there".
After being requested to by Village President Alex Torpey, Village Deputy Administrator Adam Loehner spoke regarding the current situation at the shelter.
"There are state requirements...(on)...how to keep animals, how the facility should be met, and how the operation of the facility should be done. The JAC is not in compliance with this".
Loehner stated that when a member of the public was interested in adopting an animal from JAC, the village worked with the Associated Humane Society (AHS), of Newark, so that the animal could be transferred from JAC to AHS to be adopted. Loehner said that in order for this to take place, the village needed JAC to provide a letter from the interested adopter, a certification letter from JAC veterinarian of record, and a transfer agreement. However, Loehner said that the village received none of these, adding that "we were quite surprised".
In addition, Loehner reported that recently, the East Orange Water Commission (EOWC) reported that JAC had a delinquency in payment, and the EOWC was planning to turn off the water for the shelter. Loehner said that JAC was able to pay their water bill "literally as the person was driving down the driveway to turn off their water".
Also, Loehner said that during a visit to the shelter last Friday, he noticed that "the animals appeared to be in okay condition", saying that the village was "ready to remove any animals that needed medical treatment". No animals were removed from the shelter.
Loehner told the Board of Trustees that he is currently preparing four suggestions as to what should be done with the shelter, stating that "they are still not in compliance with the state as a facility so we cannot lift the quarantine, take the closure off, or reopen it".
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