Friday, August 22, 2014

Update: JAC and Village Nearing Settlement

The Jersey Animal Coalition (JAC) will likely leave its home at a South Orange animal shelter after more than nine years. This will come should a settlement be reached between the Township of South Orange Village and the JAC. As part of the settlement, more than 80 charges against the JAC would be dismissed if the organization and its animals vacate the property off of Walton Avenue near the South Orange Recycling Center.

Deputy Village Administrator Adam Loehner told Essex County Place on Friday that there is settlement in principle, however it has not yet be officiated. "It's coming to an end", said Loehner.

The shelter which currently houses the JAC opened in July of 2005, and remained open until March 12 of this year, when it was shut down and placed under quarantine after a joint inspection between the village and the state. At the time, the village issued more than 50 citations to the JAC, and issued over 30 more citations in the following months. On July 7, the JAC sued the Loehner, in addition to the Village Health Department, the Village Board of Health, Health Officer John Fests, and Village Administrator Barry Lewis, Jr. That afternoon, after reading the lawsuit, New Jersey State Superior Court Judge Dennis F. Carey, III ordered that the shelter be allowed to reopen temporarily. Adoptions resumed that night, and have remained ongoing.

Former volunteers at the shelter, who recently claimed that they were banned from volunteering there, are reacting to the news. 

"Sad ending to what could have been a good shelter", said Nancy Schetelick, a former volunteer coordinator. "This news exonerates all the 'banned' volunteers labeled troublemakers for trying to improve conditions for the animals". Schetelick also questioned what will happen to animals currently living at the shelter. "Will the NJSPCA (New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) finally step up and help relocate some of these animals?", Schetelick asked.

Former volunteer Gale Petrecca called the settlement "bittersweet for the long suffering animals". "We can only hope that JAC finally does the right thing and cleans up this mess entirely before closing the doors", said Petrecca. "They need to fling the doors open, let in the light, (and) allow adoptions at hugely slashed rates". Petrecca added that "it should not be about how much they can make on the remaining shelter pets but on getting every last one of them out of there before the deadline".

According to Loehner, the village has not yet decided what will be done with the shelter should the JAC move out. Officials with the Jersey Animal Coalition did not return requests for comment.

This story will be updated.

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