When an organization releases statistics, it’s usually a snooze. Not so with the Liberty Humane Society animal shelter in Jersey City, which serves both Jersey City and Hoboken. Last week the LHS released its 2010 Animal Dog/Cat Statistics. The organization sees the stats as a solid defense against charges by activists who have been complaining since last summer about the shelter’s practices, including a concern that dogs and cats have been killed unnecessarily.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” said Alfred Martino, the president of the all-volunteer board of directors of the shelter. “The numbers make us look very good since August when the new administration took over. I’m happy and eager to publish them.”
“I’m not going to lie to you. The numbers make us look very good.”¬ – Alfred Martino
Over the last year, some of the shelter’s former volunteers have been engaged in litigation and a war of words with those running the shelter.
Last year, critics of the shelter set up a Facebook page to blast the shelter’s practices. In early September, the LHS filed suit against the moderators of that page. The LHS charged that the page, called “Liberty Humane Society Uncensored,” was used to “defame” Liberty Humane by spreading “misinformation and lies.”
In November, a critic of the shelter, Brad Levy, was arrested by Jersey City police for allegedly having threatened the board on the Facebook page, which has since been taken down.
In December, the volunteers filed suit against the LHS shelter, alleging improprieties with how it carries out euthanasia, adoption, and its finances.
The latest chapter in the saga unfolded on Jan. 14 when activists filed a motion for an Order to Show Cause in Jersey City. The motion, according to Don Larsen, an attorney for the volunteers, “was to appoint a receiver to take control of the Humane Society, gather books and records, and get an accounting of everything.”
He said his clients want the shelter to appoint a new board and pass a future inspection.
“Contrary to allegations, they have no interest in running the place,” he said in an interview. “They want to make sure the place does what it is supposed to do.”
Dead and alive
For its part, officials with the Liberty Humane Society say the numbers prove the shelter is doing what it is supposed to do.
The “Live Release Rate” is considered the industry standard for evaluating shelters. The shelter reached an 87 percent Live Release Rate in November and December, more than 30 percentage points higher than in June and July. That’s the number or percentage of animals that left the building alive: adopted, transferred, or returned to owners.
They said that by year’s end, the euthanasia rate for dogs was less than 15 percent, and less than 10 percent for cats. When asked for more specific numbers, the LHS said that the number of dogs euthanized went from a high of 21 in February to a low of eight in December. The number of cats euthanized went from a high of 84 in September to a low of seven in December.
The earlier, comparatively high euthanasia rates, Martino maintained, were the “result of the previous administration implementing an ill-conceived no-kill policy, which had the shelter hoarding dozens of unadoptable dogs, primarily due to aggressiveness.” When the policy was removed by a new board, those dogs were put down.
But activists disagree with his assessment. They have maintained that the criteria for evaluating the aggressiveness of the dogs was unfair. They have also cited at least one instance in which someone wanted to give a certain pit bull terrier a new home, and was denied the chance.
“There is a spotlight shinning on Liberty Humane and they want to look good,” said an activist who wants to remain anonymous. “However, the numbers that have been issued are highly suspect and are not to be trusted. The only true way to verify these numbers is to do an audit, which will be done through the court and lawsuit.”
Martino stands by the numbers.
“The published stats clearly show that the shelter is going in the right direction, saving and helping animals in Jersey City and Hoboken,” he said. “That’s what the community at large wants.”
Regarding the 84 cats euthanized in September, which was after the new administration took over, Martino said: “It was the consequence of a four-month panleikapenia epidemic that ravaged our cat population. The disease is highly fatal and difficult to treat but was controlled by shutting down cat isolation and intake, sanitizing over a 72-hour period, leaving the rooms vacant for two weeks, then slowly reintroducing the cats.”
New homes for 1,267
Other statistics cited by the LHS:
• LHS found new homes for 1,267 dogs and cats and reunited 206 lost pets with their owners.
• Dog adoptions for October through December increased by 27 percent over May through July.
• 2 percent of dogs and cats died in the shelter in December, down from 31 percent in July.
To adopt an animal, volunteer at the shelter, or find out more, call (201) 547-4147.
Visit www.LibertyHumane.org for more stats.
Kate Rounds can be reached at email@example.com..