The State Department of Health’s recent inspection of the Summit Animal Clinic in Union City – which takes in stray and lost animals from Bayonne, North Bergen, and West New York – found that the clinic was not in compliance with certain state regulations, according to a subsequent report.
But Bayonne officials said the clinic passed the state inspection overall, and that the city has confidence the clinic will make those changes necessary to address the state’s concerns.
Bayonne recently started contracting with a private animal control officer, Geoff Santini of Hudson County Animal Enforcement, who uses that clinic to house animals. Local animal lovers and owners raised various concerns, saying the clinic has not followed all state rules pertaining to the boarding of animals.
“The inspection simply pointed out areas that needed to be improved, and that’s what’s being done.” – Joe Waks
The state mandates that animal shelters keep found pets for seven days before euthanizing them, that they allow people access to see their confiscated pets, and that they follow certain health guidelines.
“The clinic passed the inspection,” said Joseph Waks, who serves as director of municipal services in Bayonne, a department that includes animal control services. “The inspection simply said that clinic needed to improve some areas, and from my understanding, they are doing that.”
Says cats were sick
The state report alleged that records of stray animals kept at the facility were incomplete.
“Our inspection of the Summit Animal Clinic found that records were kept; however, they were [allegedly] incomplete,” said Daniel Emmer, communications manager for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, in an e-mail. “The inspector did not document a violation in regards to the seven-day holding period for stray animals.”
The inspection report also states that, “Some primary dog enclosures do not meet the size requirements for the dogs housed in them.”
“A few cats were exhibiting signs of upper respiratory infection,” the report continues. “Evidence that these cats were provided with basic vet care were not avail.”
The report says that cats with symptoms of upper respiratory infection were not isolated from healthy cats.
According to Emmer, the clinic received a “Conditional B” mark, which is neither a passing nor a failing grade.
“A conditional B rating on a NJDHSS inspection report means that there are violations that must be remedied by the facility in order to come into compliance with the laws and regulations to operate an impoundment facility,” said Emmer in an email.
“In this case, the state is working with the local health officer to bring the facility into compliance,” continued Emmer. “A re-inspection of the facility will be conducted, but will be unannounced.”
Better situation than before
Towns in Hudson County and across the country have had trouble finding enough space and services for abandoned, stray, and found pets. Tough economic times have resulted in people giving up their pets and not adopting more. There are few shelters in the area to house them.
“We put out bids and then we looked into the background of each bidder,” said Bayonne Business Administrator Steve Gallo. “We found that this company was well-equipped to meet our needs, providing the city with 24 hour coverage 365 days a year. This is something we did not have before this.”
Waks said the company also provided a shelter within Hudson County. In the past, residents of Bayonne had to go to Newark to recover their pets.
Gallo said residents who lost their pets can call the Union City clinic to find out if a pet has been brought there, and get it back more easily than when the city used a Newark shelter.
State regulations require that a pet found by a city must be held for seven days before it can be euthanized, and that the clinic must also provide access to the public for two hours each day.
The inspection report maintains that the Summit Animal Clinic was not in violation of the seven-day holding period. But one animal lover asked how the state could know that if the records were allegedly incomplete.
Gallo said he had every confidence in the firm and in the clinic fixing its problems.
Bayonne resident raised concerns
Bayonne resident Patricia Mulligan claimed that she was not allowed access to the clinic after her cat was found in Bayonne.
Mulligan called the Bayonne Board of Health and was told that her cat was picked up on Sept. 2. She claimed that she was denied access to visit the Summit Animal Clinic in order to identify her pet.
Instead, the clinic chose to email her pictures in order to confirm that they were in possession of her cat, she said.
Mulligan said that when her cat was eventually delivered to her after six days, he was in an unstable condition. Her vet later confirmed that her cat had been diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection.
“He was so sick that he was put on antibiotics for two weeks,” said Mulligan last month, adding that treatment cost a “couple hundred dollars.”
Santini said his staff routinely takes photographs of animals they find, and that this helped identify the cat and return it.
“The cat did not have a chip, nor was it neutered,” he said.
“How does anyone know or prove that an animal that comes in is held for seven days?” asked Roseanne Trezza of the Associated Humane Societies, a non-profit animal sheltering system based in Newark. “No animals were individually identified, so how can you tell the arrival date?”
Trezza claimed that the AHS has had to step in to pick up some pets because there wasn’t room at the Union City facility.
“This situation is not new,” added Trezza. “I complained a year or two ago.”
Trezza also stated that she believes the problems with the clinic will never be solved.
“Months from now, nothing will have changed,” said Trezza. “You’ll never know because there’s no written record. There’s no way to tell.”
Mulligan responded to the report by saying, “Sadly, it seems like my concerns had been validated. They’re not taking care of the animals properly.”
Waks said, “The clinic did not fail the inspection. The inspection simply pointed out areas that needed to be improved, and that’s what’s being done. I’m certain that when the clinic is re-inspected, the clinic will meet all of the state’s requirements.”