NJ SPCA Finally Takes Action to Help Animals at Troubled Hunterdon Co Shelter

The Hunterdon Humane Shelter contracts with several NJ municipalities to perform animal control services.  There have been public allegations of wrongdoing against the shelter for more than a decade.  During this time, the shelter’s bank account has continued to expand.   Hunterdon Humane is now a very wealthy organization but appears to have spent only a small portion of its money on animal care:

By the end of 2012 the organization’s net assets surpassed $5 million.

For the year 2012, gross revenues were more than $1.2 million, but expenses were only $436,757.

Of those expenses listed, only about $58,000 was specified as being for “animal care.”

Earlier this month, Hunterdon Humane’s president and director, Theresa Carlson, was charged with 18 counts of animal cruelty in connection with 9 shelter cats for whom she allegedly failed to provide proper sustenance.  The charges stem from an investigation conducted in August 2013 by the county prosecutor’s office and the NJ SPCA. As part of the investigation, search warrants were executed at both the shelter and a nearby vet clinic, which has remained unnamed. Two pigs were found in “deplorable condition” at the shelter along with a number of seriously ill cats:

Two veterinarians working along with NJSPCA officers determined that 17 cats were in need of immediate emergency veterinary care. Those 17 cats were transported to an animal hospital in the Flemington area. Four of the cats were in such poor condition that they needed to be humanely euthanized.

The NJ SPCA has extensive familiarity with the troubled Hunterdon shelter:

Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter was previously the Hunterdon County SPCA, but the state SPCA revoked its charter in 2004. That action came after the local chapter failed to enforce animal cruelty laws by not prosecuting former Nets basketball star Jayson Williams, then an Alexandria resident , for allegedly shooting his Rottweiler after losing a bet.

The NJ SPCA had heard testimony from multiple witnesses at a hearing in 2004 regarding the revocation of Hunterdon’s charter:

Conditions at the county SPCA shelter in Mt. Pleasant were discussed by former employees, who said the cats were overcrowded and sick animals were allowed to mix with healthy ones. A state SPCA investigator testified similarly about conditions at the shelter and said hygiene management was poor when he was there.

The NJ SPCA continued to hear testimony from more witnesses at an appeals hearing in 2005:

At the hearing, witnesses testified that donations were made for specific items that were never purchased, and requests for expenditures on facility repairs, or additional food or equipment for the care of the animals were denied.

nj spcaExcept for the NJ SPCA revoking Hunterdon’s charter in 2004, causing the organization to transfer its assets and change its name to Hunterdon Humane, no action was taken.    Then NJ SPCA President Stuart Rhodes reportedly said at the time he would consider filing charges against the shelter but that never happened.  Concerned citizens appealed directly to Hunterdon’s board in 2008, without result.

Even after the 2013 raid, no charges were filed until January 2014 and no explanation was given for the delay.  But the NJ SPCA moved swiftly to gain control of the Hunterdon shelter, filing a petition with the courts immediately after the January 14 arrest.  The petition was granted January 15.  The animals will hopefully now receive the help they have long needed and deserved.  The NJ SPCA indicated resources and services are coming from national animal welfare groups including American Humane and Petsmart Charities, with a number of additional grants having been sought by NJ SPCA, “to assist in this unfortunate situation.”

Assuming NJ SPCA will apply its new found speediness in gaining access to Hunterdon’s fat bank account, I hope it’s their intention to repay every penny of donated resources and grants to the agencies from which they obtained them.  Although those in charge at Hunterdon allegedly misused funds for years while animals suffered and the NJ SPCA did nothing, that’s not what should be happening now.  This is one “unfortunate situation” where outside resources and grant money will be unneeded once NJ SPCA gets control of Hunterdon’s $5 million in cash and assets.  There are a great many shelters and rescue groups in this country, particularly ones that have become overburdened trying to save animals from the kill room at their local pounds, which could benefit greatly from the resources and grants being directed toward Hunterdon.  If NJ SPCA fails to repay every donated service and dollar received for helping the Hunterdon animals, it will be an immense disservice to every animal group in desperate need of those resources.  And it will look more than a little suspicious that NJ SPCA dragged its feet regarding Hunterdon for 10 years, arriving on scene only after Hunterdon’s bank account had swelled past the $5 million mark and then held out its hand for donations.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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5 Comments

  1. Joan Mulder

     /  January 27, 2014

    How is it that this shameful “shelter” received so much money???? We scrimp and save every penny saving as many lives as possible but haven’t been able to amass such funds. I don’t understand it. Unbelievable that this was allowed to continue for so long. Poor, poor animals.

    Reply
  2. db

     /  January 27, 2014

    Take a look at the bank accounts of many of the large animal “welfare” organizations. You might be surprised how little goes toward helping animals and how much goes toward salaries, benefits and pr to raise even more funds. Look at the emotional ads with pathetic looking animals and sad songs in the background – thanks A$PCA – and then check out what they spend on animals or in helping smaller shelters and rescues. The H$U$ is as bad. Our Michigan “Humane” $ociety has one of the highest kill rates in the state, but advertising tells us they save 100% of the “adoptable” animals. Things are not what they seem in animal welfare . . .

    I do hope there’s a good outcome for these animals and the people who are trying so hard to take care of them.

    Thanks, Shirley, for once again shining the light of truth on these stories.

    Reply
  3. Trudy

     /  January 28, 2014

    Tee Carlson has been known as a hoarder for years. I agree that 6 months between the August 2013 investigation and the recent charges is an unreasonably long time. Something should have been done sooner.

    Keep in mind that just because the NJ SPCA was granted control of the shelter they likely cannot have access to the obscene amount of money in the Hunterdon Humane (ludicrous name) accounts until after the trial and it is resolved in the NJ SPCA’s favor.

    Regardless of the verdict, at the very least I would expect NJ SPCA to receive reimbursement for expenditures.

    A recent article mentions that the first group of cats will soon be available for adoption. And that’s an important, positive action.

    Reply
  4. NJ Roadie

     /  January 1, 2015

    FYI – Dec 2014 Tee is back running the shelter, and according to a friend who is a regular volunteer, conditions are going downhill again. Please raise your voice and make this situation known.

    Reply

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