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Reform the Montclair Township Animal Shelter

This petition had 495 supporters

The Montclair Township Animal Shelter is in desperate need of reform. Under the administration of shelter director Niki Dawson, several hundred puppies have been imported from Tennessee since March 2015.  Many of these dogs brought along such illnesses as ringworm and heartworm which have affected other animals in the shelter.  There was also minimal effort to rescue within the state of New Jersey; out of 258 dogs that entered the shelter in 2015, there were only about 59 adoptions of local New Jersey dogs. Throughout the year, there were many times when Montclair's kennels were mostly empty and could have accommodated many more dogs than were being taken in. With so many high kill shelters in New Jersey, MTAS could be doing so much more to save lives.

Unnecessary euthanasia has cost the lives of several animals.  A dog named Martin was euthanized for biting and resource guarding without being given the chance to work with a dog trainer.  Montclair's current euthanasia policy states that animals with such behavior issues will be offered a "reasonable training period" before euthanasia is considered - that training period never happened for Martin.  Similarly, two cats named Ally and Rosebud were euthanized for aggression after spending mere days in the shelter with minimal opportunity for socialization.  Currently, Montclair is reviewing its euthanasia policy, but it is unknown what changes are going to be made. This is a critical time to make our voices heard.

Montclair's Department of Health has managed the animal shelter since its inception.  From the beginning, MTAS has faced poor management and ongoing wars between staff and volunteers regarding the wellbeing of the animals.  The Department of Health is unfit to manage the animal shelter and must be relinquished of this power.

Over the past year, as staff and volunteers alike have expressed concerns about the health and wellbeing of Montclair's animals, Niki Dawson has had these individuals terminated. They were given no fair chance to defend themselves and were often ganged up on by Niki and her followers. This is a violation of Section 1983; staff and volunteers should be able to express concerns or disagreements without facing termination because of our right to free speech granted by the First Amendment. The environment in the shelter has become nothing short of hostile.

Finally, a devastating fire tore through the building on April 3, rendering the facility uninhabitable.

Now that Niki Dawson has resigned from her position, Montclair Township will be searching for a new shelter director. Montclair's Animal Welfare Advisory Committee will have great influence in this decision. We urge the township and AWAC to hear our concerns when making their decision. We are calling for five main points of change.

1. Stop importing animals from out of state. We need to get our own affairs in order before we can think about helping other communities. Rather than rescuing puppies from the south, let’s form a partnership with a shelter like Newark to rescue some of the harder to adopt pit bulls in New Jersey.

2. Create and enforce a humane euthanasia policy. Euthanasia should only be used as an absolute last resort for suffering animals, with the approval of a veterinarian.

3. Remove the Department of Health from the equation. The neighboring Bloomfield Animal Shelter was once managed by their Department of Health. However, they have since separated and are now making positive progress in rebuilding.

4. Create better health and safety protocols. Every animal who gets sick must be properly quarantined immediately. Additionally, every dog who bites must be quarantined for the required ten day bite hold. There were many dogs that were not quarantined after a bite who ended up biting again. Each time a dog bite occurs, a dog trainer must be consulted for an evaluation and training period.

5. Establish an environment of respect. There must be some sort of due process to settle disagreements in a fair, civilized way.

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