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NJSPCA -- Stop stonewalling the formation of county SPCA chapters by refusing to review applications and by adopting onerous procedures

This petition had 7,370 supporters

Animals desperately need county SPCA chapters because the NJSPCA does not have the staff to handle animal cruelty calls in every county, and because allowing experienced people to combat cruelty in their own communities is essential--

State law requires the NJSPCA to assist persons in counties without a chartered SPCA county society to obtain a charter.  N.J.S.A. 4:22-11.4k

In December 2008, the NJSPCA approved county charter applications for Somerset and Burlington counties.  The NJSPCA used quick and simple procedures to review and approve the applications.  The NJSPCA used a short application form which called for simple one or two sentence answers.  It did not require spouses or people living in the residence of the applicants to disclose their social security numbers, or to disclose their animals or produce 3 years of vet records.  It did not require any cash or assets on hand before filing an application or any fundraising in advance of application.  In fact with regard to Somerset, the NJSPCA did not require it to have any cash or assets on hand, gave it a loan of $2,000 and allowed it to recover escrow of $5,000 from a previously constituted Somerset County SPCA chapter.  It did not require the new chapters to do any law enforcement activities for 6 years.  The NJSPCA also gave the new chapters half of the NJSPCA's fees for cases in those counties for an initial 2 year period.  The NJSPCA did not require any application or initial yearly fee to the NJSPCA. In fact it gave Somerset a loan and other benefits as set forth above.  The NJSPCA did not require a minimum of 10 board members.  The NJSPCA also approved the applications within just one month from submission. 

Just as the NJSPCA was approving charters for Somerset and Burlington in December 2008, interested persons filed county charter applications for three other counties: Camden,  Ocean and Mercer counties.  The applicants are led by experienced individuals. A certified Animal Cruelty Investigator active in Camden County with over fifteen years of experience in the animal field has applied to the NJSPCA for approval to form a chapter in Camden County.   A former NJSPCA law enforcement officer with ten years' experience in the southern New Jersey region has applied for approval to form a chapter in Ocean County.  A member of Pet Rescue of Mercer for over ten years has applied for approval to form a chapter in Mercer County. At the time these applications were filed, there had been no county chapters in these counties for years, and there still are none.   

The NJSPCA has failed to review the applications for over four years. Last year, applicants had to retain counsel, Dante DiPirro, Esq. to file a lawsuit, and on February 15, 2013 the court entered a Final Order that gave the NJSPCA until April 5th to adopt procedures for the review of such applications.  NJSPCA missed that deadline and the Court then ordered the NJSPCA to adopt procedures by May 14, or show cause why sanctions should not be issued against them.

On May 14th, the NJSPCA adopted procedures that are so onerous that it will make it extremely difficult for anyone to form a county chapter, even the experienced applicants with the pending applications.  The only board members voting against adoption of the procedures were two Governor's appointees to the board (a few years ago the Legislature gave the Governor the authority to name appointees to the NJSPCA board to add neutral, third-parties to the decision-making process).

Some of the hurdles that each chapter applicant would have to surmount BEFORE they could even APPLY are:  

* Disclose the social security number of the spouse and anyone living in the residence with applicant (not a requirement before; invasion of privacy; unreasonable);

* Disclose all animals of not only the applicant, but applicant's spouse and anyone living in the residence with applicant, disclose the breeds, and provide vet records for all such animals for the previous 3 years (not a requirement before; invasion of privacy; unreasonable);

*Raise at least $10,000 in donations (not a requirement before;  amount and circumstances make it unreasonable; applicants would have to fundraise for an entity that does not exist yet and for which they do not even know if they will get a NJSPCA approval);

* Raise $3,000 in application/ yearly fees (previously a chapter was required to pay the NJSPCA $1,000 per year; no justification of why any fee is appropriate or why this amount;  amount is onerous as a yearly fee; even more onerous pre-application approval on top of the $10,000 advance fundraising requirement);

* Purchase a $5,000,000 insurance policy (not a requirement before;  inappropriate when no assurance that NJSPCA will even approve the charter application);

* Require that there be a minimum of 10 board members (not a requirement before; statute requires that there be ten interested persons but does not require that there be a board of this size; unreasonable since many non-profits merely have two board members, a president and a secretary/treasurer), and

* Require that 6 board members each agree to pay $1,000 for and attend law enforcement training, even if they do not personally wish to perform law enforcement (not a requirement before; unduly costly; unreasonable given that NJSPCA does not have adequate law enforcement staff now to handle cruelty calls in these counties, that the statute does not require that a new chapter perform law enforcement immediately, and does not require that board members themselves perform law enforcement). 

We need to tell the NJSPCA: (1) Rescind the onerous procedures for county charter applications adopted on May 14 2013 which hinder experienced animal cruelty officers and members of the public from combatting cruelty.  (2) Stop stonewalling the formation of county SPCA chapters, especially here in counties where they are desperately needed.  (3) Approve the Camden, Ocean and Mercer charter applications on the same terms and procedures that you approved the Somerset and Burlington charters.

The NJSPCA does not have sufficient staff to handle animal cruelty calls in these counties, and new county chapters are desperately needed.  It must take the requested action right away.

For more background see news articles:

February 5, 2013

February 8, 2013

April 16, 2013

May 6, 2013

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