Kane In Your Corner: East Orange shelter cited for numerous violations

Inspections find numerous health violations at the East Orange Animal Shelter.

Inspections find numerous health violations at the East Orange Animal Shelter. (8/20/15)

EAST ORANGE - There are serious problems at the East Orange Animal Shelter, but the city doesn't seem to want to admit they exist. Kane In Your Corner caught the city repeatedly making false statements - both in writing and in multiple on-camera interviews - about a recent state inspection which gave the shelter an "unsatisfactory" grade.

Alex Kelly, who spent 18 months working as an Animal Control Officer in East Orange, says the shelter "stinks" and "leaks like a sieve. Where the air conditioners go, rain comes in all over the place."

Amanda Ham says she was fired from the shelter last year for speaking out about the poor treatment of animals by shelter management. Hamm says: "It's sickening and appalling to me that these people just don't care."

The shelter is operated by the City of East Orange, which contracts day-to-day operations to a veterinarian, Dr. Kimani Griffith. Last month, inspectors with the New Jersey Department of Health cited a laundry list of repeat deficiencies at the shelter, including animals not being provided with water and cages and enclosures not being cleaned or disinfected. The state took particular aim at Dr. Griffith, saying animals are "not being provided with at least prompt, basic veterinary care to alleviate pain and suffering as required."

But the City of East Orange tells a very different story about that inspection. City spokesman Casim Gomez emailed Kane In Your Corner a statement on behalf of the city's health director, Rochelle Evans, insisting that the state had found only "minor structural problems." Gomez also claimed that "The state Department of Health has since removed the 'failure to provide medical care' charge from the state inspection report as this was not true."

The city's statement is completely false, as the violations are still very alive. NJDOH spokesperson Nicole Mulvaney confirms: "The department made no changes to the July 16, 2015 inspection report." Violations involving the poor care of animals were not dropped.

In fact, the city's efforts to lobby the state to drop those violations only appear to have dug themselves in deeper, providing the state with concrete evidence of the problems cited by the inspector. For example, the state initially cited the shelter for allowing a cat to sit untreated for days with a "paw and leg (that) appeared to be swollen." Griffith's follow-up call to the state, intended to prove he was providing excellent care, merely provided the inspector with a damaging piece of information: the cat's leg was not just swollen, but "fractured."

Kane In Your Corner attempted to ask East Orange Health Director Rochelle Evans why the city had issued a false statement, but was immediately intercepted by armed security, who blocked the door to her office. The only person the city would allow News 12 New Jersey's Walt Kane to speak with was Gomez, the same spokesman who had forwarded the false statement to begin with. Gomez promptly doubled down on the misinformation, saying on-camera that he was "100 percent sure" that all violations involving animal care had been dropped. Later, in a separate on-camera interview, Gomez even claimed the city had "evidence" to prove the charges were dropped and promised that "we will send it to you." Gomez never sent anything.

Ironically, the only person involved with the East Orange shelter willing to admit that the violations were still active was the man against whom they had been leveled, shelter director Kimani Griffith. And Griffith offered a strange excuse as to why the city had repeatedly made false statements, first in writing and then multiple times in on-camera interviews. "That was a typo," Griffith said. "It was a typo."

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