Kane In Your Corner: NJSPCA board member resigns following News 12 report

A board member at the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has resigned, calling the organization "dysfunctional" and citing its lack of transparency.

David Gaier, of Metuchen, was appointed by the governor to the NJSPCA board 18 months ago. Gaier says the final straw that led him to step down was when the group's officers failed to notify the board that the IRS had revoked the NSPCA's nonprofit status, for failing to file tax returns for three consecutive years. The IRS took the action in May, but Gaier says he and other board members didn't learn about it until November, when it was publicly exposed in a Kane in Your Corner investigation.

In a written statement, Gaier says the NJSPCA "lacks proper public oversight and accountability," adding, "the very concept of a non-profit law enforcement agency is unworkable, even absurd, and the result is an organization mired in controversies and lawsuits." Gaier says he believes the NJSPCA needs to be "reconstituted as a proper state agency with genuine government oversight, transparency, and new leadership, or it should be dissolved."

Established in the 19th century, the NJSPCA serves as the state's animal police, at no cost to taxpayers. Members have law enforcement authority, but the group is private and funded by donations. Animal law attorney Gina Calogero, who has both represented and opposed the NJSPCA in court, says she respects the dedication of members, many of whom are volunteers, but agrees the agency needs more oversight.

"They're private, and they carry guns, which is a rather arcane structure if you ask me," Calogero says. "It's worked up until now because they have helped animals but I don't know if that's the way of the future."

Calogero is also troubled by the fact that the NJSPCA website is still urging people to donate money, without explaining that, at present, those donations are not tax-deductible. She also takes issue with recent statements on social media by NJSPCA president Steve Shatkin, calling the revocation "temporary", and promising that tax-exempt status "will be reinstated retroactively, meaning any donations you make will be tax deductible."

Calogero says that's not a promise anyone can make, pointing to a Kane In Your Corner analysis that found only 12 percent of organizations that lost tax-exempt status since 2010 have successfully gotten it restored. "I sincerely hope he's successful, I really do," she says. "But I think the public needs to know right off the bat that there is a question about whether their donation is tax exempt."

NJSPCA spokesman Matt Stanton says the group anticipates filing its back tax returns by the end of December. Stanton says the NJSPCA has no comment on Gaier's resignation other than to say the group is "sorry to see him go and we wish him well." 

It's not just tax returns that the NJSPCA has failed to file, however. Under the law, the group is also required to file an annual financial audit with the state attorney general's office. However, in response to an open records request, the office says it has not received an audit in over a decade.

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