KIYC: Future of NJSPCA unclear as local agencies take over responsibilities
It’s the end of the road for the New Jersey SPCA as a law enforcement agency. On Aug. 1, police and county prosecutors assume responsibility for animal welfare enforcement in the state, with some prosecutors assisted by existing county SPCA organizations that chose to remain involved. But there are still unanswered questions about the NJSPCA and its assets, which include over $100,000 in donated funds.
By the time state lawmakers voted to shut down the NJSPCA, not one of them was willing to cast a vote in favor of keeping them. That’s how badly the state’s animal police had lost the public’s trust.
Lawmakers were compelled to act by a 14-month Kane In Your Corner investigation that exposed poor law enforcement, financial irregularities, massive undocumented legal fees and no-bid contracts between the NJSPCA and companies run by its trustees. The State Commission of Investigation conducted its own investigation and concluded the group was “a haven for wannabe cops.”
But as the NJSPCA entered its final hours as a law enforcement agency, no one seemed completely certain what it might do next.
“My biggest fear is that they’re going to incorporate themselves back in, that it’s going to be the same board sitting there and now with them not being a state agency, there’ll be no transparency,” says NJSPCA critic Collene Wronko, president of Reformers NJ.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office informed the NJSPCA that agents had to turn in their guns and uniforms. What’s less clear is what will happen to the group’s assets, which include over $100,000 in cash and the headquarters building in New Brunswick. The NJSPCA could have donated it to another nonprofit or applied to reincorporate independent of state government. But the board will apparently shut down law enforcement operations having done neither.
At several meetings, trustees talked about reincorporating. At the suggestion of trustee Matthew Stanton, they even voted to form what they dubbed a “visioning committee” to choose the group’s new focus. But at the NJSCPA’s May meeting, committee chair Susan Carbora reported that “we did not have a big response from members who wanted to be part of it.”
That was the last time NJSPCA trustees met publicly. The group canceled its June meeting. It traditionally does not meet in July and August.
David Gaier, a former NJSPCA board member who is now on the board of Sammy’s Hope, an animal shelter in Sayreville, contends the attorney general should now step in to decide what happens to the NJSPCA’s assets. “I think they need to be taken, inventoried and the state should figure out a good thing to do with them that will benefit animals,” Gaier says.
But if Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is considering taking action, he’s not tipping his hand. He declined a request for an interview. His spokesman, Leland Moore, would only say, “Certain matters relating to NJSPCA remain under review.”