The volunteer program at the Associated Humane Societies in Tinton Falls, after being abruptly shut down April 10, will be revamped and reinistituted by the end of this week according to Scott Crawford, assistant director of AHS of New Jersey.
Crawford said the shutown was directed after there were everal incidents regarding animals and people being hurt.
Crawford, who also directs the organization’s two other facilities in Newark and the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey, said the other two facilities do not have the same number of accidents as in Tinton Falls.
“The accidents happened because certain rules and protocols were not followed. We have people we pinpointed. We are going to remove some of the ones causing the problems,” he said.
Crawford said on Mon., April 13 that he hopes to have the volunteer program up and running again by the end of the week, citing the need for volunteers to assist staff.
“We need an active volunteer force,” he said.
Crawford said over the past three years at his post, there have been three incidents at the shelter and most recently one at an outreach site, Petco in Eatontown, where a small dog attacked a four month old puppy. The puppy was taken to Garden State Veterinary Clinic, incurring upwards of $10,000 in bills.
“The dog was not handled properly, the volunteer was not watching, the leash was lax – we reviewed the tape, on the surveillance camera at the store. And this dog shouldn’t have gone, it was a small dog but was known to be aggressive,” he said.
Crawford said staff members should not have allowed the dog to go to the outreach.
He said both staff and volunteers will be retrained before the program is allowed to resume. He also said there was a dispute regarding donations collected at outreach sites. He said volunteers were arguing that they should be allowed to keep the money and buy what they thought the shelter dogs needed. That goes against protocol, he said. At the other facilities all donations are turned in and deposited in the organization’s 501c non profit account.
There are 40 volunteers, he said, with about 20 making up a core group who assist at the Tinton Falls site regularly. He said some volunteers were interviewed and came forward with information regarding certain volunteers not following protocols.
Over the past few years, he said he has tried to address the issues, but in this latest incident at the outreach the puppy being mauled made him shut the entire program in Tinton Falls down.
Outreach programs have also been stopped until the new guidelines are presented and volunteers are hired.
Some of the volunteers who were let go will not be allowed back but others will. All staff, however, will go through a new orientation and retraining.
“If we don’t (implement) these guidelines, the liabilities will not stop,” he said.
Volunteers and animal supporters are planning a Bring Back the Volunteers rally Sat., April 18 at the facility on Shafto Road, Tinton Falls, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It will be held rain or shine.
Asbury Park Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn, who has been volunteering at the facility for several years, said dismissing all the volunteers and stopping the outreach is just another example of “mismanagement” at the organization.
Quinn said without the volunteers, the dogs will not be walked, fed or cared for properly.
When told Crawford said the volunteer program would be put in place by the end of the week, she was relieved but said she believed steps should have been taken to make sure the care-taking duties were picked up by another entity or person before getting rid of the volunteers.
She said Crawford told her over the weekend that none of the current volunteers would be allowed back in the program.
“I spoke to Scott and he told me none of the volunteers would be allowed back and he would be hiring more staff,” she said. “This should have been worked out beforehand. Quinn said she will be discussing city animal control with Mayor John Moor and the rest of the City Council. She also criticized the shutdown of the organization’s Facebook page.
“That’s the main method for getting dogs adopted; it’s not in the best interest of the dogs,” she said.
Another volunteer, Mechele Shoneman, said she had also been told by Crawford that none of the current volunteers would be coming back. She was happy to hear the program will be returning soon.
“That would be a phenomenal outcome, as long as somebody is taking care of the animals. We would love to be involved because our hearts are with those precious lives. They are so understaffed over there; they just sit in their cages,” she said.
Shoneman also said this is not the first time volunteers have been let go and taken back.
“They’ve kicked out volunteers three times over the past 10 years and then rescinded it later,” she said.