ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center announced in October that, beginning in the new year, it will no longer provide animal control services to the 19 municipalities it currently serves.
Due to budget constraints, St. Hubert’s has had to reevaluate and refocus its operations.
“Each year, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center analyzes our impact, assesses community needs and sets priorities so we can best deploy our resources. We have completed our strategic planning and resource allocation for 2023 and want to tell the community what to expect going forward,” Lisa LaFontaine, President and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, which merged with St. Hubert’s in 2019, told the newspaper. “We have decided to stop providing animal control and stray animal housing services, and instead invest our resources in adoptions, lifesaving, pet support, lost pet reunification and providing safety net resources to keep more pets in homes where their families might be struggling.
“While this decision may be difficult in many ways, it is ultimately the right decision. We came to a point where we would have been faced with either compromising the quality of our work or using philanthropic dollars to subsidize a taxpayer-funded service. It would have been a significant amount — with the new contracts and contract years we would have been spending $2 for every $1 paid to us by the municipalities. Neither of these pathways was acceptable or sustainable,” LaFontaine continued. “Our donors are deeply committed to pet support, spay and neuter, wellness clinics, lifesaving transport, and adoption. We didn’t want to cut back on any of those core services — in fact, we want to grow them.”
Irvington, Maplewood and South Orange are among the 19 municipalities that currently receive animal control services from St. Hubert’s. The final day of these services will be Dec. 31.
“Each municipality that is affected was contacted individually, and our team is holding conversations with local leaders to develop customized transition plans to ensure that we build a strong safety net for the animals in the communities,” LaFontaine said. “The municipalities have largely understood this decision, and they have begun the process of identifying new contractors so they can provide these services seamlessly in January.”
While officials from Irvington and South Orange did not respond to requests for comment, Maplewood health officer Candice Davenport said Maplewood is working diligently to find a replacement for St. Hubert’s. The Maplewood Health Department is currently serving as the interim health department for South Orange.
“The township is exploring all options for animal control services to ensure that there is no lapse in animal control services for 2023. Currently, we are receiving proposals and waiting to hear from others,” Davenport said. “We have had a great working relationship with St. Hubert’s. While they are discontinuing their field services and contracts with townships around the state, they are still available to respond to residents directly for animal surrendering, or if a resident is in need of pet food or pet supplies to care for their pet.”
Though discontinuing its animal control services in Irvington, Maplewood and South Orange, St. Hubert’s will be expanding other services in the area.
“There are many services we will be expanding. For example, we are investing in programs like pet food and supply distribution, sterilization, and low-cost/no-cost medical care to help keep more animals in their homes. And we will be launching innovative programs to ensure that lost or stray animals are more quickly and effectively reunited with their families,” LaFontaine said. “Ultimately, we will be able to help thousands more people and animals by shifting away from the taxpayer-funded contract work toward the privately funded programs and services that are at the core of St. Hubert’s effectiveness. And, we will be much better stewards of the funds so generously donated by our community to keep our other important work going.
“You can expect to see more of us at wellness clinics and food bank events. And we will work collaboratively with other shelters and rescues in the state to transport animals in from other N.J. organizations who need an outlet,” she continued. “Furthermore, St. Hubert’s will continue to take in animals who are being surrendered by community members who can no longer care for them. And for the many people who want to keep their pets, we will offer resources to help keep those animals in their homes with the families who already love them.”
Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis stressed that the cessation of animal control services does not mean St. Hubert’s will no longer be supporting individual residents.
“As I mentioned at our last governing body meeting, while St. Hubert’s is terminating its contracts with municipalities — including ours — they will remain available to residents who reach out to them directly,” Dafis said.
Ultimately, St. Hubert’s leadership believes terminating its municipal contracts will allow them to better help local animals while remaining financially solvent.
“We care deeply about the people and animals in the communities we have long served,” LaFontaine said. “We know this is the right thing to do to ensure we can continue to provide high-quality animal welfare and long-term, sustainable impact. We look forward to helping thousands more animals and people through this shift.”