Investigators hammer New Jersey SPCA

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Trenton, N.J.-Inquiries into "widespread abuse and malfeasance" on behalf of the New Jersey Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has state officials promising "sweeping changes" in an organization responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws.

Trenton, N.J.-

Inquiries into "widespread abuse and malfeasance" on behalf of the New Jersey Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has state officials promising "sweeping changes" in an organization responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws.

In April, the State Commission of Investigation released a scathing reportcondemning SPCAs at state and county levels for exploiting the groups' power.They accuse SPCA officers of improperly brandishing and using weapons, stealingmoney and harming animals.

To implement change, the Commission has formed a committee of experts,including veterinarians, to discuss how best to resolve the dilemma.

"The issue is no longer whether or how to fix this errant groupof self-appointed, self-directed and uncontrolled entities, but whetherto eliminate the archaic system entirely," the report reads. "TheCommission concludes that the time has come to repeal the government authorityvested in the SPCAs and place the function of enforcing the cruelty lawswithin the government's stratified hierarchy of law enforcement."

Among SPCA abuses, investigators reports:

* SPCA officials diverted substantial funds and property meantfor animal welfare to personal use.

·* Monetary bequests left by deceased individuals to benefitanimals were used instead to pay for firearms, ammunition, vehicles andother items unrelated to animal welfare.

* County SPCA organizations, some of which operate in paramilitaryfashion, have become havens for gun-carrying "wannabe" policeofficers motivated by personal gain. These individuals operate without propertraining or adequate oversight.

* Conditions at an animal shelter administered by the Hudson CountySPCA were found to be deplorable. While shelter officials skimmed patronfees and sold dog food for personal profit, animals languished in overcrowded,poorly ventilated enclosures without adequate food, water or veterinarycare.

* The state and local system of shelter inspections was foundto be inadequate and replete with weaknesses, including lax enforcement,lack of follow-up inspections and wide variations in the manner in whichconditions are reported.

At presstime, state SPCA President Charlie Gerofsky had not returnedphone calls seeking comment.

The report has been forwarded to the New Jersey Attorney General's Officeand other state and federal regulatory agencies for review.

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