As recently reported, the NJSPCA has hefty legal fees, averaging nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year, as reported by Kane In Your Corner: NJSPCA refusing to show invoices for legal fees.
But, following an OPRA request for the invoices requested by Kane In Your Corner (“Kane”), NJSPCA first refused to produce the requested documents and later stated that they did not exist-they were allegedly discarded by “the organization’s former treasurer, Frank Rizzo.”
This latest incident followed the agency’s failure to file its required IRS 990 forms for 2013, 2014, and 2015 which resulted in the termination of its non-profit status, as least temporarily.
In addition to these federal requirements, the NJSPCA is required to provide financial (and enforcement) information to the NJ Attorney General and legislature, which it apparently has not provided as required,
Interestingly, Governor-appointed NJSPCA board member David Gaier resigned from the Board, “calling the organization ‘dysfunctional’ and citing its lack of transparency,” as previously reported by Kane In Your Corner.
Gaier resigned after learning from Kane about the organization’s failure to file the IRS financial reports, several months after the fact. Gaier’s observations about the NJSPCA are remarkably similar to those identified in the 2000 State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (“SCI”) report-Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
According to Kane, Gaier noted:
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.’
The SCI report found:
[d]espite its reputation for advancing innovative animal welfare and control programs, New Jersey remains mired in an archaic legislative scheme that places the enforcement of animal cruelty laws in the hands of unsupervised, volunteer groups of private citizens. The 1868 and 1873 laws that created the New Jersey and county Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arose at a time when law enforcement agencies were in their infancy and the enforcement of laws was entrusted frequently to private citizens. Today, the SPCAs represent a rudimentary system that has not kept pace with the state’s advancements in law enforcement or its interest in the welfare of animals. Against the backdrop of a highly stratified and professional law enforcement system, it is an anomaly that the state continues to empower organizations of private citizens to carry weapons, investigate criminal and civil conduct, enforce laws, issue summonses, effect arrests and obtain and execute search warrants. The issue is no longer whether or how to fix this errant group of self-appointed, self-directed and uncontrolled entities, but whether to eliminate the archaic system entirely. The Commission concludes that the time has come to repeal the government authority vested in the SPCAs and place the function of enforcing the cruelty laws within the government’s stratified hierarchy of law enforcement. Those who are truly devoted to animal welfare may continue that effort by forming humane organizations or participating in the numerous groups already in existence.
Currently there are several proposed bills that would provide for greater accountability of the NJSPCA to government entities.
- A706/S1429 would require accountability of the NJSPCA and county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals to the NJ Attorney General and county prosecutors; and
- A707/S1427 would change the membership of, and election process for NJSPCA board of trustees.
Notably, in Bergen County the county prosecutor already requires accountability and reporting for all SPCA-related activities. Expanding that requirement throughout the State is attainable and would enhance the role that professional law enforcement agencies have in protecting the animals throughout New Jersey.