Bloomfield’s Bukowski Animal Shelter Drops Volunteers, for Now


The John A. Bukowski Shelter for Animals in Bloomfield has suspended its volunteer services inside the shelter temporarily, according to a Health Department source, while it undergoes a reorganization and assessment of ways it can better structure its volunteer program. Regular volunteers, meanwhile, are “frustrated and angry” about the decision.

Once the reorganization and assessment are completed, says Karen Lore, acting director of Health & Human Services at the Township of Bloomfield, volunteers will be able to reapply but must participate in a volunteer orientation and training program. They will also be asked to sign off on new policies and procedures developed during the reorganization.

An email from the Health Department recently went out to about 40 volunteers stating that while the facility is being expanded and modernized, the shelter’s administrative staff seeks to “align with the best practices of our nation’s most respected animal welfare agencies,” and looks to strengthen its policies for staff and volunteer work procedures. The letter went on to state that most volunteer committee activities that take place off shelter grounds will continue as usual, particularly fund raisers already in progress and publicity to promote those events.

“Our volunteer program was run very informally,” Lore said. “We are seeking to provide more structured training and protocols so that the whole process flows more smoothly. For example, we’ve found that if the behavioral work we do with the animals is not done consistently and with the same volunteers, it is not as effective.”

She added that the formal process for reinstating volunteers will include seeking out people with the skills to work in particular areas the shelter seeks to expand, including the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program for feral cats, animal fostering, and working with dogs and cats in enrichment programs designed to make them more adoptable.

She also spoke of plans to expand the shelter’s outdoor play area and to create a play area specifically for cats.

While she could not give a definitive deadline for the assessment and reorganization’s completion, Lore said the animals living at the shelter are currently being cared for by seven staffers, which include a manager, animal attendants, and a veterinary technician.

Patricia Gilleran of Bloomfield is one of several former volunteers who are concerned about the welfare of the animals going forward.

“These animals will no longer receive the individual attention, socialization, and love that the many volunteers provided,” Gilleran said. “It will be harder for the cats to be adopted and as you may know, kitten season will be on us very soon. The shelter is usually filled to capacity during kitten season and yet there will be no postings on Petfinder, blogs, and in local news outlets to try and reduce the cat/kitten population.”

Gilleran said the Bloomfield Health Department has shown a lack of managerial experience, due to the fact that there have been three shelter managers in the last year, each one with different policies and procedures for the staff and volunteers. One shelter manager, she noted, was allowed to take home the shelter’s computer and remove and dispose of the hard drive, destroying weeks of work that volunteers had completed in creating cat and dog bios, photos, and videos.

When asked about the concerns of former volunteers who say that the animals will not receive adequate care that goes beyond mere feeding, watering, and cage cleaning, Lore said that was not the case at all. She expressed extreme confidence that staffers will be able to manage the shelter on their own for a brief time, using streamlined procedures for feeding, cleaning, socializing, and exercising, as well as pet adoptions, veterinary checks, and home visits.

“We have chosen this particular time to reorganize because the population of our shelter is lower than usual right now,” Lore said.

As of March 16, the shelter was home to three dogs and 37 cats.

Volunteer Karen Banda, whose story about her 87-year-old mother being barred from accompanying her daughter to the shelter can be found here, is understandably upset.

“I am frustrated and angry at yet another bad decision made by the Health Department to suspend only in-shelter volunteer activities while allowing the ‘feel-good’ fund raising and public relations to continue,” Banda said. “We volunteers have been increasingly marginalized and victimized by each succeeding shelter manager, not one of which has had any experience managing a municipal animal shelter. The [Board of Health] is clueless about shelter operations and merely rubber stamps whatever Ms. Lore presents to them. Keep in mind this is the same body that couldn’t muster a vote to fire one of the previous managers even after he admitted to removing the shelter’s computer and trashing the hard drive. To say their knowledge of shelter operations and volunteers is minimal at best is being kind.“

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  1. As a volunteer for the Media Committee at the shelter, I would like to correct the statement quoted above by Pat Gilleran: “The shelter is usually filled to capacity during kitten season and yet there will be no postings on Petfinder, blogs, and in local news outlets to try and reduce the cat/kitten population.”

    Since the Media Committee will continue its activities during this time period, the postings on Petfinder, local news outlets (including the Star Ledger) and Facebook will definitely be continuing. One reason the Media Committee volunteers were not included in the volunteer suspension is to ensure that the animals currently at the shelter continue to get exposure to the public and get adopted as quickly as possible.

  2. Ms. Lore mentions there are 7 staffers. What she fails to mention is that they are not at the shelter at the same time. With the exception of a kennel worker and I believe a pseudo vet tech and the manager, the rest are part-timers who work 2 days a week. There is no way in hell those people are going to be able to keep up with the cleaning, answer animal control calls, and socialize/exercise/groom/play with all those animals, especially once kitten season hits. The volunteers, some of whom are there 5-7 days each week, know and care for those animals better than any one. The new shelter manager has no experience with cats and is supposedly a dog trainer.

    As for streamlining cleaning, etc., that must be behind the reason the cats no longer have any beds to curl up in or sleep on. There is usually one thin towel between them and the cold hard stainless steel of their cages. Volunteers handled the laundry and each cat had a bed with a clean cover. Now, nothing. The dogs don’t fare much better.

    There is so much being swept under the rug here and Ms. Lore and her crew of course have all the answers because they hold all of the cards. I can’t wait to see how many of the truly experienced, long-time dedicated volunteers with 4-15 years under their belts will be welcomed back once this “suspension” is lifted.

    What Ms. Lore also fails to explain is just how having volunteers continue to work inside the shelter with the animals would hamper the reorganization of the volunteer program? That work is done by the gurus in the health dept, not at the animal shelter. How does denying the borderline cats and dogs exposure to humans who care for and train them help with the reorganization? The answer: it doesn’t. It is their way of punishing volunteers like myself who refuse to keep quiet about the things Ms. Lore and Mr. Fitzpatrick would like kept in the dark.

  3. There are 37 cats at the shelter and only 33 cats listed on Petfinder – some of which have already been adopted. Looks like the ban has already had an affect on the Petfinder postings.

    The animals were also posted on the Save the Bukowski Facebook Page – a page run by volunteers- this page has approx 6,000 likes. The official Bukowski page (all posting have to be approved by the Health Department) where the animals are being posted has only approx 275 likes- how does that give the animals exposure. The Health Department has banned the posting of animals on the Save the Bukowski page.

    Maybe Mimi will let us know what blogs and media outlets she plans on posting the animals on that will give them exposure.

    The Health Department has banned the taking of photos by award winning photographer Noelle Diadone – some of her photographs can be seen here on baristanet- they always generate interest in the animals and the shelter. Noelle’s photos were shown exclusively in the Star ledger and Nutley Sun. We’re not sure why Noelle has been banned.

    I stand by my original statement. No exposure for animals to potential adoptors!!

  4. Dear Bloomfield Health Department

    Please tell us why you removed the cats toys and their beds from their cages. Why have you stopped giving them treats and playing with them?

    How does this help their lives?

    Please show us a schedule of the “7 staffers” only 3 of whom are full time and let us know how they will handle all that is needed. Please let us know the qualification of your new Shelter Manager. Is she an Animal Control Officer? What qualifies her to run the shelter.

  5. BTW – I still haven’t gotten one answer to any of my questions about why my mother alone is a liability to the township if she’s at the animal shelter. Not one person from the BoH, Health Department, council…no one has the guts to answer my questions! You have to wonder why…and yet they are blaming me for blowing that situation out of proportion. If they’d answered my questions in the first place it would have been over by now, but that would have been too simple.

  6. An email from the Health Department recently went out to about 40 volunteers stating that while the facility is being expanded and modernized, the shelter’s administrative staff seeks to “align with the best practices of our nation’s most respected animal welfare agencies,”

    Which well-respected agencies might they be? The Humane Society of the United States whose president aligned himself with dog-killer Michael Vick?

  7. Posting for a volunteer who wants to remain anonymous for fear of not being allowed back:

    PARTIAL “OFFICIAL” RESPONSE: “Attempting to get volunteers to be consistent when following an enrichment program was not successful in our attempt to keep things consistent. Change is hard and some of the volunteers just could not handle it. We have explained our process and many volunteers are very supportive and understand the need based on their own observations when at the shelter.”

    FROM A VOLUNTEER: “What enrichment program? First I’m hearing of it. What precisely were volunteers not being consistent about? Even when restrictions became almost unbearable over the past two months, we followed the rules. What rules were broken? The only volunteers who may be supportive of the “process” are the ones that are never physically at the shelter, working directly with the animals. It’s easy for volunteers not at the shelter to step aside because they don’t spend time socializing and readying the animals for successful adoptions like the “inhouse” volunteers. For “inhouse” volunteers it’s a true labor of love. We personally witness shy, frightened, neglected and sometimes abused animals transform into confident, happy, and more relaxed felines & canines, ready to transition into a new home setting where a loving family can continue to nurture the love and care these homeless, voiceless ones are so deserving of. The odds are already greatly stacked against a homeless animal. We do not need to make it more difficult for them. As volunteers (unpaid employees) our only motivation is to offer the animals a better chance of finding their way to a loving home and we willingly provide that utilizing our very own time, talents and resources.”

  8. Maybe we whould be asking why the “Acting” Director is still “Acting” after 4 years on the job. What are her qualifications and why is she allowed on the job if she doesn’t have the qualifications to run the department.

    We already know that personnel and personnel issues are not her forte. What is?

  9. How very sad . the animals suffer because the “humans” who are supposed to know better cannot put aside petty nonsense to just concentrate on helping. I was always of the opinion we in Bloomfield actually had a GOOD shelter that looked to place animals in loving good homes. If indeed the management no longer has that as their goal SHAME on them

  10. The way that both sides have been “handling’ the issues at this shelter (I am a donor so I put my money where my mouth is) is appalling. I sympathize (truly) with Karen and her fight to allow her mother to come to the shelter. That said, she needs an attorney (which I’ve mentioned to her. Some pro bono attorney should take this one), and a professional PR (again pro bono) person to advise her on the best way to get media attention (although a PR professional for more than 30 years, I work — and have for 2 decades — to save Greyhound’s who have come off the track. That’s my cause). Do note that some fools on the shelter FB page have even advised that people stop donating to the shelter! And I’m sorry, but Pat G. needs to stop talking. Her comments aren’t helping anyone (and her posts on FB re: the shelter are making the situation worse).

    I’m sorry but this isn’t just about Josephine Banda anymore (and I’m not sure it ever was totally). Someone who knows how to negotiate should step in and help (if possible).

  11. My apologies (another sorry) for writing “I’m sorry” twice. Chalk it up to the time zone (in London for business).

    One other comment — I think it’s smart for Bloomfield to re-jigger their volunteer program based on new needs etc. I think that all towns/cities should do this (and many do!). Again, this is not reflection on the the Josephine Banda situation (which is very unfortunate, and was handled poorly).

    Finally, I urge folks to continue to donate to both this shelter and Montclair’s (and PAWS and all shelters). The animals need our money — they don’t care about the politics of their town.

  12. The Bloomfield Shelter IS a good shelter but I think a large part of why it’s a good shelter is due to the committed and dedicated volunteers. To volunteer in an animal shelter is a truly a labor of love. It’s not all playing with puppies and kittens, there’s a lot of grunt work involved. I’ve heard stories of volunteers (not just at Bloomfield but at many shelters) who trudge through blizzards or knee-high snow to get to the shelter to feed animals that otherwise would just be ignored. Volunteers have also been known to foster or adopt animals that no one else wanted, just so they wouldn’t be put down.

    Although I think the Josephine Banda situation was handled extremely poorly, I do understand a shelter’s need to modernize and streamline operations so that everything runs smoothly. That being said, I think that the previous volunteers at Bukowski should be grandfathered in and that the new policies and procedures should apply only to new volunteers or perhaps those volunteers who have been with the shelter for less than a year.

    Finally, I agree with Deborah B. Please don’t take your anger out on the shelter, in terms of withholding donations. The only ones who will lose will be the animals and that would defeat the whole purpose.

  13. @deborah I call them as I see them. The Bukowski Shelter is a Municipal Shelter and is paid for by taxpayers money. The taxpayers need to see what their money is paying for, how the shelter is run, and how the volunteers are treated.

    On Channel 9 News last night, Acting Health Department Director, Karen Lore claimed that Jo Banda was barred for the Shelter because of the construction. Funny but the construction wasn’t going on when Jo Banda was barred- and why is only she a liability- the public is allowed – grandmas, grandpas, the disabled, children, teens , adults…but Jo Banda is a liability – and no one else.

    The latest missive from the health Department talks about “benefits” that the volunteers get. Their policy and procedures manual calls volunteers “unpaid employees” I don’t think that the concept of “unpaid employee” is legal in NJ. It is my understanding that all employees must at least be paid minimum wage. So, is the Bloomfield Health Department breaking the law here? I’m not an attorney- maybe one would like to answer.

    ps- No I won’t keep my mouth shut. This is the United States and there is a right to freedom of Speech.

  14. Please consider the Homeless Animal Adoption League on Dodd Street in Bloomfield if you’re considering donating, volunteering,or adopting It is a cat-only shelter run by a dedicated, caring team of volunteers. It is the kind of shelter where you don’t feel bad the cats are there because they receive such a high quality of care.

    The Montclair Township Shelter is building a strong volunteer program with many exciting off-shelter adoption events and in-shelter adoption promotions. 30 cats found homes at one such event last winter. There is a new volunteer orientation program this Sunday afternoon; feel free to call the shelter for details at 973-744-8600. The people running the shelter rose above some initial harsh criticism that was levied at them to build strong programs that are enhancing the lives of the animals in their care.

  15. @Nellie I’m glad that Montclair is building a strong volunteer program. I’ve heard that some of the long-term Bloomfield volunteers plan on volunteering there. And yes- I did criticize the Montclair Shelter initially.

    One of the things I’ve felt strongly abouy that PAWS and then the Montclair Shelter provided the cats is a loose cat room. Bloomfield’s cats never leave their cages – there is no relief for them at all.

    Do you think we’ll see the Montclair Shelter at the Montclair Farmer’s Market this year? That would be great.

  16. Yes, the loose cat rooms are great. I can remember, way back when, when PAWS was all cages. (I can also remember the old PAWS shelter before the new one was built.) Things have certainly evolved over the years through PAWS and now, MAS.

    As the shelter expands its adoption outlets, and the volunteer program grows, the Farmer’s Market may certainly be an option. The shelter currently does adoption events twice a month at Montclair Feed, and these events have been successful.

    I hope your husband is doing OK.

  17. The situation with my mother is, I hope, separate from the latest issue of the volunteers’ suspension from in-shelter work. All I ever wanted from Karen Lore was a reasonable explanation for not allowing my mother to enter the shelter. I never got it. Not one response to an email, nothing. And this is someone I thought I had a relatively good relationship with. She knows, or I thought she knew, that I understood the constraints she was under as head of the health department. We spoke many times about other issues. Why didn’t I get the courtesy of a reply to my questions? Only Karen Lore knows the answer to that question. I don’t need a PR specialist or an attorney…I only need answers to my questions.

    I’m just extremely upset and heartbroken over this suspension. I don’t get it. Most of us long-timers don’t get it. We go to the shelter because of those animals. We give not only our free time but also whatever extra money we can to pay for extras for the animals, chip in for medical care, most of us are the majority donors at fundraising events, and many of us also pay for animals to go to sanctuaries when they can’t find homes by the time they wear out their welcome at the shelter. Many volunteers (unfortunately not me) are there 5-7 days/week in all types of weather, week in and week out for years. The last 4 shelter managers we’ve had don’t collectively know what most of us have forgotten about shelter animals and how to handle them. And yet the volunteers have been marginalized, punished like delinquent children, chastised for asking questions or raising issues…and worse.

    The Health Department has routinely hired shelter managers with NO shelter management experience. This latest manager is no exception. And yet the seasoned volunteers have been squeezed out to the point of wondering what’s next…and last Friday we found that out.

    The question remains: how does banning volunteers from working hands on with the animals facilitate the reorganization of the volunteer program? Fundraising, PR, TNR…they’re all functioning. But the most important service we provide, working hands on with the animals who especially need us because they are borderline, will hinder that process? How? (Rhetorical questions all as we know the Health Department has all of the answers…)

    Mrs Martta makes very good points. I hope someone in the Health Department takes them to heart. The volunteers have been put through hell over the last 2+ years most of which no one but a few of us know about. And yet we persist. Why? Because of our dedication to those helpless, voiceless, defenseless animals who need us so desperately.

    I was interviewed today by FIOS News 1 and I made a statement that did not make it to air. I posted it on the Save the Bloomfield/Bukowski Shelter facebook page and I will post it here: If this suspension is about me and my mother then please, ban us from the shelter but let the other volunteers return. This isn’t about me or Josephine…it’s always been about the animals, for me any way.

  18. It’s horrible to think of those poor animals suffering because the Board of Health can’t get their act together. The thing about Josephine Banda sounds ridiculous too! It sounds to me like some heads have to roll. Karen Lore can engage in age discrimination and not even explain herself? That makes no sense. You guys should ask the Board of Health to fire her. The only thing these government workers care about it their own jobs.

  19. Maybe you guys should go to a BOH meeting or council meeting and ask for her job?? God knows the town could use the savings!

  20. here’s a letter that I asked the Bloomfield Township Clerk, Louise Palagano, be read into the record at this past Monday’s Town Council meeting. Sadly, I’ve been told that she didn’t read it.

    Dear Louise,

    I cannot attend tonight’s town council meeting (my husband is in the hospital fighting for his life) but would like a statement read during the public comments period.

    On Friday March 16 the Bloomfield Health Department shut down volunteer operations at the Bloomfield Bukowski Shelter Prior to this all toys, beds and treats were taken from the 50 or so cats that are housed in cages at the shelter.

    The press release that was sent by the Bloomfield Health Department stated in part

    “Attempting to get volunteers to be consistent when following an enrichment program was not successful in our attempt to keep things consistent. Change is hard and some of the volunteers just could not handle it. We have explained our process and many volunteers are very supportive and understand the need based on their own observations when at the shelter.”

    There was never any enrichment program – there used to be a spoon of fancy feast each afternoon but that was taken away two shelter managers ago.
    Now there are no beds, no toys and no volunteers.

    These animals will no longer receive the individual attention, socialization, and love that the many volunteers provided. It will be harder for the cats to be adopted and as you may know, kitten season will be on us very soon. The shelter is usually full to capacity during kitten season and yet there will be no postings on Petfinder, blogs, and in local news outlets to try and reduce the cat/kitten population. The shelter has barred the person who normally posts award winning animal photos in the Star Ledger and Nutley Sun from taking those pictures.

    The Bloomfield Health Department has shown it’s lack of management experience. There have been three Shelter Managers in the last year- each one with different policies and procedures for the staff and volunteers. One Shelter Manager was allowed to take home the Shelter’s computer and remove and dispose of the hard drive negating weeks of work that volunteers had completed in creating cat and dog bios, photos, and videos The volunteers have been asked to sign one set of rules after another because the Health Department is paranoid about the rules and regs being discussed. and wants to clamp down on communication.

    It’s time to replace the Bloomfield Health Departments “Acting” Director with a real Director that is qualified for the job. It’s time for the Bloomfield Town Council to take a closer look at the way the Bloomfield Health Department does it’s business, treats it’s volunteers, and how it spends the money donated by the public.

    Pat Gilleran

  21. @Nellie Thank you for asking about Greg. It’s been one medical catastrophe after another – femoral bypass – 3 major surgeries in 5 days – compartment syndrome and 2 very large fasciotomies – deep vein thrombosis- blood clots in his right lumg – and now dry gangrene that may cause him to lose 2 toes.

    He’s not out of the woods yet and is fighting like crazy!

    Some people think that you are the Nellie that volunteers at the Bloomfield animals shelter. I know that you are not.

    Can you address this because I think the Bloomfield Health Department is monitoring this thread and will be asking Nellie who volunteers in Bloomfield (or volunteered since everyone has been dismissed) why she is posting (posting anything is held against the volunteers). The Health Department would like to cloak the shelter in a cone of silence.

  22. Good letter Pat! Do you know if the Board of Health gets these letters at all though? I’m new to this whole thing. Is there a list of email addresses for the Board of Health? If I spend time writing to these people, I’d like to know that someone is getting these letters/emails.

  23. The Board of health has been totally unresponsive as has the Health Department that reports to them. Only Karen Lore’s e-mail is listed on their website – conveniently. Writing to them is like telling the fox that killing and eating chickens is a bad thing!

    I would write to the Township Clerk with a copy to the Township Administrator and ask that the letter be read at the next town council meeting (who knows if it will be) and that the Board of Health be forwarded an official copy!
    Township clerk’s e-mail is- [email protected]
    Township administrator – [email protected]

  24. Pat, you are correct. I am NOT the Nellie who volunteers in Bloomfield. If that needs to be verified further, please let me know.. So sorry about your husband. You will both be in my thoughts and prayers.

  25. There are two sides to every story. I have been contributing to the “Save the Bukoswki..” FB page about this story. However, my posts have often attacked by the former volunteers (and they know who they are. One is well represented in this story) who don’t like the fact that I am trying to see both sides of the issue. Yesterday, in fact, one woman suggested that I “go away” (I’m paraphrasing). But I’m not easily intimidated, and will not be told that I don’t have a right to express my opinion.

    This is an important and complicated issue; it deserves real discussion not a “let’s get her” (I reference the shelter’s director) mentally (as witnessed on that particular FB page). It’s “The Crucible” (the great Arthur Miller play) all over again! How sad (and wrong!). And now I have been “banned” from the page totally (i.e. my posts). It’s laughable, really. But as a major animal lover (and volunteer, and donor of many animal causes), I will continue to monitor this story and get the word out (and not just the “fired” volunteers side. So much of that side is now totally skewed by a few people). I do think it’s very smart of Bloomfield to look into new ways to train volunteers. Yes, in a perfect world some volunteers would still be allowed to “work” there now, but there is too much vitriol from certain volunteers, and my guess is that it’s better to clean house and start fresh. That said, please donate to this shelter, Montclair’s shelter and others. Someone on the FB page urged people to STOP donating (until this is resolved). What a horrible suggestion!

  26. Pat,
    I won’t get into name calling, but I have reported you to Debbie and Liz to ask them to step in. Your comments are not only not true (about what I’ve said etc.), but beyond inflammatory.

  27. Comment partially removed by moderators.

    The important thing here is the treatment of the animals.

    Why have the toys, treats, beds and human companionship been taken from the cats. Why have walks, training and human companionship been taken from the dogs.

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