As allegations of mismanagement and animal neglect continue to surface regarding the Montclair Township Animal Shelter, the facility’s manager, Melissa Neiss, will not be returning to the shelter and is currently on leave, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell Baristanet.
Township attorney Ira Karasick and Township Manager Marc Dashield declined to comment. When asked about the type of leave Neiss is on, Dashield tells Baristanet “I can’t comment on the type of leave.”
Neiss did not immediately return a text and Facebook message for comment, and her cell phone voicemail was full.
Celia Trembulak, program coordinator at Montclair Township Health Department, under which the shelter falls, “is providing leadership there now, filling in,” Dashield tells Baristanet when asked who is now in charge at the shelter.
Since the beginning of the year, the Montclair Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has been recommending that a qualified shelter director be hired to perform duties that were allegedly not being done by Neiss, since the shelter has a long history of neglecting animals in its care since taking over from PAWS five years ago.
However, their recommendation was ignored by township officials, with one MAWAC member, John Sieck, calling it “stonewalling” on the part of Dashield.
When told of the most recent development, Montclair veterinarian Nancy Katz, the vice chairperson of the MAWAC, was optimistic about change at the embattled shelter at 77 N. Willow Street. “If this is true,” she says, “it’s extremely exciting.”
MAWAC chair Kay Sherwood and Katz reiterated that the next step is to hired a qualified shelter manager or director. “So that all the things that have been neglected and not accomplished or been done very poorly in the last few years will get done well,” Sherwood says.
At Tuesday night’s Township Council meeting, the MAWAC will be responding to Dashield’s recommendation that the shelter be outsourced.
The committee is expected to argue that the town should have a shelter “if we can get a qualified shelter director,” Sherwood said at the MAWAC meeting Tuesday.
Karen Shinevar, a Montclair resident and shelter volunteer, has started a petition on Change.org with over 1,000 signatures calling for a change in the shelter staff.
“I am heartened by this important development,” Shinevar said in a text to Baristanet.
“As the MAWAC has been saying for months and anyone who has called for any type of service or even tried to volunteer there knows, the management for the past five years allowed much animal suffering and wasted taxpayer dollars. Hopefully the town will follow the recommendations of the MAWAC on hiring a qualified manager and creating an animal shelter worthy of Montclair.”