Sources: Neiss out at Montclair Animal Shelter

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Sources: Neiss out at Montclair Animal ShelterAs 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.”

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I hope and pray something is done with the building before the weather gets much colder and the animals in isolation have to deal with the cold and wet. I’m still shaking my head over that! I’m flabbergasted that this happened in Montclair. Best of luck to all who are trying to right the wrongs and get things moving so the aninmals get the care and attention – and homes – they need.

  2. My experience with Melissa was always positive. So sorry to hear things deteriorated to the point that they did. Maybe she was burned out. I hope things get back on track quickly.

  3. PAWS had complained about a lack of maintenance on the towns side and the fact that roof lealed- always. Here we are 5 years later and the roof leaks and heating and cooling are an issue.

    Montclir residents – be aware that your township manager is part of the problem and his solution is to outsource rather than fix the problem- PRICELESS!

  4. Fix the damn building and beg PAWS to come back. We don’t need to keep supporting this tax sucking bureaucracy. Thank God the town mismanager who stonewalls, who “doesn’t evaluate town workers” is going to move to mismanage Princeton. As far a the current Melissa good riddance. A pox on both of them.

  5. Outsourcing doesn’t mean no cost to the town. It means the town contracts out the service. So it still costs us plenty of tax payer dollars.

    It also means we have ZERO control over what is happening down at the shelter. If conditions were to get bad again or if we didn’t like the way the shelter was being run for any reason, the town and the people of Montclair would have very little ability to come in do anything, short of ripping up the contract.

    Outsourcing depends completely on picking the right organization and strong monitoring by the town. How confident that this council or old township manager would have been good at that?

  6. This is great news. I hope the town can now fix the problems and get what the animals deserve — a qualified shelter manager that meets the standards of Dr. Nancy Katz and the others on the AWAC.

  7. My dealings with Melissa have always been positive as well. She was very instrumental in helping us adopt our dog, Kelly. I think the higher ups need to be examined. I hope things improve for the animals here on in.

  8. Melissa isn’t the ‘bad guy’ here. She just might have been put in a position she wasn’t able to handle and just possibly did the best she could. She welcomed the former BAS vols into the fold when they were thrown out of the shelter in Bloomfield and felt bereft. The problem is with the people in town hall who are responsible overall for the shelter operations. The buck goes UP, not down. The township administrator’s blathering sound all too familiar and there’s too much finger pointing. The problems with the shelter clearly are far deeper than ACO Melissa Neiss. Who the hell allowed that building to be used as an animal shelter from the get go in the condition it’s in? Stop pointing fingers and assigning blame and do what’s right for those animals.

  9. That’s exactly the kind of post that leads me to believe Montclair can’t outsource in the next couple of years. The administration has minimal shelter standards and the NGOs have minimal management expertise.

  10. kbanda, I wanted to let you know that regarding the building, volunteer and Montclair Animal Advisory Committee member John Sieck is leading an effort to get the back wall closed in before winter with funding that includes private donations to the non-profit Friends of the Montclair Animal Shelter. I understand he’s met with an architect and builders, and things are progressing….Diane Herbst

  11. Arnolds makes a good point. The council’s personnel decisions played a big part in this mess, why should we trust who they will pick next – especially if the contract is outsourced? There would be even less accountability.

  12. dogmom, good to know! I hope it happens. One of my friends, a vol at MTAS, has also made it his mission to get that situation corrected no matter what he has to do to make it happen. Hoping for the animals’ sakes it gets done ASAP.

  13. I have just been told by several sources that Melissa Neiss resigned effective immediately this morning. Will provide more details as they emerge.

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