After more than two years since a devastating fire in 2016, the Montclair Township Animal Shelter was open for business – not just with a newly restored facility but with a newly appointed director at the helm. Liz Morgan, who had been the acting director, was appointed to the position permanently in March 2018.
Mayor Robert Jackson presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with Councilor-At Large Robert Russo, Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller (whose ward includes the shelter, and Acting Township Manger Tim Stafford and his deputy, Brain Scantlebury. Mayor Jackson said that the shelter had been missed by Montclair residents – “I’m sure it’s been missed by a lot of the animals who come here,” he added – and was happy to see it reopening.
Councilor Russo said that he and Scantlebury had been on the council of Mayor James Bishop and had been involved in getting something done about the animal issue, and “now we finally got a solution with great people working for great animals. Councilor Spiller said he appreciated the time and the love put into the effort of bringing the shelter back. Morgan, Health Director Sue Portuese and Friends of the Montclair Township Animal Shelter (FOMTAS) President Karen Sacks cut the ribbon.
Deputy Manager Scantlebury was thrilled to get the shelter back, saying it had been part of the community for a long time and adding the he was proud of the dedicated staff members. He said he was “overwhelmed” by the fact that the shelter was back in business.
Director Morgan said the process of rebuilding the shelter had been long and arduous, explaining that the construction company that rebuilt the shelter normally operates by clearing out fire-damaged buildings but that it managed to work around the operations of the shelter, which she said was an “amazing” effort. Each section of the shelter was rebuilt one at a time, to keep the animals comfortable and to satisfy the needs of the construction company.
Morgan added that the previous two years had been stressful, with progress on the shelter being slow, but she was thankful for the support she got from residents who took in cats, dogs, and the odd lizard or two as foster pets. “We’re just excited to be back,” she said.
The fire, which took place on April 3, 2016, was a two-alarm blaze that occurred after a mild spell of early-spring weather was severely disrupted by a cold snap that brought gusty winds – not the best conditions for dealing with a fire. All of the animals were saved, but the cause of the fire remains unknown.
Karen Sacks of FOMTAS said it was a “long road” to recovery, and she said that FOMTAS was looking ahead to new projects, such as remodeling and soundproofing, which she says FOMTAS has the funds for and hopes to begin work on as soon as possible. Sacks also said FOTMAS wants to make the animal shelter a community center for people to interact with animals, including a program where children come in to read to cats and dogs to bond with them. She also hopes to pursue a program that brings animals to senior centers and allows the elderly to interact with them, which she says demonstrates how much humans need animals as much as animals need humans. Sacks says that FOTMAS wants to foster a love for animals among Montclair residents.
Director Morgan says that it’s currently kitten season, and now is a good time to adopt a cat. Here some adorable cats now available for adoption at the Montclair Animal Shelter.
(Video by Frederick Gearhart of Montclair TV 34.)