Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pets Turned Refugees

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pets Turned Refugees

Article excerpt

BLOOMINGDALE -- The animal shelter has run out of cash and shut down, causing shelter staff and volunteers to move about 10 dogs and as many as 80 cats to temporary homes across North Jersey.

Ellen Ribitzki, president of the Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society, said the non-profit organization has been cash- starved for years. Donations were down and until September the society hadn't been paid by the borough to manage the shelter since 2006, when its contract expired, forcing the society to spend its savings to afford upkeep and improvements.

But one borough official said the society refused to sign a contract that would have ensured the flow of municipal subsidies.

In September, the borough began paying $2,500 a month to support the shelter, but the payments were halted at the beginning of the year because society officials objected to contract clauses, including one that allows either party to cancel the contract with 120 days' notice.

"We've had 11 meetings," said Ted Ehrenburg, the borough administrator. "No offer ever made by the borough has ever been acceptable to them."

The 120-day notice is standard in most municipal contracts, Ehrenburg said. But Ribitzki wanted the clause removed completely because "that is not a five-year commitment; it's a 120-day commitment," she said.

Society staff and volunteers moved all but two dogs out of the shelter during the holiday weekend, sending 10 dogs to the Stone Hill Kennel in Newfoundland and as many as 80 cats to live with foster families scattered about the region.

The Bloomingdale shelter earned notoriety in January when a pit bull the staff named Sugar was stolen by a visitor. Eventually, the dog was found and its kidnapper arrested. After returning to the shelter, Sugar was adopted. The publicity brought in donations of food, toys and cash and the shelter society limped along for a few weeks until the cash ran out. …

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