Liberty Humane Executive Director Irene Borngraeber was invited to speak to the Hoboken City Council on the organization's commitment to animals and their service to the community.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
LHS is a non-profit animal welfare organization that partners with municipalities to deliver progressive animal sheltering and control services. Our facility is just off of the Liberty State Park light rail stop and across the street from the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. We have been working as Hoboken’s animal control and sheltering provider for the last six years.
Animal sheltering and control are state mandated municipal services, but there is a significant gap between what the state requires and what the public feels is an acceptable level of animal care. The State of NJ requires that stray animals be confined by animal control, be provided with basic medical care if they are injured or sick, and be brought to a shelter to be held for 7 days. That’s all. That’s why LHS exists as a non profit organization—so we can raise the additional funds to do more for animals and people in need, and provide municipalities with quality service that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. Less than half of our million-dollar operating budget comes from municipal agreements; the other half comes from private donations and grants. We do this work because we believe in it.
LHS is a progressive facility that partners with national organizations to implement the most effective policies there are in animal sheltering. Every animal who comes into our shelter is given a full intake exam, preventative vaccinations, medications and spay/neuter surgery prior to adoption. We scan for a microchip to try and reunite them with their owner, and if after 7 days that hasn’t happened we do everything we can to place them with a family that will love them and make them a new home. LHS does not have a time limit on how long an animal can stay with us. The average length of stay for a shelter cat is approximately 60 days; for a dog it’s 34, but we’ve had some animals for much longer.
One dog, Mystery, was the longest dog resident with us for 341 days.
Many of the animals who come to us are in need of significant behavior or medical intervention. We take that on. All of our animals are assessed prior to placement, and we work with a network of trainers and volunteers to implement treatment plans designed to help our animals reach their full adoption potential. We have 16 staff members and over 1,000 volunteers in our database who help with everything from dog walking to cat toy making, to cleaning and laundry, to donor support and marketing. Because our animals stay with us for a long duration of time we need to invest in ways to keep them mentally and physically active. Dogs are exercised at least twice daily, and last year- thanks to the generous support of the Animal Farm Foundation and former New Jersey Senator Robert Toricelli- we have added a new large dog play area and garden for our dogs to run, work on agility, and learn commands off-leash. Generous donors helped us build a free-roaming cat room and an adoption counseling room, so potential adopters can spend time one-on-one with a cat before they decide to take that cat home to join their families.
But LHS isn’t just about cats and dogs. Every stray domestic animal found in Hoboken comes to our facility. Over the last year we’ve had a ferret, a tarantula, 3 rabbits, a boa constrictor, 2 parakeets, 2 geese, and a hamster (named Manuel)- from Hoboken alone. Every one of these animals was adopted. This is in addition to the dozens of orphaned or injured wild birds, opossums, and skunks LHS rescued and transported to a wildlife rehabilitator.
But our happiest shelter moments are seeing pets who were lost reunited with their owners at LHS. In Hoboken this happens a lot. In 2015 Obi the Boston Terrier, Kristy the King Charles Spaniel, Gumdrop the kitten, Jill the Jack Russell, Lumpy the Labrador, Otis the Pekingese, Scooter the Husky, Smiley the Yorkie (and more) were all found by their Hoboken owners after contacting us at Liberty Humane. We’re here for Hoboken’s pet owners as much as we’re here for the Hoboken pets who have escaped from their homes, and all the other pets who depend on us and our network of volunteers to care for them and to find them new homes.
We’re also committed to helping our communities raise the overall level of animal welfare in our neighborhoods through humane education and public services. We run a low-cost public Pet Wellness clinic every Wednesday evening at the shelter; we provide assistance to individual pet owners who are struggling with pet medical or behavior issues; and we just launched our very own mobile spay/neuter clinic, which we would love to bring to Hoboken. LHS is the only non-profit animal shelter in all of Hudson County and the need is great. In 2015 our services helped more than 10,000 people and their pets. The excellence of our programs have garnered LHS national attention and funding from leading national organizations dedicated to animal welfare.
Our programs are supported through individual contributions and grants from LHS’s partner organizations, including: Best Friends Animal Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Maddie’s Fund, the Animal Farm Foundation, and many others. We’re so pleased to have been recognized by these institutions as one of the most effective facilities of our size, nationally.
But we are very proud to be the organization that Hoboken turns to take care of its animal welfare issues. Because fundamentally, LHS is an organization with a local focus and we are engaged in the communities we serve. In Hoboken, we are currently working with 5 different Girl Scout Troops to support shelter pet adoption and public education as part of the Girl Scouts Silver and Gold awards program. We’ve worked with Hoboken Charter School, Elysian Charter, and All Saints Episcopal. We’re thrilled to continue to partner with the Hoboken Comedy Festival; Pier 13; the Hoboken Farmers Market and many more community groups. And of course, I can’t forget Bark in the Park- LHS’s biggest fundraiser of the year and the largest pet festival in Hudson County- that will take place in Stevens’ Park Hoboken on October 1st of this year.
Thank you for recognizing the importance of progressive animal services. Thank you for allowing us to work with a community who cares deeply about its animals. We just signed a new contract with the City of Hoboken that the City Council has already approved through 2016. Initially, we had requested a CPI increase to our 2015 contract of $71,000, which Director Pelligrini asked us to drop. Understanding Hoboken’s budget challenges, we immediately agreed to a contract that had no increase from 2015. We are proud to be Hoboken’s partner, and we are committed to moving forward as a Hoboken’s partner, continuing to do the best we can for animals and the people who care about them.