TRENTON — A city spokesman — responding to NJ SPCA's claim that the city's animal control officer did not respond to a call about an abused puppy found in an apartment — called the account "completely incompatible" with the city's processes.

The NJ SPCA said the animal control officer of a community identified only as being in "Central Jersey" refused to respond to a call about three dogs found abandoned in an apartment on New Year’s Eve, including one described as “skin and bones." NJSPCA Law Enforcement Division Chief Frank Rizzo said the officer told his group “they were closed for the holiday, had no room at the shelter and did not want to pay the medical and care costs for the animal.”

A source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that community was Trenton.

City spokesman Michael Walker defended the actions of the officer, whose identity he did not provide.

Trenton Animal Shelter
Trenton Animal Shelter (Brian McCarthy)

"We do this everyday. This is a city, this isn't a small town. We have a number of residents who discard pets and we find animals in distress for many reasons. Our response to these situations is standard. It's precise. It's thoughtful. And it's quick," Walker said.

"The staff at the animal shelter, including our animal control officers, perform their duties unswervingly every day. Our shelter is a model for the country, if you ask me. It's a model because we have people who want to visit the shelter on a regular basis. They are consistently impressed with the shelter and the quality of the staff and the quality of our animal control officers because they do a great job," Walker said.

Walker said that that the three dogs found in the apartment received the care they needed because "we were involved in that process. It's a routine we follow on a regular basis."

Trenton's animal control department, which comes under the direction of the city's Health and Human Services Department and Director James Brownlee, is not staffed 24 hours a day, according to Walker. But he said it has agreements in place with animal care facilities to provide care around the clock when needed.

Walker said he isn't sure, however, what may have transpired on New Year's Eve between the NJ SPCA's Law Enforcement Division Chief Frank Rizzo and the animal control officer.

"It's hard to say because I wasn't privy to the conversation the animal control officer had with Mr. Rizzo. My measure is the result. The result is these animals received the care that they needed because we were involved in the process," Walker said.

NJ SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton said he is not doubting the shelter and has never been there — "but there's a law that dictates how (an animal control officer) has to act."

Stanton pointed to the state's animal welfare law, which calls for a "timely response to calls and complaints from the public concerning suspected rabid wild or domestic animals; dogs and cats that are stray, injured, ill, creating a threat to public health, safety or interfering with the enjoyment of property; and vicious dogs. The response to animal-related emergency calls should be prompt, even on nights, weekends and holidays in order to safely control dangerous animals and minimize pain and suffering of stray, sick and injured animals."

Stanton earlier said that the dogs were doing well and the owner of the dogs has not been located.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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