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Toms River Clerk Certifies Recall of Animal Shelter Lease Ordinance

Toms River Animal Shelter (Source: Toms River Township)

Toms River Animal Shelter (Source: Toms River Township)

Toms River Township will be precluded from executing a lease with the Ocean County Health Department to take over the township’s municipal animal shelter, notwithstanding any challenges to a recall petition that successfully garnered enough signatures to stop an ordinance authorizing the takeover.

The controversial ordinance passed in a 4-3 vote last month, leading to a near-instant effort by a group of residents to recall the ordinance within the 20-day period available under state law. Ocean County Health Department officials said they would not sign the lease if the recall succeeded, and Mayor Dan Rodrick has told Shorebeat that his administration did not include funding for the shelter in this year’s municipal budget, leaving the facility’s future uncertain.

Rodrick has held that the shelter has been poorly managed, with limited hours open to the public and infrastructure issues that have affected the welfare of the animals held there. Opponents have defended the employees and volunteers who run the shelter, claiming that the municipal shelter has a lower euthanization rate than the county’s two shelters in Stafford and Jackson townships. Rodrick, citing a different set of statistics, has claimed the opposite.

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Regardless, the petition to recall the ordinance was certified just before the weekend by Township Clerk Michael C. Cruoglio, who said the recall committee collected more than the 3,079 signatures of registered voters required to effectuate the policy. As a result, the council will have the option of repealing the ordinance at its next meeting or placing it on the ballot in November for a referendum vote.

In a letter to the governing body as well as the recall committee, Cruoglio said over 450 pages of signatures were submitted to his office, each of which was examined against voter records and determined to be valid.

Historically, Toms River budgets about $1 million per year to run the shelter – an item that was not included in this year’s operating budget.

“I didn’t budget for it,” Rodrick said previously. “We don’t have the money, and I’m not raising taxes for everyone in town when they’re doing a bad job and the county will do it for free. They have advertisements on the radio, television, internet. What do we have? People who lock the door.”

At a recent meeting of the township council, an employee at the shelter challenged the mayor’s assertions, defending the shelter’s management and saying it achieved “no kill” status by saving more than 90 percent of the animals placed there in recent years.

Toms River’s next council meeting is scheduled for June 26 unless a special meeting is added to the calendar and legally advertised.

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