SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The animal shelter in South Orange does not take stray animals unless they are brought in by an animal control officer, according to an agreement between the shelter operator and municipalities.

The shelter, located on Walton Avenue near the village’s Department of Public Works, is owned by South Orange. The building is leased and operated by the Jersey Animal Coalition, a nonprofit, no-kill group overseen by a board of trustees.

Household pets are sometimes accepted by the shelter but there is a process, according Doreen Grasso, JAC’s shelter manager.

Sign Up for E-News

“If they want to bring a personal pet in, they (should) call us up to see if we have room,” Grasso said. “If we have room we will take them in, and if not they will be put on a waiting list. The waiting list at times can be six months because we don’t euthanize here to make room for new pets.”

Grasso said the shelter may fill up at times because it is required to accept all stray animals from animal control officers in South Orange and Maplewood under the JAC’s lease agreement with the two municipalities.

The most recent copy of the lease, obtained through an Open Public Records Act request, is dated 1998. The lease specifies that the JAC will pay South Orange and Maplewood an annual rental of $1. The term of the lease was five years, with an option to renew for two additional three-year periods.

South Orange village health officer John Festa, who oversees the village’s animal control officer, encourages residents to not feed or shelter stray animals.

“There are always people feeding stray cats,” Festa said. “They need to know to call the animal control officer instead.”

For an emergency involving a stray animal after hours, Festa said, residents can contact the South Orange police and the dispatcher will determine whether to contact the animal control officer.

Stray cats and dogs are available for adoption from the JAC. In addition, residents whose pets were picked up and taken to the shelter can reclaim them once they pay a boarding fee.

“We are here to adopt animals, to find a permanent home for them, take in the strays,” Grasso said. “We do a spay and neuter program so there won’t be a bigger population when they leave.”

As part of its education mission, the JAC also provides people who will speak to groups about what the shelter does.

“We have someone come in … to meet with kids and tell them about … how to treat an animal,” Grasso said.

The JAC is open Tuesday through Sunday for adoptions. The fees and other information can be found at the JAC website.

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.