MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Animal control services for the township will be provided by Associated Humane Societies’ Newark facility and staff under a contract approved by the Township Committee on Tuesday night.

The committee voted, 4-1, in favor of the agreement, with Committeeman Gerard Ryan voting against it. It was not immediately clear what will happen to Maplewood’s animal control officer, Debbie Hadu. She spoke at the meeting, asking the committee not to outsource animal control services.

Instead, Hadu said, the township could enter into a shared services agreement with South Orange to run a holding facility that would then place unclaimed animals with other shelters or with rescue groups. Costs could be offset by running a low-cost spay-neuter clinic, she said.

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In addition, Hadu said, “I am the only licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Essex County.” She said she chooses to care for and then release wild animals because of her passion for the work. “I’m not paid (for this) by the state or the township."

The township does get calls to deal with wildlife. She cited as an example a raccoon spotted in November near a school with its head stuck in a jar. “I was able to free him and send him on his merry way,” she said.

The decision was not popular with the crowd attending Tuesday’s meeting. A number of them spoke during a public comment period, asking the committee to retain Hadu’s services. “Whose bright idea was this (to) get rid of our local animal control officer?” one resident asked.

“So many animal lovers out here (want to) keep this in the community,” said another resident, gesturing to the audience. Many who spoke stressed the need for an animal control officer who was part of the community and who could respond immediately to calls.

Maplewood was forced in 2014 to find an alternative location for strays picked up by animal control when the animal shelter operated by Jersey Animal Coalition was shut down. The JAC-run facility in South Orange served as the intake shelter for both Maplewood and South Orange. Both towns contracted with AHS-Newark to serve as a holding facility after the JAC closed.

However, the AHS is no longer contracting with municipalities to act as an intake shelter, according to AHS Assistant Director Scott Crawford. Instead, towns wishing to use AHS as their shelter must sign a full-service contract, which covers animal control officers, holding facilities and veterinary services. AHS does euthanize animals that are not claimed, adopted or placed elsewhere.

After some residents expressed concern about the quality of the facilities and of the animal care at the Newark shelter, Crawford said, “Come see for yourself.” He said the shelter is monitored both by the state and by the city of Newark.

Ryan asked whether the committee could hold off voting on the contract to see if other arrangements could be made.

“No, because we have no place to take our animals,” Township Administrator Joseph Manning said. Mayor Victor DeLuca added, “I’m not sure what choice we have … we have a responsibility to have animal control services and a place to bring the animals.”

Health Officer Robert Roe said that the other provider he contacted quoted a price that was twice what AHS charged. He said he had not tried to find a facility that would offer only holding services, but Manning said that South Orange has been unable to find a facility that would agree to serve only as an intake shelter.

Manning said the one-year contract is for $41,802.25. The contract can be terminated with a 60-day notice if Maplewood comes up with an alternative. Although Maplewood can retain its own animal control officer, the township would be paying for duplicate services, Crawford noted.