Former Somerset County Humane Society president fined
As protesters gathered outside District Judge Ken Johnson’s office in Somerset Wednesday, the magistrate found the former president of the Somerset County Humane Society guilty of a nontraffic citation that said she was responsible for unsatisfactory sanitation and maintenance at the shelter along Whitetail Road.
The citation for Sally Urban was issued on July 5 following inspections in June and early July. The state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement cites the person in charge and not the organization itself. Urban, the former president, was fined $190. Urban’s attorney said at the hearing that she resigned as president and as a humane society board member.
“We believe these were defensible charges,” said James Cascio, her attorney. “Our client has instructed us to not contest the charges. It was done in the interest of putting this matter to rest and to let the society continue its duty to the community and the animals.”
The citations were written by state Dog Wardens Ronald Allison and Beth Newman after an unannounced inspection of the facility on June 6 and a follow-up inspection July 5 that “was still unsatisfactory,” William Nichols, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said in a prior interview. During the inspection, wardens observed rusted pipes and chewed dog houses with sharp edges, according to the kennel inspection report. Wardens also observed large holes in the side of the building and large amounts of rat and mouse feces in the food storage area.
The wardens advised the kennel director to fix the problems.
Other changes have also happened at the Humane Society. Leann Stewart, a former supervisor and humane officer at the shelter, has been replaced by Meaghan Gould. Stewart couldn’t be reached for comment, and Gould said she wasn’t permitted to speak to the media. No one on the board returned a call that was given to the shelter.
During the hearing, about four or five protesters were outside with signs decrying animal cruelty and alleged inappropriate behavior on the part of Urban and her staff.
Lee Owen, one of the protesters, commented on the guilty verdict.
“I agree that she’s guilty of that,” Owen said. “But she’s guilty of a lot more. I talked to the Department of Agriculture, and they said this is just the beginning.”
Shannon Powers, press secretary for the department, issued a statement on the matter.
“Today’s hearing was for Sally Urban who was president of the Humane Society Board at the time the citation was issued, so she was the responsible party,” Powers said. “She was charged with two citations, having to do with housekeeping, pests and maintenance. The dog warden withdrew the maintenance charge and she pled guilty to the housekeeping charge. The Humane Society remains a licensed kennel for 2018. There are no additional consequences for Urban or the shelter.”