RED BANK: ANIMAL OPERATION ON THE BLOCK

Animal Control Officer Henry Perez with a bat removed from a Madison Avenue home in 2013. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

redbankgreen hot topicIn a move that has animal advocates alarmed, Red Bank is looking at jobbing out its animal control operation.

They say replacing the in-house service with the Monmouth County SPCA would reduce response times and service.

Henry Perez with orphaned opossums in 2016. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Mayor Pasquale Menna, responding to a question by former councilwoman Cindy Burnham during Wednesday night’s council session, confirmed that the borough was considering elimination of the office.

“We are looking at that, that is correct,” Menna said during the session, conducted via Zoom.

“You were on the council for many years,” he told Burnham, who served one three-year term. “You may have remembered that it is not a financially positive matter for the residents of the borough of Red Bank. The shared service is subsidized by Red Bank at this point in terms of the total cost of it.”

He did not offer detail about the subsidy.

For about 18 years, animal control officer Henry Perez has been the face of the operation, which also provides responses to animal safety calls in Fair Haven and Shrewsbury Township. He’s backed up when unavailable by Debbie Nagel, the animal control supervisor in Long Branch.

Police Chief Darren McConnell, serving as interim business administrator, told redbankgreen that the borough has “been in discussions with the SPCA” about taking over the service.

“We are always looking for opportunities to cut costs when service levels can be maintained,” McConnell said. “From time to time we evaluate various shared service arrangements and contracts with various entities to provide municipal services. This is no different.”

Perez and Nagel have rescued parrots, owls, turtles and newborn squirrels in response to reports of stray pets and injured or endangered wildlife, such as the raccoon pups, presumed to have been orphaned, that were falling from a tree on Brown Place last week.

Word at borough hall is that Perez would maintain his salary and be transferred to a position in the streets or water operations if an SPCA contract is signed. Perez declined comment.

Tricia Kopczewski, of Brown Place, got wind of the contemplated changes last week.

“Not to knock the SPCA,” she told redbankgreen, but Perez is intimately familiar with the community, and can quickly return lost birds and dogs to their owners because he knows who is missing a pet.

Perez has been known to drive in from his home in Ocean County to rescue animals, she said.

“You’re not going to get the same level of service,” said Kopczewski. “What if there’s a wounded animal? You have to wait a day, or two days?”

“It’s a service thing,” Burnham said during the council session. Perez has “built relationships. If a dog gets hit, he comes immediately. Our animal control guy knows our town.”

Burnham noted that Perez also enforces the borough’s ordinance require dog owners to pick up their poop.

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