Shelter killed over 300 animals prematurely; officials criminally charged

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Serbia Prison Dogs_1557100120316

A stray dog peers from out of his cage at a dog shelter in Serbia’s biggest prison in Sremska Mitrovica, northwest of Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. A Serbian prison has set up a shelter for stray dogs within its compound and tasked a group of inmates with taking care of the animals. Prison […]

(WFLA) – Two people were hit with charges after more than 300 animals were prematurely euthanized at an animal shelter in New Jersey, The Trentonian reported. 

Hamilton Township Animal Shelter is said to have violated state law on animal euthanasia after the facility allegedly euthanized more than 300 animals without following the right procedures. 

Todd Bencivengo, 56, and Jeffrey Plunkett, 62, were each charged Friday with two counts of third-degree animal cruelty and one count of second-degree official misconduct.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office began investigating complaints against the shelter in August after its Humane Law Enforcement Unit learned the shelter euthanized 236 cats and 93 dogs before they were held for at least seven days.

New Jersey law mandates that animal shelters hold animals or put them up for adoption for at least seven days before considering euthanasia.

Although no evidence led to additional charges, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said the investigation revealed “multiple examples of mismanagement.”

Bencivengo is the former supervisor of the Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, while Plunkett is Hamilton Township’s current health department director.

Onofri said any administrative punishment will be handled by the Hamilton Township Council. 

Democrats on the council, President Jeff Martin, Vice President Rick Tighe and Anthony Carabelli said they will act after reviewing the charges. 

Martin called for an investigation into the shelter last year after a $1.1 million renovation that nearly doubled the space for both dogs and cats. The shelter reportedly continued to euthanized more animals once it was complete. 

“The shelter’s ‘kill-rate’ has reduced by only 1 percent, and its operating budget has increased by 44 percent in just four years,” Tighe said in July.

A state report accused the shelter of a series of violations, which they had to correct to continue operating. The shelter complied.

“We have nothing to hide,” Plunkett said in July. “I couldn’t be more proud of our animal shelter staff and the…commitment they show to the citizens and animals of Hamilton.”

Both Plunkett and Bencivengo were summoned to the prosecutor’s office on Friday. They’re scheduled to appear in court on May 21. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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