Middlesex County’s Johnson Park Animal Haven to close

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PISCATAWAY – Following concerns expressed by animal welfare advocates regarding animal health and safety at Johnson Park Animal Haven, the Middlesex County Council of Commissioners has decided to close the facility.

The county announced its decision in a press release on Monday, saying the animals would be moved to new homes at sanctuaries, zoos and rescue farms across the state. The process to move all animals from the shelter to new homes across the state is underway.

The statement said the move came after “careful consideration and extensive research, and in recognition of the growing threat severe weather poses to Johnson Park.”

“For generations, families in Middlesex County have visited the animals at Johnson Park Animal Haven; the park not only brought joy to these families when they visited, but also provided a much needed home for animals that would otherwise be euthanized or unable to survive in the wild. We recognize and appreciate the support that has been given to the shelter over the years, ”the commissioners said in the statement. “Due to Johnson Park’s location in a floodplain and the real and undeniable threat of climate change, it is at the best of times. animal interest in closing Johnson Park Animal Haven and relocating them to more resilient locations. “

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The county came under fire in early September after floodwaters inundated the park, which occupies an almost 5-mile strip of floodplain along the Raritan River in Piscataway and Highland Park. According to FEMA, the entire park is a high-risk flood zone.

Middlesex County officials, including those from the Office of Parks and Recreation, have worked closely with animal welfare advocates, including the Friends of the Johnson Park Animals (FJPA), as well as the sanctuaries animals and local zoos to determine what course of action, according to version.

Earlier: Future of Middlesex County Zoo remains uncertain

“All of the local residents who have worked for animal safety are thrilled to hear that the county is ready to bring them to safety out of the floodplain,” said Ashley Hartwik, senior member of the FJPA. “We are so happy that they recognized that it was no longer sustainable to keep a zoo in a FEMA designated diversion channel without elevated land and an adequate evacuation plan. We are grateful that they have decided to find a solution to ensure the safety of the animals. “

According to Hartwick and Jenna Trent, another founding leader of the FJPA, Middlesex County Parks and Recreation Director Rick Lear recently visited several animal shelters to research potential homes for the animals. The two, along with other FJPA members, have had meetings with Lear over the past month and a half about the shelter.

Concerns for animal welfare increased after floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the region particularly hard. Animals have been caught in dangerous situations, several photographed in flood waters.

The FJPA was formed shortly after the storm and members began demonstrating at the River Road facility in mid-September.

A petition with over 7,000 signatures, along with a 33-page document, was presented to Lear last Tuesday. The document, created by the FJPA, included pledges from more than 14 sanctuaries ready to remove 86 animals from the shelter.

The Johnson Park Animal Haven is approximately 3 km long and is home to a variety of farm animals and exotic animals such as pigs, goats, deer, alpacas, emus, raccoons, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pheasants, foxes, guinea fowl, horses and a mini horse in the fenced areas.

Including Johnson Park, the county has three animal shelters – the other two are in Merrill Park in Woodbridge and Thompson Park in Monroe. Two animals were confirmed to have died in a county park last month.

Although county officials say all of the animals in the park along the Raritan River are “pictured,” some claim the county is not transparent about any possible loss of life.

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Cheryl Makin is an award winning reporting and education reporter for MyCentralJersey.com, which is part of the USA Today Network. Contact: [email protected] or @CherylMakin.

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