Bloomfield Council Informed Of Memphis Abuse At Shelter

    ©  By June Maxam

BLOOMFIELD, NJ—Members of the Bloomfield Township Council heard allegations of inhumane treatment of animals at the township’s John A. Bukowski Shelter for Animals during their meeting Wednesday, including the abuse of a pit bull named Memphis who is at the center of a custody battle between Bloomfield residents and dog trainers Jeff and Diana Coltenback,  and the township.

Bloomfield resident Nellie Reynolds appeared before the council to report that on more than one occasion she had witnessed a shelter employee lift Memphis by his collar onto his hind legs and “choke” walked him across the room to another pen.

   While she did not name the employee in public, The North Country Gazette has learned that the alleged abuser is vet tech Joaquin Abradelo, a man who was  paroled from state prison in 2010 after being convicted of money laundering and manufacturing gamma bydroxybutyrate, commonly known as a “date rape” drug.

“I’ll never forget the sheer panic on Memphis’ face” Reynolds emotionally told the council, the tears coming to her eyes.

However, Abadrelo is an alias of Joaquin Dominguez, who was convicted of two counts of money laundrying and drug manufacturing in 2008 following his arrest in 2006 and was sentenced to serve five years concurrently.  He entered New Jersey state prison in Bergen County in April 2008 and was paroled in May, 2010.

Not only has the town hired a convicted felon but a man who is masquerading under an assumed name.

In January, apparently on recommendation of Karen Lore, the acting director of health and human services,  the township’s board of health promoted Abradelo, then employed as an animal attendant, to the position of part-time animal health technician.

Dominguez, who is employed by the township under his alias of Abradelo, was provisionally appointed effective Jan. 23 pending an open competitive exam in the title of animal health technician, part-time, not to exceed 29 hours per week, claiming that it was “in the best interest of the Department of Health Human Services and the Township of Bloomfield……in order to maintain efficiency and productivity” at the shelter.

Karen Banda, whose 87-year-old mother was discriminatorily banned from the animal shelter after visiting with the cats because Lore says she posed a liability risk, commented about the allegations against the vet tech at the shelter saying that  “the vet tech in question has been seen handling many dogs in the same manner over the year plus he has been employed there.

“He and then shelter “manager” Romel Fernandez routinely handled dogs in that manner. I witnessed it myself”, Banda charges. “Complaints by volunteers not only fell on deaf ears, the volunteers were reprimanded and/or threatened with expulsion by health officer Mike Fitzpatrick”.

Allegations of animal abuse can be reported to

1119 Livingston Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Phone: 800-582-5979

Karen Lore, President of the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Network and Acting Director of Health and Human Services.  The allegations of animal abuse at the shelter are just part of the increasing controversy involving the shelter operations and in particular, Karen Lore, acting director of health and human services for the township.

According to her credentials, Lore has no certifications in dog training or care or in shelter operations.

Lore is at the center of the controversy surrounding Memphis, a two to three year old pit bull that was picked up as a stray in February.  Lore has labeled the dog “unadoptable”

   Jeff and Diana Coltenback are Bloomfield residents, highly qualified and experienced dog trainers and behaviorists.  They own and operate the Paradise Pet store and a pit bull rescue.

After learning of Memphis’ situation, the Coltenbacks offered to take Memphis for training.  Jeff was forced to sign a stringent contract written by the town before he could even see  Memphis and on July 24, took the dog home for training and rehabilitation.

Over the next eight days, Jeff and Diana fell in love with Memphis.

After a picture  taken of the dog with children of the Coltenbacks’ friends was sent to the health department by Jeff to show the dog’s progress and was posted on Facebook, Lore demanded that the dog be returned, claiming that Coltenback had breached the contract and endangered the public’s safety.

Many say that the spiteful act by Lore is yet another form of animal cruelty and unfair treatment being exercised by herself and the town towards the dog.  There have been demands that Lore be removed from all aspects of the animal shelter operation as she simply is not qualified to operate an animal shelter.

Jeff returned the dog to the shelter on Aug. 1 and filled out an adoption application.

   Coltenback has offered to get special insurance specifically for Memphis, and add the township to his policy as an insured to further protect them but so far, the town has turned a deaf and prejudiced ear to the best solution for all, returning Memphis to the Coltenbacks and allowing the Coltenbacks to adopt Memphis without causing further trauma to the dog, to stop the unnecessary and wasteful expense of tax dollars.

At the last meeting of the board of health on Aug. 16 when the Coltenbacks appeared with about 100 supporters with their offer to adopt Memphis, the board decided to have a third-party evaluation of Memphis.

Lore has indicated that instead of allowing Memphis to be adopted, she wants to send him to live out his life at a sanctuary in upstate New York.

The board of health has admitted they have no power or jurisdiction to make decisions, only recommendations.  Ultimately the decision about the adoption of Memphis rests in the hands of the council.

(Jeff addressing the township council on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Jim Crosby of Jacksonville, Fla, nationally recognized dog trainer and canine aggression expert, has been engaged by the council to evaluate Memphis.  He will be in Bloomfield at the shelter today (Thursday, Sept. 6) to videotape an evaluation of Memphis.

Crosby will appear at a public forum Thursday night between 6 and 8 p.m. in council chambers at the town municipal building,  1 Municipal Plaza in Bloomfield,  to present his findings and recommendations and will answer questions.  His evaluation procedure is described here:

Directions to the municipal building are here: 

Lore and township officials have essentially imprisoned and isolated Memphis at the shelter where there are growing allegations of his abuse, perhaps being inflicted intentionally to bolster their unfounded and baseless claim that Memphis is unadoptable.

“When Memphis came to the shelter the volunteers and most of the staff (with the exception the current kennel attendant supervisor Kathleen Georgovich and the vet tech) loved him immediately and never had an issue with him. Since then the in-shelter volunteers were dismissed by Karen Lore and the Board of Health. One has to wonder why”, Banda says.

“As someone put it: trying to work with a dog to make sure it was socialized with people without exposing him to them is akin to trying to teach someone to swim without exposing them to water.

“This entire situation is nothing more than a control issue. Karen Lore drew a line in the sand and she’ll be damned if she’ll admit she and her current inexperienced and seemingly inept kennel attendant supervisor (the fourth in as many years, the third in a few months) made a bad call.

“How sad that this poor dog is now being kept segregated from the other dogs and away from the public. For what? He has no bite history and behaved beautifully while in the care of Jeff Coltenback and his wife”, Banda says.

“Memphis doesn’t need another eval or further rehabilitation any more than this township needs another black eye. For God’s sake Karen Lore, do the right thing and letMemphislive his life in the loving home he deserves with the Coltenbacks. It’s a win-win and this issue would have been over long ago”, Banda said.

Last week, when a news reporter visited the shelter while preparing an article about Memphis, he wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the shelter.  The shelter worker whom he interviewed during his visit while she was walking Memphis, who indicated what a gentle dog he is and who was very fond of Memphis,  was suddenly terminated.

When another volunteer and her friend attempted to visit Memphis several weeks ago and her friend took a photograph of Memphis, shelter employees called the police on them.

Kennel supervisor is Kathleen Georgovich who has been accused by some former volunteers as having been allowed to make “a mountain out of a mole hill” in regard to Memphis.

Some volunteers say they overheard her being dressed down by the previous shelter “manager” because Georgovich was allegedly afraid of Memphis from the first day he arrived, her first pitbull as kennel attendant supervisor by the way.

One former shelter has written a letter to the town council, telling them it’s time they took a look “at the ethical violations that have been perpetrated by the Bloomfield Health Department – specifically Karen Lore and Mike Fitzpatrick (health officer)”.

None of the town officials have commented publicly about the allegations or Memphis.

The volunteer referenced allegations of animal abuse at the shelter, submitted by animal shelter volunteers.  “The outcome was that the volunteers were each threatened with the loss of their “unpaid employee” status by the representatives of the Bloomfield Health Department”, she says.

In March, shortly after Memphis was picked up, Lore suspended the volunteer program at the shelter, apparently fueled by comments on Facebook criticizing Lore and the shelter operations.  After  Banda’s elderly mother was banned from the shelter and from visiting the shelter’s cat room,  angry protests against Lore and the shelter were aired on Facebook, on television news shows and in print media.

On March 16, a health department press release claimed that the reason for the suspension of volunteers at the shelter was because the program needed to be “reorganized”.

The volunteers railed back, saying that they were “deceived by shelter management” and actions were taken against them for discriminatory reasons.

The shut down of the volunteer program was effected by Lore, objecting to comments posted on Facebook such as “animals held hostage”.  The statement attributed to Lore clearly indicated her denial of the volunteers’ First Amendment rights.

Last week, Lore and Fitzpatrick further acted in detriment to the animals and the public by cutting back the hours that the shelter is open to the public and adoptions.

The animal shelter is now only open from noon to 2 p.m. each day and is now closed Sundays and holidays.  It was open from 1 to 4 p.m. seven days a week, 365 days a year before.

“How are people supposed to get there to adopt?”, critics ask.

In her letter to the board, the Bloomfield resident as asked that “this unethical conduct be placed on the next town council agenda (Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.) and be examined openly and in public.Bloomfield’s reputation is on the line!”

After the Aug. 16 board of health meeting, Banda said, “I want to make one thing clear: Memphis is now known to the public because the dismissed volunteers who met him never forgot him and blew the whistle for him! What would have happened to that poor dog if he came in after we were all fired? What has happened to the animals who we were forced to leave behind and others like Memphiswho came in after we were thrown out?

“Look at the faces and body language of the select few current volunteers, those of the fundraising committee. They look either bored, disinterested or openly hostile to the speakers and sat with arms folded across their chests while the rest of the room applauded Jeff Coltenback’s emotional and tearful testimony.

“What does that tell you about their caring and compassion for all animals in their “care”? They hold fundraisers, shake their cans for money, and shout that its “all about the animals” and every cent donated goes to helping them. Really? Or only the animals you like?

“What a disgrace. I’ve been involved with that shelter 15 years to their 2+. It always comes down to a pissing contest.  Health officials will always be ‘right’ no matter how many innocent beings like Memphis suffer and die. And many over the last almost five years have died for no good reason other than no one gave a damn about them”.

Memphis belongs with the Coltenbacks and the longer Lore and the board of health deny the adoption without just cause, the more harm the township is unjustly causing to not just Memphis, but the Coltenbacks and taxpayers of Bloomfield as well.  No valid reason has been produced by township officials and particularly Lore why the Coltenbacks should not be allowed to adopt Memphis.

Contact addresses to express your views and concerns about the Coltenbacks’ and their adoption ofMemphis, are:

1119 Livingston Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Phone: 800-582-5979

BloomfieldBoard of Health
One Municipal Plaza
Room 111
One Municipal Plaza
Room 111

Phone: 973.680.4024
Fax: 973.680.4825

Board of Health Members:

James McLaughlin, President
Kathleen DeMarino, Vice President
Stephanie M. Smith, Member
Joel Elkins, Member
Martha Felix, Member

Councilwoman Peggy O’ Boyle Dunigan, Council Liaison

Karen Lore, MSW, LCSW, BCD

Acting Director of Health Human Services

F. Michael Fitzpatrick, MA, HO
Health Officer

Mayor Raymond J. McCarthy

Room: 209- 2nd. Floor,MunicipalBuilding

         1 Municipal Plaza

        Bloomfield,NJ 07003 

Rosemary Brown, Secretary

The Board of Health, which oversees the Health Dept., can also be contacted to ;

Animal control can be contacted at

To contact the New Jersey’s State Attorney General, use the webform at:

Town clerk and admin

Town Council     9-6-12

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