Officer stands trial in cat euthanization

SPCA, defense debate ID of cat, whether state law was broken


Staff Writer

A Monroe Township animal control officer is awaiting a decision in Jamesburg Municipal Court on animal cruelty charges that could cost him his career.

Frank Faraone stood trial last week on charges of procuring the needless killing of an animal and depriving a living animal of necessary sustenance after having technicians at Sayrebrook Veterinary Hospital and Animal Shelter in Sayreville euthanize a cat last fall, according to the state Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Faraone reportedly believed the cat was a stray sewer cat, but Rossmoor resident Alice Hardie said she thinks the cat was hers.

Hardie said she spent the night away from home on Nov. 1, and her sister-in-law stayed at Hardie’s house while she was away. Hardie said she received a call from her sister-in-law at about 11 a.m. the next day that her cat Calique had not returned home.

Later that day, Hardie left a message at the shelter, and was contacted the next morning by an employee who said that no cats had been brought into the shelter the previous day. Hardie said she was then contacted by Faraone, who told her Calique had been put to sleep.

She said Calique was 18 years old and somewhat frail, but still healthy and active.

“I could sort of understand it, but at the same time, [euthanizing the cat] was wrong,” Hardie said.

SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton said that under Title Four of the state’s animal cruelty laws, Faraone is faced with civil and criminal charges for each offense.

“One is brought against the individual, and the other is brought on behalf of the animal,” Stanton said.

Hardie said she feels bad about the charges facing Faraone, but he must be held accountable for his alleged actions.

“A lot of people break the law with the best intentions, but it’s still not right,” Hardie said. “I’m very sorry about it, but it can’t be overlooked. The law is the law.”

The law itself, however, is what’s in question here.

Stanton said that animal shelters are required by state law to hold any animal for a period of seven days before the animal can be euthanized or adopted. He said Faraone illegally ordered the euthanization of the cat, an order that technicians at the shelter must follow.

“The bottom line is, this woman lost a cat and it was picked up by an ACO [animal control officer] in Monroe Township, and under state law, any shelter in the state is supposed to keep that animal for seven days. Only a vet can determine whether it needs to be euthanized,” Stanton said.

“He should have known [to] try to find the owner.”

However, according to Faraone’s attorney, Joseph Benedict, of New Brunswick, the law has been misinterpreted.

“The prosecution claims that an animal control officer has no authority to have an animal euthanized, and that there’s a seven-day waiting period before a shelter, kennel or veterinarian should euthanize an animal. They don’t seem to know the law,” Benedict said.

According to Benedict, the statute is as follows: “Any person authorized by the governing body may cause an animal to be destroyed in a manner causing as little pain as possible, or to be offered for adoption seven days after seizure.”

Not only was the euthanization legal, Benedict said, but several witnesses testified that it was the correct decision.

“Everyone who saw the cat agreed that the humane thing to do was to euthanize the cat,” Benedict said.

Benedict said that the man who found the cat tried to nudge it with his foot, but said that it couldn’t get up the curb. Both technicians at the shelter testified that the cat needed to be put to sleep, as did another animal control officer.

In addition, he said, the animal control officer for Jamesburg observed that the cat was “unable to stand.”

Benedict noted that the owner of the shelter testified that both technicians who were at the shelter when the cat was brought in have been working there long enough to be able to make quality-of-life decisions, and that he was comfortable with the decision his technicians made.

The defense also contends that the cat that was euthanized was not Calique.

Benedict said that Hardie’s description of her cat did not match the description of the cat that Faraone had euthanized.

Because the shelter cremated the cat, Hardie never had the opportunity to personally identify it.

Benedict contends that the SPCA filed charges without first finding out what Hardie’s missing cat looked like.

“[The SPCA investigator] didn’t ask her for a picture of the cat, he didn’t ask her for a description of the cat, he didn’t compare that to the description that was in Frank’s report, he didn’t inquire of the people at Sayrebrook what the cat looked like,” Benedict said.

“The basis of their claim that this is her cat is that her cat was missing the night before.”

Judge Michael Toto reserved judgment on the matter until Feb. 15 so he could review the state laws governing euthanization.

Both charges are disorderly persons offenses, which carry no jail time, only a fine. But the penalty would likely be more severe for Faraone, who has been an animal control officer for just over three years.

“It would also be his career,” Benedict said. “He couldn’t be an animal control officer with an animal cruelty conviction.”