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Johnson Park Animal Haven closes, animals to be relocated to sanctuaries

The Johnson Park Animal Haven will close after months of deliberation after the flooding caused by Hurricane Ida, with its animals relocated to other county parks, animal sanctuaries or a new animal husbandry program. – Photo by Stacey Daly / Twitter

Middlesex County announced yesterday that the Johnson Park Animal Haven will close and relocate animals to zoos, sanctuaries and other locations nearby, according to an article from MyCentralJersey.

This decision comes after much deliberation from the County’s Board of Commissioners as well as calls from the Friends of the Johnson Park Animals (FJPA) advocacy group to close the zoo, as previously reported by The Daily Targum.

On Thursday, the commissioners received a report from French and Perillo Associates and Zoo Advisors, an independent firm who they had hired to review the county’s park system, focusing specifically on its animal havens.

Most of the animals have been or will be moved to zoos in other counties or to sanctuaries, which includes four alpacas that were released to an animal sanctuary in Montgomery, New Jersey, according to the article.

The County previously released four goats, two pigs and one ram to various other sanctuaries. Birds, deer, pythons, rabbits, roosters, goats, an iguana, a red fox, a raccoon and a miniature horse will be relocated to similar places.

Approximately 12 animals — a cow, two horses, three goats and six chickens — will be moved to a new facility and involved in a new animal husbandry program, according to the article.

"The select group of animals will provide a platform for this historic animal husbandry program that dovetails into our Destination 2040 goals and professional planning recommendations and comprehensive assessments of the site," County Administrator John Pulomena said. 

He said the new location will be built adjacent to East Jersey Olde Town Village in Piscataway, which is not considered to be a part of the floodplain where the Johnson Park Animal Haven currently is.

FJPA founder Ashley Hartwik said that while animals’ relocation to sanctuaries is a beneficial part of the County’s plan, concerns regarding the animals’ well-being still exist.

She said that members of the FJPA have expressed concern regarding aspects of the husbandry program, specifically the risk of flooding, the high cost to taxpayers and the procurement of future animals for the program.

"It will still be run by the same people who were responsible for the nightmare to the animals in Johnson Park," Hartwik said. "The area they want to put it in still floods, despite claims to the contrary.”

Even though program staff will be given proper training on how to care for the animals, she said the husbandry program is not what the park needs, and the animals designated for Olde Town should also be released to sanctuaries.

“We plan to continue our involvement with this issue and will work to ensure all the animals have safe, healthy futures,” the FJPA said in a statement. “We appreciate the diligence of the commissioners in ascertaining the true facts of the situation and making a genuine effort to accommodate all the sides of the issue."

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