At Monday night’s Town Council meeting, the room was again filled to capacity as animal advocates pleaded with Bloomfield officials to allow Memphis the pitbull to be adopted.
If the advocates have their way, Mayor Raymond McCarthy will override the decision of Board of Health Director Karen Lore, who has refused to allow the pitbull to be adopted. But there was no indication this would happen.
"You have the power to go get those keys and let Memphis out of his cage," one ardent protestor told McCarthy. "You can be a hero! That can be your legacy."
Despite the forceful efforts of Memphis' supporters, the dog remains in a cage at the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. The frustrated animal advocates demanded to know why their efforts to help the dog were being stonewalled.
Lore and the Board of Health have consistently maintained that the dog is a potential danger to people, a view supported by an outside dog trainer hired last week by the township, who called Memphis "."
Jim Crosby, the Florida dog trainer, told attendees at a town hall meeting that Memphis "would be appropriate for potential placement in a carefully screened home," but only after undergoing a carefully-monitored rehabilitation program.
During Monday's meeting, Jeff Coltenbeck, whose efforts to adopt the dog have been thwarted by the Board of Health, reiterated that he and his wife Diana were qualified to rehabilitate him in a home environment.
Memphis' supporters have pointed out that the dog has no "bite history," describing him as a good, trainable dog who just needs a loving home. Still, Coltenbeck, who now plans to sue the township for denying him the right to adopt the dog, said he has purchased liability insurance for the dog as a precaution.
"The township would be no more liable with Memphis being in my care than if I bought a used car from one of you [council members] and drank a keg of beer and killed someone with [the car]," he said in an appeal to the council.
"Why not just put the dog with Mr. Coltenbeck?" queried one member of the public. "This is a man who's going to train him, love him and doesn't want a penny. It doesn't make any sense [to prevent the adoption.]"
As tempers flared and the standoff continued last night, neither the mayor nor council members made any promises to the protestors.
"Bloomfield doesn't feel like my town any more," one resident told the Mayor. "It has become a dictatorship under Karen Lore. She told me she answers to nobody -- not even you, Your Honor."
According to protestors at the meeting, the shelter has recently cut back on their visiting hours and eliminated beneficial animal control programs like the TNR (Trap Neuter and Release) program. One shelter volunteer told Patch after last week's meeting that she felt the negative publicity generated by the infighting had eroded community support for the shelter, causing a drop in donations.
As the bitter impasse between the Board of Health and animal advocates continues, it’s hard to tell what the outcome will be. But one thing seems clear: Memphis and the other animals at the shelter may be the casualties of the battle.