NEWARK, NJ — A month after being charged with animal cruelty, Roseann Trezza, the executive director of Associated Humane Societies in Newark, submitted a plea of not guilty.
Trezza was a no-show for her first court appearance where her attorney submitted the plea on her behalf in Newark Municipal Court Tuesday.
The charges stem from an ongoing investigation into conditions at the facility that were uncovered during recent state and city inspections that documented as many as 40 violations.
A 2-month-long PIX11 investigation gave a glimpse of the conditions inside AHS-Newark where former volunteers and workers came forward to tell their stories.
Trezza’s not guilty plea comes just a week after the non-profit organization was skewered by the Newark City Council for allowing the conditions to get to where they are.
Harry Levin, an attorney for the organization, vowed to turn things around in the troubled shelter, which currently has contracts with 14 municipalities including a $645,000 contract with Newark.
Despite a number of improvements made at the facility, inside sources tell PIX11 the conditions and disturbing practices haven’t gotten any better.
“If you were inside it’d be almost like an asylum,” former kennel worker Erick Gonzalez told PIX11.
Gonzalez worked at the Newark shelter for nearly a year, leaving the AHS in September.
During his shifts, he says he witnessed what he called “absolute atrocities” that gave him anxiety attacks.
In footage shot by Gonzales and provided to PIX11, he claims it shows dogs and cats in peril where they’re denied medical treatment and allowed to die in their cages.
“I actually felt that I could make a difference by working there but I realized systemically I was always shot down,” he said. “No matter what path I took the dogs would always be neglected, abused and forgotten.”
In a claim previously made by another former worker that brought to light the disturbing practice where shelter management would regularly exploit animals with compelling stories, halting adoption efforts for the sake of raising cash, Gonzalez claims the problem is bigger than we first reported.
Lucy, described as a grey blue and white pit bull, was shot during a police raid in mid-December 2016 and taken to AHS-Newark for treatment.
According to Gonzalez, the animal made a complete recovery but was then euthanized a few months later for being what management deemed as “aggressive.”
Lucy’s story of survival was widely shared on AHS’s various social media accounts and website, primarily used as a fundraising tool.
“To this day on their website, she is still put down as if she’s alive and [they’re] asking people to please donate to save dogs that are shot by the police,” Gonzalez claimed.
The web profile featuring Lucy is still online and currently archived on the AHS Cares website.
AHS’s attorney Harry Levin recently responded to these claims of animals being exploited telling PIX11 while “animals are an effective fundraising tool” the organization "does not unreasonably exploit animals for that purpose."
Meanwhile, Trezza is scheduled to be in court on Jan. 11.