NEW BRUNSWICK — Three dogs found abandoned in a Central Jersey apartment on New Year's Eve, including one described as "skin and bones," continue to recover.

NJ SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton said the emaciated puppy is doing well and with a rescue. He said the other two dogs are also in good condition. The dogs are not yet ready for adoption and have to go through a process with the courts to have the owner sign over his pets.

"The facts in this case dictate that the dogs be signed over to the NJ SPCA. Hopefully we'll be successful and at that point they'll be adopted," Stanton said.

The dogs were discovered by a landlord doing a walkthrough on Saturday, the NJ SPCA has previously said. When the NJ SPCA notified police, an animal control officer refused to go out and pick up the dogs, according to the organization.

NJSPCA Law Enforcement Division Chief Frank Rizzo said the animal control officer told them "they were closed for the holiday, had no room at the shelter and did not want to pay the medical and care costs for the animal."

Rizzo said after a few hours, an NJ SPCA sergeant pressed for the animal control officer to respond or face criminal charges. The animal control officer did eventually respond and transported the dog to a medical care facility, Rizzo said.

The NJSPCA hasn't publicly acknowledged in what community the incident took place, but a source familiar with the investigation said the apartment was located in Trenton.

City spokesman Michael Walker and Elaine Thaxton, shelter manager for Trenton's Bureau of Animal Control, said when reached early Tuesday they did not yet have any information on the incident.

Stanton said that investigation is just getting under way and the owner has not yet been found.

"At the end of the day this is, from our perspective, about outcomes. Let's get the dog taken care of," he said.

Stanton said the SPCA, which is charged with being the law enforcement officers in charge of investigating and prosecuting all persons involved in animal abuse and neglect, depends on local animal control to actually remove endangered animals.

"We don't have a shelter to put animals in. So when we're in a municipality and we need assistance to place an animal somewhere we call the animal control services in that municipality. We did that in this case and we were told no, which technically is illegal," Stanton said.

The group Reformers-Advocates for Animal Shelter Change in New Jersey, which also identified Trenton as the city involved criticized the NJ SPCA for not charging the animal officer and urged people to contact city officials.

"Let them know that this is unacceptable," the group wrote on its Facebook page.

Stanton said the NJ SPCA is aware of criticism of its choice not to identify the community involved, and  is "staying above the noise and doing the right thing."

Of threatened to arrest the animal officer, he said: "You think that's something we take lightly? No." He added there were also "some choice words" exchanged over the incident.

"One would hope that the mayor and the council and the people in charge of this city would take care of their problem. If they don't then we may have to send a letter, file a complaint, do something. Next time we have a situation in this town hopefully they'll gonna  realize 'let's do what we're obligated to do,'" Stanton sad.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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