HAMILTON (Mercer) — It has been three months since the state started an investigation into the practices of the local animal shelter, and local officials are now wondering why the investigation continues.

The investigation was started after it was determined the municipal animal shelter was improperly killing animals that had been surrendered by their owners. A statement on the township website said an official with the state Department of Health had confirmed that the shelter was satisfactory but then attempted to "walk back his actions."

In a letter to state Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal, township Business Administrator David Kenny said the town got the satisfactory report on Nov. 15, and four days later got correspondence that the report was being withdrawn.

According to the township, Dr. Colin Campbell told the business administrator and director of health  that "conditions at the town's animal shelter were satisfactory and only need the finalization of a new supervising veterinarian." Campbell also sent a satisfactory report to the township, but then attempted to change his report after it was publicized, according to the town.

"At best it demonstrates incompetence at the New Jersey Department of Health, that a leading official would provide a satisfactory report if he truly felt that he could not do so," Mayor Kelly Yaede, a Republican, said in the statement. "But at worst, it gives an impression that over the weekend, someone higher up in the Murphy Administration, sought to change the results."

"There is no valid basis on which the 'satisfactory' finding has purportedly been revoked," Kenny said in his letter. "We ask that it be reinstated."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told New Jersey 101.5 that the report the township received on Nov. 14 "wasn't a full assessment of the shelter and was issued in error." The spokesperson also said the department has "acknowledged our error" to the township.

The Hamilton Township animal shelter currently has a Conditional "A" rating. The spokesperson said that while the rating is positive there is "some need for follow-up inspection to ensure full compliance." The shelter will have an "unannounced" inspection in the future to check for full compliance, according to the state.

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