Officials: NJ animal shelter director indicted after 236 cats, 93 dogs prematurely euthanized

A New Jersey animal shelter director has been indicted on animal cruelty charges after authorities say more than 300 animals were prematurely euthanized under his care.

Prosecutors announced the charges Wednesday following an indictment handed down by a Mercer County grand jury.

Jeffrey Plunkett, 63, of Hamilton, was indicted on two counts of third-degree animal cruelty and one count of second-degree official misconduct.

Plunkett was criminally charged in May along with 56-year-old Todd Bencivengo, of North Hanover. At the time of the alleged offenses, Plunkett was the Hamilton Township director of health and director of Hamilton Township Animal Shelter. Bencivengo was the shelter’s supervisor.

Charges against Plunkett and Bencivengo stemmed from an investigation by Mercer County Prosecutor’s Humane Law Enforcement Unit (HLEU).


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The HLEU's investigation began in August 2018 after two complaints were referred to the office by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.

Prosecutors said that between January 2016 and October 2018, approximately 236 cats and 93 dogs were euthanized before the animals were held or offered up for adoption for the state-mandated minimum length of seven days.

While the HLEU’s investigation uncovered multiple examples of mismanagement, according to prosecutors, there was insufficient evidence to establish additional criminal charges.

Administrative aspects of the investigation are being handled by the Hamilton Township Council.

Bencivengo was accepted into a pretrial intervention program on Oct. 23.


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