HAMILTON (Atlantic) — A Mays Landing property owner has been arrested on animal cruelty charges after one of her Rottweiler dogs died in the freezing cold this winter. But activists are criticizing police for not taking action when they had the chance to possibly save the animal.

Police have charged Kimberlynn Jurkowski, 59, with four counts of animal cruelty and four counts of abandoning a domesticated animal, the department announced Wednesday.

The charges stemmed from a March 6 visit to her property on Scranton Avenue, where an officer found four dogs in fenced outdoor areas. One of the dogs was dead.

But that had not been the first time that police had been called to the ramshackle property to check on the dogs.

Police records obtained by Reformers-Advocates for Animal Shelter Change in NJ show that police visited the address on Feb 16, twice on Feb. 18, and Feb. 20, March 1, March 6 and March 7.

During one visit, the officer saw the dogs outside while it was snowing but left them there after leaving a voicemail on the owner's phone.

A 2017 state law prohibits animals from being left outside between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. when temperatures are above 90 or below 32 degrees, or during any hours when there is inclement weather and the animal does not have proper shelter. (What constitutes proper shelter, according to the law, is defined in Section 5 of this bill.)

The activists say that five dogs have been left outside on the property for years. One of the dogs appears to have run away or was taken before police visited the property in late February. That dog may have ended up at the Shore Animal Control shelter, which Jurkowski accused on Yelp of stealing her pet.

Jurkowski was convicted in 2013 of scamming the township school district out of $24,000 by billing for tutoring for her two home-schooled children even though they were attending school in another district. As a result, she was fired from her librarian job in the district.

According to a Feb. 18 police report obtained by the activist group, a township officer said he saw four dogs in the outside pens with water in their bowls, shelter with bedding and an automatic feeding system.

Pictures posted by the activist group, however, show that the water bowls were actually dirty buckets.

Mays Landing animal cruelty
Mays Landing animal cruelty

The officer reported on Feb. 18 that none of the dogs appeared to be in critical condition, although one appeared injured and walking with a limp. Activists say that dog — identified as Poseidon — was the one that later died.

The officer said he called the homeowner, who lives in a second property in Northfield, because the temperature that day was expected to dip below freezing in the evening. The officer said Jurkowski “was adamant that the dogs would be brought in at night.” Police reported that they returned at 10 p.m. and that the dogs were no longer outside.

Weather records show that the temperature in Mays Landing on Feb. 18 went no higher than 49 and fell to 31. The officer’s report says he arrived at the property just after 3 p.m. It’s not clear how long the dogs remained outside after he left the property.

On Feb. 20, police returned while it was snowing. Weather records for Feb. 20 show that the Mays Landing temperature got no higher than 41 degrees with a low of 28 degrees.

Bodycam footage obtained by the activist group shows the dogs outside, barking frantically. One of the dogs appears to walk with a limp.

The officer’s report says the temperature was 30 degrees with light snow but “the canines appeared to be adequately fed and were not in distress … A voicemail was left on the owner’s phone to contact me regarding the matter. No further action was taken.”

On March 1 — after more than a week of days in which the low temperatures hovered or fell below freezing, with one night being as cold as 23 degrees — police were called to the property again. This time police reported seeing three dogs. The dead Rottweiler was found five days later.

Police said that a necropsy conducted by a veterinarian pathologist at the New Jersey Animal Health Laboratory in Ewing concluded that the animal had died from congestive heart failure.

Shore Animal Control took possession of the three surviving dogs, police said.

Police Chief Stacy Tappeiner did not return an emailed request for comment on Wednesday evening.

New Jersey 101.5 could not contact Jurkowski on Wednesday evening and did not know whether she had an attorney who could speak on her behalf.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email him.

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