Rabies Vaccine Issue Leads to Princeton Animal Control Officer’s Departure

rabies vaccineThe town of Princeton was getting ready for its free rabies clinic when officials realized the municipality was low on rabies vaccines. An official contacted the state to request more, only to be told that according to state records, the town should have plenty of vaccine on hand.

Almost 400 rabies vaccines provided by the state to the municipality allegedly were unaccounted for, and paperwork for rabies vaccine clinics for 2013 and 2014 allegedly was missing as well.

The state requires that paperwork is filed after each clinic listing the clinic date, the amount of vaccine received, the amount of vaccine returned, the number of cats and dogs vaccinated, the number of vaccines lost or broken, and the total number of vaccine doses used. The form is supposed to be completed within 10 days after the clinic is held.

Unused vaccine in unopened bottles is supposed to be kept refrigerated until it is returned to the state’s distribution center. The vaccine should be returned within 10 days of the clinic.

The proper protocols were not followed in Princeton in 2013 and 2014, several sources say. It is unclear why, or what happened to the extra vaccine. Each vaccine dose costs between about $25 to $40 or more, plus office visit fees, when received from a veterinarian at a private practice.

Princeton Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson was suspended with pay over the issue, and then was offered the chance to resign.

Town Administrator Marc Dashield said today that Johnson quit, but Johnson says he was terminated.

“I want to be clear that Mark Johnson was separated on Monday, March 2nd, not terminated,”Dashield wrote in an email today. “I can not discuss the term of separation.”

Johnson disagrees with Dashield’s characterization of his departure.

“I have paperwork that says different,” Johnson said. “I did not quit. I was terminated.”

Separation agreements are public records in New Jersey. Planet Princeton filed an Open Public Records Act Request today, March 9, for the agreement.

Last week, Planet Princeton filed two Open Public Records Act requests with the town of Princeton and the New Jersey Health Department related to the rabies records issue after the state refused to comment.

On March 2, New Jersey Department of Health Spokeswoman Dawn Thomas confirmed that Princeton has submitted a request for vaccine for the current year, and that the department has provided Princeton with the vaccine.

Asked about issues with Princeton’s records and whether proper paperwork had been filed and unused vaccines had been returned, Thomas did not affirm or deny that there was an issue.

“The Department doesn’t have any comment on Princeton’s records,” Thomas said.

Asked to explain why basic information about state records could not be commented on, Thomas still declined to comment or explain how the state could justify a “no comment.”

“You can file an OPRA request for any filings of Princeton regarding the vaccination clinics,” she wrote in an email. “Or you can contact Princeton for their documents.”

Planet Princeton filed the OPRA requests on March 3, and is still waiting for responses.

Asked for comment on the rabies vaccine issue, Johnson said he could not comment “right now.”

Previous reports from other news outlets made it appear as if Johnson was suspended for issuing a citation to a resident for feeding a deer. Officials said the deer feeding citation issue is unrelated to his suspension and termination. According to the prosecutor’s office, there was no probable cause in the deer feeding case and the case was therefore dismissed.


  1. I’m sorry to hear Mark Johnson is no longer the animal control officer. I’ve had to call him a couple of times over the years (once to rescue a cat left in a house after the owners were evicted), and he was so helpful. I wish him well.

  2. Another News Scoop for Planet Princeton!! What are those other news outlets doing in town? Sleeping? Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Hillier, shouldn’t you be getting better reporting for the salary you pay to these snoozing reporters?

  3. Mark Johnson was very helpful to my family during hurricane Sandy. I am sad to hear he is goNe

  4. Mark rescued us from a bat in the house on Christmas day. He was here in less than half an hour and the bat was gone. I’m so sorry to hear Mark is gone and wish him well in his future endeavors.

  5. Once we had a deer that was hit by a car for 3 or 4 days without anyone coming to pick the animal up. Besides that, he might be a nice person but it has nothing to do with job’s performance. Somebody has not been doing his job.

  6. Thanks to Planet Princeton for taking the time to get the details of this case that no other local media source was able or willing to do. In the end, hopefully the truth about Mr. Johnson shall prevail. It’s not always easy.

  7. In response to several of the comments praising Mr. Johnson here, isn’t that what he was paid to do? Have we reached the point where we praise public employees just for doing their basic jobs? What exactly does that say?

    1. Wow. I guess I’d ask have we gotten to the point where there’s something wrong with praising public employees, or anyone for that matter, if you think they’ve done their job well?

  8. I am sure Mark is a “nice guy” and he has helped many people and animals over the years… and he always jumps in when a crossing guard is needed but they should have taken a closer look at things when he shot the beaver for no reason… this just wasn’t the right job for him and Princeton should have handled their business then… now there are state health department issues and more to deal with… shall we praise employees who do their job or do a good job? Sure, give credit where credit is due.

  9. The only surprise for Princeton citizens is why animal control officer Mark Johnson was not suspended earlier.

    Johnson has been the subject of citizen complaints for years, many in
    connection with the deer slaughtering program.

    Over a decade ago the Humane Society of the United States condemned
    Princeton’s deer slaughter program and sent investigators to Princeton
    to document the kills. Before coming, the investigators contacted
    Johnson, assuming he would be an ally.
    What did Johnson do?
    He dropped a dime on the
    Humane Society Investigators and Princeton police unlawfully arrested
    the investigators in the middle of the night.
    (The investigators were all acquitted and the town had to settle a civil suit with the Humane Society.)This is all a matter of public record.

    Over the years mountains of empirical evidence has been submitted to Princeton government condemning the deer slaughter.
    Renowned ethicist and Princeton professor Peter Singer signed an affidavit stating that the Princeton program is inhumane.
    Temple Grandon, the leading
    veterinary supervisor of commercial slaughterhouse operations in the
    world, opined in another affidavit that commercial slaughterhouses are
    infinitely more humane than the barbaric methods used in Princeton.
    A former Federal Bureau of
    Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ballistics expert submitted a report
    concluding that the high powered rifles used in our town have the
    capacity to fire errant shots at distances over a mile and were
    therefore unsafe,
    no matter how used.

    The Princeton governing bodies promised back in 2001 that the deer
    slaughter program would end after 5 years; that turned out to be a
    falsehood and there is no end in sight to the cruel and ineffectual

    The Lempert administration should stop covering up the reasons for Johnson’s suspension.
    They should also come clean
    on the costs of the program; which I estimate to be millions of dollars
    over the 14 years it has been in existence.

    It is long past time to discontinue a failed program that has diverted
    millions from many useful programs that could be enacted in Princeton.
    How about making Princeton energy self-sufficient, like the city of Burlington, Vermont?
    How about making the downtown more accessible to senior citizens and providing more handicapped parking?
    How about more clean and open government?
    How about standing on the side of historic preservation, rather than development?

    None of these priorities are ever followed, citizen phone calls to City
    Hall go unanswered, and our tax dollars are drained on wasteful programs
    like the deer slaughter.

    The failed policies of past administrations never die, even though
    virtually no other town of New Jersey’s 535 municipalities engage in
    such barbarity.

    When it comes to Princeton government, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.”

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