HELMETTA, NJ–The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) annonced on January 21 that animal cruelty charges have been filed against the former director and former assistant director of the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter.

Michal Cielesz, 50, the ex-director, and her husband Richard Cielesz, 63, the ex-assistant director, have each been charged with 6 counts of animal cruelty.

On November 23, the Helmetta Council voted to suspend both Cieleszs without pay and to file for their termination following the controversy surrounding the shelter they had been running.

On November 13, the NJSPCA conducted a surprise inspection of the shelter and ordered that it be quarantined due to poor conditions.

The charges against the pair were filed in the Helmetta Municipal Court on January 16.

They were filed after the NJSPCA’s 30 day receivership of the shelter ended, and the Helmetta Council declined to continue the relationship.

Third-degree indictable criminal charges were filed for failure to provide proper care for three cats, which were removed from the facility following the NJSPCA inspection and later died, or were ordered euthanized by veterinarians.

Three disorderly persons charges were filed against each individual for failure to provide proper care and shelter for leaving three dogs outside for an extended period of time in adverse weather conditions.

Both Cieleszs face up to 5 years in prison if they are found guilty of the indictable charges.

If found guilty of the disorderly persons charge,s they face a fine of up to $1,000 per charge, six months in jail, or community service.

In a press release from NJSPCA spokesperson Matt Stanton, it was stated that the charges would be transferred to be heard in the Middlesex County Superior Court, located in New Brunswick.

According to the NJSPCA, all animals at the facility have been removed with the help of multiple rescue services.

There has not yet been a decision made on whether the shelter will ever re-open, and the Helmetta Council is expected to hear proposals in the coming weeks.