Woman Facing 100s of Animal Cruelty Charges Was a Woodbridge Animal Control Officer

Mercedes Lopez of Howell was arrested Sunday on charges of neglecting hundreds of animals on her Howell property.

A woman charged with hundreds of counts of animal cruelty in Howell Township was once an animal control officer in Woodbridge.

Mercedes Lopez, 57, was arrested Sunday at her Howell home after tips to the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MCSPCA) led officials to discover neglected and dead animals all over her property.

Chief Victor “Buddy” Amato of the MCSPCA confirmed that Lopez had once worked as a Woodbridge animal control officer before she was terminated from the job. He said she had also been employed in neighboring Perth Amboy in a similar capacity, but lost that position as well.

Lopez is also involved with Happy Homes Animal Shelter, a non-profit Perth Amboy-based animal welfare group. A woman who answered the phone there said she expected Lopez in "shortly," but later, a man who answered said Lopez "doesn't work here anymore."

Lopez was involved in a dog euthanasia incident in Woodbridge that caused an investigation by the SPCA. In May, 2008, a German Shepherd who had bitten a Woodbridge resident was euthanized because the dog "could not be controlled."

A Woodbridge Township press release said that after the investigation, Lopez, who had gone out on the call, had been exonerated from any wrongdoing. The press release said the dog owner had agreed to having the dog put down after admitting he couldn't control the animal.

In March, 2009, Vincent Garibaldi, pleading on behalf of the owner of the euthanized dog, went to a Woodbridge Council meeting, asking that the case against Lopez and the handling of the German Shepherd be reopened.

He said that Lopez had violated New Jersey statutes by telling the dog's owner he had three choices after the dog bit a neighbor: that the owner could "construct a six foot fence around the property in 48 hours, pay a $6,000.00 fine or euthanize the dog."

Sometime after that discussion, Lopez lost her job as an animal control officer in Woodbridge. 

In August, 2012, Lopez's name appeared on a list of animal control officials whose licenses had been revoked and were ineligible to work in that job again.

More than 200 neglected animals were found in Lopez's Howell home and on the property, according to a News12NJ report. The menagerie included dogs, cats, rabbits, pigeons, parrots and a raccoon. 

Amato said Lopez faces a six month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine for each charge.

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robin March 12, 2013 at 04:34 PM
I have to admit that Mrs Lopez does love animals, WHY because she will take your animal and sell it, its all about the money. Dont confuse her love of money as love for animals
marge petrow March 12, 2013 at 05:29 PM
I'm pretty sure that the Spca,police & the health dept. have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than to raid someone's home for no reason.
unknownauthor March 12, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Amy, in recent years I openly and in the strongest possible terms challenged the number of animals, especially the cats, that were being destroyed at the Woodbridge Animal Shelter. As you may also recall, I was, and still am, a strong advocate of TRN (trap, neuter and release) over euthanasia. At no time have I ever cast dispersions on the shelter volunteers, nor have I disregarded their efforts. And thanks to the efforts of like minded TNR people, the township has become more humane about allowing people to care for neutered stray cats. Do you know how many dogs and cats are currently being cared for at the shelter? How many paid animal employees are currently on staff verses volunteers to handle the total animal population at the shelter?
unknownauthor March 12, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Kerri, given your, or for that matter Marge Petro's, avowed knowledge of Lopez and her methods, what agencies did you or Marge notify of her alleged wrong doings? How much money did you contribute to offset the cost of feeding and caring for the animals Mercedes had in her charge? Just how was she, or anyone else that cares for so many animals, to support the costs of such care? Do you think Lopez is independently wealthy or had a lucrative animal care business going? Not sure, but I doubt the book you would throw at her would be the Bible!
Amy March 12, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Tom, I commend your TNR support - truly I do. I am not aware of the euthansia statistics at this shelter nor or am I aware of the paid/volunteer ratio so please enlighten me. I am aware of what is currently in the shelter and what is moving in and out and quite honestly I am overly impressed by what I see.
slyfox1961 March 12, 2013 at 07:41 PM
@amy: Tom Maras has no credibility. He will use whatever happens in Woodbridge as a way to comment on the mayor. Anything he says is political. If this woman is guilty of the crimes she is being accused of, she should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, on behalf of the helpless creatures she is accused of neglecting and molesting.
KamiB March 12, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Why would kerri give her money if she thinks the woman was a thief? Make sense!
mary March 12, 2013 at 10:10 PM
I gave mercedes 2 kitttens i couldnt keep in january. She adopted out one of them after being fixed. She seemed like a nice lady to me.
Shaun Milito March 12, 2013 at 10:49 PM
I worked construction and carpentry 5 yearsago. Me and my old co worker did a painting job in her old house in Perth Amboy. Maybe she was well intentioned in everything she did but the house was disgusting. Not even for the people living there but disgusting for the animals as well. Also years ago, she would take away peoples animals because supposedly they werent being taken care of.(Mainly pitbulls) but would then turn around and take these pitbulls for herself to breed them and make a profit off of them for her own.
NotInKansasAnymore March 12, 2013 at 11:14 PM
We adopted a dog from her that she was showing at Petsmart. She assured us that he had all his shots up to date, was wormed , etc. as we explained to her we already had an older frail dog at home and didnt want to get her sick. So a week after seeing the dog my husband went and picked him up. When he brought the dog home the dog had worms crawling out of him, was covered in urine, stunk and had a problem with his paw. When I brought the dog to the vet (the one the shelter used) it turned out he didn't have all his shots, needed to be wormed, had kennel cough, needed antibiotics for weeks and ended up requiring surgery a week later for a big cyst in his paw. When I called that witch to tell her she lied, she said bring the dog back then and I'll give you your money back that you paid for him. Which I believe was 100.00. I told her then that I didn't know what kind of heartless person she was but we already loved the dog and wouldn't dream of giving him back to her. I just wanted her to know I knew what a liar she was. Thank god we didn't return him, I'm sure now she would have killed him. We have had him for 5 years now and he is a wonderful dog. So glad we rescued him from her. I hope the cage they end up putting her in is very small. I would like to meet Marge Petrow one day though because I have heard nothing but wonderful things about her.
Irina March 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM
This is her Karma. All she should've done was her job and the puppy mill stores could've been closed. But NOOOOOOOO. By the good grace of God she was caught and I know Buddy Amato will make her life miserable. Hey Debbie (Patch) make sure you do a story on her conviction and punishment. I can hardly wait!!!!!!!
Al McDorman March 12, 2013 at 11:48 PM
"Victor Amato, chief humane law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County SPCA said, 'This is a hoarding situation,' according to the Daily Record. 'This woman had good intentions and loved the animals, but she got in over her head.' I give Amato a lot of credit for merely being human AND humane, recognizing that a once caring person (Lopez) simply lost her grip and had to be checked. My wife and I both met Mercedes at a time when she did a fine job as an ACO in Woodbridge Township.
Al McDorman March 12, 2013 at 11:51 PM
Some 30 years ago, I myself did her job up in the suburbs of western Essex County before it was State-regulated. I met many fine, caring people, employees and volunteers, who (like myself) extended and sometimes overextended themselves for the sake of the animals. People involved in euthanasia ARE traumatized by it and respond in different ways. Some burn out, have nightmares, quit, Others hoard. The field involves making life and death decisions which are ALWAYS up close and personal. If an animal has to be put down, you can't pull the trigger and walk away. Restraining a large, friendly dog which could have been somebody's lap dog, while your coworker carefully slips the needle into a vein, and then watching the death process over a couple of minutes until the eye-blink reflex is gone and the heart stops is an experience I wouldn't wish on anybody. However, we are the stewards of pet animals, and one can not save every sick, injured, or otherwise unwanted animal by bringing it home. This is what can and sometimes does happen, especially when you have spacious property as many do in areas such as Howell and Jackson, NJ. It's tragic and sad. Those who have no experience in the field should not be ones to judge.
Susie Says March 13, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Have you stabbed anymore cats with syringes after they scratched you and threw them back in the cage and left them to die..........But you love the animalsssssssss.... You are a heartless person.......
Mike W March 13, 2013 at 02:22 AM
Mercedes is a monster and deserves to be punished to the FULLEST extent of the law. She's not the victim here. The victims are both the two AND four-legged residents of the township that endured her reign of terror for years. She manipulated her way into her position by playing a role in ousting her predecessor, and got away, quite literally, with murder-- her actions unchecked for years while she cruised around in that animal control van blackmailing the residents, using her position for financial gain, and euthanizing beloved pets. Perhaps jail time on her record will keep her from EVER securing employment where she is entrusted with the care and welfare of animals.
Nancy Circle March 13, 2013 at 03:00 AM
Some of you fools need a reality check!!! If she was so overwhelmed, she should have asked for help. For those of you saying she didnt do this intentionally are full of crap. She was an ACO therfore knows the signs of animals being sick. She coyld have damn well taken these animals to the vet. If she couldnt afford to take them, she should not have had them!!!! I hope she rots. She is such a piece of shit!!!
My Opinion March 13, 2013 at 03:49 AM
I can not believe people are still defending this criminal. Maybe if more people post there horror stories people will see how bad she really is. Here is my story. My dog "escaped" from a locked backyard one day. A neighbor mentioned to me that the dreaded animal control van had been parked on the side of my house. I called the shelter and was told my dog was not there. We continued to call and look around. On a Saturday we went to Pet Smart to put up a posting about our lost dog. As we are walking in a family was walking out with my dog! When I asked them about it they said they had just adopted the dog from WAC for $300.00. When I confronted Mercedes she told me there was nothing I cold do about it and laughed as she walked away. When I continued to press the issue she told me she knows I have another dog and she hoped he would never get "lost". She then told me I had to pay a fee of $150.00 to surrender the dog she stole from me. I contacted the township and was basically her word against mine.
unknownauthor March 13, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Al, your two posts are the most insightful, intelligent and compassionate of any given on this topic. Clearly, they are void of the hate mongering, intolerance and ignorance many others have opined. Let’s hope all those righteous posters take your comment, that being, “…recognizing that a once caring person (Lopez) simply lost her grip and had to be checked”, to heart. Thank you for sharing and for all the good works you have done for the animals. You are a person you knows from whence they speak.
Kaylin Nguyen March 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Does anyone ever consider the fact that wild animals could be the dead ones on the property? She's a caring woman and will feed ferile cats and I admit to doing the same. Those animals may have died on her property since they go back to a place that they find food. That's not her fault. They also mentioned a raccoon. I know for a fact she would never keep a raccoon in her house. Raccoons are wild animals. They can easily die on my property and well as her or your own.
NotInKansasAnymore March 13, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Well Tom why don't you think Marge knows "from whence she speaks" like you seem to think Al does? People are saying they have worked beside her and she is a monster! What kind of twisted logic do you have that she "simply lost her grip and had to be checked"? Why doesn't that cover any nutjob then that commits a crime?! Let's let everyone off by just thinking they're wonderful loving people that just went astray! Anyone that could hurt defenseless children or animals should be punished to the fullest extent of the law! I bet if she was a supporter of our mayor you'd have a different stance on her.
NotInKansasAnymore March 13, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Yeah Kaylin I'm sure the officers charged her with 100's of counts because they were wild animals dead on her property. That makes sense right? Maybe she just had a rodent problem.
Nicole Hoagland DiMaggio March 13, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Judge for yourselves. These are photos that were posted publicly on facebook that she was proud of her "little farm" Nowhere on this filthy property do I see love, care, or concern for the well being of these animals. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.211516235546701.61577.100000649788414&type=3
Shaun Milito March 13, 2013 at 05:49 PM
"She loved the animals, and got in over her head.? Really? It was her job to take animals out of environments and away from people who were "in over their heads". So common sense should have told her that maybe she wasn't taking any better care of these animals herself. In fact, even worse care, because atleast these animals were still living when she took them from these places. And it shouldn't matter if the ones posting on here don't have experience in the field. Just because she had that job doesn't mean she had any business doing it. Which according to all these charges she is facing, she didn't.
Shaun Milito March 13, 2013 at 05:53 PM
And the pictures on that facebook link are NOTHING compared to what i saw first-hand at her old house in Perth Amboy. My old boss at the time caught a rash all over his body from the animal feces he breathed in painting her house. It took layers and layers of paint even AFTER scrubbing those walls to cover up the cat urine that was seeping through. So anyone trying to defend this woman obviously has never seen the conditions these animals were living in.
Amy March 13, 2013 at 06:12 PM
It really saddens me that I lost touch with Mercedes so long ago because if I hadn't, I would have been aware of what was happening and it wouldn't have happened. She's not the first "rescue" person who lost control and she won't be the last. But for those of you who saw this and did nothing - then shame on you. So many posts about witnessed accounts of cruelty and neglect and no one did anything. Your silence helped build that disaster. Remember that when the full body count comes out.
TRIXIEBOROXIE March 13, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Yes, the township Woodbridge and ASPCA did defend her, because they hired her and when you hire someone to represent your company you hope they are doing things in a responsbile manner, not using their job title to bully and harrass and take advantage of people, hopefully all that have defended her in the past feel like real ASSES for not believing the honset people that tried to bring this horrible person to there attention, next time they hire people to care for the public they better check their background records.
unknownauthor March 13, 2013 at 08:19 PM
@NotInKansasAnymore. Without feeding the mob, let me say if anyone has a reason to dislike Mercedes, I do. In fact, I had her shutdown a PetSmart awhile back. That said, I can, like Al, recall a time when I knew her more for the good she did, at least for the cats I was concerned about, than the bad we read about today. As for saying anything against Marge Petro, I didn't. It was you that connected her to my non name specific statement. Despite what anyone may think or say to the contrary, I have always respected the good works Marge and all the volunteers do at the shelter!
Nancy Circle March 14, 2013 at 01:55 AM
So lopez's famous last words were "i am somewhat there for the animals" or "i am above the law, i will never get caught" what a piece of shit. People did try stopping her, but the fact that she is a compulsive liar and great at manipulating people, whether it be law enforcement or the general population doesnt help.
Nicole Hoagland DiMaggio March 14, 2013 at 07:13 PM
In the Nj.com article it stated there were so many dead cats stuffed in plastic grocery bags there were too many to even count. If there were dead wild animals scattered in the woods they probably died from a disease they picked up on her filthy property.
macska March 31, 2013 at 05:57 PM
disgusting piece of trash. i work in the animal field and i've seen it all... she's probably burnt out and didn't know how to do anything else in life so the animals suffered for it. why was she never reported? or did it fall on deaf ears? may she rot in hell.


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