Unfortunately, many animals in New York City are surrendered to Animal Care & Control by their owners who are moving to public housing, who are going away on a military deployment, or who can't pay for their medical costs-- only to find that they have a very slim chance of finding a new home and family. The end comes after what was once a family dog is reduced to a depressed and fearful dog- sick from kennel cough and living in its own feces- is killed by a needle in the arm by a brusque stranger.
This is not unusual-any animal advocate following what is happening in New York City- a city I am furious I pay taxes to- knows that this is not an uncommon story. Dogs have only a few days before they are sick and are placed in the sick-ward, up for "disease-euth." We all know that the images of empty water bowls and filthy blankets are all too common--
(Read more about the filthy conditions in my blog post here.)
We all know that reputable shelters that can attract volunteers do not operate this way. (Animal Haven in Soho for example has more volunteers than it can accommodate and therefore, there are walks almost every hour for the dogs and no outbreaks of kennel cough or any other shelter-borne illnesses.)
Today at 3 pm, Animal Care and Control had a Public Board Meeting at 125 Worth Street. A crowd of about 50 people showed up to protest before the meeting, but were never allowed in. What is worse- a reporter from the press arrived 15 minutes early, only to be told the meeting was full and was denied access. While waiting outside, I heard from one lucky observer that the room was in fact- not full- and that the room chosen was too small to accommodate the amount of public interest.
In fact, some advocates in the crowd had come from as far away as Boston to hear Ms. Bank (executive director of the AC&C) herself explain the recent mistakes, errors, and euth statistics, as well as the recent causeless firing of employee Emily Tanen. ( See the video at the bottom for more info)
In addition, it is clear that the organization is understaffed- No time is given to determine a dog's breed-- all dogs with a square-ish head whether 100 lbs or 15 are labeled pit mixes, shutting out potential breed-specific adopters and rescues who may be looking for a boxer-mix or a lab-mix or a bull-terrier.
For example, Steven is clearly an American Bulldog, but the uneducated staffer quickly labeled him a pit-bull mix:
In addition, they show their lack of care by giving the same names over and over-- Star, Diamond, Bruno, Boy, Nice, and Linda among them. They are too busy and careless to fix typos, like this poor boy- who may die named "Rexz"...
...or this one-- "Rubdy" clearly a quickly-typed Rudy...
Recently, there have been a number of animals simply named "Dog" (One is below.)
(Yes, I am serious... they named this scared little guy "Dog")
Unfortunately, change feels far away--even as so many are demanding more taxes and resources go to the No-Kill cause. I am sympathetic to the idea that AC&C is cash-strapped - but a good charity/ a good city office with the right intentions explains that they need all the help they can get- and in the face of criticism, ask for help. This Board has been heralding its successes while shutting out opposing views. Firing Emily Tanen for being out-spoken, hiding the sick-ward so rescues can only view sick animals while accompanied by a AC&C employee, and continuing to say that no healthy animal is being euthanized- is proof that Ms. Bank and the rest of the board are running from the problem. By turning away from criticism, they alienate their donation & volunteer base even more. Rather than explain that they need more money, more space, more time, more help-- they bury their heads even deeper in the sand.
It is a sad day for the animals that lose their lives every day- adoptable animals that could recover in 10 short days from kennel cough (like Bruno did)- dogs like Charlie, a 6 month old 19 lb Pit mix who will miss out on all the kisses, hugs, games of fetch and snacks under the table that life had in store for her-- just because she had a curable cough....
I am so glad I got Bruno out of there just in the nick of time.
See Minutes and Video from AC&C's last board meeting here.