Today the Best Friends blog features a note on the continuing success of No Kill by Gregory Castle – and I agree with the broad point he’s making but I have to wonder: why does Best Friends continually lump New York City, my home, into the category of No Kill success even in the continued face of massive institutional failure? Why do they continue to provide support and cover to utter failure in New York City?
Does a city “well on its way to achieving its no-kill goal” get reports from the city comptroller like this? Do cities that are “on their way to achieving No Kill” actively discourage people from volunteering and fostering through onerous prerequisites, put a gag order on their volunteers, and fire staff and volunteers who are effective and widely respected at their jobs? Do cities “on their way to achieving No Kill” hire Executive Directors with records of failure who are rarely seen in the shelters they run, reportedly because ED Julie Bank finds the shelters “too depressing”?
Finally, can you really read about conditions like this and say that a city is on its way to No Kill?
The support from Best Friends of the Mayor’s Alliance has been curious: pumping millions of dollars into the NYCACC per year from the outside did drop the kill numbers in the beginning but the progress has tapered off. The Mayor’s Alliance has been unable to significantly influence NYCACC management or proceedure and so the internal incompetence and indifference continues unabated. One cannot fix a system that does not want to be fixed.
In October of 2010 I attended the Best Friends Conference. One of the presenters at the conference was Jane Hoffman, head of the Mayor’s Alliance. Her presentation was entitled “Great Expectations: How Volunteers and Shelters Can Get the Most Out of Working Together.” I watched in horror as she held up the NYC shelter volunteer program as a model – because I knew, as an NYC resident and someone who had been trying to volunteer for the shelters, that the program she was describing as a success and a model did not yet exist. The manual she presented was still in draft, the volunteer program closed to new volunteers and would not open to new volunteers for months to come – and since the program has opened to new volunteers it has been an abject failure, turning away hundreds of people and graduating as regular volunteers only a few. The arduous and invasive requirements (including the requirement that one sign a vow of secrecy) ensure that few will continue as regular volunteers. The rest of the presentation was equally as horrifying; a seminar on how to control and silence your volunteers as opposed to enabling them.
So why the infatuation with this woman and with this organization? Yes, their early successes were great, but they’ve stalled. New York City’s shelters are infamously abusive, No Kill is not a ghost of a thought in the minds of the staff. Why continue to promote this myth of success?
And so I issue a personal challenge to Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle: on your next trip to NYC, let’s you and I go down to the shelter incognito and check out some of the animals offered for adoption. Let’s sit in the waiting room waiting for someone to be available to help us. Let’s tour the selection of adoptable animals and witness their condition. Let’s see how the staff interact with the animals and with the public. And after that, let’s invite Jeff Latzer and Emily Tanen to have lunch with us.
Then I’d like to see you repeat with a straight face that NYC is “on the road to No Kill”.