Here’s a sentence I hoped to never have to type: Amy Paulin is at it again. She’s back with a newly revised bill and some new sponsors – and unfortunately still a major, tragic, completely unacceptable flaw.
The new version, which you can view here, does clean up a few things from the last attempt. The bill now requires cats to be fed, watered, and sheltered when in shelter custody, just like dogs. It now seems to require shelters to offer animals to the list of recues that they must maintain, although the language describing that requirement is a bit confusing and unclear. It changes some of the loopholes for listing animals but they still remain loopholes – now, for instance, shelters are required to make a list of impounded animals available somehow if they find the use of the internet “impracticable” (in 2012!) – which they can easily fulfill by putting them on a bulletin board and sticking it in a shelter back room somewhere. Many of the useful improvements still have the heart cut out of them by providing generous exemption for “impracticable” requirements, like the ability to take a picture and post it on-line, and the grossly inadequate and unspecific provision requiring “necessary (medical) treatment” without defining what exactly is necessary remains.
But the engine of this Yugo, the rotting core of the disfunction remains, and this was always the primary goal of the Mayor’s Alliance and the ASPCA who wrote this bill, convinced Asw. Paulin to take it on, and have shepherded it since: every shelter still gets exclusive control over who can rescue from them. The shelter alone interprets the standards subjectively and decides who meets them – and has the broad power to bar rescues that speak out against them or that do not play by their rules. It also, still, puts shelters in the very odd position of inspecting rescues for standards that the shelters themselves do not have to (and frequently don’t) meet. To take New York City’s Animal Care and Control as an example, they’d be able to inspect rescues and bar their access if the rescue did not provide “sanitary and adequate shelter”, “appropriate exercise”, “necessary veterinary care and treatment”, and a “safe environment” – none of which they themselves provide. This is grossly unacceptable.
I am all for guaranteeing rescue access to shelters and having a standard that those rescues must meet – but those standards must be objective, and be subject to completely independent evaluation and appeal. Giving shelters the power to bar whomever they wish for whatever they wish is thoroughly counterproductive if your goal is to save lives.
I frequently use New York City as an example mostly because it is the system I am most familiar with in the city in which I live, but there is ample evidence throughout the state of shelters abusing their power and killing in the face of available rescue options – two that leap immediately to mind are Rockland County’s Hi-Tor, where every cat judged to be “feral” is executed and the shelter claims it is by county regulation – even though no such regulation exists, and the infamous Hempstead Town Shelter, where a video surfaced in 2011 of a kitten being killed by the director and her staff for fun and rescuers and volunteers were barred from entering the building. I – and most sane people – do not want these people to be the gatekeepers of who and who does not get to rescue. It is grossly unacceptable to the point of being offensive – but Ms. Paulin continues to maintain that even shelters like these are best qualified to “decide subjectively which rescues can take animals“.
Assemblywoman Paulin is pulling out all the stops to move this bill forward – and indeed, she has always stated that her intention was to wait us out and “get her bill” once the furor died down. Unable to move the bill forward in the Codes Committee, where New York’s own animal hero Asm. Joseph Lentol has committed to stopping it, she is seeking to short-cut the democratic process and now that the furor has died down to ask Speaker Sheldon Silver to bring the bill directly to a floor vote.
We must fight on and stop this latest attempt to move the bill forward. If you are a New York resident – and ONLY if you are a New York resident, please follow the link to contact Speaker Silver and/or call his office at 212-312-1420 and ask him not to allow the latest revision legislation to bypass the democratic process and go to a floor vote. Remember that Speaker Silver is not the enemy, he just needs to hear the will of the people.
Again, if you live in New York, please also follow the link to contact the sponsors of her bill and let them know that the latest revisions remain unacceptable to the animal lovers of New York State. You may also contact the offices of the sponsors by phone, which can be especially effective if you live in their district.
You can reach the offices of the sponsors at:
Robert Sweeney (Suffolk Cty) 631-957-2087
Matthew Titone (Staten Island) 718-442-9932
Peter Rivera (Bronx) 718-931-2620
Richard Gottifried (Manhattan) 212-807-7900
Michelle Schimel (Nassau Cty) 516-482-6966
Dan Losquadro (Suffolk Cty) 631-727-0204
Michael Fitzpatrick (Suffolk Cty) 631-724-2929
Finally – no matter where you live – stop by Amy Paulin’s Facebook page and let her know how you feel – you will have to leave a comment on an existing topic as starting a new topic is forbidden. Ms. Paulin’s disdain for democracy doesn’t stop at the process – she has also barred dissenters from commenting on her official Facebook page and has deleted comments critical of her bill. This is problematic as it is a public forum maintained by a taxpayer-paid elected official and her staff, where attempts to delete legitimate commentary – that is, anything not obscene or threatening – likely constitute an act of illegal restriction of free speech. Don’t stand for it. Let her know – the rules apply even to Amy Paulin. You may also wish to contact her district office at 914-723-1115. Please be as patient as you can be with the office of a politician who is allowing herself to be used by special interests to create laws that enable them to continue killing without consequence.