Recently I was contacted by a woman with a story I think is well worth telling. She offered to foster a cat from New York City Animal Care and Control through a local rescue. The rescue put in a pull request for the cat, but due to a “computer glitch” in the new online rescue system, the cat was killed anyway.
Elizabeth was outraged at what had happened, and rightly so. She demanded answers, an explanation, and an apology – some things she is unquestionably owed. To add insult to injury, the rescue she was volunteering for severed their ties with her, fearing that if she made too much of a fuss that it might threaten their ability to rescue animals.
I present Elizabeth’s letter, an email she sent to Executive Director Julie Bank on June 18 as well as many people connected to the NYCACC from their board to the City Department of Health to the Mayor. She has yet to receive an apology – or even a reply – from any of them. I have edited this lightly for clarity; Elizabeth has approved all edits and the words are hers. My notes of explanation are in brackets.
Dear Distinguished Company,
“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.” — George Bernard Shaw
One week ago today, Monday, I labored at the very earliest of hours while doubtless you were all slumbering to have a beautiful senior cat named Tooperina, who had been dumped at New York City Animal Care and Control, pulled out by a well respected APO [ED: Alliance Participating Organization, an umbrella group of rescues with pull access] rescue so I could foster. The rescue for whom I had fostered faithfully, abidingly and without any trouble for four years, for whom I volunteered and to whom I donated generously and that knew and trusted me, worked diligently, and rather mundanely, to save this cat from the nightly “To Be Destroyed” list. I say mundanely, because this is routine business for rescues. Many of you may not realize, but only hours separate when an animal is listed on these lists and the time that is allotted to save their precious lives before the killing begins. The director of the rescue, a woman of remarkable character, fortitude and resolve, did everything absolutely right and by the NYCACC book. She used the brand new online reserve system, implemented a mere few days earlier on Wednesday, June 6th, and followed up just to make sure. I was assured everything was in order; confirmation was received. I was so excited to get this beautiful, healthy cat, and give her a foster home, or a forever home, if necessary. I was saving yet another life from the kill facilities in NYC, run by the DOH, with oversight by ASPCA. I have fostered and homed many, many cats in the past few years. It’s very rewarding.
But then, many hours went by, and I hadn’t heard from New Hope [ED: New Hope is a department within NYCACC which interfaces with rescue groups], which is usually pro forma for arranging transport. I grew concerned, and made inquiries to the rescue, from where I received vague answers. “We didn’t get her.” I presumed another rescue got her first. I said, “Great, as long as she is safe.” It turned out, Tooper was anything but safe. She was destroyed.
The next most upsetting part of this is that the rescue was strong armed (dare I say coerced) into accepting and assuming responsibility for this heinous error that resulted in a wanted cat losing her life. Moreover, while I was on the phone being pleaded with by the APO rescue that it was somehow their fault the cat fell through the cracks, and clearly stricken with fear that their “privileges” for saving cats could be endangered, which is a common retaliatory tactic, I received a call from NYCACC’s own Richard Gentles, asking if I had heard from the rescue, and did I “understand” everything, and was everything “o.k.” I explained to him I had nothing to say to him. I had first written an email to Julie Bank, Richard Gentles and members of the Mayor’s Alliance, and then left a phone message for Julie Bank, and it was from her I expected a return call, for courtesy if nothing else. I never received a call from her. She had Thursday and Friday to do so.
Here are the links from two different advocacy groups for Tooperina, my beloved soon to be foster. She was killed due to a “computer glitch” in the newly upgraded and implemented online reserve system. Ms. Bank refuses to discuss this outrageous life ending “mistake” with me. I honestly cannot express the affront I feel from what I view as indifference, arrogance and hubris. Because NYCACC is known widely for ruling by a culture of fear and the initmidation of any whistle blowers, the rescue for which I have volunteered for four years has banned me. As a result of me being inconsolable over this needless death, and outraged and demanding answers, I have been banned from working with that rescue ever again. Someone please tell me how that benefits the animals? What is so wrong at the place, NYCACC, that heads of rescues are terrified to pursue the truth when something goes horribly wrong, and are asked to just accept “Oh, well, stuff happens?” Here’s Tooperina’s story. I am very willing to forward all emails between the rescue and myself as the hold was being put on this cat and the reassurances that everything was in order. [ED: I have reviewed all of these emails. This was indeed a routine pull.] Everything, of course, except the cat is dead. And by the way, she reserved five cats, and all those holds failed, too. Can you imagine if these were humans? Why should people feel blithely about this because these are animals??
Here is Rhoda. Four weeks old. A kitten who should still be suckling her mother, and needed to be fed every four hours to live until she could eat on her own. Plus she had infections that were completely ignored by the uncaring staff at NYCACC. The NYCACC allowed this poor baby kitten to suffer and degenerate into an abject state of neglect and suffering, before she died all by herself in her cage. This was June 10th, 2012. [ED: A rescue tried to pull this cat but she had already died in her cage.]
Here is Noble, a cat that was found dead in his cage on Friday, June 15th, 2012. Five days earlier the cat was the picture of health. A rescue organization had called in a pull for him, but NYCACC couldn’t keep this cat alive long enough for him to be either mistakenly killed like my cat, or actually rescued by the pulling Alliance Participating Organization. This is beyond appalling that this is countenanced, accepted and nothing, absolutely nothing is done about it. Human beings, human beings in positions of authority, do something already, dammit. Put an end to this sacrilegious, scandalous daily carnage of healthy animals kept in outright inhumane conditions. Oh, that’s right. The Board of Health and the City of New York saw fit to renew the Executive Director, Julie Bank’s contract for two years, eunuch that she was prior to even coming to the City, despite a proven record of intimidation, complacency and incompetence.
I have since learned that many animals, that many disparate rescue organizations have placed on hold for pulls through the “upgraded” online reserve system never went through and thus the animals were killed. The anguishing part is that the rescues, knowing the incompetence of ACC, followed up with emails and voice mails. Three different modes of communications… the only ones available to them from 8 pm to 6 am. Bear in mind, that the “To Be Destroyed” lists aren’t released until 5 to 6 p.m. the night before… and they have to hustle to find fosters for those animals. It’s a losing proposition, that they valiantly seem to overcome with the animals they manage to save, when things work they way they should everyday.
Here’s the newest cat that I learned about yesterday. It’s heartbreaking. I hope you take the time to go through all the threads associated with these urgent pleas. You will glean much information. Bella had a supposed pull in by a respected rescue, but she, like so many last week, somehow became nothing but a computer glitch and was killed.
These are are animals whose lives people wanted to save. Sick and well, young and old. It’s a disgrace. New York City should be ashamed of itself. It has no right to consider itself the greatest City in the world when there is such contempt and indifference demonstrated against its most vulnerable (and should I remind you, voiceless) residents.
These are links for stories produced last year by WABC, detailing the horrendous conditions under which these animals live, linger and then die. They are heartbreaking to view, and I wonder why nothing was done immediately by the City of New York after they were aired. It’s merely gone from bad to worse:
Meanwhile, yeoman efforts to try and save these animals by fiercely dedicated animal lovers are castigated and dismissed by the likes of Julie Bank and Richard Gentles. There is even a disclaimer on their own website, under “non-affiliated websites,” whch insultingly claims that information conveyed is full of errors. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the information is a straight cut and paste job from their very own released nightly kill list and at risk lists. It is an affront to every single person who works tirelessly networking these animals and seeking rescue before the next morning, when they will be destroyed. These people should be hailed as the heroes they are, not vilified.
Meanwhile, NYCACC’s own efforts at social media are a sad, laughable joke. If it wasn’t for Pets on Death Row and Urgent Part 2, who can calculate how many animals would have died even more needlessly than the ones that do on a daily basis? NYCACC puts virtually no effort into advertising and promoting the animals in their care. I am appalled by the laziness and lack of initiative demonstrated daily by the folks in charge of these voiceless animals. Check out the recent activity on their own Facebook page.
I demand to hear back from each and every one of you included in this letter. You are welcome to email me, write me, or call me. I have no intention of letting go of this matter. It has been one week and I am still devastated that New York CIty Animal Care and Control killed my cat, for no good reason.
Elizabeth is both a hero and a rarity; one of the few that dares to speak out against the dysfunction of the NYCACC, and here is one of the most immediate changes that we need to make right now.
NYCACC is widely known for bullying rescuers and rescues into silence by threatening to curtail their access. I personally have provided background information to several reporters who have told me that it is difficult to get people with firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing to speak out on the record.
To the rescues of NYC: it is time for this to end. It is time for you to stop allowing yourselves to be bullied and it is time to stop maintaining your silence about the atrocities you witness, for by failing to speak out about them you allow them to continue. I have a secret: when someone tries to silence you, speak louder. Shout it from the rooftops; inform your supporters, let the world know the truth – and if you speak loud enough, and you have an audience, you cannot be silenced.
There are so many in town who are focused on an external solution; a white knight that will ride in and save us all. Perhaps it’s the New York Times, or ABC news, or some celebrity. Although it can be helpful, this will not change anything in and of itself. News reports on ACC have been done; celebrities do not want to be involved. You have the stories. You have the information. Tell them. Be truthful, be direct, bring proof, and spread the word. The time to enable continued killing through your silence is over; unless you want to continue trying to plug the dyke of an unending torrent of animals you need to tell the world what you know so we can grow our numbers to the point where we, the people, can demand change and get it. Stop waiting for someone else to do the research and publicize the result when the rescues who work with NYCACC on a daily basis are sitting on everything they need.
I can help you. Got a story to tell? Contact me.
Oppression can only survive through silence. -Carmen de Monteflores