I try to transport animals out of New York City Animal Care & Control (NYCACC) whenever I can. Theoretically, transport is available through the Mayor’s Alliance, but Pets Alive Middletown is a minimum of a two hour drive, one way, from the Brooklyn and Manhattan NYCACC locations, and can be quite a bit more with NYC traffic. Why tie up a transport van, an employee, and spend money on gas when a volunteer is willing to take on those costs, theoretically freeing up life-saving resources?
The daily kill list is published by NYCACC every day between 5 and 5:30pm. Rescues must scramble to find placements for the animals they’d like to pull, because their pulls have to be in by 6am the next day. No time for questions, no time for extensions, no time to talk to a human being: your request must be placed by computer before 6am, a maximum of a thirteen hour window, or that animal is in danger of being executed that morning.
On Tuesday evening, the 28th of August, Pets Alive put in a pull for 19 cats (mostly kittens) around 7:30pm. I immediately emailed in and said I’d be available to do the pickup on Thursday morning at 10AM – about 40 hours away. I got a reply the next day saying that would not be possible, since they could not have 19 animals ready by then. The hold up, as it always is, was the “tech check” (which is neither a check nor usually done by a Vet Tech…) where animals are given final vaccines, FIV/FeLV tests (or heartworm tests for dogs), and a microchip prior to release. I can’t tell you how many times I have arrived to pick up animals and have been left sitting in the lobby for hours because the “tech check” has not yet been done.
Pets Alive doesn’t need this, of course. They have medical resources and medical staff, and if it means the difference between an animal living and dying – especially kittens, whose health is delicate and really should be out of NYCACC as soon as is practical – they have offered to skip the tech check and do necessary testing, vaccines, and microchipping at their expense. Of course, NYCACC won’t do that.
It’s been a brutal few months. Kill lists some nights have totalled more than 75 animals. Cat kill lists of more than 40 have been utterly routine. And yet the biggest bottleneck to getting animals out remains the shelter, where procedure (and a grossly unreliable computer system) is such that it is easier and involves less effort and less paperwork for their staff to simply kill them and move on. Swift, streamlined processing would save lives in an environment lousy with disease, especially for the youngest and most vulnerable. Get them out before they get sick.
Arrangements were made to have the cats transported via Mayor’s Alliance transport van. Mid-day on Thursday, the day I would have spent transporting them, NYCACC contacted Pets Alive to say that one of the litters would not be coming up on the transport. One of the very young kittens had diarrhea and had died overnight. They’d done some preliminary testing but hadn’t been able to figure out the cause, and now the rest of the litter had diarrhea, so they were going to kill the litter to prevent the spread of disease. You know, just in case.
If you’ve ever met Pets Alive’s Executive Director, Kerry Clair, you can probably imagine how that was received. Kerry eventually secured a hard-won promise that they would keep the kittens through the end of the day. They had to be out, fast.
Kerry from Pets Alive called me immediately. I had to be at work that evening, but I had a few hours, so I turned the car around and headed for Brooklyn. Even if I had to overnight them in my bathroom, they’d still have a chance at life. While I was driving, Kerry put the word out on social media and very quickly found a volunteer, Esther, who met me at NYCACC Brooklyn. We loaded all the cats into her car and she started the drive to Pets Alive Elmsford, where a vet was standing by to treat them.
Once arriving at Pets Alive the affected kittens were quickly diagnosed with coccidiosis, a common parasitic infection in young cats that can be highly transmissable, particularly when proper cleaning and sanitation isn’t practiced. It’s also quite treatable, so Pets Alive set right to work treating it. Thus far, all treated kittens have survived.
We’ve heard a lot about NYCACC needing more funding: they got it. We’ve heard about them needing more staff, and indeed their website is bursting with available positions. But they’re still having a lot of trouble getting small things right: procedures that make it easier and faster to get animals out when they’re requested by rescue before they are executed while people stand ready and willing to take them, and of course the eternal issue of basic medical competency that not infrequently leads to animals dying in their kennels of extremely treatable illnesses. It doesn’t do much good to add medical staff if they are not qualified or competent to make the most basic of diagnoses. If NYCACC is not willing, able, or competent to treat the most basic of diseases the least they can do is to release those animals as quickly as possible to rescues that will.
Are they not worth it?