The Mayor’s Alliance Fails a Hero Dog

On August 13, 2012, the NYPD shot a dog named Star who was trying to protect her homeless owner on the street as he was having a seizure. (Warning: link goes to a Daily News story containing a photo some may find upsetting.)

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Miraculously, Star lived and was transported to New York City’s Animal Care and Control (NYCACC) for treatment. They were the first to raise money for Star and eventually (and doubtfully) claimed to have raised $10,000 for her care.

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In a display of exactly how caring and detail-oriented they are, here they refer to Star as “he”. Star is, in fact, a “her”.

Star’s owner did not claim her during the holding period and reportedly left the country, and after her holding period she was transferred to the Mayor’s Alliance, an umbrella group that represents a coalition of rescues in New York City. And that’s where things start to get weird.

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This was odd for two reasons: number one, the Mayor’s Alliance doesn’t do hands-on rescue. They are an umbrella organization that performs mostly administrative functions. They have no kennel, no animal care facility. The other odd event that cropped up around this time was an organization called the Lexus Project started fundraising for Star’s care – on August 16.

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The Lexus Project began to fundraise for Star’s care on August 16th, a full 9 days before NYCACC announced that her ownership would be transferred to the Mayor’s Alliance. They opened a ChipIn and began to collect money.

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As you can see, that didn’t go very well, and they really jumped the gun – the Lexus Project was fundraising for a dog they didn’t own.

Still, roughly 9 days later ownership was transferred to the Mayor’s Alliance – hopefully they’d straighten this all out. It quickly became clear what their interest was as THEY began to fundraise for Star’s care, some of which overlapped with the Lexus Project’s fundraising.

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Even MORE strangely, while the Mayor’s Alliance was claiming to have ownership and fundraising for her care they endorsed the Lexus Project’s ChipIn!

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It’s generally considered bad form to directly fundraise for an animal you do not own or otherwise directly control the destiny of. At best, it’s confusing to the public as to what organization is responsible for the animal. At worst you have situations like The Humane Society of the United States raising money using Fay(e), a dog they did not own, did not control, and had no intention of sharing the donations they received to pay for her care – outright deception and theft. Good and ethical fundraising practice dictates that generally you do not do this; the ethical way for one 501(c)3 to assist another is for one to use their communications to drive donations directly to the organization that is actually directly responsible for the animal.

The Lexus Project is an odd group for the Mayor’s Alliance to partner with in this endeavor. They also do not do direct care or sheltering. From their Facebook page:

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They’re a legal advocacy group. Star was not in need of legal representation. She’d been released by her owner to the care of the shelter, a straightforward dog in medical need. She needed time to heal, to rehabilitate, to decompress. The Lexus Project is not in the business of doing this, and they have a poor recent history of animal rehoming, recently admitting in the press to placing a 120lb mastiff from a New York City court case without properly checking the adopter’s credentials, with tragic results for the dog who disappeared into thin air.

The Mayor’s Alliance represents over a hundred animal rescue organizations in NYC. Many of them are great rescues. Some have their own facilities. Some are fully qualified to take on a dog like this, heal and rehabilitate them, and adopt them out. But the Mayor’s Alliance chose not to work with any of the rescues they represent in favor of the Lexus Project, combining their efforts to do two things both organizations do very badly: fundraising and direct animal care.

For the next several weeks it became more clear why the Mayor’s Alliance was interested in Star’s case as they sent out appeal after appeal for donations. Both the Alliance and the Lexus Project send out fundraising appeals and progress updates in this time. The Alliance claimed ownership of Star, the Lexus Project just implied it through their access and their fundraising. Neither would disclose the location of the dog except to say that Star was at a “rehab facility”.

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The fundraising by the Mayor’s Alliance reportedly did not go well. The Lexus Project raised only a few hundred dollars. By Mid-October the Mayor’s Alliance was no longer mentioning Star, the dog they had taken ownership of, promised to care for, promised to place with a loving owner when the time was right.

I guess that time has come, but the Mayor’s Alliance no longer seems to be interested now that the fund-raising phase is over.

Star has once again turned up – she’s at a Greyhound rescue in Philadelphia, now renamed “Shiloh”. One assumes that this is also where she was rehabilitated and whom the Lexus Project refers to as “our friends”, as the Lexus Project started with legal advocacy for Greyhounds and has connections in Greyhound rescue. It looks like the Mayor’s Alliance didn’t trust any of their own members with Star, and it looks like she’s not likely to come back to her home in New York, as a fenced yard – a rarity in New York City – is “an absolute requirement” for adoption. Although National Greyhound Adoption Program has listed her for adoption, and the Lexus Project is inviting people to email them directly to apply, the Mayor’s Alliance hasn’t said a word about the dog they once owned (do they still?) and once promised to stick with until placement.

Although I haven’t seen any fundraising done directly by the organization who has Star (and they are likely innocent of any wrongdoing at all) it’s interesting to note that they are now the 4th 501(c)3 receiving donations for Star’s care.

I thought when I started looking into this that there might be something nefarious afoot, and indeed all of the organizations involved fundraised with varying degrees of ethical behavior. But the deeper I’ve researched this the more I come to the conclusion that the actions of the Mayor’s Alliance are simply deeply incompetent, and that is far more depressing.

Animals are not to be passed around for the purpose of fundraising or public image like a bottle of Jack Daniel’s backstage at Motley Crüe. (Whoops, I’m dating myself there!) Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with fundraising for specific animals and/or extraordinary cases – but you should only fundraise for animals you actually own and you should do what you say you will do. If you say you’re going to stick with the animal through the end and place them through the resources of your multi-million dollar organization that represents some of the largest rescues in New York City – well, you should do that, and tap their expertise to help you instead of partnering with a fledgling legal effort with a somewhat fly-by-night reputation that ships her out of town.

It’s also astonishing how awful the Mayor’s Alliance is at the basics of rescue. This dog is a New York City hero, locally famous, an icon. This dog did nothing wrong: I’m sure many animal people completely understand and sympathize with a dog, panicking, protecting their fallen owner in medical distress. If you can’t fundraise effectively for such a sympathetic case you need to take a serious look at what the hell is wrong with your fundraising. Similarly, the publicity surrounding the case could have been used to collect a large number of applications and find the best home possible, preferably one right here in New York City. We like to celebrate our heroes. They deserve that.

But the Mayor’s Alliance has moved on. There are other dogs to use in the service of their image and their bank account, even though they still have no animal care facility of their own, no rescue expertise, no fundraising ability, and little public trust. The latest one is named Jazz.

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To date, their online fundraising effort has raised $80. I wonder where they’ll ship her off to when they’re done with her.

The Mayor’s Alliance was invited to comment on the details of this story and to explain what happened with the case of Star. They did not answer the inquiry.

The Lexus Project refused to answer this simple question: Who owns Star? They continue to fundraise for her care.

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  • This happens everywhere, all the time and it’s so unfortunate.  It causes otherwise compassionate people who would like to donate to close up their checkbooks for fear of being swindled.

  • Go to your local shelter/humane society, find out what they’re about, volunteer there, visit often. When you know what they are doing is good, donate money to them. 

  • I think in the beginning the Lexus Project was hoping that Star’s owner would release her to them. I know for me following the story, the fact that Star was at NYC ACC made me cringe inside. My question would be though, if this S.T.A.R program exists for seriously injured animals at the shelter then why do I see URGENT Part 2 and Bruised Not Broken sharing seriously injured animals on their facebook pages begging for a rescue to pull them and get them to a vet? Something is not adding up here between they Mayor’s Alliance and NYC ACC. Looks like they may be taking a HSUS and ASPCA approach to things and fundraising with little or none going to the animals.

    • Martie Massie

      I think you’re right, Deb. This whole situation with all the supposed fundraising by MA and Lexus Project makes for a very suspicious scenario. Neither of these are a Rescue. According to them neither was successful in their fundraising for Star and I can’t help but wonder if they ever had Star’s best interests at heart. I was so upset when i saw the video of her being shot, of the police all standing around and doing nothing to help the poor owner who had a seizure. If they were not going to help him, why did they approach him and cause Star to feel threatened? They had no intention of helping him, obviously, as even as Star lay on the ground wounded, they did not approach the man to give aid or even to check on him. Where was Animal Control? Were they even called? And first aid? The video was fairly long and no one ever came to help the man or the dog, who was still alive and trying to mobilize, probably to get to safety. I was so afraid that cop standing nearby was going to shoot her again. But I am so happy that she survived and had good veterinary care. But terribly confused and disgusted by the people who “took ownership” of her because they failed to do their job to serve her needs. I hope this issue becomes widespread knowledge and an embarrassment to New York City and the Mayor’s Alliance…hopefully it will go viral and get the attention that it deserves. 

    •  You have brought up some very good questions.   The big issue is the problem with funding for the ACC and laws — usually when there is some sort of police involvement an animal has to go to the municipal shelter which is the ACC.   The ACC has been gutted in terms of financial support, and I think Stringer’s report made that clear.  From what I have heard, there is not even an xray machine at the Brooklyn ACC …  And there have been reports that there has been no medical director at the ACC.   I think a lot of the blame has to go to the city and their funding  and structuring of the ACC.  The ASPCA with their huge endowment did not step in to help with the shot dog.   A few weeks ago a goat got loose in Brooklyn and it running scared in the streets, until it was captured.  The initial news reports stated that the goat was taken to the ASPCA… which was not true, it went to ACC.  The entire ACC system here needs to change, and that is not just the funding.  The board is stacked with yes people and anyone that disagrees has been fired or replaced (even volunteers).  That being said I have dealt with some ACC staff that truly try and are caring (none of them high up in hierarchy).  But when I think about how NYC has blown though so much money on idiocy (citytime project and scandal) and no money for shelter reform… and do not get me started on the people that do not have their animals spayed or neutered or the people I see abandoning their pets at the ACC when I go pick up a foster animal…

      • Sarah

        First and foremost, you must always remember, sadly, in these times, you can not and WILL NOT get all news, even a full story with all the facts from television, magazines or newspaper or any other traditional means aside from asking those involved yourself, that is, if they haven’t been intimidated already. And we all know what happens in a game of a telephone! Everyone knows how the government has and is pulling things out of our trusted news sources as they wish even if you believe it is only a limited amount we don’t see. We’ve seen them struggle to have any success distorting the internet, as this is the only semi-reliable source of complete and truly factual news we have left. There’s always the unreliable to sift through as well, that’s the beauty of the internet. It is unlimited and untouched for the most part. You can report so as to reflect your views, and you will also get unbiased and factual reports as well, to the true extent of the words. We know newspapers and news stations DO lean to their sides and report in such a way to stand up for their beliefs as well. They are entitled to their opinions individually of course, but we trust them to give us the truth without bias, so that WE have a chance to decide for ourselves, too. Over the years, their boldness surrounding their decisions to report THEIR facts versus THE facts is personally disconcerting. Disagreeing only gets you labeled as anti-government or a terrorist and you end up in handcuffs for inciting a riot or whatever ridiculous accusation they can imply off the tops of their heads. How do they see this behavior as justifiable? How do they condemn someone just for questioning it? ; which has nearly become normal procedure, using their name, fame and lifetime reputation to be all the proof they need to be trustworthy in their claims, defense, offense and outcome. As if they are above what their very existence is meant to have promised us in various mottos: The truth and hard-headed, unstoppable journalists willing to put their lives on the line to get to the bottom of the story and expose wrong doings as well as happy endings. They seem to start with the passion of heros in their own right, and end up so jaded from learning who people really are and how the world really works. A BIG PART OF THIS, and why I bring all that up: Part of this is covering up where money goes.- and what depths they sink to in order to get it. There’s a reason 4 fingers (in this case) are in the proverbial pie. Money money money money. Here’s a good question for everyone to think about. Not only is that very odd, but how would it benefit Star in ANY way to have a name change and it not at least be made nationally aware to people? The story is already familiar with people so it’s the mass of numbers still growing supporting this dog getting what she needs. The ONLY reason I see for this, is to use the dog for getting a second fundraiser, which could spread like the flu, as it did the first time around. The truth is they use anything and everything as a guise to do their bidding any chance they take and to support themselves financially any chance they get; and like a domino effect, they’ve learned from each other how to successfully operate unlawfully. They’ve also got the backup of corrupt law officials. It’s sickening how EVERY branch of the government and mostly everyone IN IT, branching out so far as to even affect our efforts in animal protection, are all part of a grand and evil scheme by anyone’s standards.

  • chrisgee

    i wonder if the fact she was shot by a cop makes her a bad postergirl. maybe MA/ACC didn’t want to touch the potential issues raised by the whole incident and realized it could make for problematic PR. 

    • As problematic as this?

      I and a hundred other people in NYC rescue could show them how to spin that.

  • They are dogs in need of medical care and homes, they should not be made into “poster children” for animal welfare and dragged from pillar to post to raise funds (for who knows what).  Someone needs to take responsibility for that dog and find her a home and it sounds like the greyhound people have stepped up like they have for so many greyhounds.  You’ve got to admire that.  The rest of these clowns — not so much.

    • Indeed, the Greyhound rescue is the hero of the bunch. I do wish they were better at adoption listings, but in the grand scheme of this scam that’s a minor quibble. Still, there are many high functioning NYC rescues that could have placed Star by now.

  • Miz

    Is the “Mayor’s Alliance” actually supported/endorsed by the mayor? The NYC shelters seem so poorly run, with a shockingly high kill rate – the community was right to be skeptical that Star would get any kind of proper care and treatment.

    • It’s just a name. They have nothing to do with the mayor and are not a government agency.

  • The Mayor’s Alliance has no government funding or city support/involvement.  I volunteer with a rescue that is a New Hope partner and part of the MY but I do not pretend to know what goes on there.  As with many rescues in NYC, there is no physical shelter and the rescues rely on foster homes.  I think the Picasso Vet fund is administered through the MA and they have foster homes for animals, they are on petfinder.  So in a way the MA is involved in the rescue and has fosters, they are not solely an administrative organization

    • The Picasso fund pays for the vet care of animals in the care of MA members (APOs). Generally speaking, the Alliance does not take possession of them. They are not in the business of hands-on rescue and care.

      •  I guess I am a bit confused, as I am fairly new to volunteering as a foster with a 501c3 that is part of the mayor’s alliance.  When people come  to my apartment to meet a foster kitty (only after we have emailed and I have some idea that they are decent) that they saw on petfinder and not at an adoption event,  they often mention what other felines in other rescues they have considered … and that is the only reason I know about the petfinder listings (http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/NY763.html).  Please forgive me if my questions are stupid, but I am just trying to get a grasp on the bigger picture in NYC and how it all works.  I understand how the rescue I volunteer for operates (which is cat rescue not dog rescue, I know dogs are more challenging because there are so fewer landlords/buildings that allow dogs) but I am trying to learn more about what happens in NYC.  All of my fosters have come from the ACC euth list.   

        • It’s a totally logical assumption and possibly even a bit of an intentional misdirection – I’m not sure why the Picasso Fund would have its own Petfinder for animals who seem to mostly be in the care of member rescues.

  • Jesus Christ. The blind leading the blind.