New York City Council Meeting on Shelter Oversight

From Shelter Reform Action Committee’s excellent blog comes notice of a NYC council committee meeting next week on the subject of oversight of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and their contractor, New York City’s Animal Care and Control. The meeting will take place on Friday, April 12, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. in the 16th Floor Committee Room at 250 Broadway in Manhattan.

The specific subject of the meeting is Local Law 59, which was once referred to as Intro 655 prior to its passage by the city council. This bill was supported by a broad coalition of groups including the ASPCA, Mayor’s Alliance, Humane Society of New York, Bide-A-Wee, and Animal Haven in which the city was relieved of their 10 year old legal obligation to build a shelter in every borough for some promises from the city which turned out to be largely empty.

In exchange for relieving the city of that obligation they got the promise – but not the written guarantee – of more funding for shelter operations, funding which the DOH has already signalled they plan to cut. They got mandatory spay neuter enacted for outdoor Angry Mob-001cats, which thankfully does not seem to have been enforced as of yet – but if it ever is will drive more intake to city shelters. They got the shelter to report some ultra-basic metrics, most of which were already available. They got the promise of 24 hour field service from Animal Control, which does not seem to have been enacted. And they got the promise of future implementation of TNR rules for New York City, which was later repealed when the coalition that supported the bill realized that perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea after all. The rumor is that the Mayor’s Alliance expected the city to grant them rulemaking power as well as colony tracking along with some funding to implement it, but balked when they realized that becoming a contractor to the city would make them subject to disclosure under FOIA laws that they did not wish to be subject to.

Does any of the above seem like it’s worth trading away the city’s legal requirement to build a shelter in every borough? It certainly doesn’t to me. Let’s be plain here: the animals of NYC were again sold out by some of the powerful forces that claim to protect them. Cheaply.

I am often asked here or in other forums how change comes to New York City. Meetings like this are how. Politicians know it’s easy to sign your name to a petition or send an email but most people won’t take the time to attend a meeting of the city council that is scheduled at a time inconvenient for most working people. Change comes when we swamp these meetings and organize as a focused political force. Change comes when there are overflow crowds at NYC Animal Care & Control board meetings and City Council meetings of interested, visible, and angry public. Change comes when we are visible and persistent and make this into a political issue. And that’s not easy or convenient, I’m afraid.

I hope to see you there.

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