Next NYCACC Board Meeting: Be There Sept 26

The most common question posted in the comments is some form of “how can we change the animal control system of New York City”?

Step one: show up for this meeting and stand up for the animals of New York. Get the morning off NOW.


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Update on South Bronx Street Cats: Rico in New Home, Dega Still Available!

IMG_7538Some weeks ago I posted about two cats my girlfriend and I rescued from the street here in the South Bronx and I thought I’d give a bit of a progress update… let’s begin with some shots of Rico (now RedRico) in his new home! He now lives with two adults and a DOG! He doesn’t seem to have much experience with dogs but he handled the whole thing very well and investigated him quite politely – RedRico is nothing if not a very confident young man.

RedRico seems quite pleased with himself and fit very well into his new home! MANY thanks to his new adopter for giving him a great one – I just know he’s going to do great there!




Still available is gorgeous, sleek, calm Dega. She’s a small, jet-black beauty just out of kittenhood at around one year old and is an ideal “only cat” for someone who wants a laid-back companion – not demanding or pushy, but quiet and sweet and oh-so-affectionate when it’s time to cuddle. Dega had a hard life on the streets of the South Bronx and is ready for the easy, quiet life, reclining on a windowsill and watching the world go by. She’d really like to try out your house (or apartment!) – how ’bout you email me and you can meet her? As always, I deliver to approved adopters within driving distance of New York City!

Dega’s captivating, soulful eyes will enchant you and her purrs will warm your heart when you skritch her under the chin and rub her belly (she loves that). Her regal poise will captivate you. This mini-panther will capture your heart!



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More South Bronx TNR: Foster Needed for George!

When my girlfriend and I started our small South Bronx TNR (trap/neuter/return) project here I expected most of the cats trapped to show some socialization. Most “feral” cats here in the Bronx really aren’t – living in such close proximity to humans even many who were born outside have some degree of socialization to people. What I didn’t expect was how many of the cats would be outright friendly. This has changed our expectations somewhat – we were at first thinking that TNR would be the rule and adopting out cats would be the exception… but maybe not. Many of the cats we’re running across seem to be former housecats, some very young and certainly not long out of a home. As our holding space is extremely limited and very short term, this has us scrambling for places to house some of our guests who really would be better off in homes!

IMG_8179Last night George showed up in my trap, barely out of kittenhood at less than a year old. George is a handsome and mellow dude, and when I walked up to him in his trap instead of flipping out he looked calmly at me and went back to eating his food. He was neutered this morning, he is FIV and FeLV negative, and he is waaay too friendly to be roaming the streets – the friendliest cats are in danger! We would really rather not release George – is there anyone out there who might be able to foster or even consider adopting him? Please drop us a line, we’d love to talk to you! I will not be able to hang on to George for more than a few days. A very small space is all that’s needed to buy him some time, and he’d love to hang out in your bathroom or a dog crate while we work on transitioning him into a forever home!

We’re working on a better solution to this – I’m expanding some space that will help us with some short-term holding needs, so hopefully that will cut down on the last-minute foster requests – but that space won’t be ready (and safe) for some time yet. Can anyone help George?

Posted in Cats, Feral Cats, New York City, South Bronx | Leave a comment

The ASPCA Will No Longer Perform Humane Law Enforcement in New York City

p187585bThe news broke this morning that the ASPCA will no longer be the primary agency handling animal cruelty complaints here in New York City, instead returning law enforcement reponsibilities to the NYPD. It may surprise some people to learn that I think that this is a very good thing.

The ASPCA’s recent law enforcement history in NYC is not encouraging. The department is understaffed, underfunded, and overwhelmed. Few complaints are even investigated and even fewer prosecuted. A New York Times investigation in 2007 found that over 50,000 cruelty tips in one year resulted in fewer than 10% being followed up on at all and eventually just 103 arrests. The ASPCA has generally only shown interest in fulfilling their law enforcement duties when it results in positive PR for them – and even then they have a history of killing the victims of cruelty.

I am, at any rate, very uncomfortable with the idea of public police powers being subcontracted out to private agencies, away from the traditional oversight and public accountability of a strictly public agency and subject to the whims of a relatively secretive private organization. It is also a win in terms of the public perception of animal abuse: it is a serious issue and one for the police, not for Sarah McLachlan – and a mandatory mission to be financed with public money, not an optional service left to depend on donations for funding.

So I see this as the beginning of what I hope to be an improvement in the investigation of animal cruelty in New York City. Matthew Bershadker, the ASPCA’s new CEO, took the reins on June first. This is the first bold move I’ve seen from him publicly, assuming this originated from the ASPCA and not from the city. Should he continue to focus on eliminating things the ASPCA does poorly – and hopefully, instead, focusing on the things they do well – things might be looking up there.

In an ASPCA press release, Bershadker said the “NYPD is equipped to do what the ASPCA simply cannot accomplish alone: Incorporate the enforcement of animal cruelty laws into routine, everyday law enforcement work.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Kimbo in Foster

Well, Kimbo has gone from a parking lot in the Bronx into an incredible foster home. I took him up a few days ago!


He settled in very well and is getting along great with the two resident dogs in the house. He’s spent a lot of time resting and de-stressing.

Kimbo will spend a few weeks in his foster home to rest and recuperate, and he’ll also get some minor surgery to remove some lumps and bumps from him. Then I’ll be looking for a permanent home for him – he’s very sweet and mellow and gets along very well with other dogs. He especially seems to love smaller dogs – he loves the pug in the house (she’s the boss!).

You’ll be hearing more about Kimbo soon, but if you’re interested… drop me a line!


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Brief Kimbo Update!

A brief update (I’m on the run!) on Kimbo, the dog found in a Bronx parking lot – he’ll have an intro to his foster home tomorrow, if he gets along with the two resident dogs, he’s in! Paws crossed for Kimbo!


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Kimbo Needs Your Help!

A few weeks ago I learned of a dog near me living in a parking lot.

kimboThis is Kimbo. Kimbo is an American Bulldog mix who is about 80lbs and has grown up living in an attended parking lot in the Bronx. He was underweight, filthy, and neglected. He sometimes had food and sometimes didn’t, and his only shelter was a doghouse far too small for him with an entryway blocked by car parts, trash, and feces.

When I learned of Kimbo I went down to the lot to see if he was there and he was – he’s very friendly and came right to me for petting and scratches. His owner left him loose all the time and Kimbo is very sociable with people and seems to be just fine with other dogs as well. He never had any problems with people or dogs passing by his parking lot home.

His owner has had some problems with Kimbo roaming – when he wants something (like food), sometimes he’ll wander out and cross the busy street that the parking lot is on to find it, then he’ll come back. The owner has been ticketed a few times for not confining him but had never done anything about it. The ASPCA has visited the owner in the lot but he was providing the basics that the law requires, albeit poorly, and he was not cited for his treatment of Kimbo.

I went down to offer the owner help, anything I could: food, medical care, a way to keep Kimbo on the property, any way to give this dog a better life – but I ran into problems as some of the lot staff speaks no English and I speak no Spanish. While I was working through that another person got Kimbo’s owner to surrender the dog to her.

IMG_7954So Kimbo is now out of the lot, but she has nowhere to keep him – he is not allowed where she lives and she can only have him there for a few days, which puts her in a bad position. I offered all the help I could and today we got Kimbo to a vet for an evaluation so we’d know what we have. Kimbo is 3 or 4 years old but currently moves like a much older dog due to being outside all of the time and being filthy – his feet are burned from the pavement and he has wounds and sores on his feet. The condition of his coat is poor and he needed flea treatment (which was the first thing we did!). He has some growths that he should probably have surgically removed. Still, his overall health seems good and he was extremely well behaved for the vet! He was nervous but tolerated everything very well, even multiple needle sticks. His bloodwork came back great and he is heartworm negative.

Where he is now there is another dog in the home, a small male min pin mix. He and Kimbo get along quite well and Kimbo really likes to play with him! Kimbo is a large dog, but extremely mellow, low energy, friendly and well-behaved. His rescuer reports that he seems to be housetrained as well.

IMG_7965Kimbo will get a full grooming and thorough bathing on Sunday, and then he needs a foster home to stay with while he heals up a little bit and gains some weight and strength. If there is anyone out there who could take him in for 3-4 weeks who is anywhere in the New York City metro area, please contact me ASAP, as his rescuer does not have a safe place for him to stay beyond the next few days. You could hang out with a really cool dog for a little while and help a guy who’s had a rough start in life get a new beginning – at no cost to you! All expenses, including food and medical, will be fully covered, and you’ll help save his life.

Can you help Kimbo?

UPDATE 8/11: Kimbo has a probable foster home!

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NYCACC Doesn’t Want Help

Most people are familiar with the New York City Animal Care & Control (NYCACC) kill list released each evening, but there are other pleas sent out by email throughout the day to New Hope rescues: special cases, injuries in need of immediate treatment (most of which NYCACC will not treat, instead depending on the rescues of NYC to provide emergency medical treatment), and very young animals. A bottle baby (motherless) kitten that comes in to certain NYCACC branches can be in big trouble; during kitten season the need is constant and they have had a very hard time recruiting foster parents (Indeed, their process for becoming a foster parent is reported to be so inconvenient and convoluted it is no wonder they haven’t found more – or perhaps it’s that foster parents may have slight objections to their charges being kill listed should they get sick after being returned to the shelter). At the most recent board meeting, Executive Director Risa Weinstock disclosed that there were only 55 cat foster parents in all of New York City. In a city of 8.5 million people, I can only call that pathetic.

A few weeks ago a “First Alert” email went out from NYCACC’s Manhattan location at approximately 4pm for three bottle baby kittens. Given that NYCACC can’t seem to figure out how to attract or retain foster parents and even with their increased funding they are incapable of caring for bottle babies overnight, they gave NYC rescues 2 hours of notice to rescue these cats: spoken for by 6pm or they die.

Pets Alive Westchester got the email and decided to step up for these cats. Sounds good, right? Ahhh, but with NYCACC nothing is ever easy…

My primary email address has been blocked by NYCACC for quite some time. I can’t say I was too surprised when it happened, obviously, I’m a huge pain in the ass – and it hasn’t slowed me down all that much as I’m a bit of a geek with many, many outgoing emails to choose from. But here’s what happens these days when the Executive Director of Pets Alive Westchester, a NYCACC-approved New Hope rescue, sends an email to someone at NYCACC.

Screen Shot 2013-08-04 at 1.28.09 AM

For the non-geeks among you, I’ll translate: NYCACC runs an email filter program that incorrectly labels all incoming emails from Pets Alive Westchester as spam and rejects them. This is a slight problem as email is the primary way in which they communicate with rescues.

Still, there was another way – there are backup phone lines and rescue-only phone numbers. The only problem with that is that no one could be bothered to answer the phone that day, and the voicemails were full. NYCACC had set a death deadline of 2 hours from their initial email but there was no way to respond, no way to let them know that those lives could be saved.

With no way to communicate staff piled into the van and set out to make the drive to the Manhattan location. That drive would normally take about 40 minutes, but driving into Manhattan at rush hour is no picnic. Fortunately, they made it in time.

Once there they quickly claimed the three they had come for, but there was space for more: they could take up to ten cats that day. They’d had a tip about a cat whose rescue hold had fallen through and would end up on the kill list that evening, so they claimed him… once they found him. No one could locate young kitten Nicholas but he was eventually found in his litter of 6, the only one to be marked for death due to being underweight despite being the same approximate size as the rest of his litter. Other cats they wanted to take were denied for “adoption interest“, as ACC continues to hold back animals they think they can actually adopt from rescue. Until, of course, they get sick as they all will eventually. Then they’ll be kill listed. At a time when kill lists are running 40-60 animals per night, this makes no sense at all.

They moved on to four kittens who were not yet altered, and that pull was denied as well. I do realize that NYCACC has an obligation to make sure that their animals are altered – but I also realize that they are extremely short on veterinarians and even shorter on competent veterinarians. Even with their increased funding they still send animals out to the ASPCA for altering because they cannot handle one of their most basic duties, nor can they seem to hire or retain veterinarians – they haven’t had a medical director in years now. As a brick and mortar facility with a vet on staff who does spay and neuter routinely, Pets Alive has for years been approved to pull unaltered animals and do it themselves. This works out for everyone: the animal gets out of a disease-ridden environment faster, generally gets a better quality of care, and NYCACC does not need to have the expense of altering that animal. This used to work pretty well, but lately that blanket rule has changed to an exception on a case-by-case basis, with all cases needing the approval of a single individual – an individual, I might add, who does not work in shelter facilities but in NYCACC’s executive offices downtown, far from the actual shelter(s). That individual was not answering their phone that day, so those kittens could also not leave the shelter. Denied. Oddly, the three bottle babies that had originally spurred the trip were obviously unaltered. That doesn’t seem to be a problem.

They left the shelter that day with only 4 kittens, wanting to take many more. As they rode back home they read the nightly kill list on their cell phone. Oddly, but predictably, there were Manhattan kittens on it, kittens meeting their pull criteria, kittens they had not been shown.

I’m always surprised when people think that NYCACC welcomes rescues with open arms. They don’t. They’re difficult to contact, impossible to deal with, and their “rules” for pulling are unannounced, unwritten, k9791902and constantly shifting. I’m seeing signs of strain in the New Hope department (the department that deals with rescue pulls) and I feel bad for them – they’ve recently been saddled with an entire layer of additional rules that increases their workload and makes their jobs more difficult. Where they used to fairly strictly focus on getting animals out of the shelter, lately the conditions have shifted. The recent priority is to steer the animals that require resources, be they time or money, to private rescues while the shelter keeps animals in-house that they feel are quickly “adoptable” in order to make the numbers look better for their new adoption initiative. Of course animals that they have judged to be more desirable will be kill listed in a heartbeat if injury or illness is discovered in that animal. Although NYCACC has millions in new-found funding the idea of using it to care for animals does not seem to be taking hold. I can’t imagine how frustrating that is for experienced New Hope staff, watching management create a culture of confusion that only serves to drive rescues away and killing up.

NYCACC currently has over 230 “New Hope Partners”, rescues that are approved to pull animals – but very, very few of those rescues pull animals on any kind of regular basis. While it is true that some are small and some are breed specific there are a good many who likely could and would easily pull more if the shelter would allow them to and perhaps showed them a little consideration. NYCACC is not the only place with animals in danger; it’s much easier for a rescue with limited resources and a mission to save as many lives as possible to simply save them from elsewhere, somewhere that is grateful for their help, somewhere that doesn’t make it a constant process of frustration and expense to save animals made sick by the very shelter they’ve been pulled from.

The shelter is requiring Pets Alive Westchester to re-submit an application to be approved to pull unaltered animals and do the alter themselves. That application is supposed to be submitted by email. As of the date of this writing, three weeks after having been informed, again, that email from New Hope partners is being rejected by their spam filter, the filter remains in place. Some days you can reach the shelter by phone. Some days you can’t.

Is this what we’re getting for the additional millions recently poured by the city into a failed system?

Posted in New York City, NYCACC, Shelter Stuff | 4 Comments

A Dog Guy and South Bronx Cats

I am known as a “dog guy”, which I suppose I am. My passion is dogs, much of my experience is with dogs, I have 6 dogs in my small home in the South Bronx, and the bulk of my volunteering is with dogs. But in the past year or so I’ve been more involved with cats – mostly in their transport but increasingly also in their care. I still don’t know cats as well as I’d like (I just figured out “blinky eyes” the other day – thanks, UberFacts!) and unfortunately it’s very dangerous to have them in my current living space, as some of my dogs are extremely aggressive towards cats and will do anything to get to them.

I expected to get more involved in cats when I moved to my South Bronx neighborhood – I moved here with the desire to help with some TNR, knowing that there were cats on the streets here. I had no idea.

My area teems with cats. Many are what one might call “feral”, although that means something slightly different here than it does in many places: in an area with such high population density there are very few who seek to completely avoid human contact. Many have some socialization. There are also animals on the street who are former housecats, cats that are allowed to roam, and a good many who are social and provided for by groups of people but do not have an “owner”, per-se – they wander about freely and have a water dish provided by the friendly bodega owner, scraps to eat from the projects’ garbage area, a petting appointment with a neighborhood child every day promptly after school, but no home to call their own.

I have found the months I have been here overwhelming. The issue is substantial, the resources scant: as far as I can tell, there is no one doing TNR in this area. I have never seen an ear-tipped cat in the neighborhood. Assistance with TNR (like low-cost altering) is awkward and time-consuming in NYC even for hard-core rescuers; for the general public it is near impossible. Although an ASPCA van stops in the neighborhood about twice a month, they focus on owned animals; perhaps a curious choice when a tremendous amount of the cat intake to New York City’s Animal Care and Control (NYCACC) at this time of year are the offspring of outdoor, free-roaming cats, putting tremendous pressure on the resources of NYCACC. Spaying or neutering the housecat who lives in an apartment that they rarely if ever leave is typically good for the cat and helps with owner retention by controlling unwanted behaviors, but I think there’s a good argument to be made that the free-roaming cats are a much greater source of NYC shelter intake (especially during kitten season) and deserving of far more S/N focus and funding than they currently receive from the major non-profits.

I have been overwhelmed enough to not really know where to begin and pursue a few dead ends. Sometimes I’ve worked a bit around the edges – a few months ago 165054_584300774919735_1562664609_nI picked up and re-homed two friendly young kittens, one with a broken leg that needed treatment. Annie would have been hard to ignore, as she limped right up to me one day as I was taking out the trash and asked for help. But mostly, being not totally comfortable and preferring to stick to what I know, being overwhelmed, and not knowing how to begin… I tried my best to ignore it, which was wrong of me. That ends now.

A few nights ago as I pulled into a parking space outside my home a cat ran across the road in front of us – pretty typical for the neighborhood. While I did not see much unusual in the cat’s behavior my incredibly compassionate girlfriend did and followed the cat down the block, eventually convincing the frightened animal to come to her for petting. I did not want to take the cat but she insisted, so I went home to grab a carrier and we quickly stashed him. The slightly unusual gait her trained eye picked up on so quickly turned out to be burnt paws, likely from pavement roasted by the recent summer heat wave. She knew that he was social and hurt and needed help.

IMG_2237This is Rico. Rico is a long-haired orange tabby, about 8 months old and friendly and social as can be – and he’s now neutered, has had his shots, and is FIV and FeLV negative. The person fostering him reports “He’s amazing… trusting, loving, funny, vocal, craving attention. He curls right up and settles in, follows at your heels if you get up to walk away.” He is curious and unafraid of dogs – an outgoing and friendly guy!

Prior to that night I had successfully convinced her to walk away from another cat. Dega was not hurt but she was also in danger, as friendly and trusting as she was, lurking on a street corner in the South Bronx. The morning after picking up Rico I went looking for her and found her again hanging out on her favorite corner – this picture was shot moments after I scooped her up and plopped her on my dashboard. Dega is Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.47.00 PMa small, adorable, jet-black cat with the most expressive eyes. She is around one year old and now spayed, but she looks to have had at least one litter out on the street in her short life. She has her shots and is also FIV and FeLV negative. She is a quiet girl who is very affectionate with people once she (quickly!) warms up to them, and this skinny little girl loves her food! Her foster reports that she is “reserved but affectionate, flips over for belly rubs… purrs, kisses and cuddles.”

I needed the help of the Internet once before when I took in Blanca on blind faith that I could place her and now, Internet, I need your help again. I cannot keep these two wonderful cats in my home due to the danger posed by my dogs, and my rescue resources are unable to take them at this time – but neither can I return two completely social and friendly cats to the street where they are in danger. I have them both in a foster currently, but I can’t keep them there for very long – if you’re looking to adopt a friendly, social, lovable young cat – drop me a line – soon!

Going forward obviously many cats from the streets here may not be easily re-homed, but it’s time to get started… I’m firing up the traps, because if they’re going to be roaming my neighborhood, at the very least they can be altered, immunized, and ear-tipped. No more can I ignore it because I find it foreign or intimidating or overwhelming. I can start here and now, with many thanks to my girlfriend for smacking me upside the head (you know, metaphorically speaking) and reminding me to pull my head out of the sand and focus on what I can do for the animal standing in front of me without reservation.

More to come on the cats of the South Bronx…

Rico Says: Right On!

Rico Says: Right On!

Posted in ASPCA, Cats, New York City, NYCACC | 4 Comments

Believe in Evolution

I recently got peripherally involved in a case where a person felt they had to give up their pets due to landlord pressure here in NYC (and before I begin, let me tell you that there is a happy ending to this story: all of the pets involved are alive and well). I don’t know the person, I don’t know (or want to know) their name, and I don’t know their story; what exactly they were being threatened with, what their financial situation was, how desperate they were.

But I do know how they reacted. And that is what I find… well, not curious. Not even surprising at this point but nonetheless a vivid illustration of what we fight on a daily basis.

This person’s reaction was to go to their veterinarian and request that all seven of their pets be killed, some of whom had been the person’s companions for ten years or more.

The staff at the veterinarian’s office would have none of it, and thank God for vets who will not take the blood money of killing a healthy animal. Instead they gave the person resources, guiding them to contact local rescue groups who could (and likely would have) helped them. But there’s no evidence from insiders at these rescue groups that they were contacted. Instead, the pets showed up a short time later at New York City Animal Care & Control (NYCACC).

I’m not sure what transpired there exactly but I take some comfort in that as flawed as NYCACC is I have never known them to perform “owner-requested euthanasia” – killing – of a healthy animal. Quickly the word got out in NYC rescue and the wheels started to turn, and within days (and with a little luck) a loosely-connected group had delivered them all to safety… but it’s that first reaction I find the most fascinating, the initial impulse: my pets are in danger, and therefore I must kill them.

Though many now find this attitude completely abhorrent it’s not hard to see where it’s come from, the roots of the impulse, when for years the party line from shelters was: death is good. Death is justified. Death is a sweet relief from suffering.

This attitude is now considered archaic enough by much of the general public that many shelters (though certainly not all…) hesitate to trumpet it publicly. These days it has a tendency to offend — although many still preach some version of it internally to themselves (and some days may even let a justification or two slip to the media), to convince themselves that they are still good people, to justify the blood on their hands. PETA is one of the few major animal welfare groups to still proudly fly the flag of death, proud to kill, proud to trumpet it daily: death is good. Death is kind. Death is justified. Death is a gift. Death is kindness.

Dog Walking Evolution Bumper-400x500If you are like I am and you believe that shelter pets have an inherent right to live then as flawed, as terrible at times as NYCACC is it is some small comfort to me that even they will not kill a healthy animal presented to them solely because it is what the owner wants. Even with all the killing done there there is still a line that is not crossed, there is still hope that they will evolve, because in that smallest of ways they are recognizing an animal’s inherent right to live. And so we fight on. We fight on until all of them are recognized – the sick, the elderly, the young, those thought to be “unwanted”, because we have no choice. Because as people – and there are more of us every day – who have concluded that an animal has an inherent right to not be dispatched simply for human convenience, that is what we must do. Because as leading communities throughout the US like Austin, Charlottesville and Reno show us with save rates over 90% and even higher, we know we can do better.

That seed planted long ago, the idea of death as kindness, is in itself a dying attitude – the last gasps of a failed philosophy as our brightest and most creative shelters explore what is actually possible. Don’t give in. Never give in. Because it can be done here too. Because you recognize that the person in that example simply did not have the right to make that choice for their healthy companion animals, and that is a sprouting oak of a new normal, of a new era, here in NYC and elsewhere. It is inevitable because we will make it so.

Join us.

Posted in New York City, NYCACC, Shelter Stuff | 1 Comment