NYC Doesn’t Give A Damn About Animals

Not you, gentle reader. I’m talking about New York City’s government, and specifically Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man who has never cared a whit for the city’s animals beyond the (very) occasional photo op.

On Friday afternoon the Mayor’s office published its annual Mayor’s Management Report for Fiscal Year 2013, the yearly report on the performance of city agencies.

“For over 35 years the Mayor’s Management Report has been the benchmark for transparency and government accountability and during this administration we have drilled down even deeper to measure more,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. “With new sections that better explain how the City is performing and how we want to perform in the future, New Yorkers can truly use the MMR to hold government accountable for results.”

Hey, so far, so good! I’m interested in city agency performance. I like to know what my tax dollars are doing. And New York City’s own Animal Care and Control (technically a contractee to the city’s anachronistically named Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, or just DOH) just had a major increase in funding and I’d be interested to see what sort of statistics they would think are relevant to measuring their performance.

I searched the document for “Animal Care and Control” but came up with nothing, so let’s take a look at the section specific to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, it must be in there.

NYC’s Shelter Reform Action Committee has been pounding this point for a long time: the DOH shouldn’t be supervising the Animal Control contract because it’s not part of their mission and/or goals, and this document couldn’t make it more clear that they care not a whit about it (though it is an improvement from the days when the contract was supervised by the city’s Department of Sanitation.) The chapter starts by laying out the goals of the DOH and what exactly they do. In their download (111)five listed services and explanation of what they do, nowhere is it mentioned that they are charged with safeguarding the city’s homeless animals. As a matter of fact, no mention is made of animals whatsoever. When we look at the performance metrics of the agency animals are only discussed, on page 80, in the context of reducing animal risks to human health (and here they’re mostly talking about controlling the rat population) and the issuance of dog licenses. This is once again down – this year to a mere 83,000 licenses (in a city with an estimated 1 million plus dogs) despite lots of noise from the DOH about how important it is and a rather half-hearted ad campaign to that effect. The only thing related to domestic animals in the report is how much money the city is collecting from them, and as with everything else they’re not doing a very good job.

And that’s all you’ll learn from this report. Although the city claims that citizens can “use the MMR to hold government accountable for results”, statistics related to the performance of animal control just aren’t important enough to be included. You can find lots of interesting performance statistics in this document. You can discover how long the city takes to process a purchase order, or how many senior-friendly benches have been installed, or how many complaints were received by the city about private waste haulers. But in a document that is supposed to lay out performance goals of city agencies not only will you not discover such basics as how many animals were killed in city facilities and how many were adopted from those facilities, those activities are considered so unimportant by upper management that the city agency responsible for supervising those activities is permitted to not mention them at all, never mind set performance goals or present performance metrics.

The city simply doesn’t give a damn.

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Please Help Mid Hudson Animal Aid, Damaged By Fire

I’ve known about Mid-Hudson Animal Aid, a No Kill free range cat shelter in Beacon, NY for quite some time but in the past year I’ve been coming into contact with them more and more, beginning when two of their staff helped me round up some terrified cats in an apartment I couldn’t seem to catch. Since then they’ve been an invaluable resource for me as I expand a little more into cat rescue and have helped me out on several occasions.

1185380_10151948055080864_118172607_nThis morning on Saturday, September 14 a fast-moving fire ripped through the isolation room at their shelter in Beacon, New York. Fortunately there were people in the building at the time who smelled smoke, discovered the fire, and immediately called the fire department who responded very quickly. The shelter had nearly 170 cats in the building, and thanks to the quick actions of the staff the majority made it out, although 8 cats in the isolation room succumbed to smoke inhalation. A firefighter onsite resuscitated one kitten, three remain hospitalized, and six are being searched for in the woods behind the shelter. To save so many of these cats so quickly was a truly amazing feat. The remaining animals are safe tonight and distributed among fosters and local rescue organizations including Pets Alive.

4deedf99-2419-40fb-b5c3-d8b1820f7279The isolation room is of course destroyed and they will need major construction – not just for the fire but to fix the water damage caused by extinguishing it. There is a need as well for foster families for cats displaced by the fire and the ensuing construction.

As always, money is tremendously helpful and allows the shelter to purchase whatever they may need, as well as helping with the medical bills for cats injured in the fire and, incredibly, a cat surrendered mid-disaster with a compound leg fracture.

861313bb-ce8a-4762-a14b-7dcdd0cfb5c2Monetary donations may be made at their fundraising page on petcaring.com, at the PayPal link on their homepage or mailed to Mid Hudson Animal Aid at 54 Simmons Lane, Beacon, New York 12508. They are a registered non-profit organization. Their most needed items are wet cat food, dry cat food, towels, litter and cleaning supplies and those can be dropped off at two temporary dropoffs at 18 Slocum Road or 35 Boyce Street in Beacon, NY.

There is also a need for fosters, if you can help please email info@midhudsonanimalaid.org. Please do not call the shelter as they do not have phone service at the moment and have been displaced from the shelter building – you can keep track of their progress (and their needs!) on their Facebook page.

Thank you so much. Anything you can do to help a shelter that has helped so many is greatly appreciated, and I know they will rebuild and come back better than ever before.

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Posted in Cats, Feral Cats, No Kill, Shelter Stuff | Leave a comment

SRAC’s Intro to ACC Video

Shelter Reform Action Committee put out this video a few weeks ago and I don’t think it got nearly the attention it deserved! Here’s a brief introduction to New York City Animal Care & Control…

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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!

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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!

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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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