Any time the big boys get together on anything, assume the worst.
– Harris Bloom, Stewie to the Rescue
The ASPCA is pulling out all the stops to get the agreement they helped negotiate with the City Council, Intro. 655, passed into law. They’re emailing supporters, pumping up a web presence, and talking to the press trying to get public support for the law. Unfortunately, a lot of things we’ve been promised are simply not present in the law as it exists (TNR for everyone! Money from the sky! Free ice cream!), and it contains more than a few clauses that are quite worrisome. I encourage everyone to read the ASPCA’s claims about the bill and read the actual text of the proposed bill and see for yourself what is and isn’t there. Here’s my analysis:
The ASPCA says that the bill increases funding so that by July 2014 NYC AC&C’s annual budget will exceed $12 million, taking it from deplorable to merely grossly inadequate.
The bill says absolutely nothing about any budget increase. That’s not actually part of the bill, it’s a backroom deal with the city… and God knows they never go back on their word. Remember those shelters they were supposed to build in the Bronx and Queens? They said those were on the way too. Is this extra funding contingent upon passage of the bill? Upon ASPCA support of the bill? Is there anything that guarantees it, or is it subject to the whims of the next politician in office? We simply don’t know. What we do know is that this bill does not address funding.
On the subject of those shelters in the Bronx and Queens, the ASPCA neglects to mention that this bill repeals the law requiring the city to build two more full-service shelters in the Bronx and Queens, which currently have just receiving centers. That’s right, in the Bronx and Queens animals only flow one way: in. No adoptions in those boroughs (the animals are taken to other locations), no animal services (other than field services) for residents within those boroughs – both of which would be among the top ten largest cities in the US if they were independent of NYC. Having full-service shelters in every borough of NYC that are accessible to every resident is key to driving kill numbers down: you can’t adopt animals out when people can’t get to you. Even after accounting for the promised increase in funding for animal services the city will save a tremendous amount of money by not constructing and staffing the two full-service shelters that this bill relieves them of the obligation to build, once again shortchanging the animals of New York.
The ASPCA says that this bill implements MSN (mandatory spay-neuter) for cats with outdoor access – which is curious, because like every other major animal welfare organization, they provide a detailed policy position against MSN detailing exactly why it does not work. Most of the people who do not S/N their animals don’t do so because they cannot afford it. The city’s plan to fine anyone with an unspayed/neutered outdoor cat at least $250 will simply cause many of those people to turn their animal into the shelter and be done with the issue. It will cost large amounts of money to enforce (even the ASPCA’s own policy position says that “it can be extremely difficult for even a veterinary professional to visually determine if an animal, particularly a female, has been sterilized; it would be virtually impossible for an animal control officer to make those determinations in the field”) and drive up shelter intake, and thus killing. MSN has been tried as a solution most recently in Los Angeles, Memphis and Las Vegas – and in each case intake and killing has gone UP after the law was passed. Save the money on useless, inaccurate, and expensive enforcement and instead enact widespread, low-cost or free S/N. You’ll get better bang for the buck.
The bill also does not well define the owner of an outdoor cat. Am I an owner if a friendly cat comes around and I put some food and water in the parking lot? Am I an owner if a socialized cat swings by my feral colony for a bite? Heck, do I own the cats in the feral colony I take care of? The bill doesn’t say.
The ASPCA says this bill requires a report providing “key data on trends of the progress and quality of care at each full-service animal shelter and receiving center”.
The bill says shelters would be required to keep track of pretty much the things they already do, standard features of their software: intake, outcome, the number killed, the number adopted, the number picked up by ACOs. They do all this already. There is no metric established in the bill for quality of care and no language relating to quality of care.
The ASPCA says the bill implements TNR (trap-neuter-return) rules for feral cats.
The bill says no such thing. It provides for future rules to be established for TNR and for future registration and regulation of individuals doing TNR in New York City. Currently caretakers are welcome to do it without registration. I don’t see how potentially maybe someday regulating it improves anything. The bill does not define any specific TNR regulations nor provide for city support or funding for a program.
The ASPCA says the bill ensures the maintenance of existing full-service shelters.
The bill says that the existing three shelters shall be maintained – as in kept open. The ASPCA would like you to believe that the bill provides for the existing hellholes to be improved upon. It does not.
Finally, the the ASPCA says the bill provides for field services for twenty-four hours a day and at least one location open 24 hours per day to receive animals picked up by field services. Great. I’m sure they would be doing that anyway if their budget hadn’t been cut to the bone, forcing them to make serious cutbacks in field services. We don’t need a law to restore this, we need funding.
This bill saves the city of New York money and provides little improvement in the status quo. It dictates that more services must be provided but does not directly provide for the current and future funding of those services, a potential disaster in the making. It ensures that full-service shelters will not be built in the two boroughs that lack them, shelters that are key to driving down the overall kill rate. Moreover, the provisions related to cats are virtually guaranteed to bring more cats into a system that is already killing them wholesale. It’s a bad bill and a bad deal for the animals of New York City.
I encourage you to contact your member of the city council and ask them to vote against Intro 655. Instead, ask them to support increasing funding for animal services in New York City without backroom deals and strings attached. For REAL reform of the city’s shelters, please read and support Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s PAWS Initiative, a politically viable strategy to sow the seeds of real, permanent, lasting reform in New York.