NYCACC: Lies and Statistics

“There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Today I’m going to demonstrate to you how New York City Animal Care and Control (variously referred to as NYCACC, AC&C, ACC or “the pound”) spins lies into gold – and why.

There is a group in NYC called the Mayor’s Alliance which was formed to pursue a grant to transform New York into a No Kill community. Despite their name they are not part of city government and have nothing to do with the Mayor. In 2005 they got that grant which continues today from an philanthropic organization called Maddie’s Fund, a foundation that provides grants to communities seeking to be No Kill. The original target to make New York City a No Kill community was 2008, that goal has since been extended to 2015.

The Mayor’s Alliance consists of NYCACC and 111 No Kill rescue organizations in the NYC area. These organizations get money from this Maddie’s Fund grant, administered by the Mayor’s Alliance to incentivize activities such as adoption. NYCACC also receives other support such as funding for certain staff positions (among other things) and the Mayor’s Alliance promotes rescue and adoption overall and hosts events in New York City. All very well and good!

There are certain performance targets that all participating organizations are required to hit to keep this grant. This is no small potatoes; in total the Mayor’s Alliance had $4,990,000 to spend in 2011, with a little over $3,000,000 of that coming from Maddie’s Fund – the remaining funding comes from various sources including the ASPCA.

I encourage you to dig into some data if you’re interested – the yearly grant application is a fascinating if dense document and is extremely educational. Today we’re going to examine just one condition of the grant, one important enough to show up as a reminder on the very first page of the document that refers to Year 7 of the grant, from 2011.

A Screenshot From Page 1, Year 7 Grant Application

This is referred to as the “Zero Healthy Deaths” provision and it became a condition of the grant in 2009: starting in 2009, all partner orgs including ACC were required to save every healthy animal in their care. For the already No Kill partners – well, no problem. That’s what they do anyway. For the ACC, mired in a kill mentality, this presented a problem – it was a target that they didn’t think they could hit. Fortunately, they hit upon a quick and easy solution: lie about the health conditions of the animals in their care and classify healthy animals as sick. That way they could kill them and still get their grant.

This has been an open secret in New York since… well, since 2009. Let me show you how it works.

I’m going to use as an example the cat kill list sent out by NYCACC to their New Hope partners on a single day – Jan 16, 2012. That link is the complete cat kill list for that day (certain details, like contact information, have been redacted or removed) and if you’ve never seen an original I encourage you to go check it out and familiarize yourself with the format. No need to be squeamish about this one – fortunately, every single cat on this list was pulled and saved by rescues, including Gloria. I transported six of the cats on this list to rescue and thus am very familiar with them. This isn’t a particularly large kill list for the ACC, only 12 cats. Of the 12 cats, 3 of them are categorized as having major health conditions when they have none. 3 more are categorized as having major health conditions when they have extremely minor health conditions, possibly none. In short, half of this list has faked medical conditions on it to justify killing these animals. Let’s take a look at the descriptions of those cats.

Lancaster - Click to Enlarge

Lancaster’s been saddled with a “3C” medical rating – major medical conditions. On his intake exam on 1/4 he was rated “2NC”, which means minor medical conditions not contagious. No fleas, no ear mites. The notation “nosf” (sometimes “nsf”) means “no significant findings”. On 1/15 he was re-evaluated and upgraded to his 3C rating, but his notes say he’s healthy. QAR means “Quiet, Alert, Responsive” and eupenic means “breathing freely and normally”. His final exam makes no note of illness at all. Nonetheless, he’s classified as major medical conditions and sent to the kill list.

Penny - Click to Enlarge

Penny is classified as “3NC” – major medical conditions, not contagious. Her initial exam on 1/13 shows a healthy cat. Two days later, on 1/15, she gets her final exam. No change. The notation “BAR” means “bright, alert, responsive” and the note “not ausculted” means that they didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t use a stethoscope to listen to internal sounds. All indications are that this is a healthy cat.

Darla - Click to Enlarge

Darla is classified as “3C”, major medical conditions, and had an initial exam on 1/5. Healthy cat. No significant findings. On 1/15 that hadn’t changed. Still healthy, all notes positive. Sent to the kill list.

Nestles - Click to Enlarge

Nestles is classified as “3C”, major medical conditions. Her initial exam on 12/29 showed no significant findings, her final exam on 1/15 showed nothing but “slightly congested”. Now, ACC definitely has a disease problem – upper respiratory infections and worse run wild in the shelter, and you’ll see that many of the cats on the kill list are put on medications for it – but not Nestles, because it’s not necessarily a URI. Just slightly congested. Interestingly, Nestles is simultaneously noted to be eupneic – breathing freely and normally. Nonetheless, that’s classified as a major medical condition and Nestles is off to the kill list.

Mary - Click to Enlarge

Mary is very similar to Nestles. Classified as “3C”, she’s off to the kill list for slight congestion – although she’s also simultaneously noted to be eupneic, breathing freely and normally.

Sammy - Click to Enlarge

Sammy is a four month old kitten. His initial exam on 1/13 indicates some eye issues, but his follow up indicates nothing but dried up eye discharge. He is classified “3C”, major health conditions, and sent to the kill list.

On this one single day there were 12 cats on the kill list. 3 of them have health conditions that are outright fabrications; 3 of them have health conditions that are greatly exaggerated. The other 6 have URI’s given to them at the shelter. The grant had the very odd and completely unintended side effect of further encouraging ACC to do nothing about the unchecked spread of disease in the shelter, because killing a sick animal is still okay.

So the ACC needs to hit certain performance targets to keep the money flowing, and they lie about it. There it is in black and white. Their other rescue partners – the 111 rescue groups that make up the coalition – are also having a funding source endangered by the ACCs reckless, irresponsible and unethical actions, and even worse it calls into question the accuracy of every statistic the ACC publishes. They’re not making any effort to hide this; it’s blatant. What other data are they faking? This calls every single statistic they publish into question.

Why are their partners in the Mayor’s Alliance not pressuring them to clean up their act? Why is the Mayor’s Alliance, the administrator of the grant, not cracking down to get them to straighten up – their blatant lies are endangering the entire partnership and a tremendous source of income and for almost the entire NYC rescue community. Maddie’s is stuck in the middle – their grant has undeniably made a tremendous difference in the lives of NYC’s animals (if not the basic operations and attitude of NYCACC) and they obviously would like to continue their work here, but their partners aren’t being truthful with them.

You cannot build a functioning shelter on a foundation of lies. Richard Avanzino, the President of Maddie’s Fund, has a lot to say on the subject of transparency. In a widely read (and excellent) editorial, he wrote:

“In my opinion, real transparency means no fudging allowed… If there is a problem, the best way to address it is to talk about it.”

Mr. Avanzino, as a citizen of New York City I cannot thank you enough for all the good your organization has done here, but far more progress would be possible if your grantees were embracing your philosophy, and truth and openness and accountability were the talk of the rescue community rather than deception. Let’s talk about it. Let’s fix this.

This entry was posted in Cats, Dogs, New York City, No Kill, NYCACC, Shelter Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Lisa

    Thank you for explaining this simply. It is inhumane what these people are doing to healthy, adoptable, precious animals, all to line their own pockets. SHAME on them. SHAME.

    • jbsibley

      There is a lot of misinformation about the practice in the NYC rescue community, I wanted to outline it clearly with a clear example. Thanks!

  • Georgette

    Thank you for this John. The NYCACC also lies about Temperament Testing. They take a terrified, hungry or even beaten dog & “test” her by pulling away her food bowl or bringing another same-sex dog around. If she growls, onto the daily Destroy List she goes. Quite a shell game they have going there.

    • jbsibley

      Absolutely, and having pulled many dogs and cats from ACC I can tell you that their temperament ratings are absolutely worthless and at times seem to be assigned completely at random – and it’s unbelievably easy to manipulate that test if that’s your goal. Unfortunately, that’s a much harder one to document (but if anyone has video… email me).

    • Jeanne

      You are right .they never take into consideration of the animals circumstances of whatever happened in their life before arrivel, or because of their arrivel examples are a dog who was abused before intake, then being put in the NYCACC enviroment.
      Another example is a dog who never been in a shelter and doesn’t know what has just happened to him/her.
      I have a NYCACC dog she didn’t get a good eval for dog2dog . I fostered her anyway and she didn’t have a dog2dog problem she was just scared and reacted at the time. FYI I have adopted her sense and she is healthy and happy and just the sweetest dog. I am glad I choose to ignore their assessment of her.

  • Well, we know why the no-kill rescue partners don’t publicly admonish NYACC: they would be kicked out of th Alliance, denied funding, and denied access to any animals needing rescued! They are being held hostage!

    • jbsibley

      They don’t have to go public; they can request a meeting with the Alliance and keep it in-house.

  • Permission to cross post to my email list of 11,000 concerned NYC animal lovers and animal rescuers. Julie Bank, Executive Director of ACC must go. Julie Bank’s tenure in New York City has been marked by neglect, abuse, needless killing, and vindictive retribution to those call it into question and want it to end. She has singled out for retribution the animal lovers in order to protect the animal abusers. We must begin a fierce and unequivocal condemnation of her tenure because of it, New York City is in chaos. And animals are suffering greatly. Only truly committed, out of the box thinking in NYCACC leadership can turn this city kill system around. John, please call me about Julie Bank’s contract which comes up in March. It is not to late to begin a true grass roots campaign to replace Julie Bank with real leadership. Julie Bank must go! 917 754-3537.

    • jbsibley

      You can always post anything from this blog anywhere you want!

      Sadly, I believe that Julie Bank is doing exactly the job she was hired to do and until the people doing the hiring are serious about progress, there won’t be much. But I’ll call you anyway. 🙂

  • Deb Sanford

    So how do we stop it? I see the Urgent list every single night on my facebook wall. I see the albums of the ones that didn’t get saved. It should be up the the Maddie’s fund to step in and review the number of animals killed, their medical records, and photo’s. Speaking about transparency does nothing when you don’t make sure those who should be transparent are doing it.

  • nancy simet

    can’t reps from maddies fund take some of the “sick animals to private vets to verify the level of illness or health of these animals? undercover ofcourse.

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  • Lauren

    Is there a petition that I can sign to help? And where can I volunteer at a legit no kill shelter?

    • jbsibley

      You can find many petitions on-line, I’m sure, but I don’t think they’ll be too helpful.

      Where exactly do you live? I can try to point you in the right direction.

  • j

    If maddie’s fund is designed to end the killing, and this information about thr nyacc, is clearly available, why don’t maddie’s fund cut these shelters off? If they’re really not working towards becoming no-kill Shouldn’t it be that simple? Am i dense?

  • I’m so tired of hearing about these criminal activities which cause many animals their lives. These jerks should not be working in Shelters; they have no compassion or love for the animals depending of them. I believe that if quality control was set up at all shelters, they would be unable to continue pulling this BS and getting away with it. It sickens me to hear about this each day without any results or consequences resulting! These jerks need to be removed now!!!!

  • Karla Bodaness

    Simply put, isn’t this practice fraud and criminally punishable?

    • jbsibley

      Nope. Might be breach of contract, but that’s civil.

      • how is it not fraud with the amount of $$$ that the ACC has stolen from Maddies Fund? i’m honestly curious?

        • Because if both sides know it’s happening and neither side has a problem with it… it’s not fraud, it’s business as usual. Contractual violations are only actionable if the party being wronged objects to being wronged.

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  • Pia

    I met Lancaster today, if there was a poster cat for “perfect”, it’d be him: tranquil, full of purrs, affectionate, allows himself to be petted and picked up and fussed over, playful and energetic, just unbelievable. If we had room, I wouldn’t have left Pets Alive without him. He’s an absolute joy and I’m sure he’s not going to spend a long time at PA, someone will snap him up before I can move to a bigger place, I’m SURE.

    I’m sickened that he was slated to be put down. And not fake, ACC sick.

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  • Lucas Brown

    I live in Barcelona, but am from London, UK, and the plight of animals at the NYC ACC reached my attention through friends in the USA. I cannot physically help rescue any of the poor things, but I am doing what I can from here. I have just mailed everyone on this page to try and make any difference I can. The e-mail I wrote is:

    I am writing from overseas to plead with you to make changes to the policy that the NYC ACC currently have regarding euthanasia at its shelters and use your position of power for extreme good.
    As an animal lover I can think of few things worse than reading stories of cats and dogs of all ages being put down without reason and felt that I ahd to write to ask what can be done to change the way things are done.
    New York as a city and the United States of America as a country are held in high esteem as the leaders in what is possible and about looking to the future with ambition and pride.
    But on this occasion what I am hearing is that our animal friends who have fallen on hard times and only want love, affection and a home are being executed in a place where they should feel safe and cared for.
    It is devastating to see the lists at places like ‘Pets On Death Row’ and such appeals for people to save these stunning animals without more time being allowed befoer they are killed.
    I know that I am not alone in voicing the opinion that we should show our humanity by caring wholeheartedly for the beings that we share this world with rather than just destroying them because we cannot be bothered to find another way.
    So many shelters across North America and Europe now have no kill policies that there is no reason to continue it in such a grand city like New York where so many people care so deeply.
    Please, I beg, use your position and your influence to do something that will have such a profound effects on so many of our furry friends and not just see them as statistics.
    I would like to thank you for your time in advance and look forward to hearing some encouraging news.

    Let me know what more I can do please.

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  • Euthanasia is a reality until we all neuter

    Are you willing to have large feral cat colonies and random residents poisoning pets? Or pay lots of money for no-kill shelters? There is no free lunch, you know.

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  • Samantha Sullivan

    I have a kitten from the Brookline ACC. He was on the kill list for being 3c and, get this, ORANGE. He was 2 pounds. How does anyone say a 2 pound kitten is rated Orange when Red is like a Rabid Hyena out to kill. They also said he was 3c. He had had an injury to his eye (most likely a cat claw.) Thank God some lady who was there to rescue a Pit took him & his litter. She found homes for everyone except him. He was given to a local rescue (im in MA), who took him to an eye specialist and just gave him TLC. He is one of the most genuinely sweet animals I have ever met and hes just a spoiled angel.
    I didn’t realize the extent of ACCs BullSh*t until I tried to contact them….yeah right, think theyd have a phone number you can reach from outside the city? No, they live in 1898. Its disgusting.
    An 8 wk old kitten. Rated Orange. If people were aware of what was going on then the funds spent on my one kitten could have been divided up and used to save a dozen. Instead we all are forced to focus so hard and spend so many resources on just one or two. They are funded through grants (very well) to prevent euthanasia of healthy animals and if they need more money, redistribute some funds. Ill bet a million people would pledge $10 a year like its nothing. That’s only one in 8 residents in the city, so everyone please shut up with the “theyre saving money” argument. its just enabling this behavior.