NYCACC Moving Steadily Backwards

Yesterday I did a rescue transport for Pets Alive from New York City’s Animal Care and Control (hereafter referred to as ACC). These transports are always worthwhile, sometimes thrilling, sometimes upsetting. This was all three.

My first stop was in Manhattan for two cats. Pets Alive had left a message on the rescue hotline the night before, but when I walked in the door at 9:20 no one had listened to the rescue hotline yet, despite opening at 8am. One of the cats we had requested was already spoken for, but Princess was still available. We’re always happy when another group steps up to take an animal – we’ll choose another one and more get saved! All of the other cats on Manhattan’s kill list had rescue commitments, so we made arrangements to pull the only cat who had not had a commitment made for him – I would pick up Sam later at my second stop, in Brooklyn.

Because the rescue hotline hadn’t been checked yet, Princess wasn’t ready. No problem – I’m used to waiting. One of the things Princess needed was her FIV/FeLV test, which was odd. She had been in the shelter for four days and had two physical exams, but this most basic of tests hadn’t been done – it’s a simple test that only takes a few minutes to get the results for. Here’s why that’s important: FeLV (feline leukemia) is a virus that is quite transmissable and can be deadly. Common sense and common shelter practice is to test for it on INTAKE, before the cat is brought near other cats.

Princess had hit the kill list after only three days in the shelter for “major conditions”. Her medical notes note dental tartar and halitosis as well as slight eye gunk. I don’t consider any of those conditions major. She is further noted to have a URI (also not major and utterly routine at ACC) and to be around 8 years old.

I try not to take cats out of their cardboard carriers during transport; if they get spooked they can get away far too easily, so we did not open Princess’ box until we arrived at Pets Alive to discover what appeared to be a perfectly healthy cat. Despite being diagnosed with a URI on 2/27, on 2/29 she was not coughing or sneezing and had no discharge from the eyes or nose or noises while breathing. She is also nowhere near eight years old, the cat manager there ages her at less than a year. She is very friendly and affectionate!

Is this incompetence, or is this a deliberate mislabeling of a medical condition to send a cat to the kill list? To receive a large grant that helps them operate, the ACC had had to guarantee “Zero Healthy Deaths” since 2009. They can’t or won’t do that, so they frequently mislabel animals as having major medical conditions who have none. Is this another attempt at that? Is this even Princess’ medical record? I don’t know.

Getting Princess out took about an hour and a half of waiting. In that time very few people were in the waiting room. When your shelter takes an hour and a half to get one cat ready to go, that’s another problem. Hard to do any kind of volume that way.

After leaving Manhattan I headed for another NYCACC shelter, this one in Brooklyn. I now had four animals to pick up there, a cat and three dogs. This was a bit of a different situation as they only knew about one or two of them, so I knew it would take some time to get them all together. No problem.

The other cat I was picking up here was Sam. Sam had been the only cat on that night’s kill list without a rescue commitment, probably because he had a medical issue – he was not bearing weight on one leg. For this his medical classification was “severe conditions not contagious”. At Brooklyn I was told that they now knew more about his condition; he had a fracture in his front paw.

A shot of Sam's ACC records showing his "fracture". Click to enlarge.

Based on this information, instead of taking Sam back to Pets Alive I took him straight to Pets Alive’s excellent veterinarian, Dr. Furman of Monhagen Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Furman took x-rays of Sam’s leg and did a thorough examination of the leg. The x-rays showed no fracture, but he did find a small puncture wound, likely a cat bite wound, on Sam’s front paw. It was healing well. Sam has no further medical issues and definitely does not have a broken paw; in a few days he should be perfectly fine. He is also an utter sweetheart and was very well behaved for his exam. Again I ask: is this part of a larger agenda to lie about the medical conditions of animals to justify killing them, or is ACC simply completely incompetent?

On to the dogs!

Lincoln is an ADORABLE and very friendly Shih Tzu boy who instantly let me pick him up and carry him around. He’s only been in the shelter three days and there is almost no information in his listing at all. I have no idea why he’s been slated for killing. Let me tell you, New York City is nuts for small dogs and a small seven year old is likely to have many good years ahead of him. This is a dog I could take to an offsite adoption event at a Petco at 10am and have him adopted by lunch, a very sweet dog who should find a home very quickly. If you can’t adopt this dog out in New York, the only conclusion I can come to is that you’re not really trying.

Next up we have Tunechi, another small five year old Shih Tzu. Tunechi is completely blind, and I’m assuming that’s why he landed on the kill list after only two days in the shelter. ACC may consider blindness a medical flaw that justifies an animal’s death, but I and many other animal lovers do not. I have known many blind dogs who have been just fine – they learn their way around the space they live in very well. Dogs don’t mourn what they have lost in the way that humans do, for the most part they simply adapt and carry on about their lives. Tunechi turned out to be happiest when he was in someone’s lap, and he rode up to Pets Alive as a happy, calm, affectionate and very well behaved lap dog. He will be an awesome snuggle buddy for someone.

Finally we come to Robert. Robert is a very, very special dog. You see, Robert came into ACC on 2/26 after reportedly being hit by a car. He has no use of his hind limbs whatsoever due to damage to the spinal cord and lacerations on other areas of his body. Robert had x-rays done and got pain medication, but had nothing else for him done medically.

Before loading Robert into my car, they walked me back to the kennels to meet him. I think they didn’t believe that Pets Alive was committing to an animal injured this severely. I opened his kennel and squatted down to meet him, and it was obvious that Robert was in big trouble. His eyes were glassy and he was drooling; I couldn’t tell if he was dazed by the pain medication or if he was in shock – likely a bit of both. If anything, the haunting look on his face made me sure that we were doing the right thing. He was friendly and had no problem with me handling him or being carried, and we gently brought him out to the car and completed the paperwork.

Janet, Pets Alive’s medical liaison, called me in the car – she’d been looking over his records and wanted to talk to me as I’d now laid eyes on him. I told her I thought he needed a vet ASAP and she immediately made arrangements to bring him straight to Dr. Furman.

Spinal injuries are tricky. You have to address them as soon as you can – the more time elapses the less chance you have of correcting the problem. Dr. Furman’s exam showed that although Robert had no use of his hind legs at all, he DID have pain response, so there was some nerve function and thus some hope of improvement. Robert was immediately transferred to a specialty hospital and within 24 hours had x-rays, an MRI, and went into emergency surgery. Robert has a chance to be able to walk again. It will be some time before if we know if the surgery was a success and his recovery period will be long, but he has a chance.

Dr. Furman’s exam showed one other important thing. Robert was unable to urinate, having lost control of those muscles due to the damage to his spine. His bladder was so full it was in danger of rupturing. It’s likely that he didn’t urinate during his three days at ACC – and no one noticed. Had his bladder ruptured it would have caused extreme complications. It’s that whole competency thing again.

You can find out more about Robert in Kerry’s excellent blog about him. Such a sweet boy. The cost of his treatment and surgery is estimated to be between $8,000 – $10,000 and Pets Alive could certainly use your help to help Robert. There is a donate link on their homepage and you can add a note that it is for Robert’s care.

I’ll be back to transport more. I’m very happy to be a volunteer for an organization that saves animals like this and provides second chances for animals scheduled to die. But the basic level of medical competency at the ACC, which was never particularly good, seems to be dropping rapidly. I don’t know if animals are being misdiagnosed or deliberately mislabeled to justify their deaths and I don’t particularly care. It has to stop.

This entry was posted in Cats, Dogs, New York City, NYCACC, Pets Alive, Shelter Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.
  • JayT

    Great post John. I agree. It’s getting worse and something has to be done. Thank you for taking the time from your day to help get these guys (and gal) to safety.

    PS– the one cat I adopted from NYCACC was listed for URI but wasn’t actually sick either. That was last May:/ Being mislabeled is an all too common occurrence and, either way, a URI is not an appropriate reason for a death sentence.

  • John,

    Who gave them the major grant – with the Zero Healthy Deaths stipulation – and have they been made aware of how the ACC is manipulation things to bypass that requirement?

    It seems like there would (or could) be ample evidence and documentation to provide.

    • jbsibley

      The grant is made by Maddie’s Fund, who is well aware of the games being played and doesn’t seem to care.

  • Send Robert’s bill to NYC ACC, Maddie’s Fund and the Mayor’s Alliance. Ask them to kick in some toward fixing their neglect of this dog. The cash-strapped little people can’t be expected to keep footing the entire bill for this mess.

    • jbsibley

      I’m going back and forth on Robert. Look, I don’t expect a cash-strapped municipal shelter to lay out 10k for specialty evaluation and surgery. But I DO expect them to do something beyond a Dilaudid shot and leaving him in a cage until his time is up. They have resources that are supposedly for cases like his, like the Picasso Veterinary Fund – I’m not sure what kind of volume they actually do and for what types of cases or if they’re just PR. I guess at the very least I expect that when an animal comes in like this where response time is a factor that they reach out for help treating him, even if the stray hold period means that ownership of the animal cannot yet be transferred. Doing nothing shouldn’t be an option.

    • chris raab

      i luv this and so true the nyacc sucks its a death camp !!!

  • Way to go John! Great article too! I was so worried about Robert and without you he may not have had a chance. Also, I found it astonishing they had a cat estimated at 8 years old that was only practically a baby! That place is such a shame for the City of New York. Thanks for jumping to their rescue and getting them where they could be saved. I have always admired the efforts of Pets Alive and think they are an asset to the animals of our State.

    • Daniela

      If you look at Princess’s intake sheet you see the owner said they had owned Princess for 8 years. I am assuming the staff just took their word for it and didn’t try to age the cat, or the paperwork was mixed up with another cat.

      I am wondering if the fiasco with Gloria is making them give all the animals worse ratings to cover their asses. Because training their staff on how to properly evaluate an animal seems to be beyond them.

      • Or maybe they are incompetent in that area too and the owners said they had her 8 months…

  • KC

    Fantastic article! There is so much to say about how amazing these rescues are, and so much gratitude to show you and Pets Alive for all you’ve done on behalf of these animals.

    I would like to share with you with you something we heard from one of our potential adopters last week. She went to Manhattan ACC and asked to adopt a small dog – no dog in particular, she just wanted to adopt a small one. They told her they didn’t have any small dogs and sent her home. We had no words..

    Just a side note: she was applying to adopt a Shih Tzu from us, a Shih Tzu pulled from ACC.

  • jbsibley

    Hah! I’ve been seeing small dogs on the kill lists nearly every day!

    • John I lost your email and number. Can you call me at 917 754-3537.

  • SF

    I truly believe that the ACC is mislabeling animals so that they can euthanize without citing that it’s for space. Our foster cat Pepper was on the euthanasia list for URI. Because our 17 year old is highly susceptible, Pepper spent the next 8 days at the vet before coming to us. And guess what? No URI – not one sniffle, sneeze, no ocular discharge. Totally healthy from the day one.

  • apt

    Wow, thanks so much for what you do. Amazing. I was also worried about Robert- it’s scandalous that he didn’t pee for three days and nobody noticed.

    I agree with you that laying out 10k for his care would have been beyond their abilities, but isn’t part of that cost already paid for at CACC? I mean, they have vets on staff, facilities that are there, vet techs that are there, etc. One sicker animal should be just part of what they do. I know he’ll need a specialist, but the basics are all in place.

    From my limited time in the CACC lobbies (usually dropping off donations I collect for them, or just a few times picking up fosters) I’ve been dismayed at the lack of attention paid to potential adopters. I know they’re understaffed and the job must be horrible, but people walk in and are just ignored. I’m not surprised they’re telling people there are no small dogs…

    Just a few years ago things seemed like they were getting better and better….

    Please let me know if you or Pets Alive need donations of food or supplies.

  • judy vicenzo

    Thank you for such an honest blog and thank you for the love you have for the animals and volunteering to get them out of this shelter. It is truly amazing that there is suppose to be a ” zero healthy deaths” agreement on a healthy animal and yet these stories keep arising to us based on ‘PURE FACT” that if it were not for rescue’s and dedicated volunteers like you these animals would be put down needlessly. Your blog is very important and has educated those who may not have known what is taking place . I will be sharing your blog to everyone I know so they too can pass on this valuable truth. Thank You again for your compassion and love and a special Thanks to Pets Alive for what they are doing.

  • Ann Cefola

    John, thanks for everything you do at Pets Alive, and thanks to Pets Alive. Your blog provided wonderful insight into what rescues are all about. My heart goes out to Robert, how sweet and long suffering he is! Even as a volunteer at Pets Alive Westchester, I really was clueless about rescue.

    I am losing sleep thinking about Amy Paulin’s bill. Today I gave flyers to people walking dogs in Scarsdale. I spoke to my neighbors. Everyone is offended. I think we need to a coordinated effort to communicate to pet lovers because NO ONE knows what’s going on.

  • Stefania

    Hello John, I read your article and it is very sad to read every night about those pets that, to me, seems perfectly healthy, young and adoptable and still are going to be killed.
    I really don’t understand since sometimes you read that there are, actually, very injured pets that could be killed straight away (frome the ACC point of view!!!, not mine) to save room and money. Yet, they treat cats, they spay cats and at the end they decide to kill them.
    Also, I see a LARGE amount of “strays”. I don’t understand how this can happen. If a cat is a stray, he should be left in the street and not killed. But when they label them as “stray”, how can they be sure that the cat wasn’t simply strolling? And so, a person could end up with a missing cat that has been trapped and killed at the ACC.
    Is it true that they get paid to trap? And by whom? And why?
    Is it possible to inform citizen better? To, at least, stop this trapping?
    I live in Italy and we don’t trap stray cat. No one helps them but at least no one traps them in order to be killed.
    Thanks for any explanation.

  • Stefania

    Sorry for the typos, by the way.

  • Anonymous For A Reason

    The Maddie’s Fund requirements lead to a lot of animals’ being labelled “unhealthy/untreatable” and killed because of it. Maddie’s won’t give grants unless only “unadoptable” animals are killed. So shelters classify animals who are being killed for space “unhealthy/untreatable” and then tell Maddie’s that they’re not killing for space and that all “adoptable” animals are adopted or rescued.

    Feral cats, undersocialized animals, bottle-feeder kittens during kitten season when foster homes are full but not in off-season when they have room, animals with treatable medical conditions, animals whose cages are needed for new arrivals…all can be classified as “unhealthy/untreatable” by the shelter, and Maddie’s doesn’t challenge it and hands out the grant checks.

    The irony is that a dog like Robert, sweet as he is, could LEGITIMATELY been classified as unhealthy/untreatable. But for so many animals who are killed for space, behavioral reasons, or minor illnesses, the classification is an absolute lie.

  • Great post John – as usual intelligent, well written personal observations. It’s good to hear first hand from those trying to help on a daily basis in NYC. As a rescue volunteer in the UK for the largest national cat charity (No-Kill of course) I appreciate all the problems of trying to adopters and fosterers but where there’s a will there’s a way. Hoping all the pressure keeps building on ACC and other kill shelters to stop this unnecessary killing. Wishing you and all in the US the very best in your very worthwhile endeavours.

  • chris raab

    i want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving robert from that hell hole !!! i personally have rescued 2 dogs myself from thier and have kept one and the other is at a foreverhome and you are so right the that place is a death camp and i am at a loss of for words for the dogs thier i feel so helpless …….but i had to thank you again for saving robert !!!!

  • Tania

    Can we protest ? I want to do something about this. We can do something to end this

  • Fire Julie Bank of NYC ACC for killing adoptable animals.

    Julie Bank was hired by the city of New York as Director of NYC Animal Care & Control. Since she has taken over the shelter operations, more dogs and cats are being killed then ever before. Between the 5 boroughs of Manhattan on a low average there are about 30 dogs killed nightly, and they are killed 7days a week, Thats at least a 210 dogs a week. Most of the dogs coming into the shelter system in New York are pit bulls. More then 60% of the dogs that come through the doors are adotpable. Julie Banks thinks by euthanizing as many dogs as she can, this is acceptable. Is she trying to save money for the city in hopes to add some figures to her already 6 digit paycheck.
    What really happens at NYCACC
    Saving New York’s shelter dogs one at a time :*((

    • jbsibley

      I’m all for reform of the ACC, but most of the statements you’ve provided here are not true. Fight them with the truth.




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  • Z

    I run an animal rescue in nyc too. Mostly small dogs but occasionally cats and exotics (fish, reptiles and even scorpions right now). I’ve been doing this for almost 5 yrs now. We used to get animals from the ACC when i first started, but their general stupidity was unbearable. Now i rescue out of state and bring in dogs from california and georgia and Virginia and take owner surrenders. i’m sure we could all sit down and write a book about the stupidity of the ACCs. Just 3 days ago at the ASPCA rescue spay/neuter clinic in glendale queens we had 15 doggies getting fixed and during the drop off the ACC transport was there bringing animals for fixing. we witnessed the handler lose control of the min-pin they were bringing in and it ran out the door and escaped. last i saw it was running towards the graveyard up the block. it was unfriendly, so i doubt it was recaptured. ACC=FAIL

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