Now more than ever, you are needed to donate your old blankets, towels, and sheets to your local animal shelter. With financial cut-backs, repairs on shelters are often put off, so if it's drafty, the animals suffer. I know my shelter uses rags to stuff under doors. No kidding! Empty out those closets... this is your chance to get rid of stuff and do something useful!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Is New York City Euthanizing Healthy Animals?

A short time ago I posted about the plight of a now-former worker of Animal Care and Control in New York City named Emily Tanen. Many in the rescue world believe Emily was fired for her essessive enthusiasm where it came to getting dogs adopted.  (Scroll halfway down in the post to read about Emily).

You will also recall that the euthanization rates in the City shelter system have gone down considerably in the past five years, and the adoption rates have gone up. (See the graphs from the Compassion Project's website).

A couple of days ago the New York Post wrote a story about the conditions at the shelters in the City. The article raises the very questions many in the rescue community have been saying for years; that New York City euthanizes perfectly adoptable pets, for things as minor as kennel cough (which is easy to treat), or for overcrowding.

BTW -- highlighted in the article is Emily Tanen, the fired worker I mentioned above.

photo credit: Helayne Seidman
BLOWING THE DOG WHISTLE: Emily Tanen, with her pups Beau (top left) and Cody (bottom left) and adoptable rescue pooch Paprika, charges that Animal Care and Control routinely kills healthy pets.

Now you may be saying, don't shelter deal with overpopulation issues by euthanizing? You would be correct. But New York City is on track to be no-kill by 2015. And with the work of places like The Mayor's Alliance for New York City's Animals, which brings together over 150 rescue groups that move the dogs and cats out, and seeing their results over the past few years, then it boggles the mind why AC&C would fire the very person who was taking the interesting pictures of the dogs (it's a known fact in rescue that a dog with a good pic is adopted while others that are just listed essentially are being given a death sentence), and who was forging relationships with rescue groups.

I read about shelters all over; I post about a good deal of them, I write extensively about the ones that deserve it.  (See here, here, and here for the crappy one's and here for the good example). I normally don't see such frustration with a shelter director as I have seen in New York City. It seems, and many have suggested, that the positive changes that have happened in the last few years have been in spite of the staff at AC&C.

CBS News New York also has an article out this week and they quoted Emily as well.
“These animals are not being walked, sometimes emaciated dogs that should be eating three times a day aren’t being fed three times a day,” said Tanen. “It’s not like a fancy boarding place where they’re being taken care of and hopefully be adopted.”

She says the shelter takes in more dogs and cats than they can adopt out, so the shelter would make up excuses to kill animals."

From the New York Post article, a quote by Julie Bank:
Julie Bank, executive director of ACC, which also runs shelters in Brooklyn and Staten Island, dismissed criticisms about the shelter's euthanasia practices as baseless, noting the organization rescues about 40,000 animals annually.

"Last year, over 17,000 animals got out of our building alive," she said. "So the thought that we are not proactively trying to get the animals adopted is not accurate."

The agency's Web site also notes that the number of euthanized dogs has fallen dramatically in the past five years, dipping from 4,824 killed in 2006 to 2,226 last year.

Many in the rescue community are calling into question Ms. Bank's math. For example, where are the other 20,000 pets she mentions get brought in?

I think this is the result of a few things. I think the City, in hard economic times, cut AC&C's budget. Julie Bank says it was cut by 20%. But, why does she have such a poor reputation in the animal rescue community? Why do her workers routinely turn away rescues? It's a known fact that if you want to adopt a dog, don't bother calling a shelter in the City to put a hold on him. No one will answer your phone call. This is a place that uses public funds and yet it has shown, time and again, how hostile it is to that public. It's a lot of work to work with rescues to get dogs and cats adopted. So if your load is lightened by saying a dog is mean or has a cough, and so then you are legally able to euthanize it, and no one cares to complain... well, it could continue like that for a while, right?

Back to the subject of using public funds to run the system, and then that money being cut.

Did you know that the City shelter system no longer has a lost and found? It is not possible to search shelters to see if your dog is there, having been picked up by animal control. Metrosniff has the goods:
City animal shelters, crippled by deep budget cuts, have stopped taking lost reports. After Dec. 1, staffers will no longer search their three facilities for missing dogs and cats.

That has angered rescuers, who fear pets separated from their owners could end up being adopted or euthanized before they're identified.
Stray dogs and cats are held for 72 hours in city shelters before being put up for adoption, but animals deemed unadoptable or sick can be euthanized.

Rescuers said it will be difficult for owners to repeatedly visit all three shelters to see if their lost dog or cat shows up - a process can take weeks.

"This is going to really affect pet owners and end up with animals dying who did have homes," said Jane Hoffman of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, a coalition of rescue groups.
"This is a basic service that any shelter should be providing to the community."

So, if your unlucky enough to have your dog be lost, and your dog happens to be picked up by a less-than-enthusiastic municiple worker in the City system, and there is no one like an Emily Tanen who cares enough to take a picture of your dog or work tirelessly with area rescues to get your dog out, what do you think is going to happen?

Here is what did happen to one person.  Hat tip to They Call me Concha.
This is a quote from a story from a NY Magazine article that is unfortunately all too common at the AC&C.
"I was away with my family over the weekend," says Adrienne Evans, a financial assistant at BMG Entertainment in New York. "My neighbor was watching our dog for us. She took him for a walk in the park and he slipped his collar." The dog, who had the misfortune to be born a pit bull, was sitting on his own doorstep when the CACC picked him up. Evans came home a day later and immediately began searching. When a neighbor informed her that the CACC had picked up the dog, she called the shelter right away. "I was told they couldn't find him, and that I had to come in and look for myself. The dog was really distinct, brown and white with big blue eyes." His ears and tail were not cropped, indicating that he had never been a fighting dog. The following day, Evans went straight to the Manhattan shelter after work. She went through the wards, calling out the dog's name. "I knew he'd cry out to me," she said. She stopped every kennel worker and described her dog. Yes, someone told her. "He's here. I saw him." Yet no one could find him, or knew where he had been caged. After a painful search, one of the managers brought Evans into a room and sat her down.”

Her dog’s body was still warm.

And this was before they stopped doing lost and found checks.

I think it's time for a new approach, something even beyond the wonderful efforts of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals. I think the City Shelter system needs to be more fully committed to using ingenuity and creativity to get more animals adopted. 

I think they need to hire back Emily Tanen.