Saturday, October 1, 2011

DOOMS DAY or MORE GRIST FOR THE MILL?


 DOOMS DAY or MORE GRIST FOR THE MILL?

The “animal shelter” bill was signed into law the other day by Mayor Bloomberg.  

It tragically succeeded in repealing the 2000 law that mandated shelters in every borough – a law that two administrations had continued to ignore,  since shelters were never built in Queens and Bronx.  In exchange it provided $10 million dollars in funding – funding that had been squeezed from Animal Care and Control  over the years so it was essentially putting it back.

A few activists showed up to the bill signing and spoke.  This is the video.  Click here.  

The New York City animal sheltering system has been a mess since before and after the ASPCA gave up the contract in 1994.  It is a complex mix of the problematic control of the Department of Health; the fear of losing the status quo; the relationship with the ASPCA;  and the establishment’s refusal to admit they were wrong for all these years.  Animals continue to die and no matter what has been done – throwing money at it; having 10 people from the ASPCA testify at the bill's hearing; deals made behind closed doors --  it does not make a difference.  

But some cities have been successful in significantly reducing the kill numbers and increasing adoptions – Reno, Nevada, Austin, Texas, Charlottesville, Virginia – and of course Tompkins County in upstate NY – the original.  They all followed the No Kill Equation – a process developed by Nathan Winograd from the No Kill Advocacy Center.  


This is a link to the No Kill Advocacy Center that focuses on Austin and their success.  Click Here.  

No Kill is not about a shelter simply saying they will not kill any animals and letting animal control do it instead.  This is what the establishment critics would have you believe.  It is about so much more than that.  We have had that for years with Bide-a-we,  the Humane Society of NY and the ASPCA in recent years, to name a few.  

We strongly  believe  that the most important thing NYC should do is to invite Nathan Winograd to come to  NYC to do a shelter review and analysis and to make recommendations, which they would be wise to take.  To begin with, we also believe the ACC must come out from under the Department of Health.  Mr. Winograd has been very critical of the NYC system and its players – people who personally do not like him and would lobby against his participation.  

This would be wrong.  We need to do what is best for the animals – not for hurt feelings.  
  
The following is  the No Kill Equation that has worked so well in other cities - components that must  be done in a comprehensive manner 

1.      A feral cat TNR program
2.      High volume low cost or free spay neuter – accessible and well advertised
3.      Working with rescue groups in a non threatening, non punitive manner
4.      Embracing volunteers in a non threatening, non punitive manner
5.      Comprehensive foster program
6.      Comprehensive adoption program that is accessible, well advertised and creative
7.      Pet retention – dealing with behavior, expenses and apartment rental issues
8.      Medical and behavior rehabilitation
9.      Public relations/community involvement – make the community want to support the shelter; the community needs to be embraced  – not just those with money and power as has been done in NYC, while everyone else is ignored.   In other words, listen to animal activists and rescuers.  Embrace the principles of democracy.   Alienating animal activists and the public just because you can does not bode well for a successful  shelter system. 
10.  No enactment of punitive mandatory spay/neuter legislation that  has been shown not to work and results in higher intake and killing.
11.  A compassionate director – not necessary to have shelter experience  - but must be someone who is not content to regurgitate tired clich├ęs or hide behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.”  One who really wants to make a difference and save lives. 

The source of this is the book Redemption by NathanJ. Winograd – about “the myth of pet overpopulation and the no kill revolution in America."   
 
This is a link to the March 31, 2011 blog by Nathan Winograd – Thinking About the Unthinkable. 
Read what Winograd has to say about New York City. 

This is not a third world country.  Yet, the structure of government in NYC makes it seem so.  The establishment and the wealthy are listened to – the people are ignored. 

But we will not give up! 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MANDATORY SPAY/NEUTER -- WHY IT DOES NOT WORK

MANDATORY SPAY/NEUTER - BAD FOR NYC

The NYC "shelter" bill - Intro 655 is a bad bill for many reasons - not least of which is its mandate for spay/neuter.  

In the early 1990s, Mandatory Spay Neuter (MSN) legislation had become very popular.   It was thought that we could legislate away the high rate of shelter killing – it was the perfect quick solution.  We would make those people who refused to neuter their cats and dogs obey the law.  Make them responsible – no more unwanted births. 

Although I supported it and thought it was the correct solution, I remained open minded and began to hear from those who work in the field that it was not having the hoped for results.  The cities that had passed MSN were no closer to being No Kill. 

Communities like San Mateo, CA and Kings County, WA were considered national role models for this type of legislation.  But San Mateo resulted in the first ever increase in shelter cat killings and the King’s County law reduced the number of animals being saved. Los Angeles, which passed this legislation some time later, is far from being a No Kill City.

However, communities  like Reno, NV, Austin, TX, Charlottesville, VA and Tompkins, NY are well on their way to being No Kill and they do not have this kind of punitive legislation on the books.  They used a different formula.   They followed the No Kill Philosophy and the No Kill Equation. 

 
WHY DOES MSN NOT WORK?  Studies show that the primary reasons people do not sterilize their pets is cost and lack of access.  This  results in lower income households, those who are not aware of the law,  and irresponsible people not complying in significant numbers.

In The Dark Side of Mandatory Laws, the No Kill Advocacy Center discusses why  punitive legislation has failed.  
 Now NYC wants to pass a punishing  measure mandating that “free-roaming” cats be spayed and neutered.   Field agents in Animal Control are being increased so there will be more officers to pick up these cats.    This is what it's going to look like:  
  •   Free roaming cats are either feral, homeless, stray, abandoned, a cat who belongs to someone who is  allowed to roam;  a cat  who got out by mistake,  and deli cats who are illegally housed anyway 
  •   There is no way for an Animal Control officer  to determine in what category the cat falls – i.e., stray,   lost, store cat.  
  •   The Animal Control Officer – since this is his/her job – will pick up these cats – all of them, without    discrimination. 
  •  Since these cats will  all come in to Animal Care and Control  as strays, legally, they have 48 hours in the shelter before they will be killed – that is unless they are determined to be  sick or have behavioral  problems, then they can be killed immediately.   Most cats will be terrified in this kind of a situation and will appear to have “behavioral” problems.
  •  No one will claim the ferals; The deli store owner will never claim his cat because he was not supposed to have a cat in the first place; If a cat is allowed to go out at will, their caretaker may not even realize they are gone before it is too late.  Those who are lost stand the best chance, but if they are not micro chipped, their chance significantly lessens    
Punishing legislation does not work and will result in an increase of cats at the all ready over crowded shelters.  More will be killed.  It is a fantasy to believe that because they are rounded up and brought to the shelter, they will be adopted so readily.  

NYC needs to implement life-affirming free or low cost spay neuter programs – make it very accessible and widely advertised.  This is the only way to get the kill numbers down.      

Monday, September 5, 2011

NYC to Cats: DROP DEAD!

The so-called "shelter reform" bill (Intro. 655/2011) that is moving toward a vote in New York City has many serious flaws, none more sinister than the language around outdoor cats. They'll become mere "pests" to be exterminated at the will of the city, which will profit from raking in hefty fines from owners who cannot prove their cat has been sterilized. Worse, those residents who cannot pay the draconian fines will be forced to surrender their cats to New York City Animal Care & Control (NYCACC), an infamous pound where the killing of dogs and cats begins early every morning.

Here is the relevant language in the bill:
"Every owner of a cat who permits such cat to roam outside the interior of the owner's dwelling shall have such cat sterilized. At the request of employees or authorized agents of the department, owners shall provide proof satisfactory to the department that a cat found roaming has been sterilized."
The measure was introduced by Council Member Jessica Lappin, whose staff apparently didn't bother to research the dismal track record associated with mandatory spay-neuter laws in cities that have implemented them. In short, these laws are a recipe for disaster and will ensure that the number of animals being killed in shelters will remain at an all-time high. Instead of reforming shelters, these regressive laws lay blame on the public. How do we know the problems with MSN? By looking at cities that implemented it and appraising the data-based evidence, which shows:
  • Mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) laws with punitive fines don't work!
  • Not a single city that has achieved "No Kill" shelter status has done so with MSN
  • Cities with MSN laws still have sky-high kill rates
  • MSN does not increase spay-neuter compliance rates or reduce shelter intake
  • MSN laws are not cost-effective: impoundment and killing is very expensive
  • MSN does not save lives but instead increases the numbers of homeless animals (remember, nature abhors a vacuum)
  • MSN's negative impact is particularly devastating in lower-income communities
  • More animals inevitably will be surrendered to ACC as a result of the high fines
  • The ACC killing machine will go into overdrive in New York City
  • MSN may have serious unintended consequences that constitute a public health concern: punitive fines may encourage people to avoid veterinary care altogether, including risk of inadequate vaccination (eg, rabies) and inadequate deworming
Need more examples from cities that have implemented MSN? In Los Angeles, killing rates quickly increased by 30% after the city passed its MSN law. In Waco, Texas, the fines from MSN took a sad toll in terms of dramatically increased owner surrenders to shelters, where more animals were killed. San Antonio's shelter has a kill rate in excess of 70%; it kills far more animals than it saves.

In contrast, Austin, Texas (an authoritative voice in the national consensus against MSN) saved 72% of animals who entered its shelter system after the no-kill program began; it has since surpassed the no-kill goal of 90%--for 6 months! NYC should be taking notes! And Reno, Nevada, has made its community "one of the safest in the nation for homeless animals." Reno is right to celebrate its progressive thinking and its no-kill shelter. It achieved "No Kill" status through a multifaceted and collaborative program that invests time and assets at the shelter, unites volunteers, and "creates a safety net for feral cats." The "safety net" language is something to think about, given that Reno is a shining success story and an MSN law will take New York City from archaic to downright medieval.

Importantly, despite having conspired in support of New York City's misguided bill, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) previously has issued a position statement strongly opposing MSN. The release states:
The ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law.
Many national organizations have joined the opposition to MSN. Among them is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which calls it simply "a bad idea" and points out the obvious: punitive fines will increase shelter intake and killing.
Mandatory approaches may contribute to pet owners avoiding licensing, rabies vaccination and veterinary care for their pets, and may have other unintended consequences. (American Veterinary Medical Association, 2009)
Voluntary spay/neuter programs that are part of a comprehensive and progressive program of reform are part of the solution to homeless animals; mandatory spay-neuter programs perpetuate the cycle of impoundment and killing.

New York City should be taking a page from Reno and Austin and reversing its kill numbers, not declaring war on cats increasing kill rates!

So, as written, Intro. 655 will make it "open season" on all outdoor cats, whether they are feral and live in colonies or curious house cats who were allowed into a backyard and jumped the fence to follow a butterfly. Lost cat? You have my sincere condolences.

Please ask your City Council Member (find yours here!) to "VOTE NO" on Intro. 655/2011. This dangerous bill will increase kill rates. It also will codify for the public an attitude of government-sponsored disdain for animals, who in New York City increasingly are characterized as pests to be "exterminated," regardless of whether they are urban wildlife or companion animals. See a cat on your property, or on your building's grounds? Call the city-sponsored cat exterminators!

If you care about cats, this bill should strike fear in your heart. If Intro. 655 passes as written, the cycle of killing in New York City will only gain momentum. Jessica Lappin is a staunch ally of Christine Quinn, who as speaker of the council has blocked every meaningful piece of animal-friendly legislation in its tracks. Unfortunately, then, Intro. 655 is on a fast track to be signed into law. I only hope that when the killing escalates, the numbers will be reported to the public.

TAKE ACTION!
Please come to the Council hearing on the bill, which will be held Friday, September 9th at 10 AM at 250 Broadway -- 16th floor. Testify as to why this bill is bad. You can also write to the Council Members who have sponsored the bill. They may not realize that there are some very dangerous sections in this bill that they should not be supporting.

Friday, September 2, 2011

NEW YORK CITY DECLARES WAR ON CATS

 NYC Declares War on Cats... (in memory of Susie and Blackie)     
Heads up all of you cat lovers, New York City is getting ready  to declare war on cats.     
 “What!” you say.  Impossible – they would never do that.  The City has said they are making wonderful changes to the animal shelter system.  Speaker Christine Quinn said so in her special letter to me."      
Well I hate to disabuse you of this notion, but you are wrong.  Are you willing to sacrifice the lives of these precious beings?  If not, then you must stand up to this sinister bill.     

Speaker Christine Quinn, who has never been a friend to animals,  has said that the new bill,  Intro 655,  will make “key changes” to the animal shelter system.      

Yes, she is definitely right about that -- it will make killing cats so much easier and legal. 

The bill states:  
d.      Every owner of a cat who permits such cat to roam outside the interior of the owner's dwelling shall have such cat sterilized.  At the request of employees or authorized agents of the department, owners shall provide proof satisfactory to the department that a cat found roaming has been sterilized.

Christine Quinn states in a recent letter
“[the bill] require owners to spay or neuter any cats that they own that roam freely outdoors;”

OK - so let's discuss this bill and what it really means:   
There is no way for anyone to tell if a free-roaming cat belongs to someone, is feral, or abandoned and homeless.  Now that Animal Care and Control (ACC)  is building up its Field Services, they will have more of a capacity to pick up all  free roaming cats and bring them to the ACC where they will most likely be killed. If a cat is deemed sick or dangerous, there is no waiting period for killing.  

We are going back to the days of "round 'em up and kill 'em."  

While it would be possible to tell if a male cat is neutered, it is not so easy with a female cat unless there is a good vet on premises.  But it is highly doubtful they will take the time to check this.    And besides, what will they do with the cats who are neutered -- after they pick them up?  Will they put them in another “holding area”  --  and for what -- to notify whom?  No,  this clearly does not make sense. 

People who allow their cats to go out are irresponsible and/or ignorant of the dangers their cat  may  encounter.  They think that nothing can happen to them.  Cats have nine lives.  Other sources for free-roamers are food stores that  house store cats illegally in violation of Department of Health regulations and generally do not neuter them.  It is highly unlikely that any of these cats are micro chipped or wear identification collars to allow them to be returned to their owners.

It is hard to wrap my brain around how those who "own" these cats will be identified and fined from $250 to $500.  IF they are identified, rather than to pay this huge fine, they will likely deny the cat is theirs.   

Beware the Cat Hater:   When cat haters learn of this new law, they will be out in force calling the ACC to pick up these outside cats because of the threat to public health and safety.   

It has happened before …. Too many  times.

In the early 1990s, I was part of a small group of people who was involved with a rescue of homeless cats on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  The Super of one the buildings had two cats whom he loved – Blackie and Susie.  His problem was that he let them out to free roam.  We warned him about a neighbor who was overheard plotting to trap all the cats and bring them to the ASPCA, which had the animal control contract at the time.   I was especially fond of Susie – she was a beautiful Calico Tortie and would always come out to hang out with me when it was my turn to feed the cats.  We had a very special relationship.  One day, Susie and Blackie went  missing.    Tom, the Super,  did not know where they were.  We  went to the ASPCA to complain and sure enough, they had been taken there by his neighbor who claimed they were his cats so they could be killed immediately.  He was taken at his word. By the time we got there and saw the paper work, it was past 48 hours and the erasures on the intake form now indicated they were "strays."    So transparent.  So obvious.  

 Tom was heart broken  and I believe it hastened his death, which occurred shortly after. 

This same scenario will happen all over the city.  It is legalized killing.

Punitive mandatory spay/neuter has been shown not to work.  In communities that passed this kind of legislation back in the mid 1990s when it was very popular, the killing rate did not decrease and the adoption rate did not increase.  Since it is over 15 years, there has been enough time to gather statistics for analysis.  

Instead of a punishing  law, as is being proposed, a much better life-affirming solution would be for the City to offer free spay/neuter services to anyone who wants it.   Get the word out.  Put money into an advertising campaign to encourage people to neuter their cats.   

Don't punish the cats. They did nothing wrong!

That is what is missing from this bill.   Staff is being increased to increase the killing, but no life-affirming programs are  being added.   

There is still a chance to reach out to those council members who have put their names on this bill and to tell them why it is not good.  

Because this new bill also repeals the legislation passed in 2000, which mandated shelters in all the boroughs --  this meant to add shelters in Queens and Bronx -- since there were already shelters in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island -- there is no additional space to take the cats (and dogs), which will help to facilitate and increase the killing.  

 A recent law suit against the city was won with the rescue organization, Stray from the Heart (STFH) as plaintiff.  Its purpose was to force the city to comply with the law and build the shelters.  Instead the city appealed the decision  and a judge found that SFTH had no standing.  This is a rescue that has been seriously impacted by the lack of shelter space, particularly in Queens.  If they were considered not to have standing, it is hard to imagine who might.  Cats and dogs cannot sue.  

Please come to the Council hearing on the bill, which will be held Friday, September 9th at 10 AM at 250 Broadway -- 16th floor.  Testify as to why this bill is bad.  You can also write to the Council Members who have sponsored the bill.  They may not realize that there are some very dangerous sections in this bill that they should not be supporting.  

Dogs have suffered in New York City with threatened breed bans and a prejudice against pit bulls.  Now it is the cats who are being victimized.

Please speak out for the Cats of NYC.   

This looks like little Susie.  RIP sweet girl and you too precious Blackie.  We may not have been able to help you two, but we are sure trying to help the others.  

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