Friday, December 21, 2012

Animal Adoption Centers in NYC, Part II

The Humane Society of New York in a 1925 New York Times photograph.
Animal Adoption Centers in NYC, Part II
Click here for Part 1
by Delia von Neuschatz


My tour of Manhattan's animal adoption centers continues below.

The staff at the Humane Society told me that they do everything they can to make the facility feel less like a shelter and more like a home. During my visit, I quickly concluded that they have succeeded in doing just that. Every day, every dog gets exercise on the rooftop run and is also walked outdoors by staff and volunteers. Cats too get to socialize on a daily basis outside their kennels.

But perhaps more than anything else contributing to the homey atmosphere is a truly caring and attentive staff whose members are familiar with and respectful of all the different personalities under the Society's roof (about 200 animals on average at any given time) and who dole out heaps of affection. It's a labor of love for the volunteers and staff members with whom I came into contact. That may hold true most of all for the Society's President, Virginia Chipurnoi, who has refused to draw a salary for some 30 years.

The Humane Society of New York
306 East 59th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues
212-752-4842
humanesocietyny.org
The animals on the façade were painted by Mimi Vang Olsen, a well-known pet portrait artist.
Established in 1904, the Society not only has cats and dogs, but exotic animals as well including birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and even snakes. And all those animals, the exotics included, are cared for at the Society's full-service hospital which is low-cost to boot. And it's low cost for everyone. You don't have to be low-income to take advantage of its services. Sandra DeFeo, the Society's Executive Director, likes to say that the hospital provides "quality care at 1890's prices."
Anne-Marie Karash, Associate Director of the Humane Society of New York, with Jasmine. This French bulldog terrier (a popular and expensive breed of dog) was brought in by the NYPD after policemen witnessed her being kicked in the head. Due to some problems with her ears, Jasmine is not yet ready for adoption. She is slowly but surely on the mend, however, as a result of the medical care she is receiving at the Humane Society. Despite the abuse she was subjected to, Jasmine is not timid and does not cower away from people.
Anne-Marie and Frannie. Anne-Marie is a former stand-up comic who realized that her true calling was working with animals when she helped the Humane Society coordinate foster homes after 9/11.
Bill Berloni and Elvis, a ten-week old Boston terrier. Bill Berloni is the Society's Director of Animal Behavior and Training and has the singular distinction among animal behaviorists of having won a Tony in 2011 for Excellence in Theater. While Bill doesn't act, sing or dance (at least not professionally), he has trained every animal that has appeared on Broadway for the last 35 years. That's some 25 shows at last count including A Christmas Story, The Wizard of Oz, Legally Blonde and Camelot. All the animals that Bill has put on stage have been rescued – even the rats in The Woman in White. It all started with Sandy, the lovable mutt in the original 1977 Broadway production of Annie. Bill adopted him from a shelter and Sandy went on to star in the hit show for a record-breaking seven years. Not surprisingly, Bill has provided every Broadway production of Annie with its Sandy ever since. At the end of a show's run, many of the animals end up on Bill's bucolic 90-acre Connecticut farm which is currently home to 25 dogs, four horses, two llamas, four chickens and one macaw. Anyone who adopts an animal from the Humane Society of New York can call Bill for the duration of the pet's life with any behavioral questions … for free. Free advice from a leading expert for the rest of the pet's life - now that's a pretty good deal.
Lowell Santiago, Animal Care Giver, and Winston. Winston only has one eye but what truly makes him unique is that he is the first cat in New York to receive a hip replacement. The surgery was performed with great success at Long Island Veterinary Specialists, a specialized veterinary hospital. Winston walks and jumps with ease, unimpeded by the loss of an eye or the replacement of a hip.
Francie, a purebred poodle, with her two puppies. The Humane Society shelters animals of all ages from a few weeks old to 15+ years.
Gareth, a feisty, snaggle-toothed Yorkshire terrier mix. Gareth was adopted a few days after my visit to the Humane Society. His kennel was quickly occupied by a new arrival.
Lowell and Agnes. The beagle was found on the corner of Third Avenue and 70th Street. Despite the fact that Agnes is 14 years old and partially blind, she follows Lowell around like … well … a puppy, for she is truly devoted to him.
Becca Meyers, Social Media Director, with Edgar.
Shari Tischler, a volunteer, with Ashley.
These ornate cat trees were donated to the Humane Society. Gifts of blankets, beds and toys are always appreciated. It goes without saying that financial donations are very important too. And anyone considering writing a check should know that 97.25% of every dollar gifted to the Humane Society of New York goes directly to the animals.
Coco, a cockatoo, back on his perch post-surgery. The Humane Society recently added a veterinarian who's a board-certified avian specialist to their medical team. Coco is very social and members of staff bring him around on their rounds.
Guinea pigs …
… and rabbits are also available for adoption at the Humane Society.
Robert Carr and Florence. This was Florence's last day at the Humane Society for Robert had just completed the adoption process and was taking her home. The cocker spaniel had been rescued from a hoarding situation. Florence and her proud papa left with a bag weighed down with free goodies including several days' worth of food and bleached bones (deemed safer than the rawhide variety by the Society).
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
424 E. 92nd Street between 1st and York Avenue
212-876-7700
www.aspca.org
The ASPCA has several initiatives desgined to prevent cruelty to animals.  A new one is aimed at putting pet shops – both the brick-and-mortar and online varieties - out of business due to the fact that the dogs sold in them come from cruel puppy mills and backyard breeders.  NoPet StorePuppies.com offers the unvarnished truth about these operations and provides alternatives. 
In my old age, I'd like to move into one of the ASPCA's "pet condos." There, I would enjoy a comfortable bed in my own space. I'd have the pleasure of walking on heated terrazzo floors and eating whatever my dietary needs prescribed. I would also enjoy classical music which has been formulated by a composer so as to be especially soothing and I would fill my lungs with nice clean air thanks to fresh air being pumped into the shelter 10 -12 times every hour.

Plus, I'd have the comfort of knowing that a state-of-the-art hospital, the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, is only a few floors away. In other words, my every need and desire would be catered to. Heck, I'd like to move in there right now!

Founded in 1866 by Henry Bergh, The ASPCA was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world. Not only does the ASPCA provide shelter for hundreds of animals each year (it pulled about 1,500 cats and dogs out of Animal Care & Control in 2011 alone), but true to its legacy, it continues to be at the forefront in the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Philanthropist Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA, also went on to establish the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In addition, he was instrumental in passing anti-cruelty laws in New York. These laws and his humane societies served as templates for the creation of similar statutes and organizations throughout the United States. Henry Bergh's achievements are all the more remarkable considering that he never had any children nor any pets. The ASPCA's seal depicts an avenging angel hovering over an abused carriage horse. In the 19th century, carriage horses were an instrumental part of NYC's daily life. Unfortunately, this did not prevent their frequent mistreatment. They were often beaten and deprived of food, water and shelter. Henry Bergh initially formed the ASPCA to stop this abuse.
Considering its origins of preventing equine cruelty, it is fitting (and unfortunate) that today, the ASPCA is still very active in this endeavor. As Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA's NYC Adoption Center informed me, the horses that give carriage rides in Central Park have a rough time of it. Not only are they routinely maimed and even killed in traffic accidents in the congested midtown streets, but their housing conditions leave a lot to be desired. They are stabled on the outskirts of the city underneath highways where there's no reprieve from pollution and no heating or air conditioning. To monitor the treatment of carriage horses, the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Team regularly makes the rounds of Central Park, issuing citations for infractions and investigating allegations of abuse and neglect.

A far better solution for the mistreatment of carriage horses would be the elimination of horse-drawn carriages altogether. For this reason, the ASPCA has teamed up with NYCLASS, an organization "dedicated to improving New York City's quality of life" in proposing the replacement of these carriages with electric Model T replicas.
A model of an electric replica of a vintage car proposed by NYCLASS as an alternative to horse-drawn carriages.
The ASPCA's Law Enforcement Team doesn't just patrol Central Park, however. It actually has the authority, along with the NYPD, to enforce animal cruelty laws throughout New York City. Its agents are out in the five boroughs every day responding to emergency calls. They investigate 400 – 500 cruelty complaints each month. It's important to report cruelty, which includes anything from neglect to intentional abuse, because this establishes a record, facilitating the arrest the perpetrators. To report animal cruelty, email the ASPCA at humanel@aspca.org or call (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450.
Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA's New York Adoption Center, with Cheerio. Cheerio was found running in the dark streets of lower Manhattan during the Hurricane Sandy blackout. In the wake of the hurricane, the ASPCA set up a 20,000 square-foot emergency boarding center in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn for displaced pets. The animals are permitted to stay until their owners can reclaim them. The boarding, which includes veterinary care, is free of charge for 30 days. As of this writing, there are approximately 200 pets housed there.
Cheerio loves to curl up with his teddy bear.
Adi Hovav, a feline behavior counselor, spending time with Jack Black.  All the animals at the ASPCA receive behavioral assessments.  The goal here, as with every adoption center, is to make a lifelong match between an animal and its owner.  The ASPCA has even devised a matchmaking survey to aid in this endeavor.  As Gail Buchwald describes it, it’s “Match.com meets Petfinder.com.”  And the ASPCA is there to offer support throughout the life of the animal.  They even offer grief counseling through a bereavement hotline for people who are forced to surrender a pet or who have lost a pet.
Two behavior specialists at work.
Cashew (bottom) is appropriately named because he is tiny.  He is in fact, a fully grown dwarf.  Just as there are human dwarves, there are animal dwarves as well.  
Johnny was seized from an adverse situation.  Sometimes there’s a stigma associated with animals that have been rescued from harmful circumstances, but Gail made it very clear that there is no correlation between abuse and behavior; that in most instances, the animals are very gentle, adaptable and trainable.  If anything, there’s a timidity and fear which, with loving care, usually subsides over time. 
Every dog has his own coat and leash hanging outside his or her roomy “condo.”
These little guys were very rambunctious, but despite their excitement, one thing you’ll notice while visiting the animals at the ASPCA, is that it is very quiet.  They are calm and content.  The classical music that is piped through no doubt helps.
Due to the importance of keeping walks to a strict schedule, the dogs are walked by ASPCA staff members, not volunteers. 
Mallory Kerley, the Media Coordinator, with Jaguar.
Isadora Martinez and Ildiko Hruza in the ASPCA’s kitchen preparing dinner that should be the cat’s meow.  The center’s cats and dogs are fed whatever is required, specially prescribed foods and all – anything to keep the animals happy and healthy.
A volunteer tending to some kitties.
Dr. Julie Horton, the Medical Director at the ASPCA’s Adoption Center, with Jaguar.
Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C)
326 East 110th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, (212) 788-4000, nycacc.org
AC&C has three adoption centers in New York:  Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.  It also has receiving centers in the Bronx and Queens.  Only cats, dogs and rabbits are available for adoption from AC&C.  Cats and dogs are available at all of its three adoption centers.  Rabbits are available for adoption only at the Manhattan location.
Animal Care and Control of NYC is the largest animal shelter in the northeast, rescuing nearly 34,000 animals each year.  It has a contract with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to rescue, care for and find homes for homeless and abandoned animals in the city.  AC&C is an open admissions shelter which means that it is required by law to take in every animal that is brought to the shelter, no matter its medical or behavioral condition.  Even if its facilities are at full capacity, AC&C still cannot close its doors to new arrivals.  One consequence of this is that just about every kind of animal passes through AC&C’s doors.  There are dogs and cats as you’d expect and there’s everything else from farm animals to reptiles to tarantulas. 
Richard Gentles, AC&C’s Director of Development and Communications, and Nemo.  Richard stressed how there are many ways to support AC&C and help improve the lives of its animals.  You can make a financial donation through one of four different funds.  You can volunteer your time or select to foster a pet until its “forever home” is found.  You can also donate in kind.  AC&C can use and appreciates receiving all sorts of supplies ranging from office equipment to blankets, pet beds, aquarium tanks and bird cages.  For more information on how to help, go to:  http://www.nycacc.org/GetInvolved.htm
On the plus side, if you’re looking to adopt a particular breed of cat or dog, AC&C will have that breed sooner or later, if it doesn’t already do so.  On the minus side, as a necessity, some animals have to be euthanized due to overcrowding.  There is some good news on this front, however.  The euthanasia rate has decreased dramatically over the last 8 years – 65%.  This means that while in 2004, approximately 24,000 animals were euthanized, that number went down to about 8,000 in 2011. 

This decrease can largely be attributed to its New Hope initiative whereby AC&C partners with cat, dog, rabbit and exotic animal rescue organizations in placing animals, many of which require specialized medical care or behavioral training.  A key component of the New Hope program is the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals
The Mayor’s Alliance has a fleet of five vans which transports animals who are at risk for being euthanized at AC&C to rescue groups and no-kill shelters with the resources to find them new homes.  Animals are at risk of being euthanized 365 days of the year, so this program – Wheels of Hope - is up and rolling 7 days a week, 365 days a year!  Since the program’s inception in 2005, its vans have transported more than 60,000 animals to a new life and family.  In 2011 alone, more than 14,000 pets were ferried via these “sanctuaries on wheels” to foster caretakers, rescue organizations and no-kill shelters that placed them in permanent homes.  The oldest van has now logged more than 400,000 miles saving animals’ lives and needs to be replaced.
Rodney Mason and Tony.  During my visit, Richard Gentles stressed the importance of doing your homework before adopting an animal.  When it comes to dogs, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different breeds so as to discover what would be a good match for you.  Also, the whole family should meet the animal prior to adoption.  Pet ownership is a lifetime commitment.  If you or your family are unsure about adopting an animal, fostering one is a great way to figure out if pet ownership is for you.  Richard should know.  The menagerie at his New Jersey home includes a horse, a dog, a bearded dragon and a parakeet. 
Hercules.  It’s nothing but the best for the bunnies at AC&C.  They get to munch on really good quality hay which is specially imported from the Midwest.  Rabbits make good house pets not least of all because most are litter-box trained and if they’re not, they learn quickly.
Nicole Barnette and Squirrel.
The Mayor’s Alliance has also been instrumental in helping AC&C re-establish its Lost and Found services through which it takes in lost pets and holds them for 72 hours.  If, after that time, the animal is unclaimed, it is released to the shelter and evaluated for placement.  In addition, AC&C has several programs in place to help low-income families care for and keep their pets.  Now, if only there could be an AC&C shelter or “Care Center” in the Bronx, the only borough without an animal adoption center, rather than just a “Receiving Center,” the rate of euthanasia would likely decrease even further.