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
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.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
424 E. 92nd Street between 1st and York Avenue
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.
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 Teamregularly 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450.
Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C)
326 East 110th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, (212) 788-4000, nycacc.org
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.
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 also been instrumental in helping AC&C re-establish its Lost and Foundservices 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.