Best Friends Blog

The Big (Road) Apple

New York City local ABC-TV’s Eye Witness News did a follow up report to their recent exposé of shelter operations and conditions at the New York Animal Care and Control.

The follow up brought to public attention what rescuers know all to well – that healthy and adoptable animals are dying in Animal Care and Control of NYC shelters everyday. Most importantly the report went to the source of most of the city’s animal shelter problems, the New York City Department of Health, which oversees shelter operations and recently cut the AC&C budget by $1.5 million.

New York City allocates one of the lowest per capita rates in the nation for it’s animal control responsibilities; a paltry amount in the range of .85 cents per resident. National humane recommendations suggest $4 – $7 per capita in order to provide appropriate services.

WABC’s coverage is only the latest in series of reports, exposés and internal audits going back to 1998 that have found the NYAC&C lacking in every regard—however, the board of directors, configured as it is to serve the Mayor’s office rather than the animals, continues to stonewall calls for change. Elizabeth Hess’ 1998 article in New York Magazine, “Shelter Skelter,” tore the lid off the mess at what was then CACC and focused public attention on both shelter conditions and the lack of any direction or leadership.

The tragedy of 9/11 set a lot of things back in New York City, one of which was an obligation to provide full service shelters in all boroughs mandated by a law passed in 2000. The city has refused to comply and is appealing a successful lawsuit brought by a local rescue organization that found the city had failed to meet its obligations. Currently, Bronx and Queens, two of the city’s most heavily populated boroughs have only part time drop-off facilities. Residents have to go to Manhattan or Brooklyn to reclaim lost pets or to adopt.

Essentially holding animals for ransom, the city extracts every ounce of blood and sweat from the rescue community to do the job that the public expects the city to cover. The Mayor’s Alliance For New York City Animals rescues 20,000 of the 28,000 animals that make it out of AC&C alive annually. Approximately 41,000 animals enter the system each year. The Alliance also provides 55,000 spay /neuter procedures annually to city’s most needy animal owners.

It’s sobering to try to imagine how bad the conditions inside AC&C shelters would be if the Mayor’s Alliance and other rescue operations were not bending double to make up for the City’s callous disregard of it’s responsibilities to the animals of New York City.

AC&C has had eight Executive Directors in as many years and as long as AC&C Board members are chosen essentially for their loyalty to the mayor rather than for their commitment to New York City animals, the problems within the New York City shelter system are not likely to improve. Major change is needed. It is obvious that AC&CNYC needs an independent board of directors and to be freed from control by the Department of Health. The city needs to recognize its responsibilities to the city’s animals, pay a realistic fee to AC&C for its animal control contract and provide full service shelters in the Bronx and Queens.

We believe it is the right thing to do, and we are hopeful that Mayor Bloomberg will undo this inequity institutionalized by his predecessor.

In the meantime, the very least NYC can do to is restore the $1.5 million to AC&C’s operating budget and commit to budget increases in coming years that will bring New York City’s commitment to its animals in line with other U.S. cities.

Please visit the following site and respectfully ask that the AC&C budget be restored to its previous level and increased in the future. You can cut and paste the sample letter below.


I fully appreciate the financial hardships that face New York City, however, it is not in keeping with the character, ethics and values of a city of such greatness to transfer that burden to the homeless pets of New York in the form of budget cuts to AC&C. The conditions and standards within the New York City shelter system are distressingly poor.

Please restore the AC&C budget to its previous level and commit to budget increases in subsequent years until New York’s commitment to its animals is in line with other American cities.

It’s the right thing to do.


Watch our blog for more updates on New York City, the AC&C and what you can do to help achieve No More Homeless Pets in New York.

Francis Battista

Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Susycav

    I’m grateful for your post of this – as a pit bull rescuer in NYC (and a volunteer at the Manhattan ACC) I can tell you the situation is deplorable. Sadly, I would also say the leadership at the ACC is part of the problem – over 100 volunteers were removed so they could be retrained – seven months later and there are literally only 9 new volunteers at the shelter – all of which I have never seen.

    There is a small group of volunteers who do their best to ensure the dogs are walked at least once a day – and yet we are treated like pariahs. We need Best Friends to come with cameras and do a tour of the shelter – if you were to take just 1 dog to Dogtown and film the experience it could bring about a great deal of awareness. People just don’t have a clue how dire it is. I recently had a foster pick up the dog himself and he walked out crying saying “I feel like I just saw what the Holocaust might have been like.” That’s how bad it is.

  • Elisadoolittle1

    The conditions at NYC’s AC & C are worsening on a daily basis. Dogs are dying in kennels overnight, perfectly healthy, friendly dogs are going on the kill list in mere three days and without the benefit of even a temperament test. The only chance these dogs have to get adopted or pulled by rescue is a temperament test and a little time! Take that tiny chance away, and even the youngest, friendliest, healthiest dogs won’t make it out alive.
    We can blame the city, the ACC, and the non-spaying-neutering public. While cities and ACCs need to step up and do their parts, and do a lot better with the budgets they are given, nothing will really change unless and until we find a way to reduce the relentless stream of animals pouring into city shelters nationwide on a neverending and ever increasing basis.

  • Sue

    Thank you for this article, Francis. I have shared it on Playwrights for Pets page on Facebook and with friends and family.

  • Maybe

    London, in the first photo was killed by the ACC for “food agression”.

    • Very sad to hear this. He was great. It’s a sad situation all around, rest in peace sweet London.

  • Chris Dignan

    Hey Francis,
    A similar situation is playing out in Chicago as well. It seems that politics and pets don’t seem to mix. Major reform does need to happen but the country is so desensitized to the plight of homeless animals that this story, like others, will soon become a distant memory. We react with anger and outrage with this story and then return to our lives after signing a petition or sending a letter and then repeat the process with the next story. Not disagreeing with the fact that you’ve included a letter in this post but I have to believe that we can do more. 2 of the biggest cities in the country are proving that they either don’t know or care to know how to care for animals and more needs to be done. Thanks for the post and for the work you do.

  • Lovefelines2003

    I had no idea – thank you for posting this – I sent my email. How else can we help? How else can BF help?

    • Jihyun

      Best Friends shld make the effort to pull some of these adoptable dogs. Plain and simple. A blog post is a cheap reply to friendly dogs being euthanized and if a rescue organization has money, they shld use it to pull/foster some of these dogs on death row.

  • Kathleen Laufenberg

    I sent my comments to Mayor Bloomberg. The animals are powerless to speak for themselves, so we must. Glad you posted this.

  • Jihyun

    I sent you guys 3 emails w/ links to the atrocity happening in NYC’s ACC. You ppl said u can’t talk to ACC unless they call u first. What’s the pt in running articles abt the atrocity unless you guys also make the same effort to save some of these animals on death row? I understand that rescues are all over-crowded but u can’t pick up the phone to call ACC and find out what u can do to actually help the dogs?

    • Francis

      Hi Jihyun,
      I’m not sure what you are referring to about not being able to call AC&C unless they call us first. I’m not doubting you, I’m just not sure who you spoke with or what they intended. However, I can answer your other comment. Just this last weekend Best Friends co-sponsored a huge cat adoption at the Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC. Most of the hundreds of cats that went to loving homes were from AC&C. Earlier this year we hosted a community dog walk…Strut Your Mutt…where all the proceeds, over $100K went to local rescue organizations to help them rescue more animals from AC&C. We have mounted pet food drives in NYC with food going to food banks so that the neediest pet owners can keep their animals and a Pit Bull Palooza in the Bronx that offered free s/n and shots.

      However the point of this blog is to go a bit deeper. The Executive Director of the AC&C is accountable to the Board of Directors of AC&C, which is, as I have described, really a captive of the Department of Health and ultimately the Mayor’s office. That’s why we are directing public comments to the Mayor and other decision makers. That’s where real change has to come from .

      Thanks Francis