Best Friends Blog

New York legislation: Old school vs new

We have been covering the unfolding events surrounding two competing animal shelter bills in the New York State Assembly and will continue to do so until the final bell. For background, I suggest our CEO Gregory Castle’s blog post from last week.

Both the Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act (CAARA) and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin’s bill, A5449, saw the light of day a little over a year ago. Both bills purport to offer some measure of shelter reform and ensure rescue organizations access to animals scheduled for euthanasia. Best Friends Animal Society contacted the authors and sponsors of both bills and made extensive and detailed recommendations to fix what we saw as problems in their respective approaches.

We met and debated extensively with the team that authored Paulin’s bill, went back and forth on alternate language, but in the end, they rejected our input. They are now dealing with public outrage over the same points they blew off when we identified them and offered positive solutions a year ago.

By contrast, New York Assemblyman Micah Kellner, the CAARA sponsor, welcomed our input, and together we developed language that made CAARA stronger.

This is old school versus new — the traditional shelter world that has its roots in rabies control and public health (Paulin bill) versus progressive shelter thinking that is focused on saving lives through aggressive adoptions and the active engagement of rescue partners (CAARA).

These two bills represent two very different points of view. The Paulin bill, A5449, was drafted by the animal shelter community and looks at the issue from within the shelter looking out. It is an attempt to address the public clamor for shelter reform and rescue access to shelter animals in terms that are easily incorporated into existing shelter operations and hence acceptable to the sheltering community. Where it goes wrong, and why it is being so vehemently attacked, is because it sacrifices the interests of the animals on key issues in deference to the operational concerns of shelter managers. It is overly solicitous towards the institution that needs reforming. Rather than asking, “What do shelter animals need and how can we provide it?,” the traditional sheltering interests are saying, “This is all that we are prepared to do to improve services for the animals and the community.”

CAARA is written from the perspective of the public and a rescue community that is trying to move the system away from the old status quo and toward a more animal-centric view of sheltering. It asks, “What do the animals need and how can the shelter system better meet those needs?”

To be clear, there are many New York shelter managers for whom the passage of CAARA would make little difference because their operations already meet the requirements laid out there. Sadly, though, there are also many shelter managers who just don’t want to be bothered — don’t want to work with rescues, don’t want to promote adoptions, and don’t seem to mind killing shelter pets who land in the system through no fault of their own.

And that’s the problem with the Paulin bill.

It makes it too easy for these bad actors to step through one of the many loopholes in A5449 and keep their operations planted firmly in the dark ages. There is just too much noncompliance wiggle room in the Paulin bill for anyone who is focused on the welfare of shelter animals to feel comfortable with. It also contains an alarming provision that has earned it the nickname “Quick Kill Bill” among some advocates because it would allow for a stray pet to be killed upon intake or in the field for the indefinable condition of “psychological pain” as determined by an animal control officer and confirmed by two reputable citizens. Would a terrified Chihuahua get the axe for just being frightened? How about a feral cat? There is nothing in the law to prevent that because the law allows for an entirely subjective decision. Such language makes the Paulin bill too easy to abuse.

CAARA is solid, and we support it. It says what it means without wiggle room or ambiguity. It sets clear standards with no conditional language that can be interpreted otherwise. It is also reasonable with regard to compliance and enforcement.

CAARA represents the future, not the past, and it has Best Friends’ enthusiastic support.


Francis Battista
Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society


P.S. Join the Best Friends Legislative Action Center for updates on animal issues that are important to you. We’ll be sending out an alert early next week as the legislature gears back into session from their break.

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  • Judystarr

    I heard that the Mayor’s Alliance was Wizard of Oz behind the big black curtain writing that bill : (

  • Suzy

    Hi Francis:

    Grateful for the support here in New York.  I’m wondering if Best Friends will be working to gain more public support for this issue, through media outreach or any other kind of public awareness campaigning.  Thanks.

  • Annogram

    Thank you so much for such an articulate discussion of what’s at stake.  I see a whole new community of animal lovers forming around this issue and I rejoice in that.  Thank you, Best Friends!

  • Thank you Best Friends for supporting CAARA, we in NY need all the help we can get to stop Paulin’s bill from passing

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this well written, sincere position statement on 5449 and CAARA. As a volunteer at AC&C at New York City, I see that they regularly stretch language as far as it will go to offer a portrait of shelter life that is far more positive than the reality. I have no doubt that the loopholes and subjective terms in 5449 would serve as an open invitation for more of the same . Rescue groups do need oversight, as I’m sure Best Friends knows all too well, but they need oversight from a disinterested party. I’m so happy that Best Friends continues to be the beacon of sensible AND progressive policy. Thank you for your courage!

  • Cecilia

    I do not believe in putting a dog or cat down. I believe that they are here to help us. Turn  them into service dogs, police dogs, nursing home mascots. Cats have been known to let their owners know of low blood sugar. there are so many ways animals can help us. Try the prison training route. The prisoners can train the dogs while they are in prison. This has worked in the past.

  • Jasibell

    Am i missing it, or is there someone we can e-mail?

  • Stephanie Soucier

    Where do you go to show support?

  • Chris McLaughlin

    Thanks for being the model for all of us Best Friends! Chris @animalrescuefront:disqus 

  • WF

    Something to think about, if you find a lost child or elderly person, would you put them down because you can’t find their family or just don’t want to be bothered looking? Same thing for animals, they have just as much feelings as humans do so what is the difference?

  • Janet Withers

    We Have been fighting Laws in Ohio and @ least we are on the right track so far. To put an Animal down as soon as it walks through the door is immediately killed is way beyond what is right or what is wrong. I am an Animal Lover and if I had the money there would never be an animal killed because some selfish owner didn’t want this precious Animal. What do you do with animals that are starved within hours of dying of starvation? Do You put them down when all they needed is that someone cared enough to take them in and show Compassion & Love for this sick animal and nurse them back to health? These Shelter owners that don’t want anything to do with CAARA should be shut down- give the animals to Rescue Groups who will take care of them and find them a good home. These Shelters that don’t want to get involved have absolutely no Feelings, if they do what they say they are not going to change. There has to be someway to shut them down “NOW” Animal Haters we have enough in this  world now , do we need more? These ppl need to really think-( put your mind inside that sweet puppy or an older dog or cat) they have nothing but fear, Do you think these Animals don’t have a brain? so let’s say you did something your not sure of and they put you behind bars and your fear of what is going to happen to you should make you think about what these Precious animals are going through. Truly I am disgusted with ppl that think they could care less, They are not HUMANS with a Heart.!
    Sorry I do get carried away when it comes to animal abuse. So if you delete my comment I will try and understand why!!!!!!!!!!

    • S.Z

       poor little animals why are people sooo evil!!! we need less humans more animals.Humans are the savages animals are innocent from the day they are born till the  day they pass away. i hope God looks upon this people that have no feelings and figures bout what to do with them cause this heartless murderes deserve some kind of punishment! :O(

  • Famgel

    Thank you for getting the message out and keeping up in the loop.