Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Eventful Week

Two interesting events occurred this past week.

The President met with opposition Republicans -- something very unusual in the world of politics.

Leaders of the AC&C and the Mayor's Alliance met with rescuers who had questions.

As far as I know, President Obama was not tipped off beforehand with the questions he would be asked by Republicans.

But, spokespersons for the shelter and umbrella rescue organization were.

I did not vote for President Obama (I felt he lacked experience at the time), but I have been impressed with his gutsy performance as President. Perhaps its because my "expectations" were comparatively low of our new President, that I have been mostly pleased and surprised.

Likewise, my expectations of the AC&C and the Mayor's Alliance have been far lower than their own "sugar coated" and overly optimistic projections and claims.

But, I have to admit much good has been accomplished over the past decade.

Daily (ASPCA) spay/neuter vans around the city have resulted in more animals being neutered and a lower intake at the shelters -- at least for non-Pitbull dogs. (Cat intake numbers have unfortunately risen over the past year following a decade-long decline.)

Fewer animal arriving at shelters and more groups involved in rescue, results in fewer animals being euthanized.

According to claims by the AC&C and the MA, euthanasia has dropped in NYC shelters from 75% in 2002 to 39% now.

But, 39% is still a far cry from NYC becoming "no kill by 2015."

The pre-prepared question I submitted for the Thursday meeting was:

"With regard to the particular Pitbull and cat problems in NYC, how can NYC claim to be 'no kill' by 2015?"

Jane Hoffman of the Mayor's Alliance attempted to answer this question, but I felt it was more of a dodge than an enlightening reply.

Basically, the reply was that we needed more "T, N and R" (trap, neuter and release) for feral cats and for the ASPCA spay/neuter vans (and other SN services) to neuter more Pitbulls.

But, reality is that most cats arriving at city shelters are not feral cats, nor are most owners of Pitbulls willing to neuter their dogs.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed follow-up questions.

There is no question that strong spay/neuter programs eventually result in fewer animals coming into shelters and fewer animals killed.

But, in addition to easily available and affordable spay/neuter, we also need honest, no- nonsense and targeted PUBLIC HUMANE EDUCATION programs to reach those people who, even in this day and age, refuse to neuter their dogs (particularly Pitbulls) and cats. -- In other words, WHY we need to neuter pets.

Personally, I don't see that happening now as it did occur nationally throughout the 70s, 80's and 90's resulting in Intake declines in almost all shelters nationwide.

By contrast, we seem to be intimating to the public that we have "rescue" and "adoption" for all the animals entering shelters now and in my personal judgment, that will ultimately result in higher intake numbers in shelters, not lower.

That is already the unfortunate reality for cats in NYC shelters.

And despite the valiant and dedicated efforts of cat rescue groups and no-kill shelters, reality is, that we cannot "rescue" or "adopt" our way out of the cat overpopulation and pet dumping problems.

The same is true for Pitbulls.

As mentioned many times, our group is not a member of the Mayor's Alliance (though we are a "New Hope" partner to the shelter.).

I did not sign up with MA because first of all, the name itself is deceptive. (I have been informed from a colleague that the name, "Mayors Alliance" was chosen in order to "open doors" in terms of support and opportunity that ordinarily would be closed.)

Reality is, however, that the Mayor of New York City has nothing to do with animal rescue and in fact, in many ways has acted as an obstructionist to major progress. Both, Mayor Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg have kept control of our animal shelters in the hands of the Department of Health as opposed to creating a much needed and separate Animal Services agency.

The agendas of the Department of Health and the goals and objectives of animal rescue and welfare are often in conflict with each other.

The other reason I did not sign up with the Mayor's Alliance is that I felt the promise of a "no kill" New York City by (at first 2012, and now) 2015 was misleading and unrealistic to say the least.

I did not want to be part of what I felt to be a fabrication or false promise to the public.

Only time will tell whether this was truly a wise decision in terms of benefit and support versus a kind of "holding to principle."

The truth is that everyone in rescue, including myself has the same goal of an eventual "no kill" city.

The difference is that I don't see how we make such a promise to the citizens of our city and specify a particular "no kill" date when we don't have all the "ducks lined up in row" to make that goal a reality.

When I say, "ducks lined up in a row" I refer to enough and adequate full service shelters in every borough of New York City, as well as strong public humane education programs -- particularly as mandated in our city schools.

I fear that as money and funding begins to dry up (particularly in this economy) and rescues become saturated with animals they cannot "adopt" out so quickly, these decreases we currently see in shelter euthanasias will eventually level off and sadly again start to rise.

The other night, in answer to a specific question, Jane Hoffman referred to herself as "perhaps overly optimistic."

Yes, I do believe Hoffman is overly optimistic in more ways than one. -- Just as some might refer to me as "overly pessimistic."

Perhaps between the two of us, the real truth lies.

This is one area where I hope to be eventually wrong, as I now think I may have been in my initial assessment of then-Senator Obama in 2008.

But, only time will tell. -- PCA



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