Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Balanced Budget" -- But, Of What Real Cost?

(Picture Left: "Peggy" -- Wonderful and loving dog rescued two months ago from shelter Euth list. Peggy was doomed to go down for Kennel Cough. Sadly, lovable and now healthy Peggy still waits for adoptive home in boarding.)

Yesterday, I and a number of other rescuers, Animal Care &Control volunteers and concerned citizens attended the public Board Meeting of the AC&C.

A new Director has once again been appointed and taken over the helm at the beleaguered city animal control shelter system.

Julie Banks formerly worked at the ASPCA and two other shelters and represents the eighth interim or official director at the AC&C in as many years.

An abysmal record of "leadership" and consistency in our shelter system for sure.

Frequent turnovers in management and directorships are a red flag that something is seriously wrong.

Ms. Banks introduced herself and ran through a litany of perfunctory and usual goals. -- Certainly, nothing we haven't heard before numerous times.

She and two other (financial) speakers appeared to boast about the AC&C's "balanced budget."

But, that "balanced budget" (to one of the most under-funded shelters in terms of animal and human population in the country) comes at the cost of actual veterinary and other care to the animals in AC&C shelters, as well as rapidly declining services to the public.

For example, a call to the shelter system's general number (212) 788-4000 leaves one on "hold" for usually more than an hour. Who has time to wait that long especially if calling about an injured or sick stray animal potentially dying on city streets?

The "balanced budget" is mostly due to significant turnovers and/or cutting in staff -- something that does not spell "care" to the city's lost, stray or abandoned animals or efficiency of the shelters themselves.

Although audience members were not permitted to ask questions, there was time left towards the end of the meeting for public comment.

Esther Koslow of the Shelter Reform Action Committee presented a highly accurate and thoroughly researched history of the AC&C, including its questionable Board memberships, its deceptive public image campaigns, lack of transparency, lack of proper care to the animals and lack of necessary shelters in the five boroughs.

In citing some of the AC&C's statistics, Ms. Koslow challenged:

"If you're fond of statistics, how about this one? 100% of animals who enter any AC&C shelter will be exposed to highly contagious disease. If they arrive healthy, they will get sick."

For a full account of the Board Meeting, as well as Ms. Koslow's excellent and insightful comment, please go to: Shelter Reform HOME

Other commenters included at least two volunteers at AC&C who decried the lack of volunteerism and proper staffing at the shelter.

"Dogs are sitting in cages, not being walked and developing stress behaviors as result. Kittens and cats are left unattended in cages, often sitting in their own filth and not being properly cared for," complained another.

I too, offered comment that it is disgraceful and dishonest for the AC&C to promise the people of New York City that we will be "no kill" by 2015 when in fact, we are currently destroying many dozens of kittens, cats and dogs everyday in city shelters with no logical end in sight.

"You can't use the fact animals get sick in these facilities as advantage to claim we are no longer killing for population control. When it comes to cats, kittens and Pitbulls we are absolutely killing for population control. And yet, there is no sense of or appeal to public urgency!"

I added that people are upset about the oil spill in the Gulf. "But, they are angry with BP's evasiveness and dishonesty."

It is never a good thing to fool with mother nature or the public's ability to trust.

One can be quite sure that AC&C board members were looking at their watches in great anticipation of the public commentary session to quickly end.

I don't expect anything meaningful or positive to come out of this or any AC&C Board Meeting.

At best, AC&C Board Meetings are opportunity for some of us to vent our frustrations with how abysmally our shelter system is actually operating.

At worst, they are merely wastes of our time.

That only media would pick up on and report some of what is actually going on. -- PCA


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