Thursday, October 14, 2010


This page is only periodically updated, for the most current news and more commentary please visit our Facebook page.

The Food Debacle Continues

The food debacle continues. While the AC&C maintains publicly that the animals have plenty of food and never go hungry, surrogates go begging for donations and staff will tell walk-ins exactly what they need. The AC&C's home page makes casual mention of the need for food; their donate page does not. Even AC&C's closest ally, the Mayor's Alliance, admits that the AC&C is running out of food.

In an agency so affected by budget cuts and with such a high percentage of spending on staff-related costs, we do not find it unreasonable that maintaining an adequate food supply would be difficult.

In times of crisis, a responsible shelter will embrace transparency and immediately detail to the animal-loving public exactly what is needed and how they may assist. If you ask for the help you need, people will help you. No judgment involved; it's hard to pay for animal food with non-existent money.

If a representative of the AC&C would care to contact us at and detail exactly what donations they need most to ensure the most basic aspects of animal care, we would be happy to spread the word and help you get what you need.

Don't let animals go hungry to maintain happy-face PR.

Revised Volunteer Policies Still Violate Volunteers' Legal Rights

The newly revised AC&C Volunteer Policy and Proceedure manual is out and we have replaced the old version in our document library with the newly updated version. AC&C has evidently made some claims that the new policy guidelines lift the grossly illegal gag order on volunteers, we note that they do not. To quote from the revised document, page 9:

"Volunteers are prohibited from distributing their personal information, or opinions in regards to AC&C volunteers, staff, animals, and/or policies to the public."


Section 6 on page 6 says that "AC&C may at any time, for whatever reason, decide to release a volunteer from their relationship with AC&C." - it should say “AC&C may at any time, for whatever reason NOT CONTRARY TO LAW, decide to release a volunteer from their relationship with AC&C." This includes not only the guidelines set forth in Section 1983 ( but covers other areas such as gender, race, and sexual orientation.

The policy detailed in section 4 on page 9 allows AC&C to terminate volunteers who have “philisophical” conflicts or disagree with any AC&C action. This demands that volunteers accept - and maintain silence about - possibly inhumane conditions and unnecessary killing in order to volunteer. This is a violation of Section 1983.

The policy detailed in section 5 on page 10 prohibits forming coalitions without agreement from AC&C, a violation of volunteers' first amendment rights to free association.

AC&C policy still illegally violates the rights of volunteers.

No Hope

A letter was released yesterday to New Hope partners detailing the type of deep service cuts that are inevitable when the budget has been slashed to the bone including reduction in field service hours, using the city's 311 service to answer the phone, and not picking up cats in the field that are healthy and not in immediate danger.

The cuts in field services are alarming from a public safety standpoint, but the other changes are expected and may even be positive. Leaving a message with 311 is better than an endlessly ringing phone that no one answers, and not picking up cats that aren't bothering anyone or in danger hopefully means that fewer will be executed.

However, the deep budget cuts do not bode well for the future of the AC&C. The letter details an enhanced fund-raising effort for the upcoming year; who would donate money to an agency so badly mismanaged?

The New York Daily News has also weighed in on the service cuts. Jane Hoffman may claim to be heartbroken, but we're sure she'll still claim that NYC is on track for No Kill by 2015 as she blows huge amounts of Maddie's money on... what, exactly?

Time to tear it down and start again. It's time for a new contractor.


Recently a cat named Hagin (A877521) ended up on the kill list in Manhattan; the stated reason was for temperament. The reason for Hagin's failing temperament grade was that he tensed and kicked when picked up by the scruff. That's it. He was otherwise friendly and solicited attention.

They're killing cats for this? This cat is a dangerous animal, a threat to public safety, because he does not like to be picked up by the scruff and has the nerve to kick? Because he failed a temperament test he will be considered "untreatable" for reasons of behavior; his death will not count - he will not be considered a savable animal because the AC&C is manipulating the Maddie's Fund definition of "treatable" that they have promised to abide by. These guidelines were never intended to excuse the execution of a healthy cat because he kicked when hoisted by the scruff.

Temperament tests on cats are a complete and utter waste of time and we know of no reputable organization that uses or recommends their use as part of a screening process for killing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

On Leadership

Nathan Winograd's article on shelter leadership should be required reading for every animal lover.


We are not generally fans of the on-line petition, but the words of Mary Jo Tobin are so accurate and so moving that we cannot help but affix our signatures and ask that you do the same.

A snippet from a recent volunteer newsletter

According to staff at the SI AC&C, you should think about placing that order more often.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Customer Service Tip: Answer the Phone

How many animals have died simply because no one answers the phone?

Approximately one week ago a rescue identified a dog on the nightly kill list that they wanted to save. Beginning first thing in the morning, they called... and called, and called, and called: the main switchboard, the direct line to the location, the New Hope hotline number. No one answered the phone, no one returned calls as they called again and again and again.

Finally, in the early afternoon, the rescue started contacting supporters in the city who might be able to help - they are located a significant distance away. A volunteer went to the shelter and pulled the dog, who was by some miracle still alive, and transported them to the rescue.

How many have died because manpower is so lacking that no one is available to answer the phone?

Two suggestions:

This is something that volunteers can easily do right now with minimal training. This one is a no-brainer; throw any willing volunteer in immediately. Even someone who does not know everything but can find out beats an endlessly ringing phone.

Secondly, the current kill list system is badly in need of overhaul, the sooner the better. Releasing a kill list the night before executions are to begin and then restricting those animals only to approved partner rescues makes no sense at all, especially when there is no reason not to adopt those animals to the general public. We are seeing kittens on the kill lists with absolutely nothing wrong with them, healthy and eating on their own; why do they need to go to an approved rescue only? This particular dog had no behavior problems and nothing wrong with him beyond a cough that the conditions of the AC&C caused that he was halfway through recovering from, we see no earthly reason why his adoption should be restricted to partner rescues only. The current kill list system is exceedingly labor intensive and hectic for all concerned and does not serve the interests of the animals.

Three days after his transport to rescue this dog met his adopter, and now that he's over his cough and neutered he'll go to his forever home tomorrow.

Great outcomes start by answering your phone.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Kill List Examples Posted

Today we're adding examples of the nightly cat kill list and dog kill lists to our download library. Some salient points:

This nightly email is intended only for approved New Hope partner rescues and the AC&C asks that it not be shared outside of those partners. We fail to see how they are any more qualified to step up to adopt the vast majority of these animals than the general public. Many of the cats on the kill list are there for upper respiratory infections, or lately for simply being too young for the AC&C to want to deal with. Dogs are on the list for simple kennel cough. There is simply no reason to restrict their adoption to New Hope partners. The AC&C maintains conditions that allow these diseases to flourish and then disposes of the results.

The AC&C likes to blame the public for the confusion surrounding the kill lists, but they are the cause. This list is released nightly at around 5pm and the killing starts the next morning at around 6am, with the adoption of some highly adoptable animals - like healthy kittens - restricted to a small list of partner organizations.

When your resources are scant it is wise to streamline your processes. Here's an excellent opportunity to do just that: open up the adoption of these animals and give more of them a chance to live, rather than killing them for diseases you knew they would get and did nothing to prevent.

Mayor Mike loves volunteers, except at the AC&C

We were very surprised to come across this AP article about Mayor Mike spearheading a nationwide campaign to use volunteers to solve local problems - he leads a coalition of 100 cities focused on recruiting people to perform service in their communities.

"The Mayor said volunteers are especially crucial when municipalities are having to trim spending and slash services."

That sounds a lot like the AC&C. Perhaps Hizzoner could speak to them about how crucial volunteers are.

You can contact the mayor's office here.

Latest AC&C Board Meeting

The Shelter Reform Action Committee has posted their notes from the latest AC&C board meeting. We don't think the board's plans to restrict the recording of their meetings is remotely legal and it does not bode well that they wish to work in secret. The meeting notes are worth the read.

Education Fund

We are not sure that this is a responsible use of resources in a time of crisis. While all of this sounds very nice on paper, the mind-boggling time and effort involved in developing volunteer guidelines suggests to us that an enormous amount of time and money will be spent developing these educational materials that could best be spent elsewhere.

"New Yorkers will learn that the animals at AC&C shelters are clean and well cared for by professional staff. AC&C will furthermore offer a variety of ways for animal lovers over 18 to connect with the healthy cats, dogs, and other animals in its care through a volunteer program." Given that the first part of that statement is utterly untrue and the second is wishful thinking - the volunteer program has been "open" for a month and has yet to graduate a single volunteer to "connect" with any animal - we would have to call the Public Education Fund by another name: the Image-Polishing PR Bullshit Fund.

Stop wasting our money on this crap. You will surely find less of a need for "education" when you lead by example.

When Nevada Humane Society went No Kill in 2006-7, they actually ELIMINATED several traditional humane education programs so that they could focus their efforts and resources on saving the maximum number of lives (their highest priority) - and those programs weren't just apple-polishing, self-congratulating PR. They went from LECTURING their community to INVOLVING their community.