CONTINUED - Controversial Funding Increase for City Shelters... Part II
By Michael Mullins
Published Fall 2011
Appeals, the state’s highest court, to appeal the Appellate Court’s ruling. The motion has yet to be considered by the Court of Appeals.

In July, the lawsuit gained a powerful political ally when Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office filed a brief with the New York State Court of Appeals urging the court to review Stray from the Heart’s lawsuit.

On Tuesday, August 16, Stringer published an op-ed in the Huffington Post regarding the city’s latest decision to increase funding in lieu of creating full service animal shelters in Queens and the Bronx.

Stringer writes:
“The root of our problem is the city's division of Animal Care & Control (AC&C), the largest animal shelter system in the Northeast. Even with City Hall's recent and welcome promise of $10 million in additional funds over three years, ACC remains chronically under-funded, resulting in shameful conditions in many city shelters. With these new funds, ACC plans to spend about $1.47 per resident to protect the health and welfare of city animals -- an amount which is still well below the national average of $3.50 per resident.”

Stringer continues, “But the real problem is structural: ACC is controlled by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, an agency whose core focus is the welfare of people, not animals. This institutional limitation causes ACC's budget to shrink every year. ACC and its small, seven-member board lacks both the independence and fund-raising capabilities that would help it fulfill its important mission.”

Stringer’s sentiments were echoed by several leading NYC animal welfare advocates.

“The agreement is simply a band-aid to the current crisis in our shelters,” said Toni Bodon, cofounder of Stray from the Heart. “We will continue to have thousands of family dogs and cats killed each year because the Department of Health refuses to follow the mandates of the City Council's Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act of 2000. What we need are full-time, full-service shelters in all five boroughs staffed by caring and knowledgeable animal welfare professionals. But to accomplish this, the ACC needs to be liberated from the Department of Health whose mission and focus is humans, not animals. We need a separate, independent agency dedicated to the welfare of homeless animals.”

Bodon’s disappointment was shared by fellow animal welfare advocate Esther Koslow, a former ACC volunteer and current board member of the Shelter Reform Action Committee (SRAC) – a coalition of animal organizations and advocates seeking to improve the city’s animal shelter system through reform.

“The proposed Agreement is the City's latest failure to address the core reason for the ACC's unbroken 17-year record of failure: the Department of Health's control over the ACC. We implore the Mayor's Office and the City Council to free the ACC from the DOH's stranglehold, and to allow competent, skilled, and committed individuals to run the City's shelter system.” Koslow added, “Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is right on target with his proposal to overhaul the ACC, which would also allow for the Bronx and Queens shelters to be built. Reform starts with the City's acknowledgement that a major change is needed. No more death by a thousand [budget/shelter/supplies/employees] cuts to the ACC.”

Long-time animal welfare advocate and president of the Mayors Alliance for NYC's Animals, Jane Hoffman, reacted differently to the city’s recent announcement acknowledging, “We do need full-service shelters in all five boroughs.” But adding “The political reality, the budget reality and the loss of the lawsuit says we are not going to get them anytime soon. So we needed to get something done to deal with the crisis going on right now.”