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Controversial Funding Increase:
City proposes nearly $10 Million Funding Increase to City Shelters in
lieu of Full Service Animal Shelters in Queens & Bronx
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PHOTO BY MICHAEL D. MULLINS
Animal Care and Control's Manhattan Shelter
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By Michael Mullins
Published Fall 2011
Following three consecutive years of budget cuts to the city shelter system, a proposed funding increase of nearly $10 million was announced in late July, pending passage by the City Council later this year. The announcement comes under mounting pressure from animal welfare advocates brought on in part by recent service reductions and program eliminations at city shelters due to budget cutbacks by the city. Animal Care and Control, the non-profit contracted out by the Department of Health (DOH) to manage New York City’s animal control services, has seen its budget cut by approximately $1.5 million, or nearly 18 percent, since 2009.

The nearly $10 million increase will be spread over the next three years, beginning with a $1 million infusion into this year’s budget, and ending in 2012 with a budget that exceeds $12 million. According to the DOH, shelter staffing will increase by as many as 100 personnel once the funding increase has been fully implemented. The money will also be used toward decreasing feral cat populations through increasing trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs as well as a city-wide public awareness campaign promoting dog licensing, among other initiatives.

The proposed funding increase is not without strings attached.

As part of the agreement, the city will no longer be responsible to fulfill a prior commitment to create full service animal shelters in all five boroughs, as required under the Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act, which the City Council passed in 2000. Currently Queens and the Bronx have animal receiving centers that, on a limited basis throughout the week, allow for animal abandonment, but not adoption.

As a result of the city’s unwillingness to create full service shelters in Queens and the Bronx, the NYC-based animal rescue organization, Stray from the Heart, took the city and the DOH to court in early 2009 in an attempt to compel them to comply with the Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act of 2000.

After initial success in September of 2009, when the city was given 60 days to come up with a plan for "immediate implementation" of the law by the Manhattan Supreme Court, the suit suffered a serious setback in April of this year when the Appellate Court found that Stray from the Heart lacked the standing to challenge the city and the DOH.
In response, Stray from the Heart filed a motion for leave on May 3 with the Court of
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