NYC sets record in lowest dog/cat euthanasia ratio ever

Garo Alexanian, Companion Animal Network, September 14, 2012

Dear Friend of Animals,

A historic breakthrough in reducing euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats has occurred in the USA. New York City has become the lowest major region for per capita dog and cat euthanasia in the nation, reducing its municipal shelter killing to just 1 dog/cat per 1000 residents.

The previous lowest ever ratio was 1.3 in San Francisco, which only has a 750,000 human population base. New York City’s previous lowest rate was 1.7 (2009).  No major region had ever reached 1.0, much less a major region 10 times the size of San Francisco.

How did New York City accomplish this long presumed impossible feat?

By introducing two major surrender prevention programs.

A telephone “hotline” to assist pet owners in times of crises and a super low cost mobile full veterinary service.

It took only three to five years since inception of these two surrender prevention initiatives for New York City to reduce its surrenders substantially enough to result in this historic breakthrough.”

Both of these programs were the brainchild of Companion Animal Network (“CAN”). Read below about the details of how YOU CAN replicate this success in your community.

It took us 10 years of lobbying three different animal control administrations for the concept of surrender prevention to be given a trial run. We wrote a 20 page proposal which each ACC administration ignored, until we went to the ACC Board of Directors with it in 2005.

Its chairman, then NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Friedan (now appointed by President Obama as head of the Centers for Disease Control) ordered it to be implemented, and we paid for the printing of a brochure and ACC began to refer surrender cases to our hotline of 25 years, 718-544-PETS.

We handled as many calls as possible live, even when we were in New Orleans doing 20 hour shifts of animal trapping in 120 heat and sleeping on concrete in the open air with no food nor electricity. I even recall taking a call seconds prior to being sedated at the NYU dental hospital about to undergo a wisdom tooth extraction ! We saved that dog’s life too !

The “hell” we went through can only be detailed in a book. But it worked ! Four years later, in 2009, the Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”), with its deep pockets, sought to take over administration of our surrender prevention program, called The Safety Net program. The HSUS assigned salaried employees to administer it, re-named it Pets for Life, and expanded the hotline much more than a small organization such as ours could have done.

We next launched the Low Cost Vet Mobile, a full service super low cost mobile veterinary hospital, so we could go into the low income neighbourhoods where most of the animal control surrendered animals emanate from.

By parking in front of NYC animal control locations in those communities, we were able to get to the animals PRIOR to being surrendered. No one had ever done that before.

We began with two days a week and within a year expanded to three and the next year to four days a week. The results were immediate. After many years of virtually unchanged numbers of dog/cat surrenders to NYC Animal Care & Control, relinquishments of dogs and cats to ACC dropped by 5,974 (15% of total intake) during our first full year with the Vet Mobile (2009-2010) (see ACC intake chart), and another dramatic 3,207 (9.2%) in our 2nd Vet Mobile year (2011). That’s a total of 24.2% fewer surrenders than the numerous years before the Low Cost Vet Mobile came into existence.

It was self-evident that the two surrender programs had resulted in this dramatic reduction of surrenders, which, despite the 22% reduction of adoptions in that same time period (probably due to the economy), STILL resulted in the reduction of euthanasia.

However, it should be made clear that this breakthrough could not have been accomplished solely by the two surrender prevention programs which CAN founded. If the ACC had not actively been a partner by instructing their employees to refer animal surrender callers and visitors to our programs, it is highly unlikely that this success would have been accomplished!

If the ASPCA had not started the mobile spay neuter vans more than ten years prior, perhaps nothing would have been achieved, as the ASPCA’s mobile spay neuter trucks paved the way for the Low Cost Vet Mobile to come into existence. Had the ASPCA not pioneered their mobile spay neuter trucks, I doubt the City of NY would even have permitted a small organization, often at odds with the City, to launch such a curbside service.

Now, even the ASPCA mobile spay neuter trucks stock the Vet Mobile’s flyers and refer all low income medical cases to us— and the Vet Mobile stocks the ASPCA spay neuter flyers on our mobile hospital and gives out their info for those we convince to spay and neuter.

Consequently, thousands more animals are spayed and neutered.

Had the Maddie’s Fund not funded its program in NYC in 2003, thereby creating the umbrella animal organization for NYC animal groups, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals, the Low Cost Vet Mobile could never have been launched nor survived, as the backbone support the Mayor’s Alliance has provided to us has been invaluable. Had the HSUS not taken over the Safety Net/Pets for Life surrender prevention hotline, we could never have launched the Vet Mobile as all our time was already taken up by the 5,000 calls for assistance we were handling every year.

Had foundations such as the Atlas Bass Foundation, Stewie to the Rescue, Red Rover, New York Save and numerous private individuals not supported the medical cases of the most indigent animals the Low Cost Vet Mobile may not have survived its first two years, and dozens of animals would have been put down instead of living a full life with their low income families.

In summary, this historic accomplishment in NYC and the USA is the result of an incredible team effort. Does this mean that everything in NYC is perfect? Not by a long shot.

But we are definitely on the cutting edge here in the Big Apple, which other large cities must replicate if they wish to reach low euthanasia rates.

It is now up to the animal rescue community to lead the way, as we in NYC have done.

Put differences of opinion aside, agree to disagree on conflicts, and collaborate with one another just as I saw hunters and vegans doing in New Orleans during and after hurricane Katrina, saving the lives of angels we call dogs and cats.

Garo Alexanian

Companion Animal <> NetworkTV

Download here graph showing reduction of shelter intakes:   INTAKES AT NYCACC

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Companion Animal Network (C.A.N.) was the force behind the creation of the NYC Animal Care and Control and subsequently founded the nation’s first surrender prevention program, and the nation’s first low cost veterinary clinic for limited income pet parents. C.A.N. has been acknowledged by the New York City Council in Resolution #985 for its efforts to bring improvements to the animal control services of New York City. C.A.N. has advised, among other municipalities, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York State Senator Frank Padavan, and numerous other public officials on animal control policies. C.A.N. has been honored in New Orleans for its continuing post-Katrina support programs for Louisiana municipal animal pounds

3 thoughts on “NYC sets record in lowest dog/cat euthanasia ratio ever

  1. Saving Pets Blog September 15, 2012 / 3:09 pm

    Ooh! The spin is impressive on this one!

    They only killed 1 pet for every 1,000 people.

    Wiki says there are just shy of 19 million people living in New York. I have no idea if this is the figure they’re working from, but conceivably, they could still be offing a cool 19,000 pets (or over 50 A DAY) and yet lauding their own success.

    Nice work if you can get hundreds of millions to do it.

  2. Catty Bates September 17, 2012 / 4:49 pm

    Nah, I see the effort as commendable. As long as there is awareness and agitation for change, then the funding kicks in, and things become possible. Our pounds are chocka with pets surrendered because of particular, reparable circumstances, the welfare groups get phone calls from people stressed and panicking who have a “crisis” they need to vent about, but are calling the wrong folk for that, so who knows what these ideas can help bring about if put into practice in Australia.

    It’s actually because of New York’s massive population that any inroads into the animal euthanasia rate is noteworthy. You can’t make the indifferent care, but for those who do have a conscience, if some help can be obtained and it turns around the pet’s fate… bravo.

  3. Deathrowpets September 20, 2012 / 2:57 pm

    Garo Alexanian wrote to me in response to Saving Pets Blog comment above:

    “This responder is not up on the facts. There are 7.5 million in NYC, 19 million in tri state region around NYC (NYC, nearby NJ areas, nearby CT areas. NYC only takes in NYC animals. So I dont know what this person’s “beef” is. But I have seen this kind of behavior in the animal community for 30 years.

    Those who cannot accomplish any major progress try to shoot down anyone else who does. They simply do not believe that someone else may have succeeded at bringing major improvements because they themselves did not or could not do so.

    The bigger the success the bigger the hatred and resentment. They make irrational arguments (in response to my distribution Donna Harrell credited the internet adoptions for the decrease in euths, totally against the facts that adoptions went down significantly).

    In NC in 2009 I authored every word of state legislation making it illegal to kill by heartstick (the most cruel and painful way to kill), requiring lost and found efforts and return of animals (in south they kill everything with no return efforts), curtailing gassing, and the majority of animal people opposed my bill because “they did not write it.” It is sickening to the core.”

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