What it takes to turn NYC into a True No-Kill City

What is “No Kill”?

The Maddie’s Fund is dedicating its $300 million endowment to the goal of transforming the U.
S. into a “no-kill” nation. Maddie’s defines “no kill” as when no “healthy” or “treatable” dog or
cat is killed.

Maddie’s defines “treatable” either a medical or behavioral condition that can be “managed”
or is “rehabilitatable.”

Under its agreement with Maddie’s, the Mayor’s Alliance has committed to turn NYC into a no-
kill community by 2015.    

How Can NYC Become a True No-Kill City?   

How can we get NYC to the point when only “untreatable” animals (animals irreversibly ill or
behaviorally dangerous) are euthanized, and the rest are saved?

What’s certain is that New York City cannot adopt itself out of pet overpopulation.  No matter
how many AC&C animals are pulled by rescuers or adopted directly from the shelter,
ordinarily there will always a far greater number of animals coming in.

Sadly In early November, the AC&C announced they would no longer rescue stray cats from
the streets. This decision – an abdication of a major duty of any
animal shelter – has already had an immediate effect on intake numbers, as AC&C cat
population numbers are already dramatically lower. As Shelter Reform stated in its open letter
to the DOH and the AC&C, (
read the letter) the decision to ignore the plight of homeless cats
is a cruel and inhumane method of dealing with budget cuts.  Moreover, if anyone should
claim that intake numbers are down (with a corresponding decrease in euthanasia), we’ll be
the first to remind the public how this was achieved.

Rather than penalize and demonize that portion of the population generating unwanted pets,
a community has to reach out and educate them on the benefits of licensing their pets and of
spay/neuter (S/N).  But it’s not enough to educate the public; large volume, low-cost or free
S/N surgeries must be made readily available.  At the same time, trap, neuter and release
(TNR) programs must be accelerated to target feral cats (meaning undomesticated cats,
unaccustomed to human touch).   

Over the years, steps have been taken to advance S/N in NYC, but they haven’t made a
substantial dent in the City’s pet overpopulation.

Free or Low-Cost S/N Surgeries Must be Available On a Massive Scale

    All experts agree that S/N has a direct effect on reducing pet overpopulation.  So far,
    NYC has done the following to promote S/N:

    In 2000, NYC passed a law requiring the AC&C to S/N every animal leaving its shelters.

    In 2004, the AC&C launched its “Big Fix Operation,” offering low cost S/N services to
    the public at their Manhattan and Brooklyn shelters one day a week. Facing increasing
    DOH budget cuts, however, the AC&C had to abandon that program.

    Over the years, the ASPCA has steadily increased the number of S/N surgeries it
    provides to the public at reduced cost.  Starting with one mobile S/N van in 1997
    (performing a maximum of 15 surgeries per day), the ASPCA now states that it
    performed 31,000 S/N surgeries in 2009. This includes opening their Bergh Clinic, one
    Sunday each month, to perform S/N surgeries on feral cats brought in by various
    rescue groups (read more).  The ASPCA is setting 40,000 as a target S/N number for

    The Mayor’s Alliance also promotes and subsidizes S/N surgeries.  With special funding
    by Maddie’s, in 2005 the Alliance invited private vet clinics to participate in a program
    to offer low cost S/N and the Alliance would subsidize them.  Very few vets were
    interested.  In 2007, the Alliance persuaded Maddie’s to open the subsidy program to
    non-profits as well.  Since then, the Alliance has subsidized S/N surgeries by the
    ASPCA, Bide-a-Wee, the Humane Society and The Toby Project. The ASPCA far
    surpasses the other 3 non-profits in the number of surgeries it performs). The private
    vets’ contributions remain relatively insignificant (with the exception of Dr. Andy Kaplan
    who runs The Toby Project, using the AC&C’s S/N mobile van.  Read more.

    In addition, in 2006 the Alliance entered into a joint program with Neighborhood Cats to
    support the Feral Cat Initiative which finances trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs for
    feral cats.

The combined effect of all these efforts has been a clear decrease in AC&C intake numbers.   
According to the Mayor’s Alliance, 46,871 animals came into the AC&C in 2003.  By 2009, the
Alliance reports that intake numbers were reduced by 11% to 41,712.

Yet, 11% is nowhere near what’s needed.  According the Jane Hoffman, President of the
Mayor’s Alliance, it will take at least 60,000 S/N surgeries per year to start reducing the AC&C’
s intake rate (
read more). As mentioned previously, the DOH’s
decision to have the AC&C no longer rescue stray cats is NOT the way to reduce intake

How can we accelerate the pace of S/N surgeries in NYC?

A Blitzkrieg Approach Is Needed

Shelter Reform urges a blitzkrieg two-year project to create brick ‘n mortar S/N clinics, one for
every borough. (Animal Friendly NYC (
www.AnimalFriendlyNYC.org) was the first organization
to propose this idea.)  We propose that these clinics be up and running for only two years (so
as to assuage resident’s concerns about having high volume S/N clinics on a long time basis
in their neighborhoods).  During this 2-year project, not only would the clinics offer free or low
cost S/N surgeries, but they could “sweeten” the deal in other ways.  For example, why not
reward owners for doing the right thing?  Items of value could be offered for owners bringing
in their pets for S/N. (Even the ASPCA has started providing raffles at its mobile S/N vans.)  

Our City’s pets can’t afford to wait another 5 or 10 years for S/N to radically decrease the
number of homeless pets.  Every year results in needless suffering to animals – whether they
end up at AC&C shelters or are left to fend for themselves on the cruel City streets.

The only way to achieve no-kill is to move as quickly as possible to dramatically reduce pet
overpopulation by S/N.  

No-Pets Housing Restrictions Must be Challenged

While promoting responsible pet ownership, there should also be a concerted effort to make
NYC more animal friendly.  Both renters and owners of co-ops and condos often face no-pets
housing restrictions. In 2009, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) imposed a triple
whammy on its tenant: restrictions on (1) the number of pets, (2) specific breeds of dogs, and
(3) dogs exceeding 40 pounds.  Since then, hundreds of owners have had to relinquish their
pets to the AC&C.  For information regarding Pets-in-Housing issues,
click here

Animal Population Control Program (APCP)

The Agriculture & Markets Law (Ag & Mkts Law) governs both animal and companion animals.
In 2010, the Ag&Mkts Law was amended to create a special fund to finance S/N surgeries in

Before this new amendment, surcharge fees (the extra amount dog owners must pay when
they license their unaltered pets) were sent to Albany and held in a central fund, for use to
subsidize S/N throughout the State.  In 2009 Governor Patterson raided that fund to help
prop up the State budget.

The raid galvanized efforts to protect S/N funds from any future “sweeps” by a Governor.
Under the amended law, NYC’s surcharge monies will remain in NYC, to be used only for S/N
in New York City.
Read more.

Unfortunately, the surcharge fees will be collected and controlled by the DOH. Allowing the
DOH to have anything to do with monies earmarked to help homeless animals is a self-
defeating proposition.


For the past 20 years, the DOH has been in charge of dog licensing and it’s done a
disgraceful job.  Licensing compliance has plunged under the DOH’s control.  And there is
effectively NO enforcement of the licensing law.  The DOH attempts to cover up its
malfeasance by vastly underestimating the number of dogs in the City so as to inflate its
“compliance” record.  

For a fuller description of how the DOH has mismanaged its licensing responsibilities, read
about the
December 17, 2010 Hearing of the New York City Council Health Committee

Nothing good will come from having the DOH’s hands on the surcharge fees, or anything to
do with dog licensing.

We believe it’s time to remove licensing authority from the DOH.  Either the AC&C or the
ASPCA should have licensing responsibility.  Anyone but DOH.   

You have to be carefully taught.  Kindness and compassion are taught attributes.  So,
unfortunately, are cruelty and neglect.

Our City’s children must be:

    “properly instructed in the humane treatment and protection of animals and the  
    importance of the part they play in the economy of nature as well as the necessity of
    controlling the proliferation of animals which are subsequently abandoned and caused
    to suffer extreme cruelty.”  

That bit of dry legalese is drawn from a New York State law on the books since 1947,
requiring humane education to be taught in all public elementary schools.  But for many
years, that law has been mostly ignored or given only lip service. In 2007, the NY League of
Humane Voters teamed up with HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers)
to encourage the City Council to pass legislation increasing compliance with the statute. (The
contact for HEART is Meena Alagappan Tel: 212 744 2504 Email:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn single-handedly derailed that bill in a fit of pique against
its sponsor. Quinn is well known for her hostility to animal protection issues. As is also
evident, she plans to run for City Mayor in 2012, and will follow in her mentor’s (Bloomberg’s)
footsteps: indifference to animal issues.

At the Health Committee Surcharge Hearing, the Committee members peppered the DOH
representative with questions about the DOH’s plans on how it will educate the public about
the benefits of S/N, and how the DOH intended to encourage and enforce licensing.  The
DOH has no plans of yet.  None at all.  

What’s clear is that as long as the DOH controls the AC&C and its purse strings, and is in
charge of licensing, our City’s companion animals will suffer.  As the DOH representative
stated to the Health Committee, the DOH’s concern is to protect people from dangerous
animals and animal diseases.  We need a government agency that actually cares about
animals, and does not have a built in conflict of interest, as does the DOH.

Read more about the importance of education by clicking

Calgary, Canada: A No-Kill Success Story

At the December 17, 2010 Health Committee Surcharge Hearing, Ed Sayres of the ASPCA
mentioned Calgary, Canada as a City that successfully engaged its residents to comply with
licensing and to have their pets altered.  Calgary, a city of 1 million inhabitants, saw its
community go from high-kill to no-kill under the direction of Bill Bruce.  Bruce advocates a
three-pronged approach to responsible pet ownership:  (1) licensing, (2) public education;
and (3) enforcement.  These are the 3 areas that the DOH has failed at, and the AC&C has
no money to undertake.

Municipal Animal Programs That Work
Bill Bruce from Calgary shares the secrets at NMHP Conference
by Denise LeBeau, Best Friends Animal Society

“Virtually every animal that winds up in a shelter is the result of a failed human relationship,”
was the way Bill began during his presentation, “Success In Calgary.”

Poignant and right on the money, Bill Bruce is the Director of Animal and Bylaw Services for
the City of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. His enlightened approach to helping animals in his
community is a winner and he shared their best practices at this year’s conference. They
encourage responsible pet ownership through licensing, public education and enforcement.

From mission statement to action, their goal is:
Identify the issue
Engage the stakeholders
Build a process that works
Educate people to use it (the City has 95% voluntary licensing compliance rate)
Back it up (5% enforcement)
Measure It (how do you know you are improving)
Shelter Reform Action Committee (SRAC)
ShelterReform.org: Everything you ever wanted to know about the AC&C, but were afraid to ask.