Manhattan Spirit, February 21, 1997
City Shelter Director Steps Down
The director of the city's embattled animal shelter system has resigned, after a two-and-a-half-year tenure during which he was roundly criticized by animal activists.
Martin Kurtz, executive director of the Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC) tendered his resignation in a letter dated February 5, citing "personal reasons" and the "pursuit of other opportunities," said a spokeswoman.
Since Kurtz was installed as the first director of the then-new CACC in September 1994 he has been relentlessly targeted by animal activists. They have accused him of mismanaging the agency, which is charged with the care and extermination of the city's stray animals.
"He was inadequate. He didn't know how to run a shelter," said Liz Grayson of the Shelter Reform Action Committee, a coalition of animal advocacy groups. "Everything deteriorated while he was there."
Critics -- including shelter volunteers and former employees -- have complained of alleged unsanitary kennels and other "inhumane" conditions at the shelter. Over the past year they have held press conferences and otherwise tried to call attention to their gripes, while lobbying the city council to investigate their allegations of mismanagement.
A spokeswoman for CACC, Faith Elliott, said that Kurtz was not available for comment, and declined to say whether criticisms of his performance played a part in his resignation. But she said that he "has a strong record to be proud of," citing a rising number of adoptions, the installation of a new computer system to keep records and renovations to the Brooklyn and Manhattan shelters.
"Anyone in this job is under fire," she said. "It's basically a thankless job."
Critics of CACC point out that Kurtz's resignation comes as the City Council's Contracts Committee is preparing to hold hearings on the agency. But Elliott dismissed the idea that that could be a factor, saying that the agency has "completely cooperated with the hearings," giving tours of the facilities and providing asked-for documents. "CACC welcomes the hearings," she said.
Elliott said the board is currently seeking a new executive director.
-- Chris Erikson