The New York Observer, editorial page, June 23, 1997
City Shelters: No Cat's Meow
New Yorkers come in a close second to Londoners when it comes to doting on pets and just about any animal that makes the city home (with the exception, possibly, of rats). Many of these pets spend some-or all-of their time in the city shelter system. Now an eight-month investigation by the City Council reports that the shelters, which are run by the city funded, nonprofit Center for Animal Care and Control, are guilty of mismanagement and unsanitary conditions. The report also said more animals turned over to the shelters are being killed than adopted. But City Hall apparently doesn't want to hear it: On June 16, after Dr. Louise Murray, a veterinarian, and Rosemary Joyce, two of the center's Giuliani appointed board members, testified before the City Council about problems at the center, the Mayor fired them. Dr. Murray had claimed the Giuliani administration was bungling finding a new executive director for the center, and that unless City Hall released its "stranglehold" on the center, things would get worse.
With gadflies like Dr. Murray and Ms. Joyce gone, it's unlikely things at the center will get better. The powers that be on its board happen to be city commissioners-the old old saw about the fox watching the henhouse comes to mind. City Councilwoman Kathryn Freed said, "C.A.C.C. is failing to meet 85 percent of its contractual obligations to the city; they're only killing animals, not neutering or dealing with volunteers or public outreach or fund raising."
The center was created in 1994 to take over shelter management from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But 71 percent of animals taken to the center in 1996 were killed-zero improvement over theA.S.P.C.A.'s 1993 record. And the city's adoption rate of 18 percent is still below the national rate of 24 percent. By abruptly firing two of the center's critics-who, after all, saw the problems from the inside-the Mayor risks being seen as more interested in cover-up instead of cleanup.