Daily News, Tuesday, April 14, 1998
Fur flies over dog death at shelterBy LISA REIN
Daily News Staff Writer
Animal advocates yesterday slammed the city's troubled animal shelter system for sloppy recordkeeping after a clerical error sent a Bronx woman's dog to his death.
Mayor Giuliani, reacting to last week's blunder at the Center for Animal Care and Control, said the agency shouId be "more efficient."
"They have to continue to improve procedures so that they make no mistakes, or as few mistakes as possible," Giuliani said.
The Daily News reported yesterday that a misplaced index card led workers to put to death Cujo, a 14-month old German shepherd-Rottweiler mix whose owner was negotiating to lower hefty fines she faced to retrieve him.
Cujo's owner, Teshan Baker, lost the dog March 23, but a good Samaritan brought him to the E. 110th St. shelter last Monday. He was killed Tuesday morning, hours after shelter workers told Baker a supervisor would lower the fees.
Center officials blamed the disaster on a clerical error. An index card indicating the dog should be spared was misfiled. Baker ran up against the agency's spay-or-pay policy, which requires owners recovering a lost pet to pay fees as high as $300 if the animals aren't neutered or spayed.
The five shelters keep paper records on 40,000 animals a year--an antiquated system blasted by animal care experts. "It's amazing to think they're processing anything on index cards for that many animals," said Peter Paris, spokes man for the ASPCA, which ran the shelter system until 1995 and did not use computers, either.
Baker, meanwhile, received a formal letter of apology from the animal center's top official--a gesture she called too little. too late.
"I wish to express my deepest sympathies to you and your family regarding the death of Cujo," wrote Marily Haggerty-Blohm, the shelter's acting executive director. "He sounds like a wonderful dog. Please let me know if there's anything I can do," she wrote.
Paris and others also blamed the city for chronically underfunding and mismanaging the center, which had a budget this year of $5 million.
The agency has spent 2-1/2 years and more than $300,000 on a computer system that could have saved Cujo--but it's not up and running.
"The most important thing is to keep track of the animals," said Jane Hoffman, a lawyer who specializes in animal issues.