New York Newsday, February 10, 1995
Exec Defends Pet Shelters' Death TollBy Graham Rayman
In a tense City Council committee hearing, the head of the city's new animal control agency yesterday bristled at criticisms of the nonprofit group and said the agency killed 13 percent fewer animals in January than the ASPCA did in December. Martin Kurtz, executive director of the month-old Center for Animal Care and Control, did not offer total figures on the number of animals killed. But an ASPCA spokeswoman said the agency euthanized 3,050 animals in December, including 1,362 strays. Kurtz said the shelters adopted out more than 700 animals and removed more than 700 from city streets last month. More animals were brought to the shelters by private citizens.
Kurtz challenged criticism of the agency, including a charge by Council woman Kathryn Freed (D-Manhattan) that the shelters amounted to an "Animal Auschwitz." Freed's comment was quoted Monday in New York Newsday and was described by Kurtz as "tasteless and racist."
Kurtz charged that critics were spreading"inaccurate" information.
The remarks came in a health committee oversight hearing called to examine the new agency's performance and its relationship with the city.
The hearing spurred Councilman John Fusco (R-Staten Island), a committee member, to call for an investigation of the transition process from the ASPCA to the CACC.
"We have no idea how this change took place," Fusco said. "Maybe it was done to the letter of the law, and maybe it wasn't. But how do we know that?"
Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg testified that the CACC was created by the mayor's office and other city agencies because no outside group could be found to take over for the ASPCA, which said in March, 1993, that it would not renew its contract.
Three city commissioners sit on the board of directors -- Hamburg, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty and Deputy Police Commissioner Walter Alicea. Kurtz was a health department official for 22 years. The CACC hired 100 of its i40 employees from the ASPCA Kurtz said.
Committee chairman Enoch Williams (D-Brooklyn), noting the appearance of a conflict of interest, said he will consider Fusco's call for an investigation.
Freed said the CACC should consider placing a council member on the board. But Hamburg said the creation of the agency was examined by the city law department and Kurtz' hiring was looked at by the conflict of interest board. No conflict was found, she said.
Members of the Coalition for New York City Animals called for the creation of an independent oversight committee to monitor the CACC, and the formation of a panel to study the conditions of the shelter system.