The New York Post, June 15, 1997
Four 'tails' of woe - two with happy endingsBy Susan Edelman
Every day beloved pets and dogs and cats with great pet potential fall victim to the incessant slaughter at the overburdened Center for Animal Care and Control.
Here are the stories of four animals: two that should not have perished and two that narrowly escaped destruction.
Beaureguard beat the odds.
"Nasty Chihuahua - too nasty for adoption," his intake card at the CACC's Manhattan shelter noted. Beaureguard, actually a mini-Doberman, had been turned in by someone who couldn't - or wouldn't - keep him. When a CACC employee urged Patty Adjamine, a pet rescuer with New Yorkers for Companion Animals, to foster the mutt, she balked. But once she learned the pooch would be destroyed immediately, guilt set in. So she took Beaureguard home. And there he's stayed. "I can't bear to part with him," she said. "He's lovable and devoted - not nasty at all."
Adjamine believed many animals have had similar experiences at CACC shelters - with less pleasant outcomes. "They're misbranded as nasty or aggressive but really just nervous or frightened. The staff can't tell the difference," she said.
When a fluffy, white, green-eyed cat was brought to the Manhattan CACC shelter by a park ranger who found him abandoned in a card-board box, staffers feared he was wild. They tossed the feline in a metal cage and marked it "Status 3" - a rating given to sick or unsociable animals. At the CACC, it's a death sentence.
Pet rescuer Adjamine, who happened to be in the lobby, put her hand in the cage to pet the prisoner. "This is a sweet cat!" she objected. She grabbed a phone and called a friend, who adopted the cat and named him Nicholas because he was "saved in the nick of time."
CACC spokeswomen Faith Elliott conceded that animals can be misdiagnosed in the daily crush. "If you're an intake clerk on the front lines, with people bringing in cat after cat after cat, it's a very sad reality that [you] will not always have time to do a bang-up job on each one."
Elliott said staffers try to spend some time with animals to gauge their true personalities. But, she agreed, they need training.
CACC also needs a computerized animal-inventory system - as Brooklyn 14-year old Stephanie Stile tragically learned after her dog, Rommel, went astray.
She said her 5-year old Rottweiler slipped out of her family's fenced Sunset Park yard and ran loose, frightening some children. Cops shot the dog with a tranquilizer dart and took it to the CACC shelter in Manhattanbecause the Brooklyn shelter had closed for the night. But Stephanie and her dad, James, didn't figure that out until it was too late. A local police lieutenant told them the precinct had no record of the pickup - although it did - and a Brooklyn CACC staffer informed them "it would be a waste of time" to check the Manhattan shelter, the Stiles said.
By the time they discovered Rommel's whereabouts, the dog was dead. He had been euthanized a day earlier, his third day at the shelter. James Stile insists that Rommel was wearing two tags - one with the family's phone number, the other with his vet's name and number. Told their pet had been carted away for a "mass cremation," the Stiles contacted the Pet Crematory Agency in West Babylon, L.I., where workers found Rommel among hundreds of dead CACC animals. The Stiles paid $300 to have the dog - which had once saved them from an armed robber - cremated privately.
"It was like losing a family member," Stephanie said. "I was angry about it, I still am and always will be."
Another Brooklyn pet owner, Joseph Marciano, said his pet Labrador retriever, Coco, was wearing an ID tag when he jumped a backyard fence in Sheepshead Bay and got lost.
The following evening, Marciano said, neighbors told him the dog had been picked up by an "animal rescue" truck. He called the CACC's Brooklyn shelter, but it was closed. When he visited the next day after work, he learned Coco had been put to sleep that morning. The CACC is required by law to hold strays 48 hours to give owners a chance to claim them. After that, the animals can be put up for adoption - or destroyed.
"They did the wrong thing," Marciano said, choking back tears. He plans to sue the CACC.
CACC's Elliott insisted that both Rommel and Coco were not wearing tags when they arrived at the shelters. "If there's an ID tag - any kind of ID - calls are made immediatly," she said, noting that the shelters routinely return lost pets.