SRAC has kept an open dialogue with CACC executive director Marilyn Haggarty-Blohm ever since she was first appointed interim director in June 1997. While Mrs. Blohm has been helpful in resolving some individual cases where people had problems with the way CACC was dealing with their animals, she has been less than forthcoming when it comes to solving the bigger issues facing CACC. After a lunch meeting to discuss SRAC's concerns that CACC has failed to make real progress on many of these issues, the following letters were exchanged.
Shelter Reform Action Committee
P.O. Box 268
New York, NY 10128
visit our website: http://users.infohouse.com/srac
August 17, 1998
Mrs. Marilyn Haggarty-Blohm
Center for Animal Care & Control
11 Park Place, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10007
First, I want to thank you for taking the time to have lunch with me last week. I hope it served as an opportunity for us to garner a better understanding of each other's points of view.
During our discussions, you made a comment I feel needs further explanation. You said that you believed the current number of animals being killed by the CACC was "appropriate." Kyle Burkhart was also quoted recently in the press using the same phrase.
Because I believe this represents a major philosophical difference between us, could you kindly explain your rationale for believing such.
I look forward to your response.
Very truly yours,
/s/ Gary Kaskel, co-chair
Center for Animal Care and Control
11 Park Place
New York, NY 10007
September 1, 1998
Mr. Gary Kaskel
Shelter Reform Action Committee
P.0. Box 268
New York, New York 10028
I, too, enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the many issues that we covered during lunch recently. While we may not agree on how to address each issue or even which to address first, it is always important to consider other viewpoints when making decisions, especially the difficult ones that I face each day. I hope that the opportunity for open dialogue will continue.
With regard to your specific inquiry on the number of animals being euthanized by CACC, I did not use the word "appropriate," but rather "reasonable." I will attempt to explain my position. You asked how many animals I thought was "reasonable" to be euthanized at the shelter. I prefaced my response with a series of conditions. I stated that using the new medical/temperament statusing that CACC put into effect in May, and then superimposing an 'adoptability' factor, and then considering the number of individuals arriving to adopt and the degree of experience in pet ownership that these individuals demonstrate, the number of animals being euthanized was not unreasonable. I never stated that it was "acceptable" -- which is what your letter implies. However, I must be clearly understood, that the conditions that make this number unacceptable, are not fully within CACC's control.
An animal arriving at CACC is statused first by the medical department with a status 1 (adoptable without reservation) to 5 (unsuitable for adoption) with either health or temperament or both cited. That is, in addition to the numerical status, each animal may be statused with a "C" for a contagious illness, "NC" for non-contagious illness and "T" for a temperament problem. In addition to the medical/temperament status, animals are evaluated by the adoptions staff as to their "adoptability." Such factors as age, size, breed type, personality (not temperament) and even coat color are considered in this evaluation. As a result, an animal that is highly suitable for adoption in terms of health and temperament, may not be as "adoptable" as an animal with a lower health or temperament status. I would like to give an example.
A four year old Maltese with a large umbilical hernia that will require surgery and mild dental tartar might receive a status of "3NC" on the basis of health and temperament and be considered highly adoptable due to breed and size. A seven month old shepherd mix might receive a health and temperament status of "1" and yet not be as adoptable because it is no longer a "cute, little" puppy and is likely to be more than fifty pounds at maturity.
In this example, the Maltese is more likely to be adopted. If space allows, both dogs would be placed in adoptions. If circumstances are such that there is no room for both dogs, experience will tell us to choose the Maltese for adoptions. This is the cold reality of the situation not only at CACC but at all non-selective shelters.
Thus, CACC needs more adopters willing to take the older puppy or young adult dog that exceeds or will exceed 50 pounds, which are often undisciplined and frequently not housebroken. Such adopters are also needed for the adult cat that is either shy or unsocial. Many times CACC is successful at placing these animals through local no-kill shelters or small rescue groups. Too often we are not successful.
The second category of animal that is difficult to place is the status 3 or 4 T dogs. With intense intervention, lengthy rehabilitation and careful retraining these dogs might be appropriate for placement in a household that has had prior experience in managing a dominant or fearful dog. The average adopter has neither the experience nor the patience to be an appropriate home for these dogs. Most no-kill shelters do not have the time to dedicate to the rehabilitation of these dogs and few rescuers select these dogs. Under current conditions, humane euthanasia is an often necessary and reasonable alternative for these dogs and cats.
I know that you believe that CACC does not advertize enough and I do not disagree. I am working with Kyle Burkhart, our new Director of External Affairs, on the development of a new campaign for this fall for the NYC Sanitation trucks as well as a series of Public Service Announcements highlighting adoptions. However, the individuals that respond to these ads are generally not interested in or appropriate to adopt the more difficult animals.
CACC maintains one of, it not the, lowest euthanasia rates per capita in this country. Through CACC, together with the other shelters in the region, more shelter animals are adopted in New York City than anywhere else in the country. While you often portray the animals that come into CACC shelters as healthy and adoptable, reality is that many are in fact neither healthy nor -- under current circumstances -- adoptable. CACC will continue to endeavor to improve their health and increase their adoptability, but it is unreasonable to hold CACC responsible for conditions it neither created nor controls.
I hope that this explanation dispels the notion that I think the current euthanasia rate is "appropriate" and places your question -- and my response -- in the proper context. I look forward to working with you to improve the welfare of all animals in this City.
/s/ Marilyn Haggarty-Blohm
SRAC finds Mrs Blohm's new rating system bizarre and overly complex and her claims of a low ethanasia rate distorted and unverifiable. As a former City bureaucrat, Mrs. Blohm is unwilling to fight for tapping into City resources to solve the animal overpopulation problem (through low-cost spay/neuter, humane education and aggressive off-site adoption programs). This leads her into a scenario whereby she is perecived as a failure unless she can rationalize CACC's grim performance into something less horrifying, so she tries to compare NYC to some other areas and then claim success by calling the appalling kill numbers at CACC "reasonable" and therefore acceptable by comparison. With a callous indifference, Mrs. Blohm tries unsuccessfully to deflect her own inadequate and misguided performance in running CACC and failure to advocate for real solutions. Conclusion: NYC's shelter animals need someone from the humane community, not a spin doctor with a morally bankrupt agenda.