Newsday [Queens Life section], Sunday, March 22, 1998
Dog Tales Without Happy Endings
By Merle English
[photo caption: Patty Marino did what she could for Cody, above, after the dog had been abandoned.]
THE STORIES are endless.
Unwanted pet dogs and cats let loose by their owners to fend for themselves on the streets of New York City.
Others that are physically abused and merci lessly left to suffer and die. Thousands that are put down at the city's shelters.
And those that are adopted whose fates are un known.
Three stories from around Queens illustrate the heartbreak and frustration of people who care about animals and want something done to stem a rising tide of misery that advocates attribute to failure of the city's public school system to teach state-mandated humane education.
* * *
Patty Marino, a College Point mother of four children and owner of two cats and two dogs, has never encountered a stray animal that didn't tug at her heartstrings.
"They're defenseless. They're out there and they're hungry," she said. "I feel sorry for them, and I don't like to see people mistreating them."
Last April, while walking her own dogs in her neighborhood, Marino caught and took home a leashed shepherd-mix dog she saw running loose.
A veterinarian whom Marino paid to examine the dog traced its owner from its collar and gave Marino the owner's telephone number. She called and received a response that shocked her.
"He said he didn't want the dog, that he let it go on purpose and he didn't care what happens to her. He cursed me out and said he wanted the dog to die. He said she was probably going to get hit by a car anyway. I ended up keeping the dog for four months."
For Our Friends, a rescue group in Oakland Gardens, boarded Cody -- as Marino named the dog -- for a month. "I couldn't afford to keep her," Marino said. But after the month Cody was back in Marino's care because the dog "wasn't doing well in a cage."
The rescue group found a home for Cody but after a week the dog was returned to Marino.
"It was too big for the family. The husband didn't like it," she said. "I kept her for another four months. "
Cody next went to a friend of Marino's but after a month it was back with her. After two weeks Marino offered it up for adoption.
A woman who responded signed a 12-point contract with Marino agreeing to care for Cody as a pet, allow Marino to visit the dog unannounced and not to sell or give it to anyone without her approval. But two days after the woman took Cody she could not account for the dog's whereabouts, Marino said. After weeks of hounding the woman for an explana tion, Marino said she was told the dog ran off. "Since then I called her and she won't even talk to me," she said.
Marino fears that the woman was a buncher, an individual who gets paid to provide dogs to laboratories for experimentation.
* * *
The dogs start barking at 3 a.m. in Vincent Gallagher's Far Rockaway neighborhood, disturbing his rest.
"There are usually 12 dogs out there tearing each other up," Gallagher said.
For years he has complained to city authorities about property owners "turning their dogs loose at nights so they will mess up the streets instead of their yards." But he said nothing has been done. "Nobody wants to take care of it," Gallagher said.
"This is not a dog's problem," he went on, "There is no enforcement on owners. The dogs are the abused parties here . . . but it's not their fault.
"People needing some kind of protection get some kind of a dog," he said. "The kids don't have some body to play with, they want a dog. The mother, when the kids go to school want some company, they get a dog. There's no problem with the dog, the problem is with people. We need the owners fined. If there is no punishment, they just get another dog. They must be held accountable."
* * *
When she took an injured stray to the city's Center for Animal Care and Control in Manhattan two years ago, Lori Phelan was told that Nellie, a dog she rescued from abusive children, would be put up for adoption as the shelter's Pet of the Week.
Phelan said the animal was euthanized the same day although she stated explicitly that she didn't want it put to sleep, and that she would take it back.
"I left thinking the dog would be OK," she said.
The Glendale mother of five and animal rescuer had taken the dog to the shelter after giving it a home for a year. "We no longer had the room to care for Nellie," she explained.
"I'd taken her off the street because the kids were beating her up. She'd gotten hit by a car. She lost her hind paw. I spent more than $2,000 just to keep her alive and they killed the dog in one day." Phelan has collected 3,000 signatures on a petitio hoping to force out the CACC's current management.
She wants to see the shelter put up clear signs warning people who bring animals there that the animal is likely to be killed.
"People have no idea when they bring their animal into the shelter that they have little chance of being adopted," she said. "People should be aware . . . that their dog or cat is highly likely to be euthanized with in 48 hours and should have an option to reclaim it."
Gary Kaskell, of the Shelter Reform Action Committee, agrees with Gallagher that the stray problem is a people problem.
"For almost 50 years there has been a state law on the books mandating humane education in the public school system, and it is not enforced," he said. "These are the kinds of problems that must be attacked from childhood, to teach children that animals are not to be thrown out like old toys when they get tired of them. Children grow up to be adults with these irresponsible attitudes about animals."
Karen Crowe, a spokeswoman for the New York City Board of Education, said, however, "Although there is no central curriculum that we provide to schools, this mandate is dealt with in a number of ways, particularly in the elementary and middle schools through literature, field trips and classroom experiences and in the later grades in life science classes. We are aware of it and we are comfortable that we are in compliance with the law."
* * *
In the end, the issue of what to do with strays winds up at the Center for Animal Care and Control for solution. The shelter euthanized 70,000 animals last year, Faith Elliott, a spokeswoman, said. Her response to Gallagher? "He should take pictures. There's a leash law. Owners are required to keep their animals leashed."
Answering Phelan's concerns, she said, "There's a huge sign in the lobby and anyone who turns an animal in to the center signs a document saying adoption is not guaranteed" and that the animal may be euthanized.
Elliott said Phelan brought in a three-legged dog.
"There are special people out there who will take on a special-needs dog, but if the person who rescued the dog isn't willing to care for the dog, why assume another person would? On that day the shelter probably took in over 100 animals. I feel terribly sorry for them. We are able to make some special connections, but by and large not even all the healthy animals get adopted."
People shouldn't use the shelter as a first resort, " Elliott cautioned.
"Call family, friends, a priest, a rabbi. Don't dump it on the shelter and make it somebody else's problem. A shelter should be the absolutely last resort," she said.
Support for Animal Rescue
MANY NONPROFIT animal rescue groups around the city pick up abandoned and wounded dogs and cats and often pay for their medical care and board before putting them up for adoption. Following is a list of some of the groups for anyone wishing to make donations to support their work:
P.O. Box 1345
Canal Street Station, N.Y. 10013-0877
Animals Can't Talk
P.O. Box 630408
Little Neck, N.Y. 11363
United Action tor Animals
P.O. Box 635
New York, N .Y. 10021
355 E. 72nd St.
New York, N.Y. 10021-4661
For Our Friends
P.O. Box 203,
Oakland Gardens, N.Y. 11364
Companion Animal Network
P.O. Box 750069,
Forest Hills, N.Y. 11375