The New York Daily News, August 3, 1995
Collie put to sleep
by Patti Lew
Special to The News
When Robert and Lori Phelan made the painful decision to give away a family dog, they turned to a local shelter that promised to work hard to find the pooch a new home.
But the dog -- a long-haired collie named Nellie -- was euthanized less than 24 hours after the Glendale couple left him at the Center for Animal Care and Control in Brooklyn.
"I told them, 'If you're going to put the dog to sleep, let me know and I'll take him back,"' said an angry Robert Phelan.
"They told us they would help me with Nellie, but they didn't even give him a fighting chance. They killed him that day."
The family had to seek a new home for the dog because the birth of a new baby brought a sixth family member into their two-bedroom apartment.
Things were too crowded for Nellie to have enought space of her own.
The Phelans said they turned to the CACC because its pamphlet said the agency is "promoting our adoption program" and "finding homes for hard-to-place animals" through donations it receives.
It seemed like a perfect place to bring Nellie, a stray dog they took into their home two years ago and nurtured even after she was struck by a car, which left her without a hind paw.
But the Phelans said that after they made a $60 donation and signed Nellie over to the CACC in late July -- with an assurance that the shelter would do its best with her -- Nellie was euthanized less than 24 hours later.
Robert Phelan said that the adoption counselor said, "Don't worry, your dog is in good hands. I'm going to ask the director to make it pet of the week because of your generous donation."
The Phelans were furious and upset the next day when they called to check on Nellie and found out she had been put to sleep.
Cybele Fisher-Koppel, spokeswoman for the CACC, said the agency tries to find homes for the more than 600 animals that come into the shelter system every day. But she said there are "no guarantees."
"We do make every effort to insure that as many animals as possible are adopted. But we must euthanize animals that are injured or sick, or might not be adoptable," said Fisher-Koppel, citing space concerns.
"In this particular isolated case, we had to make the painful decision to euthanize because of its abnormality and little cage space," said the CACC spokeswoman.
The Phelans said Nellie was in excellent health.
"She got around like a champ. She clambered up and down the stairs like it was no big deal for her" to be missing a paw, said Lori Phelan.
Her husband added: "If they knew that's what they were going to do, that's what they should have told me right up front, instead of giving me false hope and saying that if she passed the veterinarian exam and wasn't anti-social, she would be pet of the week and could stay up to three months if there was room.
"I agreed to all of that. But, my whole entire beef is they misrepresented themselves to me," he added.
Lori Phelan is circulating a petition, "Save Our Animals -- In Memory of Nellie."
It calls for the city to "conduct an in-depth investigation of the management, practices and policies of the taxpayer-funded Center for Animal Care and Control in Brooklyn . . . a facility which is not helping New York City's homeless animals or the New Yorkers who are concerned with their welfare."
The CACC notes that "these animals could be saved if more people came into our shelters to adopt what could be wonderful pets for individuals. We welcome all New Yorkers."
[Sidebar to above story]
Better oversight urged
by Patti Lew
Special to The News
Animal protection groups across New York City have been critical of the Center for Animal Care and Control's operations since it took over the animal shelter system from the ASPCA in January.
Thirty-five groups concerned about so-called companion animals, such as cats and dogs, have banded together to form the Coalition for New York City Animals. Its organizers say it intends to lobby for oversight of the operations and management of the CACC.
"The message needs to get out to the public that they can't take their pets to the CACC and expect that the animal is going to find a home," said Elizabeth Forel, co-founder of the coalition.
The coalition acknowledges that because of animal overpopulation, the CACC has a "contract with the city to take animals off the street and kill them."
But it accuses the CACC of destroying too many animals instead of finding homes for them.
In its first three months, the CACC euthanized more than 8,500 of the almost 13,000 animals it took into its shelters.
Forel said the CACC shouldn't get all the blame for killing these animals.
"People have to take responsibility for their animals. When they adopt an animal, it should be for their natural lifetime, and they should spay and neuter them" so the animal population is controlled, she said.
A CACC spokeswoman said not enought New Yorkers are willing to adopt animals in the shelter system.
The CACC has generated controvery in several cases in its first seven months:
- An owner looking for his Rottweiler at the Brooklyn shelter in June was told his dog was not with the CACC.
- He later found out that his dog was taken to the Manhattan shelter-the Brooklyn shelter was closed when police tried to drop offthe dog. The dog was killed.
- Ruffy, a purebred chow, was euthanized two days after he was brought to the Brooklyn shelter in February, even though his owner, John Gracci, had previously filed a missing dog report.
- A man said he called the CACC eight times to get help for an abandoned German shepherd pup who was tied to a fence for several days and through a rainstorm, but he never got a response from the agency.