Understanding AC&C’S Failure
The AC&C is crippled first by a failure in its own governance. Conflicts of interest prevents its board of directors from serving the interests of shelter animals rather than those of the Department of Health. Unfortunately, the DOH's interests have never included animal welfare. When Mayor Giuliani and the Department of Health created the AC&C in 1994, they claimed it was an "independent" charity that had a true "public/private" partnership. The original AC&C Board had 7 directors: 3 were government officials and 4 were non-government individuals vetted by the DOH and then appointed by the Mayor (the so-called "appointed" or "independent" directors).
The City's hostility to animals was evident from the beginning. Mayor Giuliani appointed the Commissioner of Sanitation to serve as AC&C Chairman, reflecting Giuliani's view that animals are garbage.
The original AC&C by laws required that for any motion to pass, all 3 government directors had to vote in lockstep. That meant that the City government controlled all AC&C business.
And every five years when the animal services contract comes come up for renewal, the DOH dictates the new contract terms. There is no negotiation because the DOH sat on both sides of the negotiating table.
For years SRAC raged against the Board’s structure. In a gesture to assuage his critics, Giuliani removed the Sanitation Commissioner from the Board, replacing him with the Parks Commissioner. The DOH Commissioner would serve as Chairman and a representative of the New York Police Department's Public Liaison office rounds out the 3 government directors.
In late 2011 as part of a deal to relieve the DOH of its longstanding legal obligation to create shelters in the Bronx and Queens, the DOH agreed to expand the number of "appointed" directors from 4 to 6.
It took the DOH 1-1/2 years to find just the perfect 2 extra "appointed" directors, all of whom owe their allegiance to the City's interests, not the interests of animals. In fact, one of the new non-government directors was a former Deputy Health Commissioner. The change to the Board's composition has been cosmetic at best.
Even while the AC&C needs to be restructured from within, there are outside forces that exacerbate animal homelessness and the mistreatment of NYC's animals.
For example, landlords impose arbitrary limits on the types and numbers of companion animals a tenant may own. Rather than focus on irresponsible pet owners, landlords (beginning with the largest landlord of all -- New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)) penalize all pet owners. The result is that over the years thousands of dogs and cats have been surrendered to the AC&C because their owners were threatened with eviction.
The City also ignores an almost 100-year old State law requiring the teaching of Humane Education to grade school students. And despite research establishing that teaching empathy to other living creatures is vital to a child's development, it's been up to private organizations like H.E.A.R.T. to attempt fill in this vital lessons gap.
Animal cruelty (which covers a host of evils including dog fighting) continues to plague NYC. Without a coordinated effort between NYC's citizens and its law enforcement officials, cruelty will continue.
The City still lacks sufficient low cost or free spay/neuter services, vaccination and vet care services for neighborhoods that are centers of animal homelessness.
There is also insufficient support for TNR (Trap/Neuter/ Return) services that humanely reduce the size of the City's feral cat population.
And compliance with dog licensing (which should be a reliable and important source of funding for the AC&C) remains laughable under DOH control.