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Queens Chronicle

Battle to achieve unmet promises

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Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2011 2:45 pm | Updated: 2:51 pm, Thu Sep 22, 2011.

Animal advocates are in an uproar over the city’s failed promise to provide animal shelters in all five boroughs in favor of increasing funding in existing ones.

The City Council plans to meet this week to discuss legislation that would add $12 million to the budget-ravaged NYC Animal Care and Control shelters over the next three years. The bill intends to improve conditions and expand services in exisiting facilities.

The agreement would effectively repeal the Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act of 2000 that vowed to provide full-time and full-service shelters in all five boroughs. Queens and the Bronx now have only animal receiving centers, that allow for animal abandonment on a limited basis, but don’t provide care, adoption or assist residents in finding their lost animals.

“Queens and the Bronx deserve full-service animal services,” said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), whose father sponsored the 2000 law.

At the center of the battle, is Stray from the Heart, an animal rescue group that sued the city and the Department of Health in 2009 for not complying with the law. Despite suffering a setback when they were found to lack the standing to challenge the city, they were recently granted a motion to present their dissatisfication with the Court of Appeals.

“The restoration of funds to the ACC is a welcomed measure to address the ACC’s crisis on a short-term basis,” said the volunteer-based organization in a statement presented at a City Council hearing on Sept. 9. “But without full-service shelters in all five boroughs, the current crisis will continue to grow.”

The proposed bill attempts to ensure the maintenance of full-service animal shelters in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and improve receiving centers in Queens and the Bronx by increasing the hours of operation to seven days a week rather than only one to two days.  It also will require owners to spay or neuter free-roaming cats and the DOH to implement trap-neuter-return rules.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals believe the legislation will play a positive role in saving the city’s homeless animals and prevent animal suffering.

“The ASPCA strongly believes that there should be animal shelters in all five boroughs, but we need improvement now,” said Anita Kelso Edson, spokeswoman for the ASPCA. “These new resources are an important first step in the long-term rebuilding of NYC’s shelter system.”

Each year approximately 5 to 7 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters in the United States, with 3 to 4 million, usually in good health, being euthanized, according to statistics used by the ASPCA for the past three years.

“Healthy animals being killed in facilites just because they can’t find good homes or there is no room is heartbreaking and unacceptable,” said Melissa Burgos, a volunteer with Bobbi and the Strays, a nonprofit no-kill animal rescue organization located in Glendale.

Many argue the city’s proposed law isn’t enough to address a system that has been plagued with overcrowding and thus euthanasia.

Toni Bodon, cofounder of Strays from the Heart, agrees. “Rather than putting a band-aid over a critically wounded system, the City Council needs to examine the root of the disease and address it with a long-term, result based plan,” Bodon said.

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