The head of the city’s animal control organization tendered her unexpected resignation last week. New York City Animal Care & Control (ACC) executive director Julie Bank, who had received a contract extension in April, said she would be leaving for family reasons, effective October 19. The organization’s director of operations left earlier last week. The departures were only the latest signs of an organization, and city animal care policies, that are in flux.
“With the impending resignation … we find ourselves at a very important crossroads for the organization and for all of our four-legged friends who call this great city home,” wrote Brooklyn Councilmember Vincent Gentile in a letter to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Tom Farley, who chairs the ACC.
In early September, a local animal rescue organization was scheduled to present oral arguments against the city in the Court of Appeals, the highest level of the state judiciary. The hearing was postponed until November 14. But when the court does take up the case, animal advocates hope it will give them standing to push for widespread changes in an animal control system some say is in crisis.
That system is run by the non-profit ACC, with a budget of almost $11 million for the current fiscal year. Last year, ACC took in 36,000 animals. Roughly 20,000 were released through adoption—most through smaller affiliated organizations, and 5,900 via the ACC itself. And almost 11,000 animals were euthanized.
ACC adoption numbers have declined for six consecutive years. The organization—which has had six directors in six years and eight since Michael Bloomberg became mayor—has not had a full-time medical director for two years. According to former employees and volunteers, ACC facilities routinely run out of basic supplies like cat litter, wet food and rabies injections. These sources also claim animals in ACC are getting sicker and disease strains are getting stronger, and further claim the agency has expanded its list of “untreatable” conditions to justify euthanasia.
ACC officials denied most of these claims. It is difficult to verify either version because ACC is a contractor rather than a city agency, with fewer available records on its performance, and requires employees and volunteers to sign confidentiality agreements that apply even after they have left the agency.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, communities spend on average $8 per capita for animal shelters. New York City spends less than one dollar per capita on animal control. Former ACC executive director Ed Boks said the budget “is so buried … New Yorkers would be shocked if they understood how deliberately underfunded the ACC is.”
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