From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1993:

According to the most recent tax records available from
New York state and the Internal Revenue Service, the
North Shore Animal League in 1991 contributed more than
$3.5 million toward the cost of neutering more than 220,000
cats and dogs; donated $2.4 million to 21 other animal shel-
ters and two veterinary schools; adopted out more than
43,000 animals; issued more than 41,000 free 30-day health
insurance policies to guarantee the well-being of animals
adopted out; vaccinated more than 41,000 animals; treated
more than 17,000 animals at an in-house veterinary clinic
(open 16 hours a day, seven days a week); and made
71,000 post-adoption contacts to insure that the animals
were neutered, well cared for, and well-adjusted in their
adoptive homes.

To put those numbers in perspective, the next
largest neutering program of national scope, conducted by
Friends of Animals, spent $2.2 million. With the possible
exceptions of one or two charitable foundations, who con-
duct no programs of their own, no animal-related charity
spent as much as North Shore to assist colleagues. No other
animal shelter adopted out even a third as many once home-
less cats and dogs.
But no animal shelter gets worse publicity, year in
and year out, from animal protection media. North Shore
achieves its stunning statistics by breaking just about every
convention in the animal sheltering business––and doesn’t
even bother to answer critics.
“We do not wish to get involved in any debate,”
North Shore president David Ganz confirms. “We feel our
good work speaks for itself.”
Does it? So far as ANIMAL PEOPLE has been
able to discover, no nationally distributed animal protection
publication has published an article explaining North
Shore’s unconventional methods, except to the degree nec-
essary to blast them, in the past 10 years. So far as ANI-
MAL PEOPLE can determine, only one head of any other
national animal protection group, former American SPCA
president John Kullberg, has defended North Shore in pub-
lic. (Kullberg is now president of Guiding Eyes for the
Blind, Inc.)
None of this seems to have hurt North Shore,
whose revenues have grown by 41% in the same time––and
whose spending on behalf of animals has increased 150%.
John Freed, outgoing executive director of the
Greenville Humane Society in Greenville, South Carolina,
thinks it’s time other people did speak up for North
Shore––not just in fairness to the organization, but because,
in Freed’s experience, the unconventional North Shore
approach works. Recovering from surgery and wishing to
spend more time with his family, Freed is retiring at the end
of March to run a grooming and boarding business. When
he became executive director in June 1988, GHS was tak-
ing in 10,500 animals a year, euthanizing 8,000 (76%) for
lack of adoptive homes. A year later, Freed began borrow-
ing from the North Shore book with a “Bring us your ani-
mals” campaign.
Bring us your animals
“The dogs and cats were always out there,” Freed
says, “but they weren’t coming to us. They were being
passed along from family to family and not getting neutered
and having litters, and some were ending up in pet stores or
puppy mills and with bunchers for laboratories because we
weren’t part of the loop. Instead of being left out and cut-
ting our euthanasia rate by not getting the animals, we got
ourselves into the loop. We promised we’d find homes for
the puppies and kittens, and people who didn’t want to have
anything to do with us before because they thought we were
just going to kill the animals suddenly started coming in.
That gave us a chance to talk to the people who were letting
these animals breed, and to try to convince them of the
advantages of having their pets neutered.”
The euthanasia rate didn’t start dropping immedi-
ately, Freed explains, since the advertising campaign dra-
matically increased the traffic into the shelter. His response
to that was to promote adoptions not only through advertis-
ing, but also by eliminating all but the most minimal pre-
adoption screening––as North Shore reputedly did at one
time, although North Shore screening now, according to
Freed, “is the most stringent I’ve seen anywhere.” At the
same time, Freed offered GHS animals to local pet stores.
Freed admits the humane establishment all but
burned him for heresy. “I really got hell from the Humane
Society of the U.S. and the American Humane Association,”
he remembers. “But think about this: the people who think
about getting a pet enough to come to a humane shelter in
the first place are the people you really want to have the ani-
mals. They’re coming to you instead of going to a pet store
because they already appreciate the pet overpopulation cri-
sis, and they usually know about neutering and the other
things you want them to know about. You don’t want to turn
those people off by telling them they can’t have the pet they
want because they don’t have quite the right living situation,
from the way they explain it to you in maybe five or ten
minutes. You want to give them an animal, a neutered ani-
mal, and that way, even if you make a mistake, they’re not
getting an unneutered animal from a pet store and breeding
litters by accident. Every animal we adopt out,” he empha-
sizes, “is neutered before leaving our building.”
As to promoting adoptions through pet stores,
Freed explains, “This is now an accepted technique. People
are doing it everywhere. And it’s very simple. Pet stores do
the biggest volume business in dogs and cats. When we go
in the door as their supplier, all their business becomes our
business––and all the animals they place who come from us
are already neutered.”
Freed’s approach attracted funding from North
Shore, beginning in October 1990 with a grant of $11,076
to underwrite television advertising. “That made the biggest
change in our operation,” he states. “People didn’t imagine
the change that could create. Before we got that grant, I
never could have gotten our board of directors to approve
spending the money for television advertising. But it turned
out to be everything and more that North Shore said it was.
In 1989, we did 2,800 adoptions. In 1990 it was 3,100. In
1991, our first full year of advertising, it was 4,200. Last
year it was 5,650, and in 1992 we’re on a pace to adopt out
8,000,” or as many animals as GHS was euthanizing six
years ago.
Of course GHS for several years was also eutha-
nizing more animals––because it was taking in dramatically
more, reaching far into the Piedmont mountains, whereas
six years ago it served only the immediate community. The
euthanasia rate, however, was sharply down. In 1991,
GHS took in 21,000 animals, euthanizing 14,000 (67%). In
1992, GHS received 22,000 animals, but euthanized only
11,000 (50%). And now the total number of euthanasias is
dropping below the pre-advertising norm, too.
“December 1992,” Freed says proudly, “was the
first month in 15 years when we euthanized fewer than 500
animals. January 1993 was the second month, and in
February it’s going to be the same thing. By getting out
there and getting to these people who had been letting their
dogs and cats breed, we’ve begun to make a real head start
toward solving this whole overpopulation problem. Along
the way, we’ve put a lot of commercial breeders out of busi-
ness. It’s all a matter of managing market forces: supply
and demand. If you don’t supply the demand for pets,
someone else will, and there’s going to be profit in it. By
promoting these homeless animals, we’ve taken the profit
out of the puppy mills. North Shore is doing exactly the
same thing, on a much bigger scale. They’ve put puppy
mills out of business all over the country, because there’s
not so much money any more in breeding animals to be sold
in New York City.”
“We offer to neuter the mother for free.”
With an additional $98,000 from North Shore,
GHS opened an in-house neutering clinic. “In 1992 we
neutered 13,000 dogs and cats,” Freed says, “half of them
for free. This year we’re on pace to neuter 20,000. We
advertise for litters, and when people bring them in, we
offer to neuter the mother for free. Most people, we find,
are pretty receptive to that kind of a deal.”
In 1991, North Shore funded $1.6 million worth of
advertising for 31 humane shelters in the U.S. and Canada,
and funded $610,000 worth of neutering facilities at six
humane shelters. North Shore also spent $5 million on
advertising adoptions at its own facility, along with $2.9
million for in-house neutering.
Historically, one of the biggest raps against North
Shore was that it allegedly didn’t enforce any neutering
requirement. Activists in the New York metropolitan area
continue to circulate literature alleging that North Shore is
responsible for pet overpopulation because it adopts out ani-
mals who breed. But financial records indicate that over the
past four years North Shore has spent more than twice as
much money on neutering as any other national organiza-
tion, and has consistently neutered several times more ani-
mals than it adopts out. During the 1980s, North Shore
promoted neutering chiefly by issuing certificates
redeemable for the surgery at the time of adoption––the
same practice followed by most other shelters in the U.S.
that have a neutering requirement. According to Freed, the
redemption rate was around 70%, considerably better than
the national average of 60%, but still not good enough.
Expanding in-house neutering facilities and beginning to
perform early neuters, North Shore is now neutering the
majority of animals it adopts out on site.
Many other charges against North Shore are like-
wise based upon old or incomplete data. Another, often
cited, is that North Shore animals are often unsuitably
placed, because of the organization’s aggressive adoption
promotions, which include merchandise premiums as well
as extensive television and newspaper advertising. While
North Shore contends that the giveaway items help it to
compete with pet stores, critics charge that they just attract
adopters who mainly want the cheap watch, gym bag, or
other giveaway item, rather than the animal. Purportedly in
consequence other pounds and shelters on Long Island are
deluged with former North Shore animals, whom North
Shore refuses to take back. However, nationally, about
five to six percent of all animals who are adopted out some-
how end up back in shelters, after running away or being
abandoned. Since North Shore is adopting out close to
43,000 animals per year, it could be responsible for 2,000
to 2,500 failed adoptions per year and still have a record no
worse than the national average. In fact, North Shore has a
record much better than average: a failed adoption rate of
under 4%––and North Shore does reclaim about 90% of
those animals, an average of about 1,200 a year. Most of
the 200 to 400 North Shore animals who are not reclaimed
are euthanized by the receiving agency due to illness or
injury. They tend to be animals who would no longer have
a good chance of adoption even if healthy, many of whom
remained in adoptive homes for several years before they
wound up back on the street.
North Shore has come under additional fire for not
accepting unadoptables and not doing traditional animal res-
cue, while advertising that “We will not destroy––even if
the pet is blind, elderly, deaf, or otherwise handicapped.”
It is a fact that there haven’t been many blind, elderly, deaf,
or otherwise handicapped animals at North Shore in at least
a decade, and it is a fact, too, that North Shore evades the
necessity of euthanizing animals who cannot be placed by
referring them to other shelters, principally the ASPCA and
the Humane Society of New York, which serve overlapping
territories. However, North Shore isn’t exactly raising funds
as a no-kill while leaving others to do the dirty work without
compensation, as some critics have claimed. North Shore
rewards the ASPCA and HSNY handsomely with annual
grants––$225,000 and $100,000, respectively, in 1991.
As Kullberg explained when the ASPCA began
accepting North Shore funding, North Shore is chartered as
a no-kill shelter. Legally, it cannot perform euthanasia
except in medical emergencies. It is set up to arrange adop-
tions in high volume, and by specializing in adoption, it
manages to place approximately 5,000 animals per year on
behalf of the ASPCA, thereby relieving the ASPCA of the
necessity of euthanizing more animals than it otherwise
would have to. The ASPCA does send North Shore many of
the most adoptable animals it receives, who might other-
wise be placed through ASPCA facilities––but being located
in Manhattan rather than on Long Island, the ASPCA does-
n’t have easy access to a suburban clientele, who typically
adopt far more animals per capita than residents of urban
Euthanasia down in New York, too
Kullberg credits North Shore’s adoption assistance
and neuter promotion with helping cut the number of ani-
mals euthanized at the ASPCA by 34% in six years, from
54,575 in 1986 to roughly 36,000 in 1992.
Such results are not unique. According to the
statement of program service activities North Shore files
annually with the IRS, the 31 shelters participating in North
Shore’s International Shelter Adoption program have aver-
aged an increase in adoptions of 32%, while cutting
euthanasia rates. For instance, the Bridgeport Animal
Shelter in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has cut euthanasias by
30% in the three years since it began sending puppies and
purebreds to North Shore, even though animal pickups have
increased 33% over the same period. A vigorous local fos-
tering program called New Leash on Life also deserves cred-
it. However, North Shore was also among the organizations
who introduced the idea of fostering to humane work. North
Shore program services statements annually record that 35
to 38 off-premises foster homes have cared for about 3,500
m i s t r e a t e d ,
problem, and pregnant animals” during the preceding 12
The most controversial North Shore practice at
present is importing animals from other regions to adopt out
from Port Washington. Most of the animals are puppies and
purebreds. The 31 shelters participating in North Shore’s
International Shelter Adoption Program are required to
solicit turn-ins of litters through newspaper and television
advertising. North Shore then collects the most adoptable
animals with a fleet of six 15-passenger vans, each of
which holds 31 fibreglas cages. “Only small littermates will
share cages,” says Freed, who has made the trip up to New
York from Greenville on many occasions. “They have an
attendant present at all times. They get regular water and
exercise stops.” Animals traveling from farther than one
night-long drive away are air-freighted to New York––much
like animals headed to pet stores, but under much better
conditions. USDA inspectors have recently seized vans
similar to North Shore’s that contained as many as 120 ani-
mals, typically packed four to six to a fibreglas cage.
Pick-ups from other shelters now account for more
than 80% of the animals North Shore places. Critics con-
tend that the ads soliciting animals encourage breeding
because North Shore provides a convenient place to dump
unwanted litters. They also argue that the puppies and kit-
tens North Shore provides compete for homes with the adult
animals the ASPCA and HSNY must euthanize for lack of
“Our experience runs completely counter to the
idea that North Shore is encouraging breeding in any way,”
says Freed, citing the Greenville statistics. “And it’s non-
sense to say that the puppies and kittens North Shore adopts
out or that we adopt out or than anyone adopts out are tak-
ing homes away from older animals. Most of the people
who adopt a young animal w a n t a young animal. They
know what they want. They may be misguided in that, and
we can try to educate them, but that is the reality of the
market. If North Shore or another shelter doesn’t provide
those puppies and kittens, neutered, with their shots, the
puppy mills and catteries will, and the people who want
young animals will be going there. The way to get all those
adult animals out of our shelters without having to euthanize
so many is to make sure there are fewer animals out there
breeding. If you make sure that the people who want pup-
pies and kittens are getting neutered animals, you are mak-
ing sure that there won’t be so many adult animals being
euthanized several years up the road.”
Freed points out that numerous other shelters are
also now soliciting puppies and kittens from outlying
areas––especially puppies, who are now in “intermittant
shortage” for adoption in most regions where neutering dri-
ves have been successful. (Kittens remain in abundance
because of the greater fecundity of cats and the vastly
greater number of homeless cats, as many as 35 million,
relative to the number of homeless dogs, usually guessti-
mated at two to four million.)
So far, only one shelter ever admitted to the North
Shore adoption program has become sufficiently disen-
chanted to drop out. In 1990, the Kaaterskill Animal
League severed a seven-year-old arrangement with North
Shore that placed approximately 2,800 animals a year,
because Kaaterskill executive director Sylvia Garcia
believed North Shore tactics were encouraging breeding.
Kaaterskill had received $64,150 from North Shore in 1989.
Without that money, the shelter struggled in 1990.
Reconnecting with North Shore in 1991, it got another
$24,000, but nonetheless closed, owing creditors. At last
report it was still reorganizing.
More problematic than North Shore’s arrange-
ments with other animal shelters is the organization’s alleged
relationship with dog dealer J.J. O’Neill––a relationship,
however, which probably never existed in any formal sense.
For many years, O’Neill has advertised for puppies in north-
eastern and midwestern newspapers, paying a few dollars
apiece for them: not enough to encourage deliberate breed-
ing, since the price isn’t equal to the cost of feeding a litter
for long, but perhaps enough to discourage neutering in
some impoverished rural neighborhoods. Though suspected
of supplying animals to vivisection laboratories and labora-
tory suppliers, he has not been caught doing it, despite sev-
eral investigations by the USDA and a variety of animal pro-
tection groups. Instead, O’Neill insists, he sells most of the
puppies through his New Jersey pet store. The remainder,
he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1990, about 35%, go
to North Shore. This brought suspicion that North Shore
might be purchasing puppies outright from O’Neill and per-
haps other dealers, maybe even breeders. North Shore
refused to respond to media inquiries on the subject, further
stoking concern. As Friends of Animals president Priscilla
Feral put it, after putting a private detective on O’Neill’s
trail for some time to find out where the puppies were going,
“David Ganz, by refusing to talk, is his own worst enemy.”
But while O’Neill may have been dropping puppies
off at North Shore, he told the editor of ANIMAL PEO-
P L E at the time that he wasn’t getting paid for them.
Further, ANIMAL PEOPLE hasn’t found any line item to
account for such purchases in the North Shore financial
records. Ganz, typically, refused to talk with A N I M A L
PEOPLE about O’Neill, but Freed, who hadn’t heard of the
rumored O’Neill connection, agreed to approach Ganz
about him for us. A week later, Freed reported, “Ganz told
me North Shore is not buying animals from J.J. O’Neill, and
has never bought animals from O’Neill or any other com-
mercial dealer.”
If O’Neill was just dumping surplus on the nearest
shelter, he wouldn’t be the first pet dealer to do so; the ani-
mals would be getting one more chance at life; and 35% is,
though high, within the normal range for unsold pets.
The scale of the North Shore operation amplifies
grievances. ANIMAL PEOPLE, like other animal protec-
tion media, has received many letters of complaint from
people who have picked up North Shore animals as strays,
had unpleasant experiences with animals they adopted, or
had conficts with staff. But the letters are not different in
character from others received about dozens of other shel-
ters, many of which enjoy excellent reputations. Every
shelter, like every business, inevitably fails to please a
small percentage of the people it comes in contact with. If
that percentage is one tenth of 1%, a typical shelter may
upset 10 people per year. At the same ratio, North Shore
could be upsetting 1,000.
Many of the critics of North Shore, as of other
shelters, are highly credible people, with noteworthy
records of compassionate action on behalf of homeless ani-
mals––and also greater sensitivity toward problems. That
they perceive problems, however, doesn’t necessarily
mean a shelter is bad. More often, it simply means that a
good shelter isn’t quite good enough to live up to the expec-
tations of those who expect the most.
Then there’s money. The North Shore Animal
League is by far the richest animal protection organization
in the world, with assets worth over $59 million, including
more than $42 million in cash and securities. Ganz makes
$216,000 a year, more than any other animal protection
organization executive. North Shore spends nearly $8 mil-
lion a year just on fundraising, more than the total budget
of any animal protection groups other than the ASPCA, the
Massachusetts SPCA, HSUS, and PETA. The North Shore
fundraising apparatus includes sweepstakes appeals, a
method under frequent scrutiny from both government and
private watchdogs, because of recurring allegations that
people are encouraged to make donations in the belief that
they will then receive a valuable prize.
Until 1984, North Shore’s wealth was not general-
ly known. The organization was recognized mainly as the
avocation of the late Alex M. Lewyt, who made his fortune
as inventor of the clip-on bow tie popularized by big-band
musicians during the 1940s and 1950s. Then, however,
Richard Morgan of Mobilization for Animals obtained and
published information on the assets and incomes of the ten
wealthiest animal protection groups he knew about. He
coupled the information with a demand that the ten groups
share their wealth with younger, struggling activist organi-
zations. Complaints about North Shore from unhappy
clients and objections to unconventional practices were soon
grafted to the financial issue. In particular, critics claimed
that by raising funds all over the U.S. to support a single
Long Island no-kill shelter, North Shore was undercutting
the fundraising efforts of other shelters everywhere.
A similar accusation has long been leveled against
HSUS, supported by stacks of letters received by shelter
directors in response to fundraising appeals, stating that the
potential donors “already gave to your national headquar-
ters.” In fact, HSUS does no hands-on animal work, and
does not share funds with shelters.
North Shore does, Freed points out. What’s more,
he argues, the North Shore sweepstakes appeals go well
outside the usual sweep of humane fundraising to pull in
people whose main motivation may be greed, rather than
compassion, who wouldn’t give a nickel to anyone else.
And, he claims, “From my perspective, North Shore direct
mailings telling people about pet overpopulation only soften
up the audience for when they get my appeals. Our
fundraising success keeps going up. North Shore isn’t hurt-
ing us one bit.”
Morgan, a Marxist, argued that the rich got rich on
the backs of the poor. Freed, a free marketer, counters that
by continuing to raise funds at maximum capacity, North
Shore is only increasing the resources available to the cause.
And the money isn’t just building ever greater cash reserves.
In fact, the North Shore cash and securities reserves have
declined from more than $46 million to just over $42 million
during the past three years, coinciding with construction of
a new neutering facility that has in turn upped the value of
the organization’s fixed assets––as well as its capacity to
help animals. Further, annual revenue from the cash and
securities amount to approximately $3.2 million, close to
the entire annual budget of such organizations as the
American Humane Association, Friends of Animals, the
Fund for Animals, and the International Fund for Animal
Welfare. It is also close to the amount that North Shore
annually grants to other shelters. Freed argues that North
Shore’s cash and securities reserves are what give it the sta-
bility to undertake programs on the scale that it does.
“While we don’t claim to be perfect,” Ganz admits,
“we are doing our best to help save as many animals’ lives as
we possibly can.”
––Merritt Clifton
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