An open letter to the ASPCA and New York City legislators by Elizabeth Forel

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1993:

The American SPCA’s recent decision to get out of the
business of killing homeless cats and dogs leaves many
unanswered questions. The killing will continue, only
now it may done behind doors closed even more tightly
than before, since the New York City government will
most likely but not willingly assume the responsibility.
New York City could become the biggest, most horren-
dous slaughterhouse dog pound in the nation.
Will the ASPCA don white gloves and join with
every other shelter and humane society in the greater met
ropolitan area, calling themselves a “no kill” shelter but
closing their eyes to the continuing slaughter of precious
healthy animals whose only crime was homelessness? Or
will the ASPCA accept the moral and ethical imperative
and speak out loudly and effectively against the slaughter,
using their newly released energy and financial strength to
educate relentlessly against the obscenity of breeding and
killing? Their past record does not offer much hope.

The transfer of killing animals to a city agency
presents a potentially explosive situation. As with most
large cities, the New York City government is out of con-
trol, with profound problems in virtually every
sector––from school boards to the police department and
the housing department, all of them plagued by inevitable
and ubiquitous drugs and crime. It is doubtful that legisla-
tors will listen to the plea for companion animals; animals
are not high on their priority list, since defenders of dogs
and cats have proven less vocal than most other lobbying
groups. All of this is exascerbated by a mostly unsupport-
ive populace, more interested in following the true-life
soap operas of Amy Fisher and Woody Allen/Mia Farrow
than in saving animals from death.
Regardless of all these obstacles, this transition
must be modeled after similar transfers of authority in other
large cities where it has been accomplished in a sensitive,
intelligent way, with the highest humane standards and
scrupulous safeguards. There needs to be a well thought
out plan toward a zero killing goal. This means an indepen-
dent review board set up to monitor the animal pounds,
with continuing oversight––made up of people with proven
records in exhibiting compassion for animals. Let there be
no political connections or vested interests here; otherwise
it will be a failure. We need to look toward cities like San
Francisco, where a successful transfer of pound duties to
city government has been carried out, and to Seattle,
where the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (while still
doing the killing) has developed an aggressive community
outreach program which stigmatizes breeding and has
resulted in less animals killed.
The key to stopping the killing is relentless public
education. Educating people about neutering is at the core:
less births, less animals, less kills. Overpopulation occurs
one litter at a time. The public must be held accountable
for perpetuating the killing, and must be made to see the
direct connection between this and the mindless breeding of
more cats and dogs. And if the have lost their innocence
and can no longer be reached by compassion, then it is
incumbent upon all of us to remind them that the $4.5 mil-
lion the killing work costs New York each year comes from
everyone’s taxes.
The ASPCA will now have the unique opportuni-
ty to carry out the mission and vision of its founder, Henry
Bergh: to truly work toward “alleviating pain, fear and
suffering among animals,” and to affirm, rather than to
destroy the sanctity of life. It’s a big job, but let’s hope
they heed the call.
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