Surrender prevention programs brought drop in New York City shelter killing
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2012:
As the July/August edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE reported, New York City has reduced municipal shelter killing to just one dog or cat per 1,000 human residents. The previous lowest ever ratio was 1.3 in San Francisco, which has a human population base of only 750,000.
How did New York City accomplish this? By introducing two major surrender prevention programs: a telephone hot line to assist pet keepers in crisis, and a super low-cost mobile full veterinary service. Both of these programs were initiated by the Companion Animal Network.
It took us 10 years of lobbying three different animal control administrations for the concept of surrender prevention to be given a trial run. We wrote a 20-page proposal, which each administration ignored, until we went to the Center for Animal Care & Control board of directors with it in 2005. Then-New York City health commissioner Thomas Friedan, now heading the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, ordered that it be implemented.
We paid for printing a brochure, and the CACC began to refer surrender cases to our hot line of 25 years, 718-544-PETS. We handled as many calls as possible live, even while in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, doing 20-hour shifts of animal trapping in 120-degree heat and sleeping on concrete in the open air with no food or electricity. I even recall taking a call seconds prior to being sedated at the New York University dental hospital, about to undergo a wisdom tooth extraction! We saved that dog’s life.
It worked! Four years later, in 2009, the Humane Society of the U.S. took over administration of our Safety Net program, assigned salaried employees to administer it, re-named it Pets for Life, and expanded the hot line to do much more than a small organization such as ours could have done.
We next launched the Low Cost Vet Mobile, to go into the low income neighborhoods where most of the animals surrendered to animal control come from. Parking in front of NYC animal control locations in those communities, we were able to help the animals before they were surrendered. No one had ever done that before. We began by offering our services two days a week. Within a year we expanded to three days a week, and the next year to four days a week.
The results were immediate. After many years of virtually unchanged numbers of dog/cat surrenders, relinquishments of dogs and cats to the CACC dropped by 5,974 (15% of total intake) during our first full year with the Vet Mobile (2009-2010), and then dropped by 3,207 (9.2%) in our second Vet Mobile year.
Adoptions fell 22% during the same years, as the U.S. economy faltered, but we still saw a dramatic drop in the numbers of animals who were killed at the city shelters.
This could not have been accomplished solely by the two surrender prevention programs. If the CACC had not actively partnered with us by instructing their employees to refer animal surrender callers and visitors to our programs, it is highly unlikely that this success would have been accomplished. The American SPCA’s mobile spay/neuter trucks pioneered our approach. The ASPCA mobile spay neuter trucks stock Vet Mobile flyers and refer all low-income medical cases to us. Our Vet Mobile stocks the ASPCA spay/neuter flyers and gives out their info.
Had Maddie’s Fund not funded the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals in 2003, the Vet Mobile could never have been launched nor survived. Had HSUS not taken over the Safety Net/Pets for Life surrender prevention hot line, we could never have started the Vet Mobile program, as all of our time was already taken up by the 5,000 calls for assistance we were handling every year. Had foundations such as the Atlas Bass Foundation, Stewie to the Rescue, Red Rover, New York Save, and many private individuals not supported the Vet Mobile, our program might not have survived its first two years. In summary, the historic accomplishment here in New York City is the result of an incredible team effort. –Garo Alexanian, Companion Animal Network P.O. Box 656712, Fresh Meadows, NY 11365 Phone: 718-544-PETS <info@CompanionAnimalNetworkTV.org> <www.companionanimalnetworktv.org>