Manhattan borough president calling for change for New York's animals

Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle was invited to speak at a press conference Sunday called by Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer. President Stringer released a report calling for a top-to-bottom makeover of New York City Animal Care and Control (NYCACC). Stringer finds fault across the board, and for him, the failings of NYCACC during Hurricane Sandy were the final straw. He says the agency went dark during the aftermath of the storm, with phones going unanswered and doors locked to rescuers.

The report, "Led Astray,” details the failings of the current management of NYCACC under the control of the city's Department of Health and outlines a viable alternative modeled along the lines of the Central Park Conservancy. Stringer points out failing numbers, such as a 37 percent drop in adoptions over the last six years. The conservancy is a public/private partnership inaugurated in 1980 that engaged a concerned public and transformed the decaying city landmark into the jewel that it is today.

Gregory was one of a group of speakers led by Stringer that included city and state officials, each calling for the needed change. NYCACC is theoretically a private 501(c)(3), but when it was created by Mayor Giuliani in 1995, he institutionalized a board with the health commissioner as chair and reserved seats for the Police Department and the Parks Department. The mayor appoints the remaining non-administration positions on the NYCACC Board of Directors. It purports to be a private charity, but is not in practice or public perception. NYCACC and the city's animals are subordinate to the priorities of the New York City Department of Health, and they are a very, very low priority.

Best Friends endorses the findings of the report, and we, along with many others, hope that this report can be the catalyst for real change for New York’s animals. It’s worth noting that the borough president does not himself carry the authority to push these sweeping changes forward. It ultimately rests on the mayor.

The assertions in the report will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the issues in New York City, but having the Manhattan borough president pushing the issue with an official report is a major step forward.