The Abuses of NYC’s ACC – and What We Can Do About It

14 Jun

Throughout history, the common consciousness of the American people has gradually been awakened to the great injustices we’ve inflicted on our fellow man. The suffrage movement, the child labor movement, the civil rights movement and others; all have had seen their time in history arrive, and as we’ve gradually righted these wrongs – we look back and wonder – how we could have ever been so blind? This is currently the case for our nation’s homeless pets, and the pets of New York in particular. While not our fellow men, they are our fellow sentient beings, and as a nation, it’s our duty to protect them. We are a nation that adores our cats and dogs – so why should the homeless be any less worthy of protection?

The state of New York’s animal shelters, and New York City’s Animal Care and Control, in particular, have reached a point of cruelty and neglect that would shock tax-paying citizens. Thousands and thousands of homeless animals are condemned to death unnecessarily, despite the Mayor’s Alliance and the ASPCA claiming “model” results from their city shelters. The reality is far from the PR spin, and it’s time the animal-loving public knew the truth.

Several weeks ago, a popular staffer, Emily Tanen, was fired from NYC’s ACC. Tanen was well-respected in the rescue community for her extraordinary efforts to save lives – including taking exceptional photos and writing engaging biographies of the animals that caught the eyes of rescue groups and potential adopters. The ACC does not support such strategies – and doesn’t believe in participating in social media, period, even though it’s widely accepted as one of the most successful methods for re-homing pets. Tanen says she was fired for violating ACC’s policy of taking photos of the animals while they’re in the company of human beings. This is against the organization’s rules – even though these photos help to demonstrate the positive temperaments of these pets (a key factor, especially with pit bulls). The ACC has refused to comment to the media on why Tanen was fired.

Tanen and other ACC insiders have spoken out to the press about the abuses they’ve seen on an ongoing basis. One of the top offenses? To continue to receive millions of dollars annually from Maddie’s Fund and other organizations, the ACC is not allowed to kill animals solely for reasons of space. So, to hedge this rule, Tanen and others say they’ve lowered the behavioral grade for temperament testing, so many animals no longer pass – then staff is given carte blanche to kill them. Tanen and others also say they allegedly allow animals to develop kennel cough (which every animal will, if left in the shelter for several days), then use this mild illness as an excuse to kill.

Additionally, there is photographic evidence of animals in filthy conditions, with overturned water bowls; cats with their food mixed with kitty litter; dogs lying in their own feces, not being walked for days; and other gross abuses. Volunteers are forced to sign away their right to free speech, so anyone who tries to speak out about shelter conditions is terminated.

And then there’s the story of Ebony – a tragic tale from last week. Every night, the ACC creates a kill list for the following morning. It is released to chosen parties (rescue groups only) at 6pm each evening – and these groups have until 8am the next morning to desperately network these animals in an attempt to save lives. Last week, a photo of a dog on the kill list was posted to the Urgent Facebook page. This dog, Ebony, was seen lying in her own waste. Dozens of people came together through social networking to try and save her – donating money, offering to take her in, etc., but were unable to do so. Why? Because the ACC didn’t bother to answer the phone (on a side note, their phone number is not publicly available). Ebony died – even though a home awaited her.

That same day, the ACC also killed the wrong dog in place of a different dog that was on the euthanasia list. Who was the dog they killed in this dog’s place? They still haven’t answered public inquiries about this question.

And then there’s the story of Ginger – a nearly full term pregnant pup whose babies were systematically killed, though they were old enough to survive on their own. During the surgery, the ACC almost killed Ginger, and later made bogus fundraising attempts while failing to mention that THEY themselves had caused her life-threatening condition.

But there is hope for the NYC ACC and all other shelters across New York.

Several weeks ago, Assemblyman Micah Kellner introduced the Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act (CAARA). This monumentally important bill will offer crucial protections for animals in New York shelters – protections that most tax-payers likely believe are already in place. Last year, approximately 25,000 pets were killed in New York shelters – even though rescue groups were willing to save them. Additionally, thousands and thousands more faced fates like those of Ebony and the nameless dog killed at the ACC. If CAARA passes, these animals will be protected by law, and will not be able to be killed when there are empty cages, or for arbitrary reasons such as breed – and they will not be allowed to wallow in their own waste.

We must speak for the voiceless animals of New York. This bill has the support of the No Kill Advocacy Center, Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society and No Kill Nation. It is common sense legislation, and will save the tax-payers money. New Yorkers – please educate yourself on what’s happening in your local shelters, and support CAARA, so together, we can save the lives of thousands of New York pets whose only “crime” is being without a home.

To show your support for CAARA, please call/email Senator Joseph Robach and strongly encourage him to bring CAARA to the floor. Let him know it will save thousands of lives, as well as taxpayer dollars – and thank him profusely!


7 Responses to “The Abuses of NYC’s ACC – and What We Can Do About It”

  1. Carol Monteverde June 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    What a great article! Please everybody, support CAARA………

  2. walknyc June 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    I was wonder if this debacle could not be addressed as a legal issue? The ACC clearly is defrauding Maddie’s Fund. (which raises the question–how is it possible that Maddie’s Fund is unaware?) Taking in healthy animals, making them sick, spending only approximately 80 cents per animal, starving the animals and then rating them as “aggressive” because they guard their food, letting animals wallow in their own waste (including sick kittens, for whom diarrhea can quickly become deadly), failure to answer the phones, putting out “kill” lists at 5 pm, starting the slaughter at 8 a.m., etc. Obviously the intention is to keep the MF monies flowing into the coffers; God knows where the money goes.

  3. Georgette Madak June 16, 2011 at 6:49 am #

    The NY City Council wrote a law back in 2000 that 2 new animal shelters be constructed in Queens & the Bronx. Since then, the Dept of Health has repeatedly gone to court asking for stays of that law. NY Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer wrote a court order back in 2009 demanding that the 2 animal shelters be built already, commenting: “The city has blatantly failed to comply with the mandatory requirements of the Act…” Yet, the city continues to win their court appeals.

    In April of 2011, a NY Appeals Court rejected a lawsuit to build the new shelters, saying in essence that animals or their spokespersons cannot sue the city. Meanwhile, the 3 existing shelters are housed in old warehouses situated in distant city corners. The Brooklyn shelter might as well be on a Kennedy Airport runway.

    Oh, PS, Check out how much the DOH cares about homeless animals: The first sentence of the animal services section of their website refers to dangerous animals: “The Department of Health is responsible for receiving and sheltering abandoned, unwanted and dangerous animals. It does so via a contract with a not-for-profit organization, Animal Care and Control of New York City (AC&C).”

  4. Venetia Appelbe June 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Dear Nathan

    I live in the UK. I have time on my hands. I believe strongly in the cause of No-Kill. I also believe it is achievable. I am a good writer. I am not a lawyer but I have a family background in law. I am a university graduate. However I do not want to waste my time training in law in order to become an animal rights advocate. I just want to dive straight in. I am willing to write letters, letters and more letters. Please give me some guidance and tell me what I should do. Should I start a blog? Will that help?

    I look at the Update Part 2 page on Facebook every single day and night and I am strongly motivated to do something. I want to save all those pit bull mixes with their huge wide smiles. It breaks my heart some of them only get to live a year – or less.

    Please email me on with pointers and advice. I want to contribute to your cause.


    Venetia Appelbe

    • thenokillnationblog June 21, 2011 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Venetia,

      Nathan Winograd is actually not a part of our organization. He is the Executive Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center ( We do partner together on some projects. In terms of helping, it’s wonderful that you’re eager to jump in! We will email you with some more information. Thanks!

  5. Marge Allen September 11, 2011 at 10:43 pm #


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