Are Your Pets Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Hurricane season is far from over, which creates a season that demands greater awareness and preparation for people with pets.

Hurricane Ida roared through New York City and surrounding areas just as September, aka National Preparedness Month, began. Sadly, more than 50 people were killed by the heavy rains and flooding in the Northeast, including 13 people in New York City.

Hurricane season is far from over, and threats from more deadly storms remain. Those threats, combined with lingering risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, create a potentially complicated season that demands greater awareness and preparation for everyone, including – and perhaps especially – people with pets.

To raise awareness about emergency preparedness, NYC Emergency Management held its annual Protecting One Another: Pets and Service Animal Preparedness Fair on September 9th in Union Square Park. As a member of the Animal Planning Task Force of NYC Emergency Management since 2006, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals has worked with the City of New York and numerous task force partners over the years to create and implement a comprehensive plan to keep New Yorkers and their pets safe when disaster strikes. 

We encourage you to read the informative Ready New York: My Pet’s Emergency Plan, (also available in other languages and audio format) on the website. You’ll find a great deal of useful information to help you:

• Make an emergency plan that includes all members of your family, including your pets;
• Provide your pets with adequate identification (including microchips for dogs and cats and licenses for dogs) to help reunite them with you should you become separated;
• Prepare a “go bag” that contains the supplies and information you’ll need to have close at hand should you and your pets need to evacuate your home; and
• Discover other helpful tips, which you might not have considered.

In the event that the City’s emergency shelter system is opened, and you cannot shelter your pets at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area, pets are allowed at all City evacuation centers.

Check out the Alliance’s Prepare Your Pets for Emergencies page for additional links to information from a range of emergency preparedness expert sources, including American Red Cross, American Veterinary Medical Association, ASPCA, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), RedRover, and others.

The HSUS video, Evacuate your pets safely during disasters, provides some useful preparedness tips.

Are Your Pets Microchipped?

Having your pets microchipped is one of the best ways to increase their chances of being reunited with you if you become separated. Check out our website and also the Michelson Found Animals website for important information. Read about why the most important step in microchipping your pet is to register the microchip with a microchip registry, and to update the information whenever you change your address or phone number. And when you register the microchip, it’s always a good idea to provide a secondary contact, such as a trusted friend or family member, in case you cannot be reached.

A registered microchip is extremely important as a permanent means of identifying your dog or cat. But we also recommend having a dog tag affixed to your dog’s collar that displays your current phone number. If your dog is found running loose, a Good Samaritan can quickly call you and let you know your dog has been found and make arrangements to be reunited with you.  

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Domestic Violence Victims with Pets Face Increased Risk During Pandemic

For victims of domestic violence (DV), the pandemic created an added level of danger. Studies showed that incidents of DV increased dramatically as COVID-related lockdowns were instituted around the world. The pandemic created a perfect storm for the often-silent epidemic of intimate partner violence. Isolation, stresses resulting from job loss, financial insecurity, housing and food insecurity, and lack of availability of resources to assist DV victims all contributed to an increased rise in DV activity. 

Domestic violence victims who decide to leave abusive situations can face many difficult choices. But for DV victims with pets, these choices can be even more distressing if they don’t have options for their pets. Fifty percent of DV survivors say that they would not consider shelter for themselves if they could not take their pets.*

A Pathway to Safety

Fortunately, today in New York City there is a pathway for pet owners to seek safety with their animals. But it wasn’t always that way.

In 2006, the Mayor’s Alliance created Helping Pets and People in Crisis (HPPC), a pilot initiative exploring the reasons why so many pet owners were surrendering their animals because of domestic violence and other crises. At the Mayor’s Alliance, the early phase of the program helped to highlight the new concept of surrender prevention support and raise awareness of new ways animal welfare programs could collaborate effectively with human service agencies. By engaging with traditional social services, the program responded to more than 1,500 different cases and facilitated creative solutions aimed at keeping pets with their families as an alternative to animal relinquishment. Now based at Animal Haven, HPPC continues to aid the most marginalized pet owners experiencing crises.

Under the management of Jenny Coffey, a social worker with a decade of animal welfare experience, HPPC has developed strategies and best practices for keeping pets and their families together. She is quick to say there isn’t one solution for every situation and each case must be managed uniquely. 

“Building partnerships with human service agencies is critical,” says Jenny. “These solutions take time, resources, community support, and a universal understanding that people love their pets and they will do anything for them. If human service providers fail to see their clients’ bond with their animals, they will miss an opportunity to help and potentially create an added barrier for families to access safety.”

One collaboration in particular is worth noting. In 2013, the Alliance began its most impactful partnership with Urban Resource Institute (URI), the largest provider of services for DV victims in New York City. Sharing essential support to URI in the form of crucial expertise and technical assistance, the Alliance helped URI create its People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) pilot program. 

PALS was the first program for victims of domestic violence in New York City — and one of the few offered nationwide — that offers co-sheltering for families and their pets. The program allows families and their pets to shelter in the emergency facility, preserving the welfare and safety of all. Since its creation, the PALS program has assisted hundreds of pet owners, and today is offered in at least seven of URI’s shelters throughout New York City. The program serves as a model that can be extended to more shelters across the state and country and has awakened funders of both social service and animal welfare to their important role in creating new responses for these at-risk pet owners. Today, more funders, including PurinaPetSmart CharitiesRed Rover, and others, have joined the crusade.

Challenges Remain

While tremendous progress has been made in the provision of services to DV victims with pets, challenges and gaps remain. For example, the PALS program has more units that accommodate families, leaving single pet-owners with fewer options. Also, the program limits emergency sheltering to six month, which presents challenges to many families when their time in the shelter is up. Moreover, New York City homeless shelters, which often are sought out by DV victims seeking safety, do not accept pets, leaving individuals and families with the heartbreaking choice of remaining in a dangerous situation or leaving their pets behind.

Update: On August 26, 2021, the New York City Council passed Intro 1483/1484, legislation that expands shelter access for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with pets.

Fortunately, today in New York City, even in the wake of the pandemic, DV survivors have more resources available to them than ever before. If you or someone you know is living with domestic violence, help is available. For information, please visit

*According to the Urban Resource Institute website.

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Maddie’s Fund Awards Dr. Lila Miller 2021 Avanzino Leadership Award

On Saturday, July 10, 2021, Maddie’s Fund honored Lila Miller, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), with a presentation of the 2021 Avanzino Leadership Award at the ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference. The award recognizes significant achievement and courage to look beyond the status quo and make bold decisions to improve the lives of pets and their people. 

Considered the mother of shelter medicine, Dr. Miller is a pioneer and leading voice in veterinary shelter medicine. She transformed the lives of countless pets, educated a generation of students, and paved the way for women of color in veterinary medicine. She blazed a trail that broke barriers, as she was one of the first two African American women to graduate from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1977. 

 A longtime resident of New York City, Dr. Miller developed the first veterinary-written guidelines for shelter animal care, which are now used across the country. She wrote and taught the first course in shelter medicine in the US and co-founded the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV)

Dr. Miller spent 40 years trailblazing in the animal welfare field. She spent a majority of her career working for the ASPCA as the head and director of the ASPCA’s Brooklyn Clinic for 15 years before transitioning to her roles as veterinary advisor, Vice President of Veterinary Outreach, followed by the Vice President of Shelter Medicine. Dr. Miller retired in 2019. Her career at the ASPCA began when the ASPCA held the contract with the City of New York to operate the city’s municipal shelter system. In 1995, that contract was transferred to the Center for Animal Care and Control of NYC (CACC), which later was renamed Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC).

Maddie’s Fund is the national family foundation established by Dave & Cheryl Duffield to revolutionize the status and well being of companion animals. The Avanzino Leadership Award was first presented in 2016, and is named after Rich Avanzino, widely recognized as the father of the no-kill movement and the President of Maddie’s Fund from 1999 – 2015. 

multi-million-dollar, multi-year grant from Maddie’s Fund to the Alliance and New York City that began in 2005 powered the Alliance’s collaborative success in transforming New York City into a no-kill city.  It helped to elevate ACC into the thriving animal care organization it is today.

Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Executive Leadership Team member at Maddie’s Fund, opened the virtual award ceremony by announcing Dr. Miller as this year’s Avanzino Leadership Award winner. She introduced Elizabeth Wanaselja, representing the NYC Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare, who read a letter of commendation from Mayor Bill de Blasio recognizing Dr. Miller’s outstanding contributions to shelter medicine.   

Mary enumerated the kudos bestowed upon Dr. Miller by numerous other political dignitaries. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office issued a Proclamation that proclaimed July 10 as Dr. Lila Miller Shelter Medicine Day in New York City. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick presented a Proclamation via video that also designated July 10 as Dr. Lila Miller Shelter Medicine Day in Ithaca.

Commendations also were received from U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Representative Tom Reed, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and New York State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick. Mary announced that Dr. Miller would be honored further on Monday, July 12, when NYC’s Times Square jumbotron would feature Dr. Lila Miller Shelter Medicine Day.

Mary offered special thanks to Mayor’s Alliance President, Jane Hoffman, Maddie’s Fund Director of Marketing & Communications, Sharon Fletcher, and Executive Director of the NYS Animal Protection Federation, Libby Post. Jane was instrumental in connecting Maddie’s Fund with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare’s Director, Christine Kim, and to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Dr. Miller appeared understandably surprised and awed by the tremendous accolades bestowed upon her. She made an eloquent acknowledgement speech in which she thanked Maddie’s Fund for the award and named many of the individuals who influenced her success over the years. Perhaps her most moving acknowledgement came when she spoke of her longtime friend and colleague, the late Julie Morris, whose visionary leadership at the ASPCA played a critical role in some of the most important developments in the animal welfare field. Dr. Miller dedicated her most recent shelter medicine textbook to Julie.

The award is presented with a $25,000 grant to be designated by its recipient. Dr. Miller designated ACC as the recipient of this year’s grant.

Jane and Alliance Director of Communications Steve Gruber were on hand for the virtual ceremony. Says Jane: “I have known Lila for years and she is one of my heroes. Steve and I were thrilled to be able to attend the presentation. 

“Moreover, we are beyond grateful for the critical support the Alliance and our 150 shelter and rescue partners received from Maddie’s Fund over the years,” Jane continued. “We owe much of our success in saving the lives of more than 350,000 dogs and cats in New York City to Maddie’s Fund’s generous support and resolute belief in our mission to transform New York City into a no-kill community.”

Jane wanted to acknowledge two individuals from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office who worked behind the scenes to produce the Proclamation: Twilla Duncan and Tyrone Bowman, who handle Proclamation requests for the office. As an interesting side note, Twila adopted her dog Chase from ACC in 2008.  Chase is an unofficial community affairs staffer for Manhattan Borough President Brewer. 


Addendum August 31 2021:
Maddie’s Candid Conversation with Dr. Lila Miller
Watch the recording of Maddie’s Fund’s recent conversation with Dr. Miller, where she talks not only about her amazing achievements, but also her unique perspective on the role of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in animal welfare.  Watch now >

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Community Cats & TNR: Look How Far They’ve Come

Community cat Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) have come a long way in saving cat’s lives

For more than 10,000 years, cats have lived outdoors, “as citizens of the natural landscape,” so eloquently stated on Alley Cat Allies’ website. But in the mid-20th century, thanks to the invention of kitty litter, we started to welcome cats indoors with us as companions in our homes. Not long after, thousands upon thousands of cats were brought into animal shelters, where most of them were killed because they weren’t socialized to people and couldn’t be adopted out as pets. 

Sadly, untold thousands of healthy cats lost their lives needlessly in shelters and in the field because of catch-and-kill policies. These policies were based on the false assumptions that miss out on the truth that it’s perfectly normal for cats to live outdoors. 

With the founding in 1990 of Alley Cat Allies, the fledgling organization that would become the global leader in the movement to protect cats and kittens, perceptions began to change. Alley Cat Allies and other advocacy groups have helped more people understand that every cat has intrinsic value, whether living inside or outside. They deserve to live out their lives to the fullest, without the threat of being rounded up and killed. 

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) began to gain popularity in the U.S. just as it had already done in Europe. Now a mainstream practice, TNR is the only humane and effective approach to address community cat populations. With TNR, cats living outdoors are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, surgically and painlessly ear-tipped on the left ear for identification, and returned to their territory. Caregivers provide them with food, shelter, and medical care. Whenever possible, kittens and friendly cats are taken in for adoption.

Alley Cat Allies was instrumental in gaining wider acceptance for TNR by connecting like-minded TNR enthusiasts in communities across the country. Once a few key community players were connected with help from Alley Cat Allies, TNR took off. 

While TNR had gained significant traction in New York City by 2000, thousands of cats were still being euthanized. When the Mayor’s Alliance was founded in 2003 to transform New York City into a no-kill community, we recognized the need to dramatically intensify efforts to reduce the number of feral community cats entering and being killed at the city’s shelters. 

So the Mayor’s Alliance created the NYC Feral Cat Council in 2004 to provide visibility for the network of people and groups doing TNR in New York City. The following year, we stepped up efforts to expand TNR by creating the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI). The NYCFCI provided a more robust approach to addressing the community cat issue by offering concrete services and resources, including a broad array of training opportunities, to individuals and organizations caring for community cats and performing TNR. In 2019, we transferred the program to Bideawee.

In New York City and across the country, society’s perceptions about community cats and the value of TNR began to change. And animal welfare policies evolved. More and more national and local organizations began to embrace TNR as the preferred method of managing community cats. 

The Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) position on outdoor cats, as it appears on its website, states: “…we support Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and similar sterilization programs, legislation that allows for and supports non-lethal population control, and coalition-based approaches that involve community leaders, citizens, and stakeholders to implement effective community cat management programs. Programs that attempt to use lethal control to eliminate cat populations are inhumane, ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) takes a similar position on community cats and community cat programs, stating on its website: “The ASPCA supports humane, lawful, and effective strategies for humanely managing community cat populations, including programs involving trap-neuter-return-monitor (TNRM), return to field (RTF) or, as a last resort, community cat relocation (CCR). Such community cat programs not only provide life-saving options for cats who might otherwise be euthanized when admitted to a shelter but also can stabilize, and even reduce over time, the population of community cat colonies (Levy and Crawford, 2004; Robertson, 2008).”

And the National Animal Care & Control Association’s (NACA) position on the intake of free-roaming cats states “…at every opportunity, officers should [will] work to educate the public regarding humane and responsible co-existence and care of pet and community cats, to include education on the benefits and resources for spay/neuter and vaccination; responsible feeding and management practices for those choosing to care for community cats; and effective methods to humanely deter and exclude animals from homes, structures and targeted areas. It is the position of NACA that indiscriminate pick up or admission of healthy, free-roaming cats, regardless of temperament, for any purpose other than TNR/SNR, fails to serve commonly held goals of community animal management and protection programs and, as such, is a misuse of time and public funds and should be avoided.”

As cities and towns across the country tackle the challenges presented by their community cat populations, many are embracing the wisdom of implementing policies that support TNR. Nearly a decade ago, New York City lead by example when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Local Law 59, which endorses TNR as the approved and recommended method for controlling and decreasing the numbers of free-roaming community and feral cats in all areas of New York City, public and private. This landmark legislation recognized TNR as the preferred method of managing feral cat populations. The Mayor’s Alliance was a strong proponent of, and helped to craft, this important legislation.

The Mayor’s Alliance continues to promote TNR because TNR works. “Scientific studies and communities with TNR programs are proof that TNR stabilizes populations of community cats,“ says Becky Robinson, President and Founder of Alley Cat Allies. 

To learn more about TNR and community cats, and how you can become a part of the growing movement to help improve their quality of life, visit Alley Cat Allies and Bideawee’s Feral Cat Initiative.

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Mayor’s Alliance Fills Transport Gaps to Assist Rescue Partners

Transport of Lola in Debbie’s car, two supply deliveries outside ACC

Lola, a 58-pound German Shorthaired Pointer, became an orphan when her owner passed away. But Lola’s luck changed when a Good Samaritan neighbor took her in and adopted her.

Unfortunately, Lola developed skin problems and a troubling lump on her stomach. Lola’s human knew she had to be seen by a veterinarian to determine the severity of these health issues. So he contacted the Mayor’s Alliance for help to find an affordable veterinary facility.

We contacted a longtime partner, the Humane Society of New York (HSNY). The HSNY Animal Clinic has remained open under restricted access during the COVID-19 pandemic for urgent cases and wellness appointments. HSNY’s Executive Director Sandra DeFeo made an appointment for Lola to be examined by one of the clinic’s doctors. 

HSNY asked for the Alliance’s help in transporting Lola to and from her appointment. So we arranged for former Alliance Wheels of Hope driver Debbie Fierro to transport Lola and her human dad at no charge to him. Debbie operates her own private transport service for shelter animals and owned pets called Precious Cargo Pet Transport.

Lola’s appointment day came, and Debbie delivered Lola and her human to the clinic. But instead of sitting idly by waiting for Lola’s appointment to be completed, Debbie made use of the down time. She drove Uptown and picked up a generous supply of donated premium cat litter and delivered it to the NYC Animal Care Center (ACC) shelter in Harlem for the shelter’s foster care team. Then she drove back to the HSNY Animal Clinic, retrieved Lola and her human, and drove them home.

Lola’s exam revealed that surgery was required to remove the lump from her stomach. HSNY once again asked the Alliance to assist with transport for her surgery. For this transport we arranged for Ambuvet Pet Ambulance to transport Lola to and from the HSNY clinic. The surgery went well, and Ambuvet returned Lola to her home the same day.

A few days later, Debbie delivered more supplies donated to the Alliance to ACC’s foster care team. This donation included a litter box with liners, two metal bowls, five bags of litter, and a large carrier. The following week, Debbie completed yet another transport of donated supplies to ACC, including a pet stroller. 

These specialized transports for HSNY and ACC are fulfilling the Alliance’s commitment to provide limited transport for rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations that have transport needs that fall outside the criteria for the Best Friends Northeast Transport Program and Bideawee’s NYC Feral Cat Initiative transports. By providing these limited transports, the Alliance is filling gaps in transport and, in doing so, is helping our partners achieve positive outcomes for the animals in their care. 

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