How I spent my summer vacation: rescuing the cat on my block

We are happy to share this guest blog article from long-time Mayor’s Alliance friend and supporter Susan Richard.

1010 WINS (New York) If truth be told, I haven’t taken an actual vacation since 2007. That was the year I visited my sister for a week in Paris. She lives there. It was fun. There was no carb left behind and I saw the Mona Lisa. The painting was a lot smaller than I expected. She is definitely smiling.

I generally take vacation in individual days, usually to work on a video for my AllForAnimalsTV blog or for an acting role. But this year I decided to take a whole week at once. Between the stress from stay-at-home pandemic life, my cat Louie dying suddenly from complications from lung cancer surgery, and frankly the news (which is enough to make any of us want to crawl under a rock), I needed a break.

The orange boy on my block was a mystery. He seemed to be in very good shape and wasn’t put off by humans, but he wasn’t letting anyone touch him. He never hissed and did vocalize, but it seemed to be more of a mating call common to unneutered males. I named him Goose, after Captain Marvel’s orange cat. My super approved.

On the flipside, if he was friendly, he’d need to get along with my three cats, and if not, a foster home or shelter would need to be lined up. There was also the fact that he’d first need to be humanely trapped, which is a project in itself. I wasn’t about to do this all alone.

So, the daily feeding continued. I actually didn’t see him most days but could tell he’d been eating.

Cut to July, when my neighbor mentioned that there was a long thread about him on the website NextDoor.com. She also said someone had called the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. While I didn’t really want to join yet another social media site, I wanted to know what was going on. Having blogged about the NYC animal rescue scene for eleven years, I know the folks at NYCFCI. In fact, earlier this year I posted an AllForAnimalsTV video about the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals having transitioned FCI to Bideawee.

With all that in place, it was all systems go.

So… What happened? Well, now you need to watch the video to find out! (Hint: Goose has his own website and Instagram.)

To learn more about helping Community Cats in your neighborhood, please visit NYCFeralCat.org.

Posted in Alliance Participating Organizations, Cats | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tenant Advocacy Program Helps Tenants with Pet-Related Housing Issues

Matt Wildman is a volunteer for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. Matt runs the Alliance’s one-of-a-kind Tenant Advocacy Program, which has helped nearly 300 pet owners keep their pets since 2015. This includes pet owners who are private renters, coop owners, New York City Housing Authority residents, and residents in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters. 

Many of the tenants Matt assists have cats or dogs (and sometimes rabbits) who function as emotional support animals. Under state and federal fair housing laws, tenants with physical or mental disabilities that significantly limit major life activities have a legal right to keep their animal(s) in their residence if they have a letter from a clinician verifying the disability and documenting their patient’s need for the animal. So even if a lease includes a no-pet clause, a landlord is required to make what is called “reasonable accommodation” to allow pets that serve as assistance animals, which includes animals who provide emotional support.

Matt also assists tenants who have a legal right to keep their pet because of the unique 3 Month Law. This law states that residents living in buildings with more than three units may keep a pet in a no-pet building if that animal has been kept “openly and notoriously” for three months or more. Essentially, once a landlord or employee of the landlord acknowledges the tenant has a pet, or there is adequate reason to think the landlord should have been aware of the pet, the landlord has three months to take the tenant to court for violating the no-pets lease. If the landlord does not act within these three months, the landlord waives their right to enforce their no-pets policy. 

However, many pet owners with legal standing to keep their pet as an emotional support animal or who are protected by the NYC Pet Law bow to pressure from their landlord to give up their pet because they lack adequate information and guidance to dispute a landlord’s demands. For these pet owners, Matt’s tenant advocacy services are invaluable, providing them with free resources, advocacy, and support – from information on what content is necessary for a valid clinician’s letter, to contacting management companies and their attorneys on behalf of tenants, to partnering with Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) to provide foster homes for the animals while the reasonable accommodation process is under review. 

“Receiving a call or letter from a landlord saying ‘Remove your pet or face eviction’ is terrifying,” says Matt, “and there are not many accessible and free resources for people in this situation, particularly for tenants who are lower income. I am able to tell the tenant, ‘Here is what this letter from your landlord means, these are your options, based on my experience this is what is likely to happen next, and, most importantly, here is how I can advocate for you and your pet.’”

Sweet Success Stories!

Matt described two recent cases in which the Tenant Advocacy Program helped to bring about successful outcomes for pet owners.

An older gentleman (whom we will call Mr. Smith) and his wife arrived at an ACC shelter to surrender their small dog, Chance. They were heartbroken. They had moved into a new building that did not allow pets. So ACC referred Mr. Smith to the Alliance’s Tenant Advocacy Program for help. 

Mr. Smith had a strong claim to Chance as an emotional support animal. He was in treatment, and so his clinician wrote a letter requesting reasonable accommodation for Mr. Smith to keep Chance with him in his home. Matt corresponded with the attorneys for the management company, while ACC fostered Chance for nearly a month. When the reasonable accommodation request was approved several weeks ago, Chance and Mr. Smith were reunited.

Following the reunification, Mr. Smith’s wife thanked ACC and Matt for their help. She said that her husband had lost weight during the process because he feared he was never going to see Chance again. “Today was the first day he has eaten a whole meal because [Chance] came home to him!” she said.

Another of Matt’s cases involved a woman, who we will call Judy, who was living in a DHS residence. “Despite its strict no-pets policy, DHS has a process in which residents can request reasonable accommodation to bring their animal into their residence if the cat or dog functions as an emotional support animal,” says Matt. “However, the process is complicated, lengthy, and often requires advocacy.” 

Judy had entrusted her cat Cola to a relative to care for him temporarily. She had received mixed messages from the shelter system about what she needed to do to request reasonable accommodation so that Cola, who functions as an emotional support animal, could live with her. After five months without her cat, Judy contacted the Tenant Advocacy Program. Matt guided her in the process of how to request reasonable accommodation, and three weeks later her request was approved. Judy gave Cola a party when he arrived – complete with balloons!

As a bonus, Matt also assisted Judy in getting Cola neutered with the help of ACC.

Matt is always gratified when he can play a part in keeping pets with their people, where they belong. And as demonstrated by the happy endings above, his clients are ecstatic.

If you or someone you know has pet-related housing issues, e-mail matt@animalalliancenyc.org or call 347-938-7692.

 Note: The names of pets and pet owners featured here have been changed for confidentiality reasons.

Posted in Animal Care & Control of NYC, Cats, Dogs, Helping Pets and People in Crisis, Pet Fostering, Policy & Legal | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Prepare Your Pets for Hurricane Season. Microchips Are Key.

September is National Preparedness Month

As we’ve already seen as Hurricane Laura has battered the Gulf Coast region and torn through inland communities, the threat is real. This year, as we anticipate unusual challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important that people with pets be informed and prepared to respond to weather-related emergencies that threaten our area with little warning.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. is facing “one of the most active hurricane seasons on record,” warning that there may be as many as 25 named storms and 11 hurricanes, including six that may be “major.”

Memories of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated many New York City and surrounding area neighborhoods in 2012, remind us that preparing ahead of the storm can help mitigate the dangers to people and their pets.

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 NYC.gov 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;
• 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.

We encourage you to check out the Alliance’s Prepare Your Pets for Emergencies page for additional links to a wealth of 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 COVID-19, provides some useful preparedness tips:

Are Your Pets Microchipped?

The Alliance has always been an ardent advocate for having pets microchipped, as it is one of the best ways to increase a pet’s chances of being reunited with his or her owner if they become separated — which is a real possibility during a disaster. That’s why we featured free microchipping clinics at most Alliance adoption events over the years.

In addition to the Alliance website, Michelson Found Animals provides excellent information about microchipping. We encourage you to check out both resources to discover important facts that you might not know. For example, did you know that the most important step in microchipping your pet is to register your pet’s microchip with a microchip registry, and to update the information whenever you change your address or phone number?

Caroline Laxton, Eastern U.S. Regional Manager for Michelson Found Animals, explains: “A microchip is the only form of permanent ID for your pet and is imperative for your pet’s safety. Although collars and tags are just as important, they can fall off, or get taken off when a pet is lost. A microchip allows your pet to be reunited with you with or without a tag. However, contrary to popular belief, a microchip is not a GPS device — it won’t tell you the location of your pet should he or she get lost.”

Caroline explained that when a pet is found and their microchip is scanned, a 9-digit numeric number, 10-digit alphanumeric number, or a 15-digit numeric number shows up on the microchip scanner. In order for whomever found your pet to be able to connect that 9-, 10-, or 15-digit number back to you, your pet’s microchip must be registered with your current contact information in a National Microchip Registry. If you can’t find your pet’s microchip number, your local vet clinic or animal shelter will be able to scan them and provide you with their chip number so you may then register their chip or ensure their chip registration is up-to-date. Think of your pet’s microchip number as their social security number; always keep it in a safe place.

Some microchip registries charge a fee for registering a microchip and updating your contact information, or provide limited reunification communications if a pet owner doesn’t participate in one of their paid memberships; but other registries, such as Michelson Found Animals, offer free microchip registrations and updates for the life of your pet. No matter what brand of microchip your pet has, you may freely register them at Found.org and include not just your contact information, but also two emergency contacts and your pet’s veterinary clinic info. Being able to add these extra contacts gives your pet every opportunity to make it safely back to you if they are lost, especially if you can’t be reached in a natural disaster / emergency situation.

While having your pet protected with a registered microchip is extremely important as a permanent means of identifying your pet, we also recommend having an external ID, such as a dog tag displaying your phone number, affixed to his or her collar. If your dog is found running loose, this can save a Good Samaritan a trip to the vet clinic or local animal shelter to get them scanned for a microchip, so it’s critical that your current phone number is on the tag, and better yet, your current phone number and address.

Stay safe, New Yorkers, and be prepared. And let’s hope we’ve already seen the worst 2020 can bring our way!

Posted in Events & Campaigns, Microchipping, Pet Care & Training | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteers Direct Facebook Ads to Help Homeless Pets

Longtime Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals volunteer, Nick Kavanagh — a familiar face at many past Alliance events — is helping animal shelters and rescue groups gain greater traction from their Facebook outreach. Nick and his colleague, Alexa Millstein, work at Facebook, where this tech-savvy “dynamic duo” developed a special program to provide free advertising to pet adoption groups active on Facebook. Their goal is to help the groups boost posts to broaden the reach of their animals for adoption and to raise awareness and money to support their programs and activities.

Nick reached out to the Alliance to connect him with NYC-area animal rescue organizations that are active on Facebook. We researched Facebook activity of numerous groups and identified those that appeared to be good prospects for the program. We made the introductions, and Nick and Alexa took it from there. The program they offer is simple, but the potential benefits to the groups are huge. Here’s how: Facebook gives each full-time employee $250 per month in ad credits to use at their discretion. Nick and Alexa coordinate with other Facebook staffers to pool their unused ad credits and channel these credits to animal welfare organizations — up to $1,000 per organization.

“Alexa and I both adore animals, and we were concerned at the start of the pandemic that the economic downturn could result in families having to make the terrible decision of dropping their cherished pets off at shelters, resulting in an occupancy crisis,” explained Nick. “Thankfully, one of the bright spots in this world is people’s enduring love for their pets, and adoption and foster rates are up across most shelters. This has allowed us to pivot from adoption lead strategies to things like fundraising and education initiatives with individual organizations. Long story short, we’re happy to do whatever we can to help the animals. We know they’d do the same for us if they could.”

The dynamic duo has made participation easy for the groups by providing all the guidance and technical expertise needed to require only minimal effort by each group. So far, Bideawee, Cleveland Animal Protective League, Flatbush Cats, Humane Society of the Ochocos, Muddy Paws Rescue, Pet Evacuation Team, Sean Casey Animal Rescue, SPCA of Westchester, and Zani’s Furry Friends are working with the team.

“It’s an honor to be given this incredible opportunity to team up with the Alliance and Facebook,” said Shannon Laukhuf, Executive Director of the SPCA of Westchester. “This generous partnership has enabled our organization to reach new friends and supporters with just one click! Nick’s passion for animal welfare is very apparent and he truly went above and beyond to understand our needs and to create an effective and heartwarming ad for the SPCA of Westchester. In a very short time we’ve already obtained new donors and have reached a great number of potential supporters and adopters for the future. Our deepest thanks to Nick, Facebook, and the Alliance for their kindness and for giving back to the community and supporting homeless animals is need.”

Anna Lai, Marketing Director for Muddy Paws Rescue, voiced her appreciation for the results her organization has achieved since beginning the program. “Muddy Paws Rescue is operating in such challenging times, and to be able to reach new audiences is crucial to our fundraising efforts so that we can continue our lifesaving mission throughout the pandemic and beyond. So far, our team is delighted to see an increase in engagement across social media as well as traffic on our donation platform.”

The Alliance is extremely grateful to Nick and Alexa for sharing their vision, talents, and Facebook ads with animal rescue groups and shelters, ultimately helping these organizations save the lives of more homeless dogs, cats, and other pets. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to connect the team with NYC-area pet adoption groups. Our role as connector will continue to be a major part of our mission moving forward. We hope you will read about our mission and goals for 2020 and support our efforts to improve the lives of NYC’s animals and the people who care for them!

Posted in Alliance Participating Organizations, Events & Campaigns, Pet Adoption | Leave a comment

The Human-Animal Bond in Action

(Photos by Sarah & Neil and Animal Care Centers of NYC)

If ever there was a time that demonstrates the unquestionable bond between humans and animals and the essential role animal companions play in our lives, now is that time. As the pandemic swept across the globe, bringing fear, uncertainty, and anxiety into our lives, reports of people turning to their pets for comfort have became commonplace.

When Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) announced in March a need for 200 new foster families to help manage the shelters’ population during the city’s shutdown, 2,000 people answered the call. Some wanted to foster. Others wanted to adopt. Mirroring reports from across the country, the number of fosters and adoptions have skyrocketed as newly hunkered-down humans sought out the ideal antidote for anxiety — a furry, four-legged family member.

NYC Emergency Management’s Animal Planning Task Force, which guides the city’s response to emergencies involving animals (and in which the Alliance has participated since its inception in 2006) demonstrated NYC’s recognition of the critical role the human-animal bond plays in the lives of thousands of New York City pet owners during these extraordinary times. The task force has worked to preserve that bond during these uncertain times by instituting various support initiatives], including a COVID-19 Pet Hotline, food giveaways, and hands-on support for pet owners infected with the virus. Christine Kim, Senior Community Liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare, recently described the city’s commitment to maintaining the human-animal bond: “In order to keep people and their animals together, we have ensured that animals are included in the safety net we have created for all New Yorkers.”

Over the past months, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals has been contacted by many New Yorkers about a range of issues demonstrating their deep connections with their pets. One grieving pet owner, Sarah, contacted us to let us know that her little white dog, Mason, who she and her husband Neil had adopted at Adoptapalooza in 2013, had recently crossed the Rainbow Bridge. The family was heartbroken, and wanted to honor Mason’s memory by donating his unopened food, puppy pads, and other supplies to help a dog in need. Several days later, Sarah and Neil rescued a stranded baby sparrow nestling on the curb near their apartment and took her it to the Wild Bird Fund. As a tribute to their beloved companion, they asked that the Wild Bird Fund name the fledgling “Mason.”

Words sometimes cannot fully convey the deep and powerful bond that exists between humans and animals. Actions, however, can bring that remarkable connection to life. During these extremely challenging times, it’s important to celebrate those actions and recognize how potent the human-animal bond is in all of our lives.

Posted in Alliance Participating Organizations, Animal Care & Control of NYC, Dogs, Events & Campaigns, Pet Adoption | Leave a comment