Here we are, a year further along in the pandemic, and yes, some things have changed for the better. Yet many challenges remain. Having adapted to the ups and downs of the ongoing crisis, the Alliance has continued to strive to be a consistent and reliable source of information and guidance for New York City pet owners.
This year we responded to hundreds of requests for information about low-cost spay/neuter services. Finding a source for free or low-cost spay/neuter has continued to be a challenge because of COVID-related program changes at non-profits that offer the surgeries. Similarly, waitlists for veterinary care at most facilities that serve lower-income pet owners have become the norm.
Through our information phone line, emails, and our website, the Alliance has helped hundreds of pet owners connect with service providers they need to care for their pets. And we applaud our non-profit colleagues and partners for attempting to keep affordable spay/neuter and other vet care available, albeit less than pre-pandemic levels.
The Alliance continued in 2021 to evolve and define our role as a capacity-builder, a connector, and a hub for NYC animal welfare. In addition to connecting pet owners with resources for medical care, we guided them toward sources of pet food, legal assistance, and surrender prevention programs. We delivered donations of pet food and pet supplies to shelters, rescue groups, and pet owners.
We continued to serve with our valued partners on the Animal Planning Task Force at NYC’s Emergency Management. As one of the APTF’s original members, we continued to work with our colleagues to seek and institute solutions to the challenges imposed upon pets and their people by the evolving health crisis and other adverse circumstances.
We advocated for animal friendly legislation by testifying before City Council. Just last week, our efforts in concert with our partners in the Lights Out Coalition helped to gain a victory for migratory birds with the passage of legislation that will reduce light pollution in New York City and save the lives of thousands of birds each year.
Our successes this year have only been possible because of our wonderful supporters who believe in our work and share our commitment to New York City’s animals. Since our founding in 2003, private support has fueled our success, as the Alliance receives no government funding.
As we draw to the close of 2021 and look ahead to the promises of a new year, we invite you to join our efforts to make New York City a better community for companion animals, homeless animals, community cats, and the people who care about them.
To our friends, supporters, and animal lovers in NYC and beyond, thank you for all you do for the animals. The Alliance staff wishes you, your family and friends peace, good health, and happiness in the new year.
Cats worldwide are under attack. Governments and lawmakers continue to enact legislation that supports animal control practices that trap and kill thousands of cats around the globe.
Last week on Global Cat Day 2021, Becky Robinson, Alley Cat Allies’ President and Founder, and a globally recognized defender of cats, called for an end to the killing of cats, and a shift to the sustainable, nonlethal neutering and returning of cats to their outdoor homes.
“While many civic leaders have applied scientifically-proven, humane and nonlethal approaches for managing cats, it is urgent for all municipalities to embrace this successful model,” says Becky. Her message on Global Cat Day is a call to action for compassionate approaches for cats and all animals around the world.
To underscore that message, Alley Cat Allies produced an informative video that debuted on Global Cat Day 2021. In the video, Becky exposes flawed excuses and assumptions being used to kill cats as “immoral, cruel, and with malicious intent.” Emma Hurst, a member of the Australian Animal Justice Party and a member of the New South Wales Parliament, joined Becky in the video for a discussion that highlights the global nature of the war on cats.
An Effective and Humane Solution: Trap-Neuter-Return
We prioritize the sterilization of cats to benefit them and our communities. And the most effective and humane method of reducing their numbers is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
With TNR, concerned cat enthusiasts toil daily to get community cats spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their outdoor home. Here they are fed and provided medical care. Over time, the number of cats diminish through attrition. Further, friendly cats who are candidates for adoption are removed and prepared for a new life indoors.
Long-term studies across the country show that TNR not only reduces cat populations, but also allows the cats to live out their lives healthily. What’s more, these programs save taxpayers money by reducing animal service calls and relieving the burden on shelters. And neighborhoods become quieter as mating behavior decreases. Moreover, TNR is the humane and sustainable option for managing cat populations.
Reducing the number of free-roaming cats through TNR is a part of a much larger solution for protecting our environment and the countless species with which we share our planet. Such proactive efforts, often paid for by TNR volunteers out of their own pockets, should be encouraged and emulated, not thwarted by restrictive and unrealistic laws and regulations. Their efforts not only provide a humane solution for the cats, but also benefit public health and safety. They serve as an example to our fellow citizens and lawmakers of how humans, the most powerful stewards of our planet, can take responsibility for creating a more humane and sustainable world for all species.
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.
• 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.
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.
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 Purina, PetSmart Charities, Red Rover, and others, have joined the crusade.
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.
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 http://www.animalalliancenyc.org/needhelp/domesticviolence.htm.
*According to the Urban Resource Institute website.
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.
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 >