East Village Fifth Graders Tackle Animal Welfare Challenges

When a class of fifth grade students at the East Village Community School (EVCS) decided to focus their spring Service Learning Project (SLP) on the issues of pet abandonment and separation of pets from their owners, they reached out to the Mayor’s Alliance as a source of information.

The Service Learning Project of New York City is a civic engagement program for students in grades K-12. Through SLP’s day and after-school programs, students work together to help solve social problems of their choice, becoming active citizens in our communities.

Leah Elliott, who works with students at the school on East 12th Street in Manhattan, contacted the Alliance on behalf of the students and invited us to send a representative to speak with them as part their project’s research phase. Having learned about the innovative Helping Pets and People in Crisis Program (HPPC) created by the Alliance in 2006 and subsequently transferred to Animal Haven Shelter in 2019, the students wanted the opportunity to interact with an expert in the field.

“This decision was entirely student driven,” says Leah. “They are hoping to learn more about animal abandonment and to figure out how they can make a difference in this space.”

Jenny Coffey, a certified social worker, was our obvious choice to meet with the students. Jenny developed and managed the HPPC Program at the Alliance from 2007 until 2017, and then transitioned the program to Animal Haven, where she currently works. She enthusiastically agreed to accept the Alliance’s invitation to participate, and appeared in person before the class on May 3.

Jenny’s knowledge and years of experience seeking solutions to the myriad challenges that face pet owners dealing with homelessness, domestic violence, mental health challenges, and other personal setbacks provided the students with a rare opportunity to explore their chosen topic with a seasoned expert and pragmatic problem-solver.

“I was inspired to listen to the children talk about animal welfare and wanting to make a difference for the most vulnerable dogs, cats, and other pets,” says Jenny. “These are difficult concepts to learn, and I give each of these kids so much credit. Each child talked about wanting to help animals and alleviate suffering. Their engagement and their willingness to learn is really extraordinary. This program is great.”

The students were well prepared for their meeting with Jenny. They prepared and honed their questions in advance. They shared highlights of their research and listened and interacted professionally with Jenny throughout the discussion.

One student explained that the class chose to focus their SLP on the issue of pet abandonment in New York City because they care so much about animals. She said that many of the students have pets and they didn’t understand why anyone could abandon their pet.

“Before we started research,” she said, “we thought that this problem was because people are mean to their animals. Our research found there are many reasons.”

Another classmate picked up the discussion by identifying some of the reasons their research uncovered as to why people abandon pets. These include housing issues, such as people moving and not being able to take their pets with them, or people being evicted and not being able to take their pets to homeless shelters.

They cited other reasons for having to give up a pet, including costs of pet care, lack of understanding about how to care for a pet with health or behavioral issues, or an owner passing away or getting sick and not having a plan in place for their pets.

Jenny explained some of the gaps that exist in the City’s network of resources for people as well as pets. She also described some of the progress that has been made over the past few years with regard to accommodating pets with their owners in temporary and emergency housing.

The engaging session led to a discussion about specific actions the students can take to help create solutions and remove barriers to people remaining with their pets in times of crisis. One idea discussed involved encouraging families to have a plan in place to care for their pets during emergencies. Another was to make sure community leaders are aware that pets are part of the family and should be considered as such in instances of housing and shelter accommodations.

As the 45-minute discussion wrapped up, the students gave Jenny a round of applause and invited her to visit the class again. Now the students are working on a plan to transform their ideas into action.

The Alliance commends the students for their keen understanding of the importance of the human-animal bond and their dedication to working for change to benefit pets and the people who love them. Our hats are off to Jenny for sharing with the students her knowledge, experience, and valuable guidance.

We look forward to hearing more from the students as they continue their journey to create positive change!

Posted in Helping Pets and People in Crisis, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Domestic Violence Survivors with Pets Get New Pet Park at URI Residence

Urban Resource Institute (URI), the largest provider of domestic violence residential services in the U.S. and a pioneer in co-living for survivors and their pets, has announced plans to create a new outdoor pet park to be enjoyed by residents and their pets. Construction of the pet park will begin in late spring at URI’s newest family shelter, Brighter Days, in Queens. A $65,000 grant from the Banfield Foundation will support construction of the pet park.

The Brighter Days shelter was completed in March, becoming the ninth pet-friendly domestic violence shelter among URI’s fourteen domestic violence shelters across New York City. The shelter’s 45 pet-friendly apartment-style units for domestic violence survivors and their families increase URI’s total number of pet-friendly units in URI shelters to more than 300.

Fewer than 20 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide offer any assistance or accommodations for pets. Even fewer permit co-living for people and pets. This creates a significant barrier for families and individuals with pets seeking safety from domestic abuse. 

A survey conducted by URI and the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that 97 percent of domestic violence survivors indicated that keeping pets is an important factor in seeking shelter. Fifty percent of survey respondents said they would not consider shelter for themselves without their pet. This and more information is available in the free, downloadable PALS Report and Survey: Breaking Barriers to Safety and Healing.

To address this major barrier in providing safety for pet-owning families experiencing domestic violence, URI introduced its innovative People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program in 2013. The program provides co-living apartments and comprehensive services for domestic violence survivors with their pets to live and heal together. URI remains the only service provider in New York City with this option.

The Mayor’s Alliance is privileged to have been a part of the PALS program launch. The Alliance provided support to URI in the form of crucial expertise and technical assistance addressing the link between animal welfare and human welfare. The Alliance also provided crates, pet beds, bowls, and other supplies for the URI shelters, and arranged to have the launch press event at the prestigious House of the New York City Bar Association.

“The URI People and Animals Living Safely Program addresses a critical need in services for domestic violence survivors—the accommodation of pets. Keeping families and pets together empowers survivors to leave a dangerous situation knowing their entire family can stay safely together, and it enhances the healing process for all,” said Nathaniel M. Fields, Chief Executive Officer, URI.

“Nine of URI’s fourteen shelters throughout New York City offer the PALS program,” explained Danielle Emery, URI PALS Director. “With the opening of our Brighter Days shelter, we now have four PALS shelters that offer Tier 2 transitional housing, which offers residents a continuum of care that extends beyond time limited Tier 1 emergency housing.”

“Having safe shelter and access to an outdoor space where families can play freely and without fear is essential, especially when a pet is involved,” said Kim Van Syoc, Executive Director, Banfield Foundation. “Access to a pet park and playground is so important when thinking about how families interact, bond, and begin to rebuild their lives.”

URI commissioned local artist Elijah Minton to design and paint three murals for the new pet park. The murals are intended to amuse and inspire the residents. Elijah is committed to creating art to uplift communities, and his designs for the new murals will convey a hopeful, whimsical space. This marks URI’s fourth mural project with Elijah, with previous murals including another Banfield Foundation Pet Park at URI’s Harmony House domestic violence shelter.

Elijah Minton’s murals at Harmony House, another URI PALS domestic violence shelter, provide a preview of his unique style which he will bring to the new murals he is creating at the Banfield Pet Park at Brighter Days.

For more information about URI and/or the PALS program, visit https://urinyc.org. If you have specific questions about the PALS program that you cannot find answers to on the website, you can email PALSinfo@urinyc.org. To download the free PALS Report and Survey: Breaking Barriers to Safety and Healing, please visit https://urinyc.org/palsreport/

If you need help escaping domestic abuse or are a family in need of shelter, call:

NYC’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline 800-621-4673

National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY)

NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project 212-714-1141

In the event of an emergency, call or text 911

Posted in Helping Pets and People in Crisis | Tagged , , , , , ,

March is Adopt a Guinea Pig Month!

For many people, guinea pigs are the ideal pet. They enjoy being around people and other guinea pigs, and can also be independent. With an average lifespan of six to eight years, it’s important that their humans understand that they are a long-term commitment.

If you’re thinking about adopting a guinea pig, you’ll want to consider what life with guinea pigs involves:

  • Guinea pigs require daily care and interaction. 
  • They need adequate space to move around and get exercise. 
  • Guinea pigs should always be kept indoors in temperature-controlled areas with ambient temperatures between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • If you will be caring for more than one guinea pig (which is recommended, because they are very social animals), be sure all your pigs are of the same gender, unless they have been spayed and neutered. Because spaying and neutering guinea pigs is expensive, and not all vets will perform the surgeries, many guinea pig owners don’t have it done. However, if you adopt your guinea pigs from Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), they will be altered before you bring them home.
  • Guinea pigs make all sorts of fun and silly noises. 
  • Some guinea pigs enjoy being cuddled or snuggled. Others prefer to be left alone. 
  • Guinea pigs rarely sleep, and they tend to be most active at night. They take very short naps and sometimes sleep with their eyes open.
  • They poop a lot, so be prepared to clean their cages every day.
  • Guinea pigs need to eat almost constantly. For them to remain healthy, their digestive systems need to be working most of the time. They eat fresh hay, fresh vegetables, fruit, and pellets.

These are just a few of the things you need to know before you decide to adopt a guinea pig – or two! You’ll find plenty of good information about care of guinea pigs online or by speaking with an adoption counselor at ACC or another organization that offers guinea pigs for adoption.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

During COVID lockdowns when people spent more time at home, pet adoptions increased dramatically, creating a shortage of available dogs and cats at shelters. As a result, sales of guinea pigs at pet stores soared. But with children returning to the classroom and parents heading back to the office, guinea pig owners across the country began to flood shelters with surrendered guinea pigs. 

Since 2018, the annual intake of guinea pigs at ACC has more than doubled, from 325 in 2018 to 709 in 2021. Since the start of the pandemic, ACC has taken in 1,065 guinea pigs, the majority of which were purchased from pet stores. 

“Most of the guinea pigs surrendered to ACC are between a year and a year-and-a-half old, aligning with the timeline for the purchase of pandemic pets,” says Katy Hansen, ACC’s Director of Marketing & Communications. “Few of those surrendered had been spayed or neutered when they arrived at the shelter. Guinea pigs purchased in stores are almost never spayed or neutered because the surgery is expensive and many veterinarians don’t perform it on guinea pigs. 

“We’re counting on New Yorkers to step up and help out with this crisis,” Katy continues. “If you’re thinking of bringing a new pocket pet into your family, adopt a pair of guinea pigs from ACC now!”

Evan, Oreo, and Peanut, pictured above, are just three of the many great guinea pigs available for adoption at ACC.

But remember, before bringing guinea pigs into your family, be sure you understand what to expect. This is another reason you should adopt from a shelter instead of purchasing from a pet store. Adoption counselors at the shelter will help guide your decision to adopt and will instruct you on proper care of your pigs, whereas most pet stores don’t offer that kind of individual counseling.

A recent incident in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park underscores the importance of understanding the responsibilities of bringing guinea pigs into your home and why it is important that they be spayed or neutered. A child dumped two adult guinea pigs and their two offspring in the park because his mother told him to get rid of them after they bred. Domesticated guinea pigs cannot survive in the wild, and abandoning them (or any companion animal) is illegal in New York State and is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Fortunately, a Good Samaritan found the guinea pig family and notified Urban Park Rangers, who rescued them before they became lunch for a Red-tailed Hawk watching from above. The parent should have brought the guinea pigs to ACC instead of leaving the responsibility of “getting rid of” the pigs to her young child.

A New Law Would Ban the Sale of Guinea Pigs in Pet Stores

Legislation that would prohibit pet stores from selling guinea pigs has been re-introduced in the New York City Council. Voters For Animal Rights (VFAR) is one of many organizations, including the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, which support the re-introduction of Intro 4 – legislation by Council Member Diana Ayala that would prohibit the sale of guinea pigs in New York City pet stores. 

Allie Feldman Taylor, President of VFAR, explains why the law is critical. “Such a law would not only prevent guinea pigs from overburdening our city’s animal shelters and rescues but it would also encourage the adoption of guinea pigs from Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC), whose staff is facing an unprecedented and challenging increase in the intake of guinea pigs.” 

Intro 4 has a precedent that points to its success. When the sale of rabbits by pet stores was banned in New York City in 2014, area shelters reported a steep decrease in the number of rabbit surrenders.

How You Can Help

If you’re ready, adopt a pair of guinea pigs this month! Meet some of the sweet and funny pigs available at ACC.

Whether you adopt or not, you can help by supporting Intro 4 to ban the sale of guinea pigs in pet stores. Contact your representative on the New York City Council and urge them to co-sponsor Intro 4.

Posted in Animal Care & Control of NYC, Exotic Pets, Pet Adoption, Pet Care & Training, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Thinking About Adopting a Rabbit? February is Adopt-a-Rabbit Month!

Two Rabbit Tails

Danny and Dottie are two amazingly resilient rabbits who demonstrate a tremendous ability to love in spite of very painful hardships.

Danny was rescued from a cold curb in front of a pile of trash the evening before trash pick-up. He was injured, and couldn’t hop using his back legs. So he was thrown out with the trash. Thankfully, Danny was rescued, and was taken in by Bunnies and Beyond

Dottie was abandoned at the Animal Medical Center (AMC) after her previous owner dropped her and injured her back. AMC contacted Bunnies and Beyond, who took her into their care, which currently is focused on rest and rejuvenation in her foster home. 

Rabbits are not the ideal pets for everyone. They require particular kind of care in a safe environment. But if you love rabbits and are willing to take the time to learn how to care for them properly, you’re in for an adventure – one that can be rewarding and satisfying for you and your rabbits.

Notice that we’re speaking of rabbits in the plural form. That’s because rabbits thrive when they have close companionship with a bonded rabbit partner. So if you are thinking about adopting a rabbit, consider adopting a pair. Or, if you already have a single bunny, consider adopting a companion.

What to Consider Before Adopting a Rabbit

A healthy rabbit can live up to 14 years, so bringing a rabbit into your family is a considerable commitment. Rabbits aren’t toys, and they don’t like to be handled or picked up. When they must be picked up, it must be done so properly to make sure their delicate frame isn’t damaged. They’re not appropriate pets for small children, and an adult should always supervise any interactions they have with children.

Rabbits are intelligent, curious, and very social. They need several hours of socializing with their humans each day, preferable outside of their pen. They need space to roam free and explore. And they need an environment that’s free of dangers, such as electric cords and wires, houseplants, and other pets that might harm them. 

An appropriate diet that includes a healthy mix of rabbit-safe greens, pellets, hay, and water is essential to keeping your rabbit healthy. Because rabbits are good at masking illness, they require routine vet care by a rabbit savvy vet. If your rabbit has not been spayed or neutered, it’s critical that you have it done, not only for health reasons but also to ensure that your rabbit doesn’t reproduce if you have intact male and female rabbits in your home.

These are just some of the basics you need to consider before adopting a rabbit. A great deal of valuable information is available online, especially if you visit the websites of rescue groups that specialize in rabbit adoptions. 

If you’ve never had a rabbit before, it’s important that you do your research. Once you’ve read up on the subject, talk with the rabbit experts at local rabbit rescue organizations. They have the knowledge and experience to help you determine if adopting a pair of rabbits or a companion for your single rabbit is the right decision for you.

Where Can You Adopt a Rabbit?

In New York City, it’s illegal for pet stores to sell rabbits. But many rabbits are available for adoption from rabbit rescue groups and shelters. To locate a good place to adopt a rabbit, such as Bunnies and Beyond, visit our Rabbits as Pets web page. There you’ll also find resources for information about rabbit care, veterinary care, spay/neuter resources, and more. 

Now, What About Danny and Dottie?


After being taken in by Bunnies and Beyond, Danny completed his daily physical therapy exercises with the encouragement of his favorite treats – cranberries and bananas! He brought a great deal of joy to his foster mom. With his helicopter ears and daily kisses, Danny scooted his way right into her heart! Today, having healed from his injury, Danny (now called Pierre) is living his best life in the permanent home he shares with his devoted bunny mom and three other bunny siblings.


Dottie, with her delicate white paws and super speedy scoots, is very unique baby bunny. Currently recovering in her foster home, Dottie’s behavior is hilarious – she’s spunky and constantly scoots over to you, demanding head rubs. She absolutely loves fresh parsley and romaine but can only receive a small amount because she is still quite young. Her favorite place to nap is leaning up against a pillow or wall and falling into a deep sleep – probably dreaming about more head rubs. This sweet girl is an absolute delight! 

Dottie isn’t yet available for adoption because she’s too young to be spayed. Once she has been spayed, however, she will be ready for adoption, and will be posted on the Bunnies and Beyond Instagram page.

To meet the wonderful rabbits available for adoption at Bunnies and Beyond, visit their website. Our thanks to Bunny and Beyond’s Meaghan Sonntag for providing write-ups about Danny and Dottie, and for the entire Bunny and Beyond team for their compassionate care of rescued rabbits.

Posted in Bunnies and Beyond, Pet Adoption, Rabbits

Urban Birds vs. Big City Dangers: How We Can Help

Urban birds face many urban dangers. How we can help.

Across the globe, birds face many perils that threaten their survival. It’s not surprising that human behaviors cause many of the dangers that menace our avian friends. And New York City is a microcosm of the global threat to avian populations.

We recently spoke with Denise Kelly, founder and president of the Avian Welfare Coalition, about some of the most serious hazards facing the myriad species of birds who dwell in New York City or pass through our airways on their annual migratory journeys. While not an all-inclusive list, Denise identified four particularly hazardous conditions that urban birds must navigate in the big city, and solutions that New Yorkers can take to mitigate the risks.

Bright Lights, Big City

Millions of birds are injured or killed each year as a result of collisions with tall buildings and glass structures during peak bird migration periods. Many species of birds rely on constellations to help them navigate their flight paths. Excessive outdoor lighting, especially in and around urban centers, can cause birds to become disoriented and collide with buildings and other glass structures in their path. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 500 million to a billion birds perish each year in the U.S. as a result of these collisions.

In December 2021, the New York City Council followed the lead of numerous communities across the country by passing Intros 271 and 274 – critical “Lights Out” legislation aimed at reducing light pollution and the threats created by non-essential lighting from buildings owned or leased by the City. The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, The Avian Welfare Coalition, NYC Audubon Society, Wild Bird Fund, and a host of other members of the Lights Out Coalition supported this important legislation.

Lights Out Coalition founder and chair, Kathy Nizzari, says she started the Coalition to support efforts to get the legislation passed. “Before I knew it, 26 organizations joined us – from avian societies to animal welfare organizations to environmental groups and scientific researchers. In a true showing of the power of community collaboration, we were able to get these crucial bills passed unanimously. As a result, the lives of hundreds of thousands of birds will be saved as they navigate our night skies each year, just by the simple act of turning off unnecessary lighting in City buildings.

“This year we plan to continue this campaign with legislation addressing private buildings,” Kathy continues. “If you could save a life by switching off a light you don’t need, wouldn’t you do it?”

In addition to turning off unnecessary indoor and outdoor lights and closing window shades, there are additional ways New Yorkers can do their part to help prevent bird collisions. Check out some suggestions from the Wild Bird Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Clean Up Our Act (and Our City) for Birds

No one wants to see trash and debris littering our streets and parks. But for urban birds and other wildlife, these nuisances can be deadly. Materials that are especially harmful include plastic soda can holders (those connected plastic rings known as yokes used to hold together multi-packs of canned drinks), used face masks, wire and fishing lines (often found discarded around park lakes and waterways and which can entangle birds), and discarded fish hooks that can be ingested and prove deadly to birds and other urban wildlife. 

A recent example of the dangers of carelessly tossed trash involved a duck in a Central Park lake spotted with a plastic yoke around her neck. Over the course of several days, rescuers and NYC Park Rangers braved bitter cold temperatures and frozen rocks in attempts to capture the duck to remove the plastic appendage. But the wily duck repeatedly eluded their attempts, and is still at large and at risk of injury or death should the yoke cause her to become trapped. Attempts to rescue the duck are ongoing.

While there’s no quick fix for reducing urban debris, New Yorkers and visitors to our city can reduce the risks to birds and wildlife (and create a more livable environment for everyone) by being vigilant in discarding their trash. For example, a simple way to ensure a plastic yoke doesn’t become a death trap for a wild creature is to cut the plastic rings before discarding it, preferable in an appropriate trash receptacle. 

The problem of discarded trash that can be hazardous to birds and other animals is rampant, but is also underreported,” says Denise. “Just take a good look in the wooded areas of the city’s parks and surrounding waterways to see how much more needs to be done to clear the debris for the benefit of animals and humans. Ultimately, it’s up to New Yorkers and visitors to dispose of their trash responsibly.”

To combat the crisis of urban debris in New York City, NYC government, community groups, and civic organizations can sponsor cleanup projects, such as designated “Spring Cleanup Days” in city parks and other target areas, to collect and dispose of trash – especially in areas where birds and other wildlife frequent. To learn about ways you can get involved, visit the NYC Parks website or the NYC Department of Sanitation website.

Slow Down for Birds

The sight of an injured or dead pigeon in a gutter, bike lane, or on the street is distressing. But it’s not at all uncommon in New York City. Fast moving vehicles are responsible for countless injuries to birds, not to mention being a hazard to people. To avoid these deadly encounters, drivers, cyclists, motor bikers, and skateboarders need to obey, (and face fines for violating) traffic laws, and reduce their speed when they see a bird in their path. In less densely populated areas of the city and beyond, they need to be mindful of wildlife crossings. 

If you discover an injured bird, don’t just walk away. Read about what you can do to help on the Wild Bird Fund website.

Report Birds Kept Illegally 

Earlier this month, NYCLASS and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature rescued 17 sick and malnourished ducks and a goose from an illegal slaughter operation in Forest Hills, Queens. These mistreated birds were being kept in deadly cruel conditions outside a home, in subfreezing temperatures, with no shelter, food, or water. Fortunately, now they are receiving veterinary care, and will be placed in sanctuaries and loving homes where they will receive lifelong care.

While this heroic rescue garnered significant media attention, incidents of birds illegally kept and bred in squalid backyard operations are not as uncommon as you might think. It’s only because a neighbor reported this particular situation to animal groups that these ducks were rescued. 

All too often, captors of illegally held birds tire of having them and release them to the wild. Unfortunately, ducks and most other avian species that have lived in captivity don’t have the skills to survive in the wild. They never learned to forage for food or escape predators and other dangers, and they usually suffer horrific deaths.

In New York City, it is against the law to keep certain bird species. These include roosters, ducks, geese, turkeys, eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, vultures, emus, ostriches, and other large or predatory birds. 

If you see animals suffering, never be silent. To report an illegal animal being kept as a pet or for any other purpose, call 311 or report the situation online at NYC311.

Resources to Learn More About Protecting Birds and Wildlife

The Wild Bird Fund

The Avian Welfare Coalition

They All Want to Live

NYC Audubon

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,