The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest honor a Cadette can achieve. It involves a team of Girl Scout Cadettes focusing on an issue they care about, learning the facts, and taking action to make a difference. So when the Cadettes in Troop 41425 in Clark, NJ, undertook their Silver Award project, they decided to create cage comforters for shelter animals.
After completing nearly 100 cage comforters, the Cadettes reached out to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to help get them to shelter animals. In our role as connector within the animal welfare community, we were delighted to be their partner in this truly worthwhile effort.
“Our girls love animals and worked on their Girl Scout Bronze Award several years ago by helping the local animal shelter with some landscape work,” explained Troop Leader Stephanie Kleczynski. “The girls wanted to learn a new skill this time around and decided on learning to sew. They still wanted to help animals and, after some internet research, we came across the Alliance’s cage comforter web page and, well, it was a perfect combination of their new skill and helping animals.
“We had hoped to offer an educational program as well when we presented our donation, but with Covid we knew that was no longer a possibility,” Stephanie continued. So instead of presenting the comforters directly to a shelter, the Cadettes presented them to Alliance President Jane Hoffman at a park in New Jersey where a safe, socially distanced outdoor setting was maintained.
Jane enlisted transport driver and photographer Joe Galka to accompany her to the presentation, where she bestowed upon each Cadette an Alex and Ani charm bangle bracelet featuring the Alliance’s logo charm as a thank you gift.
The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals joined representatives from more than a dozen animal welfare organizations for New York City’s first annual virtual Animal Careers Week held September 21-24, 2020. The event is a part of the City’s effort to build more intentional pipelines for students seeking careers in animal welfare, and create a workforce that reflects the racially and culturally diverse communities served in NYC.
The career fair, presented in partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, and City University of New York (CUNY), reflects a broader Fair Recovery initiative announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April to re-start the economy and rebuild a fairer, more equitable community for all New Yorkers.
“The event was advertised broadly to all CUNY schools through their career offices, as well as specifically to their animal programs,” said Christine Kim, Senior Community Liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, who spearheaded organizing the career fair. “CUNY students are diverse, representative of all the different walks of life in NYC, and are embedded in their local communities throughout the five boroughs.”
Through four days of online panel presentations, students gained exposure to a wide range of career options within animal welfare. They asked questions about specific roles, networked with the participating animal organizations, and learned about professional development opportunities, including internships, jobs, and volunteer positions offered by those organizations. The Q&A format gave students abundant opportunities to explore their individual areas of interest.
Representatives from each participating group spoke about their organizations, their roles, and day-to-day activities, and answered questions from students about how to prepare for a career in animal welfare. Panelists also described their own personal journeys that lead them to their own particular career destinations.
Steve Gruber, Director of Communications for the Alliance and a member of the Animal Planning Task Force for NYC’s Emergency Management, represented the Alliance at the event.
Breakout group panels featured presentations on specific areas of focus, including:
Direct Care and Veterinary Medicine, including behavior, shelter care, conservation, LVTs, vets, wildlife rehab;
Advocacy and Education, including policy, legislation, grassroots organizing, outreach, humane education; and
Entrepreneurship & Management, including communications, human resources, operations, start-ups, and philanthropy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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 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!