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Animal-Friendly Legislation Moves NYC Toward a More Humane Future

Editor’s note: Although we realize this article isn’t immediately relevant to the current COVID-19 emergency gripping the headlines, we wanted to share the information with our readers because we believe it demonstrates the promise of a positive future.

In November 2019, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Int. 1478 into law, establishing an Office of Animal Welfare. The local law goes into effect on March 25, 2020, giving the Office the power to advise and assist the Mayor in the coordination and cooperation between agencies relating to animal welfare administration, regulation, management, and programs. This is the first office of its kind in the United States, and only second in the world, following Mexico City. As it is currently planned, the Office’s work will address four main areas: companion animals, working animals, wildlife, and the animal advocacy and animal care community.

In February 2020, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals President Jane Hoffman met with Christine Kim, Senior Community Liaison for Animal Welfare in the Community Affairs Unit of the NYC Mayor’s Office. Mayor de Blasio created this position in 2015, in response to a white paper titled New York City Animal Welfare Priorities 2014, delivered to the new administration by NYCLASS, the Alliance, and the ASPCA. The first item identified in the proposal was the establishment of an office to oversee policy related to the care of domestic and wild animals.

“It’s exciting to see a single liaison position evolve into a municipal office with its own staff,” says Jane. “This is an important step forward for New York City’s animals.”

On February 28, Alliance Director of Communications Steve Gruber delivered testimony before the New York City Council’s Committee on General Welfare in favor of Int. 1483 and Int. 1484, which address the need to accommodate pets of NYC’s homeless population who are barred from the city’s homeless shelters if they are accompanied by their pet(s). He cited successful models of co-sheltering of pets with their people by Urban Resource Institute (URI), the largest provider of sheltering for families experiencing domestic violence in NYC, and also the co-sheltering of pets at NYC’s emergency shelters during declared disasters.

“We feel strongly that the human-animal bond is critical during times of crisis or stress,” said Steve. “For many people facing homelessness, their pet may be their only source of comfort and stability.”

Steve continues to represent the Alliance on the Animal Planning Task Force (APTF) of NYC Emergency Management (NYCEM). NYCEM created the APTF to develop and help implement plans for disasters — both natural and otherwise. Steve has sat on the APTF since 2006. The task force also includes representatives from Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), the ASPCA, NYC Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT), the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), and other non-profit organizations and City agencies.