NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND Volume 13 – An ACC Employee Speaks Out


Shelter Reform Action Committee is proud to publish a report by an ACC employee.

We cannot reveal the employee’s name, of course, because that would be the end of his/her employment at the ACC.

ACC Management will fire any employee with the temerity to break the code of silence that Julie Bank & Co. has imposed.

ACC supervisors warn their staff to keep silent, because speaking the truth will inevitably get someone in trouble.  No one wants to lose their job, beginning with ACC Management.

ACC Management’s goal isn’t to ensure that shelter animals are properly cared for, but rather to claim (falsely) that they are.

You be the judge whether the employee’s report (as well as all the reports by volunteers, fosters, and adopters that we’ve previously published) square with what ACC Management says are the ACC’s “values”:

We value the integrity of each employee, volunteer and partner contributing to the professional delivery of excellent customer service and the humane treatment of animals, in an atmosphere of open, honest communication, predicated on our trust and respect for each other.

NOTE:  We have changed some of the phraseology and idiomatic expressions in the original version of the employee’s report to make it even more difficult (hopefully impossible) for ACC Management to identify this courageous individual.  So much for the ACC’s “open, honest communication, predicated on … trust and respect for each other.”

And with that introduction, we offer you the employee’s initial report.

A Culture of Apathy

May 2012

The employee culture at the Manhattan ACC shelter can be summed up in a single word: apathy.

“Apathy”: Lack of Interest, Emotion, Feeling.

Take the Shelter Manager.  She wears regular clothing, not the uniform required of all the other staff members at the shelter, a constant reminder that she rarely interacts with her staff or visits the animals in her shelter.

The Assistant Shelter Manager regularly walks by dirty kennels and crates, empty water bowls, and sick animals without concern. He, and the rest of the staff responsible for the cleaning and care of the animals, simply cannot keep up, and stopping to tend to everything that needs tending to would mean never getting to whatever task is at hand.

Cages and kennels are cleaned thoroughly once a day, but the intermediate checks throughout the rest of the 24-hour period between cleanings are infrequent and rarely thorough.  Some dogs may go for days without ever going outside, and their kennels need frequent attention.

Yet moments after a staff member has supposedly signed off on a chart saying s/he has done one of these intermediate checks to look for empty water dishes or dirty kennels, I have seen animals without water and with soiled kennels and linens. Management turns a blind eye to the extremely poor quality of life that the animals have, and shelter staff is completely overwhelmed with the number of animals in their care.

It is impossible to keep all the cages, crates, and kennels clean with the number of staff at the shelter.  As a result the staff detaches themselves from the animals and stop trying to do the impossible. I have watched new employees, disturbed by the living conditions of the animals, give 110%.  Of course they fail in their attempts to make the shelter a better place, are ridiculed behind their backs by the veteran employees, and their good intentions are discouraged by management and derailed by misguided “policy.” They soon give up, either quitting or joining the ranks of the other jaded and detached employees.

The lack of veterinary and medical personnel is equally disturbing, and injured and ill animals do not receive the care they require. For an organization that euthanizes animals for relatively minor and completely treatable medical issues, animals with painful injuries and serious illnesses suffer significantly from lack of medical care before they even make it to the euthanasia list.

This apathetic culture may partially be a result of lack of funding and staffing, but the foundation and encouragement for it comes from the top.  And because AC&C Management actively discourages any change to the status quo, the shelter animals suffer.  More staff and funding might bring partial relief from some of these issues, but as long as employees are discouraged from taking pride in their work and encouraged to keep their mouths shut about any shortcomings or problems within the organization, then these issues will persist.

This culture of silence is the unwritten law at the AC&C.  Oh, sure, the AC&C Employee Handbook states that employees should go to their direct supervisors if they have questions or concerns, and even cites an “open door” policy.  But the reality is that AC&C supervisors and management at every level reprimand employees who come to them with concerns.

And in cases where an employee has a concern that needs to be addressed immediately, as often happens in animal welfare situations, it can be impossible to contact the supervisor who is supposed to be on-duty, leaving employees with no authority to act and no recourse.

Ultimately, the goal for most AC&C employees becomes staying under Management’s radar, and in the interest of self-preservation they are forced to do their best to ignore the blindingly obvious and systemic animal welfare issues that exist within the AC&C.


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15 Responses to NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND Volume 13 – An ACC Employee Speaks Out

  1. GLENN LEAHEY says:

    The description of Manhattan ACC sounds/reminds me of some nursing homes I’ve visited. It may just be better to close it and open 2-3-4-5-6 smaller facilities across the neighborhoods of NYC and TRY to involve the rescue/volunteer groups and even some college/high school interns.

    Mayor Bloomberg has the CONNECTIONS to make these POSITIVE changes if he chooses to…and so does Speaker Quinn.

    This is another example of our increasingly “throwaway society. (sigh)

    • Lori says:

      Glen – Bloomberg does not care one iota about the city’s homeless animals. This all goes on under his watch. Speaker Quinn is even worse, as she is the one who cut the back room deal with the ASPCA to not build shelters in the Bronx and Queens that were already legislated to be built. Anyone who cares about the animals at ACC should make sure to spread the word about Quinn and vote against her.

    • Margaret Grayson says:

      I share the ACC posts on FB and cry everyday about this. I’ve even had a cat pulled from death row with the help of rescue orgs last Oct. I’ve been “educated” about these 3 buildings from a rescue agency–The ACC needs to be shut down. What about that man that offered to fix the whole system and they turned him away, when he was so successful in Canada making “kill” shelters “NO KILL.” At the very least, why isn’t our mayor doing anything about the horriffic cruelty happening in his city. It all comes down to politics, money, and fear of being exposed with the truth. The public needs to be educated. Let me know if there is anyway I can help to push this forward. Thank you ACC Employee for have the courage to speak out. Their privacy policies, etc remind me of the propaganda from the Holocaust!

  2. Debbie says:

    Apathy is so very common in many traditional shelters. There are simply too many animals dumped by uncaring people. We hear the same stories every day, the same unwillingness to be responsible pet owners. However, this can, indeed, change. All it takes is ONE person One person becomes many people. Flying under the radar is important in larger scale shelters. But a shelter should be a shelter and not a pound. “We are called on to treat them with kindness because they stand unequal and powerless before us.” “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress may be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Words to live by and can be lived by if only one person can lead the way. Of course, when media is needed, get both guns out and fire away! This AC&C worker could just be the person that makes a difference. Good for him/her. Diplomacy, tact, media, being politically savvy, and never take NO (or killing) for an answer.

  3. Debbie says:

    The above quote should be changed to:

    “We are called on to treat them with kindness because they stand unequal and powerless before us.”

  4. Tessie Missouri says:

    at my last job, it was the same envirement & it had nothing to do w/ animals. what a shame that innocent lives have to suffer…also a shame that tax $$$ is being mis-spent…

  5. Debbie says:

    All it takes is ONE person to make a difference and not take no for an answer. I know. I did it. It’s been 7 years since we’ve killed to make room. All it took was my one lone voice and that one voice turned into many. I was willing to take a chance. I was willing to risk everything. I could no longer turn a blind eye. I could no longer accept what was considered acceptable when it was unacceptable on every level. YOU can be that same person–whoever YOU are that is reading this. If something is wrong it is WRONG. We can no longer be cowards. We must stand up for those who cannot. We do it for kids, why are our companion animals any different? What does that say about us?

  6. Lori says:

    There is a small handful of employees at ACC who care but they are clearly overshadowed by the majority who definitely are apathetic and worse sometimes – downright uncaring. It’s a shame that the good employees have to be subject to this. I always wonder how long they will last…..

  7. Teresa says:

    Having read volunteers report and now this from a staff member… I feel even more strongly that the whole animal care system in the state of New York needs a total overhaul. It can be done, people of New York, all of you that love animals… raise your voices, demand changes be made there, it is your tax money that is being wasted at these abominable death traps.

  8. Julia says:

    This is indeed, a very brave employee. Thank you for speaking out!

  9. Nancy Shufeldt says:

    I live in a nursing home after having a stroke and it is the same here. we have bullies who no one deals with just like you have there in management. it is a throwaway society to the pity of the animal.. to destroy cats when they have a cold is reprehensible……

  10. Raytha Hand Poland says:

    I want to know why this is not being published in the New York papers? I’m sure everyone that cries buckets of tears everyday would donate to pay to have these published so that taxpayers are made aware of the conditions the animals are forced to endure and the extremes the lying sacks of shit will go to to hide the problems. Elections are coming up. No better time than now to make sure that people are put in office who actually like and care whether animals have a decent quality of life and a chance to find a loving family.

  11. debra greca-rauh says:

    Abbastanza!! Enough of this madness. Humans HAVE to stop abusing our dear,precious animals, domestic, wild, land, air sea & everywhere. If we were to be judged as a nation by our treatment of animals we would get an “F”

  12. Jessie Cran says:

    Kudos to this brave individual for speaking out. My disgust for the ACC just grows. Someone needs to get some HR in there: Seriously: cultures like this in workplaces can wind up costing organisations millions in the long run– staff absenteeism, high turnover, and the eventual negative media that this place is going to get. All the money in the world isn’t able to make the world turn a blind eye, and no matter how many people can get the spirit and integrity drained, or scorned, or workplace bullied, or scared out of them via “policy”, the ACC management is going to, at some point in time, run into the wrong spark which just can’t be extinguished.

    It is cheaper, and better, to do the right thing by both the staff and the animals and to get attention for that, than doing the opposite. Happy and well-looked after employees who feel they are doing something meaningful are going to be loyal and hard-working employees. As a result, the animals will benefit, as will the human clients of the shelter.

    Is is just me, or is this totally not rocket science we’re talking about here?

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