As many of you know, the ASPCA “stealth” bill (aka the “Quick Kill” bill) passed the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 16 to 5.
Nathan Winograd reports that:
(a) the bill now goes to the NYS Assembly Codes Committee, whose chairman Joseph Lentol has already questioned the bill and has put the brakes on its quick passage through his committee; but
(b) the ASPCA may try an end run by convincing Speaker Sheldon Silver to bring the bill to a full vote by the entire NYS legislature.
Mr. Winograd provides an easy link for New Yorkers to contact Speaker Silver, asking him to reject the ASPCA bill and to put his support behind the “Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act” (CAARA) bill.
Opposition to the ASPCA Bill Continues to Gain Traction
Best Friends Animal Society has weighed in with articles decrying the ASPCA bill and explaining its support of CAARA. Other well known and respected groups have joined the opposition to the ASPCA bill as reported in a recent blog.
“The criticism is not only misguided
but uninformed and uneducated.”
That’s how Assemblymember Amy Paulin describes anyone who opposes the bill she sponsored at the ASPCA’s behest. See recent Daily News Blog article.
We respectfully disagree with Assemblyperson Paulin.
It’s undisputed that New York State Laws have not kept pace with animal care and rescue issues. Our Agriculture Laws (yes, New York’s companion animals are subsumed under “agriculture”) are a throwback to an earlier but not necessarily gentler time.
In fact, New York has never legislated standards of care for shelter animals. Nor do our laws even mention “rescue groups.” Clearly, it was time to formally acknowledge the important role played by rescue groups, but equally vital, to create strict standards of animal care for shelters.
It all began with a dog named Oreo.
Unfortunately, the ASPCA finds itself on the wrong side of proposed changes to our State law. The ASPCA got into this mess when its frustration with critics blinded it to the best interests of shelter animals.
Two years ago, the ASPCA caught the rescue world’s attention when word spread that the ASPCA was planning to euthanize a dog named Oreo – a dog the ASPCA has rescued from cruelty.
A rescue group offered to take Oreo from the ASPCA and assume all liability, acknowledging that the ASPCA deemed Oreo unpredictable and dangerous.
The ASPCA nevertheless proceeded to kill Oreo. While the dog died, the controversey surrounding Oreo didn’t. The ASPCA had stoked a firestorm.
The Oreo controversy grew when Assemblymember Micah Kellner sponsored his so-called “Oreo’s Law,” which the ASPCA quickly derailed. Still, the Oreo controversy wouldn’t die. Kellner sprang back with his CAARA bill, modeled on the longstanding Hayden Law of California. CAARA places strict standards of care and transparency requirements on shelters while also allowing more rescue groups to pull from shelters.
The ASPCA responded by collaborating with unidentified shelter managers to draft an anti-CAARA bill. The ASPCA bill shields shelter managers from any meaningful standards of care for their animals. At the same time, the ASPCA bill casts rescue groups as the boogeyman, claiming that the real risk to shelter animals is being placed with rescue groups many of whom (the ASPCA suggests) are irresponsible.
Rescue groups aren’t the problem. Shelters are.
For many decades, animal shelters in New York State have operated without legislated standards of care for their animals. Yet, some shelters have done the right thing by their animals even in the absence of laws.
But a shelter like New York City’s notorious Animal Care & Control has taken full advantage of the absence of care requirements and has proceeded to mistreat and neglect its animals. The ACC takes in homeless animals, makes them all sick, kills thousands of them for unsubstantiated reasons, and then turns to rescue groups to “adopt” the remaining animals and cover up the mess the ACC has made.
Many opponents of the ASPCA bill focus on its “quick kill” provisions, and the hurdles it presents for rescue groups to be allowed to pull animals. Shelter Reform focuses on another core fault of the bill: the absence of shelter care standards.
But whatever the focus, it’s clear that the ASPCA bill is wrong for animals and major miscalculation by the ASPCA. We believe that the ASPCA allowed emotion and a kneejerk reaction to criticism to send them down the wrong path.
As our letter to the ASPCA (reprinted below) reflects, Shelter Reform has asked the ASPCA to withdraw its bill and to put its support behind CAARA.
February 16, 2012
Dear Mr. Sayres and Members of the ASPCA Board,
Thousands of people contacted the NYS Assembly to oppose A. 5449-A and S. 5433-A.
Best Friends Society is one of those voices.
Shelter Reform has labeled A. 5449-A/S. 5433-A the “ASPCA bill” because – after all – the ASPCA wrote it in conjunction with unidentified shelters in New York State.
Despite the sizeable opposition to the ASPCA bill, it passed the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee because the ASPCA put its name and reputation behind that bill. Just look at the press release you sent us (below).
But is the ASPCA bill really worthy of your name: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”? Will your legacy suffer because of your involvement with this bill?
The ASPCA Missed an Opportunity to Reform our State’s Shelters
The ASPCA misused this opportunity to have New York lay out precise and basic standards of care that animal shelters must follow. Instead, your bill seems unduly focused on rescue groups.
Two years ago a firestorm engulfed the ASPCA because of a dog named Oreo. Various rescue groups were angry at the ASPCA.
In large measure, the ASPCA bill depicts rescue groups as potential sources of cruelty to animals leaving shelters.
No one wants shelter animals to be handed off to irresponsible rescue groups. That’s indisputable.
Rescue Groups Aren’t the Problem: Animal Shelters Are
However, while the ASPCA bill focuses on the supposed dangers posed by rescue groups, it ignores the antecedent, primary and very real threat facing homeless animals: animal shelters themselves. For homeless animals, their first port of call is usually an animal shelter – not a rescue group. And what happens to them at the shelters often determines their future.
You claim your bill
strikes the right balance by instituting procedures to help lost pets find their way home, setting standards for shelter care, fostering collaboration between shelters and rescue organizations, and ensuring that animals are not placed in harm’s way in the process by incorporating necessary safeguards to prevent animal suffering. [Emphasis added.]
Yet, your bill would allow shelters like NYC’s infamous Animal Care & Control to continue to put its animals “in harm’s way.”
Every animal shelter should be required to live up to the commonly accepted meaning of the word “shelter”: a place providing protection and care. If shelters were required to do their jobs properly, then shelters wouldn’t have to place such excessive reliance on rescue groups to clean up after them.
A shelter should protect its animals from disease and fear, tend to their medical and emotional needs, attempt to reunite lost pets with their owners, and adopt unclaimed animals directly to the public. Rescue groups should be called upon to help only with a relatively small percentage of animals that shelters cannot adopt directly to the public.
NYC’s ACC: Why it will be business as usual under the ASPCA Bill
Under the ASPCA Bill, shelters can shirk their responsibility. NYC’s ACC is a prime example why.
The ACC takes in 40,000 animals a year, the overwhelming number of which are healthy on arrival. The ACC exposes these animals to a variety of highly contagious diseases. Dogs and cats are forced to lie in their own waste and are kept in cages 24/7. Dogs aren’t walked. Animals don’t receive socialization or enrichment.
ACC shelter buildings (former old factories) are filthy and filled with disease … in large measure because “cleaning” protocols are given only a wink and a nod.
Nursing mother cats and their kittens are often kept in tiny “tomahawk” cages for hours at a stretch until someone in the Medical Department is available to check them in.
ACC veterinary care is limited, substandard and in clear violation of veterinary standards. Animals die in cages, often ignored by staff. The ACC doesn’t even have a Medical Director.
When the ACC runs out of kennel space, they stack “temporary” cages in the hallways to accommodate the overflow of dogs and cats.
Employees either forget or refuse to provide fresh water and fresh food on a timely basis. And ACC Management sends it volunteers fleeing to the nearest exit.
But the ACC is very good about guaranteeing one thing for its animals:
Every dog or cat will fall ill of one or more diseases they catch at the ACC.
ACC Animals arrive healthy and then succumb to ACC-borne illnesses.
The vast majority of the animals the ACC doesn’t kill will be “adopted” out to rescue groups, who are then stuck with the financial and emotional toil of nursing back to health the animals the ACC made sick.
Unfortunately, the ASPCA bill is short on any meaningful standards for a shelter like the ACC to follow.
In contrast, CAARA is crystal clear about the quality of care required of every shelter. CAARA directs that shelters “[s]hall provide the animal during the entirety of the animal’s custody or constructive custody with:
A. Fresh food and fresh water on at least a daily basis;
B. Environmental enrichment such as socialization toys and treats to promote the animal’s psychological well-being;
C. Regular daily exercise suitable to the animal’s physical and psychological condition;
D. Clean living environments, including but not limited to the cage, kennel, and/or space where the animal is housed. Such areas shall shall promptly receive necessary cleaning to ensure environments that are welcoming to the public and hygienic for both the public and animals, and to prevent disease. All animals shall be temporarily removed from their cages, kennels, or other living environments during the process of cleaning to prevent them from being exposed to water from hoses or sprays, cleaning solutions, detergents, solvents, and/or chemicals; and
E. Prompt and necessary veterinary care, including but not limited to preventative vaccinations, control, cage rest, fluid therapy, pain management, and/or antibiotics, sufficient to alleviate any pain or suffering caused by disease or injury, to prevent a condition from worsening, and to allow the animal to leave the shelter in reasonable condition, even if the animal is not a candidate for redemption, transfer or adoption.
The ASPCA bill offers relatively few care “requirements.” And by using words like “may” instead of “shall” or “as soon as practicable,” the bill ends effectively offers suggestions to shelters, not requirements.
The ASPCA Will Lose its Moral Authority if its Bill Becomes Law
This bill is unworthy of the ASPCA.
Please, ask your friends in Albany to withdraw your bill. Allow CAARA to become the law of New York State.
If you don’t, an ever-widening advocacy community will work to make CAARA the law over your objections.
And in the process, the ASPCA will lose any claim to moral authority and leadership for homeless and abused animals.
ASPCA, please, do the right thing. Thank you for your attention to this message.
Shelter Reform Action Committee