NYC AC&C’s website proclaims that their mission is “to promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of pets and people in New York City.” Well, it looks like we can classify that as an Epic Fail. Or is it an Epic Lie? It certainly has been an Epic Disaster of late.
For months now, and in ever-increasing numbers, we have seen dogs coming out of NYC AC&C’s shelters with respiratory illnesses which go above and beyond the regular run-of-the-mill kennel cough. Dogs have come out with combinations (co-infections) of adenovirus, mycoplasma cynos, pulmonary e coli infections, various pneumonias, and canine influenza in addition to the standard kennel cough bugs. The presence of each of these illnesses is scary enough on their own, but even more frightening is the fact that some animals are getting so sick they are not making it out alive. Recently, more and more dogs have been dying in their cages… left to suffer alone, and without appropriate medical care, their lungs slowly filling up with fluid until they can no longer provide their bodies with the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange necessary to maintain life. A few days ago, little Nam was the latest in a too-rapidly growing list of victims.
Nam entered the Manhattan Center on 7/16/12 when his owner was evicted. He was listed on the shelters First Alert emails on 7/16 and 7/17. The 7/16 email erroneously listed him as three months old. The 7/17 at least had the correct age of 10 years. He was rated “blue” (well-behaved) by medical staff and noted to be “BRIGHT, ALERT, RESPONSIVE, HYDRATED” and “geriatric cloudy lenses mod tartar, abnormal teeth.” Doesn’t sound that bad, right? But after just 10 days in a disease-infested facility Nam became so sick that he died.
Nam joins so many others who’ve been killed not by AC&C’s “humane” needle, but by gross negligence, incompetence, and utter lack of concern for the conditions these animals are forced to endure. Respiratory infections run rampant at the NYC AC&C’s care centers as a result of poor cleaning practices, lack of adequate training, lack of proper supervision of staff, and, apparently, the lack of any sort of effective infection control program. In short, lack of CARING. Dogs are routinely moved from one area to another without cages being cleaned or sanitized. Visibly sick dogs are housed next to healthy new intakes– sometimes even being found in the adoption wards. Workers handle one dog and then another without washing or sanitizing their hands. Ill animals are kept in areas where healthy animals must walk by them to get from one place to another. Overflow crates in hallways often contain a mix of new intakes and dogs waiting for space to open in the sick ward. It is, unfortunately, not an altogether rare sight to find a relatively healthy new intake dog (who are more likely than not unvaccinated or newly vaccinated) sitting in a crate right outside the door to the isolation ward– where they are then bombarded with all sorts of germs. Hand sanitizer dispensers outside the kennel rooms are most often empty. It’s as if no one even cares to even make a show of caring.
Recently, on 7/27, the Manhattan New Hope staff sent out a plea for Coby. The plea stated that Coby needed to be out of the building and transferred to a vet by 5 pm. The reason? Suspected pneumonia. Just three days – that’s all it took for their disease to take hold of his small body. Thankfully Coby left the building alive and is currently receiving care at a vet’s office. Only time will tell if he will recover.
Little Nam is not first to be found dead in a cage from these illnesses and, given the state of things, we honestly doubt he will be the last. How many have to die before something is done about the rampant, and currently epidemic, disease spread? How many have to effectively drown in their own lung secretions before NYCACC, and the Dept of Health who oversees them, gets serious about cleaning up their act? How many must die before someone, anyone, starts taking infection control seriously and decides to bring in a staff member with the knowledge, and them give them the power, to implement an effective infection control program? To the powers-that-be, these dogs are still ending up in the freezers dead, so it doesn’t matter how they get there– by needle or by disease and medical neglect. Shelter Bureaucracy has no interest in changing the status quo. It will cost money to clean up the shelters, institute an effective infection control program, and provide appropriate medical care. Currently, dogs dying in cages costs them nothing. But it is costing their Partner Rescue groups tens of thousands of dollars to treat these ill animals after they are saved from the clutches of death. Imagine how many more animals rescue groups could afford to save if they weren’t constantly forced to endure obscenely high vetting bills to treat animals with shelter-acquired illnesses. To the Urgent Family, animals dying in cages DOES matter however. Each of these animals has a story, each of them had a chance at a long, healthy life. And yet each of them died as a result of carelessness and neglect at an agency tasked for their CARE. Each of their deaths could have and *should* have been prevented.
Hero, Nam, Mrs 8 – Three dogs who entered ACC healthy and adoptable. Three dogs who are now gone. All found dead in their cages from illness acquired AT the shelter. Illnesses that where never appropriately treated medically. Illness that killed them just days after they arrived.
Clearly, not every dog who catches these deadly diseases perishes in their cage. Dogs like Coby sometimes get lucky and are saved by a rescue group. They go on to be quarantined at a veterinary hospital, often racking up thousands in medical bills which greatly burden the already cash-strapped rescue groups. Lola recently amassed a $7000 vet bill due to shelter-acquired pneumonia. Weeks later, she is still at the vet recovering. Mena continues to fight after testing positive for adenovirus, canine influenza and mycoplasma cynos.
After recently being hospitalized, Delilah and Seamus have continued their road to recovery in foster homes. Were it not for the rescue groups who saved them and spent thousands in medical bills to see them through, Delilah & Seamus would be right where Nam is now – stuffed in a black garbage bag in a freezer at AC&C.
Why does this go on? How did shelter conditions become so deplorable in the “Greatest City in the World?” How is the AC&C permitted to operate in conditions akin to a third-world country? Why must rescues spend thousands attempting to reverse the damage caused by AC&C’s utter failure to address the diseases running rampant in their shelters? Why is it impossible to get ANY city agency to investigate shelter conditions that leave animals dying in cages. Animals left in conditions that any civilian would be charged and prosecuted for animal cruelty had they occurred in a non-institutional setting. It could have something to do with the fact it seems that the NYC Dept. of Health (DoH) is the ONLY city agency authorized to investigate the NYC AC&C. But the DoH is the agency that RUNS the NYC AC&C. Dr. Thomas Farley was appointed New York City Health Commissioner in 2009. He also happens to Chair the Board of Directors for the non-profit NYC AC&C… which the DoH is tasked with overseeing. How that is not a conflict of interest is beyond us. How is it, that the Health Commissioner, running the Dept of Health and sitting as non-profit NYCACC’s Chair– who coincidently has a strong background in disease prevention and infection control– sits back and does nothing to address the deplorable state the City’s Shelters are currently in? The fox is guarding the hen house.
Hero, Mrs 8 and Nam didn’t have to die. And no more should die. There is a solution out there.
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
~ Joseph Campbell