NYC Shelters – and Cats – to Benefit

shelter cat

Update Sept. 22, 2011: Intro 655 was approved yesterday by the New York City Council by a vote of 46-4. 

For more on what this means for New York City’s shelter animals and the city’s feral and owned cats, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report: Legislation now under consideration by the New York City Council could mean more than $12 million by the end of fiscal year 2014 for New York City shelter animals. More than 40,000 animals are taken in by Animal Care & Control each year.

Under the proposal the City would also require spay/neuter of cats allowed outside. And, trap neuter return would be recognized and accepted as a means of humanely controlling feral cat populations.  

"Trap-neuter-return" means a program to trap, vaccinate for rabies, sterilize and identify feral cats and return them to locations where they roam free sometimes in colonies with care provided by volunteer caregivers.

The Dept. of Health would be authorized to issue regulations for trap neuter return programs for feral cats. For more information, visit the New York City Feral Cat Initiative website.

The legislation, Intro 655, introduced by Council member Jessica Lappin, reflects a landmark plan developed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Council Member Jessica Lappin, the New York City Department of Health, Animal Care & Control of NYC, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, and the ASPCA.

With the legislation the City will commit to increasing its investment in the shelters over the next three years. The City’s annual budget for the shelters will be increased more than  $12 million by the end of fiscal year 2014  – 77%  above current funding. The Health Department projects that once this funding increase has been fully implemented, shelter staffing will increase by as many as 100 personnel. 

"In these tough fiscal times, access to increased monies for programs and services that have been stretched so thin is a welcome change," said Jane Hoffman, president of the Mayor’s Alliance.

A victory for the animals and a model program that could influence other communities.

Dog licensing

The Dept. of Health will also work to increase dog licensing. Of the City’s 500,000 or so dogs, only about 20% are licensed. Licensing makes it easier for people to find lost dogs and also provides much needed revenue for the city’s animal services.

To ensure that more New Yorkers license their dogs, the Dept. of Health will:

Launch a City-wide public awareness campaign;

Make it easier to license dogs online and place self-serve licensing kiosks at animal shelters and other sites;

Conduct targeted outreach to remind dog owners of the licensing requirement; and

With the Council, seek state legislation that would increase the base dog licensing fee, currently $8.50, which has not changed in more than 80 years. The legislation would also increase the part of the licensing fee, currently $1 per license, which pet stores and other entities are able to keep if they process a transaction at their facilities.

Revisions made last year to the New York City Code required the health department within 6 months of the law’s effective date of January 1, 2011 "to establish and implement an animal population control program to reduce the population of unwanted stray dogs and cats". The program must encourage spay/neuter "by providing no or low-cost spaying and neutering services…. The department is encouraged to in the animal population control program ‘clinics or mobile units’ for free or low cost spay/neuter services." Sec. 17-1812

The NYC code changes also established "in the joint custody of the city comptroller and commissioner of finance" a city "animal population control fund" consisting of "all moneys collected from the animal population control program", [the license surcharge of at least $3.00 for unaltered dogs] …and all other moneys credited or transferred thereto from any other fund or source pursuant to law. Moneys of the fund shall be … expended for the purposes of carrying out animal population control programs".

Under current law increases in dog licensing fees must be paid into the city’s APCF.

More about Intro 655

Also under Intro 655 the City will not be required to maintain a full service animal shelter in each borough as currently required. Instead, the City will be required to maintain the 3 current full service shelters, one of which must be open to the public to receive animals 24 hours per day 7 days per week. 

The two boroughs without full service shelters, the Bronx and Queens, will maintain intake facilities for "lost, stray or homeless dogs and cats" 7 days per week, 12 hours each day. Currently, intake is available only 8 hours a day for one or two days per week. 

"Field services having the capacity to pick up and bring to a shelter lost, stray, homeless or injured dogs and cats from all five boroughs shall be maintained and operated seven days per week, twelve hours per day. Where public health and safety is threatened, they shall have the capacity to pick up such animals twenty-four hours per day." 

Intro 655 also has additional requirements for reporting numbers related to intake and transfer of animals and staffing levels. The Dept. of Health must issue a report 24 months from the day the bill is signed that will provide key data on trends on the progress at each full service animal shelter and receiving center.

The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals

The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, founded in 2002 and funded by Maddie’s Fund®, The Pet Rescue Foundation, is a coalition of more than 160 animal rescue groups and shelters called New Hope Partners. The mission is to work with New York City to place shelter animals.

Since its inception, the Mayor’s Alliance working with its New Hope partners, AC&C, ASPCA and city officials, has dramatically reduced euthanasia rates for the City’s shelter animals. Seventy percent fewer dogs (3,775) were euthanized at AC&C shelters in 2010 compared to 2003, when well over 12,000 dogs were euthanized, and 60 percent fewer cats (7,847), as compared to 19,487 in 2003.

Follow Intro 655 here.