“Very Good Chance” NYC’s Lost Pets are Doomed

This dog was homeless in NYC. He was rescued by a good Samaritan and adopted by a loving family because "nobody around here would take a found dog to ACC".

This summer, New York City Animal Care and Control tried to muzzle their volunteers so they couldn’t go to the media with documentation of neglect and abuse at the city’s shelters.  In addition, they “suspended” many already approved rescue groups, refusing to allow them to save pets while ACC developed a new rescue policy.  The entire volunteer program has been on-again, off-again with next month scheduled as a “break” according to ACC’s website.  That might be for the best since some folks may have trouble at year’s end coming up with the $25 fee ACC charges people to volunteer.

Now, blaming “budget cuts”, ACC has announced they won’t be looking in the city’s 3 shelters for lost pets anymore when worried owners call:

Frantic owners used to call Animal Care and Control directly to have city workers search the three main facilities, but that’s no longer part of the workers’ job description.

As a result of these budget cuts the owners of lost pets must come to city shelters in person, including one in Manhattan, and the others in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

They will make an exception for disabled owners who are unable to search the shelters themselves.  But for everyone else:

“There’s a very good chance if their pet is lost they wont be able to find them,” said Jane Hoffman, president of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.


Hoffman said, by law, an unclaimed animal can be adopted out or euthanized after as little as 48 hours, although it usually takes longer than that.

How is any of this ok?

Let’s be clear as to the effects of this decision.  Your kitty slips past your feet, bolts through your front door and gets lost somewhere in New York City.  You have to physically visit and search all three shelters every day because you don’t know if or when he might get brought to a shelter.  You don’t know if the shelter would hold him for 48 hours or 72 hours or might kill him immediately because maybe he’s been deemed “unadoptable” or caught a kitty cold.  Hopefully you have a very understanding boss who will allow you the time away to get to all three shelters and conduct your searches every day.  But if your kid gets sick or you break your ankle or someone in your family wants you to attend their wedding in CT – well, any of those things could mean death-by-shelter for your lost cat.

Here’s my question:  If you strip away your shelter’s volunteer program, the rescue groups you work with, and any realistic chance of reuniting lost pets with their owners – what’s left?  ACC won’t look for your lost pet because they can’t afford the staff to do it.  They won’t let volunteers who would be willing to look for your pet for free come in unless they pay a fee and jump through flaming hoops.  They won’t work with rescues willing to save pets from being killed at the shelter.  Is NYC Animal Care and Control going to rename itself NYC Pet Killing Facility?  Because if the current trend continues, that will be the only “service” they’ll offer.


Thank you FreedomDaug and Rachel G. for sending in links on this subject.

17 thoughts on ““Very Good Chance” NYC’s Lost Pets are Doomed

  1. the whole thing seems pretty ridiculous
    i am 100% for the OWNER visiting shelters to look for their lost pet. this should not be left to a stranger who has never met your pet and probably couldn’t make a positive id
    why in the world would you ever take someone’s word over the phone that they don’t have an animal matching your pet’s description? Even someone who has the best intentions may not be able to recognize your animal, ESPECIALLY given the average owner’s inability to give an ACCURATE description of their pet (gray tabby vs brown tabby, anyone?). Time and again i hear stories of people told the same thing and then actually find their pet there when they actually visit themselves.

    I think the biggest ‘ouch’ i have is that their stray hold period is only 48 hours. residents of New York better have id on their animals

    1. Anne, the problem is the impracticality of a pet owner searching each of three large and widely-separated shelters, every day, until the pet is found. While, also, y’know, distributing posters, and checking private shelters as well.

      Most of us don’t have jobs that will allow us to do that. As in, not that people aren’t willing, but that for most people it isn’t possible.

    2. Many New Yorkers do not have a car. They walk, take a cab and/or use public transportation to get around the city. I can easily envision an owner spending all day searching these 3 shelters. It’s just not realistic. And the fact is, if you skip a day – that may well be the day they kill your lost pet.

      1. i agree- that’s why i said the whole situation is pretty ridiculous. But i feel that THAT problem lies with the 48 hour stray holding period. if people had a longer time to search for their animal, then that would be the BEST way to be reunited, instead of relying on a stranger to make an accurate id for you

        crap, some OWNERS can’t tell their cat apart when faced with similar looking cats in a shelter setting

      2. If they could go to the shelters only when there’s a pet there that at least roughly fits the description, it might work. Unless they go No Kill, though, it’s completely unrealistic to think that working people can actually search three different large shelters in three different parts of a large and complex city, which they have to get around by public transit as a practical matter, often enough and well enough to have a good chance of finding a lost pet without the active cooperation of the shelters themselves.

  2. We’re back to that KILL thing again. If they didn’t kill the “extras” then this wouldn’t be such a critical thing.
    I hear there’s a really great lost pet network on the west coast somewhere…some rescue just decided to set up a service to help reunite lost pets with their people.
    Would New Yorkers have to pay $25 per person to try that? Could I donate $25 to somebody to try?!?

  3. On intake of an animal, the shelter could take three photos and a short video clip to post immediately to petfinder.com with info about where/when the animal was picked up. Then the owner could do the search online first and then visit the shelter(s) with the pet(s) that closest resemble their pet.

    Education is also needed so people will learn the importance of multiple IDs for their pets – collar tags, microchip, and keeping current photos of their pets handy for Lost Pet fliers.

  4. Irá not just NYC. I lost a dog in a West Coast city some years ago, didn’t have a car – and if you think it’s hard for NewYorkers to get around the shelters with no car, try it any place on the West Coast – and they wouldn’t even LOOD for my dog, which was a very distinctive breed, recognizable even to the most clueless shelter worker.

    She made it home – I suspect she’d gone to her last place; I had taken her in because the people were moving. When she found them gone, she came back to me – no thanks to any shelters.

    Yeah, she was licensed; that was no motivator. As nearly as I can tell, all license fees are used for is to harass licensed owners. They certainly don’t get you any help if your dog somehow escapes.

  5. There is something legally wrong at work here.

    t is my understanding that the ACC, a private organization, is under CONTRACT with the city to provide services. If the services are provided, then the amount agreed to must be honored. If it is not paid, the city is in default of the contract.

    While the contract amount is reported to be a line item under the city’s health department budget, it is not a negotiable item if the contract specifies the amount. Therefore, it is not an item subject to budget “cutting.”

    Why is the ACC not taking the city to court to honor the contracted (not budgeted) amount.

    I’ve always heard that any change to a contract by one party voids the whole contract (unless the other party agrees).

    Where are the attorneys who can straighten this out?

  6. WOW! Where I live, McHenry, Il, they use a website called petharbor.com where someone uploade pictures of all the animals at the shelter and you can go look at the pictures to see if they have your animal. They also check any tags or micro chips and follow leads to try and reconnect pets to thier owners! My mom lost her dog and animal control picked her up and scanned her on the spot!! My mom was called and told the location of her dog and she went and got her down the street! I love our fantastic animal control workers and volunteers here. Sone of the best around.

    1. I’ve read that they do the same thing in Ottawa, I believe. One of our local AC departments does tend to scan dogs, unfortunately not the one that brings in most of our AC drop-offs. It would save so many more lives if more AC offices cared about getting strays back home instead of just off the streets. If the number of lost pets that are never reclaimed were to go down at our shelter, we’d be able to save so many more who don’t have families to care for them.

    2. I know the Director of Animal Control/Public Health there. She’s new. She used to be MY VET here in Michigan. She’s terrific.. And she said good things about McHenry, IL AC’s programs – part of the reason she took the job.

  7. I just moved to WI from NY this fall and am in school to become a vet. When I try to talk to other students during our group discussions about ways they can improve their shelters, programs and policies here, noone will listen to me because I’m from ‘NY’, which is considered the worst city for caring about animals, even though Im from northern NY and our programs up there are awesome, especially the networking and programs to find lost pets- all volunteer- and our no kill areas- all sheltersare no kill- do imagine how angry I am that the U.S. Despises all of NY’s handling of animals when its a big state with a lot of great programs. It’s time for NYC to straighten their act up and stop embarrassing the rest of us.

  8. Why don’t found pets get posted online? Within two hours of collection pets should be viewable online. It is much more efficient than requiring people to visit shelters daily.

    Send a photo and description to lost@missingpups.com and it will get posted immediately, automatically.

    All shelters should help people find their pets.

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