Bringing Up from the Comments

NYC reader Anne Davis recently exchanged pleasantries with the Mayor’s Alliance and shared in yesterday’s Open Thread.  I wanted to bring it up to make sure everyone sees it.  I think it gives valuable insight into some of the reasons why the NYC pound needlessly kills healthy/treatable pets.  Everything that follows is from Ms. Davis’ comment:

I got an email from the Mayor’s Alliance promoting the sell of Tshirts, info on submitting your fav. pet photo and last but not least “Adopt a Little New Yorker Today”. I wrote back saying “How does buying a Tshirt and showing off photos get animals in the ACC adopted?! Why don’t you put forth an effort to get animals adopted instead of killing them?!!

Well, I got an immediate response from a woman named Maggie O’Neill giving me a long paragraph on the brilliant work of the NYACC.
“Thank you for your email – I’m happy to have the opportunity to answer your questions. In reference to the latter portion of your email –
since the Mayor’s Alliance was formed in 2003, euthanasia at AC&C has decreased from 74% to a projected 28% in 2011 (and was down to 32% in 2010.) This is fantastic progress – instead of 3 out of 4 animals dying at AC&C, over 3 out of 4 are leaving alive. This progress is in large part due to the work of the Mayor’s Alliance – through our grant for AC&C’s New Hope program, our APOs (Alliance Participating Organizations) thousands of animals leave AC&C alive – headed to forever homes, foster homes, vet hospitals, no-kill shelters and other rescues. Last year our Wheels of Hope fleet transported over 11,000 animals out of AC&C! Last month alone – with two vans out for service – we accumulated over 34,000 miles driving to save these precious lives.

After I did a spit take I sent her this:
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I’m sure the information you provided is readily at hand for anyone who suggests more proactive work on the part of the Mayor’s Alliance and the ACC.

I think, no – I know, that if there was a working volunteer program put in place, if there were people being greeted with they enter the ACC shelters to get immediate help, if the ACC shelters were clean and free of airborne diseases that cause healthy animals to get sick and therefore placed on the Euthanasia list to be killed (why, because they’re sick), if the animals were presented each and every weekend in adoption fairs, if every animal were available to potential adopters rather than keeping a lot of them hidden away in filthy cages, if the Mayor’s Alliance would work with the no-kill community to get the DOH to relinquish the ACC to private enterprises that actually WANT to save animals instead of coming up with lame excuses to kill them, if there were shelters in The Bronx and Queens instead of “receiving stations”, if you would stop firing the very people who do all they can to make the animals comfortable, feel loved and try to save them – then that would be a triumph for everyone involved. But until NYC, the richest city in the country, puts forth the efforts mentioned here the sweet, healthy, lonely, scared, beautiful, loving animals unfortunate enough to end up at the ACC will continue to be murdered and tossed into the trash without a second though or a single tug of the heart.

I am constantly hoping that a moral compass can be found and that the light will finally make it’s way into the hearts of those who make every aspect of the ACC a miserable one for the animals. Until that day I will not be swayed by your “Shelter Speak”. The reason numbers are down is because of the hard working cash strapped rescue groups and certainly NOT because the ACC is doing ANYTHING right. If it weren’t for the rescue groups doing everything they can to save lives the number of animals killed at the ACC would be through the roof!

And just this very min. I heard back from her. And guess what – she put the blame on the people of NY. “You hit the nail on the head with the systematic issues that face NYC’s animals – not enough funding and animal overpopulation. You did forget, however, that if people stopped breeding their animals, releasing their cats on the street and buying animals from puppy stores…that numbers of animals ever arriving at AC&C would be drastically reduced. ”

Yes, it’s all our fault!!

Hello Anne:

The information I provided is available to anyone that chooses to educate themselves and research as to what proactive work is being done on behalf of NYC’s animals. Anyone can easily go to our website and read our Annual Reports ( and our Progress Reports ( to find this information in far more details.

While I will try to keep this short, I do wish to address what you wrote below. You hit the nail on the head with the systematic issues that face NYC’s animals – not enough funding and animal overpopulation. You did forget, however, that if people stopped breeding their animals, releasing their cats on the street and buying animals from puppy stores…that numbers of animals ever arriving at AC&C would be drastically reduced.

However, you seem to be laboring under a basic misunderstanding. We are not AC&C nor do we run AC&C.

What we do is actively help solve the problem by doing everything in our power. We exist to support the rescue groups and to get animals out of AC&C alive. Those rescue groups you speak of, and rightfully give credit for saving lives, would not be able to do so without the Mayor’s Alliance. It is through our grant that the New Hope program flourishes in getting animals out of the shelter alive, and through our existence (and adoption stipends) that our APO’s are able to pull thousands of animals a year. The reasons numbers are down is because of the rescues…but the Mayor’s Alliance is the vital link in this massive and successful community collaboration. Each one of our programs (please visit for information on all of them) is geared specifically towards saving lives and making NYC into a no-kill community by 2015.

This is action, this is change and this is working. This is why the Mayor’s Alliance exists. And, to answer you original inquiry, this is why we promote NYC’s homeless animals and our organization…so we can continue doing this work.


I wrote back:

I know that the info is available to all who want to read it. But when Julie Bank tells everyone how great things are going she is doing the bidding of Dr. Thomas Farley and Mayor Bloomberg. Anyone can cook the books and that’s what’s happening here. When the DOH board members went on a tour of the Manhattan ACC last week many animals were killed and/or shipped off to the Brooklyn ACC to show the board members clean empty cages. The place was spit and polished to a glowing shine. But none of this is reality. We all know it. But those who spew lowering numbers of kills and rising numbers of adoptions is party to all the smoke and mirrors and the animals continue to suffer.

Secondly, I don’t agree with you 100% when you say “if only the public…..” Well, if only the ACC would check for microchips, do everything possible ( and not just what is absolutely required by law) to get animals adopted, if – well, I’ve stated all my “ifs” in the last email and stand by them now. The problem with shelters and organizations that refuse to turn killing into No-Kill is that the onus is placed on the public. Yes, spay/neuter is a must, keeping your pets inside or on a leash, adopting rather than buying – all are things the public can do. But don’t leave all the heavy lifting to the public. When someone wants to adopt a dog or cat and then has to wait HOURS, talk to people at the ACC who don’t know what’s going on, who have to make multiple trips to the shelter to adopt then there is a huge disconnect between the shelter and the public. Frankly, I think most of the public is doing their job and think that the NY Shelter system is not and needs to do some heavy lifting as well.

Why didn’t the Mayor’s Alliance speak up when Emily Tannen and Jeff Latzer were fired from the ACC? “Fired” may not be the right word since they were volunteers who spent over 40 hours a week at the ACC but they were the best, most dedicated volunteers at the ACC and were suddenly BANNED from the premise. Where was the Mayor’s Alliance then? I know that the Mayor’s Alliance is NOT the ACC but you work closely with them and have rights to speak up when you see things going wrong.

Why was the Mayor’s Alliance on the side of Christine Quinn and helped/approved of the passing of Bill 0655? That bill let the city walk away from it’s legal obligation to have a shelter in all 5 boroughs. But on the day that bill passed people from the Mayor’s Alliance, including Jane Hoffman, along with the ASPCA were there to watch it pass. I was there as well and it made me sick to think that organizations that are supposed to exist for the sole purpose to help every animal were proud and happy and gleeful at the passing of the bill. When I see the Mayor’s Alliance side with those who provide the smoke and mirrors I have to speak up.

I am not saying that the Mayor’s Alliance doesn’t do good work. But why divvy up your efforts for both saving animals on the one hand and doing what you can to hurt them on the other? You can understand my confusion and dismay.

Oh, and Maddie’s Fund was founded over a decade ago, with the stated purpose of delivering a No Kill nation within five years by “infusing megabucks into every community.” When the promised No Kill nation did not materialize, we were subsequently told it would take an additional five years, and then, after that, we are told it would take five more. But after 11 years and $100,000,000, and with not a single No Kill community—let alone the promised No Kill nation—to its credit, it appears that Maddie’s Fund is throwing in the towel. Maddie’s Fund is telling people it will not fund new No Kill initiatives.

It is true that the numbers have been steadily declining over the years. The problem is that just because it goes in one direction for 30 years doesn’t mean it will continue to go in that direction. Moreover, if you plot it by year and you look at the last few, it’s relatively flat. And the reason for that explains why saving the last 4,000,000 is nothing at all like the first 16 million.

The problem with the last 4,000,000 is that killing shelters—organizations staffed by neglectful, abusive, uncaring directors and their equally uncaring staff—which already have the tools to save lives today but simply refuse to. They haven’t contributed much of anything. The public did most of the heavy lifting in getting us to where we are now. By spaying and neutering. By adopting from shelters. By becoming sophisticated, networked rescuers. With some notable exceptions, much of the lifesaving has been because of reduced impounds, not increased adoptions.
I don’t wish to get into an argument with you Maggie. And that’s not why I’m emailing you. A healthy discourse is what I’m after and until we who support the No-Kill community see a major change in the way the shelters are run we will continue to speak up.

Thank you,
anne davis

17 thoughts on “Bringing Up from the Comments

  1. I’m so tired of the BS! I’m, sure many volunteers would be happy to check microchips and notify owners! Also, since we can’t get anyone to answer phones at shelters, why not let volunteers take this on? Volunteers could also establish open communication with rescues to save more animals! Volunteers can also run dog adoption events to expose the animals for adoption. Shelters can do so much better, but it seems they don’t care to! Is money involved? I think so!!

    1. Isabel, all of that has been offered to the ACC and the DOH Board time and time again. They have no interest in changing a thing. There are so many people ready at a moment’s notice to move in the opposite direction and save the animals, work with adopters, clean the place up, be proactive about adoption events but we are turned down every time it’s mentioned.

      1. Well of course they turn you down. They don’t need you! Everything is going totally great without you! Plus all y’all are irresponsible anyway.

  2. I felt I learned a ton by reading John Sibley’s blog post today. He republished a chart from a Maddie’s Fund report, showing the adoptions carried out respectively by the rescue community and by NYACC itself. NYACC’s adoptions have declined. They could bring in almost $200,000 a year in Maddie’s Fund grant funding just by doing very simple things to improve their adoptions, like putting their phone number on their website and separating intake from adoptions. But Julie Bank, the executive director, has chosen not to do any of those things despite being asked repeatedly. So the millions pumped in by Maddie’s Fund have increased adoptions only by paying rescues when they remove animals. NYACC itself hasn’t changed.

    And NYACC as an institution is set up the way it is because, in 1993, the ASPCA — which had run NYC’s public shelters for a long, long time — came to a turning point where they realized they would never be able to get rich as long as they were killing animals, because people hated them for the killing. Instead of figuring out how to run a shelter that adopted animals out instead of killing them, they dropped the issue onto the city. The ASPCA proceeded to get very, very rich through fundraising because, hey, they weren’t killing animals anymore. Meanwhile, the city of New York set up a system to replicate what the ASPCA had been doing: killing animals.

    It’s no wonder the city is doing such a terrible job. It’s just emulating the biggest brand name in animal welfare.

  3. I also appreciated reading John Sibley’s blog…and was astounded by his facebook comment that said when he approached a reputable rescue about networking for Just One Day and having every authorized *partner* take in just one more animal so that no animals would die that day, the response he got (from a RESCUE) was that this would promote hoarding!
    I see the NYC urgent posts about dog after dog after dog, and I just thought maybe there weren’t enough authorized rescues available to help…John set me straight…there are more than 140! And he says the kill list is usually anywhere from 30 – 50.
    BTW, did Anne ever get another response from Maggie?
    I find it fascinating that the Mayor’s Alliance takes all the credit for the work that the partners do. Were CAPA to pass in New York, the Alliance would be out of a job! (Because the rescues themselves would have the power to pick and choose.) How many others are willing to or have tried to help but have been *banned* or *unvolunteered*…
    Alaska has WAY more dogs per capita than most places (I have had multiple neighbors who owned as many as 200 dogs at one time—but times are tough, and very few kennels top 100 these days.) I always thought if we could just get every kennel to take in one extra, we’d solve our *overpopulation* problem in a heartbeat…but well, I guess it’s obvious this plan doesn’t work in podunk Alaska any better than it works in the Big Apple. Sigh.

  4. Got this email response from Maggie today:

    Hi Anne:

    Let me know if you’d like to discuss further and chat on the phone? May be easier and more effective J

    If so, please give me a call at [phone number redacted by request of the commenter].


    I commend her for wanting to keep the communication going. At least she didn’t do what everyone else does – walk away/ignore.

    1. Somebody here just called Maggie. That is totally unacceptable! Shirley, how can that phone # be erased. It was NOT my intent to publicize the number or to have anyone use it. PLEASE TAKE THE PHONE NUMBER OFF AND PLEASE DO NOT CALL MAGGIE!

  5. Hi Anne – First off, who are you? Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Do you work for a rescue org? It sounds like this woman Maggie, who puts up with crappy pay and constant abuse from the public in order to work to improve these organizations, at least deserves an actual phone call as opposed to just splashing your conversation all over a blog where she can’t defend herself (unless you invited her to join this conversation). We might learn something from her, considering she deals with ACC every day and it seems she was very willing to discuss your concerns. Isn’t that an outreached hand that we should be taking a hold of instead of slapping away? Don’t we want these organizations to have people like her who are responsive and open and trying to improve things? If not, I’m confused as to what we’re all doing on this page.

    Second, “neglectful, abusive, uncaring directors and their equally uncaring staff…” could you be more specific? There is a laundry list of people that I personally believe should be fired from ACC, since they’re nothing but status quo bureaucrats. However, if you don’t know any of the shelter staff personally, that’s a pretty big generalization. Kind of like those generalizations against pit bulls that we all (“we” meaning rescuers and volunteers and shelter workers) fight against every day, telling people to evaluate each dog as an individual. That should apply to humans too, at least in the kind of world that we should be aiming for. Until you know them by name and volunteer with them side by side when there is one of them (yes, one) working all night to care for hundreds of animals, then please don’t judge their hearts, minds, or intentions.

    Speaking of volunteering, you mentioned ACC should have a functioning volunteer system. For you or anyone reading this who is equally concerned about the animals at ACC, it’s pretty easy to sign up now, just an orientation and some webinars. They’ll even match you up with a more experienced buddy to mentor you until you’re comfortable. If you need the info you can find it on the acc website. Unfortunately if you’re waiting around hoping they’ll reinstate those other volunteers…then a lot of animals are going to die without the TLC they need in the meantime. So let’s all get moving.

    Lastly, the Mayors Alliance is actually responsible for the volunteer lost and found program that is currently in use. ACC DOES check for microchips, and the volunteer program is reuniting animals with their owners every month.

    I hope we can all get back to our productive work for the animals. There are so many tangible changes we can work on together.

  6. Would you like to give yours too, YesBiscuit? Do you not usually check your resources for validity? Tsk Tsk. (Pretty sure “YesBiscuit” is a fake name as well. Welcome to the internet)

  7. Anne should indeed maintain a dialog with Maggie as part of sustaining all available strategies to convert the NYC ACC/DOH to a true No-Kill shelter system. Publicizing correspondence may or may not be one of many reasons that ACC and Mayor’s Alliance management staff are reflexively defensive and resistant to change. But radical change must occur to prevent the continued, systematic destruction of adoptable animals entrusted to ACC. Maggie’s full contact info is a matter of public record; she is the Director of Development for the Mayor’s Alliance.

    JANUARY 31, 2012

    The ACC and the Department of Health (whose commissioner (Dr. Thomas Farley) also serves as the ACC Chairman) did their best to prevent people from attending the ACC Board’s annual meeting. They delayed posting notice of the meeting. They buried that notice in a secret spot on the ACC’s website. To top it off, they created new rules limiting who can speak and for how long.

    Their strategy had an effect. Only around 60 people were able to attend today’s Board meeting compared to the 150+ who turned up at the June 2011 Board Meeting.

    While we waited in line to be allowed upstairs to meeting, some of us chatted about how, just four days earlier, ACC Executive Director Julie Bank hosted a royal visit by Dr. Farley and some of his fellow ACC Board members to the Manhattan Shelter. They got the red carpet treatment and found a sparkling clean shelter with no overcrowding.

    Of course, this fantasy shelter was achieved on the backs of the ACC animals. ACC employees were paid overtime to clean the shelter the night before the Board’s visit. The ACC shipped excess animals over to the already overcrowded Brooklyn shelter. Finally, the ACC euthanized several Manhattan animals the morning of the Board’s visit so they could free up even more cage space.

    A perfect “Potemkin Village” (look it up) for the Board’s pleasure.

    The Meeting Itself:

    The DOH violated the State “Open Meetings Law” at the June board meeting when 100 people were turned away because they couldn’t be squeezed into the tiny room the DOH had reserved. This time, this time Dr. Farley reserved the DOH’s large auditorium.

    The DOH and ACC reps gave their usual things-are-grand-and-they’re-only-gonna-get-better presentations, with an emphasis on how they are busy “implementing” changes to the ACC “infrastructure” to be able to accommodate the wonderful new changes that will come with the additional City funding.

    The Board voted to amend the ACC By Laws to comply with amended local law that, among other things, requires the DOH to expand the ACC board by adding seats for two “public” directors.

    Apparently the DOH and Mayor Bloomberg – who will appoint these new “public” directors — haven’t come up with the perfect people they can trust to sit on the Board.

    Voices from the Public

    The highlights of this meeting came, as usual, from the public speakers. This time, several fresh and affecting voices were heard such as:

    n Wall Street Accountant-Comic-Animal Rescuer Harris Bloom who asked the Board to choose him to be one of the new ACC Directors. He explained why he’d be the perfect candidate: “I’m the right gender [male],” “I’ll never question Dr. Farley,” “I’ll never visit an ACC shelter,” etc. Bloom ended with the promise that he would “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.”

    n A mom who (along with her husband and children) visited an ACC shelter 3 times last month trying to adopt a dog, only to find roadblocks at every turn. Why, she asks, do you make it so impossible to adopt from you?

    n A self-described “Upper East Side working mom” who went to the ACC Manhattan shelter recently hoping to adopt a dog. But what she saw “blew” her mind. “We don’t live in a third world country.” She implored Dr. Farley and his fellow ACC directors that if they really aren’t interested in the animals’ care, then to allow people on the board who do, people with a passion to help. “Let us not be your enemy. Let us help you help the animals.”

    n A rescuer who has pulled over 400 animals from the shelter and whose pockets are now “empty.” She spends thousands of dollars nursing back to health animals made sick by the ACC. She described a young dog she had pulled two weeks ago. He had been healthy when he went into the ACC but left with Parvo. Despite the efforts of her vet (and a bill of $2,500), the dog died. She brought the dog’s ashes with her. Last week she spent an additional $600 in vet bills to save an ACC dog from pneumonia that he had caught at the ACC. It started as the typical ACC cold, but (as she explained) because he had stopped eating and no one at the shelter was ensuring he was taking his oral medicines, it progressed to pneumonia. She described seeing ACC animals lying in their own feces with no attempt by the ACC to keep the shelter clean. She wants to see something change. She decried how the great people in New Hope were fired, people who worked ‘til midnight sending out pleas for animals.

    n A fulltime attorney whose resume includes being a former JAG officer in the U.S. Army, a Democratic nominee for the NY State Senate, and a Commissioner with the Taxi and Limousine Commission. She described how inspired she had been by the recent Nathan Winograd No Kill Conference in NYC, and asked why no one from the DOH or the ACC had attended that conference. She asked the Board to consider her to become one of the two new members of the ACC Board. Her goal: “to effect change, making New York City the leader in adoptions and the best shelter in the country.” She told the ACC Board that they have the power to make this happen and to become “heroes.”

    “Independent” ACC Board Director Patrick Nolan stayed behind after the meeting to speak with various of the public attendees. He also wanted the contact information for the attorney who asked to be appointed to the ACC Board. Mr. Nolan genuinely appeared concerned and hurt by the criticism of the Board.

    Tomorrow we’ll post a detailed synopsis of the presentations by the DOH and the ACC representatives. Also, in a day or two we’ll post video highlights from the meeting.

  9. Thanks Ann for all your help in all of this. Hopefully you can keep the lines of communication going with Maggie and it will be a good ending. Please keep us updated. Thank you.

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