By Catherine Clyne
The primary elections on September 11th will
determine who will be the New York City mayoral candidates for the
parties. While Satya doesnt necessarily endorse specific candidates
or advocate single-issue voting, the nonhuman animals with whom we share
this city are a concern that the politicians and media predictably fail
to address. Environmental concerns, such as the high asthma levels in
neighborhoods with disproportionate concentrations of polluting facilities,
as well as the need for green spaces and community gardens in low-income
areas, have been discussed and covered by the press. The candidates postures
on low-income housing and rent control have also been made clear.
Absent from all of the discussions are the overpopulation of companion
animals who are abandoned or born in the streetsthe more than
60,000 cats and dogs who pass through the shelter system; the carriage
horses that are such a draw for tourists but who lead miserable lives;
the pigeons and rats that are poisoned; the animals in entertainmentmost
notably circuses; and wildlife killed by the Citys assault on
insects with pesticides, to name just a few. We want to know what our
new Mayor will do about all of these creatures whose lives will ultimately
be in his or her care.
One of the most revealing ways to address this is by looking at a candidates
positionor lack thereofon the Center for Animal Care and
Control (CACC), the Citys shelter system whose abominable conditions
and mismanagement have been covered in our pages (see Forel in Satya,
June 2001 and Matthews in February 2001). While the CACC may boast that
its the Citys only animal shelter that never turns
away animals, the truth is that the CACC chronically fails to
adopt out their charges, and the majority of the animals who pass through
their doors are killed. Last year, the CACC euthanized 41,207 animalsa
staggering 68 percent of its intake. This number is unacceptable and
Over the years people have been getting the message that its in
everyones best interest for all companion cats and dogs to be
spayed or neutered, whether they are taken in as strays, or from shelters
or pet stores, or remain feral. But given the huge numbers of critters
found roaming the streets and abandoned lots and who end up in shelters,
the message simply isnt getting out enough.
Central to all of this is the CACC, which after eight years of the
Giuliani administration, is in its present, overwhelmed condition.
quasi-nonprofit status of the CACCwhich is funded by the Cityand
that its administration is appointed by the Mayor, our next Mayor will
have a huge impact on the well-being of our nonhuman animal friends
Following are excerpts from statements on the CACC made by each of the
four Democratic mayoral candidates. These were in response to a letter/questionnaire
distributed by Elizabeth Forel of the Coalition for New York City Animals,
Inc., which addressed other animal issues as well.
What Will our New Mayor do About the CACC?
Fernando Ferrer issued by far the longest statement, interestingly
titled Ferrer on Animal Rights, and was the only politician
to mention his own companion, Winston, a cocker spaniel. Currently the
Bronx borough President, Ferrer said, I am running to be Mayor
of all of New York, and I include the pets and animals under our care
within that definition, adding that we are all responsible
for the compassionate exercise of our stewardship of animals, in both
domestic and natural settings.
Ferrer pledged his administrations immediate attention to three
issues: Animal population control through spaying and neutering;
expansion of receiving centers; and animal neglect and cruelty.
This last issue is quite remarkable: Ferrer said that in light of the
established link between animal cruelty and human violence, Humane Education
should be an important part of the New York City school curriculum. He
was the only candidate to acknowledge a need for humane education in
connection with animals.
Regarding the CACC specifically, Ferrer said he would establish a committee of knowledgeable and experienced animal advocates to make recommendations
the reform of the Citys animal shelter system. Ferrer
wants the City to strive for zero kills through better public
education and referred to San Franciscos no-kill shelter
system as a possible example for New York to follow.
We have an opportunity to reform our Center for Animal Care and
Control and provide it with new leadership and vision, Ferrer
said. Under my administration, full-service, full-time pet receiving
centers will be established in each borough. In addition to serving
as receiving centers, they will also house low-cost clinics for pets.
In his Animal Control Policy Paper, Public Advocate Mark
Green said he was disturbed by the numbers of animals being
euthanized by the CACC and that he believes that they should take
a more innovative and aggressive approach toward pet adoptions. He
vowed to look into ways to increase the adoption rates and also referenced
San Francisco as an excellent model.
Green acknowledged the need for new leadership at the CACC by saying
that as Mayor he would appoint a director who is committed to
improved care of the animals housed by [the] CACC and who has administrative
expertise. Greens failure to stress animal shelter experience
as the most desirable quality for a new director, however, raises questions
about his dedication to reform.
With regard to spaying and neutering, as Public Advocate, Green has
suggested in the past that the CACC should not place any animal
in a rescue shelter unless the animal has been spayed or neutered first. As
Mayor, Green said he would keep a close eye on the success of a citywide
traveling sterilization program that has been proposed by the City
At the time of writing, the office of Alan Hevesi, currently City Comptroller,
was in the midst of auditing the CACCs operations and declined
to comment. The audit will include the shelters conditions and
its efforts to make adoptions easier. However, Hevesi wanted people
to know that he would be looking closely at the recommendations
of his auditors and fully expect [the] CACC to implement them in such
a way as to ensure the safety and humane treatment of pets.
Peter Vallone stated that he is a firm believer in spaying and
neutering. While in his current position of City Council Speaker,
he was a supporter of legislation requiring that all shelter and pet
store animals be spayed or neutered before going to their new homes,
and mandating that each borough have at least one full-time service
Otherwise, Vallone gave somewhat canned comments, saying, for example,
that the CACC should also develop a plan to improve the way [it]
functions and incorporate methods to reduce the number of animals who
are euthanized. He said that he believes that the Executive
Director of the CACC should be a professional who has experience.
(Experience in what was not specified.) Vallone also mentioned that
a public awareness campaign for pet-related issues should be
And what of the Republicans? Satya made repeated phone queries to the
offices of Herman Badillo and Michael Bloomberg, the two Republican
candidates for Mayor. As Satya goes to press, their respective offices
have failed to respond with statements of their positions on the CACC
Use Your Leverage!
Because so many positions are up for election and politicians are
trying to get a leg up wherever they can, this voting season offers
activists an opportunity to get candidates to address the issues that
most concern them. Of course, the Mayors office is up for grabs,
but so are the second most powerful City positionsComptroller
(the Citys chief financial officer basically) and Public Advocateas
well as some 30 Council seats and the presidencies of four boroughs.
Whatever issues get your blood boiling, Satya urges readers to get informed
and involved, and to get out and vote. Contact the offices of the candidates
directly. Youll quickly learn that they respond to the requests
and concerns of potential voters.
For candidates contact information and to view their full
statements on animals, visit our Web site www.satyamag.com. Our deepest
gratitude to Elizabeth Forel for her work on this issue. Tracy VanStaalduinen
assisted with this editorial.