(ANIMAL SHELTERS/PET ADOPTION) NEW YORK CITY — The Animal Care Centers of NYC (formerly Animal Care and Control) are a frequently criticized nonprofit agency that currently runs New York City’s three animal shelters. Despite criticism and insufficient funding, many of the programs the agency has implemented since 2014, like “puppy playgroups,” are yielding positive results.

For instance, euthansia rates are down to 13 percent, whereas in 2003, NYC shelters killed over 60 percent of their dogs and cats. Adoption rates also rose by 17 percent.

Among these changes, the agency is currently scouting sites to build full-service shelters in the Queens and Bronx as well as upgrading and expanding their existing shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

Read on to learn more about how Animal Care Centers of NYC is working to improve the lives of thousands of animals. — Global Animal

Cupcake, left, and Yung, both pit bull mixes, during “puppy playgroup” in the backyard at the East Harlem shelter run by Animal Care Centers of NYC. The program was added in 2014 to improve the dogs’ immunity and make them more docile and adoptable, the shelter said. Photo Credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Cupcake, left, and Yung, both pit bull mixes, during “puppy playgroup” in the backyard at the East Harlem shelter run by Animal Care Centers of NYC. The program was added in 2014 to improve the dogs’ immunity and make them more docile and adoptable, the shelter said. Photo Credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

New York Times, Andy Newman

For a place often associated with confinement, suffering and death, the city animal shelter in Manhattan was a pretty happy spot last Friday afternoon, at least in the backyard.

A half-dozen pit bull mixes chased one another across an asphalt run behind the shelter, a cinder-block bunker on East 110th Street in Harlem, dancing and wrestling in midair.

Elf, a brown-and-white dog, chest-bumped with Cupcake, who was sporting a purple collar. Cupcake leapt over Ezra. An “enrichment facilitator” stood by with a spray water bottle, in case her charges got too exuberant.

This was “puppy playgroup,” one of many programs begun since 2014 at the Animal Care Centers of NYC (formerly Animal Care and Control), the often-criticized nonprofit agency that runs New York City’s three animal shelters.

The changes have been yielding results, agency officials say.

Euthanasia rates dropped sharply in 2015, down 36 percent for dogs and 25 percent for cats, according to statistics the agency plans to release at its annual board meeting on Friday. Adoptions rose by 17 percent.

In 2003, the shelters killed more than 60 percent of the dogs and the cats they took in. That number is down to 13 percent now.

Still, last year, over 3,000 cats and nearly 1,000 dogs were put to death at the overcrowded shelters. And private rescue groups, which adopt more than half of the shelters’ animals, say that all too often, animals that are brought in healthy get sick and either die or saddle their rescuers with high veterinary bills.

Animal Care Centers “tries to do the right thing,” said Councilman Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat who is chairman of the Health Committee. “But they’re extremely underfunded and don’t have the right facilities.”

Changes at New York City’s animal shelters have been yielding results, officials say. Photo Credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Changes at New York City’s animal shelters have been yielding results, officials say. Photo Credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

But there is fresh hope on that front, too: A design firm the city hired last year is scouting sites to build full-service shelters in the Bronx and Queens, something advocates, lawmakers and Animal Care Centers itself have long urged. The existing shelters, in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, are also being upgraded or expanded.

Animal advocates and agency officials alike said new shelters could go far to alleviate overcrowding and check the spread of disease.

“We really welcome the day that those two shelters are built,” Risa Weinstock, the executive director of Animal Care Centers, said. “In the meantime we still have those challenges. But we’ve proved that we’re an organization worth investing in.”

Since 2007, the city has increased Animal Care Centers’ budget to about $13 million from $7 million.

In an interview, Ms. Weinstock described how the money had been put to use: new “mobile adoption centers” — vans from which more than 700 animals were adopted last year; a food pantry for pets in the Bronx; a behavioral staff of 22 that, among other things, runs the playgroups, which the shelter says improve the dogs’ immunity and make them more docile and adoptable when they return to their kennels. (Coming soon to the backyard run in Manhattan: artificial grass.)

Ms. Weinstock said the shelters had also added admissions counselors who, since 2014, have persuaded about 1,700 owners to keep their pets rather than surrender them by connecting the owners with medical grants, low-cost boarding or behavioral advice. “So often,” she said, “people come in and think that’s their only option.”

The agency has worked on its image as well. Last year it changed its name, though it does not yet have the money to alter its signs.

Ms. Weinstock said she hoped the $5 million adoption center the city is planning to build beside the Manhattan shelter would have its entrance on 109th rather than 110th Street, to make it seem more separate from the shelter itself.

“We want the public to see us the way they see Animal Haven and A.S.P.C.A. — warm and friendly,” she said.

Warm and friendly can be tough to pull off when the agency must take every animal that is brought in — something Animal Care Centers’ contract with the city requires — and it does not have the room or the capability to treat them all.

“Caring for 35,000 animals is an impossible task,” Ms. Weinstock said.

Continue reading the full NY Times article, here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/nyregion/animal-adoptions-rise-amid-reforms

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