NYC Mayor and Animal Care Directors Sued

Look at what Boks walked into when he took over AC&C of NYC.

First, look at the lawsuit against the Mayor and Animal Care Directors, six months after Ed Boks left.

Second, look at the horrible 2002 Comptroller’s Audit of Care and Control that led to Ed Boks being brought to NYC.



P.O. Box 268 - Gracie Station
New York, NY 10028
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Contact: Gary Kaskel 212-249-9178


Health Commissioner Accused of Double Dealing

June 1, 2006 -- A watchdog group that has followed the City’s animal management
policies for a decade has filed a lawsuit to remove the Mayor and three other city
officials, including the Health Commissioner, from controlling the board of directors of the nonprofit corporation that the City contracts to operate the animal shelters and perform animal control duties.

Animal Care & Control of NYC Inc. (AC&C) was formed by the Giuliani Administration in 1994 to replace the ASPCA which relinquished the municipal animal control contract after 100 years (1894-1994). Although AC&C was formed as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, its critics claim that it operates as a city agency, with the Mayor appointing its board members along with three City commissioners as permanent members.

“This arrangement is fraught with conflicts of interest and loyalties, and ultimately it’s the animals who suffer as a result,” says Marie Mar, an attorney and co-chair of the Shelter Reform Action Committee (SRAC), which is the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the City and AC&C.

“New York City underfunds the animal management contract by provising less than half of what is recommended by humane professionals,” said Gary Kaskel, SRAC’s other cochair. “The City of Los Angeles spent $15 million (Muzika: Actually, more like $18,000,000.) last year when we spent only $7.2 million.” Kaskel adds.

ACC’s annual budget allocation is a line-item on the Department of Health & Mental
Hygiene’s budget and the contract renewal is not subject to City Council approval. “The chronic underfunding is allowed to happen because the NYC Health Department sits on both sides of the bargaining table at contract time with no oversight or accountability,” complains Kaskel. “There’s no money for proper vet care or medications or paying living wages for staff. It’s the animals who ultimately suffer,” says Kaskel.

ACC’s current contract expires at the end of June and the lawsuit seeks to invalidate
such contract, order a “fee for services” contract be awarded at proper funding levels, and remove the current board and the Mayor’s right to appoint its members.

(Muzika note: The background to all this is the truly horrendous 2002 Comptroller’s Audit of the Center for Animal Care and Control.)

This is a very, very brief outline of what the audit's conclusions:

According to CACC’s Monthly Animal Activity Reports, during calendar year 2000 a total of 60,877 animals came into its shelters—55,376 cats and dogs, and 5,501 other animals. Of these 60,877 animals, 14,270 were adopted, 677 were returned to their owners, and 41,203 were euthanized. (Muzika’s note: that is an astounding euthanasia rate of 68%!)

Audit Limitations
(Muzika's note: Notice the auditors’ distain for CACC.)

Throughout the audit, CACC imposed obstacles that prevented us from conducting audit tests as we deemed necessary. CACC prevented us from obtaining a complete and accurate view of its operations and from obtaining all of the information necessary to develop a full set of constructive recommendations to help improve its operations.

The limitations imposed by CACC included its refusal to allow us to interview staff members without a supervisor being present, its refusal to allow us access to certain documents, and its delays in the production of some other records. In addition, it was very difficult to arrange a meeting with the board of directors, and only two members of the board eventually met with us. The audit limitations necessitate certain qualifications to our findings, described below.

Since we were unable to independently interview any employees, such as kennel attendants, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and adoption counselors, who would have been able to give us direct, first-person observations of CACC’s actual daily operations, we could not obtain a full account of management problems, inaccuracies in the organization’s records, or possible misstatements of the organization’s policies and practices.

Because CACC denied us access to certain records that may have contained adverse information regarding the conditions at CACC shelters and the treatment of the animals kept there, and delayed our access to other records (providing the opportunity for the removal or alteration of records), our record review may not have uncovered the full extent of the problems of animal abuse and neglect, accidental euthanasia, and poor veterinary care described in this report.
In addition, since we could not interview all of the board members—who are ultimately responsible for overseeing CACC’s operations—we may have missed the opportunity to gain insight into the reasons for some of the problems CACC is facing.

Results In Brief

CACC does not provide humane conditions for all of the animals in its shelters and has not made aggressive efforts to increase adoptions of homeless animals. This report describes our findings in three main sections.

The first section, "Animals Are Not Always Sheltered under Humane Conditions," discusses the inadequacies discovered during our visits to the shelters, including that dogs are rarely, if ever, exercised, animals were not provided constant access to water, contagious animals were sometimes kept in the same wards as non-contagious animals, and at the two larger shelters, animals’ cages were not consistently spot-cleaned; evidence that animals in CACC shelters are sometimes subjected to abuse and neglect; the fact that some animals have been accidentally euthanized; and evidence of poor veterinary care in CACC shelters.

The second section, "CACC Has Not Made Aggressive Efforts to Increase Adoptions," presents recent CACC adoption statistics and discusses some of the likely reasons that adoption levels are low and have not improved over the last three years. These reasons include: limited public awareness of CACC and its adoption services and a lack of aggressive efforts by CACC to improve public awareness; inadequate use of off-site adoptions; inadequate efforts to ensure that the adoption process is encouraging to all potential adopters; CACC’s discouragement of some rescue groups that take animals from its shelters; the apparent inappropriate limitation of the pool of animals available for adoption; and a lack of adoption services at CACC’s Queens and Bronx facilities.

The third section of the report, "Possible Causes of CACC’s Shortcomings," discusses the fact that CACC compounds the problem of under-funding by failing to aggressively raise funds on its own and by failing to take sufficient advantage of volunteers. It also discusses a problem evidenced by CACC leadership apparently interpreting the organization’s mission more narrowly than it was originally conceptualized and failing to aggressively pursue some of the goals outlined in its mission statement, such as, "providing humane care for all New York City animals in need" and "reducing the number of homeless animals through increased adoption."

Lastly, under "Other Issues," we discuss the facts that: CACC’s board violated its bylaws by meeting and voting on certain items without the required quorom present; CACC’s board appears to have violated the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Law by speaking at almost a whisper and thereby preventing attendees from hearing their discussions; and CACC’s contract with DOH does not include specific and measurable performance requirements or standards.

Many of the findings in this report are supported by the results of our surveys of individuals acquainted with CACC’s operations (former employees, customers, and individuals from rescue groups who work with CACC) in addition to our document reviews, observations, and interviews with CACC management.

In total, six of eight former employees, 36 of 59 rescuers, and 14 of 33 customers we surveyed criticized aspects of CACC’s operations and management. Their allegations and the results of our testing painted a similar picture—that of a shelter system in which: inadequate resources and staffing levels prevent the provision of some of the basic necessities for humane animal care; the frustrations of over-worked or unqualified employees are sometimes taken out on the animals; opportunities to help animals and increase adoptions are squandered; and, perhaps most notably, the status quo is perpetuated by a management that is not truly committed to all aspects of the organization’s contract and mission, namely, to provide high quality, humane, animal care and place as many animals as possible in adoptive homes.

Agency Response

In its response, DOH stated that it "disagrees with the report’s main findings: that animals are not sheltered under humane conditions and often receive poor veterinary care." However, DOH agreed with our adoption-related findings stating, "CACC has not been as successful as hoped in the area of increasing adoptions." DOH also agreed with our other findings, stating that its own on-site monitoring, which was expanded in July 2001, "to include a comprehensive review of all contractual requirements . . . has found deficiencies in CACC’s . . . customer service, volunteer program and education and outreach efforts." DOH also committed itself to increasing its site visits to four times a year, effective July 2002. DOH’s response is discussed in detail in the body of this report and is included in its entirety as an Addendum to this report.

DOH also appended a 28-page response from CACC to its own response. In its lengthy response, CACC took strong exception to nearly every aspect of the audit’s methodology and conclusions. Specifically, CACC alleged that:

"Many of the conclusions reached in this audit are not credible, as evidenced by: the antagonistic tone throughout the audit; the use of words and phrases of an inflammatory nature; the failure to use experts in areas requiring specialized knowledge; the slanting of the data presented; the inadequacy of the sample taken; the failure to make explicit the significant differences between CACC and the organizations with which it is compared in the audit; the failure to credit CACC’s significant accomplishments; and the use of anecdotal information from unnamed sources holding clear potential for bias against CACC."

Moreover, CACC alleged that there was "political influence in the audit process," claiming that the audit was "motivated by the political interest of [former Comptroller Alan Hevesi]." CACC further alleged that "the audit was conducted during the Mayoral campaign in which Alan Hevesi was a candidate who supported the special interest group’s call for the abolition of CACC." CACC’s executive director also stated, "CACC is surprised . . . that Comptroller William Thompson could be so ill served by his staff both in reporting and the issuance of this audit; one that was clearly motivated by the political interests of his predecessor."

In addition, CACC claimed that the audit was not conducted in accordance with GAGAS.

Specifically, CACC alleged that:

"The auditors established their own criteria for evaluating the performance of CACC ignoring technical standards for care . . . [The Comptroller’s Office] assigned auditors with no known skills or knowledge in the areas of humane animal care, veterinary medicine or labor law . . . samples were neither random or statistically significant . . . the subject audit is neither objective nor balanced . . . [auditors] failed to provide a reasonable perspective for the findings they recorded as they have repeatedly failed to provide the proper context for the frequency of occurrences . . . four different scopes suggest that the auditors knowingly ignored the Governmental Auditing Standards relating to audit planning and that CACC was not afforded proper due process."

The Comptroller’s Office, after carefully reviewing CACC’s response, has concluded that CACC’s arguments are invalid, that they are based upon distortions and misrepresentations, and that the audit’s findings should not be changed.

If you read the entirety of the lawsuit against Bloomberg, as well as the entirety of the 2002 audit, it is quite clear that anyone taking over CACC in 2003 would be in for a hard, if not impossible time. Imagine, having a budget less than half of LA's, yet with almost 20% more impounds AND walking into a minefield of competing political and financial interests.--Well, again, maybe not so different from LA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"There is now compelling evidence of the link between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. What is clear is that callous disregard for animal suffering indicates a lack of moral development, which puts people at risk for the commission of other offenses." Mary Lou Randour, PhD

There are many other quotes about the correlation between animal abusers and antisocial, sociopathic and/or criminal tendencies. People who enforce systematic killing of innocent darling and often healthy animals are heinous and should be heavily penalized with fines and prison time or lengthy periods of community service to help orphaned or stray animals find homes and veterinary treatment. These shelters are all too often the legal serial killing of healthy and adoptable animals with little effort to find them homes according to articles I have read. This is disgusting.

Karen V. Stefanini, Beautiful Back Bay, Boston, MA