Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No Help For Strays

Last week I encountered a grey kitten with an injured hind leg and later that afternoon I saw two other kittens playing. I concluded that a stray cat in the area had babies and now those babies are up and about. I figured the best thing to do would be to contact The Animal Care and Control of New York City (AC&C) and have them come by and take the kittens away.

To my surprise and dismay getting help for these kittens has become a major undertaking. I was left on hold for twenty minutes, only to be informed by the person who answered that this is not a service AC&C provide, even though it says that on their website. They will only come out if the animals are in a confined location. Other than that, I will have to trap the animals and bring them in myself. Shocked, I asked “are they then just allowed to wander about and multiply?” She told me yes. She also gruffly explained that they have limited resources and therefore cannot go wandering about a neighborhood looking for stray animals, especially cats, because they are small creatures and are too hard to find.

Confused, I hung up and dialed 311 and was redirected back to AC&C. When I explained that I already spoke to AC&C and they cannot help, the operator insisted that they are the only agency designated to provide that service. In essence, I was informed that there is no other city agency that collects stray animals.

At first I was angry and outraged that a city agency designed for the welfare of animals could not perform the basic function of animal control. Then I realized that this is just the unfortunate state of our animal welfare system. They are operating on a limited budget and resources are scarce.

I then contacted the Humane Society of New York and asked them for help. The woman who answered the phone patiently and sadly reiterated what I stated above. She suggested I log on to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals’ website and on there I will find a group called NYC Feral Cat Initiative. She explained that they have experience in dealing with such matters and may be able to assist me. I did as she suggested and sent them an email requesting their assistance.

It is unfortunate that the City has no choice but to allow neighborhoods to be at risk of being overrun with stray animals. Believe it or not, over population of stray animals is a real threat. A stray cat can have up to 3 litters a year with an average of 4 to 5 kittens. A cat can become pregnant at five to nine months of age. It is easy to see how a problem can develop.

These poor animals are hungry and most likely carry diseases. They are unprotected against extreme weather conditions, run the risk of being run over by cars and injured in fights with other animals. Though rare, they could attack a human if they are rabid or if they feel threaten or trapped. A neighborhood overrun with feral cats or dogs is not a pleasant living environment.

It goes to show how desperately in need of funds animal welfare groups are. And to think weeks ago money Leona Helmsley designated for animals in her will was redirected to areas not specified in her will. Only a few thousands dollars of her estate went to certain groups such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animas and several groups that train guide dogs for the blind. Can you imagine what an impact her donation could have had? For instance, perhaps the AC&C could have come out and rescue the kittens. Maybe they would be able to investigate more cases of animal abuse.

Fortunately, NYC Feral Cat Initiative has a Trap-Neuter-Return program which helps keep the population of stray cats under control. They round up feral cats, spade or neuter them and then release them back into the area where they were found. It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps.

As for the three kittens in my neighborhood, I haven’t seen them in a week. I try to be optimistic and think perhaps someone else already captured them and took them to the shelter. Most likely, they relocated to another area, got run over by a vehicle or died in some other way.

The next time you make a donation, please consider giving to an animal welfare groups like the ASPCA or the Humane Society of New York. It will help to make a difference in the lives of animals and humans.


  1. You are a good person for trying to help the kittens and I am sorry that they were unable to get help. I can personally say HSNY, although unable to help in this situation, does many amazing things for many unfortunate animals. Its great that even after your experience, you can still take note of this. Hopefully things will get better.

  2. The NYC Feral Cat Initiative web site has lots of good information on dealing with feral cats. http://www.NYCFeralCat.org

  3. Veronica,
    I had a similar situation. According to the Humane society, Animal Care and Control must act on request if the caller says the animal is in danger. I also found out that if an animal dies because AC&C fails to respond you as a private citizen can request that a criminal complaint (cruelty to animals) be filed against AC&C in general and the worker who you spoke to specifically. Get names and remind them of their legal responsibility. There is a an organization in Chelsea that will lend you a have a heart trap if you need. Just let me know. Ted

  4. To my understanding many animals, especially cats, that are taken in by AC&C end up being euthanised. Unless, killing them is what you want, I think it was good that they could not respond to your call. Have you considered stopping and trying to catch the injured cat yourself and take it to a vet? Each person's initiative and personal contribution can be more effective , sometmes, than waiting for an organization to act