This is not another story about pit bulls. About how they’re amazing dogs, surprisingly so, over-bread and burdened with tarnished reputations thanks to Michael Vick and his kind. This isn’t a story about spay and neuter, or evil puppy mills “Why Shelter Dogs Rule,” or “Why Pet Stores Suck.” They do, but that’s not what this is about.
Because there’s a good chance they that you don’t care. Not to suggest you’re some robot devoid of human emotion. But the problems within our shelters are enormous, unending and painful. Who’s got the time or emotional capacity when you’ve got to care for your own?
But you might want to care about this. Because this is about your dog.
More specifically, it’s about the little bone shaped ID tag hanging off his collar. The little jewel that you, the responsible pet owner, knew to go hand in hand with having a dog. The address and phone number representing the risk that your pet could get lost. Maybe you’re extra responsible (or like me, excessively paranoid) and obtained additional insurance in the form of a microchip. Because there’s always a chance that your dog might escape without his collar. You know these things to be true, that’s why you prepare for them.
There’s another organization that’s also well aware of this danger. And they should be, given they’re the Center for Animal Care and Control, the New York City agency designated to do the job their name describes. But as a pet owner, there is further danger you need to know. The New York City Shelters do not perform lost and found checks. They don’t maintain a Lost and Found page on their website. You know, the one that begs for donations? They’re only required to SNAIL MAIL the address his ID tag so prominently displays under the words “IF LOST.” If the letter isn't answered in 10 days, the dog dies. And if you try to actually phone them, good luck. The CACC no longer has a central phone system, as it was a victim of the most recent budget cuts directed by Mayor Bloomberg. If your dog becomes lost, you may be able to gather your wits during this traumatic experience and call the city shelters. But if a phone rings and rings with no one to answer, does it make a sound?
Note, if your dog is picked up without ID, CACC is only required to hold your dog for 72 hours before they suck the life from those big brown eyes.
If you’re like me, you always imagined that if your dog got out, it would be her ID tag and microchip that would ultimately bring her home. You’d email blast everyone you knew. You’d post her picture all over the world – lampposts, community boards, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter. You’d comb the streets, her favorite dog parks and pet stores. You’d do everything that one human could physically achieve, all the while assuming that if picked up by Animal Control, they’d scan the microchip or read the tag and call you immediately. I mean, that’s what they do, right? Animal Care and Control. Shelter your dog until a hired cab tears through uptown traffic and delivers a very relieved and likely sobbing doggy parent to her best friend finally found.
But thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, the chances of the above scenario are about as likely as a pit bull leaving the CACC alive. While romancing the presses with his line “There’s never been a better time to be a dog,” Cruella De Vil, ahem, Bloomberg was busy cutting $1.5 million and subsequently Lost and Found from the CACC’s services. As I’m sure you can imagine, that’s not all we’ll be losing.
This is a quote from a story from a NY Magazine article that is unfortunately all too common at the AC&C.
"I was away with my family over the weekend," says Adrienne Evans, a financial assistant at BMG Entertainment in New York. "My neighbor was watching our dog for us. She took him for a walk in the park and he slipped his collar." The dog, who had the misfortune to be born a pit bull, was sitting on his own doorstep when the CACC picked him up. Evans came home a day later and immediately began searching. When a neighbor informed her that the CACC had picked up the dog, she called the shelter right away. "I was told they couldn't find him, and that I had to come in and look for myself. The dog was really distinct, brown and white with big blue eyes." His ears and tail were not cropped, indicating that he had never been a fighting dog. The following day, Evans went straight to the Manhattan shelter after work. She went through the wards, calling out the dog's name. "I knew he'd cry out to me," she said. She stopped every kennel worker and described her dog. Yes, someone told her. "He's here. I saw him." Yet no one could find him, or knew where he had been caged. After a painful search, one of the managers brought Evans into a room and sat her down.”
Her dog’s body was still warm.
And this was before they stopped doing lost and found checks.
But this isn’t a story about Evans’ dog. This is about your dog. And the Unfortunate Case of the Faithful Owner Who Turned His Back for Two Seconds. Or went out of town. Or had a had a dog walker who said, “I’m really, really sorry, but…” And anyone who says, “Not me, not my dog.” By cutting Lost and Found, the CACC has indirectly decided the fate of every companion animal who risks becoming lost. In other words, every animal.
There are so many issues wrong with the CACC. So many. As a dog owner/tax payer, for me this represents the last straw. I hope it does for you too.
Even restoring the lost and found checks, will help enormously. It will free up cage space, as dogs and owners are reunited. It will ensure that others there are walked, fed, and loved more frequently. Most importantly, it will bring your dog back where he belongs. The side effects of which could ensure more dogs share the fortune of the one proudly donning the address he calls home.
Sign the petition.
Write Mayor Bloomberg.
Watch this ABC report.