New York ACC Quickly Kills Large Numbers of Animals

Supposedly progressive animal welfare organizations have praised Animal Care Centers of NYC, which most people better know as New York ACC, as a no kill and role model shelter. At the 2017 Best Friends National Conference kick off session, Best Friends claimed New York ACC reached a 90% live release rate and was no kill. At this same conference presentation, Best Friends interviewed Mayor’s Alliance of NYC President, Jane Hoffman, and held her organization, which coordinates a number of New York ACC’s programs, and New York ACC as a role model for no kill advocates. Ms. Hoffman also claimed New York ACC exceeded 90% live release rates for both dogs and cats. In fact, Ms. Hoffman explicitly stated New York ACC was no kill earlier this year:

Having accomplished its mission to make NYC a no-kill city,” Hoffman told 1010 WINS, “the Alliance has reevaluated its programming to adapt to the changing needs of animal welfare in NYC.

Maddie’s Fund gave New York ACC CEO, Risa Weinstock, a $10,000 grant as a “no kill leader” for her “efforts in furthering the no-kill mission” in 2018. This grant provided money to “support community lifesaving, shelter medicine education and pet adoption.” In a Maddie’s Fund press release, the organization stated this “Hero Grant” “recognizes and honors the ‘top dogs’ in communities that are not only advancing the welfare of companion animals in the United States, but are leading the way with their innovative ideas, progressive thinking and lifesaving actions.” Thus, Maddie’s Fund not only viewed New York ACC as a no kill shelter, it also called the New York ACC CEO a “hero” and “no kill leader.”

Is New York ACC “no kill?” Is New York ACC a “top dog”, “hero” and “no kill leader?”

Data Reviewed

In order to get a better understanding of the job New York ACC did in 2018, I obtained the intake and disposition records for each individual dog and cat the shelter took in during the year. You can find those records here. Additionally, I obtained supporting records for a selection of dogs the shelter killed during the year. You can see those records here. Finally, I obtained New York ACC’s Controlled Dangerous Substance logs, which lists the euthanasia drugs given to each animal the shelter killed in 2018. You can review those records in the following links:

While assessing the adequacy of the Controlled Dangerous Substance logs was beyond the scope of my analysis, I generally found them a mess. For example, the logs were handwritten and illegible in many cases. Therefore, it was difficult to even determine if the shelter prepared and kept these logs properly. Amazingly, New York ACC has not implemented a computerized system for maintaining its Controlled Dangerous Substance logs despite the New York City Comptroller noting this in an audit report from three years earlier. In fact, the New York City Comptroller noted in their 2015 audit report that New York ACC was not in compliance with its contract with New York City since it “does not maintain a computerized inventory system of controlled substances.”

Unfortunately, New York ACC was extremely difficult to get information from. In my last six years doing public records requests from animal shelters, I found New York ACC one of the worst organizations to deal with. Frequently, I would not get responses for long periods of time. Additionally, I often needed to follow-up several times to get requested records. Furthermore, New York ACC only provided me animal records generated from their shelter software system. For example, the shelter did not give me original records, such as owner surrender forms, shelter behavioral evaluations and other firsthand records. As such, New York ACC mainly gave me its summary of these records and I could not verify if the shelter’s version of these facts were accurate.

Due to New York ACC’s stonewalling, I obtained fewer supporting documents than I typically do. For example, I reviewed records for 31 dogs killed and did not obtain supporting records for cats killed. However, I reviewed enough records to get a good idea about how New York ACC operates.

Deadly Dog Data

New York ACC had large percentages of their dogs lose their lives in 2018. Overall, 21% of all dogs taken in during 2018 who had known outcomes lost their lives. If we just look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, 24% of all these dogs lost their lives. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only had 1% of its dogs and 2% of its nonreclaimed dogs lose their lives in 2018. Thus, New York ACC had dogs lose their lives at 21 times and 12 times Austin Animal Center’s rates for all dogs and nonreclaimed dogs.

Unfortunately, New York ACC did not break out breed in many of its intake and disposition records. Instead, it uses large, medium and small dog descriptions for most dogs. While I fully support not listing breeds in adoption marketing materials since breed descriptions are often inaccurate and frequently lead to less pit bull adoptions, the shelter should include breed in its shelter software reports. Even though a scientific study found removing pit bull labels decreased the times these dogs spent in a shelter, pit bulls with no breed label in this study still stayed longer in the shelter than other types of dogs with or without a breed label. Therefore, the public likely still identifies some dogs as pit bulls who don’t have a breed description. If shelters do not track pit bull like dogs, or dogs who the public may perceive as pit bulls, as a separate group, the shelter will not be able to assess whether more of these dogs are losing their lives. As a result, New York ACC likely has much higher death rates for its pit bull like dogs than the broader dog descriptions below indicate.

New York ACC had a bigger percentage of large dogs lose their lives in 2018. Overall, 25% of large dogs taken in during 2018 who had known outcomes lost their lives. If we just look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, 30% of these large dogs lost their lives. On the other hand, 16% and 19% of medium dogs and nonreclaimed medium dogs lost their lives in 2018. Collectively, New York ACC had 22% of all large and medium dogs and 26% of nonreclaimed large and medium dogs lose their lives last year. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only had 1% of its large and medium dogs and 1% of its nonreclaimed large and medium nonreclaimed dogs lose their lives in 2018. Thus, New York ACC had large and medium dogs lose their lives at 22 times and 26 times Austin Animal Center’s rates for all large and medium dogs and large and medium nonreclaimed dogs.

Small dogs were not safe at New York ACC in 2018. The shelter had 19% of all small dogs and 22% of nonreclaimed small dogs lose their lives in 2018. Frankly, shelters should be able to save nearly all small dogs due to the fact such animals cannot seriously injure dog savvy adult owners. Even the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive facility, only euthanized 1% of small dogs and 1% of nonreclaimed small dogs in 2017Austin Animal Center only had 1% of small dogs and 2% of nonreclaimed small dogs lose their lives last year. Thus, New York ACC had small dogs and nonreclaimed small dogs lose their lives at 19 times and 11 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

2018 NY ACC Dog Statistics.jpg

Senior Dog Slaughter

Older dogs lost their lives in massive numbers at New York ACC in 2018. Overall, New York ACC had 58% of all dogs, 73% of large dogs, 59% of medium dogs and 52% of small dogs that were 10 years and older lose their lives in 2018. If we just look at nonreclaimed dogs, an astonishing 64% of all dogs, 78% of large dogs, 69% of medium dogs and 57% of small dogs that were 10 years and older lost their lives in 2018. While senior dogs are more likely to be hopelessly suffering, its simply inconceivable that around half to three quarters of these dogs were in this state of health.

New York ACC’s senior dog slaughter becomes apparent when we compare its performance to Austin Animal Center. Based on Austin Animal Center’s publicly reported 2018 intake and disposition records, this shelter only had 4% and 8% of all 10 year old plus dogs and nonreclaimed 10 years old plus dogs lose their lives in 2018. As a result, New York ACC had senior dogs and nonreclaimed senior dogs lose their lives at 15 times and eight times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

2018 NY ACC Dogs 10 Years and Older Statistics.jpg

Owner Surrendered Dogs Die in Droves

As bad as New York ACC’s overall dog data was, the owner surrendered dog statistics were far worse. Overall, 33% of all owner surrendered dogs, 36% of large owner surrendered dogs, 26% of medium owner surrendered dogs and 34% of small owner surrendered dogs lost their lives in 2018. If we just look at nonreclaimed owner surrendered dogs, an astonishing 36% of all owner surrendered dogs, 40% of large owner surrendered dogs, 28% of medium owner surrendered dogs and 36% of of small owner surrendered dogs lost their lives. Thus, around 1 in 4 to more than 1 in 3 owner surrendered dogs lost their lives at New York ACC in 2018.

2018 NY ACC Owner Surrendered Dogs.jpg

New York ACC killed huge numbers of dogs for “owner requested euthanasia.” Overall, New York ACC killed 1,025 dogs, 298 large dogs, 160 medium dogs and 567 small dogs for “owner requested euthanasia.” Remarkably, owner requested euthanasia made up 12%, 10% of, 8% and 16% of all outcomes for all dogs, large dogs, medium dogs and small dogs. Even worse, owner requested euthanasia made up 26%, 22%, 20% and 33% of all outcomes for owner surrendered all dogs, large dogs, medium dogs and small dogs. In fact, 80% of killed owner surrendered dogs, 62% of killed owner surrendered large dogs, 75% of killed owner surrendered medium dogs and 97% of killed owner surrendered small dogs were classified as “owner requested euthanasia.”

Frankly, I’ve never seen any shelter report such a high percentage of owner requested euthanasia. For example, I’ve reviewed detailed records at inner city shelters in Newark, Paterson, Passaic, Elizabeth and Perth Amboy and did not see anywhere near these types of owner requested euthanasia numbers. Given New York ACC uses the Asilomar Accords, which require shelters to exclude owner requested euthanasia from their live release rates, New York ACC has a strong incentive count killed animals as “owner requested euthanasia.”

2018 NY ACC ORE Dogs.jpg

Quick and Immediate Dog Killing

New York ACC’s dog length of stay data revealed the shelter quickly killed dogs. Specifically, the shelter killed all dogs, large dogs, medium dogs and small dogs after 3.6 days, 6.0 days, 3.9 days and 0.9 days on average in 2018. Clearly, this is not nearly enough time to determine if the shelter can save these animals.

2018 NY ACC Dog LOS.jpg

While the average length of stay data is revealing, the distribution of the lengths of stay of the dogs killed is eye opening. Remarkably, New York ACC killed 62% of the dogs it killed on the very day they arrived at the shelter. 76% of the dogs New York ACC killed occurred within five days or less. New York ACC killed 81%, 90% and 95% of the dogs it killed within seven, 12 and 15 days. In fact, almost every dog New York ACC killed happened within 30 days or less. Thus, New York ACC gave the dogs it killed virtually no chance to become adoptable.

2018 NY ACC Killed Dogs LOS Distribution.jpg

New York ACC killed owner surrendered dogs even faster. The shelter killed all owner surrendered dogs, large owner surrendered dogs, medium owner surrendered dogs and small owner surrendered dogs after 1.9 days, 3.5 days, 2.0 days and 0.5 days on average in 2018.

2018 NY ACC Owner Surrendered Dogs LOS.jpg

The distribution of the lengths of stay of killed owner surrendered dogs at New York ACC in 2018 is quite telling. New York ACC killed 78% of the owner surrendered dogs it killed on the very day they arrived at the shelter. New York ACC killed 83%, 89% and 96% of the dogs it killed within three, six and 13 days. In fact, New York ACC killed virtually every owner surrendered dog it killed within 23 days.

2018 NY ACC OS Dogs LOS Distribution.jpg

New York ACC’s length of stay data showed it gave no mercy to senior dogs. The shelter killed all dogs, large dogs, medium dogs and small dogs that were 10 years and older after jut 0.4 days, 0.8 days, 0.2 days and 0.3 days on average in 2018.

2018 NY ACC 10 Year Plus Dogs LOS.jpg

When we look at the distribution of the lengths of stay of the senior dogs New York ACC killed, we can clearly see how this shelter gave these animals no chance. New York ACC killed 92% of the 10 years and older dogs it killed on the very day they arrived at the shelter. New York ACC killed 95%, 97% and 98% of the senior dogs it killed within one day, three days and six days. In fact, New York ACC killed virtually every 10 years and older dog it killed within 13 days.

2018 NY ACC Dogs 10 Years and Older Killed Dogs LOS Distribution.jpg

Dogs Killed for Highly Questionable Reasons

The killed dogs records I selected indicated New York ACC killed unusually large percentages of dogs for aggression. Overall, New York ACC killed 6.5% of all the dogs it took in during 2018 for aggression if you extrapolate my sample to all of the shelter’s dog intake last year. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.1% of the dogs it took in during 2018 for aggression and behavior related reasons. In other words, New York ACC killed dogs for aggression related reasons at 65 times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, New York ACC erroneously labeled dogs aggressive and did not do enough to rehabilitate those that had some issues.

The shelter also killed too many dogs for medical reasons. During 2018, New York ACC killed 13.4% of all dogs for medical reasons if you extrapolate my sample to the shelter’s entire dog intake for the year. However, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.6% of all dogs for medical reasons. Therefore, New York ACC killed dogs for medical related reasons at 22 times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, New York ACC killed treatable dogs.

New York ACC Killed Dog Sample Reasons

Savannah or Dog ID# 17943 was a 1 year and 11 month old large mixed breed dog surrendered to New York ACC on January 12, 2018. Initially, the owner contacted New York ACC on January 9, 2018 about surrendering Savannah for aggression related problems. According to New York ACC’s version of the owner’s conversation, Savannah bit several family members in a few incidents that involved food and touching the dog.

New York ACC’s summary of the dog owner’s assessment of Savannah provided more details on this dog. In the “behavior note” below, Savannah was “friendly, playful, gentle and tolerant” of children that were 3-10 years old who visited. Savannah also was “friendly and playful” with other dogs and “friendly and relaxed” around cats in her home. In the home, Savannah took about 20 minutes to warm up to strangers, where she would allow petting, and growled when people tried to take food or bones away.

Savannah’s past bites per New York ACC’s summary of the dog owner’s assessment of Savannah indicated she may have been treatable. One bite related to the owner “cleaning a hot spot on her leg.” In another case, an owner’s relative approached and told Savannah to get away from a plate of food Savannah started eating. In another instance, Savannah bit the owner and their mother after the owner was petting the dog’s tail after a walk. Finally, Savannah bit the owner’s cousin when he brought her chicken after a bath to induce her to go for a walk. None of the bites required stitches at a medical facility.

Despite Savannah’s bites having apparent triggers, which may possibly have responded to behavioral rehabilitation, and New York ACC never even seeing the dog, New York ACC persuaded the “emotional” owner to do an owner requested euthanasia (“E&R”) instead of a regular owner surrender. New York ACC then immediately killed Savannah when she was surrendered on January 12, 2018.

While Savannah may or may not have been hopelessly aggressive, New York ACC made no effort to really find out. Instead, it used its power to influence an “emotional” owner to let the shelter immediately kill her as an owner requested euthanasia. As a result, New York ACC did not count this killing in its Asilimar Live Release Rate to help it falsely claim its no kill.

Savannah ID 17943 NY ACC 1.jpg

Savannah ID 17943 NY ACC 2.jpg

Savannah ID 17943 NY ACC 2.jpg

Savannah ID 17943 NY ACC 3

Savannah ID 17943 NY ACC Behavior Form.jpg

Savannah ID 17943 NY ACC Behavior Form2

Savannah ID 17943 NY ACC 4.jpg

Smokey or Dog ID# 32081 was a five year old large mixed breed dog surrendered to New York ACC on June 23, 2018. According to New York ACC’s summary of Smokey, the shelter claimed Smokey was a “guard dog” and “dog reactive” and had a recent fight with another dog. New York ACC’s quote from the dog owner stated he was concerned about his godchild since Smokey was fighting with another dog in the home. The shelter claimed the owner also said the dog can become reactive when the owner is not around and sometimes can be unpredictable. Shockingly, New York ACC advised the owner to do an owner requested euthanasia. Why did New York ACC tell the owner this? New York ACC had an internal “discussion over the population call and its best to have Mr. request for E/R at the time of appointment.” In other words, New York ACC was going to kill dogs for space and wanted to exclude killing Smokey from its Asilomar live release rate.

As with Savannah, New York ACC did not even attempt to determine if it could treat Smokey. The shelter made no medical notes, did no veterinary treatments and never even attempted to provide any behavioral enrichment or rehabilitation. Instead, New York ACC immediately killed Smokey as an owner requested euthanasia in order to make its statistics look better.

Smokey Dog ID 32081 NY ACC Medical 1.jpg

Smokey Dog ID 32081 NY ACC Medical 2.jpg

Smokey Dog ID 32081 NY ACC 1

Bella or Dog ID# 23675 was a large mixed breed dog that was surrendered to New York ACC on March 25, 2018. According to New York ACC’s summary of discussions with the owner, the owner got Bella from someone who left her tied to a tree. The shelter’s summary also noted Bella had an unknown skin allergy. In New York ACC’s summary below, Bella had a few minor bites on dogs who approached her. However, the notes did not indicate any bite was very serious. On the other hand, the owner noted Bella was “friendly and affectionate” with two other dogs in the home. The owner also noted Bella’s hackles stood up and she would get tense and growl when someone came from behind when walking at night. Additionally, the owner stated Bella would bark, growl and lunge when people “with a bad aura” came over. However, the shelter’s notes indicate Bella never bit any person. Finally, the owner noted Bella had separation anxiety when the owner was out for more than three hours.

Bella’s behaviors are things many dog owners experience. For example, many dogs have a sixth sense around threatening people and act defensively or standoffish. Similarly, separation anxiety is not an uncommon problem pet owners deal with.

New York ACC’s summary of its interactions with the owner are disturbing. The owner wanted to surrender both dogs due to Bella having separation anxiety. Thankfully, the shelter convinced the owner that she should not surrender the other dog. New York ACC also rightfully provided advice on easing Bella’s separation anxiety. However, when the owner refused to do these things, New York ACC advised her to do an owner requested euthanasia citing the shelter likely killing Bella for behavior. When the owner refused New York ACC’s advice to call Bella’s killing an owner requested euthanasia, the owner’s girlfriend, who also owned Bella, “yelled at her and explained that she will never be good with other dogs and that she should just put her to sleep.” Furthermore, the owner’s girlfriend stated the shelter most likely would put Bella to sleep. While New York ACC did dispute the girlfriend’s claims, the shelter did state the following:

I explained to them both that even though I feel she has a higher chance at being humanely euthanized, she could still be rescued or adopted and nothing is a guarantee. I explained her anxiety and destructive tendencies will factor in however. I explained in a shelter she has to interact with strangers and will be around other dogs and stay in a kennel most of the time. I explained that even if she is well behaved she might get sick because of stress. I explained we do have partners that pull from us and a high placement rate and that if she did not feel comfortable making the decision to humanely euthanize she doesn’t have to.

After the owner, who was getting screamed at by her girlfriend to kill Bella, heard this advice that effectively backed up the girlfriend’s claims, the owner agreed to do an owner requested euthanasia. In other words, New York ACC basically told the owner the shelter would likely kill Bella since she is not “well behaved” and “might get sick.” After just a single day at the shelter, New York ACC killed Bella and excluded her killing from its Asilomar live release rate as an owner requested euthanasia.

Bella Dog ID 23675 NYACC MH1.jpg

Bella Dog ID 23675 NYACC MH2.jpg

Bella Dog ID 23675 NYACC BH1.jpg

Bella Dog ID 23675 NYACC BH2

Bella Dog ID 23675 NYACC BH3.jpg

Zina or Dog ID# 19276 was a six year old large mixed breed dog surrendered to New York ACC on January 27, 2018. According to New York ACC’s summary of its conversation with the owner, the dog had hyperglycemia (i.e. low blood sugar) and “very bad seizures.” Instead of treating Zina, New York ACC did an owner requested euthanasia and immediately killed Zina.

Even though I recognize owning a dog with a serious case of epilepsy is a major challenge, it does not rise to the standard of hopelessly suffering. For example, the No Kill Advocacy Center considers epilepsy a treatable condition. At a minimum, New York ACC should have done a full veterinary evaluation and reached out to the public for help. Instead, New York ACC killed Zina on the spot and did not count her in its Asilomar live release rate.

Zina 19276 NY ACC 1.jpg

Zina 19276 NY ACC 3.jpg

Zina 19276 NY ACC Notes.jpg

Many Cats Killed

New York ACC’s statistics reveal the shelter killed too many cats in 2018. Since New York ACC did not list specific ages of a good number of cats (i.e. 1 year and older cats, kittens from 6 weeks to just under 1 year and kittens under 6 weeks) and such cats had a higher death rates, the statistics for each known cat age group are likely a little worse than the ones in the table below. Overall, 11% of cats lost their lives at New York ACC in 2018 or about three times the percentage at Austin Animal Center last year. 12% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at New York ACC in 2018. As a comparison, only 5% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018. Therefore, cats and nonreclaimed cats were three and two times as likely to lose their lives at New York ACC than at Austin Animal Center in 2018.

The shelter’s statistics also revealed adult cats lost their lives at a higher rate. New York ACC’s kitten statistics (5% and 8% death rates for 6 weeks to just under one year kittens and kittens under 6 weeks) were good. Almost all the neonatal kittens were saved by the rescue community and the ASPCA’s kitten nursery program as evidenced by transfers making up 83% of neonatal kitten positive outcomes. However, 15% of all adult cats lost their lives. As a comparison, only 6% of adult cats lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018. Thus, adult cats lost their lives at three times Austin Animal Center’s rate in 2018.

2018 NY ACC Cat Statistics

Older Cats Obliterated

New York ACC killed many senior cats. Overall, the shelter had 46% of its 10 years and older cats lose their lives. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center’s publicly reported 2018 intake and disposition records showed only 10% of this shelter’s 10 years and older cats lost their lives. Thus, New York ACC had its 10 years and older cats lost their lives at five times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

2018 NY ACC Cats 10 Years + Statistics.jpg

Unusually Large Number of Cat Owner Requested Euthanasia

New York ACC’s cat owner requested euthanasia data is quite telling. Overall, New York ACC killed 4% and 7% of all cats and 1 year and older cats as owner requested euthanasia. Off the bat, this is a huge red flag since that number is far in excess of what I’ve seen at nearby New Jersey animal shelters. When we look at killed cats, we see New York ACC classified 38% of all killed cats and 52% of all killed adult cats as owner requested euthanasia. Finally, when we look at just killed owner surrendered cats, New York ACC classified 91% of all killed cats, 93% of adult killed cats, 67% of killed older kittens, 11% of killed neonatal kittens and 75% of killed cats with no ages as owner requested euthanasia.

While its possible New York City may have more hopelessly suffering cats, such as cats hit by cars with severe injuries, that does not really seem to explain this data. As mentioned before, I’ve reviewed extensive data sets of cats coming into New Jersey urban shelters in Newark, Elizabeth, Paterson, Passaic and Perth Amboy and have not seen cat owner requested euthanasia numbers like these. Due to New York ACC’s slow responses to my other records requests, I was unable to request and obtain individual cat records. New York City animal advocates should obtain records of killed cats classified as owner requested euthanasia to determine the specific reasons why New York ACC killed these animals.

2018 NY ACC Cat ORE.jpg

Instant Cat Killing

New York ACC’s cat length of stay data revealed the shelter quickly killed cats. While the shelter adopted out and transferred cats in just 14 days and eight days, the shelter killed cats on average after just one day. In fact, the shelter killed cats in all the age classes below after just 1-2 days on average. Thus, New York ACC almost immediately killed all the cats it decided to kill.

2018 NY ACC Cats LOS

While the average length of stay data is revealing, the distribution of the length of stay of the cats killed is eye opening. Remarkably, New York ACC killed 74% of the cats it killed on the very day they arrived at the shelter. New York ACC killed 86%, 91%, 94% and 99% of the cats it killed within 1 day, 2 days, 4 days and 15 days. In fact, almost every cat New York ACC killed happened within 35 days or less. Thus, New York ACC gave the cats it killed virtually no chance to become adoptable.

2018 NY ACC KIlled Cat LOS Distribution.jpg

If this data for all cats wasn’t bad enough, New York ACC’s distribution of killed adult cats was even worse. Amazingly, New York ACC killed 78% of the adult cats it killed on the very day they arrived at the shelter. New York ACC killed 88%, 93%, 96% and 99% of the adult cats it killed within 1 day, 3 days, 6 days and 13 days. Almost every adult cat New York ACC killed happened within 22 days or less. 2018 NY ACC Adult Killed Cat LOS Distribution.jpg

New York ACC’s distribution of the lengths of stay of the 10 years and older cats it killed show the shelter gave these animals virtually no chance. Shockingly, New York ACC killed 86% of the 10 years and older cats it killed on the very day they arrived at the shelter. New York ACC killed 93%, 95%, 97%, 98% and 99% of the 10 years and older cats it killed within 1 day, 2 days, 4 days, 9 days and 13 days. Virtually every 10 years and older cat New York ACC killed happened within 18 days or less.

2018 NY ACC Senior Killed Cat LOS Distribution

New York ACC Receives Massive Funding

New York ACC’s abysmal performance becomes clear when we do a detailed financial comparison with Austin Animal Center. Using New York ACC’s total revenue from its Form 990 for fiscal year ending June 30, 2018 and the total dogs and cats it impounded in calendar year 2018, we can estimate the shelter received $853 per each dog and cat impounded. As a comparison, we can estimate Austin Animal Center received $811 per dog and cat according to the Austin Comprehensive Financial Report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018 and the total dogs and cats Austin Animal Center impounded in calendar year 2018. Thus, New York ACC may actually have received more funding than Austin Animal Center in 2018.

The rescue community provides more support to New York ACC than Austin Animal Center as well. Overall, New York ACC transferred 33% of its dogs to rescues and other shelters while Austin Animal Center only transferred 21% of its dogs. Similarly, New York ACC transferred 55% of its cats to rescues and other shelters while Austin Animal Center only transferred 27% of its cats. Since transferring animals significantly reduces the cost of caring for animals, New York ACC should require less funds than Austin Animal Center all else being equal.

Despite having these financial advantages, New York ACC’s death rates are vastly higher than Austin Animal Center. As the table below shows, New York ACC has its animals lose their lives at around 3 to 15 times Austin Animal Center’s rates. Thus, New York ACC is failing its animals.

2018 Austin Animal Center Verses NY ACC

New York ACC also has many available homes for its animals. According to a New York Economic Development Corporation analysis from several years ago, 600,000 dogs and 500,000 cats live in New York City. If we assume cats live in someone’s home for 10 years and are then replaced when they die, New York City residents acquire 50,000 cats each year. If New York ACC were to achieve a 95% cat live release rate in 2018 and not use any rescue support, it would only need to adopt out 13,648 cats. In other words, the shelter would only have to convince 27% of New York City residents acquiring cats to adopt one. Similarly, if New York City residents own dogs for seven years on average and then replace the dogs when they die, New York City residents would acquire 85,714 dogs each year. If New York ACC were to achieve a 95% dog live release rate in 2018 and not use any rescue support, it would only need to adopt out 6,699 dogs. This is just 8% of the estimated number of dogs New York City residents acquire each year.

Results Require Action at New York ACC and its Enabling National Organizations

How can an organization with vast financial resources and rescue support kill so many animals? Honestly, the only reasonable answer would be a lack of shelter capacity. Animal advocates have long argued for building full service animal shelters in Queens and the Bronx. Based on my experience with the Manhattan shelter, I was struck by the extremely small number of animals, particularly large dogs, in the adoption area. While I do not think this justifies New York ACC’s killing due to the fact large scale foster programs could substantially expand New York ACC’s dog and cat capacity, lack of space could be a reasonable argument for those not familiar with large scale fostering operations.

So why doesn’t New York ACC say it kills for lack of space? Despite New York ACC’s nonprofit status, it is controlled by the New York City government and is considered a government agency. If the city were to admit it doesn’t have enough shelter space, the city would be put under immense pressure to spend large sums of money to immediately build the new animal shelters in Queens and the Bronx (this may happen in several years). As anyone familiar with government knows, large and expensive financial projects do not happen unless powerful people get behind them.

The other reason is New York ACC and the city health department do not want scrutiny. If New York ACC can convince the public it only euthanizes hopelessly suffering animals, people won’t question the senior leadership who earn large sums of money. For example, New York ACC CEO, Risa Weinstock, earned $202,834 of total compensation last year despite these horrific death rates. Its in her financial interest to maintain the status quo. Similarly, its in the interest of the New York City Department of Health, which oversees the shelter, to maintain the current status quo. Simply put, admitting the shelter can do better would cause the public to pressure those running and overseeing the shelter to change things. Thus, New York ACC and the New York City Department of Health do not want to admit a problem exists.

For these reasons, supposedly progressive organizations celebrating New York ACC as a success is so dangerous. Even though New York ACC does have a higher live release rate than it did many years ago, the shelter’s live release rate has not increased in recent years. More importantly, this blog shows New York ACC kills healthy and treatable pets and doesn’t even give many of these animals a chance to live. In fact, this blog’s findings are remarkably consistent with recent news stories of New York ACC immediately killing dogs whose owners were looking for their pets. When well-known organizations declare New York ACC or any regressive shelter a success, they encourage those shelters to maintain the status quo (i.e. quick killing at New York ACC). After all, if Best Friends states you are “no kill” and Maddie’s Fund gives you an award for being a “hero” and a “no kill leader”, why would you change what you are doing? Sadly, the damage may already be done based on New York City entering into a contract with New York ACC in early 2019 for an unheard of 34 year period.

So why would supposedly progressive animal welfare organizations engage in such destructive behavior? First, I believe these organizations genuinely believe that playing nice can get bad shelters to put lifesaving programs into place. While this works well with organizations whose leaderships are fully on board with no kill, it does not make regressive organizations no kill. When an organization’s leadership is perfectly fine with killing pets for convenience, it will kill animals requiring more work. For example, what good is a free or discounted adoption promotion if the shelter kills treatable animals before the animals are put up for adoption? Thus, I believe the collaboration at all costs mindset is naive.

Secondly, I believe the progressive sounding organizations find this behavior lucrative. If a national organization can make the public think their organization helped make the largest city in the country no kill, it can increase donations. Similarly, if these organizations can persuade their large financial benefactors that they made the largest city no kill, their highly paid leadership’s jobs will become more secure. Additionally, I think the resulting acclaim from the media and other parties is also a motivating factor. Certainly, Best Friends and Maddie’s Fund employ people I not only respect, but admire as well. However, I do think these factors do influence the behavior of these organizations’ most senior leadership.

Finally, I think the relationships these progressive organizations make with regressive shelter leaders cloud their thinking. When one works closely with people, its only natural to develop friendships. Given these relationships occur over many years, its only human for someone to want their friends to succeed. As a result, I think these progressive national organizations lose sight of what is happening and make the mistake of propping up their friends rather than standing up for the homeless animals their friends are killing.

These progressive organizations may do long term damage to themselves. In New York City and surrounding areas, grass roots animal advocates know the truth about New York ACC. Within this group of people, these organizations are seen as not only inauthentic, but part of the problem with New York ACC. In fact, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals recently announced it was transferring many of its programs to other organizations. While the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals stated it “accomplished its mission to make NYC a no-kill city”, the organization’s audited financial statements indicate significant decreases in funding. For example, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals reported $2,308,816 of individual and other contributions in 2014 and $1,506,401 of such donations in 2018. In other words, these donations dropped by $802,415 or 35%. Similarly, donations from foundations, such as Maddie’s Fund, decreased from $6,133,439 to $302,500 over this time period.

Ultimately, progressive national organizations face the same risks of pursuing inauthentic policies like propping up New York ACC. Eventually, the larger public will become aware of the disconnect between great sounding messages and enabling high kill shelters to keep doing business as usual. As such, I hope Best Friend’s and Maddie’s Fund rediscover their no kill mission and join grass roots animal advocates to make New York ACC a real no kill shelter.

Ocean County’s Outrageous Animal Facilities

Ocean County Health Department operates two animal control shelters. These two shelters are Northern Ocean County Animal Facility, which is located in Jackson, and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility, which is located in Mahahawkin. In 2018, these two shelters impounded 80% of the local dogs and cats coming into Ocean County’s animal shelters.

Do the two Ocean County Health Department run animal shelters kill healthy and treatable animals when lifesaving alternatives exist? Are the facilities complying with state law?

Data Reviewed

In order to get a better understanding of the job Ocean County Health Department did in 2018, I obtained the intake and disposition records for each individual dog and cat the two shelters took in during the year. You can find those records here. In addition, I obtained all supporting records for each dog killed. You can find those records in the following links:

Also, I obtained the “Animal Record” for a large number of cats the two facilities killed. This report provides a summary of the animal and the reason the shelter killed the cat. You can find those records in the following links.

I obtained all other records for several of the killed cats. You can view those records here. In addition, I also obtained the two shelters’ 2018 euthanasia and controlled dangerous substance logs, which detail how the shelters euthanized their animals. You can find those records for Northern Ocean County Animal Facility here and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility here.

Finally, I obtained Ocean County Health Department’s 2017-2019 inspection reports of Northern Ocean County Animal Facility and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility. You can find those inspection reports here and here.

Since Ocean County Health Department’s intake and disposition records did not break out the Northern Ocean County Animal Facility and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility data, I presented both shelters together as “Ocean County Animal Facility” in the statistics below. Based on the combined data below being similar to the totals both shelters reported to the New Jersey Department of Health, those wanting to see each shelter’s statistics can use the data reported to the state health department. You can view that data and my related death rate metrics here.

Disturbing Dog Data

Ocean County Animal Facility had too many dogs lose their lives in 2018. While the overall dog death rate of 8% was not extremely high, it was still much greater than death rates at elite municipal shelters. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only had 1% of its dogs lose their lives in 2018. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility had dogs lose their lives at eight times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Pit bulls fared far worse at Ocean County Animal Facility in 2018. The shelter killed 13% of pit bulls. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its pit bulls in 2018. As a result, Ocean County Animal Facility killed pit bulls at 13 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Ocean County Animal Facility also had too many small dogs and other medium to large size breeds lose their lives in 2018. Overall, the shelter had 5% of small dogs and 8% of other medium to large size dogs lose their lives. Frankly, shelters should be able to save nearly all small dogs due to the fact such animals cannot seriously injure dog savvy adult owners. Even the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive facility, only had 1% of small dogs lose their lives in 2017Austin Animal Center only had 1% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size breeds lose their lives last year. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility had both small dogs and other medium to large size dogs lose their lives at five times and eight times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

While Ocean County Animal Facility’s overall dog death rates were bad, the shelter’s death rates for dogs not reclaimed by their owners were far worse. Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners. When we just look at dogs not reclaimed by owners, Ocean County Animal Facility had 17% of all dogs, 25% of pit bulls, 10% of small dogs and 17% of other medium to large size breeds lose their lives. In other words, Ocean County Animal Facility had 1 out of 6 dogs, 1 out of 4 pit bulls, 1 out of 10 small dogs and 1 out of 6 other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners lose their lives. As a comparison, only 2% of all dogs, pit bulls and small dogs not reclaimed by owners and 1% of other medium to large size dogs not reclaimed by owners at Austin Animal Center lost their lives in 2018. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility had all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners lose their lives at 9 times, 13 times, 5 times and 17 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Dog Statistics

Cats Killed in Droves

Ocean County Animal Facility’s statistics reveal the shelter killed too many cats in 2018. Since Ocean County Animal Facility did not list specific ages of animals, I could not break down cats into the more expansive age categories I typically use (i.e. 1 year and older cats, kittens from 6 weeks to just under 1 year and kittens under 6 weeks). Frankly, I’m shocked a large shelter would not have age information readily available given how critical this data is for shelters to evaluate their handling of cats. Overall, 48% of cats lost their lives at Ocean County Animal Facility in 2018 or about twelve times the percentage at Austin Animal Center last year. More than half of nonreclaimed cats, or 51% of these animals, lost their lives at Ocean County Animal Facility in 2018. As a comparison, only 5% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018. Therefore, cats and nonreclaimed cats were twelve times and ten times more likely to lose their lives at Ocean County Animal Facility than at Austin Animal Center in 2018.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Cat Statistics.jpg

Ocean County Animal Facility Quickly Kills Animals with Empty Cages

Ocean County Animal Facility’s dog length of stay data revealed the shelter quickly killed dogs. Specifically, the shelter killed all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds after 10 days, 12 days, 9 days and 9 days on average in 2018. Clearly, this is not nearly enough time to determine if the shelter can save these animals.

Ocean County Animal Facility quickly killed dogs despite having plenty of space to house these animals. Based on Ocean County Animal Facility taking in 978 dogs during 2018, its 13 day average length of stay for dogs and shelter capacity calculations, we can estimate the shelter only held around 35 dogs on average in 2018 compared to a reported capacity of 75 dogs. This 35 dog average population is similar to the 33 dog average of the January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018 dog populations reported to the state health department. In other words, Ocean County Animal Facility used less than half of its physical dog capacity. Furthermore, the shelter should be able to house another 29 dogs in foster homes, which is equal to 3% of the 978 dogs impounded in 2018, at all times based on the performance of well-run no kill animal control shelters. Therefore, Ocean County Animal Facility held only around one third of the number of dogs it could keep in its shelters and foster homes. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility quickly killed dogs while failing to use ample space to house these animals.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Dogs Average Length of Stay.jpg

Ocean County Animal Facility’s quick killing practices become apparent when we look at the distribution of the lengths of stay for the dogs it killed. The shelter killed 40% of the dogs it killed after just eight days or less. Ocean County Animal Facility killed 29 of these 31 dogs after they spent just eight days at the shelter. In other words, Ocean County Animal Facility killed these dogs immediately after the state’s seven day protection period when shelters cannot kill animals. Remarkably, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 94% and 97% of the dogs it killed within 13 days and 18 days after their arrival. Only 1 killed dog stayed at the shelter for 28 or more days and no killed dog was at the shelter for 60 days or more. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility gave the dogs it killed virtually no chance to become adoptable.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Killed Dogs LOS Distribution.png

Ocean County Animal Facility also quickly killed cats. The shelter killed cats after just nine days on average in 2018. In other words, the shelter almost always killed its cats just after the state’s seven day protection period.

Ocean County Animal Facility also quickly killed cats despite having plenty of space to house these animals. Based on Ocean County Animal Facility taking in 2,126 cats during 2018, its 24 day average length of stay for cats and shelter capacity calculations, we can estimate the shelter only held around 140 cats on average in 2018 compared to a reported capacity of 290 cats. In fact, my 140 cat estimated population is higher than what the shelter reported holding at the beginning and end of 2018 (this may be due to lower cat intake in colder months). In other words, Ocean County Animal Facility used less than half of its physical cat capacity. Furthermore, the shelter should be able to house another 159 cats in foster homes, which is equal to 7.5% of the 2,126 cats impounded in 2018, at all times based on the performance of well-run no kill animal control shelters. Therefore, Ocean County Animal Facility held less than one third of the number of cats it could keep in its shelters and foster homes. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility quickly killed cats while failing to use ample space to house these animals.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Cats Average Length of Stay

Ocean County Animal Facility quick cat kill operation becomes clear when we look at the length of stay distribution of the cats the shelter killed. The shelter killed 6% of the cats it killed during the seven day protection period. Later in the blog, I’ll examine this issue more closely. Incredibly, the shelter killed 615 cats after just 8 days and killed 72% of the cats it killed within 8 days or less. In fact, the shelter killed 94% of the cats it killed within 15 days or less. Amazingly, only 1% of the killed cats had a length of stay in excess of 38 days and no killed cats stayed at the shelter for more than 68 days. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility gave the cats it killed virtually no opportunity to get out of the shelter alive.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Cat LOS Killed Distribution.jpg

Dogs Killed for Ridiculous Reasons

Ocean County Animal Facility killed unusually large percentages of dogs for various aggression and behavior issues. Overall, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 6.2% of all the dogs it took in for bite history, behavior and aggression. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.1% of the dogs it took in during 2018 for aggression and behavior related reasons. In other words, Ocean County Animal Facility killed dogs for aggression related reasons at 62 times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility erroneously labeled dogs aggressive and did not do enough to rehabilitate those that had some issues.

While some of the dogs with bite histories had serious bites, many others were not. In many cases, the shelter simply killed the dog if the owner reported any kind of bite. Other times, the bite had a well-defined trigger, such as removing the dog’s food or bowl. Most importantly, Ocean County Animal Facility made no effort to rehabilitate any of these dogs and simply killed them.

The shelter also killed too many dogs for medical reasons. During 2018, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 1.5% of all dogs for medical reasons. However, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.6% of all dogs for medical reasons. Therefore, Ocean County Animal Facility killed dogs for medical related reasons at two and half times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility killed treatable dogs.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Dogs Killed Reasons.jpg

Ocean County Animal Facility killed a very high percentage of pit bulls for aggression and related issues. As you can see in the table below, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 11.6% of all the pit bulls it took in for aggression related reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.05% of the pit bulls it took in during 2018 for aggression. Amazingly, Ocean County Animal Facility killed pit bulls for aggression at 232 times the rate as Austin Animal Center in 2018.

To put this into perspective, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 29 of the 131 non-reclaimed pit bulls it took in for aggression. In other words, Ocean County Animal Facility stated 22% or more than 1 in 5 of the pit bulls it had to find new homes for were aggressive.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Pit Bulls Killed Reasons.jpg

Ocean County Animal Facility also killed unusually high percentages of both small dogs and other medium to large dogs for aggression. The shelter killed 2.3% of all small dogs and 6.5% of all other medium to large dogs for aggression related issues. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center euthanized no small dogs and 0.2% of other medium to large dogs it took in during 2018 for aggression and behavior related reasons. Frankly, its shocking Ocean County Animal Facility would kill nine small dogs for aggression since such animals do not pose a serious risk to experienced adult dog owners. Ocean County Animal Facility also killed other medium to large size dogs for aggression related reasons at 33 times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility simply killed dogs with behavior issues rather than treat them.

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Small Dogs Killed Reasons

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Other Dogs Killed Reasons

Charlie was 6-7 year old Pekingese surrendered to Northern Ocean County Animal Facility on April 15, 2018. Charlie’s owner stated he surrendered the dog due his wife being ill and Charlie acting protective of the wife when a nurse was around. Additionally, Charlie bit a person’s ankle a year before. However, this is not unusual behavior for many small dogs. The dog’s owner stated Charlie was good with other dogs and lived with cats and birds. In addition, the owner said he could take food and bones away from Charlie and could pick the dog up without issues. While the owner stated Charlie was nervous around kids, the owner also said the dog was adoptable to a home without kids.

Despite Charlie having no serious bite on his record and the owner stating the dog was adoptable to the right home, Northern Ocean County Animal Facility killed Charlie as soon as it could under state law. Specifically, Ocean County Animal Facility killed Charlie after just eight days on April 23, 2018. The shelter’s records indicated it made zero effort to save this dog let alone provide behavioral rehabilitation. Thus, Northern Ocean County Animal Facility simply killed a small dog for having a minor ankle bite on his record.

OCAF Charlie 1.jpg

OCAF Charlie 2.jpg

OCAF Charlie 3.jpg

OCAF Charlie 4.jpg

OCAF Charlie 5

Dog ID# S-9422 was a stray adult American bulldog brought to Southern Ocean County Animal Facility on June 6, 2018. After a mere five days at the shelter, when the dog was still adjusting to the stressful environment, Southern Ocean County Animal Facility decided to conduct a behavioral evaluation on this dog. During the evaluation, the shelter noted Dog ID# S-9422 was “very excited”, “jumped up on the window” and “enjoyed being petted.” The evaluation also noted the dog knew the “sit” and “give paw” commands, but needed to walk easier on a leash and could use some training. Despite Southern Ocean County Animal Facility using intrusive tooth examination and “safe hug” tests, which often frighten dogs stressed in shelters, Dog ID# S-9422 passed with flying colors. Finally, the evaluator noted “She is a nice dog” and “she is a very happy dog.”

Despite Dog ID# S-9422 being a wonderful dog, Southern Ocean County Animal Facility killed the dog for having “food aggression.” During the evaluation, the tester struck the dog’s muzzle with a fake hand and the dog had the nerve to snap. When the evaluator moved the fake hand, the dog growled and showed teeth. In reality, the dog acted appropriately since she warned the person antagonizing her before actually biting.

In reality, shelters should never kill dogs for food aggression. A recent scientific study authored by several individuals from the ASPCA concluded shelters should not use food guarding tests at all. Why? Multiple studies indicate food aggression or guarding behavior in a shelter often does not occur in a home. Even when a dog does aggressively defend his or her food in a home, most owners deal with it by leaving the animal alone when he or she eats. Thus, Southern Ocean County Animal Facility needlessly killed “a very happy dog.”

OCAF S-9422 Killed 1

OCAF S-9422 Killed 2.jpg

OCAF S-9422 Killed 3.jpg

OCAF S-9422 Killed 4

Finn was a 3 year old golden retriever surrendered by his owner to Southern Ocean County Animal Facility on September 6, 2018 due to a conflict with another dog in the home. While the owner mentioned Finn didn’t get along with the other dog, the owner also stated Finn never got into a fight. The owner also stated Finn was good with their 1-3 year old grandchildren, never bit anyone, was housebroken, walked well on-leash and had good off-leash manners. Furthermore, the owner stated Finn had no problems having his food or bones taken away, did not jump or bark excessively and was fine with having his nails trimmed and being picked up. Finally, the owner stated Finn was adoptable into a home with no other dog.

Despite Finn’s owner clearly stating Finn was a great dog with people, Southern Ocean County Animal Facility killed him as soon as they could under state law. The shelter said Finn was “Not adjusting to the shelter” after he was there a mere eight days. Southern Ocean County Animal Facility provided no records indicating how Finn was “not adjusting to the shelter” let alone any efforts the shelter made to help him adjust. Simply put, Southern Ocean County Animal Facility killed an adoptable golden retriever as soon as it could.

OCAF Finn 1.jpg

OCAF Finn 2.jpg

OCAF Finn 3.jpg

OCAF Finn 4.jpg

OCAF Finn 5

Shelters Kills Scared and Other Treatable Cats

Due to Ocean County Animal Facility killing so many cats, I selected a sample of the cats it killed (387 of the 944 cats) and obtained the reasons the shelter killed these animals. Additionally, I also reviewed the shelter’s controlled dangerous substance logs, which had various abbreviations for the reasons it killed 626 cats. Since both data sets yielded similar results and the supporting records provided more details, I used the supporting records in the table below.

Ocean County Animal Facility killed huge numbers of cats for being “feral” and various behavior issues. Overall, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 29% of all the cats it took in for being “feral.” If we add cats the shelter killed for “not adjusting”, “aggression”, “behavior”, “bite case”, “bite history” and being “semi-feral”, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 36% of the cats it took in for having behaviors it did not like. As a comparison Austin Animal Center did not kill a single cat in 2018 for being feral, aggressive or having other behaviors. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility needlessly killed more than 1 out of 3 cats and likely around 750 cats in total for nonsensical behavior reasons.

While Ocean County Animal Facility could argue its hands are tied due to local laws not allowing trap-neuter-return and shelter-neuter-return, this arguments holds no water. First, the shelter can force municipalities to change those laws if it refuses to contract with towns that prohibit these programs. Second, most cats initially labeled feral at shelters are not feral. A recent study documented 18% of impounded cats were feral/aggressive, but all these cats became safe enough to adopt out after people gently touched the cats and spoke to them softly for 6 days. Similarly, the TNR group, Tiny Kittens, has adopted out 77% of injured adult feral cats and 65% of pregnant feral cats. As a result, Ocean County Animal Facility can get TNR and SNR implemented and adopt out large percentage of the cats its deeming “feral.”

2018 Ocean County Animal Facility Cats Killed Reasons.jpg

Ocean County Animal Facility killed these “feral” cats as soon as it legally could. As you can see in the following table, Ocean County Animal Facility killed 85% of the “feral” cats it killed in seven or eight days. In fact, the shelter killed 92%, 96% and 98% of these “feral” cats within 9 days, 10 days and 11 days. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility simply labeled scared cats “feral” and killed them right after the seven day protection period.

OCAF Killed Feral Cats LOS.jpg

Cat ID# N8703 was a stray neutered male cat brought into Northern Ocean County Animal Facility on April 5, 2018. According to the shelter’s “Animal Record”, the adult cat was in good condition and had an ear tip. As those familiar with TNR know, an ear tip is a universal sign that someone spent time and money ensuring the cat was neutered, vaccinated and released. In other words, someone did the right thing to ensure Cat ID# N8703 would not breed, spread disease and not be a nuisance (neutering eliminates mating behaviors that frequently cause human conflict). Instead of recognizing the great work this person did, Northern Ocean County Animal Facility labeled Cat ID# N8703 “feral” and killed him as soon as the shelter legally could eight days after he arrived at the shelter.

OCAF -N8703 Cat Killed

Doby and Shadow were 5 month old kittens surrendered to Northern Ocean County Animal Facility on August 31, 2018. The owner found the kittens in their backyard, but could not keep the animals after having them for one month. According to the shelter’s veterinary notes, both cats were “apparently healthy.” The owner described Doby as shy, quiet, mellow, lovable, playful and friendly. Similarly, the owner said Shadow was shy, lovable, playful and quiet. While the owner mentioned Shadow accidentally scratched or bit someone, they said he was scared. Most importantly, the owner stated both cats were adoptable and should go to a quiet home.

Despite Doby and Shadow clearly being adoptable, Northern Ocean County Animal Facility labeled both cats “not adjusting” and killed both cats on September 10, 2018 after the animals spent just 11 days at the shelter. Frankly, what is the chance that both cats were “not adjusting” and could not be helped at the exact same time? Slim to none. This is supported by the shelter not providing any documentation of the animals’ behaviors and anything the shelter did to treat those supposed behavior problems. Instead, Northern Ocean County Animal Facility quickly killed Doby and Shadow for convenience.

OCAF Doby 1.jpg

Doby 2.jpg

OCAF Doby 3.jpg

OCAF Doby 4.jpg

OCAF Shadow 1.jpg

OCAF Shadow 2

OCAF Shadow 3.jpg

OCAF Shadow 4.jpg

Ocean County Animal Facility Breaks State Law

Ocean County Animal Facility’s euthanasia records, which you can find here and here, do not specify how the shelter killed or euthanized animals. Specifically, the records do not state whether the shelter euthanized/killed each animal by an intravenous (preferred method), intraperitoneal or intracardiac (i.e. heart sticking) injection. Per New Jersey law, N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(f)4 and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13A, shelters must document the method they use to kill animals. According to N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(c) shelters can only use intraperitoneal injections on comatose animals and neonatal kittens. Under this method, animals are injected in the abdominal cavity and can take up to 30 minutes to die. Heart sticking, as the name implies, involves stabbing an animal in the heart with Fatal Plus poison and New Jersey shelters can only use this method on heavily sedated, anesthetized or comatose animals. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility’s euthanasia records do not comply with state law and do not indicate whether animals are in fact humanely euthanized in accordance with state law.

Under state law, shelters cannot kill either owner surrendered or stray animals until seven days pass. The purpose of this law is to provide owners a chance to reclaim their lost pets and prevent shelters from immediately killing animals. In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during this seven day period if facilities meet both of the following conditions:

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the rationale in the animal’s medical record

Overall, Ocean County Animal Facility killed two dogs and 55 cats before seven days in 2018. While the cases I reviewed, which were both dogs and a portion of the cats, did not show egregious violations I’ve seen at some other shelters, it seemed clear Ocean County Animal Facility did not do all it could to save many of these animals. For example, the shelter immediately killed a number of very young kittens, but did not seem to make much, if any, effort to get them into foster homes.

Moses was a 5 year old Boston terrier mix surrendered by his owner’s family to Southern Ocean County Animal Facility on January 12, 2018 due to seizures and related behavior problems. According to the shelter’s veterinary paperwork, which was not signed by a veterinarian, Moses had a two year history of having serious seizures. The shelter recommended killing Moses for having “a poor quality of life.” The owner wrote a short letter to the shelter stating they wanted to euthanize Moses due to him “suffering mentally and forgetting who he even is.” Southern Ocean County Animal Facility killed Moses on the day he arrived at the shelter.

While I empathize with the family, Ocean County Animal Facility illegally killed Moses in my humble opinion. The owner’s veterinarian’s records, which were from 10 days and seven days before Moses was surrendered to the shelter, indicated the owner and the veterinarian decreased the dog’s seizure medication dose. When Moses started having more seizures, the veterinarian discussed increasing the seizure medicine dose. Even though I recognize owning a dog with a serious case of epilepsy is a major challenge, it does not rise to the standard of hopelessly suffering. For example, the No Kill Advocacy Center considers epilepsy a treatable condition. At a minimum, Southern Ocean County Animal Facility should have kept Moses alive for the full seven days as required by state law and fully explored all veterinary options instead of killing him on the spot. Thus, I believe Southern Ocean County Animal Facility illegally killed Moses before seven days.

Moses 1.jpg

Moses 2.jpg

Moses 3.jpg

Moses 4

Moses 5.jpg

Moses 6.jpg

Moses 7

Ocean County Animal Facility’s “Animal Record” reports, which you can find here and here, indicated the shelter’s veterinarian did not euthanize many of the cats euthanized before seven days. While some of the records indicated the veterinarian approved the decision, some of which were via phone calls, a shelter worker rather than a veterinarian certified the euthanasia of these animals. Therefore, the shelter’s documents indicate the veterinarian did not euthanize these animals who were euthanized before seven days. Thus, Ocean County Animal Facility broke state law by not having a veterinarian euthanize these cats even if the animals were in fact hopelessly suffering.

Shelter’s Sham Self-Inspections

Ocean County Health Department conducted the required annual inspections of the two shelters it runs. You can read its 2017-2019 inspection reports of Northern Ocean County Animal Facility here and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility here. Amazingly, Ocean County Health Department spent just 30 minutes and 15 minutes inspecting each shelter in 2017 and 2019 (the inspection reports did not provide this information in 2018). Given the absurdly short inspection times, its not surprising that Ocean County Health Department only wrote a few boilerplate comments in each inspection report. For example, some of these comments were “Facility is operating in a satisfactory condition”, “all dogs and cats housed appear to be responsive and in good health” and “The facility is well kept and clean.” Thus, Ocean County Health Department’s inspections of the shelters it runs were short and not thorough.

Ocean County Health Department did not address specific aspects of state shelter law and the issues I found. Given these two shelters took in 3,104 dogs and cats in 2018, one would think the county health department would evaluate each aspect of state shelter law and comment how the shelter performed. For example, the state health department frequently writes up to a dozen pages of comments in its inspection reports. Perhaps, if Ocean County Health Department spent more than 15-30 minutes conducting inspections, it would have noted the shelter was not documenting how it killed each animal and its violation of the state’s seven day protection period. Instead, Ocean County Health Department gave itself a free pass.

As regular readers know, local health departments typically are incapable of conducting proper inspections of animal shelters due to incompetence and conflicts of interest. Therefore, a state health department inspection would likely find many more significant problems. Thus, Ocean County Health Department’s sham inspections prove the need to mandate a robust state health department inspection process as required by shelter reform bill S725.

Clearly, Ocean County Health Department runs two high kill shelters, kills for convenience and broke state law. In a future blog, I’ll explore the reasons why these shelters are high kill.

2018 Cat Report Cards for New Jersey Animal Shelters

Cats are losing their lives at an alarming rate in New Jersey animal shelters. New Jersey animal shelters killed nearly 8,000 cats or 18% of those cats having known outcomes in 2018. Additionally, a number of other cats died or went missing. This blog explores the reasons why this tragedy is occurring and whether we can end the massacre.

Model Assesses New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Life Saving Performance

In order to assess how good of a job New Jersey animal shelters are doing, I’ve developed an analysis I call the “Life Saving Model.” While shelter performance is dependent on many variables, such as finances, facility design, local laws, etc., the most critical factor impacting potential life saving is animal holding capacity. Without having enough physical space and foster homes, a shelter might not have enough time to find loving homes for its animals. Shelters can overcome financial limitations through creative fundraising or recruiting more volunteers. Similarly, organizations can save their cats despite having run down facilities if these groups enthusiastically implement policies to get animals into loving homes quickly. As a result, my analysis focuses on making the best use of space to save the maximum number of New Jersey and nearby areas cats.

The Life Saving Model measures the number of local animals a shelter should adopt out, rescue from other facilities, send to rescues or other shelters and euthanize to achieve no kill level live release rates. The targeted outcomes take into account each facility’s physical capacity plus the amount of foster homes it should use and the number of cats the organization receives from its community (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, cruelty cases, etc.). I assume a target euthanasia rate, take the number of cats actually returned to owners and then estimate how many community cats a shelter should adopt out. To the extent space runs out, I then calculate how many cats must be sent to rescue. If the shelter has excess space after properly serving its local community, the facility uses that room to rescue and adopt out cats from nearby areas. The targeted results calculated from this model are compared to the actual results from each shelter below.

This year I expanded shelter capacity to include the number of foster homes shelters should use. Based on a target I obtained from Target Zero’s now defunct “Humane Dash” tool, which I confirmed is appropriate with American Pets Alive leadership, shelters should have 7.5% of their annual cat intake in foster homes at any one time. These estimates are based on what several no kill animal control shelters already accomplish. Given fostering increases capacity and provides more humane care to animals, it is critical shelters have large scale foster programs. Therefore, I added 7.5% of each shelter’s annual cat intake to the shelter’s physical capacity.

The Life Saving Model requires a more complex analysis for cats than dogs in New Jersey. Generally speaking, New Jersey animal shelters receive few litters of young puppies who are vulnerable to disease. On the other hand, local shelters receive lots of young kittens, particularly during the April to October kitten season. These young kittens are highly vulnerable to disease and those without mothers require bottle feeding every 1-2 hours. Therefore, animal welfare organizations should not hold these kittens in a traditional shelter setting and instead should send these animals to foster homes or a kitten nursery at or outside of the facility. During the months outside of kitten season (i.e. November-March), my model assumes shelters will be able to place young kittens into their volunteers’ foster homes and/or in a kitten nursery run by the animal shelter. In kitten season with many young animals coming in, I assume a certain percentage of the cat intake will need to go to rescues or other shelters. For shelters who rescue cats, I assume a small percentage of the cats are young kittens who are hopelessly suffering and will require humane euthanasia. Thus, my Life Saving Model is a bit more complicated than the analysis I did for dogs.

To read specific details and assumptions used in the model, please see the Appendix at the end of this blog.

My analysis puts a cap on the targeted numbers of cats rescued from other shelters and adoptions. While my unmodified targeted numbers of rescued and adopted animals are quite achievable, I wanted to provide very conservative goals for New Jersey animal shelters. For example, the unmodified model resulted in a statewide per capita cat adoption rate that is less than those found at some of the best animal control shelters.

My modified analysis capped cat adoptions at 8 cats per 1,000 people within each New Jersey county. In other words, the targeted numbers of cats rescued from other shelters and adopted below are the lesser of

  1. Number predicted by model
  2. Number determined by capping adoptions at 8 cats per 1,000 people in the county

In simple terms, a shelter is expected to achieve this per capita adoption rate unless the facility lacks enough space and foster homes. If a shelter does not have sufficient room, it won’t have the time to reach all the potential adopters and requires assistance from rescues and/or other facilities.

Another complexity in this analysis are feral cats. In an ideal world, shelters would practice trap-neuter-return (TNR) or shelter-neuter-return (SNR) for feral cats only. In TNR, the public or a third party typically does the work and the shelter doesn’t take in feral cats. In the variant of SNR I support, the shelter would take in feral cats, neuter them and release them back to where they were found. Unfortunately, many municipalities prohibit these programs and shelters in these places generally catch and kill feral cats.

Ideally, I would perform two analyses as follows:

  1. Modeling a large scale and targeted TNR program by reducing cat intake at shelters needing to implement TNR or improve their existing TNR programs
  2. Estimating the number of truly feral cats taken in and counting these cats as killed

The first analysis assumes TNR could be implemented and would result in fewer New Jersey cats for shelters to place. In a blog I wrote several years ago, I estimated the impact of a high volume targeted spay/neuter program. Generally speaking, this analysis required many animal control shelters to adopt out more cats, send fewer cats to rescue, and rescue more cats from other shelters due to the extra shelter space resulting from lower local cat intake. In other words, this analysis would require shelters to achieve higher performance targets.

The second analysis assumes local laws cannot be changed and shelters are stuck receiving unadoptable feral cats. Unfortunately, I do not have the data to calculate the percentage of truly feral cats received at each New Jersey animal shelter. Based on an analysis of Michigan animal shelter data, Nathan Winograd estimated at least 6% of cat intake at Michigan animal shelters are truly feral cats. Similarly, Wisconsin’s Clark County Humane Society 2014 cat statistics show feral cats who were trapped, vaccinated and returned to the community made up 7% of cat outcomes. Based on these numbers and the success of barn cat programs in places such as the Maryville, Tennessee area, barn cat programs should be able to save most feral cats in similar communities. In fact, a recent study documented 18% of impounded cats were feral/aggressive, but all these cats became safe enough to adopt out after people gently touched the cats and spoke to them softly for 6 days. Similarly, the TNR group, Tiny Kittens, has adopted out 77% of injured adult feral cats and 65% of pregnant feral cats. Thus, the number of truly feral cats may be much lower than the amount of cats most shelters label as aggressive.

My model assumes shelters are doing the proper thing and practicing TNR and placing the reasonable number of feral cats received as barn cats. Obviously, many shelters do take in a good number of feral cats due to poor laws or misguided policies. As a result, the number of New Jersey cats killed may be higher than my model predicts for some shelters. However, my model’s results using total cat intake rather than assuming a larger percentage of feral cats will not be too much different for the targeted adoption and euthanasia rate metrics as explained in my blog from several years ago. The following analysis assumes shelters receive a reasonable number of truly feral cats. As a result, shelters can adopt out these cats through barn cat programs. While I realize some shelters do receive greater numbers of truly feral cats, the purpose of this analysis is to examine whether New Jersey animal shelters can handle the number of cats received.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Contain Enough Space to Save Most of New Jersey’s Healthy and Treatable Cats and Many More from Other States

New Jersey’s animal shelter system has enough space to save the state’s healthy and treatable cats. The table below details the targeted numbers of cat outcomes the New Jersey animal shelter system should achieve. Out of the 44,499 New Jersey cats coming into the state’s animal shelters in 2018, 29,260 and 7,140 cats should have been adopted out and sent to other shelters/rescues by the facilities originally taking the cats in. However, other New Jersey animal shelters had enough capacity to rescue 35,107 cats or about five times the number of cats needing rescue from space constrained facilities. Unfortunately, some of the cats needing rescue, such as very young kittens, should not stay in a shelter and still must go to either kitten nurseries or foster homes. That being said, many adult cats are in fact killed in New Jersey animal shelters and many facilities with excess space could save these cats.

New Jersey animal shelters have enough excess space and potential foster homes to save many cats from out of state as well. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters had enough physical capacity to rescue 27,967 cats from out of state shelters or New Jersey’s streets after achieving a 92% live release rate for cats coming into the state’s animal shelters. In reality, the New Jersey shelter system could rescue more than 27,967 cats from out of state shelters or from New Jersey’s streets given the 27,967 figure assumes all cats needing rescue from space constrained New Jersey shelters are sent to other New Jersey shelters as opposed to rescue groups. As explained above, some of the cats needing rescue from New Jersey shelters with a shortage of space are young kittens which should not go to most animal shelters. To put this number into perspective, New Jersey animal shelters contain enough space to make both New York City and Philadelphia no kill cities for cats and increase those cities’ cat live release rates to 92% as follows (per 2018 data):

  • New York City – 493 additional cats need saving
  • Philadelphia – 1,051 additional cats need saving

Certainly, some New Jersey animal shelters do pull some cats from New York City and Philadelphia animal control shelters. While some of the 659 cats New Jersey animal shelters rescued from out of state facilities may have come from New York City and Philadelphia shelters, its likely many came from other states since transporting shelters, such as St. Hubert’s, pulled a sizable number of these cats. Even though some of these cats from New York City and Philadelphia animal control shelters are young kittens, which should not go to a normal animal shelter, many other cats could go to New Jersey animal shelters and be adopted out. As a result, the additional number of cats New Jersey animal shelters could save from New York City and Philadelphia is not much lower than the figures above. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters could make New Jersey a no kill state for cats and help other states reach that goal as well.

These adoption goals are quite achievable when comparing the performance of well-run animal control shelters across the country. New Jersey animal shelters would only need to adopt out 7.0 cats per 1,000 people in the state (4.1 cats per 1,000 people if no cats were rescued from out of state and all cats sent to rescue were rescued by other New Jersey animal shelters and adopted out). As a comparison, recent per capita cat adoption numbers from several high performing no kill open admission shelters are as follows:

  • Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia area) – 10.3 cats per 1,000 people
  • Nevada Humane Society (Washoe County, Nevada and Carson City, Nevada) – 9.1 cats per 1,000 people
  • Longmont Humane Society (Longmont, Colorado area) – 8.0 cats per 1,000 people

Thus, many communities are already adopting out significantly more cats than the number I target for New Jersey animal shelters.

2018 Cat Model Summary Targets

Cat Deaths Vary Widely at New Jersey Animal Shelters

The goal of any properly managed animal shelter is to save all of its healthy and treatable animals. In some cases, such as selective admission rescue oriented shelters, it is pretty easy to not kill animals. In addition, other animal shelters with easy to service animal control contracts (i.e. few animals impounded) can avoid unnecessary killing due to having lots of extra space. As a result, some shelters may have an easier time than others in preventing killing at their shelters.

The tables below detail how many cats should lose their lives at each state animal shelter per my model and the actual numbers of cats that did. All missing or lost cats are assumed “dead” based on the assumption they died or went to a very bad place. Based on my review of a number of shelters’ underlying documents, virtually all of the cats in the “Other” outcome category died or went missing. While a small numbers of shelters could have included some live releases in the “Other” outcome category, it would be misleading to not count these deaths for the overwhelming majority of shelters. The “targeted” numbers in the table are based on the shelter’s actual cat intake rather than targeted cat intake to ensure an apples to apples comparison with the actual cats losing their lives. Shelters having the number of cats losing their lives at or below my targets and above my targets are highlighted in green and red in the tables below.

The overall results show too many cats are unnecessarily losing their lives at New Jersey animal shelters. New Jersey animal shelters had 6,757 cats needlessly lose their lives in 2018 (i.e. the sum of all shelters with too many cats needlessly losing their lives in the table below).

The largest number of cats unnecessarily dying occurred at a relatively small number of shelters. 10 out of 91 or 11% of the shelters accounted for 81% of the cats unnecessarily losing their lives under the model’s assumptions. Half of these ten shelters had negative stories reported in the press and/or on my blog or Facebook page over the last several years. Shelters with the greatest numbers of unnecessary cat deaths are as follows:

  1. Atlantic County Animal Shelter (1,118)
  2. Gloucester County Animal Shelter (1,059)
  3. Burlington County Animal Shelter (641)
  4. Associated Humane Societies-Newark (594)
  5. South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter (581)
  6. Northern Ocean County Animal Facility (567)
  7. Southern Ocean County Animal Facility (284)
  8. Vorhees Animal Orphanage (251)
  9. Bergen County Animal Shelter (206)
  10. Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls (179)

Rescue oriented shelters generally had fewer cats lose their lives than targeted. While saving large numbers of cats is what we all want, some of these shelters may have achieved this result by taking in easier cats. Austin Pets Alive, which is a rescue oriented shelter in Texas, has developed some of the most innovative cat programs and only had a cat live release rate of 89.3% in 2018. This was due to Austin Pets Alive taking in many cats requiring significant treatment, such as neonatal kittens, from the city animal control shelter. As a result, some of the rescue oriented shelters with significantly fewer cats euthanized than targeted may have avoided taking in many of the more difficult cases.

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Killed, Died & Missing 1

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Killed, Died & Missing 2

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Killed, Died & Missing 3.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Killed, Died & Missing 4.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Killed, Died & Missing 5.jpg

Space Constrained Facilities Not Receiving Enough Support from Rescues and Other Animal Shelters

Some animal shelters will require more support from rescues and animal shelters with excess space than others. If a shelter has relatively high intake and very limited space, it will need more help than other shelters. While sending animals to rescues is a good thing, we do want shelters most needing rescue support to receive that help given rescues have limited resources. The tables below compare the number of cats a shelter should transfer to other organizations per the model and the number of cats actually sent to other animal welfare groups. Shelters marked in green are receiving less than the expected rescue support while facilities marked in red are receiving too much rescue help.

Overall, New Jersey shelters are not receiving enough help from other animal welfare organizations. While New Jersey animal shelters sent more cats to rescues and other shelters than my model targeted, many cats were rescued from facilities which did not require so much rescue assistance. Only 37 out of the 70 facilities needing rescue assistance received the required support. In other words, only 53% of the animal shelters needing rescue help received the amount these facilities require.

We truly need to understand the reasons for this rescue shortfall. While poor data collection (i.e. shelters classifying rescues as adoptions) may explain part of this rescue deficit, the large size of this number points to other causes as well. For example, New Jersey shelters as a whole significantly exceeded their dog rescue needs and a much smaller number of shelters failed to receive enough rescue support, but just 53% of shelters needing cat rescue assistance received the needed support. Certainly, some of these cats are feral and not candidates for most rescues. However, many other cats surely are home-able. Many high kill facilities may not reach out to rescues for cats, such as during kitten season, as much as they do for dogs. This data supports the need for New Jersey to pass shelter reform bill S725 which requires shelters to contact rescues and other facilities at least two business days before killing animals. On the other hand, shelters with excess capacity may not be doing their part to save cats from space constrained facilities.

Several shelters received too much rescue help. Rescues may want to help these organizations due to rescue friendly policies. Alternatively, these shelters may be relying too heavily on rescues to save their animals. Shelters (excluding St. Hubert’s which transfers cats as part of national rescue campaigns) receiving the most extra rescue support were as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies-Newark – 942 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter – 524 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Paterson Animal Control – 317 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center – 265 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Byram Township Animal Shelter – 177 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Northern Ocean County Animal Facility – 167 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Elizabeth Animal Shelter – 162 more cats transferred than necessary
  • Trenton Animal Shelter – 148 more cats transferred than necessary

Associated Humane Societies-Newark, Gloucester County Animal Shelter, Paterson Animal Control, Elizabeth Animal Shelter and Trenton Animal Shelter are terrible facilities. Associated Humane Societies-Newark has a history of problemskills animals for ridiculous reasons and its Executive Director had animal cruelty charges filed against her. Gloucester County Animal Shelter illegally killed hundreds of animals before seven day, broke state law, and is a high kill shelter. Paterson Animal Control has no volunteer program, no social media page or even a website with animals for adoption and violated state law left and right. Elizabeth Animal Shelter previously illegally killed large numbers of animals before seven days, broke other laws and killed many animals for absurd reasons. Trenton Animal Shelter violated state law in 2017 per a New Jersey Department of Health limited scope inspection report. Thus, many shelters receiving greater than expected rescue support seem to do little more than allow rescues to save the day.

On the other hand, many space constrained shelters received far less rescue help than needed. Facilities receiving the lowest amount of rescue support in relation to their needs were as follows:

  • Bergen County Animal Shelter – 332 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Vorhees Animal Orphanage – 240 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Monmouth SPCA – 210 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Cape May County Animal Shelter – 179 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter – 150 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Liberty Humane Society – 102 fewer cats transferred than necessary
  • Franklin Township Animal Shelter – 42 fewer cats transferred than necessary

The million dollar question is why do these shelters receive very little rescue help? Some shelters may report no cats sent to rescues and incorrectly count these animals as adopted. As you will see below, Cape May County Animal Shelter and Vorhees Animal Orphanage adopted out many cats and are doing a pretty good job. On the other hand, Franklin Township Animal Shelter kills many cats for absurd reasons, breaks state law and does not do a good job of reaching out to the public for help. As a result, shelters receiving too little rescue help may or may not be doing their part to get that assistance.

Rescue groups and shelters with extra space should pull cats from kill shelters with the highest rescue “target” numbers and deficits in the tables below. If shelters not needing rescue support get that extra help, these shelters will not take the steps necessary to properly run their facilities. As a result of enabling poorly performing shelters and not pulling cats from truly space constrained facilities, rescuing cats from shelters with enough space leads to less lifesaving.

Shelters receiving less than needed rescue support should also examine their own policies and performance. Are the shelter’s operating processes allowing too many animals to get sick and therefore discouraging organizations to rescue their animals due to subsequent medical costs? Does the shelter actively reach out to rescues/other shelters and treat them with respect? Does the shelter make it convenient for other organizations to pull their animals?

Given killing animals for space is intolerable, the space-constrained shelters need to expand their effective cat capacity. These facilities could use extra space in their buildings to house cats on a short-term basis. These shelters can enter into arrangements with local veterinarians and local pet stores to house and adopt out some cats. Furthermore, shelters can create or expand foster programs to increase the number of cats cared for. Additionally, creating a pet owner surrender prevention program and an appointment system for owners willing to delay surrendering their cats could free up space in these shelters. Finally, space-constrained shelters with multiple animal control contracts should terminate some of these arrangements to bring their capacity for care in line with the number of cats they take in. Similarly, many shelters can use their bargaining power to require municipalities to allow TNR. As a result, space constrained shelters still need to take active steps to reduce killing rather than simply solely relying on rescue support.

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Transferred 1.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Transferred 2.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Transferred 3.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Transferred 4.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Transferred 5.jpg

Most New Jersey Animal Shelters Fail to Come Close to Reaching Their Cat Adoption Potential

We can assess each shelter’s contribution to making New Jersey and nearby areas no kill. While a shelter may be able to avoid killing healthy and treatable animals, it still may not live up to its potential for adopting out cats. On the other hand, a space constrained shelter may kill healthy and treatable cats, but still do a good job adopting animals out.

The tables below compare the number of cats from New Jersey and nearby states each animal shelter should adopt out with the number of cats actually adopted out.

Rescue oriented organizations may look better than they actually are. Many rescue oriented shelters likely pull much easier to adopt cats than the bulk of cats needing to get rescued from local facilities.

Few organizations reached or exceeded their adoption targets. Specifically, only 5 out of 91 shelters met the cat adoption goals computed by the Life Saving Model. Thus, the overwhelming number of New Jersey animal shelters need to step up their adoption efforts.

Several rescue oriented shelters exceeded their adoption targets. Animal Welfare Association exceeded its adoption target by the most of any shelter in terms of total adoptions. This shelter runs reduced and no adoption fee promotions. Animal Welfare Association also waives fees for certain cats who may take longer to adopt out, such as cats who are older or have behavior or health issues. Furthermore, the shelter’s “Best Friends” program allows people who adopt a cat to pay just $25 for a second cat who is 1 year or older. Animal Welfare Association also waives cat adoption fees for active military personnel and veterans in its Pets for Vets program. The shelter also waives adoption fees for senior citizens adopting certain senior pets. Additionally, Animal Welfare Association uses an open adoption process focused on properly matching animals and people rather than an overly judgmental procedure based on black and white rules. To aid its open adoptions process, Animal Welfare Association uses the ASPCA’s Feline-ality program. Animal Welfare Association’s adoption rate increased by 20% and its cat length of stay decreased by 23 days after the shelter implemented the Feline-ality program. Finally, Animal Welfare Association installed perches in their cat enclosures to provide cats more vertical space which keeps the cats happier and more adoptable. Beacon Animal Rescue also exceeded its adoption target and charges a reasonable $75 fee for adult cats and offers military personnel and veterans discounted adoption fees. Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter also exceeded its adoption target by a significant amount. From what I can tell, this shelter was customer friendly and also had a strong cat foster program in 2018. Thus, several rescue oriented shelters exceeded their cat adoption targets and Animal Welfare Association used a variety of innovative strategies to adopt out many cats.

Several animal control shelters exceeded their adoption targets or came close to doing so. St. Hubert’s-Madison adopted out more cats than I targeted the facility to do. This shelter is open seven days a week, including all holidays except Thanksgiving and Christmas, and has a very customer friendly adoption process. Vorhees Animal Orphanage also came close to meeting its adoption goal. The shelter also is open seven days a week, including weekday evenings and weekends (except one Wednesday a month and certain holidays), which makes it convenient for working people to adopt animals. Additionally, Vorhees Animal Orphanage adopts cats out at one PetSmart store and three PetValu locations. Father John’s Animal House also came close to reaching its adoption target. This shelter adopts out cats that are one to six years old for $50 and cats that are six years old and over for $25. Despite not being open many hours, West Milford Animal Shelter almost met its adoption goal. This shelter charges a very reasonable $35 fee for all cats and runs a creative Facebook page called “The Real Cats at West Milford Animal Shelter.” Thus, several animal control shelters exceeded or came close to achieving their cat adoption goals and therefore prove these adoption targets are achievable.

Rescues should focus on pulling animals from Vorhees Animal Orphanage. This shelter’s cat kill rate is too high and its need for rescues greatly exceeds the amount of animals actually pulled from this organization. While some of these cats may be feral and therefore not adoptable, many other cats surely could be rescued from this shelter. Given this shelter is adopting cats out at a good rate, rescues and other other shelters should help this facility out by pulling more cats from Vorhees Animal Orphanage.

Some municipal animal control shelters may be doing a better job with cats than the numbers below indicate. In some cases, municipalities may frown on government run shelters using taxpayer funds to rescue cats from elsewhere (i.e. leaving empty cat cages). My suggestion to these shelters is to find ways to use more of their capacity to expand their lifesaving work to other areas. For example, these shelters should consider taking in animals from other shelters for a fee or even contracting with other municipalities.

Associated Humane Societies performance is particularly disappointing. Specifically, Associated Humane Societies has the physical capacity to significantly reduce the killing of healthy and treatable cats. Associated Humane Societies’ adoption shortfall of 6,306 cats nearly equaled the 6,757 cats who unnecessarily lost their lives in New Jersey animal shelters in 2018. Associated Humane Societies has the funding to reach these adoption targets as the organization took in $7.7 million of revenue for the fiscal year ending 6/30/18. This works out to $777 of revenue per dog and cat I project the shelter should take in per my Life Saving Model. Given many no kill animal control shelters take in significantly less revenue per dog and cat impounded, Associated Humane Societies could achieve these adoption targets and effectively end the killing of healthy and treatable cats in its facilities and in almost all the state’s shelters. Activists wanting to increase life saving in New Jersey should focus on changing Associated Humane Societies’ policies given the lifesaving potential of this organization and its recent dismal performance.

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Adopted 1.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Adopted 2.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Adopted 3

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Adopted 4.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Adopted 5.jpg

Shelters Fail to Use Excess Space to Save Cats

To further examine New Jersey animal shelters’ performance in saving homeless cats, I compared the targeted number of cats each shelter should pull from nearby shelters to the number actually rescued from local facilities. I assume all cats rescued from out of state came from nearby areas, such as Philadelphia and New York City. While some of the out of state rescued cats may have comes from far away areas, I believe this is a small number and does not significantly impact the results.

Virtually all New Jersey animal shelters are failing to rescue the number of cats they should. 84 of the 91 shelters should rescue some cats from other local shelters. In fact, 46 of the 84 shelters with targeted excess capacity failed to rescue even a single cat from other animal shelters. Only three shelters with significant amounts of space to rescue cats from nearby shelters met or exceeded their cat rescue targets. Thus, nearly all New Jersey animal shelters with targeted excess capacity are failing to do their share in ending the killing of healthy and treatable cats.

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Rescued 1

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Rescued 2

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Rescued 3.jpg

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Rescued 4

2018 NJ Shelter Model Cats Rescued 5.jpg

TNR Is Essential, But Should Not Be An Excuse to Do Nothing

TNR must be instituted to end the killing of healthy and treatable cats. While many shelters may potentially come close to or reach a 90% live release rate, feral cats may still be killed. Simply put, New Jersey cannot become a no kill state without TNR becoming the law of the land. The Companion Animal Protection Act (“CAPA”) prevents shelters and municipalities from taking actions to hinder TNR, such as banning feral cat colony caretakers from feeding cats and lending traps out to the public for catching and killing feral cats. Even without an explicit law allowing TNR, the New Jersey Department of Health should encourage municipalities to implement TNR by changing its neutral stance on TNR to an endorsement of the practice. Furthermore, shelters, especially private facilities with animal control contracts, should refuse to take feral cats from places where TNR is prohibited and the shelters cannot place these feral cats as barn cats or send these animals to reputable sanctuaries per recommendations of many national animal welfare groups.

Shelters should not use anti-feral cat laws as an excuse for failing to institute innovative programs. Too many times shelters blame anti-feral cat ordinances for their outrageously high cat kill rates. However, my analysis proves cats are not dying in New Jersey’s shelter system due to too many cats coming in. While TNR certainly would reduce cat intake and make saving lives easier, our state’s shelter system has more than enough space to handle the number of cats that come in. Shelters need to implement key programs, such as foster care, high volume adoptions and vaccination upon intake. Additionally, shelters need to stay open weeknights and weekends when working people can adopt. Similarly, shelters should use innovative marketing, customer friendly open adoption processes, multiple off-site adoption locations, and frequent discounted adoption promotions to quickly move cats into good homes. Furthermore, implementing a program where fearful and aggressive cats are touched gently and spoken to softly likely will significantly reduce the number of cats labeled as “feral” and increase adoptions. Thus, anti-TNR ordinances do not prevent shelters from implementing other life saving policies.

Shelters Do Not Need to Leave Friendly Cats on the Street

Shelters do not need to neuter and release friendly cats or refuse to take these cats in given enough capacity exists within the New Jersey shelter system. In 2013, a group of animal welfare leaders, which included the Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”) and the ASPCA, prepared a white paper stating a shelter should not impound cats if those cats or other cats in the shelter would subsequently be killed. The evidence supporting this policy, such as cats being more likely to find homes on the street than in traditional shelters, is quite strong. Subsequently, many shelters across the nation implemented these policies. However, my analysis shows the entire New Jersey shelter system does have enough space to handle friendly cats. While certain shelters are space constrained and could benefit from refusing to admit healthy and friendly cats, other shelters in the state have more than enough capacity to step in and find these cats homes. Thus, New Jersey shelters do not need to resort to refusing to take in friendly cats or neutering and releasing friendly cats to avoid killing cats provided these shelters work together and follow best practices.

Kitten Nurseries and Ringworm Wards Key to Saving Vulnerable Cats

Orphaned kittens are typically automatically killed in traditional animal shelters due to the time commitment required to care for these animals. Unweaned kittens require bottle feeding as frequently as every 1-2 hours. As a result, kittens not placed into foster care are typically killed in most animal shelters.

Kitten nurseries or bottle baby wards radically increase the save rate for orphaned kittens still requiring milk. While foster care and rescue programs can save unweaned kittens, kitten nurseries are more efficient and make the job easier. Austin Animal Services, which is the animal control shelter in Austin, Texas, killed 1,200 plus kittens a year before Austin Pets Alive created a bottle baby program. Volunteers work in two hour shifts to feed and care for the kittens. Additionally, nursing mothers are pulled from the city shelter and used to help nurse highly vulnerable young kittens who are orphaned. Kittens are put on antibiotics and treated for fleas and worms immediately to help prevent complications from transitioning from breast milk to formula. Austin Pets Alive pulled 100% of unweaned kittens from the city shelter since 2011. Best Friends created a kitten nursery in South Salt Lake City, Utah and saved more than 1,400 kittens from Salt Lake City area shelters in 2016. Thus, kitten nursery programs can save young and vulnerable kittens.

Ringworm ward programs easily save cats with this skin fungus. In traditional animal shelters, cats with ringworm are killed due to the risk that other animals and humans will catch this skin fungus. Austin Pets Alive created a specific “Ringworm Ward” program to treat and adopt out these cats. These cats are treated both topically and orally in an isolated area. After the cats are no longer contagious, the cats are sent to foster homes to complete their treatment and regrow their hair. Austin Pets Alive uses steeply discounted adoption fees of only $15 along with catchy slogans like “Adopt a Fun Guy (Fungi)”, “Lord of the Ringworm”, and “Hairy(less) Potter” to quickly place these cats and open up space for additional cats with ringworm. 100% of cats entering this program are saved. Thus, shelters can save cats with ringworm.

Regional kitten nurseries and ringworm wards are the practical solution to saving these vulnerable cats. Given the New Jersey shelter system has significant excess capacity to care for cats, certain shelters should convert some of that excess space for use as kitten nurseries and ringworm wards. Creating regional centers to care for unweaned kittens and cats with ringworm would allow the programs to run at a large enough scale to work efficiently. Shelters, such as Associated Humane Societies-Popcorn Park, Monmouth SPCA, and St. Hubert’s-Madison appear to have the space and financial resources to implement these programs. Furthermore, the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey (“AWFNJ”) should take the steps needed to create kitten nurseries and ringworm wards in regional centers throughout the state. Surely, the AWFNJ has the connections to convince key decision makers to implement these programs and obtain any necessary funding. Thus, New Jersey shelter leaders must immediately take the steps needed to save the large numbers of treatable kittens and cats with ringworm in our state’s shelters.

Results Require New Jersey Animal Shelters to Take Action

The findings from this analysis mandate New Jersey animal shelters change their ways. While TNR remains a significant issue, most shelters are clearly not taking steps to save large numbers of healthy and treatable cats. Many shelters are not vaccinating upon intake, charging excessive adoption fees, making it too difficult to adopt, not being open when working people can go to shelters, leaving cat enclosures empty, not trying to rehabilitate fearful and aggressive cats and not using barn cat, foster care, kitten nursery and ringworm ward programs. Simply put, too many shelters are not doing what it takes to save lives. With New Jersey’s shelters killing around one in five cats, our state’s shelters are failing these animals.

New Jersey shelters have a cat crisis and it is time for the killing to stop. We have the information and even the blueprints from numerous communities which stopped killing and started saving their cats. It is time the excuses end and action begins. The public is fed up with the killing and demands shelters save their animals. Our state’s animal welfare organizations need to get on board the lifesaving wagon or risk getting run over by it. Which will they choose?

Appendix Life Saving Model Assumptions

The Life Saving Model utilizes the following basic animal shelter population equations to calculate the targeted cat outcomes for each facility:

Daily capacity or population = Daily animal intake x average length of stay

Average length of stay = Daily capacity or population/daily intake

Each shelter’s community cat intake (i.e. owner surrenders, strays, cruelty cases), number of cats returned to owners, and maximum cat capacity were taken from its 2018 “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health. Additionally, I added 7.5% of each shelter’s annual cat intake to account for foster capacity shelters should use based on my discussions with American Pets Alive leadership. Thus, total cat capacity equaled the shelter’s capacity plus foster capacity. You can see the full data set I compiled from these reports here.

  • Community cat intake and cats returned to owners were initially estimated for each month by dividing the annual figures by 12. In order to take into account the extra space in low intake months and reduced space in high intake months, we multiply that number by each month’s percentage of the average month. For example, assume 240 cats were taken in during the year and the average month equals 20 cats (240/12). In July, the cat intake is 120% higher than the average month and we therefore multiply 20 cats by 1.2 to equal 24 cats. If 120 cats were returned to owners during the year, the estimated number of cats returned to owners in July would equal 12 cats (120/12 = 10; 10*1.2). The monthly intake percentages were based off the average of the 2018 cat intake data on New York Animal Care & Control’s and ACCT Philly’s web sites.
  • The estimated number of community cats returned to owners each month are then assumed to stay 5 days on average at shelters based on data from other shelters across the country.
  • The number of community cats euthanized (including animals who died or are missing) is set to equal 8% of intake. 8% is a reasonable standard euthanasia rate to use given other open admission animal shelters, such as Austin Animal Services, equal or exceed this target and New Jersey’s much lower per capita cat intake makes it easier to save lives. The average length of stay for euthanized cats is assumed to equal 8 days. I assume these cats have severe and untreatable health issues and are euthanized immediately after their required 7 day hold period.
  • The average length of stay used for adopted community cats was 42 days. This estimate was roughly halfway between the average cat length of stay figures for a number of no kill animal control shelters. For example, the average length of stay for cats in recent years was 12 days at Texas’s Williamson County Animal Shelter, less than two weeks at Nevada Humane Society 15 days at Montana’s Flathead County Animal Shelter, 24 days at Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society, 32 days at Kansas City Pet Project and 61 days for adopted cats only at New York’s Tompkins County SPCA. While the average length of stay of adopted cats at these shelters other than Tompkins County SPCA may have been slightly higher since this data is for all cats and not just those adopted, the difference is not likely significant given adoptions represent most of the outcomes at these shelters. Unfortunately, I was not able to break down the adoption length of stay figures by age or breed for New Jersey’s shelters like I did in my analysis on dogs due to a lack of detailed cat intake data at New Jersey animal shelters. Upon reviewing cats up for adoption at several New Jersey animal control shelters and a few of the high performing facilities above, I did not see any significant differences in types of cats taken in. In the future, I hope to refine this analysis further.
  • The average length of stay used for community cats adopted out from rescue oriented shelters was 30 days. Rescue oriented animal shelters typically carefully select animals taken into their shelters. Based on the San Francisco’s SPCA’s 22 day and Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s 23 day average length of stay figures reported a number of years ago, I used a shorter length of stay for community cats adopted from New Jersey animal shelters without animal control contracts. I chose 30 days as a conservative estimate.
  • Cats transferred to rescue or other facilities are assumed to stay at shelters 8 days on average based on the assumption strays can’t be released until the 7 day hold period elapses.
  • Community cats not returned to owners or euthanized are initially assumed as adopted for each month outside of kitten season (i.e. November-March). However, if the calculated length of stay exceeds the shelter’s required length of stay, cats are moved from adoption (i.e. with a longer length of stay) to rescue (i.e. shorter length of stay) until the calculated length of stay each month approximately equals the required length of stay.
  • During kitten season (April-October), animal control shelters are assumed to send a certain percentage of cats to rescues even if they have excess space. Due to the large numbers of kittens coming into shelters during these months, I assume shelters will not be able to place all of them into foster homes or a kitten nursery at this time. As a result, I assume animal control shelters will send 10% of their annual community cat intake to rescues based on the shelters’ estimated relative cat intake each month. For example, if a shelter took 100 cats in during the year and August made up 50% of the total cat intake from April to November, 5 cats would go to rescue in August (i.e. 100*10% = 10 cats; 10*50% = 5 cats). I used 10% based off the rescue percentage of cat intake in 2014 (it currently is only 2%) at Kansas City’s KC Pet Project. KC Pet Project is a no kill open admission shelter with an inadequate facility and is a good comparison for some of our state’s run down shelters. Shelters requiring rescue support due to space constraints are assumed to send these additional cats to rescues during kitten season.
  • Shelters are not expected to use the excess space created by fosters taking kittens to rescue and adopt out additional cats. This is based on the assumption that the kittens will return to shelters once old enough to safely stay at the facilities.
  • Required length of stay = Shelter’s reported capacity/adjusted daily intake for the month. Adjusted daily intake for month = Adjusted monthly intake per first bullet above/the number of days in the month.
  • Shelters with excess capacity are assumed to use the extra space to rescue and adopt out cats from other New Jersey animal shelters. Given some of these cats will be young and highly vulnerable kittens, I assume 5% of these rescues will be euthanized for humane reasons. I used 5% based off Austin Pets Alive’s and Austin Humane Society’s weighted average cat euthanasia rate in 2014. These two shelters pull many cats from Austin Animal Services, which is the city’s animal control shelter, and their cat euthanasia rate is a reasonable proxy for the percentage of hopelessly suffering cats rescued from animal control shelters. To the extent all healthy and treatable New Jersey animal shelter cats are saved, I assume additional cats are pulled from nearby states. The average length of stay for rescued and adopted cats is the same as the cats taken in by animal control shelters (i.e. 42 days). Similarly, I used 8 days as the average length of stay for rescued and euthanized cats from other shelters.
  • Each month’s targeted outcomes are added to determine how many cats New Jersey animal shelters should adopt out, send to rescue and rescue from other nearby animal shelters.
  • Space constrained shelters were assumed to adopt out their easiest to adopt animals first until they run out of space. To estimate the average adoption length of stay, I used cat adoption length of stay data from Perth Amboy Animal Shelter from 2014 and the first half of 2015. I broke the adoption length of stay data into 5 groups that each made up 20% of the data. The average adoption length of stay for each of these 5 groups was calculated. The average adoption length of stay of each group was divided by the average length of stay for all of the adopted cats in the Perth Amboy Animal Shelter data set. Those percentages were then multiplied by the average cat adoption length of stay determined in the model above and used to determine the adoption lengths of stay used for space-constrained shelters.
  • The targeted number of cats adopted were capped at 8 cats per 1,000 people in each county. If the model yielded a higher result than this cap, the targeted numbers of cats adopted were equal to this cap. For shelters in these counties (except Passaic County), I calculated the cap at the county level and then reduced the number of cats adopted for the county to equal the cap. I excluded West Milford from Passaic County due the town’s large distance from the population centers in the rest of the county. Each shelter’s percentage of total targeted adoptions in the county from the unmodified model were applied to the the total reduction in the number of cats adopted in the county to yield the targeted numbers of cats adopted in the modified model. Rescued and euthanized cats for these shelters were reduced based on the modified model’s assumption that shelters adopted out and euthanized 95% and 5% of rescued cats.