New York City Council Member Robert Holden to introduce shelter reform legislation that prohibits convenience killing and mandates the programs and services of the No Kill Equation.

This week, I received the exciting news that New York City Council Member Bob Holden has “started the legislative drafting process” for a shelter standards law based on the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), the model shelter reform legislation written by the No Kill Advocacy Center, my organization.

CAPA mandates lifesaving and prohibits practices that cost animals their lives. CAPA makes it illegal for shelters to kill animals if there are empty cages or kennels, if animals can share a cage or kennel with another animal, if a foster home is available, if a rescue group is willing to take the animal, if an animal can be transferred to another shelter, if the animal can be sterilized and released, and more. By eliminating the discretion which allows shelters to kill when readily available alternatives exist, CAPA mandates humane, compassionate, and life-affirming protocols. And it works.

CAPA has already achieved great success in other American communities which have passed it. Passing it to fix the systemic problems that have plagued the Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC) for decades is the correct approach. It is long past time that the people of NYC mandate, by law, how their shelters operate to ensure that innovative, life-affirming, and compassionate options replace convenience killing.

We understand that Council Member Holden will also be lobbying other members of the City Council on behalf of the bill. All of this is most welcome and exciting news, and we thank the Council Member for his decision to pursue meaningful reform.

Yet the devil, as they say, is in the details, and it is up to the animal lovers of NYC to mobilize to ensure the integrity of the bill and its ultimate passage. Knowledge, as the saying goes, is power, so below is a quick Q and A about CAPA, its prospects for success, and what the animal lovers of NYC must be on guard against to make sure the final version of the bill does not get watered down and that the bill is not derailed as corrupt forces in NYC will no doubt lobby to do.

Where has CAPA worked?

CAPA has a proven track record of success in those communities throughout the United States which have already passed it. Similar laws in other states save nearly 50,000 animals a year, have reduced killing statewide by over 90% in some categories of animals, have led to save rates well above 95%, and have cut millions of dollars in wasteful spending. It is responsible for placement rates of 99% in both Austin, Texas and Muncie, Indiana. CAPA was also passed in the state of Delaware. The Delaware Office of Animal Welfare, the state agency that oversees Delaware’s shelters, writes that the law “has improved the quality of care animals receive in shelters and has saved thousands of animals that would have otherwise been euthanized due to outdated policies and practices. Prior to this law, healthy dogs and cats were euthanized very quickly, sometimes while their owners were looking for them.”

Who will oppose CAPA?

Almost certainly, the ASPCA, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals, ACC which will resist the extra work of lifesaving, and the Health Department which does not want any oversight. Best Friends is likely to oppose it, too, as they have betrayed animals time and again in opposing legislation of this kind in New York State.

Why would such groups oppose this legislation?

Despite what their names suggest, these organizations often do not act as representatives of the animals in shelters, but of their friends and colleagues running those shelters who do not want limits upon their discretion or to be held accountable. The No Kill Advocacy Center’s guide “What’s In a Name?,” explores this troubling behavior in greater detail.

Who will be lobbying on behalf of CAPA?

As we have done in other communities which have sought CAPA-type legislation, the No Kill Advocacy Center will work with Council Member Holden on the drafting of the legislation, will lobby support for the bill from animal lovers and the rescue community, and will hold any organization which seeks to undermine CAPA to account. (To support our efforts to pass CAPA in NYC and elsewhere, you can donate by clicking here. )

As the birthplace of the American humane movement — a story I tell in Redemption (my documentary which is available for free streaming by clicking here) — NYC had a significant head start on the rest of the nation in ensuring that the dogs, cats, and other animal companions of the city find in their shelters a new beginning, rather than the end of the line. They ultimately failed to do so. But the final chapters of that story are not yet written.

The animals and people of New York deserve better, and the passage of CAPA would do much to recapture this noble legacy, and make the city a leader once again.

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