The killing of Lila by the pound has been called “a pet owners worst nightmare — a lost animal winds up in a shelter and killed in under 24 hours.”

The New York City Comptroller’s Office released its audit of the city pound system as part of its oversight to ensure “compliance with the requirements of its contract with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) regarding shelter conditions and animal care.”

The audit found, “unacceptable humidity levels,” cats, rabbits and other small animals exposed to the sounds of barking dogs, expired food, expired medication, failure to vaccinate, “as well as a high rate of respiratory infections.” In some cases, it found dirty kennels and lack of clean water to drink. But conditions at the pound are so much worse than the audit report suggests. Unfortunately, the auditors did not look at those conditions. Why?

First, because the Comptroller bought into the fiction that the agency is a non-profit independent of the DOHMH and therefore subject to independent oversight. That is not true. Specifically, it was created by the Giuliani administration, has a singular mission of running animal control for the City, operates under city-owned and controlled facilities, and has a governing structure dominated by the City. While ACC was formed as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, it operates as a de facto government agency; it is controlled by the Mayor and Health Commissioner. In other words, the pound oversees itself, a recipe for corruption. For example, escalating pneumonia and expired medications were also found in a 2015 audit and have still not been corrected. There is little reason to believe they will now be in light of the agency giving itself a 34-year contract worth over $1 billion dollars ($1,487,966,471) to continue running the pound under current practices.

Second, given the contract’s indifference to animal care and shelter conditions, “compliance with the requirements of its contract” does not mean animals are not neglected, do not suffer, or aren’t needlessly killed. They are neglected, they do suffer, and they are killed. But given that the contract does not speak to these issues, the agency can be found in “compliance with the requirements of its contract” regardless. And given that auditors only looked to see if the agency followed its own protocols, minimal protocols require only minimal adherence. Yet, pound managers and staff failed even here.

Nowhere, however, does the Comptroller look or address evidence of:

Take Lila.

The killing of Lila by the pound has been called “a pet owners worst nightmare — a lost animal winds up in a shelter and killed in under 24 hours.” Lila had a microchip with her family’s address. The family lives five minutes from the New York City pound. They adopted Lila from that pound 16 years earlier. The animal control officer drove by their house on the way to having Lila killed. The pound violated the stray holding period required by law by killing her. The family came to claim her, only to be told she was already dead.

Lila is not alone. At the NYC pound, being an older dog is a death sentence. NJ Animal Observer did a comprehensive breakdown of NYC pound statistics. Here’s what the data showed: Like Lila, most senior dogs (58%) are killed, roughly one out of every two. Similarly, 25% of large dogs are killed. That’s one in four. Of dogs killed, 62% were killed immediately (on the day they entered the pound). Three out of four (76%) were killed in five days or less. While the numbers are slightly better for cats, they weren’t spared the needle either. The average length of stay for cats was less than two days. Many lost their lives the day they came in. They weren’t even offered a chance at reclaim, adoption, or rescue.

One of the nation’s most cosmopolitan, sophisticated, wealthy, and animal-loving cities in the nation has a barbaric, regressive pound and yet the Comptroller is recommending “sound mitigation mats” and other minor improvements. It’s a travesty. And while he also recommends fresh food, clean water, vaccinations, and efficacious medications, the pound is in need of a much broader overhaul that continues to go completely unaddressed.

The latest audit findings, and the continued evidence of much deeper animal care deficits, underscore the need for comprehensive shelter reform legislation. The Companion Animal Protection Act would require New York City’s pound, as well as those throughout the state, to house animals humanely. It would require them to rehabilitate animals who need it. And it would mandate robust programs like foster care, rescue partnerships, and adoption. In short, it would remove the discretion that allows those who run the New York City pound to avoid doing what is in the best interests of animals and kill them needlessly.

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