Osa sees stray dogs almost every day on her drive to work at a customs brokerage house in
Jamaica. Late last year, Osa was leaving work early and noticed a dog lying in a pool of
blood on the street outside her office. The groaning animal had been hit by a truck.
Osa called the Queens Center for Animal Care
and Control (CACC) around 3:40 p.m. The operator on the phone told her that a van was on
its way to pick up the dog. But an hour went by, and no one showed up.
"So I called again," said Osa.
"But they were closed." The answering machine said to report emergencies to the
police, so she did. Half an hour later, the police arrived, put the dog in the trunk, and
said they were taking the animal to Manhattan.
"Why Manhattan?" Osa asked. The
cops replied that the Queens shelter closes at 4 p.m. and that all after-hours animals go
to Manhattan. The Manhattan CACC reported the animal dead on arrival.
The Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC)
is an organization contracted by the citys Department of Health to deal with animal
problems throughout the city everything from rabid raccoons to wounded seagulls to
house pets. Until 1995, this role was filled by the American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
But while the CACC has facilities in all five
boroughs, the Queens site is only a drop-off center. Located at the intersection of the
Long Island Expressway and Queens Boulevard, the shelter is hardly visible from the road.
Below street level a sign reads "Save a LifeAdopt a NYC Shelter Animal."
Inside, almost every cage is empty. In mid-January, one black cat and one white dog with
matted hair are up for adoption.
Lotto was put to sleep by the CACC before his owners
could locate the lost dog.
"I fail to understand how the CACC
can promote adoption when the vast majority of New Yorkers do not even know such
facilities exist," commented Assemblyman Michael Cohen.
Animals found in Queens are more often than
not are sent across the river to Manhattan, where they are more often than not put to
"To send a dog to the CACC is a death
sentence," said Amy Goldman, an animal rescuer in Fresh Meadows. "Any dog would
be better off having a gun put to its head, to put it out of its misery."
Maspeth resident Pat Hoppe agrees. On Friday,
January 8, while taking her dog Lotto out for an afternoon walk, the dog broke away and
bolted down the street. Hoppe searched the Maspeth neighborhood and found no trace of
Lotto. Hoppe later called the Queens CACC to see if her dog had been picked up. Since
Lotto still had her collar, identification tag, and leash on, Hoppe assumed it would be
easy to find her dog.
The man at the Queens CACC shelter told Hoppe
that Lotto was not at the Queens shelterif she had been picked up at all she would
be at the Manhattan or Brooklyn shelter. "He told me no animals stay in Queens. So we
spent Saturday morning putting up signs and then headed to the Manhattan shelter,"
said Hoppe. The dog owner went through the entire shelter including the euthanasia
wardwhere animals are put to sleep. "We were too lateshe had already been
put down." Lotto was killed in Manhattan on Saturday, January 9th at 1 p.m.just
24 hours after she had escaped her owners.
The CACC maintains that Lotto arrived at the
shelter without a collar or identificationand that she was suffering as a result of
being hit by a car. The agency said Hoppe was unable to indentify her dog at the Manhattan
Gary Kaskel, animal activist and co-chair of
the Shelter Reform Action Committee, says dogs being shipped from borough to borough
continually get lost in the CACC system. "There are constant mix-ups and inconsistent
record keeping. This is a common problem and animals often fall through the cracks."
Unfortunately, say animal activists, there
are few viable alternatives. "The private shelters are all filled up," said
Goldman. "They tell you there is an eight month waiting period and that you should
find a home on your own." Goldman added that Blackie, the dog she found this winter,
is being flown to a rescue group in Vermont. "There is nothing available in
Queens," she said.
Private animal shelters, such as
Flushings Animal Haven or the well-known North Shore Animal League in Long Island,
have the privilege of rejecting unwanted animals. This is how private shelters maintain
their no kill policies; once the shelter fills up they stop accepting animals. This is a
luxury the CACC does not have. The agency is responsible for any animal that comes its
The Queens location of the Center for Animal Care and Control
(CACC) currently has only two animals up for adoption, the rest get shipped to the much
larger Manhattan site, where most are put to sleep.
Tribune Photo By Ira Cohen
Queens animal activists believe the
CACC provides the borough with inadequate service. Marlene Blanco, who runs a small
no-kill shelter in Bayside, said "The CACC doesnt spend much of their money on
the animals. The Queens location is bad and so are the hours."
In 1998, the Humane Society of the United
States was commissioned by the CACC to evaluate its operations. The report found the
Queens shelter to be one of the worst. The Humane Society wrote: "The Bronx and
Queens facilities, both store-front adoption sites, present another complex set of
problems... For example, the Queens facility is tucked away on a service road, below
The solution, according to a spokesperson for
the CACC is the creation of a larger shelter in Queens.
Borough President Claire Shulman says that
she has been asking for a full-service animal shelter for nearly a decade. "We showed
them sites last year," said Shulman spokesman Dan Andrews. "Since then we
havent heard anything. There is no evidence that anything is happening."
"There has been talk of a new shelter
for some time," said Councilman John Sabini. "They were considering a possible
site in Elmhurst, then one in Rego Park, but I havent heard anything in quite some
"We need a proper animal shelter,"
said State Senator Serphin Maltese. "Queens county is such a large county and an
animal shelter is an essential service for the borough."
In fact, the city slated $4 million for the
purpose of building a Queens shelter in the 1999 budget, but this money has not been put
The CACC maintains that a 30,000 square feet
Queens shelter is in the works. "But we dont have any plans," said CACC
spokesman Kyle Burkhart. "There are no designs or architectural drawings. Right now
the Manhattan site is more of a priority."
However, if the money remains unused after
June, the $4 million could become part of the citys budget surplus, and be
reallocated to another project, or rolled over into the fiscal year 2000 budget.
According to a spokesperson for the City
Council, $2.3 million is slated to be rolled over to next years budget, meaning that
the shelter has lost $1.7 million as a result of inaction.
At the same time, the Manhattan
shelters $4 million renovation begins this summer. In the Brooklyn shelter, the
shelters $3.5 million face-lift is in its last of three phases.
Some City Council Members say they do not
approve of putting more money into the CACC.
"The problem is that no one is in
control at the CACC," added City Council member Kathryn Freed. "Its really
like throwing money away. They dont do anything well except kill animals. Its
Neither the Mayors office, the Borough Presidents
Office, the City Council, the Dept. of Health or the CACC were willing to comment as to
why the money had not been used or whether or not a Queens shelter would ever be built.