Big Changes For New York City Shelters Means More Animals Finding Forever Homes

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 23, 2016

The non-profit Animal Care Centers of NYC has vastly improved the euthanasia and adoption rates of its homeless animals in recent years, though there is still much work to be done.

The Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island shelters, which the NYC ACC overlooks, have implemented major changes. These efforts have resulted in 47% fewer dog and cat deaths since 2003, according to the New York Times. Adoptions have risen 17% on that front, as well.


New York City mandates that these shelters accept any and all animals that walk through their doors. That means making space they don’t have and often facing medical expenses that are difficult or impossible to cover. Manhattanite and chairman of the Health Committee Corey Johnson says the shelters try to “do the right thing” given the circumstances, but that they are “extremely underfunded and don’t have the right facilities.”


Among several new reforms, admissions counselors are available at each location to encourage fewer pet surrenders. By providing owners with options they may never know they had—such as medical grants for veterinary care, affordable boarding, and behavioral or training advice—they are saving animals’ lives and pet owners from the devastation of losing a family member.

Within the past two years, the counselors have ensured that roughly 1,700 pets remained with their humans.


The shelters have also begun using off-site mobile adoption centers to bring homeless pets to potential adopters. More than 700 dogs and cats found their forever homes this way in 2015.

Unfortunately, dogs in the shelter environment sometimes drive families away due to their over-exuberance within kennel walls. Because there are few outlets for their pent-up energy, many pups may not “show” well indoors. This is where puppy playgroups come in.


Started in 2014 in NYC, the playgroups are essentially a highly structured “recess” for dogs. Canines that tolerate the company of other dogs are free to roam off-leash in an enclosed area, always under the supervision of an “enrichment facilitator,” spray bottle in hand. The dogs learn how to properly interact with other dogs, burn off some of that energy, and return to their “rooms” a bit more rested.


Exercise helps lower their stress levels, and tired dogs are happy dogs—especially when it comes time to put their best face forward.


Since establishing a $13 million budget (up from $7 million prior to 2007), the NYC ACC has also been working hard to provide low-cost resources to pets and their families. Low and no-cost vaccine clinics, assistance with spay/neuter services, free training classes, and a pet food pantry with free microchipping are just a few available options.

rocky road

Catering to areas that need it most enable shelters to take in fewer surrenders, spread word of the possibilities of affordable pet care, and ultimately save the lives of pets who, sadly, are given up and euthanized all too often.

While a lack of space and funds are difficult problems to grapple, there is much to look forward to. Brand new full-service shelters are in the works for the Bronx and Queens, in addition to much-needed upgrades in the existing locations. Close quarters and the “stubbornness of contagion” means disease often goes unnoticed in healthy animals who share the same space.


Executive director of the ACC Risa Weinstock informs New York Daily News:

Brooklyn will get a new roof, new HVAC system and a lot of new construction. […] It will be a better, healthier environment.

Rescues (who are responsible for more than 50% of adoptions out of these facilities) sometimes struggle to cover veterinary costs for animals who arrive healthy and suddenly become ill. Christopher Mancuso of Staten Island Hope Animal Rescue tells the New York Post:

By building facilities in all the boroughs, […] that will give them more space to isolate the sicker ones and the animals will come out of there healthier.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the dogs and cats of New York City deserve the chance to live happy, healthy lives, and to do so in the arms of people who love them.


From a long-time New Yorker, animal lover, and mom to three Pit Bulls who shared this story with me:

I got all teary reading it… happy teary. You can’t even imagine what it was like going into any of those shelters a few years ago. So glad things are turning around. They still have a long way to go, but major progress.

Note: Every dog pictured in this article is waiting for a family at one of the three NYC ACC shelters. For more info on these wonderful pups, simply click the photo credit below each image. They can’t wait to meet you!

H/t New York Times, Featured Image via Zeus/ACC Manhattan

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 23, 2016

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