By Steve Gruber and Elyise Hallenbeck
Since 2003, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals (the Alliance) has been on a mission to save the lives of NYC’s most at-risk homeless shelter animals. The Alliance has provided strategic services, resources, and programs that have increased the live release rate at Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC).
Working in partnership with NYC’s municipal shelter system, Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), and approximately 150 other Alliance Participating Organizations (APOs) comprised of shelters and rescues, the Alliance has dramatically increased adoptions community-wide, strengthened the operations of the Alliance partner shelters and rescue groups, and educated the public about trap-neuter-return (TNR) and community cats. The collective efforts of community collaboration have yielded impressive results over the past 14 years, increasing NYC’s live release rate from under 25% in 2003 to over 90% in 2017.
Key Programs Save Lives
Today, the Alliance remains committed to its original mission—to transform New York City into a community where no healthy or treatable dogs and cats are killed merely because they do not have homes. Thanks to its key programs, which remain the core focus of its work, the Alliance has saved more than 320,000 animals since 2003.
Wheels of Hope
Operating seven days a week, nearly 365 days a year, Wheels of Hope is the only animal transportation program in NYC that transports animals free of charge for shelters and rescue groups within a seven-hour radius of NYC. The program serves hundreds of rescues and shelters, and moves over 12,000 animals annually. Since 2005, the Wheels of Hope have carried nearly 120,000 animals on their first steps to new lives and families.
The importance of this program is enormous—dogs and cats are moved out of their cages at ACC more quickly, increasing the chances that these animals will remain healthy and quickly adopted. Moreover, senior pets and fragile young kittens are removed from the shelter quickly, lessening the chance that their delicate immune systems will cause them to become sick, and potentially prohibit them from being accepted into a rescue.
The Wheels of Hope transport program also helps Certified TNR Caretakers (trained by our NYC Feral Cat Initiative) by providing free transport for trapped cats to and from their spay/neuter appointments, and free trap loan delivery. As a result, these efforts help put a stop to the endless breeding cycle of community cats, thereby reducing feline intake at the shelters.
NYC Feral Cat Initiative
The NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI) is an Alliance program that is committed to solving NYC’s feral and stray community cat overpopulation crisis through the humane, non-lethal method of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
Tens of thousands of street cats live in the alleyways, backyards, and outdoor spaces of New York City. Because these cats are not socialized to humans, they are not candidates for adoption, and most adult feral cats taken in at city shelters are euthanized. In addition, the breeding of these street cats results in more kittens entering the shelters—taking away homes that would otherwise go to the adult cats already there.
The NYCFCI supports the efforts of organizations and individuals who work to help stray and feral community cats through TNR, ensuring stray and feral cats are humanely trapped, evaluated, given a rabies vaccination, left eartipped, spayed or neutered by a veterinarian, and then returned to the familiar habitat of their original colony. Tame cats and kittens young enough to be socialized are removed for adoption placement in permanent indoor homes.
The NYCFCI provides a range of free services and resources to TNR caretakers and community cats. One of the most impactful services involves hosting between 25-30 TNR Certification Workshops annually, in addition to 12-15 Strength Training Workshops, focusing on specialized skills, including kitten bottle feeding, kitten taming, shelter building, infection control, neighbor relations, becoming a 501(c)(3), and more.
The NYCFCI also provides advice to the general public and TNR caretakers by phone and e-mail; feline educational information via its website and printed materials; community outreach, including presentations and event tabling; free equipment loans; transport of traps to and from TNR sites and transport of cats to and from spay/neuter appointments; free spay and neuter; cat food and cat shelter giveaways; and hands-on TNR assistance.
Mega Adoption Events
The Alliance presents several large adoption events each year, all with the common goal of finding homes for New York City’s homeless cats, dogs, and rabbits. In addition to offering pet adoptions, many of these events also feature low-cost microchipping, dog licensing, and other services that promote responsible pet ownership. All of these events are family-friendly and fun.
Adoptapalooza, NYC’s original mega pet adoption event and the Alliance’s signature event—presented in partnership with the Petco Foundation, has become a NYC icon, bringing together 300-400 dogs, cats, and rabbits for adoption from up to 40 different rescue groups and shelters, all in a single location. Each Adoptapalooza features additional activities, which might include advice on pet care, training, and grooming; product giveaways; free microchipping; dog licensing; pet photographers; dog performances; music, or other fun activities for the whole family—two- and four-legged alike. The Alliance presents a spring and fall Adoptapalooza in Manhattan’s Union Square Park, and a summer edition in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
Other seasonal adoption events, including cat-and-rabbit focused Whiskers in Wonderland and Bark in the Park, and others, round out the calendar of family-centric adoption events. Event dates and locations can be found at www.AnimalAllianceNYC.org.
How Can You Help NYC’s Homeless Animals?
The Alliance’s programming has changed NYC into a markedly more humane community for homeless animals where more than 9 out of 10 animals are saved, but there is still more work to do. As the Alliance continues to strengthen its proven programs to maintain the impressive progress they’ve made, they need your help.
Whether you can volunteer, donate, adopt, or just help share their mission, everyone can do something to save NYC’s homeless animals. For more information about how you can help, visit the Alliance at www.AnimalAllianceNYC.org.