Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Slow Improvement Seen in Regulation of Carriage Horses in NYC

New York Times, City Room
September 21, 2009
Jennifer Lee

City oversight over horse-drawn carriages has improved since an audit two years ago by the city comptroller’s office, but the two agencies that oversee the business have acted too slowly in putting reforms into effect, a new report has found.
The new report, from the office of Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., is critical of the two agencies: the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which is responsible for the well-being of the animals, and the Department of Consumer Affairs, which licenses the horses, drivers, carriages and stables.
In the new assessment, the comptroller’s office found that the two departments implemented 7 of the 11 recommendations made in the 2007 audit, including a key one that to create an advisory board first proposed two decades earlier.
However, it found that the Health Department had acting too slowly on the recommendations made by the advisory board and for failing to find new ways, other than tagging, to identify horses. Effective identification is considered important in keeping track of the horses and ensuring their safety.
The horse-drawn carriage business, while modest in its size, has generated fervent protests. The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages wants the business to be outlawed in New York City, as it has been in other metropolitan areas around the world. A 2008 documentary, “Blinders,” which some people criticized as being selective in its use of evidence, documented some of the problems in the business.
Fueling their arguments is the continual drumbeat of accidents, including one over the weekend, in which a horse-drawn carriage and a taxi collided on the Upper East Side when the cabdriver reportedly suffered a seizure.
The new report did find signs of progress since the last audit. For well over a year, for example, the Department of Consumer Affairs has completed the required inspections of every carriage on schedule. There are currently about 200 licensed horses, 280 licensed drivers and 70 licensed carriages. Nearly all of them operate in or around Central Park.
One of the ongoing issues is how a method other than tag numbers can be used to identify working horses. The 2007 audit found a startling inconsistency: the paperwork for at least 57 carriage horses described different animals from year to year, including changes in color and sex, while the license numbers did not change. The advisory board recommended the use of microchips, a practice that has been adopted in other cities.
However, the Health Department responded that the main problem is a requirement in the city’s administrative code that horses to be branded on their hooves. Until that is changed, the department said, the city cannot being requiring the use of microchips to identify the horses.
The Health Department said on Monday that its commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, was “following up on the work of his predecessor,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, and that Dr. Farley had “received the recommendations of the Rental Horse Licensing and Protection Advisory Board and is reviewing” them.
Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, said, “The industry has always been committed to implementing stronger measures to ensure the safety of our drivers, horses and passengers. We appreciate the Mayor’s office intensive efforts over the last two years to review all operations and issues and look forward to real improvements being implemented soon.
However, animal-rights activists said nothing short of a ban would be sufficient.
Dan Mathews, a senior vice president at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is part of the coalition to ban the carriages, said in a statement:
"The comptroller’s audit shows that the city is incapable of even addressing the ongoing problems with the carriage horse trade, much less enforce the weak regulations that exist. After 25 years the city is still trying to figure out how to identify horses properly so that drivers don’t illegally double-shift them. They don’t even touch on other issues, such as compelling drivers to keep the horses in stables when freezing weather or violent storms are forecast, or to document the many accidents involving horses that don’t make news. We hope this report convinces the city to go the way of Paris, London, Toronto and Beijing and conclude that big city traffic and easily spooked large animals don’t mix. The horse-drawn carriages need to be banned outright."

Friday, September 4, 2009

FAQs for Animal Adoption

FAQs of Pet Adoption...
This Fall there are an impressive amount of adoption events as we near New York Week for the Animals, Halloween, and more holidays. With that in mind, there are some things that we should remember as we look to save a life and adopt our new best friend:

What is required to complete adoption of my new furry family member?
Most shelters and rescues will require the following:
Proof of identification Reference(s) Payment - adoption fees vary and are essential in helping shelters cover care and medical costs. Proof of pet allowance in apartment buildings may be required as well.

I have allergies and can only tolerate specific types of dogs / cats. How do I still adopt?
The best solution to situations of allergies is to speak with a medical doctor as well as a veterinarian to find out exactly the types of animals you can and can’t be around. There are myriad pure breed rescue groups with the breed of dog that will not trigger your allergies, but you must be patient in searching for the right animal in your area rescue group that fits with your needs. If you are allergic to all cats and dogs, you may be able to take certain types of allergy medications that will allow you to live with a new pet without issue. Consult a doctor and a veterinarian to be sure.

How do I know what organization to adopt from?
Just like with any business, there are certain standards that experienced and successful rescue groups and shelters abide by. Be sure the organization you are adopting from charges an adoption fee which covers vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, and microchip for dogs (sometimes for cats too). You should speak with an individual that can be candid about the animals you’re interested in and also about the organization. Feel free to ask questions too, so that you feel assured of your decision and the animal you match with.

Does the city shelter euthanize animals?
Yes. New York City Animal Care and Control shelters are required by the City of New York to take in every animal that is brought in or relinquished to them. This includes exotic and farm animals, as well as all shapes and sizes of cats, dogs, and rabbits. Occasionally Animal Control officers will pick up stray animals, but they will not respond to calls about feral cats or requests to pick up stray dogs or cats. The Animal Care and Control shelters have too many animals than kennels, foster or adoptive homes, therefore, they must put animals to sleep in order to accommodate the flooding of animals they experience every day. It is a sad reality – but you can do your part by adopting, fostering, and encouraging others to do the same. Remember – ADOPTION IS THE ONLY OPTION!

What is the process?
A reputable, reliable rescue or shelter organization will have an adoption application and adoption fee, which allows them to screen people and ensure their animals are going into loving, safe homes – and will not fall into the wrong hands. The adoption application and the adoption usually do not take place on the same day, as adoption reps must read the applications and check references first before letting an animal out of their hands for good.

Why so many questions? I’d make a great pet parent!
You will probably be asked a lot of questions, but that is a good thing! All involved need to make sure the new home is a sure thing, not a whimsical thought that will change the day after Fluffy or Scruffy come home. Remember, you may be a pillar of your community, but not everyone is. Think of it as a job interview. Are you the right fit for Max or Maxine?

Some questions may include (in random order): (1) where do you work? what are your work hours?, (2) do you have screens in your windows?, (3) can you afford a standard vet visit, which can add up to hundreds of dollars?, (4) will you get pet insurance? are you interested in more information about pet insurance?, (5) what will you feed the animal?, (6) how many times a day will you walk the dog?, (6) will you or a walker walk the dog?, (7) do you have pets?, (8) do you have a spouse or roommate?.

Some agreements may include:

-no declawing of cats

-return of animal ONLY to adoption/rescue group; do not give to other shelter or organization.

The transaction of adoption holds no guarantees, but the steps along the way greatly increase the chances of a positive and forever rewarding experience. The better you understand the care with which a good rescue group places their animals and the importance of it, the better equipped you will be to bring a new companion animal into your home and your life.

Why do they have to visit my home?
A good organization will care where their rescued animals are going to live, so some may ask to do a home check. Don’t be offended! It’s only for their liability standards and peace of mind and for the safety of all the animals and the people who want to adopt them. While your home may be a great place for a dog and/or cat to live, another’s may not be, and the only way for the rescue group to know the difference is to ask a lot of questions and, often, see the home themselves.

Why such a laborious process? I want to bring Fido home today!
All great things are worth the wait. Same-day adoptions are rare and even frowned upon in the rescue community. Adopter and adoptee want to avoid the pitfalls of the “impulse buy”, which can result in a bad experience and a return of the animal – this takes up time and energy on everyone’s part and ultimately leads to a sad outcome for the animal. If a person is truly committed, they will follow the adoption process and wait until their new best friend is ready to come home.

I just got home and things aren’t going well. What do I do?
Just like with humans, animals require space and time to adjust to major life changes. Some shelter experiences are very harsh for animals, and they may express their confusion and apprehension in odd ways. It’s no one’s fault – and it’s completely normal. Give your new pet at least 48 hours to adjust fully before making a real assessment of how things are going.
The adoption rep should give you advice on animal care and provide a contact name, phone number/email address that you can use for questions or concerns.

What is fostering? How do I do it?
Fostering is one of the best ways you can help animals and those who work tirelessly for them. By giving a homeless animal a temporary place to live, you are committing to the care of the animal but understanding that the animal is still up for adoption and will be placed in their forever home at some point. The length of fostering varies depending on the needs of the animal and the rescue group, so be sure you know what will work for you and what you can commit to. While fostering, you can take pictures and give updates to the rescue group so they can post it on an animal adoption portal such as petfinder.com or adopt-a-pet.com. You may also be required to bring the animal to adoption events, so be sure to discuss that and all other details before you commit to fostering.

I just adopted my new pet, and I love her! But I want to continue to help. What can I do?
Congratulations. You’ve just made a huge difference in the lives of, not just your new furry family member, but of the people who rescue and care for homeless animals. Plus, by being another example of the rewards and virtues of pet adoption, you have helped the animals still awaiting homes by showing those around you how awesome adoption truly is.

Here’s what else you can do:
Send in your story. The organization you adopted from can post online or in a newsletter their happy endings which encourage more people to adopt and also keep everyone motivated in the mission to save animals’ lives.
Volunteer. If you like manual labor, get on over to a shelter, because they want YOU! Cat cages need cleaning, dogs need walking, and all the animals need fresh food and water multiple times a day. You can also write accounts and anecdotes about your favorite animals. The shelter can post them so potential adopters can learn a little more about the individual animals needing homes.
If you have special skills such as writing, marketing, fundraising, design, photography, event planning, etc., inquire about joining a committee that can utilize such skills.

Check out
http://www.animalalliancenyc.org/ for lists of rescue groups, including pure bred dog and cat rescue groups, rabbit and reptile rescue groups, and bird rescue groups in the area.

See http://www.newyorktails.com/ for a COMPLETE list of Halloween pet events in New York City.