NYC Animal Care Center (NYCACC)
326 East 110th Street (between 1st and 2nd Aves.)
New York, NY 10029
NEW YORK – About 60 blocks north of Times Square, a small waiting room inside a Manhattan animal shelter could be the crossroads of the canine world. Shouts of “Dog!” pepper the air as employees and volunteers walking dogs pass one another on a hot, humid morning in July.
The Manhattan shelter, at 326 East 110th Street in East Harlem, is part of a network that has been working hard to improve and repair its image as an animal kill house, even dropping “Control” from its name in 2015 and becoming instead “Animal Care Centers of NYC.”
Built in the early 1990s, the Manhattan ACC branch has been operated by a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation under contract with the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since 1995. Now one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the country, NYC ACC also runs city shelters in Brooklyn and Staten Island, as well as admissions centers in the Bronx and Queens.
Under a new $1.4 billion deal reached with the health department at the end of 2018, ACC will continue to operate the city’s shelters – including new shelters set to be built in the Bronx and Queens – through 2052.
Describing its operations in the most recent federal tax filing publicly available (2017-2018), ACC says it has “an agreement with the City of New York to be an open-admissions organization, which means it never turns away any homeless, abandoned, injured or sick animals in need of help, including cats, dogs, rabbits, small mammals, reptiles, birds, farm animals and wildlife.”
By The Numbers
ACC is led by a 13-member board of directors and officers. The non-profit has 15 people working in the administrative offices and 265 full-time employees who work among the two admissions centers and three shelters, which have a total capacity of about 500 animals, making the staff-to-animals ratio about 1 to 1.89.
The full-time staff includes five certified trainers, who work in the shelters and meet individuals and their dogs at local parks. The veterinary services department – one of ACC’s largest – boasts 12 full-time veterinarians. About 500 people volunteer throughout the system.
According to ACC’s 990 tax filing for 2017-2018, the organization reported operating revenue of $19,735,967 and operating expenses of $19,239,689, leaving a surplus of $496,278. The previous year ACC showed an operating loss of $224,580. It also reported net assets, including buildings, land and equipment, of $1,995,245.
Data for the three shelters posted on the ACC website indicate that 7,356 dogs entered ACC custody in 2018. Of those dogs, 2,639 were adopted, 2,792 were transferred to animal rescue organizations, 1,274 were returned to their owners, 24 died or were lost in shelter care, and 669 were euthanized.
Owner-requested euthanasias – totaling 1,016 in 2018 – are not factored into ACC’s live release rate of 92.5 percent for all animals, but they are reported and The Canine Review does factor these euthanasias. TCR’s live release rates are coming soon.
Since 2004, ACC has made its data available on its website, updating the numbers each month. “We’re proud of our statistics,” said Katy Hansen, who has been ACC’s director of marketing and communications since 2014. “But we were publishing it even when we weren’t as proud. We want to have an open and honest dialogue with the citizens of New York. They deserve to know. It’s their taxpayer money.”
ACC struggles with overcrowding and public displeasure about euthanasia. Some negative perceptions of the shelter have been hard to overcome:
Hansen acknowledged that the Manhattan shelter is not state of the art. When it was built in the early 1990s before ACC was involved, each dog taken in was held for a specific, limited number of days. If it was not recovered by the owner or adopted before the clock ran out, the dog was euthanized. So the building was not meant to house animals for extended periods of time. Now the emphasis is on limiting the number of euthanasias and finding homes for as many animals as possible, she said. Euthanasia decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
In July 2019, a local New York City television station, WPIX 11, reported on overcrowding in the shelters, “Overcrowding at NYC’s Animal Care Centers: It’s Like a Tidal Wave.” The story was reported after ACC posted on social media an open letter to the people of New York stating that a large number of animal surrenders had put the three shelters over capacity, with about 630 total animals. ACC, which set up pop-up crates in hallways and offices to accommodate some of the overflow, was asking the community for help.
The letter said: “We have done some exciting things to get animals out of the shelter. Our BoroughBreak and StrayCation programs have been met with overwhelming success and support and our New Hope adoption partners have repeatedly stepped up to the plate, pulling as many pets as they can, but we need more New Yorkers to help. The goal is to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible, for as long as possible until the wave of intakes subsides.”
The New York City blog Gothamist published a story in June 2019 about ACC’s “kill lists”: “Three times a week, ACC releases lists of cats and dogs it has classified as ‘at risk for euthanasia.’ Some have treatable illnesses they didn’t have when they entered the shelter; others have been judged by ACC as ‘aggressive.’ Animals posted on Tuesday evenings are scheduled to die that Thursday at noon. Those on the Thursday night list have until noon on Saturday….”
The decision to put an animal on the “at risk” is made on an individual basis, Hansen said. In addition, the shelter staff works to enhance the lives of the dogs with upgrades to the shelter and programs that provide opportunities for dogs to socialize.
Two years ago, a donation from the Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Foundation and money raised from ACC’s 2014 New York’s Kindest Gala transformed the shelter’s sparse backyard into a dog playground on artificial turf with new equipment and chain-link fencing to create four separate runs for staff and volunteers to conduct play groups for the dogs.
Hansen said ACC was one of the first municipal shelters in the country to implement “Dogs Playing for Life,” a program that promotes the incorporation of play groups at shelters “to provide enrichment through play to every dog, every day.”
ACC practices what is known as “open adoptions,” Hansen explained. “That means you’re not going to fill out a 20-page document” to apply to adopt a pet. Instead, it’s a “conversation-based adoption.” An adoption counselor will sit down and talk with a potential adopter, discussing his or her lifestyle, then matching a dog whose traits seem to fit best.
The adoption fee for dogs six months old or younger is $250. For small dogs, under 20 pounds, and seven months or older, the fee is $150. Larger dogs over the age of seven months have a fee of $75. ACC waives the adoption fees for military veterans.
Adoptions include spaying or neutering, initial wellness vaccinations, a heartworm test, a certificate for a free exam at a participating veterinarian practice, a pre-registered microchip, a city dog license, collar, and a leash. Behavioral counseling and training is also available at no charge. Trainers are available to consult by telephone or to meet at local dog parks after the adoption.
ACC wants to be viewed as a community resource, not a place of sadness and despair, Hansen said. “I think that like most city shelters or municipal shelters, there’s that stigma of the pound,” she said. “But I want people to know that this is a place that’s filled with love. It’s staff that love animals – that’s why we work here. They care for the animals; the animals love people.”
She added, “It’s a happy place.”
NYC ACC vans
- $19.2M annual operating budget
- 265 full-time employees for
Senior Leadership Team
- Risa Weinstock, Chief Executive Officer
- Dr. Robin Brennen, DVM, Senior Director, Veterinary Medicine
- Ellen Curtis, Senior Director, Strategic Operations
- Phillip Reid, Senior Director, Chief Information Officer
- Jennifer DiClemente, Director of Development
- Katy Hansen, Director, Marketing & Communications
- Jennifer Piibe, General Counsel
- Sandra Reina, Director of Finance
The above individuals may be reached by mail:
Animal Care Centers of NYC
11 Park Place, Suite 805
New York, NY 10007
Board of Directors & Officers
Patrick Nolan, Board Chair
Denise Incandela, Vice-Chair
David Glicksman, Treasurer
Jay Kuhlman, DVM, Secretary
Dennis Gross, MD
Corrine Schiff (Ex officio, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)
Sarah Aucoin (Ex officio, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation)
Jessica Corey (Ex officio, New York City Police Department)