Assemblymember Micah Kellner on The Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act (UPDATE)

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Micah Kellner
Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) isn't the only assemblymember sponsoring an animal shelter bill in Albany.

Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) is pushing a rival piece of legislation, which he says would do a better job of protecting stray cats and dogs.

Kellner's Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act would require that shelters work with qualified rescue groups -- and he says that it provides greater protections for whistleblowers, many of whom feel worried about coming forward with accusations of abuse or neglect.

Kellner's proposed legislation does not have the backing of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but has been vehemently boosted by no kill groups nationwide.

Paulin has countered that Kellner's measure has technical problems.

"It doesn't take into account hoarders, overcrowing and unsanitary facilities, and overwhelmed rescue," she said. "It requires the shelter to give that animal over to a facility that they may or may not harm that animal. It doesn't seem to me that's in the best interest of the animal's health and well being, so there needs to be an accounting for those kinds of conditions to best protect animals against cruelty and neglect."

Runnin' Scared caught up with Kellner to chat about his initiative.

Runnin' Scared: What's the history of this bill?

Micah Kellner: Well actually just to be clear, we introduced CAARA first, a year before Amy Paulin introduced her bill. The ASPCA drafted her bill in response to my bill.

Runnin' Scared: How are the bills different?

Kellner: The act basically seeks to, for the first time, which is set minimum standards both for shelters and rescue groups. The first thing the bill says are that shelters have to do everything possible to take care of an animal and find it a home before they decide to put it down. So this includes: water, food, walking dogs, checking for microchips, doing lost animal checks as well as if two cats can share a cage together instead of putting them down, and if two dogs can share a pen.

Runnin' Scared: How does this bill affect the relationship between shelters and animal rescue groups?

Kellner: It requires them to work with qualified rescue groups. We set standards for rescue groups that are able to pull animals from the euthanasia list for shelters. Under our law, it has to prove that it can do its job. They have to be a 501 C3. And no member of that group -- board member or staff member or volunteer -- can have been convicted of animal cruelty or charged with animal cruelty. If they don't think that they can take care of that animal, the shelter has to have an inspection. The whole goal of our bill is not only to save animals' lives, but also set these minimal standards.

Runnin' Scared: Anything else?

Kellner: In an indirect way, this also creates whistleblower provisions. Under the law right now, the shelter has all the power -- so if you volunteer or work at a rescue group and speak out against, say, bad practices at a shelter or say that they are not walking dogs or if dogs are just sitting in their feces, you can be banned from these organizations.

But the big point about my bill is that these aren't suggestions, so it sets these minimum standards for both rescue groups and shelters to work together and make sure that as many animals as possible are saved.

Runnin' Scared: So if you had to sum up the differences, how would you do so?

Kellner: There are a couple big keys. Number 1: mine is a "shall" bill as opposed to a "may" bill. There are no mandates in her bill. it says throughout her bill "wherever possible" which basically means "if you feel like it." So basicallly a shelter can work with rescue groups if they want to...

The other thing that my bill does that her bill doesn't do is that it has protections for feral cat colonies. A lot of supporters do trap-and-release, and my bill would make sure that groups that do so are protected. There are no protections for feral cat colonies and people who do T-and-R in her bill, and that's why I have groups like Alley Cat Allies supporting our position.

Runnin' Scared: How will the conflict between the two bills get resolved?

Kellner: I think that [Paulin and I] are going to put together a series of mandates for shelters and resuce groups to make sure that we have the best possible outcome for New York State shelter animals....That's the big thing -- how are we going to do shelter reform? Are we going to follow the same prescription that we have for the last 100 years and let animals continue to die, or are we going to set new standards that keep more animals alive?

UPDATE: Kellner just contacted Runnin' Scared and took issue with Paulin's statements. Here's the assemblyman's comment below:

"She said that my bill doens't protect against hoarders -- my bill does protect against all those things because rescue groups have to submit to inspections. My bill actuallly does protect against all the things that Amy Paulin said it doesn't. She clearly doesn't know how to read, because of the inspection clause in my bill there's many levels of inspections. If a shelter suspects that a rescue group is hoarding, they can ask for inspection. All they have to do is say 'we're not going to kill this animal, we're going to adopt it out to somebody else.' My bill only applies to animals on their euthanasia list. There are lots of protections in my bill.

When Amy amended her bill, she took a lot of the protections out. It's a pretty high level of standard in my bill, so for her to say that my bill doesn't protect against it, it's disingenous and factually incorrect, and she doesn't even realize that when she amended her bill, she took out the protections."

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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23 comments
Stephanie Fetzer
Stephanie Fetzer

Thank you Micah Kellner for having a heart! Please help these poor animals as I know you are trying to do. These sad, innocent, abused, neglected animals at the ACC thank you.

Thank you Victoria for sharing this story... these types of bills involving pets are never seen or heard about! If they were heard about, I'm sure it would become a lot bigger priority to pass these bills that protect the helpless.

Gwen
Gwen

while CAARA lacks the support of the ASPCA, it should be noted that the very large and influential animal advocacy group, BEST FRIENDS, is strongly in support of this bill. 

it should also be made known that the paulin team actually met with the BEST FRIENDS team to discuss bettering the bill, and the paulin team rejected every suggestion put forth.

Mary Anne Kowalski
Mary Anne Kowalski

I posted a comment 4 days ago and got a notice it was awaiting monitoring.  I do not agree with either the CAARA or shelter access bills.

I took a long time to compose the post and it still has not been posted.  

I am not going to spend time rewriting it if it is going to get "lost."  What is the policy for posts that do not agree with the other writers?

jacquie
jacquie

The NYC ACC is overcrowded, unsanitary, doesn't provide medical care, most dogs don't even get walked, animals don't have water and lie in their own waste. And they're worried about hoardees and overwhelmed rescues? Total bs.

Mary Anne Kowalski
Mary Anne Kowalski

This  comment relates to BOTH the "Shelter Access" bill and the CAARA bill. Both bills have significant deficiencies. And neither of these billswill work as intended or described, in fact the care of animals in thecommunity may suffer.

 

These bills are based on the misguidedassumptions that "impounding organizations" do NOT want to returnstray dogs to their owners, that holding dogs longer will result in moreanimals reclaimed by their owners, and that these organizations enjoyeuthanizing animals. There is no evidence that any of this is true and it is aninsult to those who work so hard to reunite animals with their owners and toplace unclaimed animals in good homes..

 

In much of upstate New York municipalities do not operate"shelters" or "pounds" for stray dogs. They rely oncontracts with SPCAs, humane societies, veterinary clinics, dog controlofficers and boarding kennels. If either of these bills pass, most of thefacilities the municipalities rely on to shelter stray dogs will simply end thecontracts, rather than deal with the paperwork and compliance scrutiny imposedby both of these bills. Where will the dogs go then?

In addition, many upstate counties do not have a"duly incorporated society for the prevention of cruelty to animals,humane society, pound, animal shelter or any authorized agents" engaged ininvestigating animal cruelty or seizing animals under the animal cruelty laws."Impounding organizations" are certainly going to think twice aboutany seizures because of the additional scrutiny and paperwork imposed. Theseadditional requirements is certainly not going to encourage more active crueltyinvestigations or convince reluctant boards of directors to get involved incruelty seizures. If these bills pass, what will be the impact on crueltyseizures?

 

These bills both represent a significant unfundedmandates on localities, with absolutely no justification or assessment ofcosts. Both bills extend the mandates on municipalities from stray, unlicensedand dangerous dogs to all animals , and in the case of the Paulin bill, farmanimals, with absolutely no analysis of the impacts of these sweeping newmandates.

Both sponsors and the supporters of these bills need to research what the impact of similar proposals has been in other states.  USA today has a good summary at http://www.usatoday.com/news/n...  I   

Similar bills in Delawarehave resulted in major cities scrambling to find dog control and shelterservices because the organizations that were providing dog control services walked away from the stigma the supporters have placed on "shelters." 

Clearly, the idea of these bills is to change the way the New York City Animal Care and Control, which cares for stray, unlicensed and homeless animals, and the ASPCA, which investigates animal cruelty in New York and seizes animals in such cases, operate. Then why don't the legislators write bills to make those changes, without implicating the entire state? 

 

There are dozens of bills currently pendingin the legislature to "fix" companion animal care.  In addition to multiple "improvements" to the Pet Dealer Law, including adding pet birds,  the legislature is considering proposals toset care standards for companion animals in the care of:

*      Animalbreeders

*      Backyardbreeders

*      Hoarders

*      Shelters

*      Animalgroomers

*      "Puppymills"

*      Rescuegroups

None of these bills set the same care standards and theresulting confusion will make them all unenforceable.

Don't dogs and cats need the same minimum care: food,water, socialization, veterinary care, shelter, protection from harm, no matterwhere they are?  

I think that NY needs tolook at a comprehensive standard for companion animal care, as in Colorado, nomatter where the animal is or who is providing the care.  If every shelter and rescue group met minimumstandards, would we REALLY need to legislate that they play well together.

Oluv Pfurries
Oluv Pfurries

such a beautiful city harboring such a dirty secret: the so-called shelters in NY!  Abuse, filth and killing adoptable animals. Clean the "swamps" from the director on down!! I read an article saying the director, J.B,, has never even visited the deathcamp she is supposed to direct!! I cannot believe that most New Yorkers even KNOW about what is going on at the "deathcamps" that their dollars support. People love their animals and spend billions a year on them because they are "family members", not a possession! Why isn't this being shouted far and wide in NY and everywhere else that uses tax dollars to abuse, kill and neglect animals in our "care". Why isn't "intake" a paid position where people drop their unwanted animals....people could be educating and helping to find a better solution for these unwanted animals! Start with free spay and neuter and reward people who are responsible and fine ($$$) people who are not! There will always be tremendous burden of unwanted animals if the owners are not required to act responsibly and we, the animal welfare community, will be the only ones suffering when we know what the animals are put through in these deathcamps! Temp testing should NEVER be done in this terrifying environment! Micro chips should be a part of a free/mandatory service for pet owners. People must be made to be responsible for the horrors they create when they do not spay and neuter their animals!! Owners dumping older, sick or injured pets, should be required to stay with their animal while it is humanely PTS. Chances of adoption of that animal is very slim.....meanwhile, the animal sits terrified in a deathcamp, smelling death.....until the inevitable happens.....I think this is very inhumane. That is why there is a need for an educated, animal welfare advocate(s) at the intake center to find a better solution.

Judystarr
Judystarr

Dear Assemblyman Micah Kellner ,Much gratitude for taking your extremely busy schedule in Albany &  doing this interview for the Village Voice for our beloved Shelter Animals  !Caara your bill if passed will over ride Amy Paulin's "QUICK KILL BILL " that the ASPCA wrote for her plus the hands of many others as well .Their interests in taking care of Shelter Animals is a real HOAX !The Quick Kill Bill ~ Amy Paulin's Bill is riddled with holes like a slice of Swiss Cheese.Caara on the other hand is strong & has no hidden agendas !!!It with save animals 10 fold & start on a new road to make NYS a No~Kill~ State !Other states will take our lead than to make us a No ~Kill ~Nation !!!

Thank ~ You with all my heart !Sincerely , Judy Ilene Starr 

Arielle S
Arielle S

Victoria - thank you so much for covering stories related to animals in NY shelters. There is a sizable community of rescuers who are increasingly frustrated with what's happening in New York Animal Care and Control (ACC) who put insane numbers of animals to sleep. The conditions at the ACC are horrendous, the ACC staff does not walk the dogs and relies on volunteers to do the work.  If there are not enough volunteers - tough luck, dogs are forced to go in their cages.  That creates unsanitary conditions for the dogs, which in turn spreads diseases such as kennel cough. As based on the terms of the agreement between the ACC and the Mayor's Alliance the ACC is not allowed to put down healthy animals, they've been using the kennel cough as an excuse to euthanize many animals, despite the kennel cough being completely curable. It's completely unacceptable. Hence, I applaud Micah Kellner for trying to impose more stringent rules on the ACC. 

heresyourcopy
heresyourcopy

thank you Mr Kellner! i love that he is interested in working with Paulin for a mutually agreeable bill but at the same time is not hesitant about stepping up to her misrepresentations. isn't it embarrassing (both professionally and politically) for Paulin to be so clueless about these bills? is this what she wants for her legacy?

Dorian12
Dorian12

Because it is historically and financially aligned with the kill shelters, the ASPCA supports the authority of shelter directors to kill at their whim (an authority that is preserved in the ASPCA-Paulin bill).

The ASPCA has always used the exact words that Paulin uses to misrepresent the rescue community and preserve the shameful status quo in the animal shelter system. Clearly, Paulin called the ASPCA and they told her how to lie about CAARA.

As I pointed out in my comment to your post about the ASPCA-Paulin bill, shelter directors kill 50 percent of the animals that enter their facilities. Shelters need reform and that is why CAARA was introduced. The ASPCA got Paulin to sponsor their bill in order to PREVENT shelter reform.

To see what the ASPCA and Paulin actually support, one need only go nightly to the Facebook pages Urgent Part 2 and Pets on Death Row, which show -- respectively -- the dogs and the cats that New York Animal Care & Control plan to kill. The NYACC shelters not only kill adoptable animals seven days a week . . . they are filthy, neglectful, uncaring places, a disgrace to the greatest city in the world. Under the ASPCA-Paulin bill, NYACC would essentially carry on with business as usual.

As counterintuitive as it seems, the ASPCA is the very last place one should look for reform of these awful shelters. CAARA will get the job done, and finally give these pets the chance at homes that they deserve.

Dorian12
Dorian12

Because it is historically and financially aligned with the kill shelters, the ASPCA supports the absolute authority of shelter directors to kill at their whim (an authority that is preserved in the ASPCA-Paulin bill).

In fact, the ASPCA has always used the exact words that Paulin uses to misrepresent the rescue community and preserve the shameful status quo in the animal shelter system. Clearly, Paulin called the ASPCA and they told her how to lie about CAARA.As I pointed out in my comment to your post about the ASPCA-Paulin bill, shelter directors kill 50 percent of the animals that enter their facilities. Shelters need reform and that is why CAARA was introduced. The ASPCA got Paulin to sponsor their bill in order to derail the shelter reform movement.To see what the ASPCA and Paulin actually support, one need only go nightly to the Facebook pages Urgent Part 2 and Pets on Death Row, which show -- respectively -- the dogs and the cats that New York Animal Care & Control plan to kill. The NYACC shelters not only kill adoptable animals seven days a week . . . they are filthy, neglectful, uncaring places, a disgrace to the greatest city in the world. Under the ASPCA-Paulin bill, NYACC would essentially carry on with business as usual.As counterintuitive as it seems, the ASPCA is the very last place one should look for reform of these awful shelters. CAARA will get the job done, and finally give these pets the chance at homes that they deserve.

Wendy scott
Wendy scott

the fact that shelters do not want to work with rescue organizations increases the likelihood of hoarders and people ill prepared to pull in the guise of adopting,  whatever dogs they can get "out".Thank you Micah Kellner!

John Sibley
John Sibley

I'm not actually positive that Amy Paulin has read CAARA or her own bill. She seems to have the ASPCA pulling her strings.

Judystarr
Judystarr

Many thanks to Victoria interviewing both Amy Paulin & Micah Kellner .Plus ,giving Micah Kellner the 2nd interview to establish the accurate facts of CAARA  which is the only way to go for NYS Shelter Animals  !

Bsantini
Bsantini

Where did you get this number that 50% of animals are euthanized.  at NYACC it's 25% - half of what you claim.  That may be the number nationally, but if we're talking about New York, that's just not true.  There are many states, especially in the South where many more are being killed, this law has much less impact in NY than many other states.  Let's deal with facts. 

Judystarr
Judystarr

So , Ed Sayres is Gepetto & Amy Paulin is Pinocchio !!!

Dfreabc
Dfreabc

Just pointing out that this bill applies to the whole state, not just NYC. So the kill rate for NYACC doesn't tell the whole story

Dorian12
Dorian12

The NYACC kill rate for 2011, according to the Mayor's Alliance for NYC Animals, was 31.5%. See pages 7 and 8 of the report linked to in this blog post, where total killing versus intake can be seen:

http://johnsibley.com/2012/03/...

The NYACC shelters took in more than 32,000 animals in 2011, so the total number of animals killed is large. By contrast, the annual intake at the public shelter in Baltimore is 11,000.

While I was speaking of the ultimate failure -- the killing of animals who could have been saved -- it's worth noting that the misery index at NYACC is also extremely high, with virtually every animal being made sick, and many left in medical neglect.

By any reasonable measure, NYACC is a cruel, regressive public shelter system, and CAARA would have an enormous impact on the animals who enter its "care."

The Niagara SPCA, under its recently fired executive director, reportedly had a 90 percent kill rate. The Erie County SPCA, which conducted the investigation of the Niagara SPCA, reported its kill rate as 30 to 40 percent. I believe it is a mistake to assume that shelters in New York are better than elsewhere.

And for the individual animal being killed or saved, the impact of which you speak could be no higher. It is literally the difference between life and death.

Judystarr
Judystarr

I noticed on her FB page her nose is getting longer ...

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