Neglect, filthy cages and no water: Inside the embattled Animal Care Centers of NYC

Dogs at the Brooklyn arm of the Big Apple pound live in squalid and “neglectful” conditions — including filthy cages filled with urine and feces, no water bowls, and a revolving door of indifferent, low-paid staffers, The Post has learned.

Three whistleblowers from the Animal Care Centers of New York City, two of whom are former volunteers from the Brooklyn location, came forward to reveal the poor conditions because they’re concerned about the creatures’ welfare.

“These animals, it’s hard enough for them. They’re already at a shelter, which is a very stressful situation, and to have them sitting in dirty cages without water, it was just so wrong,” one of the former volunteers, who worked at the facility for over three years until late 2019 and spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Post.

“Sometimes the smell of ammonia is so strong it’s nauseating,” added an ACC source. “I’ve pulled out blankets that are so wet, you can squeeze them out, just saturated.”

The three whistleblowers, one of whom left the agency earlier this year, all said “neglect” is commonplace at the Brooklyn facility.

Instead of removing soiled blankets and cleaning out the cages, layers of bedding are piled on top to hide the waste — if any bedding is added at all, they alleged.

Dogs are also consistently found to have “completely dry” bowls or no water bowls for extended periods of time — with workers telling The Post of severely dehydrated dogs trying to lick puddles and oil slicks when out for walks.

In an email sent to ACC management back in May 2018, a former volunteer tried to express concern about this, describing a disturbing incident with one of the shelter’s canines, Ranchero.

“When I had [Ranchero] out for a walk, he desperately tried to drink the dirty water along the gutters and even tried licking up tiny puddles of water that accumulated on empty bags lying in the street. When I brought him back, I saw that he didn’t have a water bucket on either side of his run,” the email, with the subject line “dogs without water buckets…see attached videos” reads.

A video attached to the email shows the black mixed breed eagerly gulping up the water for nearly a minute straight as soon as the volunteer placed it in his cage. The clip cuts off before the dog finishes drinking.

And it is not only workers who have expressed concern. ACC has long been accused of impropriety by animal advocates and activists who’ve highlighted issues about difficult adoption processes, misguided behavioral analyses and decisions to euthanize animals with treatable medical conditions.

In September, the city’s comptroller Scott Stringer released an audit on ACC saying “breakdowns” were found at the shelter, including 15 animals that “didn’t have access to clean water” and 48 animals “in dirty kennels.”

But the whistleblowers The Post spoke with said that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“When I saw Stringer’s recent audit report, I kind of laughed to myself,” one of the former volunteers said.

“That audit report was not very realistic if you were at the shelter on a regular basis.”

Volunteers and staffers also say are afraid to bring up issues internally, knowing it could lead to termination — and their ability to advocate for the animals from the inside.

“Those dogs would be absolutely screwed [without volunteers],” an ACC source said.

One of the former volunteers who spoke to The Post consistently raised concerns to ACC brass about the poor conditions during their tenure and ended up getting terminated because they “had become too time-consuming” with emailed and verbal complaints, the person alleged.

An email sent by the volunteer manager to all staff in the volunteer department, the Brooklyn shelter manager, the agency’s media representative, her assistant and two senior leaders details the termination.

“[REDACTED] has a long history of criticizing ACC and jumping to conclusions, and [they] routinely took photos and videos of empty water buckets, often accusing staff of neglect in the process (which [they] may now elect to share),” the Aug. 30, 2019 email, obtained by The Post, reads.

“Socially, [they’re] well-connected with other volunteers both online and in-shelter, so please be on alert for anything that may surface on social media/direct emails.”

Following the termination, the incensed animal lover decided to file a 104-page complaint to the state AG’s charities bureau in February alleging the shelter retaliated against them for advocating for the animals.

The complaint includes 21 emails sent by the volunteer to ACC brass detailing 22 separate incidents between May 21, 2017, and August 29, 2019 — including the May 2018 email about Ranchero. Other emails detailed the filthy conditions the pets were kept in.

“During my more than three years at ACC, I routinely encountered animals who were not provided with water for extended periods of time and dogs living in unsanitary cages — with urine-soaked bedding, feces, and diarrhea left uncleaned for long periods of time,” the complaint, obtained The Post, reads.

“In the evenings, when I walked the sick dogs housed in the ‘Isolation Room,’ I sometimes found flies and gnats crawling over animal waste and food that had been left in cages seemingly since the morning — in addition to finding dogs without water,” the complaint continues.

“ACC never disputed the inhumane conditions; yet, instead of addressing them, I was terminated.”

Replies from management to the emails were included in the complaint. Some showed messages of gratitude, requests to speak in person and pledges to rectify the problems.

“I would appreciate the feedback on what my team can do to improve,” an August 1, 2018 reply states.

But the problems kept coming and are currently no different, according to an ACC source.

Part of the problem, according to the whistleblowers, is the prevalence of low-paid, indifferent workers and a lack of supervision.

“Pretty much the whole time [I was a volunteer], the staff would just be standing around in the hallway talking, not really working,” a former volunteer who left this year explained.

“If someone’s really busy and can’t get to it that’s kind of different than just standing around.”

Others The Post spoke with reported similar experiences.

The city’s audit appeared to back this up. It found that no time or dates were listed on staff spot checks which were hung outside of every room animals were held in, nor was there any evidence of supervisory reviews of the checks.

In the audit’s 21 recommended actions to ACC and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the comptroller said the agency “should enhance its spot check record keeping system” to document each time a spot check is done and the subsequent supervisory review to ensure cages are always clean and have water.

ACC was notified of the recommendations this July but the agency source said nothing has changed since the audit and spot check logs are “not being used” in any way.

The two former volunteers also reported rarely seeing supervisors performing spot checks during their respective times at the agency. It’s not clear how spot checks are currently being performed.

“I think it’s just negligence,” the source said.

“I don’t think anyone is like ‘oh I’m not gonna give this dog water, I’m going to intentionally deprive this animal of a necessity of life,’ they’re just not paying attention. It’s not okay, it’s not ok at all.”

In response to the allegations, an ACC spokesperson said the agency takes “tremendous pride in the work we do to serve the people and pets of New York City.”

“From helping keep families together with their pets throughout the public health emergency, to expanding our community of animal welfare advocates, we remain steadfast in our mission to end animal homelessness in NYC,” the spokesperson said.


View Slideshow

Source: Read Full Article