At 6 sharp every evening, the Animal Care Centers of NYC distributes its “At-risk-list,” also called the “kill list,” of dogs and cats scheduled to be euthanatized. The dogs on the list have until 1 p.m. the following day to find a foster or adoptee home; if they don’t they’ll be euthanized.
With the clock ticking, about 300 rescue agencies around New York state begin working the phones and emailing to find fosters or adoptees. The ACC in some cases will put out a “plea” and contact certain agencies if an animal has specific needs. With the hope that the rescue can find a home, foster family or in some circumstances provide medical care.
How does a dog end up in this predicament? Last year the ACC took in 9,730 dogs. The ACC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, open-adoption shelter and the only one of its kind in the city. That means the ACC cannot turn away any animal. They get the 16-year-old mix-terrier with the grotesque tumor and the spunky 9-month-old Pitbull puppy that’s full of energy as well as the Jack Russell running around barking frantically in the street. The ACC takes in around 30 dogs a day. When they arrive, all dogs go through the same process.
Upon entering the ACC, all dogs are given a health examination which includes vaccinations, assuming there are no glaring medical issues. Then, they are then given 24-48 hours to adjust to the shelter followed by professional seven-step temperament test called SAFER. Assuming they do well on both assessments it's upstairs they go for adoption.
There are two kinds of shelters, kill and no-kill. Kill shelters euthanize animals and no-kill shelters do not, so to speak. Technically, to be considered “no-kill” a shelter must have a live release rate of 90 percent or more, meaning 90% of animals leaving the shelter must be alive. So, there are many shelters and rescues that are considered “no kill” although they utilize euthanasia to some capacity.
Rescue groups have dubbed the ACC a “kill shelter” because they euthanize animals. While the ACC is looked down upon by many animal activists and rescues for euthanizing animals they are currently at a 94% live release rate which is well above the benchmark. In-fact many rescues euthanize animals but stay above the 90% release rate so they maintain the “no-kill” label. Keeping in mind they have the option to turn down any animal, which ACC does not.
While the list has been criticized by some animal advocates it does get people’s attention, especially those who want to feel like a hero for saving a dog’s life. Lisa Bakal, a volunteer at Second Chance Rescue, has seen positive panic caused by the list. “People say whatever they think we wanna hear to save the dog.” Many times, people are not aware of the challenges of adopting a dog until they bring one home. This lack of education has severe consequences as, she has had adoptees change their mind after requesting to rescuing a dog for an array or reasons. Many animals are requested to be pulled off the list then returned to the shelter, sometimes immediately. Some no-kill rescues don’t take back dogs they’ve adopted out so often they end up at the ACC.
While these lists make some animal activists rage on social media pages, they also ignite the much-needed panic to save dogs. “The weird thing is people romanticize the euthanasia list,” said Loren McAuley, co-founder of Rebound Hounds about the attention these lists receive online and the uproar they incite. So as infuriated “no-kill “rescues and online animal activists may become, in actuality it helps the animals find adoptees and fosters.
Katy Hanson, of the ACC said while 1601 dogs were euthanized last year, the organization is always looking at ways to decrease this number. When asked how the ACC feels being labeled a “kill-shelter” she says, “That kind of messaging is horrific, imagine how that makes us feel, when people call us a kill-shelter, it’s disheartening.”
Just a few of the Friendly adoptable faces at the ACC