Harmful and overcrowded conditions, expired medications distributed to animals, vaccines refrigerated with staff lunches are amongst several of the terrible practices found to exist at the Animal Care & Control facilities across New York City, reported in an audit released on Sunday by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
“Animal Care & Control is running an operation that could make your stomach turn,” said Stringer. “How we treat our most vulnerable creatures is a reflection of our decency as a society, and AC&C is failing in that important responsibility.”
AC&C, a non-profit corporation, has a 5-year, $51.9 million contract with the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to provide shelter, examine, test, treat, spay, neuter and assure the humane care and disposition of animals in shelters located in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, along with drop-off centers in Queens and the Bronx.
The audit examined four-months (December 2013 through March 2014) of controlled substance logs, and shelter conditions were observed on several occasions between March and November 2014. Auditors found that animals’ health was put at risk by AC&C’s failure to oversee controlled substances in all three shelters. Additionally, 92 bottles of expired controlled substances—some as old as 13 years—had not been removed from the premises.
The Comptroller’s audit also found that AC&C:
- Lacked a computerized inventory system. Therefore, AC&C shelters generally relied on only one person at each shelter to complete the request, receipt and recording of their controlled substances inventory — which included opioids, sedatives, and a potentially deadly barbiturate.
- Vaccines and employee lunches stored together at the Brooklyn shelter, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that vaccines should never be stored in the same refrigerator as food or beverages. At the Manhattan shelter, auditors found vaccines stored in a freezer alongside animal remains.
- At the Brooklyn shelter, poor ventilation contributed to a strong gas odor, while a shared climate control system between isolation rooms for sick animals and rooms with healthy animals increased the risk of spreading contagious diseases. The Manhattan shelter had kennels lined up along the hallways of the facility due to overcrowding. At the Staten Island shelter, auditors found a defective fire alarm as well as peeling paint above dog kennels and feeding areas.
- Inadequate policies and procedures resulted in nearly $12,000 in credit card expenses that lacked adequate documentation as business expenses. Late payments incurred $18,000 in late fees and interest in FY 2013.
The audit also set forth 18 recommendations to both Animal Care & Control and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the agency responsible for AC&C’s contract compliance, including:
- Implementing a computerized inventory system to accurately track controlled substances;
- Establishing policies to ensure controlled substances are handled in accordance with DEA guidelines;
- Ensure that expenses are documented and that accurate purchasing documents are provided; and
- Conduct a cost benefit feasibility study to determine if moving headquarters is appropriate.
“Our audit indicates a lack of effective management and financial and operational negligence. As a result, questionable conditions put the well-being of the animal population at risk,” Stringer said. “Our City can and must do a better job of treating homeless animals with compassion and respect.”
To read the full audit, click here.