Tag Archive | "animal rescue"

ASPCA to expand free, subsidized animal care to South Bronx

An ASPCA truck parked in the South Bronx on Sept. 19 serves low income pet owners who can’t afford to pay for pet services at a veterinarian. ASPCA is expanding their services by opening a community center in the South Bronx that is expected to open Spring 2020.

At 6 a.m., the sky began to light up as Perla Medina darted around a line that had already formed at the mobile vet clinic that wouldn’t arrive for another hour at St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx. It was Thursday, and the clinic’s monthly visit to the park.

Medina wore a gray hoodie and held a loose sheet of lined notebook paper and a pen. As people arrived, the 13-year-old took their name and asked how many pets they had with them.

It was Medina and her sister, Daniella Estevez’s, third time at The American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals mobile clinics and after two unsuccessful trips they wanted to make sure their two cats get a spot in line. Medina was taking names so that when the clinic arrived, the veterinarian technicians would know who’d been in line first. She didn’t want the others to wait unnecessarily if there was no hope for them to be seen.

The first time, she and her sister waited for two hours, according to Estevez, a 17-year-old high school student. The second time they happened to be number 26, out of 25 served.

“We could get there as early as we want, but we were always one behind the last person taken,” Medina said. . 

The ASPCA currently has  four ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics located at rotating locations throughout New York City, but can only accommodate up to 25 animals per day, according to ASPCA Media and Communications.

A community veterinary center  is expected to open in the South Bronx next spring to improve access to veterinarian services for lower income people. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty is spending $45 million on three new facilities. Each will provide free care to to cat and dog owners who have proof of public assistance or public housing, and subsidized services for others.

The center will be the first of its kind in New York City, followed by others scheduled to open in Brooklyn and Manhattan in 2020 and 2021 respectively, according to an ASPCA press release

The cost of pet care is rising – with pet owners spending more than $18 billion on veterinary care last year, a billion-dollar increase over the year before, according to American Pets Project Association

The communities that use the ASPCA mobile clinics hope the new centers will be able to address some of the issues with the mobile clinics such as long wait times with the risk of not being seen. 

Waiting to be seen

While Medina and her sister were lucky on their third trip and were able to have both of their cats Oreo and Storm seen, it was not the case for everyone.

While mobile clinics arrive at their rotating locations throughout the boroughs at 7 a.m., owners are recommended to arrive in advance, according to the Bronx September ASPCA calendar. Customers of ASPCA said they regularly arrived as early as 4:30 a.m. to guarantee a spot on the list.

Medina and Estevez arrived at 5 a.m. and were the sixth people in line for the 7 a.m. clinic. 

More Animals Served

Not a morning person, Emilia Rodriguez held her cat carrier and bounced up and down, trying to stay awake. This was her fourth visit to the mobile clinic as she got her last cat Little Bit, a stray from a funeral home, fixed.

“The clinics around here charge $100-$200 and here getting pets fixed is free,” said Rodriguez, a cashier at Family Dollar. “It’s really awesome for low income people. I have nothing bad to say about this truck. I’m serious. This truck is a god send.” 

On average, people spend $1,300 per dog and $900 per cats every year, according to a study by TD Ameritrade. But, the monthly average spent on pets in New York at $157 is higher than the national average, according to a study by Opploans.

The clinics are open every Tuesday through Saturday, with at least one clinic in each borough, and with two clinics in the Bronx every Tuesday and Friday, according to the ASPCA website

The ASPCA declined to cite how many animals were served in New York City in a year, but said it was in the tens of thousands. 

Once the three community centers are open, ASPCA expects to provide an additionally 30,000 spay/neuter services every year. The centers won’t replace the clinics, but will supplement their services. 

Expanded Services

Samantha Arroyo held her small grey and white splotched cat in a pink carrier close to her. It was her second time in line at the mobile clinic. Arroyo was called in, but soon after she was sent back out again.

The clinic couldn’t fix her cat because it had pus in his mouth. She’ll have to go to another veterinarian and come back again. She had been turned away for the same reason the last time she was at there.

With the new community centers, it is possible that Arroyo could have had her cat treated and fixed at the same location, instead of visiting another vet, according to the ASPCA press release. 

Currently the clinics offer spay or neuter surgeries, vaccinations, nail trims and microchip placement, according to the ASPCA spokesperson. The community centers will expand their services, but it is unclear what additional services the clinics will offer and ASPCA declined further requests for information, including why the center opening was delayed. It was originally slated to open this fall.

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Saving more than one pet a day

A young Latino woman pushing a baby in a stroller and pulling a dog on a leash entered the Animal Care & Control shelter on East Fordham Road and Washington Avenue in the Bronx one Saturday in September. “Hi beautiful, you are so adorable,” cooed Vivian Barna, the 51-year-old volunteer and animal lover who greeted them at the door.

The mother was surprised to see that Barna was talking to her dog that she was about to abandon.

In the next half an hour, the scene at the store front shelter was repeated over and over. The woman with the stroller was followed by a young couple with a pit bull. “Are you sure you can’t keep him?” pleaded Barna, while petting the dog. “Or you don’t want to keep him?” The couple

Posters on the AC&C Bronx shelter. Photo by: Connie Preti

Posters on the AC&C Bronx shelter. Photo by: Connie Preti

shrank back, easing toward the door. “You do know that 95 percent of pit bulls don’t make it out don’t you?” Barna was using her best pitch, referring to the shelter’s practice of euthanasia.

Despite the intrepid volunteer’s best efforts, by 11 a.m., the cages were filled with 13 abandoned cats, two dogs and four dead dogs.

The work is heart wrenching, Barna said, but she would never miss a Saturday at the shelter she’s been working at since January of 2010. She commutes every weekend from Queens to the Bronx, after spending the week working as a real estate agent.

Ever since Animal Care & Control of New York City was founded in 1995, the organization has rescued more than 150,000 cats, dogs, rabbits and even one pig.

The shelter operates as the only open-admission shelter in the city, meaning all animals found or abandoned are taken in. If the shelter becomes too crowded, or if the animals are ill or violent, they may have to be put down. AC&C has shelters in all five boroughs, although those in Queens and the Bronx are drop off centers only.

The shelter located on Fordham Road is the only drop-off center the Bronx and it’s only open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 am to 4 pm.

Barna was drawn to animals beginning as a child, when her family cared for multiple pets. Her volunteer career in animal rescue began in 2005 when she helped save pets stranded after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

During that experience, she assisted Garo Alexanian, who in 1983 founded HelpLine, a phone line dedicated 24-hours a day to animal related calls, that is now connected to AC&C’s work.

The two animal rescuers drove in a van from Queens to New Orleans and back again, sleeping for only three hours a day for six days, and returning with 25 rescued dogs. She kept 15 of them with her until she found a home for each.

Vivian Barna. Photo: Courtesy of Vivian Barna

Vivian Barna. Photo: Courtesy of Vivian Barna

Barna started working with AC&C by managing the HelpLine, trying to convince people not to abandon their pets. But she soon realized that she could do a better job dealing with people face to face. She asked to be sent to the toughest center over six months ago, the one with most abandoned animals, and so she was sent to the Bronx.

Barna remembered how unhinged she was when in her first weeks yet another abandoned dog arrived at the door. “I had the most foul mouth, I was cursing all the time.” Barna said.

Manny Mondaca, the veterinary technician at the center in charge of euthanizing animals, said that sometimes cursing is the only way to express frustration.

Mondaca has been working at the shelter long enough to see its budget slashed from $14 million to $7 million over 14 years. And still, against the odds, the shelter is putting fewer animals to sleep every year.

He believes that the volunteer program that Barna participates in has been essential. Not only because the volunteers are the last resource, but also because the majority of the time they are educating people.

In 2001, the shelter took in 49,638 animals. That number went down by 10,000 six years later, but by 2009 it was up again to 40,529. On the other hand, adoptions have gone up 108 percent from 2001 to 2009 according to AC&C. In 2009 24,145 pets were adopted. Although the shelter is far from being a no-kill operation, it has managed to lower the euthanasia rate by 62 percent in eight years.

One hot afternoon in mid-September with a fan blowing her black hair away from her face, Barna sat at the front of the shelter welcoming people. Her table was covered with brochures on various subjects from how to take care of a kitten to low-cost neutering.

Barna barked at a man walking in the door who looked completely lost. Her voice bounced across the cold room, “Can I help you?”

“And you are telling me that your baby is allergic to this dog? That can’t be,” Barna argued with a couple that came in to drop off their second dog in less than two weeks. “Have you had your baby tested for allergies? Did the doctor say the dog had to go? I don’t get it, it makes no sense.”

Later Barna said that people lie a lot and she’s become an expert on detecting it. With words shooting out of her mouth like a machine gun, she continued, “Manny, do you know if that can be true?” she hollered. “A baby having liver problems because of dog hairs? No, right? Makes no sense.”

Barna said that it takes a lot of strength to do this type of volunteering. Behind the counter, Karina S, 20, who asked to keep her last name private, said she still cries when people drop their pets into her arms and walk away.

Karina described Barna as a safety net, someone who catches people before they reach the counter and tries to show them that they have many other options than simple abandonment. “She’s good at getting owners to keep their animals,” she said. “She gives good solutions.” Karina was grateful for Barna’s persistence. Most of the volunteers, she complained, come to the shelter twice and then give up.

Barna has become such an essential part of the rescuing chain for AC&C that Karina calls her when she thinks only Barna can convince an owner to keep their animal, regardless of whether Barna is on duty in the Bronx or not.

The biggest issue, as Barna sees it, is the lack of commitment to the animals. “People throw out animals like old stuff and want to get new ones,” she complained.

Just then, an aging Chihuahua came through the door barking. The dog’s elderly owner was apparently too sick to keep her dog, so her daughter brought it in for adoption. As the Chihuahua was being taken into he back room to be caged, she asked Barna where she could adopt a dog. “Why not keep your mother’s?” Barna asked.

“Nah, it’s too old and ugly, I want a new dog,” the woman replied as she walked out the door.

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