Skip to main content

New York City ordered by court to build animal shelters


Betty is one of thousands of animals that
was put to sleep in a NYC shelter this year
because of space constraints
Photo by author

Animal welfare groups are lauding a groundbreaking decision by the Supreme Court of the state of New York and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for breaking its own law regarding there being animal shelters in all five boroughs.

The decision, handed dow on September 9, 2009 gives the city 60 days to come up with a plan for "immediate implementation" of Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act, Local Law 26 signed in 2000.

According to the Court decision, the Act required shelters to be completed in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island by January 1, 2002 and in the Bronx and Queens by July 1, 2002. However, two years later the Act was amended to extend the time for completion of the shelters in the Bronx and Queens to July 1, 2006 and temporarily redcuce the hours of operation to 12 hours a day, five days a week until January 1, 2005.

The court decision also clears the path for a financial settlement between the city and Stray from the Heart, an animal rescue group that saves animals from the city's high-kill shelters.

Law firm Kaye Scholer LLP represented the non-profit group pro bono. Stray from the Heart filed the lawsuit in January arguing that the city's neglectful policies resulted in "needless suffering and death of homeless cats and dogs."

"Homeless dogs have been dying in unconscionable numbers because the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has not provided the shelter space required by statute," the group charged in its lawsuit.

The Department of Health contracts with New York City Animal Care and Control, which only has full-service shelters in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The shelters in Queens and the Bronx are only part-time receiving centers that dispatch animals to the other three boroughs thereby putting a strain on the already overcrowded shelters.  What's more, these receiving centers have staggered hours and are not open the required 24 hours per day.

"Respondents have blatantly failed to comply with mandatory requirements of the act, which unambiguously requires shelters in each borough, not three out of five, open 24 hours per day not 12 or 'as needed,'" Justice Shafer wrote. Meanwhile, the city is preparing to appeal the decision.

Beth Silberg, president of Stray from the Heart, said the group is confident the "animal welfare community will prevail to defend and protect homeless animals from the neglect of the New York City shelter system."

The next AC&C board meeting is scheduled for October 9, 2009 from 9 - 11 a.m. at 125 Worth Street, 3rd floor boardroom in New York City and is open to the public.

For more info on NYC's shelter system:


  • Shelley Bright 5 years ago

    It's about time. I am so TIRED of the excuse of underfunding and understaffing. It is extremely tiresome and outdated, and it doesn't hold up considering so many non-profit groups that exist solely on donation funding and operate at 98% NO-KILL rates and adoption success. There is no reason for these county and city run animal control centers that are funded by citizen tax dollars not to be effective and responsibly managed. NO EXCUSE. They use the underfunding excuse time and time again to kill un-needlessly animals in need that have a right to live and breathe air just as we- humans do. This is OUR MONEY that pay these people and centers to be employed. We do not employ them to kill pets and cause un-needed suffering.

  • Shelley Bright 5 years ago

    We will see how long it takes them to comply..considering its only been almost 10 years in-limbo!

  • jen 5 years ago

    great story...thanks for covering! hooray SFTH!

  • April 5 years ago

    I'm in total agreement with Shelley!