04/06/2011 11:26 am ET | Updated Jun 06, 2011

NYC's Public-Private Collaboration Saves More Homeless Animals Than Ever Before

Last year, over 44,000 homeless dogs and cats entered New York City's shelter and partner rescues. Unfortunately, at a time when budgets are tight and the economy is slow to recover, the City administration has reduced funding and services to help treat and find homes for these dogs and cats.

Nevertheless, despite these serious challenges, New York City is closer than ever to achieving the goal of a humane no-kill community by 2015, where no treatable or healthy dog or cat is euthanized. This progress is due to the hard work and dedication of animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Animal Care and Control (AC&C), the Mayor's Alliance for New York City's Animals, and a coalition of over 150 partnering rescue groups.

Consider the tremendous strides the New York City community has made in the past seven years. In 2010, the live release rate (the percentage of animals that leave the shelter system alive) for homeless dogs and cats for AC&C and Mayor's Alliance partners was 72%, a major increase compared to the live release rate of just 33% in 2003. Over those same years, AC&C has seen a 63% decrease in euthanasia, which is now at its lowest in the city's history. Community-wide adoptions have increased 109%, and lifesaving has been especially bolstered by an expanded working relationship between AC&C and the rescue community. For example, in 2010 AC&C transferred out 15,493 dogs and cats to rescues, almost triple the number transferred in 2003.

Our goal is to not only achieve greater lifesaving in New York City, but also provide transparent data that other communities around the country can model to save more lives. Prior to my joining the ASPCA as president and CEO in 2003, I was president of the San Francisco SPCA, where I realized that the no-kill achievements accomplished by my predecessor, Rich Avanzino, could be standardized in a way that other cities could implement. It was this dedication to using data, transparency and collaboration that I brought to the ASPCA in 2003.

In fact, that was an important time for New York's homeless animals. The year prior, the Mayor's Alliance was founded, a non-profit coalition of animal welfare organizations with the goals of ending the killing of healthy and cats and dogs at AC&C. Today, the Mayor's Alliance has grown to over 150 rescues and organizations. I am proud that the ASPCA was a founding member of the Mayor's Alliance, and in 2005 we provided a $5 million lead grant to the Alliance, our single largest grant to date. Since 2005, the ASPCA has granted more than $7.5 million to New York City animal welfare causes, and recently pledged an additional $1 million annually through 2014 to the Mayor's Alliance.

Though we're on the right track, we are still not at our goal of a no-kill New York City. There are challenges that must be addressed, including closing the funding gap and working with communities in all boroughs to encourage spay/neuter to reduce the intake at AC&C. To this end, the ASPCA and the Mayor's Alliance are currently working with New York City's Department of Health to address these obstacles and find sustainable solutions to better improve the lives of homeless dogs and cats. The progress we have made in the past seven years gives me hope that by addressing these challenges and continuing the hard work, New York City will someday be a model for cities both large and small that are dedicated to building humane, no-kill communities where every healthy and treatable homeless dog and cat gets a chance at life and a new home.