The waiting area at Animal Care & Control of NYC on 110th between 1st and 2nd Avenues smells like vinegar. The cinder-block walls are a pale yellow and sea foam green and visitors can hear dogs bark and whimper through the walls.
The animals sit in kennels upstairs. Visitors must sign in before browsing the rooms and hallways filled with their potential pets.
The volunteers are friendly—they walk through each room, checking on the animals, spraying down dog kennels, taking the dogs out for walks, and rearranging cat cages.
First impressions, not withstanding, Animal Care & Control, a non profit organization that runs New York City’s animal shelters, underwent a scathing audit from Comptroller Scott Stringer on April 17. But despite the negative critique, previous customers still have a positive view of the place.
“Animal Care & Control is running an operation that could make your stomach turn,” Stringer said in a statement with the audit. Auditors found expired vaccines, overcrowding, poor handling of drugs and undocumented credit card expenses. “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,” Stringer said in the statement.
At the Manhattan location, auditors said they also discovered animal remains in a freezer next to vaccines. In Brooklyn, they found employees’ lunches alongside vaccines, a Center for Disease Control violation. The shelters also had kennels stacked in the hallways due to overcrowding.
The organization responded to the audit saying they “generally agreed with the report’s findings and recommendations” and would take action to make the suggested changes.
The Manhattan location, however, still had animals stacked in the hallway several days after that statement was issued. A volunteer said the cats were in the hallways because of overcrowding.
The negative audit hasn’t really changed pet owners’ opinions of the shelter. Kenneth Thom, a dog walker who surrendered his elderly cat to the organization earlier this year, stands by his positive experience with the shelter.
“I have a pretty good view of them,” Thom, 30, said. But when his dog needed a vaccination, he would avoid going to the shelter. “In regards to bringing my dog there for vaccinations, I don’t think so. Other than that, except for the whole vaccination and medication part, I think I’m still pretty positive about them.”
However, some pet adopters have complained, among other things, that the non-profit is impossible to get a hold of. Brent Hutchinson, 30, has been trying to get his animal’s vaccination records for his vet. “I have called there a number of times and it’s impossible to get a live person on the telephone,” he said.
Hajin Suh and her boyfriend adopted their dog from the Manhattan location in early March for $75. She said the conditions were acceptable. “I thought the shelter was in good condition,” Suh, 31, said. “I didn’t see anything that was untoward or that the place was messy or unkempt.”
Suh thinks that since it’s a city facility, customers should manage their expectations. “Given the amount of money we paid for our dog, I don’t think we would expect anything more,” Suh said. “I’m sure there are improvements that should be made. But I don’t have any complaints about the state of my dog.”