Thursday, April 30, 2009

Animal Rights Activists Rally for Angel

By Conor Greene

A group of animal rights activists gathered on the steps of City Hall on Sunday to hold a protest and vigil for Angel, a 13-year-old Collie that was wrongfully euthanized by the New York City Animal Care and Control.

The beloved pet was euthanized just hours after being picked up by AC&C after escaping from the Astoria home of 94-year-old Jane Guardascione earlier this month. Guardascione was left devastated after learning her companion had been euthanized, even though city policy requires animals to be held for at least 72 hours.

Now, City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has launched a probe into whether AC&C has improperly euthanized or adopted out other animals before 72 hours. Under the law, only severely injured or sick animals can be put down sooner. However, many animal activists are certain that Angel wasn’t the first animal euthanized within 72 hours.

In response, Avella has submitted a formal request for all AC&C records regarding euthanizations, length of stay for animals brought to shelters, physical examination as well as records concerning owner notification. He also wrote directly to AC&C and the city Department of Health regarding the circumstances surrounding Angel’s death.

“It was extremely startling to learn of the unfortunate euthanization of Angel, which has caused a tremendous amount of grief for Ms. Guardascione, who saw the dog as a true companion,” said Avella. “In this instance, there appears to be a complete breakdown of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s policy to keep strays for at least 72 hours by NYC AC&C. As a result, I feel it is absolutely necessary to investigate the practices and procedures of NYC AC&C… to find out exactly what is going on at NYC AC&C to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

Among the 100 or so individuals who attended Sunday was Kathy Schnurr of Bayside, who is certain this isn’t the first time AC&C improperly euthanized an animal. “We’ve been aware of [problems] for a while, and for no apparent reason they put this dog down, so Angel brought it to a head” she said. “It’s definitely happened before without a doubt.”

Schnurr said the activists are awaiting the results of Avella’s information request before deciding how to proceed. “We need to let them really know what is going on. Hopefully this will be the last we’ll hear about any dogs being euthanized like Angel. We’re still waiting to hear the details from his [information request]. Then we will definitely rally behind him.”

Unfortunately for Guardascione, any reforms that come will be too late. “Something needs to be done. I still feel terrible,” she told the Daily News during Sunday’s vigil.

In a statement following the euthanization of Angel, AC&C officials expressed their “deepest sympathies” to the family and said that Angel was put down to prevent additional pain. “Because of her deteriorating condition and advanced age of over 13 years, the vet made the decision to euthanize Angel in an effort to prevent any additional suffering,” it read. “It is our goal to avoid euthanasia unless we deem it absolutely necessary.”

Each year, AC&C handles an estimated 43,000 animals rescued from city streets, of which about 15,000 are euthanized. It urges animal owners to make sure their pets are licensed and microchipped.

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