By Conor Greene
After a 94-year-old grandmother’s beloved collie was euthanized at a city animal center just hours after arriving at the facility, a group of animal lovers and a Queens City Councilman are working to prevent this from happening again.
Officials at the city’s Animal Care and Control say that 13-year-old Angel was euthanized shortly after arriving at the Manhattan facility on April 9 because she collapsed and was unable to walk. The dog, which had wandered away from Jane Guardascione’s Astoria home, didn’t have identification and didn’t match the description of any missing dogs.
However, according to the contract AC&C has with the state Health Department, dogs brought into its facilities must be held for at least 72 hours before being euthanized or released for adoption. The only exceptions are if an animal is critically injured.
In a statement, AC&C officials expressed their “deepest sympathies” to the family and said that Angel was suffering and 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.”
However, family members said that although the dog had been slowed by arthritis, it was still able to walk and probably became scared after being taken to the loud, unfamiliar shelter. Guardascione was “heartbroken” and began suffering chest pains when she found out what happened to her “beloved companion,” according to local animal activist Phyllis Taiano, who had tried to find Angel before she was put down.
In response to the incident, City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has submitted a request for AC&C records, specifically as they relate to animals that were euthanized at the shelters. He is now calling for an investigation into AC&C’s “practices and procedures… to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”
“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 Hygiene’s policy to keep strays for at least 72 hours by NYC AC&C.”
Avella is seeking to obtain all records regarding euthanizations, length of stay for animals brought into city shelters, physical examinations, as well as records concerning owner notification, according to his office. He will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall at noon on Sunday along with other animal rights groups to bring awareness to the situation.
Taiano, a Middle Village resident who helps rescue lost dogs, was also distraught over the situation. She found out that Angel was at the AC&C just after 5 p.m. that evening, less than an hour after she had been euthanized. “Now that Avella has submitted a request for [records] we want to keep this [issue] alive and in the forefront,” said Taiano. “Angel’s case is not going away. Our protest is in honor of Angel and to raise more awareness that the AC&C continues to practice unethically. That shelter is in desperate need of reform.”
In light of recent alleged improprieties at AC&C shelters, an online petition is being circulated asking the City Council and Mayor to convene an Animal Care Task Force “to oversee the replacement of the existing Board of Directors… which has created this crisis.” The petition notes that while law requires the city to have five fullservice animal shelters, there currently are only three.