Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NYC Comptroller (Sorta) Audits Animal Care and Control

So, here is the full report, and here it is in brief.

First of all, this isn't a true audit, it was merely a follow-up to an audit they did over five years ago (great that it took them five years to follow up to see if what they deemed important was implemented, huh?).

In other words, they weren't looking for anything new, or even to see if what the AC&C was doing satisfactorily previously was now in disarray; no, they just wanted to see if Farley/Bank et al fixed what the Comptrollers office thought was broken in 2006.

Naturally, they didn't...

How much is still broken is tough to say, say the auditors, because...are you ready?

The AC&C and DOH (Dept of Health) wouldn't  cooperate with the auditors' requests for information and the ability to speak to staff and volunteers (Hmmm... I wonder why)

The AC&C claims it was concerned that their volunteers' privacy would be compromised, even though, not only does the Comptroller's Office have the authority per the City Charter (The DOH isn't big on following the law, are they?) and is required by law to keep them confidential, so, in reality, the AC&C didn't really have to worry about that, and was just stonewalling.

Even funnier is that in the report it states that initially, the AC&C claimed it was "legally entitled" to withhold information. When challenged, AC&C couldn't provide the legal basis for its claims.

I'm picturing Thomas Farley swearing he read it somewhere, while leafing through his copy of the City Charter, knowing he didn't read it anywhere, while several auditors are surrounding him. I can't blame him for trying.

Okay, some points about what the Comptroller's office was able to look into and did find...and my thoughts on it....

1 - Underfunding "plagues" the agency - True, and that's why the DOH has no business being in the animal budiness. They've run it (into the ground) since 1994 with no sign whatsoever that funding will ever be adequate (even with Bill 0655, funding is less than half what is needed per HSUS, and that assumes all the backloaded funding makes its way to the AC&C in 2014 - yeah, right)

2 - Auditors found cleaning procedures to be implemented - Huh? I guess the NYC Comptroller's Dept doesn't know how to google, or they'd find this story, among many others. My guess is that either they announced when they were doing an inspection, OR somehow the AC&C was tipped off.

3 - Sick Animals are Sometimes Separated From Healthy Animals - The AC&C actually disagreed with this, claiming they are always separated - How can they disagree? Either the auditors found it to be true and showed them, or they didn't, in which case, they wouldn't have included it on the report.

4 - Dogs are now being exercised - Huh? Again, looking back at this article, check this section out (Gentiles is Richard Gentiles, Director of Development and Communication)...

We obtained dog-walking schedules that show dogs not getting out for as long as 3 days.
WALLACE: So wait. It's not unusual to have a dog not being walked for three days?INSIDER: Not unusual.
"We want all of the dogs to be walked every day," Gentles said, admitting that it does not happen. "It's not acceptable. That's why we want volunteers to come into the volunteer program."

Again, maybe if they insisted to be able to speak to volunteers and/or staff without threat of termination, the auditors would've reported back differently.

Heck, they didn't even have to worry about speaking to current employees. A quick google search woulda given them someone to speak to who would be more than happy to point them in the right direction. I'm guessing they didn't get a chance to speak to former employees/volunteers like Emily Tanen or Jeff Latzer about that.

5 - Missing animals aren't always being investigated - I'm only bringing this up due to this excerpt -

"Forty four percent of missing animals were cases where foster care adopters did not return the animal to the shelter. AC&C's policy does not discuss procedures for investigating or acting on missing animals not returned by foster caretakers."

Good Lord...

Later, in their response to this point, the AC&C said, "The AC&C ... will update its Foster Care program guidelines to include investigation of missing foster care animals."

I hope this is already implemented as it shouldn't take more than a week, especially with all the new volunteers they claim to have thanks to their "revamped" program.

6 - They had a problem in 2006 with the "Level of Adoption Efforts," recommending that adoption services should be provided at the Queens and The Bronx receiving centers - In this audit, this finding was considered "no longer applicable" because the leases in The Bronx and Queens don't allow for adoptions there.

This is exactly why the DOH shouldn't be running the AC&C (Well, the fact they have sucked at getting funding for their non-profit is really why, but this is a secondary reason)...

God forbid they try other means of getting animals adopted - They refuse to think outside the box  - What about offsite adoption events? Why don't they have long-term partnerships as other rescues do (Why did they let the Petsmart partnership dissolve?). Why not have special events at the shelter (like a pitbull awareness class led by a pro bono trainer) to get people accustomed to the walking in the building. AC&C has to know that there is an element of emotional trauma to walking in a "kill" shelter for most animal loving adopters. 

7 -

That was from 2006, when they had five licensed vets and 25 vet techs.

In 2011, they have two licensed vets and 13 vet techs, and yet, the AC&C argued that this finding was unwarranted, I assume because they now have 14 unlicensed vet staff members, whereas they didn't have any in 2006.

To summarize, they have about the same number of total vet employees - they are just far less qualified than five years ago, when the staff was deemed insufficient. Mmmmkaaaay!!!!

8 - The auditors recommended that the in-house computer system (Chameleon) be changed so that it can distinguish between animals missing and/or lost in the agency's care or in the care of outside sources.

The AC&C's response? We agree that it's needed, but, hey, its not our system, we just lease it - If they wanna upgrade it, it's up to the lessor.

I dunno about you, but judging by their responses, I get the feeling Farley, Bank, et al really aren't into this whole animal saving thing.

I think you guys get the gist -

To summarize, this audit wasn't a real audit, merely a follow-up to an audit done five years ago, and yet, of the 13 recommendations made at that time, only seven were fully implemented (and I'm not sure that I agree that they were - the cages are clean?!? the volunteer program is robust?!?)

Thing is, does it really matter? Any and all deficiencies will continue to get swept under the rug as long as the DOH is in control of the AC&C.

Harris Bloom

btw - If you wanna read more about this joke of an audit, click here.

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