In 2000, as speaker of the New York City Council, my father Peter F. Vallone passed the Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act. This act required that a full-service animal shelter exist in each of the five boroughs. At the time, I would never have guessed that 15 years later, Queens and the Bronx would continue to lack these shelters, but that is the unfortunate reality we face.
When I began my tenure as council member last year, I knew that this issue would be at the forefront of my agenda. Local Law 59, which was passed in 2011, eliminated the legal requirement to build these shelters in Queens and the Bronx, leaving them with only “receiving centers.” These receiving centers do not provide many of the services that full-service shelters do. Seeking to revive the fight waged by my father and brother, I immediately reached out to my fellow council members in Queens and the Bronx, and together we sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration, asking them to include funding for these shelters in our boroughs. The funding was never allocated. Following that letter, I introduced legislation that would reestablish the mandate for these shelters to be built and I look forward to my bill being heard at this week’s Health Committee Hearing.
I am proud to continue my family’s legacy of advocating for the health, safety and welfare of animals. In the past year, I have co-sponsored critical legislation to protect animals such as enhancing our animal abuse registry, increasing dog licensing requirements and toughening pet shop regulations. I often think back on the old saying, “A society is judged by how it treats its weakest members.” The way we treat our animals, who are voiceless and vulnerable, will be looked upon in history as a measure of our humanity. The continued lack of full-service shelters in Queens and the Bronx results in animals suffering in many ways because receiving centers do not provide shelter or medical care for homeless animals, nor do they provide a lost and found for lost pets before they’re euthanized. Animals brought to these receiving centers in the Bronx and Queens are currently transported to a full-service shelter in the other boroughs. This places insurmountable pressure on the existing facilities that already operate beyond maximum capacity. Additionally, this decreases the chances for lost pets to be found by their owners because their lost pets are turning up in another borough. If it were its own city, Queens alone would rank as the nation’s fourth largest and it is appalling that no animal shelter exists here.
I was pleased to learn that the mayor’s administration recently announced plans to increase funding for Animal Care & Control of New York City but in reality, this amounts to little more than putting a Band-Aid on a serious wound. This simply is not enough and I will not sit idly by and allow the people and pets of Queens and the Bronx to be shortchanged.