Girls Inc. of Albany rises from the ashes

Joe Dent

The Albany Humane Society is a nonprofit organization whose long-serving mission is (1) to work for prevention of cruelty to and neglect of animals; (2) to relieve the suffering of animals; (3) to provide to the community education about cruelty and neglect of animals; (4) to prevent the proliferation of pets without homes; (5) to cooperate with other agencies in our community to detect, deter, and punish known cruelty to and neglect of animals; and (6) to provide homes for domestic pets that would otherwise be homeless. The main function of AHS is to shelter and find homes for animals, mainly dogs and cats.

By following its mission, AHS has become a safe place for homeless and lost dogs in our community. Most animals that enter the shelter through AHS’s open admission policy are brought in by animal control. Some of the animals are strays that have been neglected and abused and are scared, starving and sick. Some animals are lost, and AHS works to reunite owners with their pets.

Regardless of how an animal enters the shelter, AHS’s employees and volunteers work tirelessly to nurture and nurse the animals, which on many occasions includes assisting with the birthing process. AHS also rehabilitates animals, hoping they may once again trust humans who were the source of their neglect or abuse. Additionally, AHS plays a role in educating the community on spaying/neutering to reduce the number of stray animals, in educating the community on fostering and adoption programs, and in working with partner organizations to control and reduce feral cats in our community.

Although it has a role as a place of shelter for dogs involved in biting incidents, AHS is not an enforcement agency. The first role is to serve as the quarantine facility as part of a rabies protocol enforced by the Environmental Health Department. Additionally, an animal control officer investigates the incident and determines if the offending dog should be classified as potentially dangerous or dangerous. In most cases, the dog is not classified, and after quarantine and being cleared by Environmental Health, the dog can be returned to its owner, adopted or transported if the dog was a stray or surrendered by the owner to AHS.

If a dog is classified as potentially dangerous or dangerous by the animal control officer, a procedure is provided in city ordinances and state law for the owner to challenge the classification and to retain ownership of a dog classified as potentially dangerous or dangerous. The president of AHS serves on the animal control board, the body to which an owner appeals the classification. The president’s service on the board is the only role of AHS in the enforcement of dangerous dog laws. Otherwise, AHS serves as a shelter, and it makes no decision regarding the dog, including the ultimate decision of euthanasia. State law provides the procedure for the city of Albany to follow in seeking to euthanize a dog classified as dangerous. AHS is not responsible for seeking euthanasia. Rather, AHS can only euthanize a dangerous dog it is sheltering if authorized by the owner or ordered by a court after the procedure mandated by state law is followed. I reiterate: AHS does not enforce the dangerous dog laws.

AHS admitted more than 3,000 animals in 2019. AHS provides a valuable sheltering service at a fraction of the cost the city of Albany might incur if it operated its own shelter. The contract rate of those services has been the same for more than 10 years. However, the cost to provide shelter and care to the animals has increased. Medicines, vaccines and food have all increased in price. In addition to funds received for the contracted shelter services provide to the city and county, AHS relies on adoption fees, fundraisers, private donations and grants. I cannot think of another service provider that has operated under a contract for more than 10 years without a single increase in the cost of services. However, without an increase in the contract rate, the animals will be the ones who suffer.

Finally, AHS provides an invaluable service to our community. Yes, euthanasia is an ugly part of what AHS does, but as much as possible, it is a last resort. Adoption, transport to no-kill shelters and fostering are the preferred avenues for moving animals out of the shelter to make room for the average of 10-plus animals delivered daily by animal control, all in an effort to save animals that become members of the shelter through no fault of their own. I encourage everyone to volunteer at the shelter, assist with a transport, and foster an animal or, better yet, adopt, and do not forget to spay and neuter your pets.

Joe Dent, an Albany attorney, is the legal representative for the Albany Humane Society.

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