To determine if the Department of Agriculture and Markets (Department) adequately oversees the seizure of dogs to ensure their safety and protect the rights of owners. The audit covered the period January 1, 2015 to October 20, 2017.
Article 7 of New York’s Agriculture and Markets Law (Law) empowers the Department to set standards for the humane care of seized dogs and inspect municipal dog shelters outside of New York City. The Law mandates that a dog must be seized if it: is unlicensed; is an immediate threat to the public safety; does not have an official identification tag while not on the owner’s premises; or is licensed but not in the control of or on the property of its owner or custodian and is believed to be dangerous. Municipalities that issue dog licenses are required to establish and maintain a shelter for dogs or to contract for those services. Municipalities are also required to appoint at least one dog control officer (Officer) or contract with another municipality for dog control services. As of June 30, 2017, the Department oversaw 294 shelters and 599 Officers. The Law sets specific time frames that shelters must hold seized dogs, known as the redemption period, during which time a dog may be redeemed by its owner. The minimum period a seized dog must be held is five days. Dogs that are not claimed during the redemption period are put up for adoption, transferred to another shelter, or euthanized. The Law requires that seized dogs be properly sheltered, fed, and watered and receive proper care for the redemption period. Department guidelines specify that seized dogs must be properly cared for, including veterinary care.
The Department performs inspections of shelters to ensure that seized dogs are being treated correctly and held for the appropriate length of time. The Department also performs inspections of Officers’ records and equipment to ensure owners of seized dogs are properly notified and seized dogs are safely captured and transported. Department inspections are typically performed annually but may occur more frequently if necessary, such as when a shelter has received an unsatisfactory rating. The Department conducted 1,054 shelter and 1,853 Officer inspections from January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017.
- We found that the Department is adequately overseeing the seizure of dogs to ensure their safety and protect the rights of owners. The shelters we visited generally provided appropriate shelter, food, water, and care. However, we identified four relatively minor deficiencies at 4 of the 48 shelters visited, including peeling paint, undersized cages, a leaking roof, and recently expired food. We also found nine seized dogs were not held for the full redemption period at eight shelters. The majority of these instances of premature disposition were not identified in the Department’s most recent inspection reports for the respective shelters.
- We found 290 shelter and Officer inspections that exceeded the time frame for completion by 30 days or more, including 100 that were follow-ups to a prior inspection with an unsatisfactory rating.
- Review the specific deficiencies we identified and work with the shelters to take corrective action.
- Evaluate the current dog record sampling process to determine ways to improve the detection of dogs not held for the required redemption period.
- Take steps to ensure that inspections are completed within the designated time period, particularly those following an unsatisfactory rating.
Other Related Audit/Report of Interest
Department of Agriculture and Markets: Food Safety Monitoring (2013-S-27)
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Steve Goss
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236