There was a lot of excitement last week when New York became the first state to offer its residents free tuition for four-year public colleges – a move which will change lives in New York as well as inspire other state governments. But in that same 2017-2018 New York State budget, they made a separate commitment to another vulnerable New York population: homeless animals.
Developed in close consultation with the ASPCA, and in coordination with a grassroots campaign initiated by the New York State Animal Protection Federation, the $5 million “Companion Animal Capital Fund” (CACF) will provide matching funds to eligible not-for-profit pounds, shelters, and humane societies to cover capital projects including construction, renovation, acquisitions, and installations. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets will create a program to distribute these much-needed funds, and we stand ready to assist them in any way we can.
Though $5 million won’t cover every, or even most, animal sheltering needs in the state, capital funding is always important because passion and dedication alone can’t fix a shelter’s leaky roof, replace a critical vehicle, or safely expand animal capacity. Infrastructural improvements like these are often expensive, but absolutely required to ensure appropriate care for animals in need.
Our own ASPCA capital funding grants, which totaled just over $3.2 million in 2016, have significantly helped shelters and rescues across the country, including paying for vital equipment to expand spay/neuter clinics and covering construction costs for both existing and newly established facilities. The funded improvements are helping these organizations save lives more effectively and efficiently, which is something you can’t put a price on.
But the commitment from Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Assembly, and the New York State Senate is more than just a promise of money. It reflects the elevation of animal welfare from a local concern to a state imperative, and can inspire other state leaders and communities to say, “They did it. Why can’t we?”
At any political level, establishing and expanding legal protections for community animals is the work of both leaders and constituents, so I encourage the general public to urge their own state and federal representatives to step up for vulnerable and victimized animals through regulatory and legislative means. Because the simple math is this: The more resources we put into animal shelters, the more animals we will see walk out, or better yet, never enter in the first place.
Matthew Bershadker is President and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).