Don’t Throw Your Dog In the Garbage

via Sean Casey Animal Rescue
via Sean Casey Animal Rescue

For three bizarre and lonely months in college, I worked at the East New York office of Animal Care and Control in New York City. Animal Care and Control is the agency tasked with the enormous burden of dealing with the animal overrun of the five boroughs, from sheltering lost pets to eradicating raccoons to figuring out what to do with a sheep someone found wandering through the Bronx. It was also the place where, daily, each staff member would have to confront the level of cruelty people routinely exercised on their pets. Every day I would make the hour and a half trip from Greenpoint to East New York, a train to a train to a bus, and return exhausted, defeated, and depressed by just how awful people could be to the small, fuzzy quarries who depended on them for everything. One woman returned a Persian cat because it didn’t match her furniture. A beagle had been tied outside to a pole for hours, and gotten its paw tangled in a leash ┬áso tightly for so long that we had to amputate the limb. A 15-year-old yellow lab was left on the side of the highway, blind and incontinent, but still trusting enough that it nuzzled into your side when you went into his cage. May through October is “kitten season,” a time when the facilities would be overwhelmed by new litters of kittens, some abandoned when they were too small to open their eyes.

In the absence of a foster parent, those newborn, bat-like creatures would be put to sleep for space concerns. Or, as one vet tech told me, shaking his head, “It’s you or the freezer,” pointing to the immense cooler where their bodies were kept. To the chagrin of my roommates, that summer I fostered up to nine kittens at once, keeping them in a watermelon box in the living room, bottle-feeding them every four hours and transporting them with me back and forth to work. Several of them died anyway, too runty and in need of a non-human mother to survive.

The “you or the freezer” policy wasn’t cruelty from the vet tech. I believe that, like me, if he could have, he would have whisked away all of those kittens to a magical land, one full of catnip and sunbeams and space for them to grow up into fully realized cats. It was the logic of space concerns in an already jam-packed facility full of people trying the best they could to save as many animals as they could, constantly fighting against the tidal wave of carelessness from pet owners. Certain animals you never had to worry about: Puppies and purebred dogs would be routinely adopted or rescued by one of the many organizations in the city. It was the older dogs, the sweet pit bull hybrids, or the full-grown cats that everyone passed by on their way to fondle the abundance of kittens that you worried about. So many animals packed together meant that disease spreads quickly, even with the best efforts of the staff there, and once an animal is sick, they’re usually pretty much done for. In an animal shelter, you rarely get to see the happy endings, the dogs that die after years of love from their owners, the rickety old cats who get an extra pat of butter in their food now and then. You see the would-have-beens, the could-have-beens, the pets denied a chance at the kind of cushy, kibble-fed life that they deserved no less.

I write all this not just to bum you out, and to remind you, Bob Barker-like, to spay and neuter your pets. (But honestly, for the love of god, do.) I write this because last week, a two-year-old shih tzu was found in the garbage in Crown Heights, just a few blocks from my house. Phoenix, as her rescuers called her, was found with cuts on her leg, emaciated, unresponsive, and a stomach full of dirt, which she had likely been eating to sate her hunger. Phoenix was taken to that Animal Care & Control facility in East New York. But she was one of the lucky ones, perhaps owing to her breed and perhaps owing to the flux of the intake of the shelter that day. She was taken to a specialty animal hospital in Kensington under the auspices of Sean Casey Animal Rescue, one of the excellent rescue groups that cares for animals in critical condition. Phoenix was placed in a heating pad, given a catheter, and began, bit by bit, to recover. The photo above is Phoenix, finally gaining the strength to stand up on her own.

I write this to remind you, good citizens of New York City, not to throw your dog in the garbage. This sounds obvious, maybe. This sounds like hyperbole. But what I learned working at the Animal Care & Control branch of East New York is that it isn’t, actually, that obvious or hyperbolic. Too often, domestic animals are treated as disposable. They are expensive, and inconvenient, and sometimes vomit on your shoes. That’s all true. And I’m not trying to discount the cost here: Brooklyn, the land of artisanal pet treats and doggie day care and pet extravagances, is still a place where the cost of dog food and cat litter can be too great to bear. Too often, I suspect, the creatures left at the AC&C doorstep were victims of rent hikes and apartment moves. The trickle-down effect of the crushing expense to live here is evident on our pets, too. But they are also creatures that have been trained to depend on us. The safety net for people in New York is not that great. The safety net for animals is even worse. Don’t throw your dog in the trash. New York City is a terrible place to be a pet without an owner.



  1. thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. i volunteered at the east new york shelter for a number of months and it broke my heart on a weekly basis. please, go visit if you’re interested in a 4-legged family member! there are so many wonderful animals waiting for a home.

  2. Thanks for writing this. It’s the truth and it’s so hard to educate people on this. A lot of people look away and ignore the problem, but if we all did our part to help, maybe, just maybe, we can help the situation get better.

  3. Ms. Eby, I come from a family of animal lovers. We were taught from a very young age how to care for and respect animals. My cat is a shelter cat, adopted at 3 months old, and now a healthy, spoiled, beautiful 11 year old tuxedo cat. My sister has 5 rescue cats (all rescued by her), and she feeds strays and takes them to shelters if they are not too feral. She has found homes for many mamas and their babies.
    I agree, why anyone would throw out an innocent creature who is used to them and has learned to trust them is something I cannot fathom.
    However, as long as there are good people in the world who try their best to correct the sins committed on these poor babies, maybe together we can make a change. Ms. Eby, you’re one of the “GOOD” people.

  4. THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO!!! I sit at my pc seeing not just your post but dozens each week.That just lets me know the hundreds I don’t get,thousands that are not even posted.Financially I can’t help,but I share every available pet post to help home the ones I can.Daily I to see the horrors of what humans do to animals world wide and am sure that the entire planet is doomed.You cannot take all that heartbreak on yourself because for everyone you save and rehome you have them a chance to be loved first by you and then hopefully by another.Many don’t get that. You have made a difference,and until government creates laws to end over breeding and demands spay/neuter to reduce the unwanted population that humans without thought or greed only in mind there will be no end to this.But without you and others like you the difference can’t be made for some!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here