Records From the Municipal Archives

Like many records I went through at the Municipal Archives, these records are upsetting. If the City was getting involved, that generally meant that something had gone wrong. That said, they also stepped in to do wonderful things, like Central Park. These are snippets from a file of records about the dog pound and dog catchers.

The whole number of dogs received at the dog pound from June 17 to June 24 [1867] was as follows … 1599.

Of which were drowned … 1532
Of which were redeemed … 32
Balance on hand … 30
Unaccounted for … 5

From the papers of Mayor John T. Hoffman, Roll 13.

Jesus. They drowned them! The numbers get a lot worse ten years later. Look at them. What the hell was going on?? Wait a minute. This is from a four month period. How can these numbers be possible?

Statement of Dogs Captured killed and redeemed from June 11 to October 9, 187[7] both dates inclusive.

Number of dogs received 7877
No. of dogs killed 6987
No. of dogs redeemed 890

From the papers of Mayor Smith Ely, Jr., Roll 13.

There were also piles of complaints about the dog catchers, which make it look like it was a bit of a racket back then.

July 3 Dog Officer McLaughlin – Complaint by C. W. Kolter – 86 Second Street. That dog officer took dog with license and muzzle on from complainants premises.

Appeared July 9 Dog Officer No. 13 William Ross – Complaint by H. [Gotleib] 422 Seventh Ave. That dog officer took dog while complainant was leading him with string.

Dog Officer Pat J. Hughes No. 9 Complaint by Mrs. Wood No. 123 West 26th Street. Complains that officer took $5 not to capture dog.

From the papers of Mayor Smith Ely, Jr., Roll 13.

Over one hundred years later and we’re still killing animals, although New York is very slowly moving towards operating a no-kill shelter. I read that the numbers of animals euthanized are down, but I don’t want to look them up. I’ll get too upset. I’m still traumatized by my last visit to Animal Care and Control, when I walked out without adopting a cat. Every cat I saw that day was most likely killed. I got Bleecker from the next place I went to, the Humane Society. Here’s a picture of the little devil, who looks like such an angel when he sleeps.

Bleecker with his Tongue out

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

7 thoughts on “Records From the Municipal Archives

  1. I lost Joe in September (he was the last of the four that I moved into my house with 13 years ago and nearly 18), I waited a month and then called my vet clinic which always seems to have kittens that need adoption. My vet performed mind Jedi tricks on me and I ended up not only adopting an adult cat that had been dumped at their doors, but her two kittens too.

    But I feel like I did a good deed there. Bunny (the mama) and Dixie and Weezie are FIV positive and would have been euthanized at our animal shelter instead of being adopted out. As my vet points out – FIV positive cats can live a good long life as long as they stay inside and go for their annual checkups.

  2. That is a wonderful deed!! But of course you get the benefit of their company, so it’s a good deed to you too, but still. Lots of angel points for you.

  3. It’s incredibly sad how many perfectly healthy dogs and cats are killed each year in kill shelters.

    I adopted Rambo (my minpin dog) from our local kill shelter; he’s a super-sweet dog, very protective. Oscar, the doxie, came from my stepdad; I just learned he has Cushings disease. At 13, I knew he was looking aged, but the diagnosis was a shock. He’s getting lots of pampering, but probably won’t make it more than a few months.

    Several of the cats I’ve had over the years came from the local shelter. One of my last ones was FIV, but she lived to be 16 and had a fairly healthy life (for Karen).

  4. I volunteer at my local shelter/pound. At times, we have had more cats than we’ve had cages for, and still manage by sending animals out to be fostered. I have seen cats live at the shelter for nearly two years, and miraculously get adopted.

    We are not a “no-kill” shelter; we do euthanize for health reasons (terminal conditions, not FIV – we’ve got a lovely FIV+ boy on view right now, as a matter of fact)….

    If a person’s trying to decide where to go and has a choice between a no-kill and normal shelter, keep in mind that you may be saving a life by adopting from the normal (non-no-kill) shelter. Donate $$ to the no-kill shelter, but *adopt* from the non-no-kill shelter.

  5. Bless you for all time for volunteering at your local shelter. I wish I had the emotional stamina, but I get too upset. I’ve been considering fostering for forever but I’m too afraid to try.

    But the next animal I get will be from the kill-shelter. I will save a life next time.

  6. Cara, I’m reading post backwards, and I only just read about Oscar! I’m so sorry. I have to google Cushings, I know nothing about it, but I thought 13 is the average lifespan for a lot of breeds. So I thought 13 is considered a long life for many dogs.

    Okay, just read about it. It’s bad but I read: “The average life span with medical treatment is about two years.”

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