Van Nest animal activist still fighting for shelter

Van Nest animal activist still fighting for shelter
Bernadette Ferrara is fighting for a full-service shelter in the Bronx.
Photo by David Cruz

Gimme Shelter isn’t just a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s also the quest of Bernadette Ferrara and other animal care advocates seeking a 24/7 animal shelter for the Bronx.

She most recently sought the help of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to make it happen.

The longtime Van Nest resident and several animal rights activists met privately with him June 7 in a preliminary discussion.

Ferrara has been trying to secure a meeting for the past year and a half with any elected official willing to listen.

And while both sides were tight-lipped on the outcome, one thing’s certain- Ferrara is staying on message.

“What I would like to see is a full-service shelter in the Bronx,” said Ferrara, who volunteers as a certified Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) rescuer, capturing feral cats. For now she said she’s burdened with a task belonging to the city Health Department’s Animal Care and Control Unit, which she charged is dragging its feet.

“It’s getting to the point where [TNR rescuers] are burnt out,” Ferrara said, who said she’s captures about 150 cats within the Van Nest neigbborhood alone this year.

With no shelter to hold the strays, many are hauled off to Manhattan’s ACC center to be euthanized instead of put up for adoption. Others are taken to Westchester County, overwhelming shelters there, according to Ferrara. “Others are just abandoned in our streets.”

Ferrara’s campaign stretches back to 2009, nine years after the New York City Council passed the Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act, requiring full-service animal shelters in every borough.

The borough does have spay and neuter services, but Ferrara said that’s not enough to control the animal population.

“We’re not making as much of a dent as we feel we can be.”

The Bronx almost saw a shelter at the Old Fordham Library on Bainbridge Avenue in 2008, but public pressure from local residents leveraged it as a community center instead.

Patrick Caruso of Community Board 10 has listed a number of possible sites over the years, but none of them were city-owned buildings.

A City Council bill introduced and fast-tracked in 2011, and backed by animal advocates and Bronx council members, provides bigger budgets to the city’s animal welfare centers, but would eventually nix the mandate to build a full-service animal shelter.

Advocates called the law a win for animal receiving centers since it would provide more money for services through 2014.

Ferrara said the law does nothing for the Bronx except provide money to receiving centers that are simply “holding areas”.

Ferrara wants to see the law amended to include an animal shelter.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or email

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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