Dog Day Afternoon

It's time to put animal control into the hands of the law.

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 34 | Posted Dec. 3, 2008

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Cage match: Scores of dogs wait for permanent homes at shelters (Photo by Jesse Lundy).

Philadelphia's turned yet another page in our gruesome ongoing struggle for humane animal control.

Late Monday, the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association (PACCA) lost the contract for animal control when the city awarded it to the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(PSPCA) after unexpectedly posting a Request for Proposal (RFP) that solicited bids right after renewing the existing contract with PACCA (and in the middle of the fiscal year). The PSPCA handled animal control in Philadelphia until they relinquished the contract in 2000 and stopped providing services in 2002. The change has left animal activists confused and more worried than ever about the future of Philly's animals.

A controversial figure in this drama is Howard Nelson, who joined the PSPCA as CEO in May 2007. In his previous post as executive director of Washington, D.C.'s Humane Society, Nelson introduced a "Good Home Guarantee" program that was touted as a no-kill initiative guaranteeing that no adoptable animals would be unnecessarily put down.

The truth is that about 70 percent of all intake animals were being euthanized under the program. The Washington Humane Society managed to claim a no-kill philosophy while euthanizing 70 percent of the animals by employing a very narrow definition of "adoptable."

For example, the Society's previous definition of "adoptable" excluded all pit bulls and pit-bull mixes (also not considered adoptable: cats with ear mites and animals with a host of minor conditions easily remedied with medicine).

In Philadelphia, this would be problematic. On a recent visit to the PACCA shelter, about 95 percent of the dogs housed there were pit bull mixes. Pit bulls commonly make up most of a shelter's canine population because that's what's left over after advocacy groups comb the intake population and funnel specific breeds into placement networks.

Nathan Winograd, a lawyer and national animal control expert, has routinely blasted the PSPCA's Howard Nelson in the past. Winograd is nonetheless cautiously optimistic about the PSPCA taking over the contract. (Nelson was unavailable for comment as of press time.)

"I've had major disagreements with Howard Nelson in the past. While I have expressed concern about historical PSPCA policies, Howard has assured me the policies of the past are no longer the current policies and that if PSPCA were to get the contract, he will honor that contract with the spirit of the programs that I have professed," says Winograd. "And he has assured me that he intends to seek and pass shelter reform legislation."

Photo By Jesse Lundy

It's no secret that Philadelphia is considered a total disaster for animal control by animal rights activists and experts. Infighting, politics, nepotism, mismanagement and power struggles between PACCA and the PSPCA have all been obstacles in the way of implementing progressive no-kill programs of the sort effective in New York City and San Francisco.

Winograd, who literally wrote the book on No-kill shelter management, performed an In-depth audit of Philadelphia's services for the city in 2005 and has worked closely with both Howard Nelson and Tara Darby, executive director of PACCA.

He says he used to think of PACCA, the city-created organization that just lost the contract, as "the lesser of two evils." Though it started out bogged down with employees left over from the "house of horrors" days when life was systematically cruel and grim for animals, PACCA has brought save rates up by almost 600 percent and implemented many lifesaving programs like foster care networks and adoption centers.

But then, in Winograd's perspective, PACCA hit a wall, and he watched the passion that ignited the turnaround in 2005 fizzle and fade.

Meanwhile, Howard Nelson began to communicate more regularly with Winograd, changing his tune most dramatically, says Winograd, after the RFP hit the Web in September.

"I can't tell you if he found the light, but over the last couple of months Howard Nelson has made an active effort to reach out to me and to try to assure me that those historical policies were just that--history ... I told him that's great, but I'm not interested in promises. I'd like to see this have the force of law."

Legislation would help clarify where good intentions can't. Why spend energy currying hope within a two-party system when the two organizations ultimately suffer the same obstacles of bureaucracy, ego and politics? These are the problems that led to our grisly record in animal control; it was only a few years ago that there were reports of dogs killed within one minute of being dropped off at a shelter.

"Directors come and go. Directors burn out and lose heart and get sidetracked. So I'm less interested in who runs animal control and more interested in making sure that animal control is run rigorously, ethically and transparently," Winograd said Monday, after the city announced the PSCPA's appointment.

To that end, Winograd wrote the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), guidelines that define "adoptable" and "unadoptable" animals in specific legal terms. For example, pit bulls that pass behavioral assessment are adoptable. So are cats with ear mites. And overweight poodles. Under these guidelines about 90 percent of intake animals would be spayed or neutered then put up for adoption or placed through existing networks. Only irremediably sick and suffering animals and animals with a history of vicious behavior would be euthanized.

CAPA includes additional check-and-balance provisions that must be followed before an animal is killed, including exhausting all adoption and shelter options, notifying the rescue community, and publishing a public monthly report.

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Comments 1 - 34 of 34
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1. Sam said... on Dec 2, 2008 at 05:34PM

“PACCA failed because Winograd's ideas are failures. They don't work, they make animals suffer more. And CAPA is just an attempt by Winograd to force his failed no kill back in to make more animals suffer. It includes forcing animal control to hand out animals to hoarders or unchecked "rescue groups" that just might be dog fighting groups and animal abusers. Winograd is involved with breeders now. He leaves them out of his Equation, and lets them follow no laws. The Winograd method has resulted in horrible suffering to animals while he keeps trying to sell his product. Winograd doesn't belong anywhere near Philadelphia. The animals have suffered enough.”

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2. Sam said... on Dec 2, 2008 at 05:38PM

“And Nathan Winograd is NOT a national animal control expert. He is selling a product that has failed animals again and again. He's a self-promoter. Here's just some of Nathan Winograd's many failures and the animals that suffered because of him”

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3. Tammy Kerr said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 06:29AM

“Hey Nathan and Philadelphia, ask Howie why animals that are perfectly adoptable, are being euthanized at the Danville PSPCA shelter. Those, by the way, were Howard Nelson's EXACT words. Deny it Howie! Let's swear in front of a judge. You lie and anyone who believes your lies is an idiot. Tammy Kerr”

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4. Eileen Kerrigan said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 08:15AM

“The article above notes that "PACCA has brought save rates up by almost 600 percent and implemented many lifesaving programs like foster care networks and adoption centers. But then, in Winograd's perspective, PACCA hit a wall, and he watched the passion that ignited the turnaround in 2005 fizzle and fade." I've read this (or similar) before, and I just don't get it: What exactly is this "wall" he's talking about? Boosting the save rate by 600% over just three years isn't enough?? Of course there's always room for improvement; of course we want to make it better for the animals in any way possible. But we've "hit a wall??" That's just so ... VAGUE. What exactly is it that Winograd thinks should have been done that wasn't, given the constraints of budget and manpower? If he's going to disparage the amazing work that's been done by PACCA and PAWS, he'd better have something a lot more concrete to complain about. If Winograd could see the astounding feats that are accomplished EVERY SINGLE DAY by the PAWS volunteer network -- in cooperation with the PACCA staff -- perhaps that might shame him into a well-deserved apology. I'm proud and honored to be a part of PAWS, and don't take kindly to accusations that what we're doing isn't good enough. The PAWS volunteers don't have much, but we do the best with what we have ... and we work miracles.”

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5. frustrated said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 08:18AM

“I am so sick and tired of this endless bashing. If you really and truly have THAT much of problem with either of the gentlmen mentioned in the above article. Get up off your butt and go and change things. ugh.”

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6. Tara said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 09:09AM

“Having worked in veterinary medicine for nearly 15 years, the struggles facing the local SPCAs and PACCA-like organziations are not foreign to me. However, this article sickens me. Pitbulls deemed unadoptable simply for their breed is a pill tough enough to swallow but to deny ear mite-ridden cats and overweight poodles a chance at a life is downright STUPID, as in lacking knowldedge. Give me a break. Ear drops cure ear mites and a restricted diet mixed with some real attention cures canine obesity. Perhaps that fat poodle had a underactive thryoid, also easily treated with a pill. Get it together Philadelphia, please.”

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7. Tammy Kerr said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 09:18AM

“Philly can't get it together because everyone is bilnd to what is going on. Yeah we are getting off our butts to try to help! How about if YOU help too! Do a little research on Howard. He can't only be the right one. Ask about the barrels full of dead dogs at PSPCA in Philly. Yep, I said it. Let's hear the lies fly now Howie! Having any trouble keeping them straight? See, if ya tell the truth, all your stories are worries. That is why I am not scared or worried. It's all gonna come out eventually. Who is going to look like idiots for not listening? I am telling the truth! E-mail me. Tammy Kerr”

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8. skippy said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 09:28AM

“I have been investigating the mountains of killed dogs that are being dumped in our nations landfills. If the no kill movement doesn't become the standard FAST the nation is looking at our water becoming too polluted to drink. We are finding high levels of e-coli, virus, unidentified bacteria going into rivers and streams and into the ground water from the lanfills.”

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9. Garrett Elwood said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:02AM

“Please join the movement in Philadelphia to make this city a No-Kill city! We need all the help we can get.”

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10. rosa said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:02AM

“Please join the movement in Philadelphia to make this city a No-Kill city! We need all the help we can get.”

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11. Elaine said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:36AM

“As a long time supporter of the Washington Humane Society it saddens me that they were dragged into this article and associated in this way with the mess Howard Nelson created in Philadelphia. Washington Humane Society has progressed in leaps and bounds since his departure and under the leadership of their new and very qualified President and CEO. While Howard’s time at WHS was tumultuous, the moment Ms. LaFontaine came to WHS her first order of business was address the obvious flaws in the Good Home Guarantee. Today, pit bulls are proudly being adopted out, minor and severe medical issues are being treated regularly, and adoption rates have authentically increased by double digits. ”

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12. Janice said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:00PM

“That's terrific news, Elaine. I 'm glad to hear that DC turned around after HN's departure. It gives us all hope that there will be the same kind of turnaround after Howard Nelson leaves Philadelphia.”

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13. NonsenseEliminator said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 03:22PM

“Howard? Is that you again?”

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14. YH said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 04:35PM

“I don't trust Nelson. He doesn't have a good record, he is an egotist and not a true animal lover. Thousands of Phildelphia animals will die unnecessarily under this man's control. Please Philly, Don't let this happen!”

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15. Tammy Kerr said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 04:39PM

“Thank you all who are seeing what I have been saying! Thank you! Keep looking in any spare time you have. Ask Howard why he told me he has animals euthanized due to overcrowding. Ask Howard about the barrels of dead dogs in Philly. ASK HIM THESE HARD QUESTIONS people!”

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16. Sam said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 04:46PM

“When Winograd worked at Tompkins County, he diidn't take a lot of pit bulls. There was no reoom. Shelters fill up quickly with pit bulls. They got put on waiting lists, and people were charged like $100 when they could finally bring them in, if Tompkins County ever agreed to bring them in Those people weren't going to sit around on some waiting list and they weren't going to pay surrender fees. They just took those poor dogs and dumped them outside, where they ran off to die who knows where. Winograd's deeds never match up to his words. But when his program doesn't work out, he just blames the poor people struggling to make it work, not his failed programs. Now Winograd is trying to smear this Nelson. Nelson is just the latest. This is the kind of thing Winograd does every time his programs fail. Hypocritical and the animals end up hurting.”

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17. Sam said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 05:06PM

“"but to deny ear mite-ridden cats and overweight poodles a chance at a life" Tara, just because Winograd says this is happening doesn't mean it is. Winograd continually uses exaggeration to push his thing. So that he can get a reaction like he did from you. It's very manipulative, and it is designed to emotionally work on people to turn them into followers that in turn promote his book sales and consulting hiring and give donations. Just like advertisers on TV try to get you to buy products. Winograd slams people who are working very hard in an impossible situation. As long as huge numbers of animals come in, shelters like PACCA can't keep up. But Winograd's new breeder friends don't want things like puppy mill regulations or spay neuter laws, so he always opposes those with the usual breeder propaganda. (But also if you do work in veterinary medicine, perhaps you could persuade some of your colleagues to contribute to the community. I am always shocked by how few vets actually volunteer and help in humane work)”

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18. ScrappyDoo said... on Dec 3, 2008 at 07:16PM

“After reading some of the comments left by other people here, I would just like to say that I know both Ed Boks and Nathan Winograd and the two are as different as night and day. Winograd has his heart in the right place. He and Rich Avanzino (formerly of the San Francisco SPCA (first true no kill shelter in the US) and now in charge of his own organization, Maddie's Fund) are wonderful and are true 'no kill' advocates while Ed Boks is nothing but talk. Since he took over the LA City Shelter system it has been a nightmare for the animals and interested rescuers. No kill is achievable but it won't happen overnight and not without the cooperation of owners, rescuers and shelters. What have you done to help the cause, Sam?”

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19. Nathan said... on Dec 4, 2008 at 11:21AM

“The comments by Sam are being made by Pat Dunaway. To find out about Pat, who has a sordid history, read "Who is Pat Dunaway" at (Oct. 25, 2008)”

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20. victim said... on Dec 4, 2008 at 01:30PM

“Another Wino victim, hi Sam, whoever you are good for you ! Anybody taking Nathan's post seriously should read his entire blog. In his " disclaimer" he says he is a lawyer, as a matter of fact in several places on the web he refers to himself as a lawyer. He is "inactive" people, in California it is a big no no to leave out the word " inactive" when referencing your law career. only worth a wrist slap, but so far we have documented 74 posts and articles all dated after he went inactive where he uses the present tense; clearly implying he is current. I'd contact the California state bar if I were Sam.”

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21. Joe said... on Dec 4, 2008 at 01:49PM

“People need to realize that Nathan Winograd is a business man selling a service. He wants people to hire him to consult so he can make money. That is his main goal, maybe even his only goal. Cities hire Nathan to consult. He gives them a list of problems with their shelter. It's the same problems that are in every shelter, i.e. too many animals, not enough homes, not enough spayneuter, not enough fosters, volunteers, money, old run down shelter.... Then he just copies the same basic ten steps to nokill which existed years before he ever started consulting. The result is always the same, i.e. overcrowding, more animals dying on their own, spread of disease, more gross adoptions but fewer net adoptions because animals are returned, reduced revenue because he gives animals away to hoarders for free... Nathan is only a nokill guru in his own mind. He actually makes things worse. Cities only hire him because he deludes animal activists into thinking the shelters are the devil and he's the one true savior. His activists in turn whine, protest, send emails to the city demanding change. Nathan basically extorts the cities into hiring him. He refuses to call off his activist "dogs" until he gets money. After Nathan fails he blames the city, shelter for not following his instructions. The cities don't dare say anything because he threatens to disclose confidential information he learned while doing the consultation. It's like blackmail. In the end Nathan makes a few bucks off the dead tortured animals, and he likes it that way. If there really were a Santa Claus, Nathan would get a huge lump of coal in his stocking.”

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22. tired of rude said... on Dec 5, 2008 at 08:30PM

“How arrogant with out good reason... Most arrogant people have some claim to fame. Fix Austin, Fix Houston, Catch word and buzz, smoke and mirrors and blaming in total darkness as though your detractors have a limit. You have made naysayers every place you have destroyed , I can't believe you want another swing at Philly.”

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23. Fraidy Cat said... on Dec 6, 2008 at 06:14PM

“I can' t use my real name; but I know the players mentioned above and none of those named can be trusted. The only way to give the animals turned into animal control in philly any chance is to change laws; put lots more money into animal control and get Boards of Directors who aren't just saying yes to their CEOs. This has not happened; it didn't happen at Washington Humane and it is a lot of the reason that Philly is a disgrace in the world of animals.”

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24. rosa said... on Dec 8, 2008 at 02:57PM

“This Nathan Winograd person sounds like a Mesiah or something of the sort???? It is amazing How his path and struggle for the animals is all about "Nathan". Every sentence starts out with Me (Nathan);Every things is I hope this, I did that, I want this; Yet ,he is so good that he can make you believe that it's all about the animals. Hey Scrappydoo! if you are such a firm believer in Winograd you surely don't follow his prophesy; because Nathan is 100% sure that 'NO KILL HAPPENS OVERNIGHT'. Do some research before you get involved with something and or people you know nothing of. The general consensus says that Nathan is all BS, and that He was such a big supporter of the big wigs at PACCA...One of which he reccomended to run the place. That person turned out to be a mad man who really truely lacked the knowledge to make sound decisions,Created choas, and turned a blind eye to all the wrong things that were going on there.Now he feels it's cause people from a prior regime were still there( NOT TRUE).People animals were sufferring there at PACCA because the people running this place was trying to please this FAKE PROPHET; Niether the CEO, nor the COO were competent enough to realize that this Winograd dude is a fake and a con. He is like those cult leaders in a polygamist camp. I don't know much about this Nelson person, but if he is setting out to satifide the ego of this self proclaim animal shelter Guru then animal control is just headind in the same direction. We pay taxes so that the city can provide civil servants to our community and do the job that some of us just can not do. Maybe it's because we are afraid of animals? or because we love them so much that we can not make the decisions that have to be made in some cases; Like making the decision to euthanize an animal that is suffering, or that is so aggressive that it will put the public at harm. Everyone can't do everything! This false prophet comes along and has an apiphany that would benefit him (Nathan) this is you. Only a percentage of us have the intelligence to see that in the mist of all this Bull and Political crap; We are forgetting that the need for animal control in our cities is because the pet populations in all of our cities out populate the poeple. So lets just say that it were true that all the shelters in America were No Kill. Even though shelters do killl; trust me even the ones that say they don't; do! but for argument sake (Nathan) lets say we saved all the animals; what are we going to do with all these animals? since 60% of the animals are owner surrenders for reasons like (can't keep anymore), (not enough time), (moving), (landlord issues). Where are they going? Will they sit in a cage get sick and die in cage? Come on Nathan don't BS the public.”

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25. Realist said... on Dec 11, 2008 at 07:47PM

“The idea of a true no kill shelter would be great in a perfect world. However, we do not live in a perfect world. We all need to wake up and face reality. Life is more complicated than some of the people posting on here want to believe. What are places like PACCA, PSPCA, or any other shelter in this country supposed to do with the astonishing number of animals they see everyday? These places only have a limited amount resources including space for the animals, staffing to care for the animals, and lets not forget the massive amount of money it takes to care for these animals? The reality is that people do not want to adopt pit bulls or other bully breeds for whatever personal reasons they have. Go into any shelter and you will find that the majority of dogs for adoption are that of pit bull type dogs. The sad reality is that these dogs are going to have to be euthanized. It is the dark reality that no one wants to face. Other dogs that have a high potential to be adopted will suffer. Its a grim reality but nonetheless real. Death is a inevitable reality that we all have to face. If we could all live for ever this planet would quickly become over crowded and implode. I know it is a stretch but a relevant analogy nonetheless.”

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26. NonsenseEliminator said... on Dec 12, 2008 at 10:00PM

“What is it about animal rescue that brings all the nut jobs out of their caves wearing their "Holier Than Thou" hats? None of are completely right, and none of you are completely wrong. Some of you need to get over yourselves already. And Pat, go back into your cave, please - we have enough hate in Philly without you jumping into the fray.”

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27. Anonymous said... on Oct 7, 2009 at 09:57AM

“Pat Dunaway! My golly, doesn't anyone know who she really is? She has no career, no education and no achievements. You should hear what some of her hometown City officials say about her in private. They call her a crazy lunatic and its not about her politics. Pat Dunaway threatened a staff member who is afraid of her and thinks she is seriously disturbed and dangerous. Pat Dunaway is a fat ugly old woman with really bad teeth who speaks really wierd. She reminds you of the backwood inbreds seen in the movie Deliverance. In person she comes off as retarded and you wouldn't give her the time of day! Some of her former acquaintances with POPCO wrote online that they knew her decades ago and in the last few years she has gone over the edge and no one wants anything to do with her. Why are we talking about this loser Pat Dunaway?”

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28. KlondikeSam said... on Mar 2, 2010 at 02:25PM

“For all of you who want this to become a "no-kill" city, who do you propose should foot the bill for this endeavor? I have a suggestion, all you dog freaks get together, gather up all the vicious and unwanted dogs in the city, and take care of them yourselves. I, for one, am tired of footing the bill for dog parks so that dog owners can excercise their dogs, and animal control costs when their animals--which were NOT bred to become pets--maim or kill someone, to be quarantined. Let the dog-lovers start paying these costs!”

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29. SoCoolDude said... on Mar 12, 2010 at 04:33AM

“Oh God, Pat Dunaway - Go Runaway! She lives in San Bernardino and is extremely scarey and totally screwed up. She hates animals. Her life's ambition is to find a way to harm them. Like what is she doing talking to anyone about animals. She is beyond yuck!”

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30. Anonymous said... on Apr 3, 2010 at 09:46PM

“Pat Dunaway moved from Rialto, California to Seal Point, Oregon. She gives her reason to move as, 'Nathan Winograd is trying to kill me!' Well I guess she figured out there are lots of people who don't like her, after all, she spews hate all day long online. She is delusional, not at all credible. She is on disability because she is totally deaf. But why couldn't she work? If she can post hate all day and create wierd websites against the no-kill movement and pit bulls, why can't she go out and work so we don't have to support her! And I wonder if she is reporting money she claims she gets "as a partner at Hi-way Auto Recyclers" in San Bernardino, CA. Is that under the table Pat Dunaway? Should you be collecting disability? If you don't stop your hate, get prepared for others to talk about YOU, it's KARMA.”

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31. Anonymous said... on Dec 30, 2010 at 10:26PM

“If only we'd have known what a disaster Nelson is/was; never trusted Winograd and the folks at PACCA; just wish one group in Phila. could get real animal welfare and NO KILL as a goal together.”

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32. Anonymous said... on Nov 6, 2012 at 09:10PM

“If not sure why this thread even needs to talk about Pat Dunaway but if you go to her blog opposing views she shows exactlly who she is and what her history has been. All verifiable by public record. Perhaps her blog hits a little to close to Winograd an the no kill movement for comfort.”

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33. Anonymous said... on Jan 20, 2013 at 10:47PM


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34. Anonymous said... on Feb 16, 2015 at 12:09AM

“Ha, pat Dunaways crazy goes way back. Anyone that is familiar with her will recognize her comments under varying names on this article. of course, an IP check verifies it also. They are all the same IP from Rialto.”


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