Two weeks away from a City Hall investigational hearing called by Philadelphia City Councilman Jack Kelly to drill into the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA)’s mismanagement of Philly’s animal control contract, the PSCPA is coming clean on euthanasia and save rate statistics. As critics long speculated, the fuzzy numbers were born in a blind spot created by using two databases but keeping one of the two “closed.”
The PSCPA runs two shelters within a couple of miles of one another. The larger shelter, called ACCT (Animal Care and Control Team) on Hunting Park Ave. in North Philadelphia, is where roughly 31,000 homeless animals funnel into after being saved from the streets or given up by their owners. The animals are processed at Hunting Park, then either pulled by rescue partners, euthanized or sent to the second shelter, on Erie Ave., where PSCPA’s statistics had categorized such animals as “adopted.”
The ACCT database is “open” to the Health Department, which oversees the contract, while Erie’s database remains closed. As PW recently reported [The (Scary) Truth about Cats and Dogs, April 21], critics were concerned that not all of the animals shipped from Hunting Park to Erie were actually being adopted. In fact, they worried that some animals were being euthanized at Erie and not being properly accounted for in the PSCPA’s official save rates.
They were right.
PSPCA board members say they are now working to calculate “more accurate” numbers and will adjust January and February’s statistics accordingly. Between January and February, 786 animals were shipped to Erie and counted as “adopted” and save rates—72.4 percent for January and 80.9 percent for February—were admirable, especially for an organization just transitioning into the municipal animal-control role. PSPCA was also besieged by problems such as CEO Howard Nelson’s abrupt resignation six weeks into the six-month animal-control contract—a contract the organization had feverishly pursued.
March’s statistics, published after PW’s story ran, were presented online with a new section called “Outcomes of PSPCA Transfers,” which itemizes what the PSCPA board says is the true outcome of those animals, though they do not admit that prior stats had been favorably skewed intentionally.
“The numbers were not broken out in that way [in January and February] because that’s not what the city had first requested,” said Beth Ann White in a recent interview at Hunting Park Ave. “Then we all decided to go to the new format to make it more transparent.”
The newly presented numbers assert that, counting euthanasia at Erie, March’s save rate is 62.3 percent and April’s—just published—is 59.6%.
White says there is a team currently working to “redress” January and February’s save rate statistics, and that the new numbers will be published online “soon.”
If January and February’s “Outcomes of PSPCA Transfers” follows March’s pattern, about 118—roughly 15 percent—of the 786 animals previously identified as “adopted” would have been euthanized at the Erie facility.
Yet with Erie’s database still closed, it’s unclear where these new numbers are coming from.
Also puzzling are the PSPCA’s various stories regarding vaccination delays and rescue partners.
PSCPA reportedly struggled internally with the problem of vaccination delays—rescue partners and volunteers allege they cited concerns about those delays at a meeting in March. The shelter came under fire for vaccination delays after rescues began to complain that a bizarre number of cats and dogs coming out of ACCT were unusually sick and that many—especially kittens—were dying at alarming rates.
In April, PW reported rescue partners’ allegations of sick and dying animals and vaccination delays—stretching up to two weeks long—that were potentially responsible.
In April, Beth Ann White wrote a letter to PW denying vaccination delays.
“The Pennsylvania SPCA follows strict protocol regarding vaccination,” White wrote. “Within 24 hours, cats receive feline vital rhinotracheitis, Calici-virus and panleukopenia if older than four weeks and rabies if older than 12 weeks. Dogs are vaccinated with Distemper, Hepatitis, parainfluenza and Parvovirus and bordetella if older than four weeks and rabies if older than 12 weeks.”
In a recent interview, White echoed the claim: “Most animals if not all animals are done within a 12- to 24-hour period at the absolute latest,” she said.
PW has obtained records showing vaccination delays continuing throughout April and up through last week.
As vaccination delays continue, Beth Ann White struggles to reconcile her story regarding the allegations of vaccination delays earlier in the year.
Since last year, the PSPCA has been working with the city to set up, and transfer animal-control duties to, a new city-related nonprofit called the Animal Care & Control Team (ACCT Philly). ACCT Philly formally takes over the contract and the city-owned animal shelter on April 1.
Insiders say Philadelphia shelter conditions have gotten so bad that animals need to be saved from the very place they go for protection. UPDATE: Councilman Jack Kelly's speech citing PW's cover story.
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Letters to the Editor