“All dogs come out with kennel cough, we expect that, but there seems to be a huge problem with this particular facility,” says Gareau. Gareau says her layperson’s guess is that kennel cough became a secondary infection of pneumonia.
She doesn’t think she would rescue another dog from the shelter because of the sickness. “It’s the quickest way to annihilate local rescue networks,” she says.
Barry Watson, in a lengthy response to Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz’s letter to PW that stated that “Philadelphia’s animals are in good hands at the PSPCA,” wrote of his outrage at the changes he has witnessed in the last few months. Watson is a well-known local rescue partner who has rescued cats out of Hunting Park Ave. for years and through multiple organizational changes and contracts.
“Going back over six years, to the day I pulled my first cat from Hunting Park, I have never experienced more widespread illness, infecting almost every cat pulled, than I’ve experienced in just the first four months of 2009,” wrote Watson in his open letter. “It is important to point out that the ACCT Lifesaving Staff is fully aware of these problems and has made every effort to implement effective changes, but kittens continue to die and adults get terribly sick.”
Other rescues echo Watson’s praise of PSPCA’s employees in the trenches and cite recent physical improvements to the shelter.
Beth Gordon, the Philadelphia liaison for Kodi’s Club, a rescue based in Patterson, N.Y., estimates she’s rescued 72 dogs out of the Hunting Park facility in the last two years.
“I think the [staff] at ACCT are wonderful,” says Gordon. “When I walk back to Lifesaving, they’re very accommodating and nice.” Gordon describes how PSPCA bettered the physical plant. Gordon was one of several representative rescue partners invited to the internal meeting in March that reportedly addressed vaccination delays, among other problems.
“[PSPCA] came in and really beautified the building. They painted, put in a drop ceiling so they could also put in a ventilation system, that was all done day one,” she says. “But what I saw as a rescuer is that the animals no longer got their vaccinations … sometimes not getting them for days and days.”
Gordon says she can no longer afford to pull animals from the Hunting Park facility.
“It is a cause for frustration, so sometimes when they call me and say we have a dog that is the type we typically pull I have to say I’ll pass because I just spent so much on previous dogs,” she says.
Just below the surface of organizational mission statements and personal professed love of furry friends, the animal welfare scene in Philly is a two-party system composed of those that fervently support and defend PSPCA —seemingly primarily members of PSPCA—and those that fervently support and defend PACCA, the former organization in charge of the animal control contract. So many people are so invested, there are enough wagons circling to make heads spin.
For example, the comment gallery to PW’s cover story on vaccination delays and the possibility of hidden euthanasia at the Erie shelter—both problems the PSCPA admits after issuing initial denials--demonstrate the venomous infighting that mars the scene and hinders progress for the animals.
Of more than 250 comments on the story, only a few expressed surprise or concern about reports of sick and dying animals and fudged euthanasia rates. The vast majority of the comments instead slung insults and traded PSPCA versus PACCA barbs—despite the fact that PACCA disbanded at the end of last year and no longer exists.
The leftover infighting now is among chiefless Indians—Tara Derby, ex-CEO of PACCA, has moved on to a job in the arts, and it seems no one has heard from former PSPCA CEO Howard Nelson save Councilman Jack Kelly, whose office reportedly fielded a call from Nelson threatening to sue Kelly for defamation of character after Kelly delivered an impassioned lecture to the Council criticizing the Health Department’s decision to award the contract to the PSPCA.
Then there’s upstart Garrett Elwood, founder of Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia (CNKP). In the two-party system metaphor, Elwood’s the third party, the outsider citizen loudly calling for grassroots uprising and increased citizen surveillance.
Though everyone on the scene laments the rift—while blaming “the other side” for perpetuating it—the rift is a crutch of the past that the PSCPA Board leans on heavily to excuse shelter problems of the present.
There is a tendency for PSPCA to simultaneously categorize critics as mere PACCA torch-holders while constantly bringing up PACCA’s supposed activities and effectiveness when asked about the here and now.
January’s problems, the Board says now, are because of the mess it inherited from PACCA. While discussing January and February’s fudged save rates and how they’re going to issue “more accurate” numbers soon, Yaron insists that PACCA lied about its rates. They say other problems that have plagued them are just small issues magnified by a very vocal minority pitching lies and exaggerations to a gullible media.
They say the rescues that talk about sick animals are simply biased, trying to tear them down due to personal agendas and lingering allegiances to PACCA.
Yaron says the media shouldn’t rely on people who make such claims.
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.
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 anim...
An activist wants to know what is wrong with Philadelphia animal control.
Despite Tara Murtha’s assertions to the contrary, Philadelphia’s animals are in good hands at the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), the city’s contracted agency to provide animal control services. Contrary to allegations that the facility is “crumbling,” immediately upon taking over the shelter on Jan. 1, 2009, the PSPCA initiated a massive cleanup of the building that included upgrading of the air-handling system, replacement of ceiling tiles, roof repairs and cleaning and fresh painting of surfaces throughout the building. Animals at the PSPCA facility are well cared for; relations with foster care agencies are strong,...
Responses to Tara Murtha’s recent cover story about the mistreatment of animals in shelter care/
Baptism by fire, shit storm, train wreck: These are the nice ways to describe the situation that Sue Cosby -- the new CEO of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -- is hurling herself into. Earlier this week, Cosby talked with PW about her new role, her vision for the city’s animal control, and what a long, strange trip it’s been.
The Michael Vick signing has stirred outrage among animal-loving Eagles fans. But this city is already one of the worst in the nation for homeless animals. Will Philadelphians put their money where their mouse is?
Philadelphia’s animal advocates have been meeting once a month since last fall, obstensibly to try to fix an animal control plan that’s been unraveling at the seams. Despite the crisis, the direction is still unclear.
PSPCA plans to pack the dogs into crates and stack them in "temporary emergency housing in the garages at the Erie Ave. facility," according to an email sent from PSPCA to their network of volunteers and rescues.
Everyone who has worked directly with Howard Nelson—who in an earlier life was a Fannie Mae exec—has a strong opinion on him. His detractors are rapid; his supporters devout.
Letters to the Editor