“It depends who those rescues are, and where your information is from and what their alliances are,” says Yaron. She says rescues who claim the animals are unusually sick are “unreliable.”
“There’s a really strong group that is extremely angry at the PSPCA and they tend to be extremely vocal and if those are the people you’re talking to, you’re just going to only hear the bad news and not going to hear the good news,” echoes Binswanger. “You can look at two halves of the divorce case, so it just depends on which half you’re focusing on.”
“The truth lies in the middle,” says White, emphatically. “The truth lies in the middle!”
Indeed. The nest of contradictions extends to City Hall. According to Holly Maher, Councilman Kelly’s assistant, the Health Department isn’t cooperating with Kelly’s office in preparation for the upcoming hearing.
“They’re essentially stonewalling us,” says Maher. “So much so that the Health Department is refusing to admit that there is even a potential problem on the horizon”—even thought the Board has openly admitted to both the Daily News and PW that they would need an additional million dollars in order to continue the contract that expires June 30.
Who to believe?
“Yes, animals are getting sick and dying but it’s how it’s being reported and to what degree. It’s definitely happening, we’re not denying that, it’s just that you can go to your source and then you can go to a reliable source,” says Yaron.
White says anyone who doesn’t have a solution to the giant problem of what to do with the 31,000 homeless animals a year—and climbing—should just shut up.
“January was a transition month as was February, if you will, then our CEO left. We’ve had a lot to deal with … so I think all of that needs to be taken into consideration,” says White. “In the meantime, people are bashing us every way from Friday. But not one person has stepped up with a solution. Not one person. I mean, I got to tell you, from my point of view, put your money where your mouth is or don’t say anything. If you can’t be part of the solution then keep you mouth shut.”
Asked who should keep their mouths shut, Yaron says, “The media.” Interim CEO White echoes, “The media and the Garrett Elwoods of the world. No one has stepped up to say, ‘Gee, I’ll do that till you get someone else and I’ll do that best that I can.’”
After three and a half CEO-less months, PSPCA just announced the selection of a new Chief Executive Officer in Sue Cosby, who was the head of PACCA from June 2005 to August 2007. Insiders say the Board went back and forth on Cosby before offering her the job.
Cosby will start just in time to face the animal-control contract dilemma. There’s now a possibility that—just as critics feared— PSPCA may drop the contract, though it would be a bit of a public relations scandal to leave the animals in a lurch.
The Board says the reason PSPCA would require an additional million dollars a year to continue the contract is because they’ve already paid more than $500,000 out of their own endowment—$33 million dollars deep, at last check—to provide services. A raise doesn’t seem likely while Philly is in a dire budget crunch and Mayor Nutter is under pressure to slash services to the bone.
PSPCA had underbid PACCA by about $300,000 in the proposal that won the contract, bringing the current contract to $2.9 million dollars, a budget already skinnier than a shoestring compared to what experts recommend to run effective animal control in a city Philadelphia’s size.
But it sounds like Yaron has other ideas.
“Let the Health Department take over animal control,” she says. “Then we can have a partner that can do the medical for them, then we can have the foster and rescue groups help them and partner in another way, so it will all be part of a community effort. Everybody will know what’s going on, and see the real truth and sadness that goes on here every day.”
Of course, the Health Department had taken over animal control last time the PSPCA left the contract—it was the impetus for creating PACCA.
Area animal organizations are so full of unwanted homeless animals that many are running adoption specials and assorted incentives to entice people to take them off their hands. The PSPCA is drowning in animals and needs more money, the city’s strapped and the only other organization that can do the job disbanded.
“I didn’t realize until we took it over how awful it is. Because I truly am an animal lover and there are many people in this organization who are, too. What do we do?” laments Yaron. “Who wants this job? I mean, 30,000 animals come in. What are you going to do with them?”
The City Hall hearing is open to the public and will take place June 9 at1:00 pm.
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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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,...
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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.
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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.
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