Update: PSPCA’s “Population Break” Plan

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 20 | Posted Apr. 9, 2010

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PW spoke with PSPCA COO Marc Peralta this afternoon to learn more about the outbreak of strep zoo at PSPCA’s ACCT shelter on West Hunting Park Avenue and the subsequent “population break.”

Peralta confirmed that the strain of strep zoo found this week matches the strain found in the shelter last June. He says that it may have been never been fully eradicated because the population break wasn’t conducted properly last year.

“We didn’t do a population break last year. We did put animals in the garage in June but there were still animals in the shelter. So what we’re trying to do this time is take the dogs out completely, push for adoption and take a few days to scrub and let everything properly dry,” Peralta says.

One controversial element of the population-break plan is that the dogs who exit the infected shelter will not return after the cleaning. Instead, they’ll be stored in crates in a garage until they’re adopted or, ultimately, euthanized.

Peralta says though the dogs have all been treated with antibiotics, they are being extra cautious by not allowing the dogs back in. At the same time, he emphasizes that people shouldn’t be afraid to adopt the dogs, because they’re as healthy as dogs generally are coming out of the shelter.

“It’s highly unlikely that any of the animals are a carrier. We want to make sure we get this right,” he says.

Peralta also emphasizes: “Euthanasia is not part of the plan.” However, when more than a third of the dogs who enter the shelter alive are euthanized under regular day-to-day conditions, it’s obvious that unless overburdened regional rescues step up and squeeze a few more dogs into their spaces and this weekend’s announced-last-second (more on that later) adoption event is deliriously successful, many of these dogs are going to be put down.

If you take the PSPCA’s estimate of 150 dogs in the infected shelter, add the average of 25 new homeless dogs that arrive every day and consider that the outbreak was confirmed March 30, that’s actually 150 dogs that were in the shelter plus another 250 that would have arrived since then. Then 25 more tomorrow and each day throughout the population break.

Getting these dogs to safety will be a huge challenge.

“In all honesty, after a certain amount of time, after 10 days or a week, we really could return them, but again, it’s just about getting this thing right,” he says. Critics say the decision is a death sentence; defenders of the plan retort that being stacked in crates in a garage is better than being euthanized outright.

Peralta confirms that a space was cleared out in the nearby shelter on Erie Avenue to accommodate about 50 more dogs, and the rest will be put into crates in the shelter’s garage. The transportation begins tomorrow morning.

“We’ll always have staff back there, the biggest thing is getting them out and walked. They’re not going to be sitting in crates and forgotten about,” he says. “We won’t let that happen.”

PSPCA employs dedicated animal-lover volunteers, but making sure these dogs are walked properly will be a challenge. Insiders have long said that on a regular day, there aren’t enough volunteers to walk the shelter dogs properly. 

Peralta says that dogs stored in the garage, where there’s little ventilation, will be rotated in the extra Erie Avenue space.

Peralta says that disease-control experts at University of Pennsylvania were consulted to develop the plan. Neither the Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services or Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement have any rules or protocol to govern population breaks.

Asked how long the dogs are expected to stay in the garage, Peralta says, “I’m hoping a matter of days. That’s a hard question. It could be up to a few weeks. They’ll be dwindling by the day.”

Though it’s not on their website yet, last night after business hours PSPCA sent out a last-minute media advisory announcing a “garage sale” emergency adoption event this weekend.

The announcement reads:

“Approximately 150 dogs from the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) facility on Hunting Park Ave. will be transported to the Pennsylvania SPCA’s Erie Ave. shelter on  Saturday morning and kept in temporary housing until they can be adopted into loving homes, placed in foster care or sent to rescue organizations. The dogs are being moved so a thorough cleaning of the ACCT facility can take place.

There will be substantially discounted adoption fees for dogs and chances to receive a free dog adoption and adoption hours will be extended on Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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1. ahomeforcutie said... on Apr 9, 2010 at 04:31PM

“"They’ll be dwindling by the day" Make that: they'll be dying by the day because you will be euthanizing them.

"Peralta says though the dogs have all been treated with antibiotics, they are being extra cautious by not allowing the dogs back in. At the same time, he emphasizes that people shouldn’t be afraid to adopt the dogs, because they’re as healthy as dogs generally are coming out of the shelter.
“It’s highly unlikely that any of the animals are a carrier. We want to make sure we get this right,” he says."

I'm sorry, but there is something really, really, really wrong with this logic!! You want rescues and the population at-large to adopt them and they aren't carriers, most likely, but you won't let them back into your own shelter!!! The nicest thing I can say is that you (PSPCA) are not thinking about this logically!”

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2. anon said... on Apr 9, 2010 at 05:37PM

“1. Why conduct a population break at ACCT, but then integrate that population, which is potentially carrying these diseases, into the PSPCA?
2. It is ten months since the first purported outbreak - why did the PSPCA wait until now to call 'mayday'?
3. Knock off the 'No Kill' blame game - ! Why not find viable rescues/fosters for all of these dogs before announcing the population break instead of telling the public, in the middle of a recession, that if they don't swoop in and save the day, they are the ones holding the proverbial needle? If the PSPCA doesn't take responsibility IT CANNOT EXPECT THE PUBLIC TO DO SO.
4. Calling this adoption event a 'garage sale' is noxious. It is disgusting. That on-the-fly, gimmicky quip that CEO Sue Cosby dreamed up in her recent television interview likens the dogs to dusty old cast-offs that the public is invited to 'rummage through'. Not to mention - the idea of raffling off dogs for free is vomitous. The PSPCA is beyond the pale.”

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3. former said... on Apr 9, 2010 at 07:21PM

“this was dangerous with just 20 or so dogs with the first outbreak. this will prove to be an extremely dangerous situation for so many dogs, staff and volunteers. extremely dangerous in so many ways. hoping for safety is as insane as hoping it works this time.”

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4. Me said... on Apr 9, 2010 at 07:58PM

“It really a shame for the those dogs. I can remember last year they had those dogs in the garage of the PSPCA inside small crates all day. In the summertime. The heat was unbearable. I'm scared to bring my pets their for their medical treatment because I don't want them to become sick or bring it home to my other animals.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Apr 9, 2010 at 09:45PM

“The PSPCA has no shame because they are followers of a movement that is deceptive called "No Kill". This is a result of that philosophy. It's not "no kill", it is "slow kill with a lot of suffering" that you are practicing. Crate 'em, stake 'em and let the disease get 'em so you don't have to put it in your euthanasia numbers. Then you solicit donations telling people how wonderful you are and how few animals you had to euthanize.”

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6. Seeingthroughsmokeandmirrors said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 06:49AM

“So 50 spaces are being made available at the PSPCA adoption center? What happened to the dogs who previously occupied those spaces? It is unbelievable that they just magically appeared in a shelter that is also always overcrowded. Where those the fifty dogs that arrived from ACCT last month? Of course they have already appeared in the statistics report for March and will not have to be accounted for again. They can slip into the ether now.”

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7. Seeingthroughsmokeandmirrors said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 06:49AM

“So 50 spaces are being made available at the PSPCA adoption center? What happened to the dogs who previously occupied those spaces? It is unbelievable that they just magically appeared in a shelter that is also always overcrowded. Where those the fifty dogs that arrived from ACCT last month? Of course they have already appeared in the statistics report for March and will not have to be accounted for again. They can slip into the ether now.”

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8. Anonymous said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 09:35AM

“As a relative newcomer to this City and a long-time animal lover, I am shocked by the venom in some of these posts. I've read the background on animal control in this City. I've also lived in other cities where shelters encountered similar problems. But NEVER have I read/seen/heard such hatred, particularly when time is critical. Put the passive aggressive behavior on hold and adopt/foster. Are there 150 people out there who actually care about animals more than reading their own empty words?”

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9. Anonymous said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 09:40AM

“Re #8: I currently have a shelter companion dog and will be at the PSPCA adoption event today with friends.”

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10. former said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 09:49AM

“re:#8: these words are from concerned and VERY involved citizens. even employees. possibly difficult to understand the depth of the situation being new to the city and fully understand words from those who care, but it is truth.”

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11. former said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 09:53AM

“re: #8: these words come from citizens very involved and care greatly. even words from employees. possibly it is difficult to understand the depth of the situation being new to the city, but it is a true concern.”

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12. former said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 10:02AM

“possibly it is difficult to see the depth of the situation being new to the city. these words come from many who are very involved and taken much action; these words come from employees and volunteers.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 10:09AM

“Civility and civic involvement are not mutually exclusive.”

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14. former said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 10:18AM

“for anyone wanting to help but can't be there for an extended time frame: the shelter greatly needs towels, blankets, any kind of bedding actually. the dogs are going to be taken out, and put back in these crates which is very stressful and dangerous. the employees will have to clean these often, and often will be dealing with dogs frantically escaping. the reality is that it is dangerous. support is beyond needed.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 12:03PM

“#8 - I appreciate your comments and your observations are spot on. Fortunately the comments you are reading are from a very vocal minority. Come on down to the shelter and you will be pleasantly surprised. The people who actually do show up to help are the greatest people in the world and far outnumber the ones who sit behind computers complaining. The "information" they are spouting anonymously is inaccurate at best and lies at worst. Reading this article on what Mark Peralta is saying and being at the shelter is the best way to know what's really going on.”

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16. former said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 12:14PM

“just had an email about food donations. the dogs are fed science diet, but nice thought”

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17. humane said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 12:29PM

“funny to call someone on writing anonymous when we are all anonymous. i am here at the shelter and see dogs w/ collars yet employees using leashes clip leashes like slip holds, holding the clasp end in their hand. ? just curious why. there was quite a few struggles getting dogs in/out of kennels w/ this method, i have not seen the crated area yet but i can only imagine how difficult it is. #15 (this # thing is silly) if you work here, why are the leashes used this way, really just wondering. seems odd.”

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18. humane said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 01:15PM

“saw the garage. :( not ideal in the least bit and i became claustrophobic at the thought of being in there for 1-2 days top. it will be more days for an unsuspecting k9...heart breaking. trying real hard to be supportive here, but i read about other shelters going though this and found very little mass euthanasia decisions other than 12-15 years ago. i came to visit and am adopting. i am greatly saddened however. especially after being here, i really don't understand this.”

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19. Anonymous said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 07:32PM

“So So sad. You have to feel so sorry for these poor innocent animals. What would the National Humane Society say about this. I certainly hope that many animals get homes but then again this will only happen again. Look at the past history of the PSPCA.”

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20. reinapadme said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 11:10PM

“Meal planning is very important for Diabetes control. use this free meal planner http://bit.ly/cMc1i8 and learn how to plan your meals for better diabetes and blood sugar control.”

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