Pennsylvania SPCA resumes animal control

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:
PHILADELPHIA–Effective on January 1, 2009, the
Pennsylvania SPCA will resume providing animal care and control
services to Philadelphia, after a six-and-a-half year hiatus. But
the new animal care and control contract will pay the Pennsylvania
SPCA $2.89 million, more than three times as much money as the
$790,000 contract that the charity relinquished in 2002.
“The Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association has
provided services since 2002,” reported Dafney Tales of the
Philadelphia Daily News. “An audit released in October by the City
Controller’s Office found numerous problems with PACCA, including
insufficient software and phone systems, and failing to properly
handle bite cases. PACCA chief executive Tara Derby admitted to
failures, in a written statement, but said that many were
corrected,” and attributed other shortcomings to insufficient

PACCA more than doubled the Philadelphia animal control
adoption rate between 2004 and 2007, working under essentially the
same financial terms that the Pennsylvania SPCA will inherit, but
with just a fraction of the facilities and total resources of the
141-year-old SPCA, the third SPCA founded in the U.S.
The Pennsylvania SPCA even without the animal control
contract has had an annual budget of more than $6 million in recent
years, with facilities worth $8.5 million and about $17.5 million in
financial assets.
Since giving up the animal control contract, the
Pennsylvania SPCA has focused on doing high-volume, low-cost dog and
cat sterilization and adopting out animals–essentially the same role
that the San Francisco SPCA pursued after turning the San Francisco
animal control contract over to the S.F. Department of Animal Care &
Control in 1989, after a five-year phase-out.
San Francisco by April 1994 had the lowest rate of shelter
killing of dogs and cats of any major city in the U.S., and has
retained that status, guaranteeing a home to any healthy animal
impounded in the city.
But the results in Philadelphia have been very different. In
1997 all shelters serving the city combined killed 28,289 dogs and
cats, a rate of 19.7 per 1,000 human residents. In 2006, all
shelters serving Philadelphia killed 28,774 dogs and cats, a rate of
19.9 per 1,000 human residents.
Former San Francisco SPCA law and advocacy director Nathan
Winograd in a May 2008 blog alleged that the Philadelphia experiment
was failing “because a true and complete champion for no kill no
longer exists, as it did in San Francisco with the San Francisco
SPCA under Richard Avanzino,” who headed the SF/SPCA from 1976
through 1998, and now heads Maddie’s Fund.
The first problem, Winograd asserted, was that “The mission
of PACCA,” like that of most animal control agencies, “was
identified as protecting the health of people from injury and disease
’caused or transmitted by domestic or feral animals within the city’s
boundaries.’ A list of seventeen duties was outlined to meet the
mission. None of them speak to services such as adoption,
spay/neuter, education, or helping responsible people retain their
pets,” which in San Francisco were and are provided primarily by the
“PACCA was to provide minimal services at the lowest possible
cost,” Winograd continued. “Animals were killed within minutes of
arrival, kennels went un-cleaned, animals were allowed to suffer
and die. In the end, 88% of all animals [arriving] lost their
lives. In 2005, I was hired to review the organization and make
recommendations for change. In the first year of the effort,”
coinciding with Derby’s arrival as executive director, “the change
was dramatic. Shirkers were terminated. Adoption, rescue,
volunteer, and foster care programs were implemented. The death rate
declined to less than 40%. But the effort stalled. A pet adoption
center, which should have opened within a few months, took over two
years to finally open.” Winograd blamed “hostility to reform from
the health department that oversees PACCA, lack of support for the
no kill initiative from the other community shelters, and an
unfavorable location.”
Winograd in his 2007 book Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation
& the No Kill Revolution in America was also critical of Howard
Nelson, the Pennsylvania SPCA chief executive since May 2007.
In his previous post as executive director of the Washington
D.C. Humane Society, Nelson “introduced a ‘Good Home Guarantee’
program that was touted as a no-kill initiative,” summarized
Philadelphia Weekly writer Tara Murtha of Winograd’s Redemption
statements. “The truth is that the Washington Humane Society managed
to claim a no-kill philosophy while euthanizing 70% of the animals
[it received] by employing a very narrow definition of ‘adoptable.’
For example, the definition of ‘adoptable’ excluded all pit bulls and
pit-bull mixes, cats with ear mites, and animals with a host of
[other] minor conditions easily remedied with medicine.
“In Philadelphia,” Murtha continued, “this would be
problematic. On a recent visit to the PACCA shelter, about 95% of
the dogs housed were pit bull mixes. Pit bulls commonly make up most
of a shelter’s canine population,” Murtha explained, “because
that’s what’s left after advocacy groups comb the intake and funnel
specific breeds into placement networks.”
But the nature of the intake also matters. Former
Pennsylvania SPCA executive director Eric Hendricks, in announcing
the December 2000 decision of the Pennsylvania SPCA to relinquish the
city animal control contract, cited frustration with the reluctance
of the city council to adopt a breed-specific ordinance to curtail
backyard breeding of pit bulls, in a city where the rate of pit
bull and pit mix intake is believed to be far higher than the
national average of 25% of all dogs.
The Pennsylvania SPCA killed 3,500 pit bulls in 2000, 4,000
in 1999, and 3,200 in 1998, Hendricks said.
Adding a staff animal behaviorist and introducing a program
to rehabilitate suspected fighting dogs, PACCA killed just 1,222 pit
bulls and pit mixes in 2006, of 4,716 received, Tara Derby told
Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Robert Moran in October 2007.
However, the rate of pit bull intake had continued to rise, and
PACCA was running out of ways to save them.
The Pennsylvania SPCA, continuing to investigate cruelty
cases after giving up the animal control contract, impounded and
killed 42 pit bulls in fighting cases in 2006, but had received 76
in the first 10 months of 2007.
“I can’t tell you if he found the light,” Winograd told
Murtha, “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 [at the Washinton Humane Society] were just
that-history. I told him that’s great, but I’m not interested in

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