Pennsylvania SPCA closes two more shelters, renegotiates Philadelphia contract

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2011:
PHILADELPHIA–Downsizing for the fourth time in four years,
the Pennsylvania SPCA on April 30, 2011 closed its Wellsville
shelter and transferred the Montrose shelter in Susquehanna County to
a new organization which will operate the shelter as True Friend’s
Animal Welfare Center.
The Pennsylvania SPCA in January 2008 closed its former
shelter in Clarion County, and closed its Monroe County shelter in
Stroudsburg at the end of January 2009. Managing six branch shelters
at the close of 2007, the Pennsylvania SPCA now has only two branch
shelters, in Danville and Centre Hall.

Said the organization in a prepared statement quoting chief
executive Sue Cosby and True Friend’s founding president Dory
Browning, “The Pennsylvania SPCA, headquartered in Philadelphia,
has found that transitioning some of its distantly located shelters
throughout the state to local management teams is a successful model
for the long-term financial sustainability of the facility.”
IRS Form 990 filings show that the Pennsylvania SPCA lost $3
million in 2008, and $4.2 million in 2009.
The Pennsylvania SPCA and the city of Philadelphia are
currently renegotiating the contract under which the SPCA Animal Care
& Control Team provides shelter services to the city. The contract
expires at the end of June 2011.
The Pennsylvania SPCA in 2002 turned over the animal control
contract to a new entity called the Philadelphia Animal Care &
Control Commision. At the time, the contract paid about $790,000
per year, and caused the Pennsylvania SPCA to kill about 27,000 dogs
and cats per year. Then-Pennsylvania SPCA president Eric Hendricks
estimated that fulfilling the contract cost the organization at least
three times as much as the contract paid.
The Pennsylvnaia SPCA won the Philadelphia sheltering
contract back in 2008, with a bid of $2.9 million, after which
PACCA was dissolved. In 2010 the Pennsylvania SPCA estimated that
the actual cost of the services provided to the city was about $3.8
million. This includes killing about 19,000 dogs and cats per year.
Considerable internal controversy has accompanied the
downsizing. Former Pennsylvania SPCA chief executive Howard Nelson
resigned in February 2009. Cosby succeeded him in June 2009. “At
the time the 142-year-old group was reporting $500,000 a month in
losses,” reported blogger Amy Worden. “In a year Cosby
reduced that figure to $100,000 a month, according to a report in
the Philadelphia Daily News. Cosby survived a board dispute later in
2009 that led to the departure of then-board president Harrise Yaron
and her sister, Jodi Goldberg.”
Amid the most recent downsizing, Yaron’s successor Valerie
Ogden Phillips, a board member since 1998 and president since April
2010, “resigned, along with three other board members,” Worden
wrote on April 26, 2011. “A fifth member of the 12-person board has
opted not to run for another three-year term,” Warden added. “When
asked if the resignations were a vote of no confidence in chief
executive officer Sue Cosby, Phillips said, ‘The hiring of Sue was
not unanimous. Read it as you want to read it.'”
Nelson, noted for a flamboyant management style, led the
Pennsylvania SPCA in several high-profile law enforcement actions
against alleged puppy millers and animal hoarders. But Lancaster
County District Attorney Craig Stedman refused to prosecute charges
resulting from an October 2009 action undertaken with Main Line
Rescue, in which dogs from Pennsylvania breeders were purchased at
an Ohio dog auction and brought back to Philadelphia as alleged
evidence of neglect by the breeders.
Cosby has been criticized for taking a quieter approach to
law enforcement. On April 11, 2011 however, the Pennsylvania SPCA
and Philadelphia police accomplished one of the largest-ever
dogfighting raids in state history. Seventeen people were arrested,
several of them on drug charges. Twenty dogs were impounded from two
Heeding Pennsylvania SPCA testimony in an earlier case,
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge Glenn B. Bronson on May 4,
2011 sentenced John Taliaferro, 63, to serve five to 10 years in
prison for alleged animal fighting and illegally possessing firearms.
Reported Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Joseph A.
Slobodzian, “Taliaferro was arrested in November 2008 after police
searched his house, believing he was selling drugs, according to
Assistant District Attorney Peter Erdely. Instead, police found
four malnourished dogs with both old and recent fighting scars
covering their faces, tickets for sale, dogfighting paraphernalia,
and literature and medicine for treating wounded dogs. Taliaferro
had been arrested in 2000 during a raid on a dogfight in a North
Philadelphia garage,” Slobodzian recalled, “but a jury acquitted
him of animal-cruelty charges.”

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