City prepares to take over animal control from PSPCA

A dog in the holding area of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Philadelphia in 2009. It is among such nonprofits nationwide opting out of the city job.
A dog in the holding area of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Philadelphia in 2009. It is among such nonprofits nationwide opting out of the city job.
Posted: May 28, 2011

Philadelphia will soon have a new organization overseeing its animal care and control.

The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will, at the end of the year, be bowing out of the animal-control contract it has with the city, officials said.

The move is not unexpected, said Brian Abernathy, chief of staff for the managing director. The city and PSPCA have been in talks since December.

In its place, a city-related entity will be formed to take over the animal-control functions.

The as-yet-unnamed nonprofit organization will be made up of city representatives, shelter agencies, animal-rescue groups, veterinarians, and a feral-cats expert, said Abernathy. It will be operated by a board of two city representatives and chaired by the managing director.

They will assume oversight of the city-owned animal-control building, at 111 W. Hunting Park Ave., which PSPCA has operated under the contract. The new organization will receive about $3.6 million from the city next year, officials said.

"Animal care and control is a government function," Abernathy said, "and we have to take it seriously in order to do it well."

Last year, Mayor Nutter ordered that oversight of animal control move from the city's Health Department to the managing director's office.

PSPCA, which is the only city shelter that actively takes animals off the streets, has held the contract since January 2009. It took over from the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association, which had held the contract since 2002.

A 2008 audit of PACCA by the city found a number of problems, including premature euthanizing of dogs and cats, insufficient record-keeping, and inadequate training. Only about 10 percent of the budget was devoted to the care of animals.

PSPCA has had its challenges when it comes to animal care and control, said Sue Cosby, the group's chief executive. The shelter normally takes in about 30,000 strays per year and euthanizes about 39 percent, she said.

"For too long, municipalities, including the city, have relied on private organizations, who are struggling to do the job well, to do basic animal-control functions," said Cosby. Some of those functions, she said, are not necessarily working to save the lives of animals.

PSPCA will continue to operate out of the shelter's main facility at 350 E. Erie Ave.

The city is working to address the unwanted-animal problem.

City Council passed a comprehensive animal-control bill this month that prohibits shelters and retailers from adopting out or selling cats and dogs that have not been neutered. It also includes provisions to increase sales of dog licenses. Currently, only 5 percent of the dogs in the city have the state-mandated tag.

PSPCA joins a growing list of shelters across the state and nation that are opting out of municipal animal control.

The privately run Delaware County SPCA announced a year ago that it would no longer accept stray animals as of June 30. County officials are scrambling to put a plan in place that would handle the estimated 4,000 stray animals a year.


Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149, mschaefer@phillynews.com,

or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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