Then something strange happened.
Sue Cosby, who had been CEO of the PSPCA, resigned to lead the improved 2.0 version of PACCA, the Animal Care and Control Team - a nonprofit agency funded and overseen by the city - when it launched in April 2012.
As recently as 2009, the live-release rate was a below-par 43.6 percent. Last year it had soared by almost half, according to statistics posted on ACCT's vastly improved website.
In 2013, 30,732 animals were turned in to ACCT, down from 32,264 the previous year. Cosby told me that she could not explain the drop in animals coming in, other than "normal year-to-year fluctuations" and the same decrease was noted by shelters across the nation.
Last year's 30,732 intakes included 19,014 cats and 9,488 dogs. The live-release rate was 65 percent - 12,042 cats and 6,077 dogs - up from 62 percent the previous year.
Live release refers to animals adopted or transferred to other shelters or rescue groups for adoption. It also includes lost pets returned to their owners and animals set free - healthy wildlife, for instance, or neutered feral cats.
Both intakes and live releases also include a variety of other critters, such as guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, turtles, etc. (Last year ACCT also took in 14 alligators, two horses and, yes, one woodchuck.)
The number of families adopting pets is going up - 5,686 in 2013, compared with 5,416 in 2012.
Last year (as every year) more animals were transferred out (10,353) than adopted out (6,623). Transferred to where? To what are called rescue partners.
ACCT has 168 of them, and the largest is the PSPCA.
In 2013, PSPCA accepted 46 percent fewer animals than the year before, dropping from 3,828 to 2,041. Although still a substantial number, it's a huge decrease. When I asked Cosby why, she said, "I can't speak for the SPCA."
Jerry Buckley can. He's the CEO (who replaced Cosby when she left for ACCT).
He praised ACCT's rising numbers, but said: "We also rescue from other organizations, such as the Morris Animal shelter" and Chester County, "where we have increased significantly."
PSPCA is still ACCT's largest rescue partner, he said.
Back at ACCT, which puts more pets in the hands of more families than any other local source, the rising save rate is good news for our animal friends. Well, better news, but how can we be happy when Philadelphia kills one-third of the animals arriving in its shelter?
Although we are making slow progress, we are miles away from Philadelphia becoming a "no-kill" city, meaning a compassionate place where every adoptable animal finds a kind, forever home.
On Twitter: @StuBykofsky