Sure, NOW it’s an emergencyPosted by in Uncategorized
For decades, non-profit animal shelters which have accepted strays from State and municipal animal control have been sounding the alarm that the animal control model in Pennsylvania was unsustainable. For well over ten years, Pennsylvania animal shelters have slowly begun dropping animal control contracts. What started as a trickle is becoming a flood as animal shelters are limiting acceptance of animal control originated strays, drastically increasing contract fees to bring them even marginally in line with true service costs, or are dropping the contracts altogether.
Now the State convenes a summit to address the emergency.
At yesterday’s meeting the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement brought together the State, municipal governments, and animal shelter directors to discuss the suddenly noticed problem and, presumably, to allow all the “stakeholders” to vent their frustration. That’s kind of like bringing together Federal banking regulators, Wall Street investment banks, and everyone who can’t sell a house now because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and try to get everyone to agree it’s a shared problem.
Except it isn’t. In both cases there are parties responsible for the mess, parties which shirked their responsibility to keep the mess from happening, and one party that just got screwed. But we’re all in this lifeboat together, right?
As Sue Cosby of the PSPCA rightly said, this crisis is the result of no clear responsibility for animal control- not just dog control but animal control- placed on anyone by law as it is in other states. The hodge-podge of dog control laws require the State to pick them up but makes no provision for where to take them. The Band-Aids, the pitiful “grants” offered to shelters, and the regulatory winking and nodding which sometimes give a pass on quality to shelters assisting the BDLE with strays but retaliate against those who did not, have managed to cobble together a support network for the State until now. But it is all falling apart.
It is time for comprehensive animal control- not dog control but animal control- reform in Pennsylvania and it must come from the State Legislature. The legal responsibility to provide for animal control service, or not if that is the choice, on the part of government must be written into law. The mechanisms for paying for those services must be written into law. The coercion of charitable organizations to do the State’s job must end and a functional, funded, coherent program must be put in place.
Many animal shelters will want to continue to offer animal control and stray housing services and many who do not now may reconsider if a cogent and fair system is created with clear lines of responsibility. But the assumption on the part of the State should be that this burden falls solely on their shoulders and on the shoulders of municipal government. If they get sheltering help, that’s icing on the cake. But they better be prepared to eat the cake on their own.
I predict that more organizations will raise services fees or drop contracts in the coming years. This problem will not get better, it will get worse. The absurdity is that this is a problem with a solution, probably many solutions. The Humane Society of Berks County has been thinking about this for years and has offered workable, affordable suggestions that would share the burden equitably. Unfortunately, until now any non-profit which tried to find a solution that shared the burden was accused of trying to get over on municipalities. Increases in services fees to actually pay the cost of the service were characterized by many municipal leaders as “forced donations”.
So I have one more suggestion to any non-profit offering animal control and dog catching services: Stop doing it. Continue to take all the strays you can manage to take from the public and your fellow shelters. Continue to provide cruelty law enforcement. Continue to aid local and State law enforcement in emergency animal situations. But stop being the dog and cat catcher. Because if we have learned one thing from Washington and Wall Street, no solution is found until the bank is burning down.
And even then they’ll probably blame the fire on the working people standing in line to see a teller.
Update 12-3-10: Another domino may fall: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/griffin-pond-animal-shelter-may-stop-accepting-animals-from-municipal-officials-1.1072049