Never has the need to change how city administrators view animal control been more evident than in the most recent case in Philadelphia.
Let's give you a quick overview.
Three years ago, the city of Philadelphia had a save rate for animals that entered their shelter of 11%. Yip, that's right, 89% of the 30,000 animals that entered the Philadelphia animal control system ended up leaving dead through the back door.
In 2005, the city awarded the animal control contract to the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association (PACCA). PACCA, along with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) began making changes to the way animal control was run, and how animals were dealt with once they entered the animal welfare system. Now, under the control of PACCA and PAWS, Philadelphia is saving nearly 60% of the dogs and cats that enter their system. This is approximately 14,000 lives that are being saved under their leadership. While they have a long way to go to make Philadelphia a no-kill city, the improvement is undeniable and should be commended.
However, just this month, the city Department of Health has issued an RFP for groups seeking to run their animal control division. In the RFP to bid for the city contract beginning in January 2009, they state that they are looking for a "qualified contractor" that can "hold, euthanize or dispose of 30,000 animals annually."
While the two organizations that are currently running animal control are succesfully saving 14,000 more animal lives each year, the city Department of Health is looking to bid out "dog catching" duties to the lowest bidder. Yikes!
As we move forward, if we are ever to improve the way animals are treated in our city sheltering systems, we MUST move the thinking in city leadership that animal control is more than just being "dog catchers". We must move beyond that model where animal control is expecting to pick up and take in stray animals off the street and kill them, and move the language to bringing animals in and SAVING them. At some point we've lost the "shelter" in our animal sheltering system.
Let's hope the city makes the right decision and keeps the PACCA and PAWS people in place.
You can do a lot of reading on the topic.
Winograd's overview on the situation in Philadelphia (he's much closer to it than I am)