PHILADELPHIA - ACCT Philly volunteers and animal advocates lined outside City Hall Wednesday to demand more funding for the city's only open-intake animal shelter.
Supporters say the city does not allocate enough funds for the shelter, resulting in deplorable conditions that affect the animals' health.
Earliest this month, ACCT Philly accepted the resignation of its executive director, Susan Russell, almost one year after she accepted the position.
Russell's departure followed a multi-week, partial shutdown of major operations at the shelter sparked by an upper respiratory infection in a number of dogs, in some cases leading to death.
Shelter officials identified the primary cause of the respiratory illness as canine pneumovirus. The virus can reportedly cause an epidemic of respiratory illness because it is highly contagious, most dogs do not have immunity and there is no vaccine.
During the partial shutdown, the shelter suspended dog adoptions and most owner surrenders while separating healthy stray intake from its main kennel population.
Now, shelter volunteers and local advocates are continuing their push for additional funding.
Protesters cited a dire need for a new building due to inhumane living conditions.
"Compared to similar cities, ACCT’s budget, decided upon by the city, is dismal and falls behind other shelters,” rescue organization Philly Bully Team said previously.
Protest signs include photos of dogs surrounded by feces within their kennels.
According to the city, $500,000 in city capital has been allotted for improvements to ACCT’s kennels and adoption center since the beginning of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration. Another $165,000 in capital funding has been allotted for kennels in the fiscal year 2020 budget. The city also provided additional emergency resources to assist with the shelter’s recent URI outbreak.
The city has requested an additional $100,000 for ACCT’s operating budget for fiscal year 2020, which is still awaiting approval from Philadelphia City Council.
"If you look at Dallas, they take in 24,000 animals per year, compared to ACCT's 22,000," said Philly Bully Team President Jessica Graaf. "Their operating budget is $9 million dollars, almost twice ACCT's $4.6 million dollar budget."
Protesters also took aim ACCT’s board, citing what they see as a conflict of interest for members who run other local rescues. Supporters say they fear that such members are less motivated to fundraise for ACCT when they are busy fundraising for their own organizations.
ACCT Philly continues to seek additional fosters and volunteers to service the nearly 22,000 animals it takes in each year.
"It's summer and we are inundated with pure Phillybred cats and dogs," shelter officials said previously in an open letter to Philadelphia residents. "We are currently taking in 75-100 animals per day on average with no signs of this letting up."
As of Wednesday, four cats and 18 kittens are timestamped for euthanasia. The shelter currently has more than 100 cats and 100 dogs available for adoption.
Those interested in helping high-risk animals at ACCT Philly, but cannot commit to adoption or fostering, can pledge donations to urgent dogs and cats through its Love Local Program.
A pledge is a promise to donate to the rescue group that pulls a given animal from ACCT Philly. Individual pledges help accumulate the necessary funding for participating rescue groups to save urgent animals.
Volunteers say that rescues are more likely to pull animals, particularly those with expensive needs, when they see pledges have been made.
ACCT Philly is located at 111 W. Hunting Park Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19140. Adoption hours are weekdays, 1–8 p.m. and weekends, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.