PHILADELPHIA - Volunteers and animal advocates gathered outside City Hall Wednesday to protest they say is a budget crisis for ACCT Philly, the city’s only open-intake shelter.
The protest followed a multi-week partial shutdown of major operations at the shelter sparked by an upper respiratory infection in a number of dogs at its kennels.
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.
Supporters protested outside City Hall Wednesday in the wake of a multi-week shutdown of major operations at ACCT Philly.
Now, following a deep-clean of ACCT facilities, shelter volunteers and local advocates are pushing for additional funding.
"Compared to similar cities, ACCT’s budget, decided upon by the city, is dismal and falls behind other shelters,” rescue organization Philly Bully Team wrote in a Facebook event for the protest.
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.
A protest sign breaks down the funding available per dog at ACCT Philly compared to that for shelters in other major cities.
"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."
"That kind of increase could save many more lives, create desirable jobs and help the community," Graaf added.
Volunteers often take to social media to fundraise for animals timestamped for euthanasia, as well as basic operational needs.
One volunteer, who set up a GoFundMe to fundraise for new washing machines and dryers at the facility, called the situation "shameful."
"The city is neglecting its responsibility to the only open intake shelter," Tom Loder wrote in his GoFundMe campaign. (GoFundMe)
"The city is neglecting its responsibility to the only open intake shelter," Tom Loder wrote in his GoFundMe campaign, adding that the dishwasher and laundry machines at the shelter have been broken for months.
Graff hopes that city officials see the extent to which volunteers and rescue partners are willing to go to bat for the city's homeless animals.
The protest also took aim at ACCT’s board, citing what advocates sees 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.
Supporters say the shelter is severely underfunded and conditions are deplorable, often leading to inadequate care.
ACCT Philly continues to seek additional fosters and volunteers to service the nearly 22,000 animals it takes in each year.
As of Wednesday, five cats, 12 kittens and three dogs are timestamped for euthanasia. The shelter currently has more than 100 cats and 100 dogs available for adoption. All adoption fees are waived at the shelter through June 17.
- Current timestamped or high-risk animals: Dogs | Cats
- How to help: Make a pledge | Become a foster | Donate
- Animals available for adoption: Dogs | Cats
- Other resources: Pet owners in need | Lost pets | Pet surrenders
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 p.m. - 8 p.m. and weekends, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.