barking out loud

swimming dog, East Hampton, NY

swimming dog, East Hampton, NY

Dog rescue is an emotional business.  Want to see people get up in arms quickly? Talk about animal rescue and shelters.  So that being said, some are not going to like that I am posting about the Chester County SPCA.

The Chester County SPCA has a fabulous history.  One of my most favorite rescue dogs ever, an English Springer Spaniel named Winston came home from there.  But like every other animal rescue place time in memoriam, apparently the Chester County SPCA is having some fairly serious issues.

The Chester County SPCA has exploded all over the news in the past few days or so much like the Delaware County SPCA did a few years ago. I am not surprised because very early on in the summer I heard some really upsetting things about the Chester County SPCA.  Is it true they are NOT scanning animals for micro chipping and are in a lot of cases just shipping animals down to Philadelphia?  I find that personally distressing because why are we micro chipping and licensing pets if no one is really going to try to use these things to identify our animals if god forbid they get lost?

The Inquirer broke news that Chester County SPCA volunteers said the shelter had turned into a “kill factory”. If it had been anyone other than Amy Worden and Mari Schaeffer (whose article first appeared) breaking this news I might be very skeptical.  But these women know their stuff. So is it true?

And the stories leaking out are of volunteers and shelter employees being punished and/or shown the door for questioning things? And even board members are talking?

I personally am very concerned because if the Chester County SPCA doesn’t quit trying to muzzle people and deal with its issues they will have real problems which may cause them to have serious, serious issues in the long run. I will say I realize and accept that not every dog and cat can be saved. However, that being said, if they are taking the money to pay for the saving, then the Chester County SPCA needs to open up and be honest.  I figure because they take public money they might be subject to right to know requests?

Sign me worried and disappointed and see below for what is in the media and so on.

Like it or not, something is going on because TOO many media sources are writing. And a blog I never saw before has cropped up – Justice For Chester County Animals:

We tried to tell them -parts 2, 3, & 4

Theresa Duffy, former volunteer, wrote this on July 28, when she was still a core dog walking volunteer and a member of the Dogs on Tour team.

Board of Directors

The Chester County SPCA 1212 Phoenixville Pike West Chester, PA 19380

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am currently a volunteer at CCSPCA. Until recently, I was a regular face at the shelter, spending as much time as possible there walking dogs and having the pleasure of getting to know their individual personalities.

I am writing to you to express my concern for the well being of the animals that reside in this shelter. I feel this is a matter of urgency and requires your attention. My observations are detailed as follows:

The absence of an operations manager is apparent. I hope you are actively and aggressively seeking to fill this position with a qualified individual. There is no evidence of that in the job openings section of the CCSPCA website or a search conducted on the internet.

It is clear the shelter is under-staffed in the kennel specifically. On several occasions, fellow volunteers and I have cleaned up the dog pens and ensured water was replenished. I never minded doing it, but it speaks to the need for more attention to detail. Potential adopters may turn away due to offensive odor. Also, I’m sure you wouldn’t want someone conclude that the animals were not given fresh water at all times.

Regarding the health of certain animals, I have observed that some animals’ conditions do not appear to improve over time and then they are suddenly missing. Veterinary attention is a basic need for the health of these animals. I have heard rumblings that veterinary care was being reduced as a cost cutting measure for shelter. I understand the shelter is not a sanctuary, but euthanizing a dog when an antibiotic could have spared its life, is reprehensible.

The shelter is losing long standing solid contributing volunteers for 2 reasons. First, they are being fired because they care too much. The policy states that a volunteer cannot question euthanasia decisions. Volunteers give of our time because we care, asking us to ignore that is impossible. Enforcing shelter policy related to volunteers specifically should require the use of some compassion. The situation with Leslie Celia could have been handled with much more respect and understanding rather than inflaming an already emotionally charged situation. Second, they are leaving out of disgust specifically due to Deb Murray. As volunteer coordinator I believe she’s actually going out of her way to deter volunteers from participating. She removes Facebook posts that she deems inappropriate when in actuality, that’s the only place we can share information and learn from each other. She is rarely present at the shelter and when she is, doesn’t participate in walking dogs. Therefore, she doesn’t know their personalities, or needs. How can this individual be in charge of volunteers?

I am also wondering why the dogs park days have been eliminated. The importance of these informal outings shouldn’t be diminished. These animals are given so little time in the fresh air, that a good long walk, in normal surroundings benefits their mental well being. Additionally, some critical learning’s about the dogs behaviors help to inform potential adopters of any special needs. Please consider reinstating this as soon as possible.

Michele Amendola’s absence is noticeable. Not one dog, that I am aware of, has gone to rescue since she began medical leave. Have you discontinued trying to move these animals and spare their lives? Also, what happened to the satellite adoption centers for the cats? Didn’t that program move over 40 animals to families?

I am a volunteer specifically for the CCSPCA for a variety of reasons. The Mission and Vision contribute to it. If these values have changed, please let me know.


Also look at these media reports:

Philly Dawg: Volunteers: Chester County SPCA Has Become a “Kill Factory”

By Amy Woden

Animal lovers are speaking out about treatment of pets at the Chester County SPCA, including dogs put down for minor health problems and a majority of cats getting a one-way ticket to the euthanasia room.

Volunteers say the shelter in the state’s richest county has become a “kill factory.”

The shelter is taking in hundreds if not thousands of more animals now than it did two years ago before taking the contract to handle animal control for Delaware County when the Delaware County SPCA became a “no kill” shelter and no longer accepted strays.

Exactly how many additional animals are being admitted we don’t know because the SPCA will not release its intake or “outcome” statistics, despite requests from reporters and the fact it is performing a tax-payer funded service for a neighboring county.

The new influx of animals has come as the shelter is plagued by management troubles, ineffective board leadership and conflicting philosophies about euthanasia, according an article by my colleague Mari Schaefer in Monday’s Inquirer.

Euthanasia numbers on rise at Chesco animal shelter

Mari A. Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer

Last updated: Monday, August 12, 2013, 1:08 AM

It is a regional hub for taking in stray dogs and cats, but the Chester County SPCA shelter has become a “kill factory,” say SPCA volunteers, a former board member, and ex-staff members.

They blame ineffective board leadership, unfilled senior management positions, and a clash of ideologies for a significant rise in euthanasia numbers.

Though shelter management does not dispute that euthanasia numbers are rising, it says it is battling the realities of dealing with a tremendous volume of unwanted dogs and cats, many of whom are not adoptable.

The shelter takes in about 5,000 animals a year, according to board president Conrad Muhly, who said the critics are not representative of those who have worked and volunteered at the shelter


Pottstown Mercury: Animal advocates concerned about Chesco SPCA euthanasia rate

 By Vince Sullivan

Posted: Monday, 08/19/13 01:11 pm

When Dave Schlott picked up a stray dog in Chester, Delaware County, last Monday, he was enamored of its personality.

Found on a porch, the dog was frail, but not starved. A homeowner had been feeding it, and it seemed friendly. It also showed signs of physical abuse.

Schlott is filling in as the city’s animal control officer for a few weeks after having retired from that position last year. The reason he gave for retiring was the county’s then-new contract with the Chester County SPCA to take in all of Delaware County’s stray animals.

 Schlott had been in the business for many years with contracts for 15 Delaware County towns and he didn’t want to have to make multiple trips a day to the West Chester area facility.
The reason he gave for not taking this particular dog, which has been named Gretchen, is that he is concerned with reports from former volunteers and employees in Chester County that the SPCA’s euthanasia rates have skyrocketed since it started taking in Delaware County’s strays.

“They seem to be overwhelmed by the number of animals they’re getting in,” Schlott said. “I was determined to save at least this dog.”….A group of current and former workers at the Chester County SPCA have banded together to try and change what they deem as unsatisfactory policies and practices regarding the euthanization of animals….The volunteers and staff members say that the influx of animals from Delco has overwhelmed the Chester County SPCA.

“Every staff member said we can’t handle this,” said Kaity Dempsey, who worked at the shelter for seven years. She was fired from her position as rescue coordinator nine months ago.

“They just said we’ll take your money,” said Jen McCreary, a former volunteer who fosters animals. She stopped volunteering in May because of her issues with the organization’s leadership.

Rich Britton, spokesperson for the Chester County SPCA, declined to talk about euthanasia numbers Friday. He instead highlighted the issue of animal overpopulation…One of the chief complaints from the former workers is the lack of qualified people in leadership positions. The shelter is currently searching for an executive director, which is traditionally a person who oversees the day-to-day operations of a facility. That search has been ongoing for several months after a handful of short-lived interim managers.

“They’ve never had any leadership,” said a former employee who asked not to be named because they aren’t permitted to speak about the shelter’s operations. “It’s been nine months since the last operations manager. But the executive director is the big piece that’s missing. That’s your fundraising.”

“They need to hire day-to-day management,” said a current volunteer who asked not to be named because they didn’t want to be barred from the shelter

Patch: Chester County SPCA’s Message About Pets Surprises Some

The SPCA has an urgent plea for pet owners who can no longer afford to care for pets.

Posted by  Bob Byrne   (Editor) , August 11, 2013 at 11:41 AM
The Chester County SPCA has a message for pet owners who may no longer be able to care for their pets: Please try to find a new home for your pet before bringing it to the SPCA.

22 thoughts on “barking out loud

  1. Rich Britton declined to speak? well so much for transparency as he was the host of the Forget Me Knot then went to message handler of the good bad and indifferent. So where is the Executive Director through all of this dog poop

      • Indeed I saw that after the fact but this has been an ongoing problem for quite sometime. Having worked with the CCSPCA in past years the goal was to build an incredible shelter as we saw the renderings when Susie Spackman was Exec. and there was a tight crew from Chuck McDevitt whom handled the in house PR on down.

  2. Very disappointed that a blog I truly enjoy has chosen to jump into this “mob”. Just because people are loud, does not make them right. There are a group of vigilantes who are chosing to hurt the animals more than the fingers they are currently pointing. Why not go to the shelter and see what kind of work they do? Speak to the people on the inside who give their heart and souls each and every day to ensure the animals have a good chance at finding a home? This mob is made up of bitter people who were asked to leave the shelter because of their unprofessional behavior that became a danger to fellow staff, volunteers and even the animals they claim to want to help. Its ridiculous that they are being given one ounce of press. Shame on you for jumping on this for the sake of something to write about jumping on HOW MANY LIVES THE SPCA SAVED TODAY?

    • How exactly have I jumped into a “mob”? Because I am talking about what is in the news- a story I did not originate I might add. Are all the reporters and even animal loving and SPCA supporting State Senator Andy Dinniman in this “mob” too then?

      I would say it is safe to say that there are a little bit more than rumors going on given the fact that board members have resigned and volunteers are talking en masse. That doesn’t happen if all is really o.k. Also is the Chester County SPCA a little like a well intentioned rudderless ship if they are running without an operations manager or executive director.

      Don’t presume I am some rube with zero knowledge of how animals shelters and rescues work because I am not.

      Shame on YOU madam for even presuming to guess why I would want to write about this. I am writing about this because it is something in the news which concerns me. Do you think I want to worry thatnif someone’s pet gets loose and the Chester County SPCA picks ot up that it might get euthanized before the pet’s family is
      located? Do you NOT remember a few years ago similar issues almost took down the Delaware County SPCA? Or the issues which led to some reforms in Philadelphia at PACCA or wherever?

      All this smoke and mirrors and lack of accountability is bad for the animals and animal rescue. It is no great secret the Chester County SPCA has been having issues, and truthfully I could have written about that sooner even without these articles in the newspapers,and other media coverage.

      People look to the SPCA to do the right thing, so if you are so tight with them instead of castigating people like me, why don’t you urge them to be more transparent and do whatever it takes to straighten this mess out?

    • Chesco animal shelter under more scrutiny by Mari A. Schaefer, Staff Writer

      Following reports of animal mistreatment and rising euthanasia numbers, a Chester County state senator and Delaware County councilman said Tuesday that they would look into conditions at the Chester County SPCA, a regional hub for stray dogs and cats…..State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester) said he wondered if the Delaware County agreement had stretched the shelter beyond its resources. “The SPCA was doing fine until this Delaware County contract came along,” Dinniman said. At a May 17 state kennel inspection, the shelter received unsatisfactory grades for housekeeping, maintenance, and record-keeping. Board president Conrad Muhly did not return calls for comment…..In addition, about 45 current staff and volunteers of the SPCA attended a meeting Monday night. “We had a private meeting,” said Rich Britton, SPCA spokesman, who declined further comment. A volunteer who attended the meeting but asked not to be named expressed surprise that only a few board members attended.

  3. Perhaps you should get your facts straight if you are indeed choosing to write about something you know nothing about. There were no board members or volunteers who resigned, they were indeed asked to leave because of the unprofessional behavior with the staff and volunteers. Indeed the same should be said for the other gang members who are at this moment putting the lives of the animals in the shelter in jeopardy by these unfounded allegations by scaring the public off of adoptions and donations. Many of the dogs these people are up in arms about by and large pit bulls who had attacked staff or volunteers or had shown aggression and deemed unadoptable. Maybe you would like to ask these people how many of these pit bulls THEY THEMSELVES BROUGHT INTO THEIR OWN HOMES. My guess is you’d be met with crickets. Other dogs simply could not be adopted due to illness or age. The shelter works very hard with many rescues and fosters to do whatever they can to save lives each and every day and the fact these big hearted people are being chastised in the media for what is arguably the hardest job for an animal lover is inexcusable.

    What is this smoke and mirrors you speak about? Its seems to me Mr Britton has been available for interviews whenever the reporters call. I suppose the shelter should be hard at work getting on with the business of saving animals lives instead of dealing with a few disgruntled former employees baseless allegations.

    • Oh my, do you need a rabies shot or something? You are attacking me like I broke this story. I did not. The media did. Republishing what THEY wrote and talking about what THEY wrote means YOU should be talking to them about THEIR facts. What about the inspection issues? Is that a fact that the state got wrong by chance? I have never ever been of the mindset that every animal can be saved, that is unrealistic. The Chester County SPCA has done many wonderful things, and I adopted one of my best dogs from them. *However* that doesn’t mean that they can’t be in trouble and floundering right now.

      You are asserting and have basically said that everything the media has reported was a complete and utter fabrication. Yet I bet you don’t have the chutzpah to contact them do you ? I will do you a solid – I am going to forward your comments with your email address to the reporters and Senator Dinniman. Then you can set them straight about EVERYTHING, o.k.?

      One last thing, if you hate that I have dared write about this so much, why did you follow this blog? And what is your position with the Chester County SPCA?

      Now go bite someone else’s ankle. I have allowed you to have your say, but my goodwill is pretty much done.

  4. Ms Owens I am a disgruntled former volunteer. You bet. I have volunteered more hours than I could log, only to watch a shelter that I love go so far off course from their mission statement that I had to speak up. And, oddly enough, when I did, I found that there were other volunteers and staff that felt the same way. I complained about the senseless execution of an adoptable dog – that I offered to adopt on the spot and was fired, that is true. The people you are maligning wrote letters to the board to address the lack of adequate management, and they were met with silence, or as you say, crickets. Members of staff and other volunteers have written to them on the same subject as long as a YEAR AGO. Dead crickets. But what can you say when key staff chooses to resign – Kennel coordinator, Social media director, adoptions counselors, rather than go on with this charade. The shelter is being run by committee, all inexperienced at the task. Massive mistakes have been made that cost animals their lives. Dog walkers have left voluntarily rather than get close to dogs they may not see again. Stronger ones have stayed because it is really all about the dogs, but they are with us too. So far, by bringing attention to this plight, we have saved lives, by alerting rescues that animals there are at risk. Delco came and took 12 animals yesterday – they have not pulled from CCSPCA in months. Yes, that is a fact. You clearly do not have yours straight, by your posts here and following the first Inquirer article as “birdiegirl”. Please, we would love to enlighten you. We have an open forum Facebook page where you can post your comments, and we will respond. If there is one thing you take away from this please know, we are not trying to hurt the volunteers, staff, or the shelter as a whole. Our aim is to remove the largely inactive board, get the management piece, which has been missing for over 9 months, back in place, and get CCSPCA on the road back to what it should be, a flagship lifesaving shelter in the richest county in Pennsylvania.

  5. Well, have not had a rabies shot, just a tetanus one, but here goes. Christine, I believe, was trying to point out the fact that, we are only hearing one side of the story and you included the articles which were built on the information provided by a group which has, at this time, an adversarial relationship with the SPCA. Are there problems there – sure, they really, really do need to have the central managerial positions filled. And, it is just my personal belief, the decision to take in the Delco animals without a presence in that county was a mistake.
    However, they do work with other rescues, there are quite a few volunteers still working there and they try very hard to place the many, many animals in their care.
    Inflammatory sites, comments and the like just serve to inflame, not to address a problem. Leslie’s rather disingenuous statement that they are not out to hurt is belied by the use of the words “tortured”, “killing factory”, and the like. And your question about Senator Dinniman being part of the “mob” is a straw man argument. He has agreed to check into the situation as he should – this does not mean he has given credence to any of the accusations.Hopefully, he can separate any authentic and spurious claims. And I hope it is done as quickly as humanly possible.
    In the interest of transparency, I am an SPCA foster. They really need more foster homes – perhaps you could get the word out.

    • Agnes,
      Thank you for your reply. However, we will kind of have to agree to mostly disagree because for board members and former volunteers to seek out media because they feel they have no other recourse, that speaks volumes. Leslie seems pretty level headed to me. Truthfully, I have heard what other rescues had to say about CCSPCA long before this issue blew up and I was horrified because I like the CCSPCA. However, the place needs an overhaul, including of the board- not just vacant positions filled. And that Conrad guy has conflicts, doesn’t he? Yes he disclosed them but in the interest of saving the CCSPCA maybe he needs to go? The CCSPCA has served the community well and faithfully and can do so again…but obviously they have some difficult work ahead.

    • The shame of it is from my perspective is there are some decent people on the board who aren’t involved as they should be. And then there’s the rest of the board

      • Agreed. One board member recently did resign after trying to change things out the shelter and constantly being met with resistance and hostility. Maybe some of the other board members will start asking some questions and straighten things out.

      • I had heard that the Conrad guy had disclosed this land purchase as a conflict to the SPCA and no further action was taken and do you know if this is true?

      • I understand that Muhly recused himself from the voting. He did not disclose his connection to the partnership seeking to purchase the land to the board prior to the sale. As the article says, Frank Sobyak sent the email urging agreement to the board members by cob that day.

      • And what drives me crazy about all of this is it is those without the voices who suffer: the homeless animals in the shelter. This SPCA has an amazing history, and I would like it if they would just clean house and get back to what they do best which is saving animals…in Chester County. I would also like it if someone at the SPCA would tell the truth and shame the devil where scanning for chips is concerned. Another thing that was told to me months ago and really bothers me is I was told that they were just shipping dogs and cats out and not scanning for microchips

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