on dog fights

ccspca pizapI wasn’t going to post again about the Chester County SPCA, but I am. Many feel the shelter is imploding and the board has board elections I think this evening.

Let me state at the beginning that although Delaware County is part of this board, this is Chester County’s shelter.  Leadership there should come from it’s home county ideally but a compromise point is top leadership split – one Delaware County board member, on Chester County board member. As in President/Vice President.

Let me also mention that ill fated land deal involving outgoing board president, Conrad Muhly. It is the opinion of many that it is wrong, right? Has this topic been swept under the rug? Or is the Embreeville issue resolved?

And can we say that the Chester County SPCA should learn from the mistakes of Devon Horse Show?

Devon Horse Show chairman resigns amid development debate

By Tricia L. Nadolny, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: March 03, 2014

EASTTOWN The chairman of the Devon Horse Show has resigned, four months after board members at the prestigious Main Line institution challenged what some said was his undisclosed role in a proposal to build a high-end retail center and hotel beside the fairgrounds.

Wade McDevitt, whose grandfather was one of the show’s founders and who in many ways grew up on its grounds, said he stepped down to spend more time with his family. The plan he had backed to build what could be Devon’s first taste of a town center – a project in which his family stood to profit – has stalled…McDevitt’s resignation as chairman amounts to a shake-up at the venerable organization, whose county fair and internationally renowned equestrian events are run by hundreds of well-to-do volunteers and draw a refined crowd. A new chairman has not been selected…..

Last week, the horse show’s newly hired lawyer, William Lamb, declined to comment on whether McDevitt’s decision to step down was connected to allegations made in November that his dealings amounted to a conflict of interest. McDevitt remains a member of the show’s board. Lamb said there were still unresolved issues related to McDevitt’s involvement in the development, but declined to elaborate, adding that he hoped to have an “amicable resolution” soon.

McDevitt’s roots at Urban Outfitters, as at the horse show, run deep.

His wife, Wendy McDevitt, is an executive of Urban Outfitters – president of Terrain, one of the brands that hoped to open a store at the Devon site – and also a horse show board member. Her brother, Scott Belair, is on Urban Outfitters’ board of directors and was one of its founders.

Are there parallels here that can be drawn regarding the above?

I am not here to do anything other than point out the obvious: if Conrad Muhly truly loves the Chester County SPCA, it is time for him quite simply to put ego aside and leave the party?  He might be going off the board leadership role, but shouldn’t he just leave the party for now?

But then there is the rest of it, including but not limited to the question of the suitability of Howard Nelson isn’t there? Maybe he has the chops of running large shelters, but he has a certain irrefutable past when it comes to animal rescues, doesn’t he? Including way back to his days at the Washington DC Humane Society? (he has his own website with his bio and his own fan page on Facebook)

Did he come to the party courtesy of now fellow board member Marsha Perelman?  She has publicly been his champion for years in the media hasn’t she?

I mean no disrespect to Ms. Marsha because she loves animals so very much, but WHY does she animal-related non-profit hop SO much? First she was Main Line Animal Rescue’s fairy godmother and then she just wasn’t any longer…..and then she was with the ASPCA in NYC until one day she was a line item in a May 29, 2013 Page Six of the New York Post (gossip column) where they said she was no longer part of the ASPCA…..then September 2013 I saw a press release stating she was on the board of directors of the Humane Society of the USA……one busy lady, eh?

As a lay person doesn’t this whole Chester County SPCA thing as much as anything else seems to be a lot of personality conflicts? Sort of like when the PASPCA went totally cuckoo for cocoa puffs?

PSPCA votes to accept director’s resignation

Posted: February 20, 2009

The short and controversial reign of Howard Nelson, chief executive of the Pennsylvania SPCA, officially came to an end yesterday.

In a unanimous vote, the 14-person PSPCA board accepted Nelson’s resignation, effective immediately. Nelson, 45, formerly head of the Washington Humane Society, joined PSPCA in March 2007……Nelson, who was paid $189,000 a year, will receive a severance package. The terms were not disclosed….Nelson would not comment, and his attorney could not be reached.

…..With employees, Nelson was known to have a confrontational management style and a volatile temper.

Former humane officer Terry Bohn critized Nelson last night, saying that he had refused to carry out a raid at a farm because no media were present.

Marsha Perelman, a member of the Governor’s Dog Law Advisory Board, defended Nelson, saying he “may have embarrassed authorities who hadn’t been doing their jobs for so many years and had looked other way.”


So let us talk about other things. The new executive director has resigned, correct? She was brought forward in part by Howard Nelson, correct? She was part of the development staff under him at PASPCA, right? She resigned shortly after the police were called to play bouncer the first time, didn’t she? Now didn’t someone else resign after the latest and most recent incident involving the police being called to play bouncer at the Chester County SPCA?  But she is still there, right? So will they bring this woman back to the executive director role or maybe she will “un-resign” depending on how the board leadership elections go?

And what about the whole using West Goshen police force like bouncers? I don’t think the job of taxpayer funded local police forces should include playing bouncers to a local non-profit, do you? Have any residents in West Goshen gone to that township to ask what is up? I can’t believe that happened once, let alone twice, can you? Has this happened in the past too? It is genuinely a little cray-cray don’t you think?

(Winston the late , great ESS who came from the Chester County SPCA many moons ago)

(Winston the late , great ESS who came from the Chester County SPCA many moons ago)

Look, I know people in rescue but I am not involved in rescue but I have rescued animals. So maybe people are going to be critical of this still sort of newbie to Chester County for having opinions about the Chester County SPCA, but if I did not care, I would not ask questions.  And I will state again that one of my best rescue dogs, the late great Winston came from Chester County SPCA.

The Chester County SPCA began it’s missteps in many ways over the past few years and they can’t unring any of those bells, they can only move forward.  But should moving forward involve the former irrefutably controversial head of the PASPCA?

The (Scary) Truth About Cats and Dogs

It’s been four months since the PSPCA took over the city’s animal shelter system. It’s failing.

By Tara Murtha Philadelphia Weekly

It wasn’t long ago that the Hunting Park shelter was the scene of some very crude animal crimes. Back in 2002, PSPCA, then in charge of animal control, walked away from the contract over money and the pit bull policy (Philly refused to outlaw the breed, and PSPCA’s policy was to euthanize them). The Philadelphia Department of Public Health was then forced to create and staff a new animal control organization, Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association (PACCA), as a subdivision of itself; by all accounts, it was staffed with many bad-apple nepotism hires. Under this initial administration of PACCA, the shelter was a grisly murder mill. It remained a self-contained catastrophe until 2004, when the Daily NewsStu Bykofsky wrote a five-part exposé.

Bykofsky’s gut-wrenching series described dogs and cats swung into cages by their legs or necks as administrators chomped on cigars; one animal after another being killed within minutes of arrival; and starving dogs hosed down in their cages….

Meanwhile, in 2007, PSPCA named Howard Nelson (off a stint as executive director of the Washington Humane Society but formerly best known as a high-level Fannie Mae exec) as its new CEO. Nelson spent the next year waging a take-no-prisoners war for the animal control contract—a mere $2.9 million feather in PSPCA’s $33 million cap. (PSPCA is a statewide nonprofit organization, unconnected to other SPCAs and not overseen by another organization.)

During Nelson’s pursuit of the contract, PSPCA began to signal breakdown. Two longtime board members resigned within a few months of one another, each citing Nelson as a contributing factor (attorney Richard Elliott cited Nelson’s “inability to concede human fallibility”). Allegations of inhumane euthanasia methods sparked investigative reports. Nelson was caught lying about the number of humane officers in the state. Lawsuits popped up concerning the legality of some of PSPCA’s cruelty raids.

By late 2008, the epic battle between PACCA and PSPCA for the Philly contract climaxed: Secret alliances were forged, backstabbing ensued and kited statistics were floated. It was the stuff of scandal junkie dreams.

The battle ended on Dec. 1, when PSPCA was awarded the contract for a six-month term by the Health Department. PACCA disbanded and employees scattered, but many volunteers and rescue partners stayed in animal control, more concerned with saving animals than with political turmoil…..Then, less than two months into the six-month contract, Nelson vanished. Soon after posting PSPCA’s first month’s “save rate” stats and amid controversy elsewhere in the state—there was community outrage over a shelter shut down in Monroe County, the Pocono Record published reports alleging abuse of authority and the board was reportedly pressuring Nelson to answer “certain questions”—he suddenly resigned via email on Feb. 11, citing health concerns and “an environment no longer conducive to my success or the success of the organization.”


You have to admire Howard Nelson for his tenacity.  He is much like a cat with proverbial nine lives the way he survives although he does it Doggy Style, right? However, if this leopard has indeed changed his spots, wouldn’t you think the leopard wouldn’t seek a leadership role on the board of the Chester County SPCA and instead go about proving himself to be worthy of such leadership?  It’s just a thought.

But in the midst of all this, the Chester County SPCA has gotten some terrific new board members like Patricia Biswanger who are now being swept up in the verbal poop wars.

You want to know what kind of person Pat is? Read this:

Lawyer aims to strengthen families Patricia Sons Biswanger brings survival instincts to a Children and Youth Services advisory panel. MILESTONES

Posted: December 15, 2002

Patricia Sons Biswanger remembers when her family was so poor all she had for shoes was a pair of 29-cent rubber flip-flops.

Despite that, her mother never doubted that she and her brother and two sisters would go to college.

Biswanger, 46, a Philadelphia lawyer who lives in Haverford Township, is bringing her legal skills and commitment to family to the Children and Youth Services of Delaware County Advisory Committee.

“I think family is the most critical element to any one person’s survival, so anything I can do to strengthen or reinforce that element, I want to do,” she said….

Born in Havertown, Bis-wanger grew up in Yardley. She was 12 and the oldest of four children when her father died at age 38 of Hodgkins’ disease.

Biswanger said times were tough for her mother, since deceased, who had never worked during her marriage and now had to support the family. They had little money – so little that Biswanger had to put off the first day of school in eighth grade until her mother, Mary Bernadette Sons, cashed her paycheck to buy her daughter a pair of shoes.

Eventually, the family made its way back to Havertown, and Biswanger was able to put herself through the University of Pennsylvania by working three jobs and taking out student loans.

After marriage and a brief stint in the travel business, Biswanger, whose children were 2 and 6 at the time, started at Penn Law School when she was 34.


Pat Biswanger is a friend, and yes I will defend her here. I am trying to be objective and because she is a friend it is hard.  I will tell you we have been unable to speak as often since she went on the board of the Chester County SPCA.   I don’t want her put in a questionable spot by being my friend since my critics think I have some nerve writing about the Chester County SPCA.

But I am proud to be her friend.  Do we agree with every little move each one of us makes? No. We are individuals and human beings not Stepford Wives. This is a woman who also gave up her time in her life to drive me to radiation for seven weeks with other friends when I was going through breast cancer treatment.

If you want to object to her because she is from Delaware County and not Chester, fine. But don’t throw her under the bus with only part of a very large and involved story that has nothing to do with her devotion to homeless animals or her many other capabilities. Truthfully, animal lovers are lucky, yes lucky that someone like her is on the board.

She hasn’t been a catalyst in the land deal at Embreeville has she? She won’t stand to have personal gain from the Embreeville land deal will she? And she didn’t have anything to do with the nonsense at the PASPCA either, did she? Don’t exhibit irresponsible activism.

Choose wisely and for the best advocacy of the animals all you people at the Chester County SPCA.  Be part of solutions, not further problems.

I do believe board leadership in part has to be from Chester County.  My pick would be someone like Bill Bock.  He gets it, he is smart, he is above reproach. I also think Bud Haly would be a good choice in leadership.  Or even that Steve Bazil guy or Guy Donatelli, except I do not believe given political ties Donatelli would allow his name to move forward.  I also know and respect Tom Hickey, but I have no idea if he would be interested in leadership given his state-wide involvement on behalf of dogs. The point is, there is choice.

However, whatever happens the  Chester County SPCA needs not to not only survive, but thrive.  Leadership should be equally split and I do believe that if you are not in Chester County or Delaware County you should sit down and not even go near leadership. It’s not right. My thought process is it is Chester County’s shelter but there is this Delaware County contract right now so I think they have to be adequately represented on both the board and board leadership.

And I am sorry but I   think that given the controversial animal welfare society/rescue past of Howard Nelson while he has experience, he might not have been the best choice for the board of the Chester County SPCA at this time. But I will say it again, if Nelson really is a different guy than the guy covered quite a bit by the media during his tumultuous tenure at the PASPCA, he will remove himself from consideration for board leadership at this time if he is even running for one of those spots.  My theory is simple: if he wants to really do it for the dogs (and cats and bunnies and guinea pigs and so on) he will prove his net worth a little longer by just being a team player, not the captain of the ship. And if he is true, he can’t blame people for their concerns.

Look I don’t have answers or an inside track. I am one week out of a major surgery and truthfully should not be bothering with any of this, so after this post I am done for a while.  But I could not sit idly by while Pat Biswanger was unfairly tainted. I can’t, and I am sorry if that upsets some people. That woman was with me at a time when I truly had to look the thought of my own mortality in the face. And unless you have faced something like breast cancer you will never get that.

Like everyone else, traditional media included, I hear so much every day about the Chester County SPCA my head swims.  And as it swims and the news and bad news and more bad news swirls I wonder as most do the following: with all the humans fighting one and other from every side, faction, and corner who is looking out for the voiceless? The animals?

Yeah, stops you cold that thought, doesn’t it?

Here is hoping the board can come together and decide positively and in the best interest of the animals.  Here is hoping everyone can stop fighting long enough to save this place.