Last September 11th I was up in a hot air balloon shaped like a flag floating over Chester County. This September 11th I spent all day in a court house.
Almost two hours ago the jury came back. Sorry for not posting sooner, but I wanted to sit and think a while. It has been a long time since February.
It was a long afternoon as we waited in the District Attorney’s Offices – which were a real kick to see! I have to say the Chester County District Attorney’s Office personnel were pretty darn amazing. They did not have to go out of their way to make us comfortable and they did. They allowed us to wait in a small conference room instead of just hanging in the hall all afternoon. On a brutally hot day with my friend Amy in a full boot cast, this was particularly nice. I met some really amazing people and even one of the working dogs handled by the Chester County Sheriff’s Department.
Guilty. Gabriel Pilotti wanted to be judged by a jury of his peers, and he was. And he was found guilty. Truthfully I think his defense team looked a bit surprised.
Case CP15 -CR-00010992013
Count 1 Cruelty to Animals (Argus) – Guilty
Count 2 Cruelty to Animals (Fiona) – Guilty
Sentencing is October 28th at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Ronald C. Nagle.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Pierce really brought his A game to the closing. I could go into the back and forth nitty-gritty of the closing, but why? The verdict is what it is. I also understand that Mr. Pilotti will probably lose his weapon now? That is what I was told on my way out this evening.
Today justice was done for Argus and Fiona. To me this was also a big win in general for Pennsylvania’s dogs. A win for the dogs is much overdue.
I also want to thank Bud Haly who is on the board of the Chester County SPCA for stepping up and coming to court today. That gives me hope for that organization. Some people who are affiliated with the CCSPCA were mighty pissy that I even articulated someone should be there. Guess what? I wasn’t wrong and he said simply that he couldn’t NOTbe there. So I am glad one board member did the right thing.
I also want to thank West Vincent Chief of Police Michael Swininger and Officer Austin Russell. They were there with us, and as critical as I can be about West Vincent Township, these two gentlemen are stand up guys. And many thanks to the media who devoted time for this, especially print media. We all know they are stretched thin.
We were all very emotional when the verdict was read. Bill Bock just stood there for a moment not moving with tears in his eyes. That right there made all the crap we took for believing in Justice for Argus and Fiona worth it. This family can have peace and closure.
Run free over the Rainbow Bridge Argus and Fiona. You have your justice, sweet pups.
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.
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.
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.
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
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