From the editor: Dog days

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received reports of the horrific treatment at the hands of a lack of funding for ACCT Philly, the primary caregiver for animals who need shelter in Philadelphia.

On Wednesday, members of the group, along with concerned activists and animal lovers, took to City Hall in protest of the subpar conditions and treatment of these animals – and at times, the people who care for them.

Earlier this week, I received a letter addressed to both Mayor Jim Kenney and city managing director Brian Abernathy from ACCT Philly. Instead of trying to explain, this week I’d like to use this space so you can hear what’s going on straight from the source. The letter has been edited for space, but it’s full of more than enough. You’ll get the gist.

Interested in your thoughts on this one. If you have any, send them my way:


We are the City of Philadelphia’s animal welfare volunteers. We are on the front lines of the homeless pet epidemic in this city, trying to do all we can to make the animal welfare situation in Philadelphia one that we can be proud of. There is a popular quote that states, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” (attributed to Gandhi but without proof).

In this city, if an outsider were to come into our animal control shelter, they would think the citizens of this city were lacking all morals due to the gross negligence of our city’s government for allowing this to take place.

The volunteers, staff and rescue partners that give their all to the city’s animals have been around since animal control was passed from PSPCA to a new city-funded non-profit, ACCT Philly, in 2012. Many were around before that, when it was called PACCA. We know that this is a poor city, but that doesn’t mean we should treat living beings the way this city has been treating the animals that walk in the shelter’s door.

While the animal care they receive is not directly attributed to you, the Mayor and Managing Director, it is due to the lack of funding and lack of a proper building. This isn’t new to anyone and has been going on for years since ACCT Philly was formed and housed inside of a broken down warehouse.

Currently, the shelter space is 19,000 sq. feet (in a building of 32,000 feet) and can only house 120 dogs and 200 cats, in a city of 1.5 million people. In 2018, the shelter took in nearly 20,000 animals. These numbers don’t include the animals that owners took to other shelters outside of the city because we had no room, or the ones abandoned somewhere to live life as a stray, or worse.

As you know, the shelter is currently battling a severe breakout of the pneumovirus, which has led to the death of half a dozen dogs, and more are still contracting it, despite the extra measures being taken to eradicate it. There are many factors as to why this deadly disease spread so badly, so quickly, and the vast majority of those factors include the following:

  • Broken hot water sanitizing machine leading to the virus and bacteria remaining on all bowels and water pails. This machine has been broken for 1-2 months and as of this letter, has still not been replaced.

  • Broken washing machines due to the number of towels [and] blankets and the limited power source to use industrial-sized washers and dryers means linens aren’t able to be cleaned thoroughly, leaving urine, feces, mold, etc. The shelter currently uses residential sized machines because the building does not have a strong enough power system to run anything larger.

  • Lack of proper ventilation for an animal shelter setting. When there is a lack of ventilation, the disease spreads at an alarming rate and the majority of the animals will contract an upper respiratory infection and more. The current HVAC system in kennels shoots air outside and downward onto the ground where the animals walk, leading to the dust, hair, dirt and viruses being brought directly back inside of the building by the animals and people’s shoes/clothing. The duct work is not maintained and cleaned.

  • Severe rodent infestation in every area of the building. Rodent holes in all walls and feces covering the floors, the clean laundry, the dog/cat food and treats, along the walls, even staff members’ desks. Rodents are known to carry numerous diseases and viruses which can be transferred to both humans and other animals.

In a city that is progressing at increasing speeds, the animal welfare of the city is declining. Please consider our invitation and work with us to get ACCT Philly the building we need so we can be the animal shelter others look up to and one where the animals receive the care they deserve. This is our open invitation to you to work with us and figure out a new plan together.


  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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