A little serious, a little satire, and all opinion on animal welfare.
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If Necessity is the mother of Invention, Unwarranted Self-Congratulation is its drunken uncle.

As someone who has been known to take a self-congratulatory turn himself on occasion, I perhaps take too much enjoyment in seeing others do it.  Especially when the self- congratulation is totally absurd.  Fortunately, working in the animal welfare world, I get to feed my guilty pleasure regularly.  It is an industry where pinning a ribbon on yourself is common and much of the self-adulation is along the lines of the proverbial politician proudly proclaiming he hasn’t beaten his wife in weeks. [And if you want some self-congratulation, how was that for some alliteration?]

“Did we voluntarily create a problem and then solve it by paying twice as much as before? You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Recently we got a doozy of a self-love fest from our friends in Delaware County who entered into a five year contract with the Chester County SPCA to accept stray animals from Delaware County municipalities for a fee of $250 a head.  This is actually a great deal for CCSPCA and a great deal for Delaware County, which doesn’t need to build and operate the animal control shelter it had planned and announced and even had pictures taken of them pushing dirt around at the selected site.  Having another organization which is already up and running and operates as a charity take your animals is much more cost effective.  I wish I had thought of that. The plan sounds so familiar.

The original plan of having the County build its own animal control shelter sounded really, really familiar, too.  But that might be because it’s the plan that HSBC forwarded to County officials in April of 2011.  They even got back to us as said they intended to contact us; alas, a contact which never occurred (but I keep all my emails…).  Then they announced that they had developed a great new original plan that was, coincidentally I’m sure, strikingly similar to the plan we sent them.  Oh, well, the other cliché is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.But while they were implementing their clever original plan, they needed a place to send strays since the Delaware County SPCA had dropped its animal control contracts with DelCo municipalities.  Chester County SPCA was able to help and even got a damn good price for the service: $250 an animal, delivered.  That’s when most of us wondered, “If CCPSPCA will take them, why would they build and staff a shelter in Delaware County at all?”  The smart answer is they shouldn’t and they didn’t, and here I congratulate DelCo for doing the smart thing.  And the best thing for animals since a high quality animal welfare agency like CCSPCA is going to do a vastly better job than a startup quasi-municipal/non-profit shelter could.

Better yet, by finally nailing down a real price they helped establish a price floor- not ceiling, but floor- for animal control services in Pennsylvania.  They have helped drive up prices in Counties throughout the region, to the benefit of shelters and animals.  Heck, I can’t help but reflect that when I started at Berks eight years ago and we took in 4,000 strays alone under contracts that provided merely $25 an animal, we would have brought in one million dollars on strays alone under this contract.  That was more than our entire operating budget.

So I say good for you CCSPCA, good for the animals, and probably good for the residents of Delaware County, who now have at least five years of reliable animal control assistance.

And Delaware County animal control officials have been so gracious about it all, too.  Delaware County Animal Control Czar, Tom Judge Jr., had the…OK, it’s a family blog so I’ll say “guts”, to utter, “It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t work with the organizations here in the county.”  Yes, so unfortunate that they didn’t have a local organization to work with which was closer, perhaps even one which would have done the job for less money.  Say it with me: Oh, wait, they did! As the entire world knows, the recipient of Judge’s snide jab was the Delaware County SPCA, which provided precisely that service to them for decades, for vastly less money.

Then, when the DCSPCA finally asked for more money, the municipalities balked, fought, screamed, and ultimately helped DCSPCA reach the conclusion that if they didn’t have the resources to take in the strays and save them too, they would make the decision to go no kill and not take in strays at all.  A principled decision helped along by fiscal reality- and no small heaping of abuse by their supposed partners among the municipalities.  What was this outrageous, onerous, usurious fee they were asking for?  Was it $1,000 an animal, or even $500?  It must have been ginormous compared to this great new deal of $250 an animal.

How much was Delaware County SPCA asking for? $116 per animal.

That’s right.  Delaware County’s animal control Armageddon was over a fee increase to $116 an animal, less than half what it pays now for less convenient service since animals need to be driven to another county for housing.  And it’s unfortunate, to quote Judge, that DelCo SPCA wouldn’t work with them?  What, they weren’t charging enough?

And this is where I nearly fall on the floor, laughing my butt off each time I reread what is perhaps the finest bit of unwarranted self-congratulation in the history of animal welfare.  DelCo Animal Control Vice-Czar, Mario Civera, dropped this gem on the world.  “What we did here in Delaware County, that was a first.”

I must beg to differ.  I think there is a reason that politicians rank with used car salesmen (with apologies to used car salesmen) in polls showing levels of respect by citizens.  It’s because only a politician can claim a victory for paying twice as much as what they used to pay for something.  Wasting tax payer money is nothing to be proud of.  And it’s hardly a first.

But, boys, from one self-congratulator to another, I like your moxy!

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When the last session of the Pennsylvania Legislature came to a close, it was with a whimper for the “Cost of Care” bill.  The bill, which requires pet owners charged in cruelty cases where a judge has allowed for seizure of the animal to pay a paltry amount to care for the pet while in custody, never made it out of Senate committee for a vote before the clock ran out.

Please take a few minutes to thank the Representatives who voted for HB 82. Then, if you live in one of the Berks Five’s district, take a few minutes more to share your disappointment regarding their vote on this important issue.

It was a split decision, however, because it had been sent over to the Senate for consideration after being passed nearly unanimously by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. That’s right, 97.4% percent of Representatives in both parties voted for the Cost of Care bill, the truest of bi-partisan landslides.  Even the overwhelmingly passed Puppy Mill bill of 2008 only received 96.2% of the vote and that was a historic landslide.  With a nearly 100% vote margin, surely there should be no issue with passing an identical bill again this session, and early enough to get it to the Senate for a vote and on to Governor Corbett’s desk to be signed into law.  Well, it passed on January 23, 2013, with a pretty good margin of 163 to 34, or 79.2% margin.  What left many of us scratching our heads are the 34 Nay votes.  After all, this year’s bill is identical to last year’s bill, which only five Representatives voted against it.  OK, in full disclosure, I didn’t put the two bills side by side but by all accounts it’s identical.  And even by the account of the AKC which has been working feverishly to block the bill in its now legendarily heroic attempts to shield bad breeders from stronger laws across the nation.  Identical.  Why then would 34 Representatives, including five Representatives- and I swoon with pride- from right here in Berks County, vote against a bill four of them they voted for mere months ago (one of the Berks Five, Tobash, was absent)?

Were they for it before they were against it?  Did they vote for it last time in error because they didn’t read it?  Or perhaps because it was the end of the term and they knew the Senate wouldn’t get a chance to vote so they thought they’d have a safe “dog friendly” vote to cast before the end of session?  Or did they have a genuine change of heart, perhaps thanks to the lobbying of those who want to place the woes of perpetrators of animal cruelty against the best interests of animals and the animal shelters which enforce Pennsylvania cruelty laws at our own cost under the direction supervision of County DA’s and judges?

Sometimes these votes can go up or down on party lines, for strictly political reasons, and we all understand that.  But while all the Berks no votes were among GOP Representatives, the overwhelming majority of Republicans, including the majority leadership who brought this up for a vote, supported the bill.  Sometimes votes can demonstrate the rural/urban /suburban divide.  But the five in Berks who voted against HB 82 represented a span of rural, semi-rural, and suburban districts, as did the four Representatives in both parties who supported the bill.

Why would these five Representatives- Gillen, Maloney, Cox, Tobash, and Day- vote against a bill which as law would still require DA approval of warrants and seizures and judiciary approval of the same warrants and seizures, and models laws on the books already, get the thumbs down from the Berks Five?  One could think it might have something to do with the five’s less than stellar voting record on animal welfare issues.  One is one of the only a tiny handful to vote against the overwhelmingly supported 2008 Puppy Mill bill every step of the way.  Another is an unabashed pigeon shoot supporter.  The others are at the very least out of step with vast majority their own party who brought this bill up for a vote and passed it.

But it still doesn’t explain why they voted for the bill last year and voted against it this year.  Four of their fellow Berks Representatives voted for it last time and this time, from both parties: Caltagirone (D), Knowles (R), Rozzi (D), and Mackenzie (R), and we thank them for their support.  Why the flip flop from the others?

Don’t they know that dogs and animal lovers may love waffles but we hate wafflers?

Find out how your Representative voted on HB 82 by clicking here.

Find your representative by clicking here.

 

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Charles Caleb Colton had that right.  I’m happy and bemused to see that another animal control plan involving a municipal/non-profit partnership suspiciously similar to the one we suggested a couple years back has cropped up in PA.  The post, The Animal Control Mess: A Modest Proposal, continues to be one of the most consistantly hit posts on our blog.  Everyone is welcome to it- that’s why we posted it- but a little nod our way every once in a while would be lovely.  If we could just get a royalty…

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