Animal shelter needs a helping paw

Sing to the tune of Steam’s “Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye”:

Mayor Kenney, Abernathy

Fund ACCT Philly 

Or say goodbye

Protest targets Kenney and Abernathy (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

In the 90-plus heat Wednesday afternoon, about 150 animal advocates shouted slogans and chanted in support of ACCT Philly, the city’s dilapidated and underfunded animal shelter.

Protesters outside City Hall. (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

Kenney is the mayor, of course, and Abernathy’s first name is Brian. He is the city managing director and his office oversees operations at the animal shelter.

The vast majority of protesters were women, many of whom volunteer at ACCT, with others coming from animal rescue groups. One unaffiliated protester was Matt Wolfe, a Republican running for City Council, who is still mourning the death of Liam, his rescue mini pinscher and dachshund mix. 

Normally reluctant to spend tax dollars, Wolfe says animal control is at “the core of municipal functions” and is also a “health issue.”

He was talking about human health, while many of the protesters were talking about the health of the animals in the animal shelter, which is a former warehouse at 111 W. Hunting Park Avenue. 

One of the organizers of the protest, ACCT volunteer Andrea Sunderland, spoke for most of the protesters, saying the No. 1 need of the animals is a new building, not just a long-promised expansion into offices occupied by the city’s vector control next door to the shelter, which she terms a “disaster.”

Sunderland has been a dog walker and dog adoption promoter at ACCT for five years, which means she has served under three executive directors — Sue Cosby, Vincent Medley and the recently-departed Susan Russell who didn’t last a year. 

Dogs Die, Kenney Lies

That was another chant used by the protesters, but I could not find a “lie,” other than Sunderland saying the mayor says “everything’s OK” at the shelter, when it is not. 

The underfunding is not news. I’ve been reporting on it for years. It is so bad “I don’t think any executive director can fix this,” says Michelle Helms, an ACCT volunteer who also runs Philadoptables, a nonprofit fund-raiser.

Baltimore spends more on its shelter than Philly

Philly provides $4.3 million annually for the shelter, while Baltimore provides $4.6 million and is one-third of Philly’s size. San Diego spends $17.6 million, Dallas provides $9 million, San Antonio spends $13.9 million. You get the point. 

Angelo Ruffo a.k.a. The Mad Catter, had to be the most uncomfortable protester, as he was dressed in a head to toe cat suit. He says ACCT needs help and “a lot of cats suffer there. It’s not just dogs.”

The Mad Catter at protest. (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

Before the protest, volunteer Stephanie Wolfgang Guyger posted on Facebook about a recent visit to ACCT: 

“That night it took me almost two hours to clean Blue and Jolly Rancher’s kennel, get them out for a quick walk, and back in with fresh water and treat. By the time I was finished it was approaching closing. Now hours have been cut back to 8pm instead of 9pm by the union. 

“That hour is crucial for the dogs. Volunteers can often help the only kennel attendant tending the entire shelter by him or herself clean kennels, get last walks in, handout treats, and give enrichment such as a simple blanket. 

“It took me way longer than it needed to because the mop/bucket I was using wouldn’t roll and I had to carry it. Simple equipment to make the staff’s job easier is not updated. Blue in the double kennel, the latch doesn’t work appropriately …. The shelter is inadequate and severely underfunded. That building is not salvageable, the homeless animals of Philadelphia need and deserve a properly functioning and staffed shelter.”

Protesters are using the hashtag #DoBetterPhilly.

We can and we should. 

29 thoughts on “Animal shelter needs a helping paw”

  1. Thanks so much for bringing to light to our city’s long forgotten ugly secret. I’m so glad so many showed up. It’s a cause that needs to be given attention and the time is NOW!

      Where’s your heart?
      Where’s your compassion, empathy?
      They have no voice to tell us how bad it is

  2. Thanks so much for getting the word out about the conditions at our city’s ONE & ONLY open intake shelter. More than half our city doesn’t even know that ACCT PHILLY exists! The animals deserve better, the staff deserve better, OUR CITY deserves a better animal welfare system! These poor animals have been FAILED by the city who is supposed to provide SHELTER!!

  3. I’d say this city’s going to the dogs but I can’t even say that. When they can’t provide for the public good; what is city government for?

  4. Please remember ACCT’s forgotten animals when you vote in November…We need better than Mayor Kenney

  5. How do we get mgn.director out. Do either go to Acct. Bet they never been there to see the place. I hope all this gets the animals the help they need. I am going to write a letter to Gov. Wolf . Then to the Eagles Org. Going to ask for help. Don’t know if it will help or fall on deaf ears. Its worth a try. Too many cats and dogs are needlessly dying.

  6. If you happen to visit Acct Philly animal shelter look around at everything, the building, the grounds, inside, outside, the equipment, and tell me if you think the allotted budget is even being spent to run the place. The shelter has to beg for everything. Anything extra comes from generous rescues or volunteers. Wake up City Hall Mayor Kenney, Brian Abernathy, Acct Board, City Council and FIX the problems. We are keeping watch not going away …………

  7. As someone who works for a pet food company and donates about 5K a year (at cost, not retail) in food and supplies, I’m appalled that these guys have let this fester. One of the no-kill shelters I support gets many of the worst cases from Brooklyn Animal Care and Control (a kill shelter) and they do miracles.

    These scum need to spend a few weeks in a kennel and see if that changes their tune. The money that’s siphoned off by patronage could easily be re-purposed. This is why I gave up on Philly.

  8. These politicians need 2 do something ASP These poor animals deserve better conditions!!! PLEASE DO SOMETHING NOW!!!!!

  9. I believe that they can do better than this, sounds like someone needs to be replaced. These babies deserve so much more, Praying for a change, God is always watching how you treat something!

  10. Hi, My wife and I love animals. I have owned Pet Sitting Business and at moment we have 3 dogs, and five cats which we took in a homeless cat and was pregnant. We lost 2 dogs last year to cancer and old age. I would love to be hired and to be the leader of your animal shelter and make right changes for promoting the pets to be adopted, have pet activities to help pets get adopted and allow your city to have a safe and great animal shelter. We’re I live we have a nice newer animal shelter and it even has pet supplies that are for sale to public to help find funds and ways to have fundraisers for events. I ‘ am in Arizona but would love to be the animal shelter director and help save and fix animal shelter for you. Let me know if you are interested in hiring me and to fix your shelter let me know. I know I can fix it.
    Sincerely geoff

  11. I wonder how many of these concerned pet lovers would turn out to save unborn children.

    1. Truly ridiculous. It’s like saying if you give to cancer research, you don’t care about leukemia. From my experience, people who care for animals are MORE likely to care about children. It’s empathy thing.

      1. Nope. My experience is just the opposite. When I get solicited by
        these save-a-pet wackos, I offer a deal: I’ll give $100 to save-a-pet
        if you give $50 to a right to life group. I usually get an earful of hate.

    2. The children of our city deserve to grow up in a humane society. Children are our future and most of them are caring individuals who would not treat animals the way our leaders do.

  12. Thank you Stu for exposing these monsters for who they are. Kenney’s priority is to see that murderers and rapists get treated humanely in their cells, while the innocent animal victims abuse, neglected and discarded by many of those very criminals he protects are forced to exist in inhumane conditions. LETS VOTE THESE CRONIES OUT OF OFFICE IN NOVEMBER!!

  13. Sic ’em. Stu! Sic ’em!! Thx for bringing some light to this rarely discussed item. Actually, you really need to light a fuse under the mayor’s butt. Well, maybe not. How about lighting multiple fuses under the electorate’s butt(s). That’s where it really starts. I know – you keep trying. Just remember something about many of the, ahem, Philly voters – you can lead them to voting booths, but you can’t make them think.

  14. This city is a disgrace , To have animals living in that disgusting condition . You should do better. Dogs and cats are being put down every day. It is a disgrace . Makes me sick that you don’t care. Philadelphia is the most corrupt city in the USA . We will not go away .Help ACCT and make it a better place for the poor animals .And fix it NOW .

  15. Thank you again for another story to help ACCT. Yes underfunded and a horrible building but no one has brought up two other facts. That it’s a 501c that’s under total city control which makes absolutely no sense when it comes to charities. Is it even legal for a city to run a charity? Second ACCT is made by the city to be under union control. Kennel workers to getting a simple dishwasher hooked up can’t be done without unions . The fact that someone trained in construction, electrical or plumping can’t donate services to help out costs is absolutely disgusting! Dogs died during the outbreak because people couldn’t donate time to deep clean and help because of unions. Sorry but my opinion the worst issue with acct isn’t funds but the fact the city controls those funds . Board members picked by the city so they support what city wants not what’s really good for the animals

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