Sing to the tune of Steam’s “Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye”:
Mayor Kenney, Abernathy
Fund ACCT Philly
Or say goodbye
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.
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.
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.”
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.