Back in October, I reported the Board of Directors of ACCT Philly had decided to appoint a single executive director to replace the two acting co-executive directors.
I was told a decision was expected before the end of the year and the decision has been made: Sarah Barnett, 35, one of the acting co-executive directors was named to head the city-funded animal shelter, while the other, Tara Schernecke, was named senior director of operations. Schernecke did not seek the top job and was not among the 40 applicants for the job.
“Sarah’s background and experience,” said board co-chair Marsha Pearlman, “both previously and at ACCT, makes her clearly the best choice for this position.”
The two women were the sixth leader since ACCT Philly began in 2012, taking over the operation of the shelter from the Pennsylvania SPCA. Executive directors last around two years, and that rapid management turnover makes it difficult to establish and achieve goals.
Previous leaders were, chronologically, Tara Derby, Sue Cosby, Vincent Medley, Susan Russell and Aurora Velazquez, who suddenly resigned under mysterious circumstances.
The shelter is experiencing stress as a rising number of dogs are being surrendered due to owners experiencing joblessness or homelessness.
This followed a wave of surrenders by owners who adopted animals for companionship during the Covid lockdown, but who then found they did not want, or could not keep, them when they returned to work.
The most recent live-release rate, for October 2022, was 88% for dogs and 86% for cats. That number reflects the number of animals taken into the shelter that find new homes or are taken out by animal rescue groups or foster homes.
Early in 2021, the live-release rate briefly touched 92%.
To put this in context, the save rate was 62% when ACCT Philly began operations in 2012. It was about 20% in 2004 when I first started writing about it.
So things are better, but far from perfect.
And things never will be perfect as long as pet owners don’t neuter their pets, allow their animals to breed without having homes for them, and as long as people buy pets from shops instead of adopting from shelters.