New Philly coalition aims to end euthanization of pets at shelter

Guthrie Conygham, manger of ACCT’s off-site adoption unit, holds Missy, an adoptable kitten, at City Hall. (Kyrie Greenberg for WHYY)

Guthrie Conygham, manger of ACCT’s off-site adoption unit, holds Missy, an adoptable kitten, at City Hall. (Kyrie Greenberg for WHYY)

Admitting he doesn’t have the time to be a responsible pet owner himself, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney Wednesday announced a new coalition of animal advocates set on ending euthanization of the city’s surrendered, adoptable pets.

About 18,000 animals were surrendered to the city’s shelter last year, said Melissa Levy, executive director of the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society  known as PAWS.

“That sounds like a huge number — and it is — but, when we started, there were 30,000 animals pouring into that shelter every year,” she said.

A decade ago, “Philadelphia really faced one of the worst homeless pet crises on record. Now, it’s poised to become one of the largest no-kill communities in the whole country,“ she said.

Levy, along with leaders of Animal Care and Control, and the Pennsylvania SPCA credit the growth of the city’s low-cost veterinary clinics as a reason for the 40 percent drop in animals sent to shelters over the past decade.

“Upper respiratory infections, ear infections, flea outbreaks, skin conditions, worms — these are very basic issues that are easily treatable, but we often see pets being surrendered because of them,” said Levy.

With a website and a hotline for pet owners, Philly’s No Kill Coalition consolidates the resources of several area shelters and pet-aid organizations to connect residents to affordable pet food and medical care. The idea, advocates said, is to make the shelter a last resort.

Valerie Douglas, a volunteer who rescues animals in her Grays Ferry neighborhood, said she’s excited to be able to point pet owners to a single resource.

“I get phone calls in the middle of the night about an animal here and there,” said Douglas who partners with her neighbor Jerri Sueck to help residents with sick or neglected animals.

“We can’t help everybody all the time. With this situation, we’ll be able to tell the public, ‘Here’s another way to easily access the proper resources,’ ” said Douglas.

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