DelCo drops shelter plan, ChesCo to continue to house its animals

How is it that one of the most populous counties in Pennsylvania has no open admission animal shelter and now appears to have no plans to open one?

My colleague Mari Schaefer reports in today's Inquirer that Delaware County officials have scuttled a plan to build a new shelter, a year after the Delaware County SPCA closed its doors to strays in its quest to become a "no-kill" shelter.

The reason? Money. Not all townships decided to "buy in" to the plan as costs escalated.

"We can't spend $2 million," said County Councilman Mario Civera, referring to the latest estimates.

Municipal governments - based in their feudal, walled city mindsets -continue to reject the idea that animal care and control is a community issue.

But sadly, cats and dogs know no township or borough lines and as a result the stray pets of Delaware County are now being shipped to and taken care of by the Chester County SPCA.

But for how long?

Since March Chester County has taken in 258 dogs and 294 cats from Delaware County - and that's before kitten season. The number will easily top 1,000 by the end of the year.

And already there is a dispute over costs.

"Without a long-term deal, we will be in a crisis mode." said Thomas J. Judge Jr., president of the newly created Animal Protection Board, who wants Chester County SPCA to agree to take DelCo's animals for five more years.

It's easy to become a no-kill shelter when you guard the gates and post an admission policy. You are free to reject the old dogs, the sick dogs, the pit bulls, the dogs with behavior issues.

In fairness, the Delaware County SPCA is still taking "owner surrenders," but Good Samaritans who find a stray pet must ferry them to Chester County and people who lose animals must find their way to Chester County too. 

So it's Chester County now that must shoulder the primary burden for Delaware County's animals: the food, vet care, handing calls from frantic Delaware County residents who've lost pets, and make the difficult decision to euthanize animals. 

The question is, for how long?