Harrisburg stray crisis update: no contract, plenty of finger-pointing

If someone polled the population of the Capital city right now about how they felt about how the City of Harrisburg and the Humane Society of the Harrisburg area were doing their jobs, we imagine both would land somewhere south of members of Congress, who last time we looked were polling at 9 percent.

Both sides are getting slammed on editorial pages and in cyberspace for engaging in petty politics while an all-volunteer organization - the Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance - continues to rescue, provide vet care and find homes for the city's abandoned animals.

Here's what we know at this hour:

The city and the humane society have still not yet resolved their animal control contract dispute. Which means the humane society is still not taking in stray animals and has not done so since the city fell behind on its payments in late October.

The city police did finally rescind their stunning "shoot 'em, adopt 'em or drop 'em" - as my friend and fellow reporter Donald Gilliland put it in the Patriot News - and they set up a kennel (donated by CPAA volunteers) to hold up to two stray dogs.

But the site they chose could not have been more horribly symbolic. They chose a building at the city's incinerator where officers took two pet pit bulls who had escaped their yard, shot them and burned them.

In December a leaked police memo instructed officers to shoot "dangerous, sick or injured dogs." It told them to find homes for healthy dogs or "take them to a safe place," which in one case documented last week was in a box under an overpass (that puppy survived and is in foster care with the CPAA).

But in the intervening weeks, instead of settling the contract, which requires the city put up $40,000, or half the anticipated annual cost, both sides launched attacks on those who tried to help the animals left stranded by the city's inaction and the humane society's failure to live up to its name.

Harrisburg police chief Pierre Ritter publicly vowed to hunt down the "rogue' officer who leaked the memo. Over at the humane society director Amy Kaunus was emailing Ritter - not to try to come to some arrangement on the animals - but to demand he investigate the city's animal control officer who she said tried to drop off an injured puppy with a news crew in tow.

Today Gilliland reports that the humane society, in a gesture of overdue compassion, secured an emergency grant from PETCO that would enable it to take strays for a week.

The city said, "no thanks."

Meanwhile, CPAA volunteers are combing the city streets just blocks from the Capitol for an emaciated white pit bull spotted on the loose. They just found a foster home for the one and only dog held by the city in the past four months and they stand ready to care for the animals as they arrive at the city "kennel."


(Photo/Dan Gleiter/Patriot News)