The Humane League of Lancaster County announced today that it will become a "no kill" facility in February, joining a trend led by the Delaware County SPCA which stopped its open admission policy earlier this year.
Sounds like great news right?
No, say animal welfare advocates who argue that closing a shelter's doors to stray cats and dogs will mean more animals roaming the streets and more animal abuse. In an email to its supporters the league said it will cancel all municipal contracts by the end of January.
The league blamed the high costs of running the shelter for its decision, and pledged to "continue protecting the welfare of our community's pets."
But advocates say the shelter's decision gives the community - which includes the city of Lancaster and the state's largest concentration of licensed and unlicensed commercial dog breeders - virtually no notice to find alternatives and will create a "pick and choose" policy for unwanted pets.
"When people hear no kill, they think it's a good thing, it's not a good thing," said Tom Hickey, a member of the state Dog Law Advisory Board. "They are selectively picking which dogs live. Where are the dogs that don’t fit the criteria, namely pit bulls and puppy mill survivors that need extensive rehabilitation, going to go?
Hickey, who worked on trying to find alternatives in Delaware County, said the short notice is "totally unacceptable."
"I can speak from experience, I just did this in Delaware County. Townships don’t know what to do," he said.
Only eight of 52 municipalities in Lancaster County are still contracting with the league, after the local governments rejected paying the fee.
Under the definition of "no kill," the league said "healthy, treatable pets will not be euthanized due to lack of space or other resources." It also said it would take in animals for a fee, but did not say how much it would cost.
Hickey said he feared the decision could lead to animal euthanasia factories, like Triangle Animal Control in Pittsburgh, which until it was closed this month by the Department of Agriculture and its owners cited for cruelty, contracted with some 60 municipalities to take in stray animals, but held them for only 48 hours and offered no adoption services.
In its 2010 decision the Delaware County SPCA gave the community a year's notice that it would become no kill facility and later extended the transition by six months after county officials failed to come up with an alternative.
Delaware County now contracts with Chester County to provide animal control services.
"This means no one will have anywhere to go with these animals," Connie Kondravy, co-founder of the Organization for Responsible Care of Animals, told the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. "It's going to be like animals running in the streets. It's absolutely insane. I've been in this business 30 years, and I never thought I'd see this day."Lancaster County continues to have a pet overpopulation problem, she said.
"When you have a no-kill shelter, someone else is going to have to kill," she said. "If somebody doesn't step up to the plate, people are just going to be dumping animals right and left."
Kondravy predicted the Humane League will become a "little boutique shelter."
The league said it will try to accommodate as many animals that it can and that creating a "no-kill" community will require "strong licensing laws, spay/neuter initiatives and animal control programs" on the local, county and state levels.
"Pet owners will need to take responsibility for their pets, and pet lovers will need to support life-saving programs throughout the community," the league said.