Nine questions for animal lovers and those charged with animal protection

Philly Dawg was in Vermont last week helping friends deal with the aftermath of serious flooding that swamped villages throughout the southern section of the state. As journalists we like to say that we get answers to our questions, but sometimes - despite our best efforts - there are more questions than there is time to track down answers.

Here are a few that haunted me during my Vermont vacation:

Why has there been no movement on the new Delaware County animal shelter?

The clock is ticking again for stray animals in Delaware County and there has been no news on a proposed shelter to house animals turned away by the newly reconstituted Delaware SPCA. Just before its July 1 deadline,  ending its century-old commitment to stray animals in an effort to become a "no kill" shelter, the DelCo SPCA agreed to give the county six months to come with an alternative. A piece of publicly-owned land was identified but so far, no construction has occured and there is no word on who will run it.

Who is going to take over stray dog and cat pickup in Philadelphia when the Pennsylvania SPCA ends its experiment with animal control at the end of the year?

We are talking about tens of thousands of free-range cats and dogs. It's a tall order for anyone, let alone a cash-strapped city with a never-ending problem of hoarding, dog fighting and general animal neglect.

Who is policing cruelty among large scale pet breeders and bad rescues in this state?

The PSPCA has conducted no large raids outside of Philadelphia since it sought to file charges against a group of Amish and Mennonite dog breeders from Lancaster County who sold sick dogs at an Ohio auction. Under Lancaster County district attorney Craig Stedman efforts to file cruelty charges failed, but a civil rights lawsuit by the breeders involved against the PSPCA and Main Line Animal Rescue is being allowed to proceed.

Is the Pennsylvania Bureau (now office) of Dog Law Enforcement quietly shrinking its dog warden staff?

Under Gov. Rendell at least four more wardens were added to crack down on long running abuses in commercial kennels. Now we understand that a number of vacant positions are going unfilled and that the remaining wardens are being asked to cover more counties. We still await answers to repeated queries to the Department of Agriculture.

Who is investigating Pennsylvania's underground puppy mills?

We know that the number of licensed kennels has dropped significantly since the dog law went into effect in 2009, but what are the chances that these formerly licensed - and once lucrative - kennels are now operating illegally? Under Pennsylvania law dog wardens can no longer access those properties without cause and animal cruelty officers can only enter the properties with a warrant.

Should Amish children have to pass a driver's test before taking pony carts on highways?

A deadly crash in Indiana has people asking that question. But similar crashes have occurred in recent months in Pennsylvania, raising the issue of putting children and their ponies in harm's way. We are talking about children under ten who steer their tiny carts onto narrow roads in Lancaster County with deadly results. While the image may seem romantic, the consequences are not.

Why don't district attorneys (specifically Berks County's John Adams and Bucks County's David Heckler) prosecute individuals violating the free speech rights of peaceful protestors?

There have been numerous incidents - all documented on video - of assaults against individuals protesting live pigeon shoots. The incidents have escalated from name calling, gun in the chest, struck with the buckle end of a leash and most recently a moving vehicle. By all accounts, the protestors have been exercising their free speech rights legally, standing quietly on public rights of way.

Why can't Pennsylvania pass legislation ending 24/7 dog chaining and the use of gas chambers to kill unwanted shelter dogs and cats?

States and municipalities across the South have halted these practices. Enough said.

Why has the state's Dog Law Advisory Board not met since Sept. 2010?

Gov. Rendell dismissed the DLAB in 2006 for being ineffective and reappointed a new board. But nine months into his administration, there has been no meeting since Corbett took office. DLAB members were advised a meeting would be held in September, but so far none has been scheduled. It's not that there are no animal welfare issues out there for discussion. For starters, consider some of the questions we've raised above, like the sheltering crisis and chaining and gas chamber legislation.