Byko: Even good news has a bad bark at animal shelter

ACCT executive director Vincent Medley.

It’s a sad irony that even good news comes enmeshed with bad news at the Animal Care and Control Team, known as  ACCT Philly, the city’s animal shelter.

The shelter, located at 111 W. Hunting Park Ave., is in an old, warehouse-type building that is too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

The good news is the city is making $928,000 available to replace the shelter’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning.  

The work includes a new HVAC system, new kennel ceiling and lighting, and scrubbing of all vents, which will provide cleaner air, according to ACCT Philly spokeswoman Ame Dorminy.

The bad news is that half the kennels must be closed during the two-month construction beginning Feb. 6, reducing the number of dog cages.

During the first half of the renovation the back three rows of kennels, holding about 50 cages, will be closed. During the second half on construction, they will be returned to service and the front three rows of about 50 cages will be shut down. The closure is necessary for the safety of both dogs and humans during construction.  

The shelter's capacity varies between 90-100 dogs because earlier this year the shelter implemented a “humane housing” plan that created one larger cage out of two adjoining cages, giving the dog more room. This was done with some, but not all, of the cages.

During construction, each double cage will return to being two single cages again to accommodate more dogs. No matter how you slice it, the shelter will be stressed.

ACCT’s top priority is to minimize euthanasia during this period, said Dorminy.

ACCT Philly is planning an aggressive adoption program, incentives for rescue groups that find homes for dogs they remove from the shelter,  seeking help from other shelters and dissuading dog owners from turning in their pets.

It’s going to be a challenge.

Meanwhile, statistics for 2016 have just been posted on the ACCT Philly website.

The live release rate for dogs last year was 77 percent, up slightly from the 76 percent in 2015. The live release rate in 2014 was 71 percent. Live-release is the percentage of dogs that enter the shelter and escape euthanasia. The arrow is pointed in the right direction.

The 77 percent rate will be a relief to the animal activists who questioned the “humane housing” concept introduced a year ago by ACCT Philly executive director Vincent Medley, the fourth ACCT leader since 2007. At a July board meeting, many ACCT volunteers and rescue partners hotly criticized the plan, fearing fewer cages would result in more dogs being put down. Happily, that hasn’t happened.

For the record, the live release rate for cats rose from 77 percent in 2015 to 80 percent in 2016. It was 74 percent in 2014.The cat room is not affected by the construction.