Mayor Kenney vowed his support and voiced his appreciation Wednesday for the city's leading animal welfare organizations for forming a "Philadelphia No-Kill Coalition" to help stop euthanizing thousands of animals each year that could be adopted.
In a room filled with animal activists attending a news conference, the mayor said the three groups that initiated the the coalition "share a common goal in ending euthanasia. Now the leaders in the community have come together to work toward this common goal."
While he does not have a pet, the mayor said he lives in a building where many residents have animals that enrich their lives. The audience also included Missy, a friendly black cat, and Ferny, a pitbull mix. Both are looking for homes.
The coalition is aiming to end the practice of euthanizing homeless animals euthanized due to a lack of shelter space.
Last year, about 82 percent of the 18,000 cats and dogs housed by the city's official shelter, the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia, survived, a dramatic increase from 2005, when nearly 90 percent of the animals brought to the city shelter were euthanized.
The coalition wants to keep the momentum, saving more animals with focus on animals most at risk – kittens, sick cats and dogs, or pets whose owners have had a hardship.
"We're going to use our collective voice through the year," Melissa Levy, the executive director of the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, a nonprofit that operates no-kill shelters and is part of the coalition, said Tuesday. It has been working for years with city officials to curtail the number of unwanted animals euthanized in the city's facilities.
The coalition includes Philly's Animal Care and Control Team, the Pennsylvania SPCA, and at least 10 other organizations.
Philadelphia, they hope, will be a model for other cities across the state.
Julie Klim, who heads the PSPCA, said the goal is to help pet owners through a hardship to keep their animals at home rather than surrendering them to the shelter.
"We are not going to euthanize animals that can stay in a home," Klim said. "Sometimes people, if they don't have a lot of resources, they just can't do it if there is a medical problem, … They have to make a choice between their pet and their family."
Another agency, Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia, will help provide resources to keep pets in their homes, the group said. And Petsmart Charities has provided a grant to help pay for an employee at the Philadelphia shelter who would assist struggling owners and prevent shelter surrenders.
Klim said that the city not long ago received a call about a malnourished and unhealthy dog. When investigators went to the house, Klim said, they found that the owner had cancer and had not kept up with his dog's flea treatment. Through outreach, the home was treated for fleas, and the animal's health needs were taken care of.
Although the coalition wants a zero-kill rate, Klim said there are circumstances when animals must be put down, including behavioral problems.
"We are not going to put dangerous animals out there," Klim said.
Vincent Medley, executive director of the Animal Care and Control Team, said he was glad to have more support and looks forward to working closely with the different groups.
"We see the problem at the point of origin," Medley said. Once the city shelter is full, he said, the city has no choice but to euthanize animals. "Kitten season" in the spring and summer is particularly hard, he said.
The groups have had an impact already. The 18,000 dogs and cats that were taken to the city shelter in 2017 is significantly down compared with more than 30,000 in 2011, according to the PSPCA.
Coalition members have agreed to take specific steps to continue increasing the survival rate of Philadelphia animals, and reduce the number of pets that land in shelters. The group will prioritize the needs of Philadelphia animals over animals from outside the region. It plans to mobilize resources where most needed, and make lifelong commitments to help families from outside of Philadelphia who adopted a pet in the city, regardless of the time passed since adoption.
"The only way to create a truly no-kill city, and an environment of compassion and care, is to work together and help each other, which will ultimately lead to saving the lives of countless animals in our city," Medley said.