By Joshua Patton
“Our mission is to save as many lives as possible,” said Emily Craft, 21, a customer care associate at Providence Animal Center, located in Media, Pa. “We do our best to help with overpopulation and the breeding of unwanted animals.”
Providence Animal Center is a non-profit, no-kill shelter that hosts a range of cats and dogs for adoption.
The center is run primarily by volunteers, and relies on donations to fund its programs.
“[Volunteers] will come in really early in the morning,” Craft said. “Then [the dogs] get fed, after the kennels are cleaned out.”
Despite the efforts of volunteers, according to Craft, there is still a problem with homeless animals around Delaware County.
“We don’t have an open access shelter in Delaware County,” Craft said. “So there’s really nowhere for them to go.”
Open access shelters, also known as open admission shelters, do not turn away any animals that are brought to their doors.
Experts say that six to eight million cats and dogs enter shelters each year, and about three million of them are euthanized, according to a report by The Humane Society of the United States.
In 2012, Delaware County SPCA underwent a format change and was renamed Providence Animal Center to fulfill its mission of being a no-kill shelter.
The Providence Animal Center’s webpage states, “We made the courageous change to become a lifesaving organization, which means no adoptable animal is put down.”
Craft said that by changing the name of the organization they wanted to break off all stereotypes.
Although Providence Animal Center still accepts surrenders, it no longer houses and euthanizes strays.
After the change in format, Delaware County formed the Animal Protection Board (APB) to handle issues concerning stray animals.
Originally, the goal of the APB was to establish an independent animal shelter, but instead they opted to make a deal with the Brandywine Valley SPCA, (BVSPCA) formerly Chester County SPCA, to handle stray animals.
But the problems were not over.
Delaware County Animal Control contracted with the BVSPCA to deliver strays, but then came under scrutiny for practices such as leaving animals inside strangers’ homes, according to a memorandum issued by the district court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.
In mid-March, earlier this year, the contract, known as the Stray Animal Agreement, was terminated.
According to a press release on Brandywine Valley SPCA’s website, “On March 15, 2016, the Delaware County Animal Protection Board (APB) announced that it was terminating the Stray Animal Agreement with the Brandywine Valley SPCA because the arrangement was ‘no longer financially feasible for either party.’”
The press release also stated that the BVSPA would still contract with local municipalities.
For someone who finds a stray, options are still limited.
According to Craft, where you go is dependent upon one’s municipality’s and police department’s procedures.
Those with strays can contact 911 and report a lost animal, go to a local veterinarian, or contact the BVSPCA, states the Animal Coalition of Delaware County’s webpage.
Organizations like Animal Care & Control Team of Philadelphia (ACCT Philly) house strays, but are also forced to euthanize.
According to an animal care data sheet put out by ACCT Philly, as of September 2016, they have taken in 17,913 animals and have live-released 13,362, resulting in 4,634 dead or missing animals.
For these shelters, and for people like Emily Craft, the problem is ongoing.
“There’s always a constant need for volunteers,” Craft said. “Even walking a dog for 20 minutes and putting him back in the kennel helps in a big way.”
Shelters are combating the problem by hosting events, adoption specials, and fundraisers.
“Bark in the Park” was one such event hosted by Providence Animal Shelter in Rose Tree Park on Oct. 29.
Attendees and their dogs could participate in a 5k run, along with a host of smaller contests, such as best ears, best tail wager, and best costume.
Other activities included music, face painting, animal microchipping and nail trimming.
“It’s one of the biggest fundraisers of the year,” Craft said.
Thomas Marchand, 29, ran the 5k with his dog Bailey during “Bark in the Park.”
“It goes for a good cause,” Marchand said. “It’s my dog’s exercise.”
During November, Providence Animal Center offers 50 percent off adoption fees for kittens and dogs over six months old.
“We’re not government funded by any means,” Craft said. “We’re all donation based.”
Nevertheless, because of fundraising efforts, Providence Animal Shelter is adding on a new wing.
“The shelter is really small and really outdated,” Craft said. “We’re expanding and making everything brand new.”
For animal rights activists like Craft, the fight continues.
“There’s definitely a problem,” Craft said. “I’m definitely passionate about it.”
Contact Joshua Patton at firstname.lastname@example.org