But is it really the best solution?
When I heard the Ed Rendell was going to offer an eleventh hour plan for addressing the animal control crisis in Pennsylvania, I was hoping for he’d go nuclear. Freed from political considerations, he would offer something bold and visionary. Maybe make a point and fire all the political appointees in Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. Give the incoming administration a blue print for the next fifty years to work with.
Instead we got Prison Pounds. He suggested we create state kennels in prisons and have prisoners care for the dogs. As one article put it, it would “solve two problems with one program”. There is an O. Henry twist to having captive humans with limited futures being charged with caring for captive dogs with a limited future. Is a novelty program better than nothing? Yes. But we need more than novelty to solve this problem.
Creating a system of prison based state kennels will certainly help the BDLE and the State side-step the issue for a little longer. It will give Dog Wardens a place to take stray dogs as private shelters, one after another, have reached the end of their ability to subsidize government animal control services and drop their stray animal catch and kill contracts.
However, these kennels will be dead ends for these dogs. They would be few in number, inconveniently and undesirably placed (hey, kids, let’s go to the prison to adopt a dog!), and run by non-professionals with no transparency. The State hates sunshine. Does anyone really think they will be open about what happened to Fluffy when it was accidentally euthanized? Will they offer adoption services? Who will the vets be and what will happen to the dogs, the vast majority of dogs, which are not owner claimed? Will the BDLE play favorites when deciding what private adoption agencies may transfer dogs for adoption, as they have with decisions regarding which shelters may house strays? Will the inspections of their own kennels be as picky as the ones that are given to politically outspoken organizations?
Taking off my professional hat for a moment: Governor Rendell, I love you. I voted for you twice, supported your campaigns, and I think you’ve done more for animals in Pennsylvania than any Governor we’ve had. But this is not a serious proposal. If you think it is, you are being poorly served by your advisers, who should know better. There are many smart, thoughtful people out there- not animal crazies out of touch with reality- who have put forward ideas that are affordable, scalable, share the burden, and actually address the problems faced by animals, no just dogs, in Pennsylvania. Heck, even not so smart and thoughtful people like me have offered up some ideas.
Please look at a few of them. Get out of that echo chamber of agreement you will get from the Jessie Smiths, Tom Hickeys, and the Philadelphia moneyed elites and talk to some folks who aren’t relying on this issue to keep a job, garner press, or coalesce political power; people who might have some different ideas. Some real ideas.
You need to talk to people who “get it”. And for the ones who have been treading water over this for the past eight years, singing the same song we’ve been hearing for years, you need to quote my favorite Governor: “Don’t you understand? You guys don’t get that. You’re simpletons. You’re idiots if you don’t get that.”