The State of Pennsylvania seems a little like one of the Presidential candidates. Just because you have a contract with it doesn’t mean it isn’t sniffing around for new partners at the same time; when the going gets tough, you better expect it to leave you; and when it does dump you, you can bet it’ll be in the most callous way possible.
That’s just what it has reportedly done this week to four of its “partners” in Pennsylvania, including one right here in Berks County. For years the Dog Law Enforcement Office (formerly the Bureau until it was downgraded by the Corbett administration), held contracts with animal shelters to provide dog law enforcement and stray dog pick up services. These contracts were paid for with a portion of dog license sales and saved the State a boatload of personnel and benefits costs by not having to staff additional dog wardens.
HSBC held one of these contracts jointly with another organization for years, splitting Berks County up between us for service delivery. When we decided we were getting out of the dog catching business on January 1, 2008, the contract was paying a total of $100,000 between us. If you consider the cost of salary, benefits, mileage, and the holding costs which did not have to be paid for the strays under a different state reimbursement program, it was a real bargain for our “partner” in Harrisburg.
But at a per stray reimbursement average of about $40 a dog for us, it was hardly a good deal for us. When you factor the total received for all animal control services, from all service areas, for all animals, that per animal amount received dropped to about $24. Although it’s hard to say because not all organizations publish their intake and outgoing numbers like HSBC, that reimbursement is probably about the same rate today. To give you a contrasting number, now that Delaware County SPCA has stopped doing animal control and the County has had to build and staff their own shelter, Delaware County has set an animal charge for the municipalities the new animal control shelter will serve at $250 per animal– ten times the amount being paid in Berks for all animals and five times the amount the State was paying for dogs.
Berks County wasn’t just putting out for its partner in Harrisburg. Berks County wasn’t even making Harrisburg buy it dinner and a movie first. And Harrisburg still reportedly dumped the contract, by mail, with no notice, after the New Year when budgets have been set and plans for the year made! That’s like someone telling his wife to go ahead and sign for that credit line at Tiffany’s and then leaving her- and the bill- the next day.
These four organizations had the rug yanked out from under them by the State. These organizations do what they think is right and best for the animals and they try to do their job well, just like we do. If these reports are true, they don’t deserve to be treated like this, and neither do the animals of Pennsylvania.
I can say that we saw it coming. Dog Law has long been a jealous and vindictive lover. It plays the abusive role well. One minute smacking us around, then next soothing us and telling us we just make it so mad, buying us a little bauble and, oh, by the way, would we mind if it dropped off a couple dogs this weekend? We had received enough abuse and very publicly broke up with Harrisburg (and earned the wrath of some especially harsh words in return, threats of bad press and lawsuits, and swat team surprise kennel inspections). We have predicted that Harrisburg would just treat its next partners the same way. We even urged breaking up with Harrisburg first. For once, I am truly sorry I can say, “We told you so.”
Right now the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement- uh, sorry, Dog Law Enforcement Office– is dying a slow death. The Rendell administration gutted its “restricted” coffers for the general fund, leaving it on the verge of bankruptcy. He ensured one step back for every two forward- OK, three, he awesomely pushed through the Puppy Mill Bill- by staffing the BDLE with vindictive and ineffective management. The Corbett administration has done far worse by downgrading it to an “office”, hiring a bank manager with no animal experience to run it, and by not implementing the regulations Rendell worked so hard to get in place. In the words of an anonymous Reagan staffer, Corbett seems to be “starving the beast.” Unfortunately, starving dogs may follow.
So I just want to say something to the organizations that just got their text break up from that cold-hearted Harrisburg. Honeychild, I have been there. Harrisburg doesn’t deserve you and you are better off without Harrisburg. You are proud strong organizations and you should find yourself a good partner to work with, not some shifty service hound like Harrisburg. Sure, I know it seems bad now, but you put on some Gloria Gaynor and remind yourself: You will survive.