Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
LSPCA is an attractive option here
BY TOM KNAPP, Staff Writer
The fledgling Lancaster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is fast becoming the shelter of choice for municipalities seeking a home for lost dogs.
More than 20 municipalities have requested contracts with the local SPCA, which is scheduled to open Friday in temporary facilities at 599 Chesapeake St., according to executive director Susan Martin.
"We only have one contract signed and paid for," Martin said, "but I know that a lot of (municipal) boards have approved the contracts."
It's just a matter of getting the paperwork filed and fees paid to make it official, she said.
Mount Joy Borough was the first to formalize an agreement with the new shelter, which is stepping up to fill the void left by the Humane League of Lancaster County. The League will stop accepting strays from municipalities at the end of this month.
The state requires municipalities to care for stray dogs found within their boundaries, and, if possible, reunite them with their owners.
Martin said municipal contracts are open-ended, costing an initial $500 to formalize an agreement and $300 per dog thereafter.
The shelter will accept cats from municipalities without charge, she added.
In a survey of local municipalities, many officials said they will use the LSPCA's services.
Christiana Borough Manager Bud Rettew said the practice in his municipality is to "hold the dog in a safe, fenced-in area ... and keep it for 48 hours while the owner is being sought. If no owner is found, the dog will be taken to the SPCA."
Manor Township Manager Barry Smith said his municipality, too, will avail itself of the LSPCA.
That's an option Paradise Township is still considering, according to Supervisor Dennis Groff.
"This appears to be a practical, and hopefully cost-effective, way for us to partner," Groff said.
Likewise, Strasburg Township, which township Secretary Judith Willig said is in "the opening stages" of talks with the LSPCA.
"We stopped our contract with the Humane League several years ago due to unreasonable pricing," she said.
Rapho Township Manager Sara Gibson said Rapho has contracted with a private kennel for the past year. That provider decided to suspend service for strays after hearing about the new shelter, Gibson said.
"Our board has not yet acted, but I believe we have no choice but to contract with the new SPCA," she said.
Other municipalities are going a different route -- although some said a future agreement with the LSPCA is not out of the question.
East Lampeter ended its relationship with the Humane League in 2011, according to township Manager Ralph Hutchison.
"East Lampeter has been handling stray dogs on our own" for more than a year, Hutchison said. The township is now investigating options with the SPCA.
Penn Township Manager Dave Kratzer said Penn, along with neighbors Clay and Warwick, prepared for the issue more than a year ago while forming the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police.
"We kind of anticipated this issue would eventually be a problem," he said.
So, in 2012, the three municipalities began maintaining "a licensed, temporary kennel facility" at regional police headquarters, Kratzer explained.
After a 48-hour waiting period, if an owner cannot be located, the animal is taken to the Berks County Humane League, he said.
"Obviously, there's a discussion going on as the SPCA as an alternative," Kratzer said. "We've made no decision long-term for where we're going to go."
Manheim Township Manager Michael Rimer said his municipality has an agreement in place with a private company to assist township police and is exploring options with the LSPCA.
In Denver, borough Manager Michael Hession said, officials have a contract with East Cocalico police and the Cocalico Cat and Gingham Dog Animal Hospital to take up to five strays per year and help locate current or new owners.
Denver, too, is eyeing an agreement with the LSPCA, Hession said.
East Cocalico Manager Mark Hiester said his township "prepared for the Humane League changes by arranging other care for stray dogs here."
The township has been using the state dog warden to claim stray animals, Hiester said, and is working to "create a network of concerned locals who are helping with the placement of some strays."
East Cocalico, too, is evaluating the "costs and opportunities" of the LSPCA, he said.
Strasburg Borough police Chief F. Steven Echternach said the borough severed ties with the Humane League last year.
"If we get a dog, I've made arrangements with a local facility," he said. "After 48 to 72 hours, I move them to a rescue."
The borough also posts notices about found dogs on the municipal website, he said.
Echternach said he doesn't think it's necessary to involve the LSPCA.
"My efforts are fairly local," he said.
Township manager Ron Youtz said West Hempfield is "handling stray dogs with our own staff.
"For quite a few years we have had our own licensed holding facilities here at our office," Youtz said.
"We have been successful with either reuniting dogs with their owners or have found persons willing to adopt."
Mayor Leo Lutz of Columbia provided a copy of borough policy, which says stray dogs are held temporarily at the borough shed. If a dog's owner is not identified within four hours, dogs are taken to Columbia Animal Hospital for care.
"After 48 hours, if the dog is still in the care of the Columbia Animal Hospital and an owner has not been identified, the canine will be euthanized and cremated," the policy states.
"It is not the borough's intent to euthanize animals, but to find them homes," Lutz added. "This procedure is to give guidelines for operation. We will make every attempt to find a home for the animal," including efforts to find foster care beyond the initial 48 hours while an owner is sought.
West Lampeter Manager Dee Dee McGuire said her township has an agreement with a local veterinarian to kennel stray dogs until the owner is found or other placement is arranged.
New Holland police handle stray dogs for the borough and neighboring Earl Township, borough Manager Dick Fulcher said.
"We use an approved kennel nearby for short-term stay," he said, and they plan to use the LSPCA in the future.
Officials in several municipalities said they expect to make a decision soon.
"We only have one contract signed and paid for, but I know that a lot of (municipal) boards have approved the contracts."