Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Home for the strays
New animal shelter in city has busy opening days Home for the strays BY TOM KNAPP, Staff Writer
Lilly, an inquisitive gray tabby somewhere between kitten and cat, noses the bars of her cage.
Eddie, a friendly, black pit-bull mix, stands patiently, a vaguely grumpy look on his face as he's given a bath.
The Lancaster County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is open for business.
"The phone's been ringing off the hook today," executive director Susan Martin said Monday.
The shelter at 599 Chesapeake St. is taking up the slack left by the Humane League of Lancaster County, which has stopped accepting stray animals.
The LCSPCA began taking strays from municipalities Friday and opened to the public Monday. By lunchtime, they had a half-dozen animals on the premises.
"We have a Chihuahua, a pug and two very friendly pit bulls," Martin says. "We also have two owner-surrendered cats."
The dogs are strays brought in by police -- three from Manheim Township and one from the city.
By Tuesday, the pug was reclaimed by its owner, and two more dogs -- one from East Lampeter Township and another from Manheim Township -- had come in.
It's hectic with only her and three full-time employees, Martin says, and she welcomes volunteer assistance.
Their first volunteer was already hard at work Monday, walking and bathing dogs and cleaning cages.
"We've probably had 50 people stop in already" to ask about volunteering, Martin says. "They were stopping in before we opened."
Martin's own 70-hour workweek is more administrative than hands-on, she says.
Even so, "I'm cleaning kennels in the morning. I'm scraping out litter pans. Anybody who works here does what it takes to get things done."
The LCSPCA has been set up in a city-owned building in the former National Guard Armory complex.
Martin says the city is eyeing three locations for a new, permanent shelter.
"We're hoping to move by July 1," she says. "August at the latest."
The temporary facility has room for 50 dog cages and 28 cat cages. The new shelter will double the space, Martin says, adding rooms for intake, quarantines and medical care, and nearly doubling the area for cats.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed," she says. "It's a top priority for the city. They're really working to make this happen."
But, while the city provides the building, Martin says the shelter foots the bill for operations.
She estimates about $300 will be spent on each dog, including the cost of food, care and medical needs.
Seven municipalities have signed contracts with the LCSPCA for this year, Martin says, and more than a dozen contracts are still out.
But, she says, municipal contracts will pay only about 20 percent of the costs anticipated for caring for the 4,500 animals that Martin estimates will be housed in the shelter this year.
"We hope people step up with fundraising ideas," she says. "Any type of fundraising helps us, no matter how little."
Donations are pouring in to help with animal upkeep.
"Right now, our most desperate need is for blankets and floor mats," Martin says. "The dogs are on concrete at this point. We have to provide them with blankets."
The shelter has a pact with the VCA Smoketown Animal Hospital for on-site care, including shots and spay and neuter procedures, Martin says.
The shelter is seeking grants to hire an animal cruelty officer by next year, she adds.
Although the shelter is able to euthanize animals, Martin hopes it won't often come to that last resort.
She works with out-of-state rescue and purebred groups to place some animals, she says. If the cages fill up, she has foster homes lined up, and the state Department of Agriculture will help find shelters with available space.
"If it's an adoptable animal, we will do everything in our ability to move it somewhere where it can be adopted," Martin says.