*Disclaimer I only had my phone so the photos I did get are not great and Magic and Max are not represented with an image.*
I have been volunteering my time at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and now also at Philly's ACCT Animal Care and Control Team It had been some time since my prior volunteer experience with the PSPCA which prompted the dog portrait work and portraits such as Jake. Given my time spent at the working dog center with wonderful dogs that are so well attended and cared for, I felt that I needed to also spend some time with the dog population that isn't as fortunate. So today was my day to visit ACCT.
The facility is severely underfunded considering their intake numbers, which means that the dogs are fed, given medical attention and housed but the bare bones staff has their work cut out for them. First a little background about ACCT; it is the city's "catch all" for homeless animals, whether owner surrendered or a stray. From the Philadoptables website:
The numbers are staggering. In 2011 alone, our city shelter received a total of 32,119 stray and homeless animals (an 8% increase from 2010), comprised of 9,877 dogs, and 20,256 cats. Of the dogs, 3,710 (approx. 38%) were killed by euthanasia. Of the cats, 8,110 (40%) were also euthanized. In our city of nearly 1.5 million residents, the shelter itself only has room for 124 kennels to house the nearly 25 stray and homeless dogs that it receives every single day, and 181 cages for the nearly 60 new cats and kittens it receives each day. That’s one full-sized dog kennel (able to hold one dog) for every 11,685 residents, and one single cat cage for every 8,005 residents. (Statistics courtesy of Pennsylvania SPCA Report on Animal Control for the City of Philadelphia 2012.) Add these numbers to a virtual absence of public awareness of the shelter’s very existence, and the prescription is clear.
As you can see, ACCT relies on volunteers to fill in the gaps. I walked, played with and tried to teach Toya, Mr. Oreo, Magic, Blaze, Janet and Max. Throughout the afternoon, I was reminded that I can also learn from them. Perhaps the reason why I and so many other volunteers show up and deal with the heartache, the inevitable messy poop accidents, and constant barking is because the dogs are still able to live in the moment. And if you make an effort to engage and are sensitive to their temperaments, they engage back, despite their predicament. To see another creature "be here now" is very inspiring. Overcoming hardship is something that humans seem to do the most reflecting upon. It can be helpful to see other living souls move through it. And so perhaps what is so strongly emanating from the unassuming retrofitted warehouse that is Animal Control is hope.