By JOHN-ERIK KOSLOSKY
Press Enterprise WriterCOOPER TWP. — Pet owners can no longer drop off that unwanted litter of kittens at the SPCA. Same goes for that stray neighborhood cat that's been prowling around.
The SPCA is trying to shed its image as the "dumping ground" for unwanted animals. It has adopted a "no-kill" policy, and renamed itself an "adoption center," discarding the former "shelter." But perhaps most importantly, it has decided to stop accepting many of the animals people had gotten used to dropping off there over the years, said Roxanne Greiner, the Danville SPCA team leader.
The new rule: If the SPCA does not think an animal will indeed be adopted, it will not accept it. That puts the onus of taking care of those animals back on pet owners, and potentially on municipal governments, Greiner said. If the cat has a litter, run an ad offering them for free, Greiner suggests. "If there's a healthy, wild cat (in your neighborhood)?" Greiner said. "Cats are wild. They survive on their own."
Greiner says people could bring in neighborhood cats to be spayed or neutered then return them to where they were, just to make sure they are not having litters.
"That's technically what the public was using us as — animal control," Greiner said. "We were left with the mess of dealing with the irresponsibility of society. "We're trying to change the thinking that we're no longer going to be a dumping ground."
The SPCA statewide has been systematically working toward making all its shelters "no-kill," Greiner said. Last summer, the SPCA started charging fees for dropping off pets. It collected $10 for strays, and up to $75 for litters of cats. It also offered to keep pets until they are adopted for a $50 fee, promising a "good home guarantee." More recently, the Danville shelter took away the voluntary "good home" payment.
And it is now a "no-kill" shelter, keeping all pets it accepts until they are adopted, Greiner said. The SPCA will still put down pets as a service to owners, but only if the pet is sick or injured and it is the best option, she said. In doing that, it is offering the same service as veterinarians, she said.
The shelter expects the number of animals it takes in to drop significantly over the roughly 2,400 it accepted last year — more than half of which reportedly had to be killed. Greiner said she did not have more detailed estimates, and an officer from the SPCA's Philadelphia office did not return a call Monday.
The Danville adoption center can accommodate 85 to 100 pets at a time, and now has a waiting list of about 50 people looking to drop animals off, she said.
The SPCA would like local governments to develop plans to handle stray cats and other pets. A state-appointed dog warden already deals with canines, Greiner noted. But the primary responsibility, she said, should fall to the people who get the pets in the first place. "They take these animals in, and there's a responsibility that goes along with being a pet owner," Greiner said.
"Everybody really needs to do their part." "Don't commit to a pet unless you can commit to them for a lifetime."
Reporter John-Erik Koslosky covers the Danville area for the Press Enterprise. Got a news tip or a story you think the community should know? Call him at 275-8968, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org