Justice For Chester County Animals

Click here to edit subtitle

Barking mad

view:  full / summary

We tried to tell them -parts 2, 3, & 4

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (450)

Theresa Duffy, former volunteer, wrote this on July 28, when she was still a core dog walking volunteer and a member of the Dogs on Tour team.

Board of Directors

The Chester County SPCA 1212 Phoenixville Pike West Chester, PA 19380

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am currently a volunteer at CCSPCA. Until recently, I was a regular face at the shelter, spending as much time as possible there walking dogs and having the pleasure of getting to know their individual personalities.

I am writing to you to express my concern for the well being of the animals that reside in this shelter. I feel this is a matter of urgency and requires your attention. My observations are detailed as follows:

The absence of an operations manager is apparent. I hope you are actively and aggressively seeking to fill this position with a qualified individual. There is no evidence of that in the job openings section of the CCSPCA website or a search conducted on the internet.

It is clear the shelter is under-staffed in the kennel specifically. On several occasions, fellow volunteers and I have cleaned up the dog pens and ensured water was replenished. I never minded doing it, but it speaks to the need for more attention to detail. Potential adopters may turn away due to offensive odor. Also, I’m sure you wouldn’t want someone conclude that the animals were not given fresh water at all times.

Regarding the health of certain animals, I have observed that some animals’ conditions do not appear to improve over time and then they are suddenly missing. Veterinary attention is a basic need for the health of these animals. I have heard rumblings that veterinary care was being reduced as a cost cutting measure for shelter. I understand the shelter is not a sanctuary, but euthanizing a dog when an antibiotic could have spared its life, is reprehensible.

The shelter is losing long standing solid contributing volunteers for 2 reasons. First, they are being fired because they care too much. The policy states that a volunteer cannot question euthanasia decisions. Volunteers give of our time because we care, asking us to ignore that is impossible. Enforcing shelter policy related to volunteers specifically should require the use of some compassion. The situation with Leslie Celia could have been handled with much more respect and understanding rather than enflaming an already emotionally charged situation. Second, they are leaving out of disgust specifically due to Deb Murray. As volunteer coordinator I believe she’s actually going out of her way to deter volunteers from participating. She removes Facebook posts that she deems inappropriate when in actuality, that’s the only place we can share information and learn from each other. She is rarely present at the shelter and when she is, doesn’t participate in walking dogs. Therefore, she doesn’t know their personalities, or needs. How can this individual be in charge of volunteers?

I am also wondering why the dogs park days have been eliminated. The importance of these informal outings shouldn’t be diminished. These animals are given so little time in the fresh air, that a good long walk, in normal surroundings benefits their mental well being. Additionally, some critical learning’s about the dogs behaviors help to inform potential adopters of any special needs. Please consider reinstating this as soon as possible.

Michele Amendola’s absence is noticeable. Not one dog, that I am aware of, has gone to rescue since she began medical leave. Have you discontinued trying to move these animals and spare their lives? Also, what happened to the satellite adoption centers for the cats? Didn’t that program move over 40 animals to families?

I am a volunteer specifically for the CCSPCA for a variety of reasons. The Mission and Vision contribute to it. If these values have changed, please let me know.


To promote the welfare and humane treatment of animals and to be an advocate on their behalf.


To be the recognized center for animal welfare fostering a community that believes life should be respected and treated with dignity.


Theresa Duffy

Then, on July 6 -

Board of Directors

Chester County SPCA

1212 Phoenixville Pike, West Chester, PA 19380

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wrote to you just a week ago and already I have reason to write another letter. First I would like to reiterate the urgency of the situation. My observations in the week since my first letter are as follows:

As I write this letter, animals that are dear to me are earmarked for certain death today. There is no reason for this other than the executioners in your shelter don’t feel their lives are worthy of saving. The animals are not sick, or crazy. I have walked them all and found them to be lovely creatures, house broken and ready for adoption. Maggie is shy, Jamie is old and Mufasa is black. By all accounts, your staff is prejudice and without conscience. I implore you to examine how you can employ people so heartless to perform a task that should be thoughtful and with compassion and consideration. This kind of power should not be given lightly or to people that find the decisions easy. The current management team clearly doesn’t have issue putting healthy animals down.

When I was at the shelter a few days ago, the volunteers were talking specifically about the fact that the board has seen the euthanasia numbers – and yet you are not called to action.

This supports 2 separate and yet aligned experiences that I have had recently. First, as I was walking a dog the other day, I passed the man who drives the hazardous materiasl waste van. He was having a candid conversation with one of the staff, saying the volume of animals was so high even though he had been to the shelter just 72 hours prior. He noticed. And so do the rest of us.

Secondly, I have neighbors, who just happen to volunteer at Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR). They asked me how I could possibly donate my time to “the CCSPCA slaughterhouse.” WOW! I had no idea that the word was out. Even worse, there was a time when I would have defended the shelter and tried to set the record straight. But no more – because I now know it to be just that, and I could not defend the shelter in good conscience.

I would like to see the data collected on the euthanasia decisions. Is this public information? Because I cannot find it on the internet. How many animals must perish before something is done?

I am confused by the fact that the people who know these animals the least, are allowed to make decisions for them. Volunteers are a rich source of information regarding behaviors and needs, and yet we are not spoken to by staff. In fact, they go out of their way to ignore us and be rude to us.

We could effectively act as a team to actively get animals adopted should the mindset of the staff change to be more inclusive. All higher education coursework revolves around teamwork. This theme is missing from your shelter, but a small change could turn it into a success story should you allow it.

Regarding the health of certain animals: Perhaps you have heard by now that adoptions were allowed to occur on very sick animals that required emergency care within 48 hours of leaving the shelter. Why are they not given medical attention in the shelter? Every animal should be checked by a qualified veterinarian upon arrival and then as needed when issues arrive. Clearly, this isn’t happening. Why not?

Yesterday, as always, I helped clean up cages and provide fresh water. It was 90 degrees outside, and the animals should not be without fresh water. The tech stopped to thank me and said he wouldn’t have been able to get to it for at least 2 hours. Really? Is that acceptable to you?

I invite you to send independent individuals (i.e. individuals not known to the staff) to randomly observe the conditions at the shelter. Monday afternoons past 4pm and rainy days are pretty good indications of what’s going on. I also recommend the independent representative stay longer than a half hour, or make multiple trips at varying times. Basically the work-release gentlemen are very attentive. After they leave, the cleanliness breaks down.

The volunteers post to Facebook when the dogs are not getting out. This is a request to any volunteer that has time to please stop by and help walk the dogs if they can. Lately, days can go by without all the animals getting out even once in the course of 24 hours. In my observation, it’s because we’re missing long standing solid contributing volunteers: Leslie Celia, Jen McCreary, and Carin Ford. I’ve heard that Carin was banished. Why would you banish someone that gave 15+ hours a week to help train these dogs that so desperately need love, attention, socialization and training? Additionally, we are about to lose another great contributor to MLAR as of the end of this month because she finds the management situation at CCSPCA wrong and intolerable. Quite frankly, I’m considering it as well. Something has to change in order for me to want to stay. I want to believe this is a place where animals are safe, but of late, I only believe it’s a place to be rescued from.

Losing Linda Torelli will be felt in the near term and the long term. She did so much positive promotion for the shelter resulting in so many adoptions: What will you do to replace her? She worked with rescue organizations, marketed the shelter as a great place to get an animal, and was a vital presence on social media. You have no one on the staff to take up that charge. There will be more bloodshed.

I have to ask, why don’t you care? Why be on the board of a shelter that is supposed to change the lives of animals for the better if you don’t care? Engage, save lives. Please let’s model the behavior of the ASPCA. It’s the right thing to do.

With deep concern for the lives that reside in that shelter,

Theresa Duffy

On July 26, Theresa received the following email from the Volunteer Coordinator at the shelter, also part of CCSPCA's adhoc "management team". It calls out her behavior at the shelter, as well as another volunteer's, as a reason for banning her from an external adoption event. She takes care to point out that this is not because of the letters both have written to the board.

From: bkdepaul

To: CCSPCA DDO Theresa Frey, Ken Schmidt

Sent: Friday, July 26, 2013 9:18 AM

Subject: Dogs on Tour


As a result of the recent Ops Meeting at the shelter, I have been asked to send this EMail.  Your recent negative attitude has affected many volunteers and staff.  It is important that you understand that this is not as the result of the letters you sent to the board, but has to do with the negative attitude and actions while at the shelter.  You walk through the shelter, talk to no one (and the staff know it’s deliberate), make the staff feel uncomfortable (as if the staff is being treated with contempt).  There are also some volunteers who are uncomfortable.  Efforts at normal idle conversation are met with silence or pretty close to it.  These are not the attributes that we want in volunteers representing the shelter at our Dogs on Tour events, and therefore you will be dropped from the group.


Barbara DePaulChester County SPCA Volunteer Coordinator

Adopt a Friend at the Chester County SPC


Following her termination, she sent this, her final letter, directly to Conrad Muhley, Board President

To: Conrad Muhly

Sent: Friday, July 26, 2013 6:44 PM

Subject: Fw: Dogs on Tour

Dear Conrad –

I am writing to inform you of this note below I received this morning. You are likely already aware of it, but you only know one side of the story. 

I am not able to go to the shelter as often as I used to, only because I now have work. While unemployed, I volunteered over 200 hours of my time from Feb through June. I was gainfully employed as of June 17 and as a result was only spending weekends supporting the Dogs on Tour events and gladly spending extra time back at the shelter to walk the dogs. 

On Friday July 12 I went to the shelter around 2pm or so and walked dogs for a few hours, Mufasa among them.  You may recall this is the dog we spoke about that I said I intended to adopt and you said the shelter would work with me, given my situation, that I had a sick old lab at home and couldn’t adopt a new pet just yet. Then I received a note from Barb that night which provided little insight to why Mufasa was put down that evening, shortly after I left. I knew that dog better than anyone in the shelter, so imagine my surprise when he was accused of trying to bite someone. He lunged, but he never tried to bite anyone. This was an excuse that was used.

Unfortunately, my lab was euthanized the same week, so imagine the grief of learning of Mufasa’s demise on top of losing my lab.

On Friday July 19, one week after this happened, I got out of work early and wanted to just go and walk some dogs. Still reeling with grief, I cried all the way to the shelter. I kept my sunglasses on the entire time I was there so as not to alert anyone to my emotion. I had no intention of causing any trouble. I simply wanted to go about the business of walking dogs.  And it’s a good thing I did. I was a lone volunteer for 3 hours but all the dogs got out that day. I actually said hello to 3 of your staff, but not Arnie (Milowsky). I am aware that Arnie was partially responsible for Mufasa’s demise, and I intentionally stayed away from him so I wouldn’t cause a problem. So this firing of mine is a direct result of that “negative behavior”. There was no consideration given to me or my grief and yet I’m expected to grin and bear it? 

You have a fairly serious problem Conrad. There were only a few active Dogs onTour volunteers to begin with and many of us had already taken ourselves out of that promotional effort because we can’t honestly represent the shelter as a place that “saves lives”


I really don’t care what your staff says about me. For me it has always been about the animals. Sure, some of them are nicer than others.Some of them are downright rude and most of them are just uneducated so I chalk it up to ignorance. Volunteers work for free, you should remind them of that and that they should leave their immaturities at home. 

Additionally, it was wrong of Barb to lump Ken and I together in the note. Ken’s style is to question things. I was silent and that silence got me fired. Nice, very mature. Additionally they have tied “making the staff feel uncomfortable” to representing the shelter at external events. Anyone who met Ken or I at an event would agree that our behavior was anything but “uncomfortable”.

If your intention is to fill the shelter with a bunch of people who take death lightly, then go ahead. You have an excellent lead on that.


Theresa Duffy  


We tried to tell them

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (7)

I wrote this letter to the Board of Directors at Chester County SPCA on July 26.

I started volunteering as a dogwalker at Chester County SPCA a little over two years ago, out of a love for dogs and the belief that I could help ease their time at the shelter. I was among a small group of volunteers that braved the horrible conditions, draconian rules, - the smell - because we thought we could do better for the dogs. We wanted to help the shelter move beyond those days when dogs didn't get out daily and went kennel crazy with frightening regularity, when dogs "on the list" disappeared routinely, and no one dare ask what happened to them.

I walked dogs through the shelter reconstruction, then worked through new logistics of having twice as many dogs to walk. I gave tours to schoolchildren, started a facebook page for volunteers and staff, and took over the holiday tree fundraising project. When we got a play area I got a plumber to fix the water line so the dogs could have water to drink and a pool to play in on the hot summer days that followed. I learned how to train and work with the dogs to make them more adoptable. When dogs needed to be washed, I washed them, and cleaned their kennels. I spent so much time at the shelter I stopped logging my hours. Additionally I fostered several dogs, literally just took them home, when there was no room for them at the shelter. And then I got them adopted.

My particular area of expertise is working with special needs dogs, those who are hand shy or just afraid. I helped the kennel coordinator with several of these who today are all in happy homes. Babs, who's pictured in the volunteer brochure, is perhaps my proudest achievement. If you've ever seen her before(terrified) and after (smiling) picture you can see the results of my work - the happy, well socialized love of her adopted family.


I was proud of all we'd achieved over the last two years, but that pride has turned to outrage over recent events. CCSPCA is going backwards, and I can no longer be a part of it.Two weeks ago a sweet bulldog named Mona was euthanized. Mona had been our office dog and a volunteer favorite until her adoption. We were all sad when she was returned for barking - her new owner's neighbors had complained. It was my understanding that she was working with a trainer from Perfect Pooch to resolve her barking issue and possibly be readopted. I walked her that day - we had no issues. After walking my last dog I went back to say goodnight and she was gone, her cage card removed. When I asked Grace Keffer where she was I was told it was really none of my business. When I asked if I wanted to adopt her - which I would've on the spot to save her- would it be my business then, I was told she was unavailable. Dr Dieter recommended euthanasia because she had pemphigus and an ear infection - both treatable with medication.

A few days later I received an email from "volunteer" that due to my behavior with Grace I was no longer welcome to volunteer at CCSPCA,. Essentially, I was fired for asking a question. Not only is this a violation of my first amendment rights - and legal action has been successfully undertaken to prove this - it is no way to show any respect for the kind of volunteer and friend I have been to the shelter and the animals. But it is the animals I worry about. They have no voice or advocacy under this new "management team", one with no animal behavior or even management credentials. Vets do not study animal behavior, especially not those of Dr. Dieters era. The fact that animals are being killed on his authority is chilling. He was unable to diagnose a simple case of scabies on one of my fosters for weeks, all while the poor little guy suffered. It tooka visit to my personal vet to solve the "mystery".


CCSPCA needs to get back on track. Hire a new director ASAP, one with animal behavior and shelter management credentials. You need leadership and management with positive direction. Stop making do, stop standing by policies that were forged in the fities, You have an opportunity and a responsibility to move past the way you've always done things, get in line with modern shelter programs that are working for much bigger shelters. Keep letting the inmates run the asylum and they'll run you right off the rails - and onto the front pages. Above all, you need to stop the indiscriminant killing of dogs now.

This letter and several others the board received elicited no response. In fact, I seriously doubt if any board member actually read it.

In the meantime, animals continue to be put down, tortured by immature and uncaring techs. There is no vet tech on staff and no progress has been made towards putting a qualified Executive Director, Operations Manager or Kennel Coordinator in place. Now running the shelter is a "management team" consisting of a former volunteer that now serves as kennel coordinator, two office workers and a volunteer  "volunteer coordinator". And the Board president, who spends a large portion of his time in Florida, where his family lives.