"This is a tremendous opportuniy for the city," Klein said. "The city is urting for jobs, so what is the probem? We can't figure out what's realy going on. The RDA should stop blocking the project and let the Mormons build their temple." Part of the problem lies in the city's proposed offer to settle the dispute - the RDA wanted 25 percent of any proceeds from the sale of the more than two acre site, an offer that Klein says is just not acceptable. "The mayor says he's for the project, but on the other hand, he's the chairman of the board of the RDA, which is holding up the project," Klein said, who is accusing the RDA of "torpedoing" the project for some reason. "I don't know which hat is on. Something is not right here." Doug Oliver, spokesman for the Nutter administration says the issue isn't that the RDA is holding up the project, the problem is that Klein violated his agreement to develop the site within a specified amount of time. "We're not trying to 'torpedo' the project," Oliver said. "Klein is referring to the administration's efforts to hold developers accountable regarding their projects. When developers acquire real estate from the RDA they basically make an agreement to develop the sites within a given amount of time. "The site we're talking about went undeveloped for years and in the past the RDA didn't enforce those agreements. When this administration came in they decided that's not going to happen any longer. Suddenly, when the RDA is taking the site back it's being sold for quite a bit of money. The city is not going to just give properties away." Oliver reiterated that Klein was not being targeted in any way. The RDA's move to take back Klein's land was part of a broader policy by the administration to pressure developers with long-overdue projects. Elder Robert Smith, Area 70 Ecclesiastical spokesperson for the Church of Latter Day Saints said LDS officials are meeting with Nutter and a deal will probably be struck. Klein bought the site between 17th and 18th Streets from the RDA in 1987 for $3.7 million. Under the agreement he had five years to develop the property. Unfortunately Klein's six previous attempts didn't pan out and the RDA declared him in default in 2008 and followed up by filing a lawsuit to get the land back on Dec. 27. On June 16, Klein addressed City Council regarding the issue, saying the project is now at risk and the Mormon's are getting frustrated and are considering building their temple on another site outside the city, unless the current proposal goes through. "In the midst of an economic downturn with limited new construction in the city, the LDS Church stands ready, willing and able to proceed," Klein testified. "Jobs will be created, tens of thousands of visitors will be attracted each year and what is currently a parking lot will be turned into a magnificent and worthy addition to the Logan Square neighborhood - if the RDA will simply process the application for this project." Terry Gillen, executive director of the RDA, also testified during the same round of hearings. She assured council members that the mayor is committed to the project, which Klein says will also create 240 permanent jobs once completed. "The mayor absolutely supports this construction project," Gillen told The Tribune, adding that she was limited in what she comment regarding the issue because it is still in litigation. "What the RDA has done is enforce the rules that Klein and other developers acknowledged when they signed their agreements. Klein didn't do that." Over the years, Klein tried to get six different projects off the ground. LDS officials approached him about the site in 2009, but that was after he had been notified of the RDA default. "What's really going on here?" Klein asked. "On January 7, 2010, the church was supposed to meet with the administration to bring the mayor up to date on the status of the project. But on December 27 Gillen filed a lawsuit to get the land back. "Now why file the lawsuit 10 days before the meeting with the mayor? You have to ask yourself, what's going on here. Normally a person wouldn't interfere with a top-level meeting. If I were going to do that, I'd wait to see what happened at the meeting and then decide. "Is there a hidden agenda here? I don't know. But it sure doesn't pass the smell test. Why file a lawsuit knowing the main players were scheduled to meet a week and a half later?" Klein isn't the only one asking those questions. A source, which is knowledgeable about how city government works, told The Tribune that basically the RDA put a gun to the Mormon Church's head and said, "Give us $2.5 million and we won't sue you." "Nutter tipped his hand when he started the investigation of the RDA," the source said. About six months after Nutter was sworn in he had the Redevelopment Authority, which had been under the leadership of John Dougherty in the Street administration, investigated. "It was terrible," the source said. "The money was messed up. It was corrupt." Now, the source said, Nutter is RDA chairman, and one of his senior advisers, Gillen, is the president and the authority has about $47 million on hand. "Why is Clay Armbrister giving out the (RDA) money? He's Nutter's chief of staff. I didn't know this was part of his job description," the Sunday, July 25, 2010 * Page 5-A
Pit bulls put strain on city shelters
Christopher Moraff Tribune Correspondent It's said that a dog is "man's best friend," but here in Philadelphia, at least one variety of canine seems to have an easier time making foes. The city is currently suffering from a severe canine overpopulation problem and nearly half of the roughly 9,000 dogs turning up in the city's shelters each year are unwanted pit bull terriers. Like most cities, pit bulls get their share of press in Philadelphia, most of it bad. Unfortunately, what doesn't get reported are the numerous success stories that hundreds of pit bull owners would happily relate. As a result, pit bulls are accumulating at an alarming rate in the city's shelters, and rescue workers say fear and misunderstanding make promoting adoptions a challenge. Last year city shelters took in almost 4,000 of the dogs, housing them at the municipal Animal Care and Control Team's (ACCT) facility on W. Hunting Park Ave. and at 350 . Erie Ave. - in a facility owned nd run by the Pennsylvania SPCA. ut for every dog coming through he doors, more wait in the wings, orcing shelter personnel to strugle to keep up. According to ACCT statistics, bout 30,000 unwanted dogs and ats pass through this shelter every ear. In 2009, the most recent year or which data is available, an averge of 89 animals entered the CCT shelter every day, roughly a hird of them dogs. Last year ACCT eceived 8,924 dogs, an annual verage of 24.4 per day. In May alone the shelter took in 691 dogs; in any given month nearly half are classified as pit bull mixes. Natalie Smith, Director of Lifesaving at ACCT, says the majority of the pit bulls are strays and come from predominately low-income communities in North and Southwest Philadelphia. Filled to Capacity The first thing you notice when ou enter ACCT's Hunting Park Avenue facility is the smell: a combination of stale urine, disinfectant and fear. The second thing you otice is the sound: the incessant barking of dozens of distressed dogs jockeying for some small bit of attention. The most immediate problem rescue workers face is where to house all these dogs. The majority of the center's canines are housed in a poorly ventilated, rehabilitated warehouse that ACCT personnel say suffers from serious design flaws. ACCT has room for 188 dogs, according to its annual report: 124 kennels in the main holding area,
From Page 1A Pictured here pit bull mix, Sharnice, left, and Trixie, were both found as strays and were rescued by the Animal Care & Control center in North Philadelphia last month. - HIROKO TANAKA/TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER plus and additional 25 for intake and another 39 comprised of housing for small dogs and additional miscellaneous dog housing. Add in the PSPCA's Erie Ave. site - which catches some of the overflow - and the shelter system can accommodate about 385 to 450 dogs at any given time, depending on their size, according to Sue Cosby, chief executive officer of the PSPCA, which is currently under contract to run ACCT. Cosby, who's now in her second year as head of the PSPCA, says both sites are presently at full capacity; and yet on any given day there are dozens of dogs coming through the system. Cosby says the staff is in a perpetual state of motion, shuttling animals out to make room for more, like bailing out a boat that is frantically taking on water. "As fast as the dogs and cats are coming in we're working just as hard to get them out. It's a constant flow," Cosby said. "The lifesaving team is aggressively pursuing life exit for animals all the time. They work hard, some of them put very, very long hours in and put a lot of their own personal time into getting animals out alive." Even with such hard work, only about half of the animals that come through ACCT manage to leave the facility alive. In 2009, 13,824 animals left the shelter through adoptions and transfers to approved rescue facilities, while another 3,194 animals were placed into temporary foster care, paid for by the city. The rest, more than 16,000 ani- mals, were put down. Cosby says the biggest problem facing the system now is the state of the ACCT facility itself, which she says has contributed to two severe outbreaks of disease in just over a year. "For years we have been pointing out the deficiencies of that facility, both the size for the number of animals in a city of this size and the design of the facility," she said. "The facility is not designed to be easily cleaned or easily maintained. I'm really, really hopeful that something will happen with that building ... it's really up to the city to make that commitment." In the meantime Cosby is focusing her attention on vigorously promoting PSPCA's spay and neutering services. In June the group conducted its 10,000th surgery and Cosby says it is on track to do 20,000 by the end of the year. "One of my priorities is talking to the city about city supported access to spay neuter so that spay neuter is a component of animal control," said Cosby. "Affordability and accessibility are what I have really been going over with the city and they are hearing that." The 'Bully' Factor On a recent tour of ACCT it was impossible to overlook that almost every kennel in the main holding area housed a pit bull-type dog. These "pit bull mixes" as they are most commonly referred to in the shelter, account for more than four out of every 10 dogs that come through ACCT intake yet comprise There are 19 pit bulls or pit bull mixes on this one row of cages at the Animal Care & Control center in North Philadelphia. - HIROKO TANAKA/TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER at least 80 percent of those housed in its kennel at any given time. The disparity underscores the difficulty facing rescue workers when it comes to this controversial and often misunderstood canine variety. The term pit bull was historically used to describe one of three standard breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier; but advocates today take issue with using the term "breed" when describing pit bulls. Stacey Coleman, of the New York-based pit bull group Animal Farm Foundation, says more than 30 different dog varieties have been erroneously lumped under the term pit bull, mostly out of ignorance of the true breed and its characteristics. PSPCA's Cosby says the pit bull is both the most populous dog in Philadelphia and the hardest to place once in the shelter system. Most rescue workers will tell you that the perception that pit bulls are inherently aggressive and unpredictable makes their job that much harder. Statistics from ACCT show that nearly twice as many non-pit bull-type dogs get placed into adoption as Pit Bulls. "Unfortunately 80 percent of the dogs you see in [ACCT] are pit bulls and with the reputation that they receive most of those don't get out because people think they are going to turn on them or bite their child, which simply isn't the case." said Allison Lamond, the Adoption Center Manager at The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which often takes dogs from ACCT into its own small adoption center. "We've been trying to help as much as we can and we stay as full as we possibly can but it seems like you get ten steps ahead and then fall five steps back because there just never seems to be any shortage of these dogs at the shelter," she added. In fact most studies show that Pit Bulls are no more aggressive to people than any other dog breed, and in some cases even less so. The American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), a nonprofit group that tests and compares hundreds of dog breeds for a number of different attributes, assesses dogs on ten different variables, ranging from attitude toward a "weirdly dressed stranger" to reaction to gunshots. A dog is deemed to fail if it shows unprovoked aggression, panic without recovery, or strong avoidance to any of the stimuli. According to ATTS data, all three recognized pit bull breeds had a higher than 80 percent pass rate when given the test. Any way you measure it, dog attacks are rare in the U.S. and death by dog even rarer. For the years 2000-2008 dog bites accounted for less than one percent of the injuries treated in emergency rooms, the Centers for Disease Control reports. Karen Delise, Founder and Director of Research at the National Canine Research Council, which tracks dog attacks, says that since 1947 there have only been four deadly dog attacks in Philadelphia. Delise notes that the February 2010 death of a 38-year old Fishtown woman at the hands of her mother's dog marked Pennsylvania's first ever pit bull death. "One of the biggest misconceptions and myths associated with pit bulls is that they behave differently from other dogs," said Delise. "The pit bulls that make huge headlines today are behaving no differently than any other breed or type of dog has in the past when allowed to behave badly by an owner." Education & Access On May 22, the city's rescue community hosted a major adoption event at the Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties. Super Adoption Day was hosted by Citizens for a No Kill Philadelphia (CNKP), a group that wants to do away with euthanasia in city shelters by 2018 by promoting a ten-point plan of education and access to services. source said. "She (Gillen) originally asked the Mormons for 50 percent. They said no, so she lowered it to 25 percent. "Who authorized asking for 50 percent? Then who authorized asking for 25 percent? It's a lack of transparency. There is no professional reason. It's arbitrary and capricious. Everyone is scratching their heads. Why would you kill the biggest project that's ready to go and spend money out of pocket to do it?" At a time when the mayor is cutting vital services, including in the Honored at the event was a 15year old pit bull named Sarge who, along with his owners Kim and Thad Wolf, is working to change the perception of pit bull-type dogs and educate the public on the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. A former "bait" dog used by dog fighters to train their animals, Sarge was presented with the Animal Farm Foundation and CNKP's "Humane Educator of the Year" award by Mayor Michael Nutter - who said he supports the idea of "no kill." Sarge and the Wolfs are part of a budding education movement that is working to bridge the gap between the animals rights movement and the communities most often affected by stray and unwanted dogs and cats. Along with PAWS' Lamond and her dog Little Mama, the Wolfs and Sarge are currently taking part in a pilot project being conducted at Germantown's John Wister Elementary School in teacher Lindsay Brown's fifth-grade class. The CNKP-sponsored Humane Education Program, which just graduated its first class, aims to teach children responsible pet ownership while promoting animal rights issues, like easy access to low cost spay and neutering clinics. Along the way, they'd like to dispel some myths about the nature of Pit Bulls. The idea is the brainchild of former CNKP program director and animal advocate Claire Tillman. Tillman spent years volunteering and serving as a foster when she decided she needed to do more. "Many incidents of animal abuse and neglect occur simply because of ignorance," she said. "I believe that children can make better decisions for the future if only given the proper information on which to base their decisions. The goal is to have the children that we teach go and spread the word and be an example of a responsible pet owner and advocate." Kim Wolf, who calls herself "Sarge's agent," says the she hopes that focusing on the next generation will create a nucleus of animal advocates where they are needed most, and eventually attack dog overpopulation at its source. "No matter how hard we're working to adopt out animals and we can always be working harder, it's still reactive," she said. "We need to be proactive with this. And that again is why we want to bring dogs like Sarge into schools and into communities and to be organizing at the grassroots level. We can have 100 shelters in the city and we can adopt out all the dogs but we're just going to fill them the next day. We need to get ahead of this problem." fire and police departments, the source asked, how can the city spend chunks of money on a lawsuit? Apparently this request for 25 percent and the letter requesting it is also unprecedented. "Have they done that to anybody else? No. Has everybody gotten a letter? Has everybody been asked to pay 25 percent?" the source asked. Why is Nutter behaving this way? "That's a good question," the source replied. "He's saying one thing and doing another."