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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – “Help is on the way.” That’s a daily promise made by the Pennsylvania SPCA. But as the weather heats up, it becomes harder and harder to deliver on that promise as the Humane Law Enforcement Team is inundated with animal cruelty calls.
Eyewitness News Reporter Jan Carabeo rode along with Officer Jason Martinez recently to take a look at the team’s uphill battle, one the organization says is compounded by the fact that the PSPCA receives no state funding.
Martinez starts just about every day with a clipboard full of addresses and neighborhood tips. His beat is animal cruelty.
“It has been a crazy 10 years,” Martinez says. “I think I’ve seen it all, but it just keeps getting worse and worse. You think you’ve got them all, but they just keep popping up.”
On this day, his list takes him around the City of Philadelphia.
“We’re going to a house in Port Richmond for a report of a dog out,” Martinez says.
Fortunately, after a quick check there, it appears that dog is in good health, but the outcome is often very different.
“Dogs that were skinned for no reason, cats that were skinned for no reason,” Martinez recalls. “People do some heinous stuff. Two dogs hanging in the basement, they’d been shot.”
In just the first two hours on the street with Martinez, he checks dogs in North Philly, Port Richmond and Frankford. On an average day, Martinez will get to about a dozen other calls, too. It is an immense task, especially considering the PSPCA covers 23 counties with only 10 officers. The busy summer season only intensifies the work.
“It’s very busy with dogs locked in cars, dogs outside without shelter, when it’s so hot that’s considered an emergency,” Martinez says.
It’s not only life-saving but costly and time-consuming work. Martinez wishes there was funding for more officers so he could spend more time on another big problem – dog fighting rings like the one officers busted in Grays Ferry back in March.
“We’re so small of a unit, these dog fighters are getting away because the calls are coming in nonstop,” Martinez says. “Our hotline does not stop.”
CEO Julie Klim says the PSPCA used to have more officers, but the organization has had to cut back because of a lack of resources.
“We’re privately funded, we get no state funding,” Klim says. “We’re subsidizing the state for law enforcement as it relates to the animal cruelty laws.”
Officers pursue more than 6,500 animal cruelty cases a year, and Martinez is often just the first stop on what can be a long road to recovery for these animals.
As he made his rounds that day, Bella was surrendered by her owner and brought to the PSPCA’s Shelter Hospital.
“She looks like she has a skin condition, so she’ll probably be on some antibiotics,” PSPCA Medical Director Lisa Germanis says.
While Bella’s stay will be brief, King has been in recovery for a month. His was a severe case of starvation. He had a grim outlook, but King is ultimately yet another success story, and faces like his are what keep the PSPCA’s staff coming back long day after day.
“Because we know we’re making a difference here, it keeps us going,” Germanis says.
More than half of the PSPCA’s annual budget goes to the Shelter Hospital and Humane Law Enforcement. Two officers have been cut over the last two years. It may not sound like much, but that equals 2,400 fewer cruelty investigations each year. The PSPCA says more cuts will be needed if additional funding isn’t found.
The PSPCA has created a fundraising page where people can help.
You can donate and report animal cruelty online at pspca.org.