The morning began like too many at ACCT Philly.
Sometime before dawn, someone had tossed an emaciated brown pit bull over the chain-link fence at the city’s animal rescue on Hunting Park Avenue in North Philadelphia, and left.
“It’s pretty common, unfortunately,” said Kacey Banford, ACCT’s volunteer manager, watching the dog devour food and water after a worker brought her into the office.
Then came the mood lift. Brandywine Valley SPCA’s Mega Adoption Event had just begun and people of all ages started pouring into the ACCT Philly shelter with hopes of taking home a dog or cat — even a rabbit. ACCT Philly is one of five area animal shelters participating in the adoption event, which continues Sunday with a reduced $35 adoption fee.
Vanessa Green, 29, and Brian Martin, 31, with their 1-year-old daughter, Autumn, in tow came from their Northeast Philadelphia home to find a pup. Autumn, who has one blue eye and one brown eye, was drawn to a little 3-year-old white dog resembling a Poodle mix, who had been found as a stray. His name was Cam.
He sat quietly in a crate in the small dog room while a Chihuahua-like dog barked nonstop nearby. Cam’s eyes were blue, almost the exact shade as Autumn’s right eye.
Autumn put her finger close to Cam’s nose and beamed. “I think she picked the dog,” Martin said with a chuckle. “We wanted a small dog and we’re picking him because they have the same kind of eyes,” he added, walking back to the waiting room.
» READ MORE: Philly animal rescues overwhelmed as families return their pandemic pups en masse
They sat at a desk to apply for Cam. The ACCT worker looked up his information on a computer. “I’m sorry,” she told them. “There’s a hold on Cam.”
“Oh, no,” Green sighed. ACCT workers had recently identified the owner and they have to see if Cam can return home.
Green, Martin and Autumn returned to rows of kennels, all larger dogs. They stopped at Dee, a 3-year-old brown-and-white pit bull. Her face was kind, they decided. She wasn’t a barker. They returned to the waiting room. The ACCT worker told them Dee needs leash training, house training and may jump on tables. They decided to spend time with Dee on a patch of grass out front. Dee ran up to them, her tail wagging.
Martin and Green looked at each other and nodded. Dee was the one. They wanted to take her home that minute, but Dee has to be spayed Sunday morning and they will pick her up in the afternoon. Will they change her name?
“Nah,” Martin said. “She was named Dee for a reason. We’ll keep it.”
Alex Ye and Tracy Vuong live in University City with her cat, Buddy. “I like her cat,” Ye said, strolling through the quiet room of crated felines. “It will be nice to get Buddy a friend.” They settled on Tiny, a 3-month-old brown-and-white cat who had on her chart “evicted” and “stray.”
For some potential adopters, a lot was on the line. Dana Ohlmann wanted to fill a void. “I love animals. It’s just me now and I want to get some love,” said Ohlmann, 66, who has three grown children.
These days she can’t handle large dogs, she said. “I’ve seen bulky men fly like little kites down the street with big dogs,” she said. So she picked a Chihuahua mix with soulful eyes named Eagle. “The eyes. That’s what got me,” she said.
And for roommates Zion Bell and Madison Hannum, 21 and 22 respectively, it came down to one bark. They stopped at Jenny’s kennel. Jenny was a 4-year-old grayish pit bull. Other dogs were yapping near her, but she remained calm. “The minute we walked away, she started barking, so we came back,” Bell said.
They took Jenny outside to play in a fenced area — the same spot where the dog had been tossed earlier. Jenny played with a ball, rolled over on her back to get scratched and gobbled up mint cookie crunch dog treats that they had brought.
Times are tough for ACCT Philly and shelters nationwide. There’s been a surge in pet surrenders since the COVID pet-adoption boom and fewer people who want to adopt, said Sarah Barnett, ACCT Philly’s acting co-executive director.
Barnett said soaring housing, food and gas prices have hurt pet owners or those who would have considered adopting.
“We have dogs that are really nice that two years ago we wouldn’t be able to keep for five days and they’re sitting there,” she said.
“We have had dogs sit there for months, but that is not a luxury that we can continue to do based on the level of animals coming in. So for the first time in a very long time, we are having to basically put deadlines on dogs — we call it time-stamping, where we tell the public if this dog isn’t adopted by this date, we will have to euthanize them she said.
The save rate has dropped from roughly 92% in early 2021 to around 85%. “Dogs are getting euthanized with space being a majority of the factor and we never thought we’d be back at that place,” she said. “It’s really heartbreaking. We need the community’s help. We can’t do this alone.”
In walks Patricia Trueland, who runs the rescue, Misfit Angels of South Jersey. She sat in the waiting room with a printout about Reesie, a 4-year-old, 37-pound fearful, brown-and-white pit bull.
She was in danger of being euthanized. Trueland walked up the aisles of dogs until she found her.
Around 3 pm Trueland posted a photo on Facebook of Reesie, all smiles, in the back of her car.
The caption: “And… We’re out of ACCT!”