ACCT Philly Executive Director Aurora Velazquez resigns

Aurora Velazquez, executive director of ACCT Philly, the nonprofit that contracts with the city to provide animal shelter and control services, resigns amid an ongoing dispute with some activists and volunteers from local shelters.

“Over the past two years, we have made great strides, while continuing to face challenges. However, it has also become clear to me that my goals and values ​​do not seem to match those of the community. The current dynamic is not working, and although it is bittersweet, I think what’s best for the organization as well as for me personally is to step down, ”Velazquez said in a statement on Wednesday. afternoon by ACCT.

The association said its board of directors accepted his resignation on Wednesday. Velazquez will stay with the organization until early November. Meanwhile, the board will review the structure of the organization before moving forward with the search for a replacement, ACCT said.

“We are grateful to Aurora for her leadership and all she has accomplished for the organization over the past two years. The city remains committed to supporting ACCT Philly, and we wish them the best for the future, ”Board Co-Chair Joanna Otero-Cruz said in a statement.

Velazquez, who joined ACCT Philly in November 2019, started this year on a positive note.

For the first time in the organization’s history, she achieved a 92% live release rate – or save rate – in January, meaning animals that entered the shelter did not been euthanized but adopted or rescued.

This exceeded the industry standard of 90% to be considered a deathless refuge and ACCT Philly did so during a pandemic and with a reduction of $ 890,000 in its city contract last year, from $ 4.6 million to $ 3.7 million.

Historically, ACCT Philly has been one of the least funded animal and animal control organizations among major US cities, and the downsizing – which has resulted in no change in the services ACCT is held to provide, such as picking up and accepting stray animals, taking from pets in cases of law enforcement or death, and the capture of wildlife.

Because ACCT Philly cannot refuse animals, its shelter is chronically overcapacity.

In her resignation statement, Velazquez added that she was “proud of what we have achieved during this time,” citing an average live exit rate this year of 86%, the completion of a reception center and the acquisition of additional space, as well as the upgrade and installation of new kennels.

However, a state inspector conducted an on-site examination of the ACCT facility in North Philadelphia in late July and filed a report indicating that the sanitary conditions of the facility were unsatisfactory and added a note saying, “A cruelty referral was made based on the sanitary conditions issues during this inspection.”

The Pennsylvania SPCA, which received this referral, reported in mid-September that it had conducted its own investigation and determined that ACCT did not violate the Pennsylvania Cruelty Code, but improvements were needed and outside help was provided.

At the end of the summer, an online petition was launched demanding the resignation of Velazquez and two other senior executives. The petition alleged that specific animals had been mistreated, services had deteriorated, employees had quit due to the worsening situation, and ACCT had been hostile to some volunteers.

ACCT Philly posted allegations on its Facebook account on Saturday that a former employee accessed the organization’s internal computers and shared ‘stolen’ files with activists campaigning against ACCT management .

“The damage from this effort is lasting and goes beyond slander of the organization, leading to personal attacks on individual staff, affecting fundraising, animal placement and even reaching the level of death threats. for some shelter staff, ”ACCT wrote on its Facebook, in a post that sparked backlash against its leaders.

ACCT Philly took its current form in 2012 as a non-profit association contracted by the city to provide animal control services. The organization has long suffered from a host of issues, including a revolving door of executive directors and a disease outbreak in 2019 that forced dogs to be placed in tents outside. At its lowest point in August 2013, ACCT Philly had a live broadcast rate of just 50%.

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Jennifer R. Strohm

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