Over the past week, a handful of neighbors around Palmer Street in Fishtown were watching the dropping temperatures with alarm. The cause for concern: an outdoor dog, seen “shivering” in the cold and covered with snow, “like he had nowhere warm to go.”
When calls to the Pennsylvania SPCA didn’t yield immediate results, neighbors took matters into their own hands — several delivering food and water, one hopping the fence to line the seemingly rickety wooden doghouse with old clothes, and a few others taking it further: dropping an entire plastic igloo-style hut over the fence, along with hay for insulation. On Saturday night, at least four neighbors stopped by to chat with the owner, offering to take the dog off his hands. He was not impressed with their generosity.
Wendy Marano, a spokeswoman for the PSCPA, says this debate is nothing new. “We answer hundreds of calls, and they spike … whenever there’s extreme weather.” Calls tend to double during a cold snap. But on Palmer Street, the owner — who professed his dog to be, at heart, an “outdoor dog” — wasn’t breaking any rules. Marano doesn’t like it any better than the neighbors do, but it’s the law that counts — and the owner “meets the letter of the law.” Still, she encourages pet owners to bring animals in from the cold. “We see this every winter, every heat wave; there are animals people kind of rally around,” she says. “It’s heartbreaking.”