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Proposed animal shelter hanging by a whisker in Northampton

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 16 2014 10:24:39 PM CST
NORTHAMPTON, Pa. -

Say this for Dawn Perl, she is pleasingly persistent.

Recently rebuked in her efforts to reopen an animal shelter that has been closed in the Borough of Northampton since 2007 by council, she used another of her nine lives during Thursday night's meeting that produced empathy but not conformity.

"At least I got further than I did last time," she told council members toward the end of her presentation.

And that "further" was that council is willing to allow her to present a business plan that would demonstrate clearly to them how she would be able to manage the realities of operating an animal shelter on a day-by-day basis.

"I'm not in favor of this," said President John Yurish to make it clear where he stood, "But I am listening."

Perl said during her presentation Thursday night there is a "huge population problem with stray cats and dogs" in the borough. About six other individuals attended the meeting to show their support for the shelter.

Township Manager Gene Zarayko agreed with half the statement, noting the borough does have issues with cats.

Perl noted that she is not seeking any taxpayer money to support the endeavor, but is looking for the building where the previous shelter operated to be utilized for the enterprise "free and clear."

"It's the logistics of the issue," Yurish said at one point in his opposition to the shelter. "...It opens up a Pandora's Box."

And the members of council who spoke Thursday night agreed with that assessment.

"How many volunteers do you have," asked Councilman Edward Pany. "And are they devoted?"

Perl replied that she had between "20 and 30" individuals who have indicated to her they would volunteer in some capacity to the shelter, of which she said that maybe "10" or so were solid enough to be thought of as "dedicated."

Pany called Perl's motivations "noble," a sentiment shared by Councilman Anthony Lopsonski, Sr., who phrased Perl's idea as "admirable." However he noted emotions sometimes blind people to reality.

To illustrate his point, he used the metaphor of a funnel containing a narrow hole on one side, and a larger hole on the other. Sometimes those dedicated to a cause, he said, have "tunnel vision" and when you turn the funnel around and look through the larger hole, they recognize the inherent complexities.

"Some people only see what they want to see," Lopsonski, Sr. said in summary.

He then fired off specific questions about funding sources, hours of operation, number of animals to be accepted, legal counseling ("I hear some of those lawyers charge up to $3 or $4 an hour" he said sarcastically) and liability.

"I want to see where you're going to get your funding from," added Councilman Robert Coleman. He added that he too understood her affection for the furry and four-legged among us. "I have two dogs and a cat."

Perl voiced enthusiasm for the instructions and replied that indeed, she would be happy to comply with council's request in time for their next public meeting.