Amid a lapsed contract with the Humane Society, a Harrisburg police supervisor instructed officers to adopt, abandon or euthanize stray animals, according to a recently leaked email.
The internal memo, dated December 6, has been circulating on social media for the past several days. In it, a police captain instructs officers to either adopt the animal themselves, drive the animal to a safe location and let it loose, or euthanize it if it is "obviously sick or suffering."
Police Chief Pierre Ritter addressed the memo at his weekly press briefing on Wednesday.
"That memo that went out that is surfacing and circulating around Facebook, it does not address what actually we wrote taking from the dog law," he said. "The dog law speaks about humanely putting an animal down if they are vicious, ill or injured to that point. That is what our memo mentioned."
Ritter said the portion of the leaked email also does not address a state law requiring a 48-hour waiting period for all found animals, which Harrisburg police abide to.
Still, Humane Society of Harrisburg Area executive director Amy Kaunas told abc27 the memo is very concerning.
"We had no information as to what they were doing in the interim [since the contract expired]," she said. "Getting the memo and reading it, it was obviously disturbing and not a 'Plan B' we would recommend."
Kaunas said it especially worrisome for city residents whose animals may run away.
"There is a often this thought that stray animals are just cast aside, but that could be my dog and that could be your dog," she said. "It's a concern for pet owners."
City spokesman Bob Philbin said Wednesday that the city currently is in negotiations with the Humane Society, and hopes to have a new contract for 2012 in the next few days. This will allow police officers to take stray animals at the shelter, which they have not been allowed to do since October when the last contract lapsed.
Kaunas said she is optimistic that a new contract will be signed soon.
"Frankly, these negotiations have been the best and the healthiest we've had in several years because we're all coming to the table," she said.
According to Philbin, the city's yearly Humane Society budget will be reduced from approximately $85,000 to $70,000.