The chief executive of the Pennsylvania SPCA is stepping down after 2 1/2 years on the job.

Susan Cosby, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania SPCA, announced her intentions to step down to pursue other opportunities, according to a statement released today.

"Our management team and Board have established a solid plan for our future and I know that I will be leaving the Pennsylvania SPCA in very capable hands.  I am confident the organization will continue to grow and thrive while focusing on rescuing animals from abuse and neglect and providing lifesaving care and treatment to the most vulnerable members of the state's animal population."

The board elected Eric Daugherty, Chief Financial Officer, and Marc Peralta, Chief Operating Officer, to serve as interim co-CEO's, while the Board conducts a national search for a new CEO, the statement said.

Cosby's announcement comes just as the PSPCA was to return animal control services to the city on Jan. 1 (that date has been extended by three months because the new entity, Animal Care and Control Team, is not yet ready to start its work, the city said.) The century- old non-profit had assumed those duties shortly before Cosby took over in June 2009.

The PSPCA said under Cosby it had:

Started new services, such as low-cost vaccinations clinics and targeted free pit bull spay & neuter services were established for the benefit of the community.

Reduced the number of homeless animals in shelters by aggressively focusing on increased adoptions and lifesaving activities, as well as developing a robust spay and neuter program.

Performed more than 21,000 spay and neuter procedures in 2010 through several initiatives including offering convenient low-cost services to the public through its veterinary clinic at its Erie Avenue headquarters in Philadelphia.

It also said the PSPCA's humane law enforcement team worked actively in Philadelphia and in multiple counties in the state, investigating and prosecuting a high volume of animal cruelty cases.  In April 2011, after a yearlong investigation, the organization broke up one of the largest dog fighting rings in Philadelphia's history, rescuing more than 40 animals and charging more than a dozen individuals with felony animal fighting.

But the group had faced financial troubles leading to the termination of the $1 million contract to handle stray animals and the closure of four of its six satellite shelters elsewhere in the state.

Animal welfare advocates had expressed concern the PSPCA had been retreating from its successful enforcement efforts under prior CEO Howard Nelson to crack down on puppy mills and large-scale animal hoarders outside of Philadelphia.

And there was tumult within the organization during Cosby's tenure. In April five members of the 12- member PSPCA board resigned over issues with Cosby, as did the chief financial officer.

Cosby was hired by the PSPCA in June 2009 after serving as director of the Animal Welfare Association of New Jersey, a private shelter in Voorhees.