In the words of Dana Carvey's Church Lady character, "Well, isn't that convenient?"
I am referring to last week's discovery by SEPTA that K-9 dog Abal had a bulging spinal disc, thus making him eligible for: a) immediate retirement, and b) adoption by his former partner, transit officer Richard Galanti. The dog and handler had been separated, creating a controversy that drew national attention — and outrage.
Call finding the medical condition convenient, coincidence, miraculous — whatever.
An old saying warns against looking a gift horse in the mouth. The same for a gift dog.
So it was the 7-year-old German shepherd/Akita mix's medical condition – not the continuing (critical) coverage in print (including my column last week), and on radio and TV, and not the more than 162,000 signatures then on the online petition posted by Nicole Galanti, the officer's wife. Nicole had led the charge to have the dog returned, as her husband feared retaliation for speaking out.
With probable cause. Galanti's removal from the K-9 unit, after 14 years of meritorious service, was retaliation, according to Omari Bervine, who heads the Fraternal Order of Transit Police. The union is preparing to file an unfair labor practice charge against the agency for transferring him.
As the controversy unspooled, SEPTA declined to explain why the officer was transferred and told to surrender Abal, but SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel tweeted that Galanti "knows why this has happened."
The central issue seemed to be who would pay for a new service jacket SEPTA required Galanti to buy. The officer said he'd buy it if SEPTA would reimburse him. When SEPTA said no, Galanti filed a grievance.
It doesn't matter now.
Monday morning the Galanti family — Nicole and Richard, daughter Julianna, 20, and son Cole, 10 — arrived in their Dodge Durango at SEPTA's Midvale Depot to pick up the family member who had been missing for a week. They found Abal in a crate too small for him, Nicole tells me, and a little groggy. SEPTA did not allow the media to observe the pickup.
"We were kind of nervous about how he was doing," Nicole says, but Abal brightened up after the car trip home to Wenonah, Gloucester County, where the Galantis live. "Now he's running around the house," Nicole says. "He's got his bone squeak toy in his mouth."
She says she was told that Abal is on an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication and she is planning to call the vet to have Abal checked out. Richard has Mondays off because he works Saturdays.
Philly animal shelter chief is gone
Friday the 13th was unlucky for Vincent Medley, the controversial executive director of ACCT Philly, the city animal shelter. A surprise Friday announcement from the board, claiming mutual agreement, said he was gone. He had been the executive director since 2015. Operations director Audra Houghton will be interim director as a search for a new leader is launched. The last search took many months.
In a statement, the board thanked Medley for his achievements – the percentage of animals exiting the shelter alive increased mildly under his leadership – but did not mention Medley's autocratic style, his conflicts with volunteers and rescue partners at the shelter, and questionable accounting practices exposed earlier this year. Accountant Doug Ross raised a number of pertinent questions that went unanswered.