by Janet Schultz
The first action of Monday's Wheatfield Town Board meeting was to issue a statement regarding the SPCA investigation. With more than 60 people filling the meeting room, Supervisor Bob Cliffe explained that although the SPCA facility is located in the town, this is a countywide issue affecting all 12 towns and three cities.
"We are not the decision-maker in how this investigation will proceed," Cliffe said. "Other than sharing our views."
Cliffe went on to say that he and Town Board members have had numerous conversations with passionate animal specialists and activists over the past few days, remarking that the common belief is that the SPCA is years behind the times in its treatment of animals.
Cliffe said he spoke with Barbara Carr of the Erie County SPCA as well as Carol Tutzauer from Buffalo Humane and Peter Reese who supports "no kill" in Erie County.
"We are all very concerned that all dogs and cats brought to the SPCA receive the best of care," he continued. "We strongly encourage the SPCA board to listen to these learned and concerned animal specialists and incorporate their vision into the SPCA's policies and procedures. To be fully versed in these concepts, ideas which have worked well elsewhere, the board of the SPCA would do well to add one or more "no kill" advocates to their ranks.
"Personally, I greatly prefer a totally independent investigation of recent SPCA actions; there are apparent connections between Carr and the Niagara County SPCA which bring her impartiality into question," Cliffe said. "However, Wheatfield has no control over the SPCA board, we must live with their decision to have Ms. Carr perform this investigation. I trust that this will happen very soon and ask that the SPCA quickly release the results. Then please, immediately take those actions necessary to protect our dogs and cats."
The Wheatfield Town Board has appointed Craig Schultz to perform the services of dog control officer under the direction of Town Clerk Kathy Harrington and Cliffe.
"For anyone with a dog control issue who is concerned the SPCA may not be the best service provider, we will now have this alternative," said Cliffe.
Following Cliffe's statement, Morgan Dunbar of Animal Allies of WNY spoke about the need for an independent investigation of the SPCA.
In addition, she said such relationships between Erie and Niagara SPCAs as that of Niagara County SPCA Board President Bruno "Brandy" Scrufari's employment by radio station WTSS 102.5-FM, which Erie County SPCA Board President Lawrence Robb is general manager of, puts the credibility of the current investigation in question.
She also said that Erie, which is said to have a "no kill" policy, has been sending animals to Niagara County, thus posing the question of what happened to those animals.
They also share a vet tech and that person comes to Niagara to kill animals for one day each week, she said. The person is paid by Erie but is a volunteer at Niagara. Dunbar would like to see employment records for this person and also posed the question about what type of person would kill animals all day long.
She also said State Sen. George Maziarz has given his support to an independent investigation of the SPCA of Niagara, which brought a round of applause from the audience.
Donna Miller, a volunteer at the SPCA of Niagara, confirmed that the vet tech does volunteer at Niagara. Miller remarked that she felt this investigation was a "witch hunt."
"No kill" supporter Reese gave a passionate speech asking for an outside investigation and urging Niagara County to institute a no kill policy.
"I want this to be the day things start to change," he concluded.
Other public speakers gave examples of their dealings with the SPCA of Niagara and also offered suggestions on change.
Shirley Carter of Niagara Feline Friends, a "no-kill" animal shelter, offered whatever the SPCA needs in terms of food and medication in order to give proper care to the animals.
In other board business:
•The Town of Wheatfield awarded a $120,000 contract to NFP and Sons for the Southern Drainage System connection to the North Tonawanda culvert and authorized Wendel Duchscherer Architects and Engineers to provide professional services during the construction of the Culvert Project at a cost estimated at $9,800.
The board also awarded the bid for recycling totes to Cascade Engineering.
•The town approved a Winter Break for Kids Camp to be held Feb. 20 to 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at a cost of $10 per child per day. Children are to bring bag lunches and camp space is limited.
•The town also approved conducting a personal computer workshop for senor citizens. They are planning to offer two sessions per day for six or seven weeks at a cost of $2 per hour per resident. Information can be obtained at Town Hall.
•Authorization was given to the Water/Sewer Department to purchase a new van and dispose of the old one through Auctions International.
•The board authorized Town Attorney Robert O'Toole to attend an Association of Towns training session in New York City.