by Susan Mikula Campbell
The leader of an area animal rights group said Tuesday that she was involved in the rescue of two dogs Jan. 16 whose deplorable living conditions should have been addressed by the SPCA of Niagara.
One dog in Wheatfield has been chained inside a van all winter with the sliding door and window open. The other was in the garage of an abandoned house in Niagara Falls. They had been left without food or water, according to Morgan Jamie Dunbar, director of Animal Allies of Western New York. Her group and Diamonds in the Ruff Animal Rescue worked to help the animals.
"The Wheatfield dog had been living in a dilapidated van all winter, with the side sliding door and driver's side window wide open to the elements. The dog was covered in feces and mud and was severely emaciated," she said in a Facebook post. "Here's the kicker - the dog chained inside the van was located literally 300 yards from the Niagara SPCA."
Meanwhile, an investigation into alleged unnecessary euthanizations and mismanagement at the SPCA of Niagara is due to be concluded in about four weeks. The investigation is under the direction of Barbara Carr of the SPCA Serving Erie County, with legal oversight by attorneys Paul Cambria and Elizabeth Holmes. Leaders of the SPCA of Niagara have issued statements through an independent agency. A statement from the SPCA of Niagara's Board of Directors was released last week (see end of article).
Also, State Sen. George Maziarz issued a statement saying that he thinks links between the Erie and Niagara SPCAs could make the investigation not as independent and transparent as it could be.
Also, after an hour-long conference call with Wheatfield Supervisor Robert Cliffe, Dunbar and Nathan J. Winograd, a world expert, author, lecturer, advocate and spokesperson for the "no kill" movement. Maziarz said, "There appear to be many innovative ideas and methods which could drastically reduce and perhaps even eliminate the need for healthy or treatable animals to be killed at local shelters."
Maziarz suggested the SPCA of Niagara begin to incorporate these ideas in its operations, as well as appoint local "no kill" advocates to its board.
Dunbar, in a telephone interview Tuesday night, said she has received calls from Niagara County residents saying they have called the SPCA on possible abuse cases, but nothing has been done.
In the case of the Wheatfield dog, the owners made arrangements to house the dog with a friend of family. Animal Allies will follow up to make sure the dog has had veterinarian treatment and, if not, the group will make sure the dog is seized.
In the case of the Niagara Falls dog, neighbors there said the dog had been apparently abandoned in the garage for months and when they called the SPCA, they were told it was OK as long as the dog had shelter. Dunbar said the dog had chewed a hole in the garage and was covered in feces. When rescuers approached, the dog got its head through the door, wiggled its body through and bolted.
When the dog couldn't be found, food, water and a blanket were placed in the garage and the door left open. By morning, someone had tipped off owners, who picked up the dog and left.
Dunbar said the condition of the garage was "deplorable" and the dog's suffering could have been stopped "if the SPCA had simply gone there and checked things out."
"It is mind-boggling that while this facility is under investigation, they're still not doing their jobs," she said.
•SPCA of Niagara Board of Directors statement issued last week:
"In response to issues raised by members, volunteers, employees, and board members, the Board of Directors of the SPCA of Niagara has engaged the services of Barbara Carr of the SPCA Serving Erie County, and the independent legal oversight of attorneys Paul Cambria and Elizabeth Holmes.
"We engaged these services in order to determine what if any issues are valid and as a result must be addressed.
"Preliminarily, we have determined that changes are in order so as to accomplish our mission of caring for sick and abandoned animals. We are in the process of interviewing all concerned persons and reviewing records in order to correct any deficiencies that we have discovered.
"It is the goal of this board to respond to all credible issues raised and correct any deficiencies that may exist.
"We are told in approximately four weeks a report will be submitted with findings and recommendations, which we intend to implement."