by Amy L. Lewis
It's time for a serious message from the shelter. The Niagara County SPCA made the commitment to become a no-kill shelter in July of 2012, and we consistently work toward saving every animal that we can regardless of cost; regardless of physical space; regardless of the constraints in staffing, compensation from contracts and resources in general.
Without a doubt, it has been a struggle for the shelter both financially and in terms of space. Our message now and into the future will continue to be: We have many fantastic animals in our facility that would make a wonderful addition to your life!
We also have some dogs in our facility, frankly put, that don't make suitable pets. With limited staffing and space, it is difficult for us to rehabilitate these animals. These are dogs that have come in from dangerous dog cases that have been involved in multiple attacks on humans or have killed other animals.
If no foster homes or rescues step forward, we are faced with a difficult decision. So, what do you do with a dog that would just as soon kill a human than live with one? Does it sit in a shelter until it dies because we do not have the manpower to rehabilitate the dog and in the meantime it is taking up a kennel for a dog that comes in that may be perfectly adoptable and friendly? Or do we place him in a home and hope for the best? Is that even a responsible solution? These are serious questions that we have not been able to answer.
For a small shelter that basically had to start from the bottom and build up, we have accomplished a lot in a small amount of time, but the real problem remains: This facility is too small for the county we serve. Our municipal contracts obligate us to take dogs, and our mission obligates us to take the 14 cats that came in on Friday that all have upper respiratory infections from a woman who was hospitalized. This could not have happened at a worse time - a time when we didn't have a single cage open and have pneumonia in the building because of over-crowding. Despite lack of space, cats continue to be dropped off in boxes at our front gate or six boxes of "donations" are set in the lobby that start meowing and scratching to get out. These are all true stories. We have owners come in with cats and, when we tell them we don't have any open cages, but we can add them to the waiting list, they drop the cat and run out the door.
A lot is expected of an animal shelter, and when we fall short of those sometimes-impossible expectations, we are accused of not caring or not doing our jobs. We are doing our jobs by not killing 70 percent of the animals that come into the building. We did our jobs last year at a deficit in excess of $171,000. Despite a sizable deficit, we still hear from some that we are "just in it for the money."
Money is important because money is what pays our bills, and those bills come from caring for the animals in our facility. We continue to provide for them even though our shelter is bursting at the seams and even though it is very costly to do so. Last year, it cost the shelter $902,000 to keep our doors open and we brought $731,000 in. There was no profit made.
Some will read this and be upset that the message is so blunt and so real, but our situation here is very real and we live it every day. Our staff are the ones who try to find additional places to house animals when someone leaves us a very special "donation" of seven cats or when the dogs just keep coming in.
We have a long-term plan to get out of the dog control business and we are in the process of working with the City of Niagara Falls to assist them in the transition right now, but there will not be relief overnight. That relief will come two or three years down the road. We are seeking additional revenue sources to support our mission, but our biggest obstacle right now is the number of animals that require our care and attention. In the meantime, we need your help in getting the word out that the shelter has many wonderful animals needing homes and many others that require time, patience and rehabilitation. As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to support its local animal shelter.
Spread the word: The Niagara County SPCA is not on the verge of crisis - we are in the middle of one that hasn't ended since May of 2012. We need your support today, tomorrow and always!
If you are looking for a canine or feline friend, there is no better time than now. Local rescues: We have an open door policy! Stop in and see if you can help us out. To those rescues that go out of state and pull animals: consider the animals in your community shelter as well. If this sounds like a desperate plea, it's because it is. Overpopulation in this shelter is real and ever present.
Individuals sometimes accuse shelter employees of being lazy for choosing euthanasia as an option before exploring other avenues, but we have not done that and we don't want that even as a last resort. Your community shelter is in trouble. We need your help! Please spread the word!
Now until Dec. 31, we want to help our animals find a home for the holidays. All adoption fees will be waived for animals 6 months and older. We will also bring in the New Year with new adoption prices: adult dogs 6 months and older, $110; puppies, $225; senior dogs (10 years and older), fee waived; varying adoption fees for small breed, fees vary for pure breed and exotic animals; kittens, $100; cats, 6 months to 3 years, $60; and cats 3 years and older, fee waived.