Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — For the first time in its history, SPCA of Niagara is embracing the no-kill model of animal handling.
The Niagara SPCA board of trustees announced last week that a “no kill” working committee has been formed. Committee chairman Kathy Lamont said its purpose is to assist the SPCA’s new goal of finding a home for every adoptable animal, including those that require rehabilitation.
“With the help of the community, we can become a ‘no-kill’ shelter. This committee is just the start,” Lamont said.
The announcement follows a series of actions by the board and Executive Director Amy Lewis over the past few months to try turning the shelter’s reputation around. All 15 board members and Lewis are new to the organization, after housecleaning by the previous board in response to revelations about high animal euthanasia rates and cruel practices at the Lockport Road shelter.
In stark contrast to the “old” SPCA of Niagara, the new-and-improved organization appears concerned about animal welfare first. The shelter is encouraging, and aggressively promoting, adoption of stray dogs and cats in its protection. It’s making partnerships with other humane organizations to improve animal services and care. It recently sponsored free parvo vaccination clinics for dogs in Niagara Falls, and it took the lead in a multi-organization effort to rescue upwards of 60 sick cats from an unsafe building in Somerset last month.
Over the past few months, Lewis said, the shelter’s stray and surrendered animal “save” rate has been a steady 88 percent. Ninety percent is the national No-Kill Advocacy Center’s benchmark.
It used to be that the organization euthanized half of the dogs, and up to 90 percent of the cats, in its care, according to Carol Tutzauer, president of Buffalo Humane.
“This is a complete turnaround,” she said. “They’re not (at the no-kill benchmark), but they’re no longer killing animals for
The turnaround comes at a cost, though.
SPCA of Niagara is “struggling” financially, Lewis said. Donations are down 43 percent this year, thanks to the euthanasia scandal that broke in January, while expenses are on the rise.
How much more it’ll cost the SPCA to save stray animals, as opposed to eliminating them, Lewis cannot guess. The shelter needs a year of rescue efforts on its books first, so a budget can be projected, she said.
It’s a worrisome thought that the shelter seemed to struggle financially under prior regimes, she added.
“The success of the effort is highly dependent on public support. ... It is glaringly obvious that the euthanasia rate was so high here because the funding was so low.”
Care and rehabilitation of the Somerset cats will further strain the shelter’s resources. Among the 55 taken in as of last week, Lewis said 15 were judged to be feral and would be released into colonies after basic veterinary care. Most of the rest are considered “social” or domesticated — and therefore adoptable. SPCA is footing the bill for their care until homes are found for them.
“We’re going to because it’s our responsibility, but it’s tough,” she said.
SPCA of Niagara going no-kill is a goal, not a done deal, according to board member Bob Richardson.
There are 11 steps in the no-kill “equation” outlined by worldwide movement leader Nathan Winograd, and the Niagara shelter has completed about half of them. The rest are in progress — or awaiting funding.
“We’re doing all we can with animals, behaviorally and medically, to save as many as we can,” Richardson said. “We all are very interested in doing all we can for the animals, we just need resources to do it.”
The SPCA Serving Erie County, has operated its Ensminger Road shelter in the Town of Tonawanda as a no-kill facility since 2009.