By Rick Pfeiffer rick.Pfeiffer@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette — For the SPCA of Niagara it is a case of too many critters for the confines of the organization’s Lockport Road shelter.
“We are just bursting at the seams,” Shelter Director Amy Lewis said on Wednesday. “We are packed to the rafters with cats and kittens, dogs and puppies. Our kennels are full and we’re putting out a plea to the community to come in and adopt.”
Lewis pointed out that in the last 18 months, after being rocked by charges that animals were routinely killed at the shelter or denied necessary medical care and treatment, the local SPCA has reestablished itself as “the place for the community to turn to for the protection of abused and stray animals.” The shelter has also adopted a no kill policy.
That new policy has strained the shelter’s capacity.
“We’re asking for people to keep us in mind (if they’re looking for a pet),” Lewis said. “Our ‘No Kill’ mission depends on you.”
The shelter director said it’s not uncommon for animal surrenders to spike in the early summer.
“Traditionally, the two weeks after school ends we see a spike in our intake,” Lewis said. “And then our adoption rate is down about 20 percent from this time last year.”
Lewis said the publicity that followed the firing of the shelter’s executive director and the election of a new board of directors may have focused community attention on the organization and led to increased adoptions. She said the shelter needs to get attention again to bring adoption rates back up.
“We have a huge number of dogs that have been here a long time,” Lewis said. “Some of them have been waiting for several months.”
While other shelters, including the Erie County SPCA are, in Lewis’ words, “also packed to the max with cats and dogs this time of year”, she pointed out that the local shelter has some “unique obligations” that other similar organizations don’t face.
Lewis said the SPCA of Niagara is contracted to act as a dog control agency for many local municipalities and acts as a holding facility for stray dogs in Niagara County. The shelter’s municipal dog control contracts prevent it from managing intake, which is one of the ways shelters are able to uphold a “No-Kill” mission.
The shelter’s new board of directors decided, in July 2012, to become a “No-Kill” facility. As a result, euthanasias at the shelter have dropped 98.6 percent from their 2011 rate.
But with lower adoption numbers this year and increased length of stay for some animals, the flow in and out of the shelter, according to Lewis, is “nearly grinding to a halt.” She called the shelter’s current occupancy “unsustainable.”
The shelter has set up temporary housing to accommodate the animals that continue to be surrendered. In addition, the shelter will undertake a special fee waiver adoption promotion.
Effective now through July 10, the local SPCA is waiving all adoption related fees. Lewis said to continue the no-kill mission, the community needs to step-up its support, both financially and by providing homes for homeless animals.
“People need to call or come in and help us find homes for our animals,” Lewis said.
The shelter is located at 2100 Lockport Road and more information on adoptions and the fee waiver program can be found on the SPCA web site www.niagaraspca.org.