By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — TOWN OF WHEATFIELD -- It was at the top of the SPCA of Niagara's wish list.
When a new board of directors took over the operation of the Lockport Road shelter in May 2012 they almost immediately vowed to find a way to take spaying and neutering services into the Niagara County communities were it was needed the most. Communities were people didn't necessarily have the means to bring a pet to the SPCA shelter.
On Friday, the SPCA took the wraps off of what it called a "monumental achievement."
The organization performed its first surgical sterilizations of companion and free roaming cats through use of a surgical trailer. The procedures were performed in the trailer on the grounds of the SPCA shelter.
"Implementing a spay and neuter program in Niagara County brings us one step closer to saving more lives by controlling the population of cats and dogs in our community," Shelter Director Amy Lewis said. "What’s even more exciting is that this program is a major component of our No-Kill mission at the Niagara County SPCA."
By the end of the weekend, the shelter expects to provide 150 feline spay or neuter surgeries to qualifying Niagara County residents as part of what it's calling a Spay/Neuter-athon.
Six veterinarians have donated their services to the program. They include four local vets and two from the Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine.
With the shelter almost always at or near capacity. Lewis says the spay/neuter program will help easing overcrowding as well.
"As we look to the future of the Niagara County SPCA, we have a vision of an in-house surgical suite with a program dedicated to controlling the population by ending the cycle of unwanted births," Lewis said. "Controlling unwanted births outside of our shelter will, over time, decrease the number of animals admitted to our shelter making (the) No-Kill(mission) sustainable long term.”
The program was made possible through grants from The Grigg Lewis Foundation, First Niagara Foundation and the Bertha Hamilton Trust. Sizable donations in memory of Michele Ignaszak and Twila Henneberger and donations raised through A Day for Dean Fundraiser also helped.
Lewis said the SPCA plans to seek additional grants and funding sources to continue the low cost spay/neuter program for Niagara County residents, targeting individuals with low to moderate incomes.