By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — The city of Niagara Falls and the SPCA of Niagara have come to terms on a temporary agreement, ensuring that the city will continue to receive animal control services from the agency through the end of the year.
The Niagara Falls City Council approved the temporary agreement, which will see the city's monthly payments rise from $6,960 to $15,000, in a 4-1 vote at Wednesday's city council meeting. Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti cast the only no vote.
The SPCA had threatened to end services in the Niagara Falls if the city did not begin giving more money to the organization, claiming that the shelter is losing $150,000 due to services provides to the city.
The city took the SPCA to court over the matter and state Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch put a temporary restraining order in place barring the organization from discontinuing services to allow time for an agreement to be struck.
Mayor Paul Dyster signed the six-month contract on Thursday, but said the city will need more information before agreeing to a new contract for 2014.
"They had given us scant documentation," he said.
The SPCA has been working to turn the Niagara facility into a "No Kill" operation, which is more costly, Dyster said.
The city supports that move, but Dyster's administration wants to see more specific breakdowns of costs associated with servicing the city, he added.
In addition the organization needs to provide guarantees that they will operate under the "No Kill" philosophy in future contracts, something that is not mentioned in the terms of the contract Dyster signed Thursday, he said.
"In any long-term contract extension with the SPCA we will demand that they commit to this," Dyster said.
The mayor said the contract extension will allow the city to work with the organization to come to agreeable terms, but also for the city to explore other options.
"We are looking into other sheltering options," Dyster said.
Jennifer Pitarresi, a spokesperson for the not-for-profit's board, said the agency would have no problem agreeing to a "No Kill" clause in the terms of the project as the shelter already operates under that philosophy.
The facility has maintained a save rate above 90 percent — the standard set for "No Kill" facilities — since August 2012, according to statistics on the group's website.
"Everyone here lives the 'No Kill' philosophy every day," Pitarresi said.
The not-for-profit will continue to work with the city to try to come to terms.
"We're happy to look at whatever requests the city has in terms of a long-term contract," Pitarresi said.
Pitarresi said the six-month deal will allow both parties to examine the situation.
"Right now this creates space where everybody can breathe and look at their options," Pitarresi said.Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257