Niagara Gazette

July 12, 2013

City files injunction to delay SPCA service suspension

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Attorneys representing the city of Niagara Falls have filed an injunction seeking to put a temporary stop to the SPCA of Niagara’s plan to suspend animal control services within city limits.

Mayor Paul Dyster said Thursday evening the legal action has been assigned to state Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch. Dyster said arguments in the case could be heard as early as today.

The move follows an announcement earlier Thursday that members of the SPCA’s board voted to suspend animal control services in Niagara Falls.

SPCA officials said the Lockport Road animal shelter is no longer in a financial position to continue “subsidizing” the services in the city, claiming fees paid under the current contract with Niagara Falls are not covering increased costs for the work involved. The agency is expected to continue providing rescue and cruelty prevention services as needed within city limits. 

“The Niagara County SPCA is not in a financial position to continue subsidizing animal control services for the city,” said SPCA board President Michelle D. Madigan in a release issued Thursday morning. “Without regard to any other shelter concerns or goals, the fees received from the city do not begin to meet the cost of providing services under the current contract.”

The city’s previous contract with the SPCA expired at the end of 2011. The animal shelter billed Niagara Falls $83,520 for animal control services in 2012. The city has been paying for animal control on a month-by-month basis since the original deal ended. 

Madigan said the shelter is currently losing roughly $150,000 per year under the expired arrangement, which is “putting a tremendous financial strain on a nonprofit organization with a very limited budget.” She said the agency’s fiduciary responsibility is to the shelter and to the animals it rescues. 

“We simply can no longer afford to keep servicing animal control for a high need dog population, at the expense of other rescued shelter animals and our overall operations,” Madigan said. “It destroys our budget, taxes our staff, challenges our volunteers, and does not ultimately serve our core mission to prevent cruelty to animals.”

Dyster said the city has had dealings with the old management and board and the new individuals who were brought in to take over following the release of a scathing report issued by the Erie County SPCA that questioned various aspects of the shelter’s operation. 

He also said the city is willing to work with the SPCA on the terms of a new deal, but is also looking for specific financial information from the agency, including more detailed data on costs for services rendered.  

“We’re going to try to work things out with them,” Dyster said. 

Over in the Town of Lockport, a tentative three-year contract, hammered out Thursday between Supervisor Marc Smith and SPCA officials, would raise the town’s annual fee for dog services to $13,210 this year, from $9,700 last year. The rate would increase by 2 percent a year in 2014 and 2015.