Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 31, 2012

TOP 10: New day at the SPCA (No. 2)

A year after crisis and scandal, SPCA of Niagara has made remarkable turnaround

Niagara Gazette — It was exactly one year ago that a Gazette investigation rocked the SPCA of Niagara with allegations of the routine killing of dogs and cats and a pervasive failure to provide necessary medical care to animals left at its shelter.

What a difference the last year has made.

When the story first broke, multiple sources, inside and outside the shelter, told the Gazette that from Oct. 1 to Dec. 15, 2011, 473 cats and 100 dogs had been euthanized at the Lockport Road shelter. Sources familiar with the situation at the shelter called the number of killings “staggering.”

The survival rate for animals brought to the shelter then was 47 percent

A scathing review of the local shelter operations, conducted by Erie County SPCA Executive Director Barbara Carr, led to the firing of its executive director John Faso and the resignation of its entire board of directors.

In May a new board of directors took control of the shelter. Their changes were rapid and dramatic.

“You actually have a working board (of directors) now,” said the new Board Secretary Michelle Madigan. “You have a shelter director and an executive director all focusing on the same mission.”

The new board tapped the former Deputy Director of the Erie County SPCA, Amy Lewis, to take over the shelter’s operations. Then they reached into their own ranks and named Andrew Bell to run the administrative and fundraising side of the organization.

The new board members say they knew they faced huge challenges in taking over the troubled shelter.

“It’s been interesting and challenging,” said Board Vice President Dave Bower. “It took a lot of effort to get this change. Was it tough? Oh yeah.”

For Bell, a former pet shop and kennel owner, he knew there would need to be a culture change at the facility.

“I think the community, now, is recognizing that we have changed,” Bell said. “And that this is a good place to come (with animals).”

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