Contrary to its claim to be a no-kill shelter, the Cattaraugus County SPCA is a perversion of no kill.
The organization defends its practice of confining animals in kennels for years, without socialization, veterinary care or opportunities for placement. The Cattaraugus County SPCA’s misinformed concept of no kill differs from the philosophy maintained by Nathan Winograd, originator of the no-kill movement. Mr. Winograd writes, “No Kill does not mean poor care and warehousing animals without the intentional killing. It means modernizing shelter operations so that animals are well cared for and kept moving efficiently and effectively through the shelter and into homes.”
The SPCA board chairman, Kristin McDonald, confirms that the average stay for animals can be measured in years. Ms. McDonald said she would be willing to allow responsible no-kill rescue groups to “pull animals from the facility.” However, when rescuers arrived at the shelter, they were denied access.
Our offer of assistance still stands. We have initiatives in place to assist with roof repairs and heat installation. We have held multiple material donation drives and continue to promote volunteer and foster care sign-ups.
Some of the animals, now elderly, arrived at the Olean facility as puppies.
After living in barren kennels, without socialization or enrichment, they are not appropriate for adoption. Whether or not certain animals would make “good pets,” all animals at the Olean facility deserve a better life. Every animal at the SPCA is in desperate need of help. It’s up to us to offer them a second chance at life. The Cattaraugus County community must seize this opportunity.
CCSPCA must make its adoption policy more flexible, expedite the application process and encourage potential adopters, instead of throwing up road blocks and making it unnecessarily difficult to adopt.
CCSPCA claims that its “medical area” serves as “temporary housing for animals in need of medical attention, rehabilitation, or recovery time and where they can receive individual treatment from our medical staff.” This would be commendable, except that CCSPCA does not have one licensed medical staff member.
Aurora Cremen, a former employee, recalls her time at the CCSPCA: “The people in charge didn’t allow us to take animals to the vet. Some got infections and died. Many remained hurt in their cages for a very long time. There is a ‘vet office,’ but never an actual vet or anybody with any kind of medical training and I had to perform surgeries. We had to cut open dogs with scalpels and stitch them up.”
The city of Olean is party to a $120,000, two-year contract with the CCSPCA. Although it appears that CCSPCA has long been in breach of this contract by failing to sterilize and vaccinate all adopted animals; provide adequate veterinary care; respond to phone calls from the public; and provide adequate facilities for the proper care and sheltering of animals, Olean city officials appear content to squander taxpayers’ money, while demanding little in return.
Hundreds of signatures have been collected on a petition demanding that the contract between the city and CCSPCA be terminated and that alternative animal control services be pursued. As Olean city officials well know, the city is under no legal obligation to maintain a contract with a party that has been breaching the agreement on a daily basis. Animal control could be performed by the city, as in the past, or by alternative animal control providers. As city officials know, the names of several alternatives have already been provided.
Citizens for Shelter Reform, a campaign initiated by Animal Allies of Western New York, seeks to achieve long-term change at the CCSPCA through implementation of the No Kill Equation, a system which includes medical and behavioral rehabilitation, Trap-Neuter-Return programs for feral cats and a high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Citizens for Shelter Reform is not associated with any other shelter reform campaigns.
Contrary to CCSPCA board member Liz Connelly’s letter to the editor, there is no association between Citizens for Shelter Reform and former city of Olean dog warden MaryAnn Wehlage. Citizens for Shelter Reform is not associated with Mrs. Wehlage or those proposed by Mrs. Wehlage to take over animal-control services.
To learn more about Citizens for Shelter Reform, visit www.facebook.com/ReformCattCounty.
(Ms. Dunbar is the director of Citizens for Shelter Reform at Cattaraugus County SPCA.)