A year ago, the Niagara County SPCA was accused of euthanizing hundreds of healthy animals, which led to an investigation and the firing of its executive director. But as YNN's Antoinette DelBel tells us, the shelter has come a long way in a year.
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — The SPCA of Niagara was bustling Thursday as many walked through the doors looking to adopt - a major difference from one year ago when the shelter had to deal with the fallout from a scandal.
"We received a lot of negative calls in the beginning, a lot of people that were hesitant to surrender animals to the shelter and to adopt," said Amy Lewis, the shelter director of the Niagara County SPCA.
Last January, allegations regarding operations at the shelter led to an investigation which showed the shelter euthanized hundreds of healthy animals and also denied them medical care. That led to the firing of the shelter's former executive director, John Faso.
Lewis stepped in last February as interim executive director and now runs the shelter's operations. She said the survival rate for animals brought into the shelter used to be 27 percent, and is now one of the highest in the country.
"Last month, December was our highest save rate. We're sitting right around 99 percent," she said.
And adoptions have doubled.
"Last year, 2011, they did 741, and this year, we did 1,477 adoptions," said Lewis.
With numbers like that, Lewis said they can call themselves a "No Kill" facility, which means added expenses to keep up with medical care.
Fundraisers over the past year have helped to offset costs and gain back the public's trust.
"I think we're getting the message out there that our main mission is saving lives," said Lewis.
Molly Rubenstein, a veterinary technician at the SPCA of Niagara, agreed.
"When I'm out, I wear my (SPCA) jacket all the time, and I always have people coming up to me saying, 'I'm glad the place is getting better,'" said Rubenstein.
And volunteers said the shelter has also come a long way with its foster program, which started last February, so cats like Harvey can find his forever home.
"Since February, I've placed 817 animals into foster homes. That's 817 lives that were saved," said Ann Louise Carosella, the foster care coordinator at the SPCA of Niagara.
For the new year, SPCA officials said they're looking to improve the facility with new dog kennels and an on-site, low-cost spay and neuter program.