Tonawanda News

July 13, 2013

Judge blocks SPCA from suspending services

Staff reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The SPCA of Niagara’s bid to discontinue non-emergency animal control services to the city of Niagara Falls has been put on hold for at least a few days. 

City Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson said state Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch signed a restraining order on Friday that temporarily bars the animal shelter from following through on its plan to suspend animal control services in Niagara Falls. 

Johnson said the order will remain in place until a formal hearing next week. 

“What that means is the SPCA must continue providing services to the city through at least 10 a.m. Thursday at which time there is going to be a hearing,” Johnson said. 

SPCA officials announced earlier this week plans to suspend animal control services within city limits, saying the Lockport Road animal shelter is no longer in a financial position to continue “subsidizing” services in Niagara Falls. They maintain the $83,520 paid under the existing contract - which expired at the end of 2011 - is not sufficient to cover the shelter’s costs in the falls, which SPCA officials argue is high due to a “high-need dog population.”

SPCA board President Michelle Madigan estimated that the shelter is currently losing roughly $150,000 per year under the expired arrangement, “putting a tremendous financial strain” on the nonprofit group’s “very limited budget.”

The SPCA has said that it will continue to provide animal rescue and cruelty prevention services as needed in the falls. 

The city has been paying on a month-by-month basis for animal control services since its current contract ended. 

Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said his administration has been engaged in contract talks with various officials from the SPCA dating back to early 2012 when several aspects of the shelter’s operation were called into question following a report issued following a review by the SPCA of Erie County. 

City officials have said that while they understand the SPCA’s need for funding to provide adequate services to the community, the city would like more detailed information about the shelter’s proposed expenses as negotiations continue. 

On Thursday, officials in the Town of Lockport came to terms on a tentative, three-year deal that would increase the town’s annual fee for dog services to $13,210 this year, up from $9,700 last year. The rate would increase by 2 percent a year in 2014 and 2015.