(reprinted from this week’s Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal)
HCP Architects, Albany, prepared this preliminary artist’s rendering of the new Susquehanna SPCA.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

HARTWICK SEMINARY – When Stacie Haynes first arrived at the Susquehanna SPCA, the new executive director walked through the building and made a list of what needed work.

Among the issues she found were a leaky roof and a mold-covered poster in what would become the surgery room. According to Clean Pro Gutter Cleaning Boston, a leaky roof could be caused by faulty or blocked gutters, so having the gutters cleaned was one of the first jobs they had done. “It’s all pressboard in there,” she said, “There’s not enough stainless steel, so you can never really disinfect every inch.”

Repairs were done but, three years into her tenure, Haynes and her board of directors recognizes the shelter has far outgrown the repurposed motorcycle shop that has served as the shelter since 1981.



This week, they launched the 100-year-old Otsego County institution’s first capital campaign, hoping to raise $2 million to build a state-of-the-art, 21st-century facility a mile north of the current site.

“It’s a serious number,” she said. “We have to rely on supporters that we already have, but we’ll have to make some new friends too.”

Among those new friends is Anita Vitullo, founder and president of Staffworks, the Utica-based temp service with an Oneonta office. Her Staffworks Charitable Fund has offered to match “Save a Life” donor dollar-for-dollar on all donations made in the month of December, up to $10,000.

It was a $500,000 grant from the state Companion Animal Capital Fund that brought the idea of a new shelter into focus – contractors Haynes brought in to renovate the existing buildings said: Don’t spend a half-million on these buildings.

In the “quiet phase” of the campaign that follow, $180,000 in initial donations were raised. The “public phase” of the campaign, launched this week, aims to raise the remaining $1.12 million.

There are opportunities for big donors: $1 million donation would bring naming rights for the whole complex. Other naming rights go down to $2,500 to get your name listed on a plaque in the lobby.

To hit the goal, a 17-person Capital Campaign Committee realizes, will take big gifts, middling gifts and small ones – there’s a role for everyone.

Shelter board Chair Gaylord Dillingham, Springfield Center, also chairs the campaign committee; Cory Moffat of Cooperstown is co-chair. Shelter board First Vice Chair Kathy Clarkson and Second Vice Chair Laurie Zimniewicz are among Campaign Committee members.

“The first plan was to buy the property behind the Polar Bear Ice Cream shop,” said Dillingham. “We even considered running the ice cream shop, but that was abandoned.”

But located on Oaks Creek, flooding concerns would remain, and the shelter’s limitations remained. “As I was writing the grant, I asked three different people: ‘If I get $500,000, how should I spend it?'” said Haynes. “And all of them said: ‘not by fixing this place.”

The shelter hopes to close on the new 1.2-acre site within a few weeks, said Dillingham. Work would begin next spring, with a target move date of May 2020.

“It will be a better facility to house a growing need,” said Dillingham.

Among other features, the new shelter will have two entrances, one for adoptions and the other for surrendering animals that owners can no longer care for.

“We had one instance where a young man was in here with his mother picking up a poodle for her, and they were so excited,” said Haynes.

“And in the same room, we’ve got a man crying because he has to surrender his grandparents’ dog because they could no longer care for it and he couldn’t bring it into his apartment. We want people to have privacy during difficult times.”

And for people who are there to meet their new animal companion, there will be a “living-room” type space where you can get to know your prospective dog or car. Also, there will be dog-walking trails.

“Right now, it’s such a confusing setup,” said Haynes. “You have to see the dogs in kennels. This way, you can really see if you have a bond with an animal.”

The increased meeting time is part of a new application process, recommended by consultant Barbara Carr, Erie County SPCA executive director who was brought in to ensure the Susquehanna SPCA is using best practices in every way.

Under the new approach, a potential owner, rather than fill out a form, meets with a staff member to explore what kind of pet might be best suited. “It’s a conversation,” said Haynes. “And it’s increased our length of stay from 100 days down to 30.”

Additionally, the shelter will have increased space for more animals – cats on one side of the building; dogs on the other – and a new surgical suite with exam rooms, laundry and isolation rooms for new animals that may be sick or violent.

Known recently as the Susquehanna Animal Shelter, the board also changed the name back to Susquehanna SPCA, connoting its connection to a larger pool of resources and expertise.

There will also be offices for the staff, and a community room. “You could have a birthday party in there, if you wanted,” said Dillingham. “We really want to incorporate ourselves into the community.”

And with the recent animal cruelty cases against farm animals, Haynes says that the board is considering adding some oversized pens or a flexible space to house pigs, goats or other farm animals until a dedicated rescue organization can retrieve them.

“We won’t turn away a cruelty case,” said Dillingham.

And the building is designed in such a way that, as the need increases, so can the space.

The campaign officially kicked off Wednesday, Nov. 21, and donations can be made through the Save a Life foundation or directly to the shelter. (See contribution form on Page A5.)

But Haynes stressed that every donation, no matter how small, counts towards their goal of helping every needy animal in the county.

“The majority of our budget comes from individual donations,” she said. “And we’re really excited to kick off this campaign.”



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