Solicitations, by phone, mail, email or in person, are a pesky part of 21st century life.
The advantages the Susquehanna SPCA’s “Shelter Us” campaign for $3 million to build a new animal shelter are: one, the people who are running it are our neighors – we know them. And, two, everything about it is first rate.
Anita Vitullo of Clinton, Staffworks’ president and philanthropist to the pet world, underscored the many ways “Shelter Us” is top notch in her remarks Saturday, Aug. 24, at the groundbreaking on Route 28 at Index.
She talked about “dynamic leadership,” and how the shelter’s dynamo executive director, Stacie Haynes, called her and “did a good job of convincing me” to provide support. Add board chair Gaylord Dillingham and “Shelter Us” chair Anne Keith to that dynamic cadre.
Vitullo, who was announcing “Shelter Us” had raised the $250,000 needed to match her matching grant, went on to speak about commitment, and customer service, and mission – all the things that, no doubt, has made her placement company successful, too.
Add in creativity and innovation. Vitullo told how Haynes collaborated with Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. and District Attorney John Muehl in creating a county Animal Cruelty Task Force, to get ahead of some of the pet and farm-animal related fiascos of the past few years.
Another aspect of the drive that hasn’t been reported on yet is bringing in Scott Learned, principal in Design Learned, a cutting-edge shelter-design company from Norwich, Conn.
Learned, who is considered among the best in the business, doesn’t even call what he does shelter design. He uses the
term “animal-care facility engineering.”
When you visit a Learned shelter, Haynes will tell you, you don’t hear the barking that generally erupts. The shelter is designed to house animals in a way that makes them feel safe; they can relax.
The pungent smells that can hit you in the face entering some shelters aren’t present in Learned shelters, due to an advanced understanding of what HVAC can do.
And there’s much more we’ll learn about in the months ahead.
The most impressive quality in today’s Susquehanna SPCA operation and “Shelter Us” is a focus on best practices. There’s no fear that the need to learn will be interpreted as a shortcoming.
That’s a quality of any first-rate institution.
Many SPCAs looking for a new building are misdirected, said Carr, who pioneered getting animals out of shelters to fairs and other gatherings where people might want to adopt them, an idea much resisted when she introduced it in the 1990s.
What they really need is help with their operations. What’s the point of building a new building if they don’t modernize their approach to animal welfare.”
Now retired from the $17 million Erie County Animal Shelter she helped build and a sought-after consultant, Carr was recruited by Haynes and Dillingham to advise the Susquehanna SPCA on what it needed to know – much that it didn’t even know it needed to know.
At the current Hartwick Seminary operation, Carr was pleasantly surprised: Haynes and her staff and volunteers “were just hungry for knowledge, excited about change, willing to do the hard thing of living in change; there’s nothing more human than being uncomfortable with change.”
All this is part of a piece – to make the resulting shelter at Index as good as it can be.
The “Shelter Us” goal has risen from $2 million to $3 million as aspirations rose from good to better to best during efforts to date.
“We’re here to do it once and to do it right,” is how Haynes put it during Saturday’s groundbreaking.
In an interview, Dillingham was determined to reach the $3 million – and given building decisions that need to be made, to reach it by Christmas. What a great end date that would be.
Let’s do it, of course, for the sake of the dogs, cats and others the new shelter will serve. But let’s do it with the assurance the outcome will be as good as it can be – a credit to Otsego County – and our support will only make it better.