COOPERSTOWN – Stacie Haynes couldn’t believe the size of the check Staffworks founder Anita Vitullo handed her.
“I just about fell out of my chair,” the Susquehanna SPCA executive director said. “Last year we got $95,000 and I was nervous that we wouldn’t beat that!”
The Save-a-Life campaign offers shelters a matching donation of up to $10,000, and this year, Vitullo added some extra incentives – an extra $10,000 for every $100,000 raised, with a maximum of $20,000.
In all, the animal shelter raised $236,420, making it eligible to receive a total $30,000.
“People care so much and they really stepped up,” she said. “We had three ways people could donate; to the Emergency Medical Fund we set up after we got Zoe, the Save-a-Life fund and our Capital Campaign.”
In thanks for everything that Vitullo has done for the shelter, Haynes announced the Welcome & Adoption Center will be named for the Staffworks founder.
“Anita alone has helped us leverage an incredible amount of money,” said Haynes.
Last December, Vitullo offered a $10,000 matching grant, which spurred $75,000 in donations, and at the awards presentation in January 2019, she gave an additional $10,000 “high performers” grant to the shelter.
Vitullo’s generosity continued. In April, she announced the “Shelter Us” campaign, which would match contributions up to $250,000, adding $500,000 to the coffers. “These sorts of financial contributions make a huge difference,” Haynes said.
Although the SQSPCA’s original goal was $2 million, additions to the planned project have pushed the fundraising goal to $5 million, of which they now have $3.3 million.
“We’ve had a lot of support, and we’re so grateful,” said Haynes. “But it’s always challenging. We’re trying to raise money for our capital campaign, but also we need to raise funds for our annual operations, keeping the lights and heat on and the animals fed.”
Additionally, changes to the design and location of the shelter have added costs. “We changed the location of the shelter and decided to build a new thrift store,” she said. “And we’re adding a community room.”
The community room was inspired by both necessity and generosity. “We’ve had kids who, for their birthdays, instead of presents, ask people to donate to the shelter,” she said. “And they want to have their parties here or just sit and visit with the animals, and we don’t have a space.”
Similarly, staff meetings and trainings are held in the lobby of the cramped former motorcycle shop.
“We want people to be able to come here and for us to be able to show our appreciation,” she said.
Haynes anticipates a March groundbreaking for the new shelter, and is in conversations with several people and organizations about possible campaigns. But she also encourages anyone who wants to donate to feel free to come by the shelter and drop off a donation in person.
“We love it when people come and bring donations directly to us,” she said. “That way we can show them the behind-the-scenes of the shelter so that when we build the new one, they’ll be able to see the difference their contribution made.”
“It’s a lot of work,” said Haynes. “But a lot of people have helped get us here.”
The issue’s been hanging out there for a while: What role should the Otsego County Board of Representatives play in funding the Susquehanna Animal Shelter?
Schoharie County’s contribution is $75,000 a year to its shelter. Delaware County splits $88,000 among two shelters. Until now, Otsego County has contributed nothing.
The county has been allocating $5,000 a year. It is not a donation, but a fee for services, which seems like the better way to go.
At its Nov. 26 public hearing on its 2020 county budget, county representatives were advised the Susquehanna SPCA, using cost-accounting data developed by a volunteer, Cooperstown’s Richard Sternberg, plans to “unilaterally” begin charging what it has determined its true costs are.
In a situation with a lot of moving parts, doing anything “unilaterally” is not the best way forward.
For one thing, everyone seems to agree abused animals have to be taken care of, and that county government should pay for costs incurred.
County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., whose department out of necessity, drops animals seized in cruelty cases at the Hartwick Seminary shelter, said “the welfare of animals is both our priorities.”
County Board Chairman Dave Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, also buys into the general concept. “The board wants to take care of its responsibilities,” he said in last week’s newspaper.
So the issue isn’t that the county pay for costs incurred. It’s simply how much (and, perhaps, to whom)?
The shelter’s annual operating budget is over $700,000. Last year, with the 103 starving animals seized on that Garrattsville farm and 56 Lhasa Apsos surrendered in Milford, Sternberg estimated the county received some $70,000 worth of services.
(Remember, that’s the year-to-year “operating budget,” separate from the $3 million that’s been raised to build a 21st-century animal shelter on Route 28 at Index. Two different pots of money.)
Averaged out with Sternberg’s guidance, SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes estimated the county’s annual cost at about $40,000 a year, some 5 percent of its total expenses. That includes caring for dogs dropped off by the sheriff’s department, or when a shelter team responds to a call through the county’s 911 system.
When County Treasurer Allen Ruffles returns in January from his National Guard deployment in Djibouti, he should review those figures and come to a common understanding about the value of the services provided.
Under the state Ag & Markets Law, law enforcement – locally, mostly the sheriff’s department – is required to respond to animal-abuse complaints. When deputies remove an animal, they have to take it someplace.
The Susquehanna Animal Shelter has been the preferred option, but it doesn’t have to be.
As Bliss explains it, if the county wanted to contract for services, it would be required to go out to bid, and other shelters – Oneonta’s Superheroes in Ripped Jeans, for instance – could bid, as could individual veterinary practices. Or the county could set up its own pound.
Clearly, acting “unilaterally” may have unintended consequences all around.
The Susquehanna Animal Shelter has a lot going for it.
Under Haynes, it’s been a first-rate operation, evident most recently in bringing the heart-rending case of Zoe, the
German shepherd discovered chained last month in the Town of Exeter with a chewed-off leg and large tumor in her shoulder. Zoe was seized, treated and is now in a new home in the Butternuts Valley.
Successes like this have raised the shelter’s profile, and pet owners are aware of and likely to use its services.
People – that includes members of the county board – want to back a winner, to support excellence, so Susquehanna SPCA, in its current incarnation, is in a position of strength.
Still, it’s determine to do what it believes in. As Haynes put it in last week’s paper, “We have a moral obligation to do what we do. We’re never going to stop doing what we’re doing.”
Admirable, but it weakens the shelter’s bargaining position. It takes the county board off the hook: It can be assured, regardless, our Zoes will be taken care of regardless.
So it only makes sense to cool off the rhetoric. Get the numbers. In an $11 million local tax levy in a $120 million budget, $40,000 is smidgeon. It’s there somewhere. Still, the county board shouldn’t just give away money because somebody asks for it. Fee for service is the way to go.
Demanding will get us nowhere. Let level-headed representatives on both sides sit down, figure out what’s fair and mutually agreeable.
“According to the pathology report, the complete surgical excision is expected to be curative,” said Haynes. “They believed it was just a fatty mass, which is common in dogs her age. Zoe is cancer-free.”
COOPERSTOWN – At first glance, you wouldn’t know Zoe was a miracle.
“When I went to visit; she was jumping and playing like any normal dog,” said Stacie Haynes, Susquehanna SPCA executive director. “If you didn’t look at her leg, you wouldn’t think she was any different.”
Just two weeks ago, the 9-year-old German shepherd was found chained outside of 605 County Highway 22, just northwest of Exeter Center, without food or water, having chewed off her own leg in an attempt to reduce the pain from an 11-pound tumor on her shoulder.
In a high-risk surgery on Thursday, Nov. 21, veterinarians at Cornell University Hospital for Animals were able to remove the tumor and are awaiting the results of the biopsy.
“If it is cancerous, the vets believe she’s a good candidate for radiation or chemo,” said Haynes. “And people have donated more than $5,000, so we can afford her care.”
Surgeons also removed Zoe’s leg at the shoulder, but Haynes said the dog will learn to navigate just fine on three legs. She was shaved and given stitches, but now sports a Cornell t-shirt to keep her warm and prevent her from biting the stitches.
Dr. Christine Schneider of the Pittsfield Vet Clinic “has been taking care of her since we got her, and she’ll be able to go up and take out her stitches when the time comes.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, Zoe’s owner, Carl K. Prichard, 59, was charged with her abuse.
Though Haynes believed Zoe was intended to be a guard dog, but wouldn’t have been a very good one: Even after undergoing the ordeal, she’s been friendly, with “no standoffs or growling.”
“She’s so nice,” said Haynes. “It’s like incredible.”
At the hospital in Ithaca earlier today, veterinarians told Haynes that Zoe’s condition was “risky.” A CT scan had shown the fatty mass in the dog’s left shoulder was so close to key arteries an operation might kill her.
COOPERSTOWN – The Susquehanna SPCA fundraisers didn’t just meet the $100,000 challenge proposed by the C.J. Heilig Foundation.
They exceeded it.
On Sept. 16, the C.J. Heilig Foundation announced a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge grant of $100,000 to assist the SQSPCA in its Shelter Us capital campaign to help build a new animal shelter.
By the Friday, Nov. 1 deadline, donations and pledges generated by the Heilig match had topped $129,000, exceeding the goal and – with the match – bringing the SQSPCA $229,000 closer to its campaign target.
COOPERSTOWN – Six cats and three dogs were rescued from the Susquehanna SPCA Isolation Building and kennels this morning after overnight rains flooded the it with over 12 inches of water.
Executive Director Stacie Haynes was notified of the flooding around 6:30am by their landscaper Al Saltenberger. “I left as quickly as I could, but there was no cell phone coverage this morning and that delayed me being able to call in the staff until I reached the building,” said Haynes.
Before the rest of the staff arrived Haynes was joined by passerby Aaron Cleveland, a security officer at Bassett, who helped her move the frightened animals into dry and safe locations. “Last time we flooded we took steps to have mitigation in place.” said Haynes, “We put in gravel, put in rip-rap, and more. We have had no problems and felt really good about the work we did until today.”
The Susquehanna SPCA is just over the halfway point.
“We’ve received $1.9 million in our Shelter Us campaign,” said Stacie Haynes, executive director.
The campaign will help build the SQSPCA’s new shelter, which will have a groundbreaking ceremony at the new site at noon on Saturday, Aug. 24. (The acronym was changed from SSPCA to avoid confusion with four other SPCAs.)
Tweedie Construction, Walton, began the demolition on the first of the two houses on the site on Tuesday, Aug. 6, and within three hours, the abandoned house was in rubble.
“That site will serve as parking for the groundbreaking,” said Haynes. “We’ll take down the second house afterwards.”
Haynes debuted the plans in front of a packed house at the Town of Otsego Planning board the evening of the demolition.
“The SPCA isn’t just a volunteer organization, it’s a professional one,” said Randy Velez, Cooperstown. “There’s a professional level that needs to be maintained and the county depends on it.”
“I love the SPCA and the animals here and it needs to have a new building,” said Phoebe Needle, 9, the granddaughter of SQSPCA board chair and board member respectively, Gaylord and Nicole Dillingham.
The board approved the site plan and the special use permit.
“We want to build the best shelter we can build,” said Haynes. “This property has a safe location, better parking, and our volunteers won’t be walking dogs alongside Route 28.”
Consultant Barbara Carr has been assisting them in designing the shelter. “We’re so fortunate to have her at this critical time because she has helped build shelters,” said Haynes. “She can tell us what we have some wiggle room on and what we absolutely cannot cut.”
At the groundbreaking, visitors will finally have a chance to see full renderings of the proposed project, including a floor plan and artist rendering.
The ceremony will also include photographs with the shelter’s new mascots. “Everybody likes animals, but some people are more cat people or dog people,” she said. “So we found costumes for both!”
Visitors are also encouraged to bring shelter “alumni” – or any pet – for the photo booth. No furry friend for the booth? The shelter will have animals available to adopt, this month at half-price.
The new project goal has been raised from $2 million to $3 million, which will cover the costs of acquiring the new site, as well as demolition, work costs and constructing a building for the New Leash on Life Thrift Shop.
Anita Vitullo, New Hartford, Staffworks’ CEO, pledged to match donations up to $250,000 through October first, and the initial funding of $500,000 came through the state Companion Animal Capital Fund Grant through the Department of Agriculture & Markets.
The new shelter will allow them to expand their capacity for intake, care and adoptions. The shelter is currently struggling with an influx of kittens
Earlier this week, Haynes said, three kittens and a mother were trapped behind the Mirabito on Oneida Street in Oneonta. “A woman called us and said that she was from out of town and was leaving, but that she couldn’t sleep knowing that kittens were starving back there.”
Additionally, on Tuesday afternoon, two mother cats and two kittens were brought in suffering from severe flea infestations. “We have waiting list of 50 cats,” she said. “And that’s why we’re doing our ‘Study Buddy’ adoption program.”
The “Study Buddy” adoptions will go through the end of August and cut adoption fees for cats and kittens in half.
And with the groundbreaking planned, Hayes anticipates that they will be in the new space by next summer.
“One way or another,” she said. “We will be in our new building within a year.”
COOPERSTOWN – With adoptable animals, a pet photo booth and more, the Susquehanna SPCA will break ground on their new animal shelter building on Saturday, Aug,. 24
“We invite animal lovers, shelter supporters and volunteers from across the region to join us with their pets for an afternoon of fun as we celebrate this momentous occasion,” said SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes. “If you’re not familiar with our work, this is also a great time to come learn about our organization and see us in action.”
HARTWICK SEMINARY – It was a scene Stacie Haynes has seen play out before.
Two pigs, skinny and without food, water or hay, trying to eat the corpses of two dead pigs in a trash pile at a farm on County Route 18, Town of Pittsfield. “They were shivering and cold,” she said. “We got called out there at night in a rainstorm, and we seized them.”
Now playfully dubbed “Sonny and Cher,” the two pigs – one male, one female, approximately five months old – are at the SPCA with plenty of clean hay and shelter.