NIAGARA FALLS - Although there has been no announcement by the Dyster administration, sources tell the Reporter that the contemplated municipal animal shelter - conceived primarily to address the inordinate pit bull problem in Niagara Falls - is moving closer from talk to spending of public dollars.
Mayor Paul Dyster has begun preliminary discussions with the engineering firm of Clark Patterson Lee to design a shelter, which sources say may be likely to be located at the old public safety building on Hyde Park.
Clark Patterson Lee is on an annual retainer with the city to provide engineering services in lieu of the city actually hiring a city engineer. Brian Kulpa, an architect with the firm, is among those who have been briefed on the proposal to build the animal shelter, according to sources.
Kulpa, a Democrat, is also the Mayor of the Village of Williamsville.
The now vacant public safety building - which modestly housed police and courts before the $46.5 million municipal public safety building was constructed on Main St. - was scheduled to have been demolished in 2009 after police and courts vacated the building.
Because it is laden with asbestos, the Dyster administration had previously declared it would be prohibitive to renovate for most normal economic usages.
In addition Dyster said on the Tom Darro WJJL radio show that he had a trained policeman ready to manage the shelter and was seeking a vehicle.
This week a new animal control van painted with city ID was delivered to the DPW.
The need for a municipal animal shelter seems, apparently, to be caused by a combination of four factors:
1. New York State law requires municipalities to impound abandoned dogs and cats and keep them for five days (Article 7, section 7 of the Agriculture and Market law) before offering them for adoption or destroying them. Niagara Falls has contracted this legally required service out to the Niagara County SPCA, which charges the city $195,000 per year.
2. The SPCA's recent decision to approach no kill shelter status, which requires 90 percent of animals that come in their shelter doors to be released alive.
3. An overabundance of abandoned, unadoptable pit bulls in Niagara Falls which have filled up 90 percent of available cages at the Niagara County SPCA. Formerly these dogs would have been destroyed but now that the SPCA keeps them indefinitely, consequently their cages are filled with pit bulls - some of them who are expected to remain there for years to come. Currently, the SPCA has about 75 pit bulls. However, the shelter only has a total of 74 permanent kennels for all dogs combined. Several animals are living in makeshift quarters.
4. Absent a renegotiated contract - the SPCA said, in either 2016 or 2017, it will stop accepting abandoned animals from Niagara Falls.
Mayor Dyster got his three member council majority of Andrew Touma, Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker to set aside $3.2 million in casino cash to build what Dyster has said will be a no kill municipal animal shelter. None of the council members questioned Dyster on annual cost to operate the no kill shelter before voting to approve the set aside to build it. Dyster himself has not offered any cost estimates.
Based on a preliminary review of published budgets of no kill shelters around the nation, and the annual number of calls the SPCA presently receives from Niagara Falls for abandoned animals - which suggest an average cost of around $250 per call and as much as $10,000 per kennel - including all expenses of a shelter facility, taxpayers should expect to ante up far more than the $195,000 they presently pay to the SPCA and as the never killed pit bulls expand in population at the shelter - more than a million per year.
Meantime, the city has not, apparently, considered remedies other communities employ who have pit bull problems:
Most municipalities destroy unwanted, dangerous pit bulls.
About one million pit bulls - about a third of all adult pit bulls in the USA - are surrendered every year to animal shelters or impounded, most often for dangerous behavior. About 80% of pit bulls coming to animal shelters in other municipalities are destroyed because they are too dangerous to adopt.
Niagara County SPCA and soon to be Niagara Falls are on the vanguard of keeping unadoptable and potential dangerous pit bulls in cages for life.
While many cities have or still have pit bull problems, over 700 U.S. cities have enacted breed-specific laws - mainly geared toward pit bulls to reduce their population and lessen the need to destroy these animals once, as disproportionately, many of them inevitably do, either bite someone or wind up in shelters.
These breed specific laws range from outright bans to mandatory neutering of pit bulls, to restrictions and conditions on ownership such as mandatory microchip implants and liability insurance, or prohibiting people convicted of a felony from owning them, to declaring pit bulls inherently dangerous or vicious - allowing for quicker destruction of a pit bull in the event of a menacing or aggressive act.
For decades, pit bulls have accounted for more than half of all fatal dog attacks on humans. In 2014, in the U.S. and Canada, pit bulls killed 31 people. They disfigured hundreds of people and killed thousands of animals.
Ontario, Miami-Dade County, Winnipeg, Denver, South Milwaukee, The United Kingdom, Brazil's State of Rio de Janeiro, Denmark, Ecuador, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela along with hundreds of other municipalities have made strides toward or solved their pit bull problem by targeting owners or banning the dogs.
While many say that pit bulls are not more prone to bite than other dogs, because their bite is more powerful and their attacks tenacious, the risk of fatality or serious injury is higher than any other dog.
While pit bulls account for more than half of US human fatalities caused by dogs they represent less than six percent of the US dog population.
|Pit bulls are both the most dangerous dogs to humans and most abused dogs by humans. Left Hugo; right Rikus.