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NOV 18- NOV 26, 2014

Is a City-Owned Animal Shelter a Wise Choice? Will Likely Cost Far More Than SPCA Services

By Anna M. Howard

November 18, 2014

Some animals may never be adopted. And be quite costly to care for. Should they be "humanely euthanized" or sheltered indefinitely at taxpayers’ expense? And should the city get into this business?

The 2015 Dyster administration, it turns out, has a total set aside of $ 3.2 million divided equally over 2015 and 2016 under capital projects to support the establishment, implementation and operation of a city run no-kill animal shelter.

As 17 city employees prepare to be laid off, as up to 60 more city employees prepare to take advantage of a Dyster administration early retirement incentive that will give each of the potential 60 retirees $20,000 to walk away at the close of 2014 and as the mayor prepares to raise business and homeowner property taxes, he is also planning for the city to administer an animal rescue and shelter operation.

The reason appears to be as a result of the tortured relationship existing between city hall and the Niagara County SPCA.

With Niagara Falls being the largest part of the SPCA’s work area, logic states that Niagara Falls would be the costliest element in their work.

Dyster’s city hall has repeatedly taken issue with the amount of money they are being charged for animal rescue and protection services.

While there may or may not be a legitimate reason for city hall balking at the cost of services we find the city’s move to create its own animal shelter to be worthy of some serious questioning.

As the city budget teeters on the brink of a tax increase, city hall is threatening to go into the animal shelter business?

Presently the city has no expertise or professional background to enter this highly technical field. The city has no building to operate out of, no employees, no vehicles, no equipment and - because of the already large deficit - no way of affording the ongoing operation and maintenance of an animal shelter.

Unless the case can be made that the city can own and operate its own animal shelter, with city employees, and a new department, cheaper than what the city pays the SPCA.

The city had been paying around $84,000 per year when the SPCA was collecting strays for the city and freely euthanizing hundreds of animals.

With the idea of no kill as a goal, the SPCA needs to collect at a rate based on actual costs borne by the agency inside the Cataract City, which run closer to $225,000 per year.

Since the average union salary with benefits runs nearly $75,000 per year, it would only take three employees to cost more in salaries alone than what the SPCA said it needed.

When you add the cost of heat and food and vet care for the animals, it would seem inconceivable that the city can do the animal services work cheaper than the SPCA.

Ironically, the approximate yield of the tax increases recommended by Mayor Dyster for 2015 will be less than one year’s funding of the Dyster animal shelter which is about $1.6 million.

Perhaps the best plan would be to stop the animal shelter talk and get back to the negotiating table with the SPCA and save both the business owners and homeowners some bucks.

The choice of action in this situation should be “first do no harm to the animals” and “second do no harm to the Niagara Falls taxpayer.”

Let’s not use neglected and suffering animals as pawns in a political struggle of wills between the City of Niagara Falls and the SPCA.





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
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