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SPECIAL EDITION OF THE CRIME: Tompkins Wants Answers from Niagara County SPCA

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By: Tony Farina

With six board resignations this year, it appears there are problems at the SPCA of Niagara once again and Niagara Falls City Councilman Kenny Tompkins is on the hunt for answers, especially when it comes to the almost $280,000-a-year the city contributes to the shelter.

“They [SPCA officials] will be coming before the council at our last meeting of the year on December 11,” said Tompkins, “and we would like to know how our money is being spent there.  They are not providing the required documentation to explain how our taxpayer money is being spent and we want answers.”

In fact, said Tompkins, not only is the documentation not being provided, but there are different sets of numbers on the number of animals being put down at the “no-kill” shelter.   

“I want to hear what’s going on there,” said Tompkins who said in addition to the council session, he will be conducting his own reconnaissance to try to get to the bottom of things at the shelter that has had problems in the past.

In the current upheaval, former Executive Director Amy Lewis has criticized the current director, Timothy Brennan, for his alleged lack of management skills as well as a lack of transparency at the shelter.  Brennan, with background as a fundraiser, took over the shelter last year with no experience in animal management.

Brennan has called his critics uninformed who think they know more about animal welfare than the professionals at the shelter.

But while the bickering and resignations undercut the shelter’s credibility, there is more.  Animals have been put to death without the required approval of the euthanasia committee and one dog was put down in a kennel rather than in the infirmary, a husky named Rez.

The board under Chairwoman Susan Agnello-Eberwein has told the Niagara Gazette that a new quality assurance committee has been established to help improve conditions at the shelter. 

The new committee should start by insisting on full disclosure about what goes on at the shelter where hundreds of animals are taken in with the hope that good homes can be found for them. 

The animals at the shelter are defenseless and rely on the care and handling of the people there for their lives.  The public needs to be informed about the quality of that care and the effort being made to live up to the “no-kill” name and find homes for animals who would bring joy and happiness to many a lonely owner looking for a companion.  

The Niagara Reporter strongly supports Councilman Tompkins’ efforts to get to the bottom of the bickering and name-calling at the shelter and protect the public’s investment in this important community resource.

Unfortunately, horror stories at animal shelters are not uncommon, and the very nature of the life-and-death goings-on at shelters are not for the faint hearted.  But honesty and transparency are vital to protect not only the public and donor investment that makes the shelters possible, but also the welfare of the helpless animals that wind up there.

The fighting between the former director and the current director, the resignations and finger-pointing by departing board members, and the discrepancies in euthanasia numbers should be a wake-up call for all involved.  Let’s hope at the December 11 council meeting, the SPCA is ready with answers for the road ahead.


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