CNY SPCA overcrowded after spike in cruelty cases

More than 100 animals removed from deplorable living conditions

MATTYDALE (WSYR-TV) - Rescuing animals from places where cruelty officers believe no one should live is the first challenge. Making room for them at the CNY SPCA is another hurdle.

“We seem to be at capacity most of the time,” said Linda DeMuro, interim executive director for the CNY SPCA. “It really makes it very challenging work when you have so many cruelty cases coming in.”

In addition to finding room, staff and volunteers need to get more cages ready, do more laundry, and plan more feeding times.  Then,  there are major medical costs.

DeMuro says a recent veterinary bill cost more than $3,000, all to care for a group of cats involved in suspected cruelty cases.

But, handling those cases is at the core of the CNY SPCA's mission.

“SPCA – Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and that’s really what we’re all about here,” DeMuro said. “We have to make sure we have kennel space available to take in those animals that are at risk and being abused.”

The CNY SPCA is finding some ways to fix the overcrowding problem. One part of the solution is working with other groups.

Recently, DeMuro says a group of cats from a cruelty case were cleared by veterinarians and sent to Humane CNY to be adopted. The move frees up space at the CNY SPCA for other animals in need.

Within less than a month, the CNY SPCA has taken on three cases out of Oneida County.

In the city of Utica, 44 cats were removed from a home on June 21. Investigators say the cats were “living in unhealthy and unsanitary conditions.”

The owner of the cats, Suzzanne Lugo, 58, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. She was released on an appearance ticket, according to CNY SPCA cruelty investigators.

On July 5, also in Utica, 23 cats were taken from another home. There, investigators say they discovered the cats “living in unhealthy and unsanitary conditions.” At that time, the animals’ owner had not been charged.

Just a few days later, on July 11 in the town of Whitestown, investigators removed 34 cats and four dogs from a home. Investigators also discovered 19 dead cats in a freezer inside the home.

The Whitestown home was recently “posted unfit for occupancy” by the town codes office. The owner of the animals and the homeowner, Patricia Kozien, 62, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. She was released on an appearance ticket, according to CNY SPCA cruelty investigators.

DeMuro says the CNY SPCA’s five full-time cruelty officers are rarely in-house because they are constantly responding to calls.

The CNY SPCA often waives fees for adult dogs and cats to encourage adoptions, which DeMuro says is helpful when trying to make more room for other animals.

Starting Thursday, July 20, DeMuro says the adoption fees for all puppies, dogs, kittens and cats, will be set at a flat rate of $50 per animal. The new fee will stay in effect until further notice.

The same adoption application process will stay in place, according to DeMuro, while also encouraging a few visits between potential adopters and animals to be sure the adoption is a good fit.

DeMuro says the CNY SPCA is receiving strong support from the public, but she understands if people are uncomfortable with donating funds directly. Instead, people are welcome to call the CNY SPCA and find out which vendors the shelter may need help paying. The payment can be made to the vendor directly, as a donation to the CNY SPCA, DeMuro says.

DeMuro took the helm just a few months ago after a difficult year for the CNY SPCA. Former executive director Paul Morgan pleaded guilty to multiple charges for stealing money from the organization.

The organization has not yet named a permanent executive director.

The need for different supplies is constantly changing, but people can visit the CNY SPCA website to find out what items are needed and what days volunteers are needed most.

DeMuro says with more help on Sundays and Tuesdays  days the shelter is closed to the public – staff can focus on enrichment and behavioral evaluations with certain animals, while volunteers take care of cleaning and feeding.

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