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Gimme shelter

Local animal shelters affected by economy

March 8, 2009
By RICHARD NILSEN The Leader-Herald

Local animal shelters report being hit by a double whammy - more animals surrendered to the shelter while fewer donations are made to support those animals.

"The number of animals we've taken in has probably doubled in the past two months," James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society Director Denise Feldle said. "At the same time, donations have dropped considerably."

Debi Crandall, shelter manager of the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said there is a great need there as well.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Bobbie Miles and her son, Anthony, of Gloversville, play with their new puppy that they are picking up to take home at the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society in the town of Mayfield Wednesday.

"People have always used the excuse that they are surrendering their pets due to financial hardship," Crandall said. "That hasn't changed."

She said it is difficult to know if the economy is causing more animals needing shelter. She said the economy is definitely making donations more difficult, however. She also said she is seeing more people having their pets neutered or spayed at the reduced price available at the shelter.

"We have a program called PAL [Prevent Another Litter] that costs 75.00," Crandall said. "It includes the spay or neuter, FIV [Feline HIV] and FeLV [feline leukemia] testing, a one-year rabies vaccine, ear mite treatment, oral flea treatment, cursory vet check, and a nail trimming. People call all the time saying they can't afford to have their pets 'fixed' because of the high cost. In fact, I would venture to say that by offering them a low-cost solution to their problem, it enables them to keep their pets in these unstable times."

Humane Society Co-President Joan Nehrbauer said the donation canisters seen around Fulton County also are bringing in less.

"People just don't have the money to give," Nehrbauer said.

But she said she was seeing a remarkable community response from both individual volunteers and local organizations.

"One man takes care of our Web site," she said. "Many come to do cleaning and donate to our pet food bank."

She said the pet food bank had its one-year anniversary in September and is surprised that some people still don't know about it. She said they are also happy to receive donations of cleaning products, paper products, blankets and other items.

Nehrbauer said the sad thing was many people turning in their pets were forced to because of being displaced to a relative or apartment where pets weren't allowed.

"Record numbers are turning [pets] in," she said. "It's either them or their pets."

The shelter is lowering adoption fees this month to $90 for dogs and $50 for cats to cut down on overcrowding.

Nehrbauer said money is tight at the shelter as well, and she appreciated groups like the Shirley J. Luck Senior Center that collected food and blankets for the shelter. The Broadalbin-Perth Central School, which donated $200 recently.

Feldle said the Lazy 8 Flying Club also was helpful with proceeds from its fly-ins going to the shelter's food bank for the past five years.

"They collected $2,500 last year," Feldle said. "The pet food bank was established with senior citizens in mind who are on fixed incomes."

Humane Society Co-President Mary Lewis said when the Fulton County SPCA closed there was good news and bad news.

"Sharon Hayes [Fulton County SPCA director] mainly did large animal rescue, so it didn't affect us too much," she said. "She did donate a lot of [pet] food, cages and a dog run that helped us greatly."

The MCSPCA also has a food pantry for pets.

"We have seen an increase in the number of people requesting food for their cats or dogs, which we are more than willing to donate to them," Crandall said. "We have alerted DSS, Centro Civico and other organizations to that fact. Anyone in need is welcome to call us and then come down during our business hours to pick up pet food. We only ask that they call first to make sure that we have a supply."

Nehrbauer said in spite of millions of animals being surrendered across the country, the Brennan shelter would continue. She said the animal shelter wasn't in any danger of folding, but it did need as much community support as possible.

"It's been here 30 years," Newbauer said. "It will be here after I'm gone."

Feldle said she saw the difficulties ahead last fall.

"We knew it would be a tough year starting last Thanksgiving," Feldle said. "We emptied three-quarters of the food pantry that week. People just can't afford to help."

Innovative events like the MCSPCA Comedy Night and a raffle at the Brennan shelter are ways the shelters raise money. The Fulton County shelter is selling raffle tickets for $5 each and will have a drawing April 29 with $200 first prize, $100 second prize, $50 third prize and $20 fourth through 10th prizes.

For more information, contact the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society at 725-0115, the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 842-8050 or the Ayres Memorial Animal Shelter at 673-5670.

Web sites that show animals open for adoption are, and respectively.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald. com.



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