Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Niagara SPCA problem is "who you know"

Pablo came from the Niagara SPCA. He's one of the lucky ones. Many cats
don't make it out of the facility alive. Changes are necessary.


When Paul Cambria becomes the voice of reason for your organization, you have some issues.

The Niagara SPCA certainly has some issues as it was recently discovered that the mortality rate for animals brought to the shelter on Lockport Road in Wheatfield is insanely high and the leadership of the organization seems to care very little for animals.

From Executive Director John Faso to members of the board to the shelter's veterinarian, the love of animals seems to have disappeared long ago.

I'm sure the volunteers at the organization care about the dogs and cats that come and go into the facility. As for the staff and board, I'm not so sure.

We got a cat from the Niagara SPCA several years ago - Pablo. When we went to pick out a cat, my little one fell in love with Pablo — a black black and white kitten with the appropriate number of digits. When we went to pick up Pablo, they tried to give us a different cat altogether (too many toes). We eventually got our Pablo, but concern about the organization was instilled in me immediately.

Liberty was purchased from a breeder in
Niagara Falls. More animal lovers — like
private breeders —are needed at the SPCA.
When I lived in Tonawanda, I occasionally volunteered at the Erie County SPCA on Ensminger Road. I was astounded at the love of animals that was apparent within the staff, as well as the volunteers. You could just tell that these people cared about what they were doing.

I think it's good that Erie County SPCA Director Barbara Carr headed up the Niagara SPCA investigation. There was some public concern that the two organizations were in cahoots and that Carr's investigation would soft-peddle the issues at the Niagara chapter. Based on Carr's findings, I would say that wasn't the case.

Personally, I never considered it damning that John Faso wasn't an animal expert. He was hired to run an organization, not to take care of pets. He was the figurehead and chief bean counter. I have no idea whether he performed those duties adequately or not, but several people seem to think he was thrown under the bus over this whole ordeal. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. But a move had to be made.
Now, however, more moves still need to be made, starting with the dissolution of the entire board of directors. Anyone who had any level of authority at the Niagara SPCA should be replaced with someone who isn't politically connected, as many of the board members of Niagara County's non-profits seem to be.

Several years ago, when I was doing Dialog on WLVL, I frequently mentioned Niagara County's circle of influence and the amount of nepotism, cronyism and incest within it. Forget six degrees of Kevin Bacon. In Niagara County, you could jump from anyone in any position of authority to the top dogs in just a move or two. That needed to stop then. It didn't. Maybe someone will see that it needs to stop now.

John Faso deserves some of the blame at the Niagara SPCA. The board deserves a lot of the blame. But "the system" deserves a lot of it to. In Niagara County, it often seems that it's not what you know, it's who you know. I realize that's a common theme nationwide, but it seems far too prevalent here.

Find some people that know (and care about) animals. Give them seats on the board. Write new bylaws that protect pets from the rampant stupidity and apathy of people. And start over.

At least that's what I think needs to be done.