SPCA of Niagara faces severe overcrowding crisis with no solutions in sight

Feb. 21—"Dire."


"No solution in sight."

These are the words and phrases that SPCA of Niagara Executive Director Amy Lewis uses to describe the overcrowding taking place at her Lewiston Road shelter.

In recent months the facility has been overrun with an influx of dogs in particular, that is proving close to unmanageable.

Since the beginning of the year, the shelter has taken in 67 more dogs than it did in the same period in 2022.

"I'd like to say we're managing, but we're just getting by," Lewis said of the 58% increase in dog intake so far this year. "The situation is dire. It's desperate."

The shelter has 71 available dog kennels. It currently has 90 dogs that it is caring for.

Another dog, a chihuahua, arrived over the weekend. Lewis said the shelter manager brought the dog into her office on Monday and asked, "Where do you want me to put this one?"

The facility is at 126% of its capacity for dogs.

"We have no room," Lewis said flatly. "We have dogs staying in offices (at the shelter). We have staff taking dogs home."

And the SPCA executive says a slow pace of adoptions is not the organization's greatest challenge.

Though an influx dogs being brought north after severe weather events in the south has taken a toll.

"We've got all these dogs coming up from the south," Lewis said, "and they're taking up homes that could take our dogs."

The largest driver of the overcrowding crisis, Lewis says, is a huge increase in the intake of dogs as a result of municipal animal control contracts and private surrenders.

"Intake has sky-rocketed," Lewis said. "This is one of the reasons we have had to get out of all of our municipal contracts."

The SPCA of Niagara, under previous leadership, undertook to provide sheltering services for more than a dozen Niagara County municipalities as means of generating revenue.

But the organization says now that the revenue generated by the contracts was not sufficient to handle the ever-increasing animal control demands of the municipalities.

The SPCA has notified all its municipal partners that it will not be renewing animal control contracts as they expire.

Its contract with North Tonawanda ends in March. Niagara Falls' contract expires in October.

Although the SPCA has a long-term plan to expanded its facility, the Lockport Road shelter currently just isn't large enough to house the number of animals being brought in from villages, towns and cities, while also accommodating surrenders from private individuals.

Lewis said the shelter's private surrenders are increasing at a record rate.

She said the lingering after affects of the pandemic, inflation and other economic circumstances have created a perfect storm for the shelter.

"I've never seen so many animals surrendered because people have lost their homes or because the simply cant' afford to care for (their animals)," Lewis said.