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SPCA asks for help with overflow of pets at shelter

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Three dogs look out from their kennels at the shelter. The SPCA is overflowing with shelter dogs that need good homes.

LOCK HAVEN — There’s a problem here in Clinton County and with the community’s help it can be fixed.

The Clinton County SPCA, which can house approximately 19 shelter dogs, is overflowing with dogs looking for a home.

“This is the fullest we’ve ever been,” Shelter Manager Cristy Lehman said.

The shelter is currently using some of its boarding space to house the overflow of dogs while they try to find a solution, Lehman said.

“This is the first time that it has been like this since we became a no-kill shelter,” Mary Jo Williamson, SPCA volunteer board president, said.

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Clinton County SPCA Shelter Manager Cristy Lehman sits with shelter favorite Clifford. Clifford is 10 years old and a mix of multiple breeds. He’s been at the shelter for two months after the unfortunate passing of his owner.

The shelter has been classified as no-kill for approximately seven years, the same time they began their Trap Neuter Release (TNR) program to combat the growing cat population in the county.

The TNR program has helped with both cats and dogs but Williamson has become concerned with the increase in population.

“I’ve been on the board for over 20 years and we’ve always been declining,” she said about the population. But now that’s changed.

“It’s been so constant we can’t keep up,” Lehman said. The shelter staffs nine employees that are mixture of both full- and part-time.

Since the increase in November they’ve found themselves working as much as 60 plus hours a week, she said.

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Katy Purry, front, and Ashley, back, explore their pen.

Both Lehman and Williamson believe breeding has played a part in the population increase.

“There’s no need to be breeding dogs,” Williamson said. “Unless there’s a purpose to it there’s no need to breed dogs or to not have a dog spayed or neutered.”

Lehman said the SPCA participates in National Spay Day which encourages pet owners to spay or neuter their pets.

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2020 the shelter will offer a $25 discount voucher on the cost to spay or neuter a pet that can be used at multiple veterinary clinics in the county, Lehman said.

You can call in and reserve the voucher which is good until June 30, she said.

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Two-year-old Siblings Nala, left, and Apollo, right, are a mix of pitbull and boxer and have been at the shelter for a month.

Spaying or neutering your pet is one way to combat the issue the SPCA is having.

“Spay and neuter … that’s how the county can help,” Lehman said.

“Everybody needs to get their pets spayed or neutered because we don’t need anymore unwanted cats or dogs,” Williamson said. “And if you don’t have a reason to be breeding don’t do it.”

The Libre Law, which was enacted in 2017 to help protect dogs from exposure from extreme whether is also causing the influx of dogs.

“Because of the law our numbers have raised,” Lehman said.

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Lady, a four-year-old Cockerspaniel, perches on top of Lehman’s shoulder for a moment.

She explained that when someone reports an instance of a dog being tied out in the elements, the SPCA has to take action.

They first speak with the owner, and if they won’t correct the problem they have to take them to the shelter and charge them with breaking Libre Law, she said.

If they owner takes the shelter to court, that can cause an expense problem as well, she said.

Both Williamson and Lehman believe the law is good, it creates a burden on the shelter that isn’t being helped.

“A lot of people support these laws but don’t support the shelters,” Lehman said.

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Cats River, left, and Sunny, right, play with a toy.

The cost to care for the dogs and cats at the shelter can be very high.

Lehman said in 2018 the average cost to care for a dog — including building utilities, veterinary appointments, medicine and food — was $725 per dog per day.

The shelter is not funded by the state and receives approximately $25,000 in funding from Clinton County and the city of Lock Haven, Williamson said.

“Our major support comes from bequest,” she added.

Between the increased dog population, an ever large cat population and limited finances the shelter has found itself in a difficult situation.

“We’re in a situation where I don’t know what we’ll do,” Williamson said. “That’s a big question for me and the board. We’ve never been in this situation since we became a no-kill shelter.”

Williamson and Lehman both encourage the community to come to the shelter and consider adopting one of their many dogs or cats to help with their growing population.

“If they’ve lost a pet or if they’re considering a pet, they really should consider an SPCA animal,” Williamson said.

“If you know somebody looking for a dog send them to us,” Lehman noted.

The cost to adopt a dog is $150 which includes a license and the cost to adopt a cat is $51.80.

For those who are unable to adopt, volunteer work and donations are always appreciated.

“We’re looking for dog walkers, a lot of dogs are big that can go for walks,” Williamson said. “We let people come in and play ball (with the dogs) and have people that come in and brush the kittens or play with them.”

Lehman said they’re always open to those who may want to help with some of the dirtier aspects of the job as well.

If anyone is interested in volunteering they have to schedule a time by calling the office at (570) 748- 4756.

“They would have to go through our short orientation,” Williamson added. “There has to be some dog knowledge.”

Donations are a big help to the shelter whether in the form of money or food, treats and toys.

“There’s nothing we can’t use,” Lehman said.

Williamson noted that when donating food it should be brown and not colored to help the shelter watch for possible health issues any dog or cat may be experiencing.

She also said, although appreciated, toys can be a little tricky when they’re unsure of how rough a dog may be with it.

“We’ve had dogs that have eaten a Kong and gotten it surgically removed,” she said. “We try to steer clear of toys.”

Donations can be dropped off at the shelter during their offices ours which are noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Lehman also said sponsoring a pet online and in print can be a big help too which can be done by calling the shelter.

A monterey donation, which can be made by cash, check or online through their website www.clintoncountyspca.org, can go a long way.

“If we can’t afford the staff how do we pay for the work,” Lehman explained.

For those who may be considering surrendering their pet, or dropping it off at the intake of the shelter, Lehman encourages them to contact her anonymously first.

“Call me and tell me their information,” Lehman pleaded. Lehman added that her personal phone number is listed in the answering machine so they could also text her the information anonymously.

She said it helps when gathering information about the pet such as age, name and any health issues they may have. Anonymity isn’t a problem for Lehman.

“I don’t care about the person, I care about the animal,” she said.

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