21st Century Animal Care

The world of animal rescue has made big strides in the past ten years. “An incredible amount of research and information has come out about animal shelters and ways we can better care for animals,” said Stacie Haynes, executive director at the Susquehanna SPCA. 

Putting some of that knowledge to work, in 2021 the Susquehanna SPCA moved into a new building in Cooperstown, built from scratch to provide state-of-the-art care for animals, and for people who surrender or adopt them. 

For more than 30 years, the Susquehanna SPCA had carried out its mission in a former motorcycle shop that sat in a flood zone. Despite its flaws, that building served its purpose. But in 2017, when New York State created the Companion Animal Capital Fund to help animal shelters, the SPCA sought an opportunity to upgrade. It applied to the program and received a $500,000 grant. 

“That allowed us to move to higher and drier ground and to purpose-build a shelter that really fits our needs,” Haynes said. 

Designed by animal facility experts, the new building opened in July 2021. One of its special features is a sophisticated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. “We can have 100 animals under our roof, and the smell would never indicate that we do,” Haynes said. That’s pleasant for visitors, but more importantly, the system protects animals from airborne respiratory diseases and other illnesses, she said. 

“We’ve had animals come in with deadly illnesses that would have spread in our old shelter but have not in our new shelter,” Haynes said. 

A “feature room” in the main lobby provides an appealing display for visitors. “Often this is taken up with cute little kittens,” Haynes said. But the room might also feature a dog that needs extra human attention, or perhaps rabbits, guinea pigs or birds, she said. 

The new shelter contains two community cat rooms with “catios,” where felines can get fresh air and sunshine, and three dog kennel areas with easy-to-disinfect tile floors. For animals that need veterinary care, the building offers a modern medical suite with a grooming area, dental suite, surgery suite and recovery room. 

There are also improvements aimed at humans. For example, the new building provides separate entrances for people who come to surrender animals and people who come to adopt, providing a better experience for both groups. A new multipurpose room provides meeting space for the staff, including a place to coordinate farm animal rescues, Haynes said. 

A $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation helped the SPCA buy cameras and other security equipment for the shelter. These are especially important because the SPCA has contracts with 17 local governments, whose animal control officers may enter the building any time of day or night to drop off animals. 

All told, the project to build the new shelter has been a great success, helping the Susquehanna SPCA significantly improve its standard of care, Haynes said. “The purpose of the New York State grant was to increase the health and safety of animals. And I think that was a large motivation for the donors who made up this project as well.”

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