2007-07-28 / News

SPCA coming to Potter County

Relocation of the SPCA shelter currently operating in Wellsboro to a Potter County site will take place next year, thanks largely to the generosity of the late Helen F. Miller.

Howard Nelson, chief executive office of the Pa. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, confirmed the pending relocation on Thursday.

A bequest to the SPCA from Helen F. Miller, who died on Jan. 3, 2005, is "in the millions of dollars," Nelson confirmed. It comes with strict instructions that an animal shelter be established in Potter County.

At the same time, he added, the SPCA has been operating at an annual deficit of more than $125,000 in Wellsboro and is plagued by space limitations at that site.

"That combination of circumstances makes this a pretty easy decision to reach," Nelson told Endeavor News.

He also confirmed that a real estate agent is looking for potential sites in the Galeton area, in close proximity to Rt. 6, which would be a logical midpoint between the two major population centers of Potter and Tioga counties.

"The goal is to have a selfsustaining shelter that is large enough to accommodate the SPCA services of animal lifesaving, spaying/neutering and cruelty prevention and response," Nelson said.

To that end, the SPCA will launch a cleverly named Spay Ship for Potter and Tioga counties next year. It's a mobile clinic that provides free or reduced-price pet spaying and neutering services.

The organization will also provide stray dog and cat transportation service from Galeton to some outlying communities, including Wellsboro and Mansfield.

Ironically, the Wellsboro SPCA shelter was established in 1947 largely as the result of another bequest, consisting of $365,000 and a 64-acre farm.

SPCA Chief Operating Officer Elaine Skypala said the Potter County site will include a new structure operated under that private, non-profit organization's guidelines.

"We will be starting from scratch in Potter County," Skypala said. "We are going to build a new structure. We just don't know where yet."

Staffing decisions will be made in the coming months. The Wellsboro shelter has three full-time employees. In Potter County, the staff may expand with new part-time positions as well as opportunities for volunteers.

Wellsboro SPCA has received an average of nearly 300 animals, mostly dogs and cats, per month. Skypala described it as a "low-kill" shelter, in which animals that are sick, injured or too aggressive toward people are sometimes euthanized.

She said adoptable animals are currently either given to a local rescue group to see if they can find the animals a home, or are taken to Philadelphia where they have a better chance of being adopted. If those animals are not adopted after a period of time, they are euthanized, Skypala added.

Wellsboro SPCA provided shelter for 2,376 unwanted companion animals last year. There were 450 adoptions. About 1,270 animals were transferred from Wellsboro.

Statewide, the SPCA is overhauling its operation, aiming to better combat animal cruelty and lower the number of dogs and cats that are euthanized. The SPCA took in about 30,000 animals last year and handled about 7,000 investigations.

Skypala said SPCA's goals include putting out of business "puppy mills," where dogs aren't treated well, and setting up a statewide hotline for reporting animal cruelty.

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