Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

March 5, 2013

Fighting like cats 'n dogs?

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A trio of no-kill activists are suing the Niagara County SPCA, claiming the non-profit animal welfare agency’s reorganization is illegal.

Three dues-paying members, Ellen Reese and Clara Miller of Erie County, and Carol Tutzauer of Wilson, filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court last week seeking to have the May 2012 election of board members, and changes in the bylaws made by that board, invalidated. They’re further seeking a court-supervised annual membership meeting for the purpose of getting a new board elected.

The suit is prompted by the recent discovery that NCSPCA has raised its annual “full” membership fee to $1,000 from $25. Only full members have voting privileges at the organization’s annual meeting, according to the SPCA’s web site.

Buffalo attorney Peter Reese, whose wife is one of the complainants, charged the current board is trying to “dump” dues-paying members, a number of whom are no-kill enthusiasts who joined the organization a year ago in the midst of a euthanasia scandal.

With the membership fee increase, Reese said, “they’ve declared all-out war on the members. ... The supreme body (of SPCA) is the members and this board has decided to run away with it.”

The activists’ 72-page suit complains NCSPCA is not being run transparently or in a fiscally responsible fashion. The chief complainants are the Reeses, who cut off their $2,000-a-month donations at some point last year after the board did not yield to their demand for changes including granting “amnesty” to all former SPCA trustees, employees and volunteers, getting local veterinarians on board with the no-kill philosophy and appointing Carol Tutzauer to a vacant board seat.

Tutzauer, the president of Buffalo Humane, emerged as a local leader in the effort to reform SPCA of Niagara in early 2012 after revelations about the wanton destruction of animals in its custody. The executive director at the time was fired and SPCA trustees yielded their spots to a new board, elected in May by $25-a-year dues-paying members. Fifteen trustees were chosen from a slate of 24 approved by the former board; Tutzauer was “denied” the opportunity to run for a seat, according to the suit.

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