Complaint prompts state check on SPCA

A complaint from a family trying to adopt a dog from the SPCA of Niagara led to a snap inspection from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets on Monday.

Mary Petrosino tells the Gazette she paid three visits to the shelter, with a friend and with her mother, in an effort to find a new dog after their former pet passed away. Her last visit was on Thursday. 

"We got a negative vibe," Petrosino said. "It smelled in there, like rancid urine."

She said when she asked a person working at the shelter about the smell, they replied, "It's a shelter. What can we do?"

After that experience, Petrosino said she called the New York State Department of Health on Friday. The health department told her they couldn't help her.

But hours later, Petrosino got a call from a representative from the Department of Agriculture and Markets. That agency is responsible for monitoring the operation of animal shelters.

Petrosino conveyed her concerns and the agency said they'd look into them. On Monday, an Ag & Markets inspector showed up at the Lockport Road shelter.

Monday afternoon, the Agriculture and Markets representative called Petrosino back. They did not tell her what they found during their visit.

"They said if I had concerns about (the welfare of animals at the shelter), I 'd have to file a police report," Petrosino said. "They encouraged me to file a police report."

The shelter has once again been the focus of community complaints and whistleblower reports questioning the treatment of animals in its care and its enforcement of policies that have allowed the shelter to operate as a "No Kill" facility.

"I don't know what's going to happen there," Petrosino said. "But something needs to happen,. It's sad, really sad."

The Buffalo News reported this week that SPCA of Niagara Executive Director Tim Brennan said in an email that the shelter received "passing grades" from state inspectors during the spot check. 

Calls from the Gazette to Brennan, and SPCA board president, Susan Agnello-Eberwein, were not returned on Wednesday. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Markets said the agency "takes concerns about animal health seriously." They also said they encouraged anyone with a complaint regarding an animal shelter to contact the agency.

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