Innovations energize Niagara County SPCA

CONTRIBUTEDThis photo was taken for the Niagara County SPCA's Shelter Pet Video Shout Out program in which an animal can wish someone a happy birthday via video.

When Mary Alloy stopped by the Niagara County SPCA shelter to drop off baked goods for the volunteers this past Sunday, the first day of National Volunteer Week, she paused to talk with Kimberly LaRussa, the organization's event coordinator, as she printed out the flyers that she has been putting on the boxes at Just Pizza in Amherst.

Drawing national media attention, Alloy, a pizzeria owner, has been working with the Niagara County SPCA since earlier this year to get people interested in adopting shelter dogs by featuring them on the flyers. Anyone who adopted a "pizza flyer" dog also got a $50 gift certificate from Just Pizza.

Not anymore.

Not exclusively, at least.

"It should be anybody who adopts a dog gets a gift certificate," Alloy declared while talking to LaRussa. "It's just a little more incentive to get these dogs home."

"So many dogs were adopted that were on the pizza boxes," LaRussa said. "(Just Pizza) customers are still coming in and saying, 'Mary, this is a great thing you're doing here, and thank you for helping the animals. She just wanted to do a little bit more."

Thanks to Alloy's flyers and other innovations, Niagara County SPCA is succeeding in its mission despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the shelter has been reducing access to all of the animals in its care, starting with reduced hours, and currently is facilitating curbside adoptions only, in which a requested animal is brought outside to meet their potential adopter at a pre-arranged time. Gone are the days when one could walk into the shelter and see a wide variety of animals.

LaRussa says that's actually an improvement.

"It's been nice with the curbside program, because people have to pick an animal to meet, so you can't just say, 'Can I come in and meet your dogs?'" she said. "You have to pick one of the dogs, and so a lot of our longer residents are going home now, because people are meeting them and falling in love, and adopting them."

To that end, Niagara County SPCA has implemented several different socially-distant fundraising events on Facebook and Tick Tock. Presently the shelter is taking videos of the animals in its care and putting music behind them on Tick Tock. With only a few months on the platform, they have 27,000 followers.

In addition there's the Shelter Animal Shout Out program at

Explained LaRussa: "On Cameo, you can pay to have a celebrity wish your family a happy birthday or just send a shout out. Why not do that with shelter dogs?"

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