Animal shelters in the north country are set to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funding, Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul announced Friday.
In a news release announcing more than $7.5 million in grant funding awarded to animal shelters across the state, the governor announced that the Jefferson County SPCA in Watertown will receive $200,000, the Potsdam Humane Society in St. Lawrence County will receive $100,067, and the Lewis County Humane Society in Glenfield will receive $500,000. That’s a little more than $800,000 for the north country’s animal shelter system, to be used to improve facilities and help them reach new state standards.
At the Jefferson County SPCA, the money will be used to expand the shelter’s physical capacity and install a new HVAC system.
The Jefferson County SPCA is already undergoing significant renovations, and assistant manager Caitlyn Alberry said the shelter is working to make a number of improvements.
“We just added a new section to the shelter that will improve our medical department, the high-volume spay neuter program that works through us, so we’re improving our medical capacity and improving the care,” she said.
This grant money will help upgrade all the shelter’s kennels for cats and dogs and increase the shelter’s capacity.
The Potsdam Humane Society will use its $100,067 to improve the animal holding areas, update its laundry system, improve the heating system and install new flooring.
“The new guidelines, we have three years to implement them, but it means we need some adaptations to our current facilities, and these funds will help us with them,” said Kathy Hughes, executive director of the Potsdam shelter.
At the Lewis County Humane Society, the $500,000 grant will go toward a new HVAC system for the building, laundry equipment, the construction of a cat isolation room and repairs for damaged shelter structures.
Manager Amber Zehr said she had just received the news, and was elated to hear that the shelter will be able to do so much more; $500,000 was the largest grant given in Friday’s announcement, and only five awards of that size were given.
“It’s exciting, very exciting,” she said. “I’m pretty sure they said we’re going to be able to get more kennels; we can hold more animals which is super exciting.”
With the planned construction of a new cat-specific space, she said animals in the shelter will be even safer, kept separate from other species.
Ms. Zehr said the planned construction at the Glenfield facility will bring the shelter very close to completely in line with the new state standards.
In Potsdam, Ms. Hughes said she is happy to see standards going up across the state, and to see state money come into the Potsdam shelter to help, but said more money will be needed to bring Potsdam’s shelter completely in line.
“This is really the first phase, the first set of steps we have to take to meet those new regulations,” she said. “We will have to go after other funding to help us, because we will in the near future need to expand our facility. The funds we’ve been granted in this first go around are simply for internal changes and improvements.”
She said the organization’s building and grounds committee is meeting to plan future expansion.
The new state regulations come from a measure passed last year, with some changes seemingly made in the state budget this year. It sets a statewide standard for all animal shelters to abide by, with a new system of inspections carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Shelters will be required to provide a single clean kennel of high quality and well maintained to protect and provide comfort, for each animal it hosts, with separate spaces for animals infected with diseases. Animals housed in co-living spaces, like cats kept in a separate feline room as is common, should not be kept with more than 11 other adult cats or four other adult dogs, and dogs and cats must be kept separate.
Steps to protect the emotional health of the animals, by socializing them with people and other animals of their species, is required with specific health and safety measures to prevent violent or ill animals from coming into contact, and all staff members must receive extensive training on animals physical and emotional well-being.
Shelters must seek licenses, at a cost of $150 per year, to operate, and must prominently display the license at all their public facilities and on their websites and advertisements.
If a shelter cannot meet the new standards, its license to operate either at the location at issue or as an entity entirely can be revoked by the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets. The license can also be revoked, and operations at the shelter shut down, if the facility doesn’t seek an annual license in a timely manner.
Ms. Hughes said she is concerned about the potential closure of noncomplaint animal shelters, purely because animal shelters in New York are already overpopulated.
“At their heart, these are positive changes, but they may be broader than what facilities are able to afford,” she said. “I guess I have some concern, what are the implications if some of the smaller, less well-funded facilities aren’t able to meet those requirements in three years? We’re already short on facilities, all of us have waiting lists for animals.”
Animal shelters have until January 2025 to come into complete compliance and submit an application for a shelter license.
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